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Jim DeLaHunt, world-ready

The best of our shared musical heritage, using the best of the Information Age

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 30 Sep 2014 | Tagged as: culture

Serious or “classical” music has brought me great joy throughout my life. I have sung in choruses since childhood, and in operas for twenty years. I’m not a skilled musician. But being a participant makes the beauty and value of our shared musical heritage vividly alive. The efforts of musicians world-wide, amateur and pro, great and small, are what lets us pass the heritage on to future generations.

The information age is transforming our lives, sector by sector. Business, science, entertainment, communication. We have SMS and emails to help us communicate. We have spell-checkers and auto-correct help us write. We have web terminals in our pockets that let us read the best of the old books and the freshest of the newest microblogs. We have a huge range of recordings and videos for playback on demand.

Yet in all of this, the practice of music is in some ways stuck in the 1500’s — or, at best, the 19th century. When we start to sing, we pull out printed paper booklets more often than we pull out tablet screens. Rehearsals are bogged down because different people have different editions of the same musical work, with different page numbers. Wrong notes, or missing accidentals, in 50-year-old scores are uncorrected. Music directors lose rehearsal time to dictating cuts, assigning this lines to the tenor 1s and that to the tenor 2s, telling us on where to breathe and what bowing to use. And for the grand “Messiah” sing-along, a chorus must haul out hundreds of excess copies of chorus scores, distribute them to the audience, and then, hardest of all, collect them all back at the end.

The information age has provided us tools to solve these problems much more simply, for text and photos at least. We have word-processor files and photo-editors, which let us make corrections. We take for granted being able to re-typeset the modified text into a beautifully laid-out document, with our choice of typefaces. We can cast the documents into PDF files, and send them to their destinations. If there are errors, or tweaks specific to our project, it’s no problem to make a quick modification and redo the layout. If we want everyone in the room to read something, we can have them load it on a web page using their mobile device.

It is time that we do the same thing with music. It is time that it become routine for music scores to be handled in a revisable, reusable, high-quality digital form. Let’s call them “digiscores”. We should be able to make minor corrections. We should have the music equivalent of ebook readers at our disposal. We should be able to distribute scores electronically as conveniently as we distribute ebooks or emails.

Much of the great works of serious music date from the 19th century or earlier. They have long since entered the public domain. They are our shared heritage, part of our cultural soup. They should be freely available to everyone to mash-up and create with. But the notes of Verdi and Mozart are trapped in printed form, in books that are hard to obtain, or expensive due to the high overhead of low sales volumes. Publishers layer a new libretto translation on top of the public domain notes, and put a “do not photocopy” on the combination. A secondary school music teacher cannot pull Mozart from the cultural soup to use for the choir, because the packaging is obstructed by unnecessary copyright.

What we need are the public domain music scores, in revisable, reusable, high quality “digiscore” form, available as public domain digital files. In this form, they can be hosted cheaply, distributed for free, and used by everyone from the top symphonies, to the school music teachers, to the music-lovers exploring on their own.

Many talented people are innovating in this space. Many pieces are available. The Internet Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), aka the Petrucci Music Library, is making scanned images of public domain music scores freely available by the hundreds of thousands — but they are not revisable “digiscores”. There is music recognition computer software like Audiveris, SmartScan, and many others — but their output needs proofreading and correcting by humans before it is a usable “digiscore”. Project Gutenberg has proved the model of providing revisable digital versions of public domain works — but for texts, not music. The Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreading project has a powerful structure for turning computer-generated drafts into final form — but they too have more traction for texts than for music. The Musopen project is commissioning quality recordings of a few of these works — but a recording of someone else’s performance is not what a chorus needs to make its own performance. MusicXML provides a promising foundation for a digiscore format — but a format is not a corpus. Musescore, Lilypond, Sibelius, Finale, and other tools put music entry and notation in the hands of a wider and wider audience — but we need a wider and wider group to use those tools. The Internet Archive is willing and able to host and distribute freely-available content — but someone has to provide the content.

There is a need for initiatives to harness the good will of music lovers, to equip them with tools and social structures, and help them turn public-domain music scores (and scans of scores) into public-domain digiscores, for free public use and re-use. I seek to contribute my energy to forming one such initiative. I will communicate more in the future. For now, this is my direction and my purpose.

If this vision excites you, please let me know in the comments below. (Later, there will be an announcement email list to join, and a web site at which to register, and so on.) There is a lot of work to do, and with many volunteers in an effective social structure, great results are possible. Wikipedia has shown us that. I would love to have your help.

IUC38 tutorial, “Building Multilingual Websites with Drupal 7 and Joomla 3″

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 31 May 2014 | Tagged as: CMS, Joomla, Unicode, drupal, meetings and conferences, multilingual

I’m delighted and proud to have been invited back to give my tutorial to the 38th Internationalization and Unicode Conference (IUC38) this November in Santa Clara, California.

Title: Building multilingual websites in Drupal 7 and Joomla 3
Date: Monday, November 3, 2014, 10:30-12:00. Track 3, tutorial morning session 2.
Here’s my abstract:

A practical look at the language and locale capabilities of Joomla! 3 and Drupal 7, two leading free software content management systems (CMSs). They let you build more powerful, more international websites faster. We look at: their core internationalisation and locale services, and localisation of UI and content. Each platform just had a major release, with advances in internationalisation. You will leave with specific tips for building your own site. We don’t assume Joomla or Drupal experience, but do include material for advanced practioners. A good tutorial for web site product managers, web designers, developers, and managers of international web teams.

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How to extract URLs with Apache OpenOffice, from formatted text and HTML tables

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 31 Mar 2014 | Tagged as: robobait, software engineering

I use and value a good spreadsheet application the way chefs use and value good knives. I have countless occasions to do ad-hoc data processing and conversion, and I tend to turn to spreadsheets even more often I turn to a good text editor. I know a lot of ways to get the job done with spreadsheets. But recently I learned a new trick. I’m delighted to share it with you here.

The situation: you have an HTML document, with a list of linked text. Imagine a list of projects, each with a link to a project URL (the names aren’t meaningful):

The task is to convert this list of formatted links into a table, with the project name in column A, and the URL in column B.  The trick is to use an OpenOffice macro, which exposes the URL (and other facets of formatted text) as OpenOffice functions. Continue Reading »

Open Data Day 2014, and a dataset dataset for Vancouver

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 28 Feb 2014 | Tagged as: Vancouver, government, meetings and conferences, web technology

Again this year, I joined Vancouver open data enthusiasts in celebrating Open Data Day last Saturday. Despite limited time and schedule conflicts, I was able to make progress on an interesting project: a “dataset dataset” for the City of Vancouver’s Open Data Catalogue.

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A good-practice list of i18n API functionality

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 30 Nov 2013 | Tagged as: culture, i18n, meetings and conferences, multilingual, software engineering, web technology

Think of the applications programming interface (API) for an application environment: an operating system, a markup language, a language’s standard library. What internationalisation (i18n) functionality would you expect to see in such an API? There are some obvious candidates: a text string substitution-from-resources capability like gettext(). A mechanism for formatting dates, numbers, and currencies in culturally appropriate ways. Data formats for text that can handle text in a variety of languages. Some way to to determine what cultural conventions and language the user prefers. There is clearly a whole list one could make.

Wouldn’t it be interesting, and useful, to have such a list?  Probably many organisations have made such lists in the past. Who has made such a list? Are they willing to share it with the internationalisation and localisation community? Is there value in developing a “good practices” statement with such a list?  And, most importantly, who would like to read such a list? How would it help them? In what way would such a list add value? Continue Reading »

Trip report: IUC37

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 31 Oct 2013 | Tagged as: Joomla, Unicode, drupal, meetings and conferences

Delightful!  Last week I came home from the gathering of my trip, the 37th Internationalisation and Unicode Conference. My tutorial on Building multilingual websites in Drupal 7 and Joomla! 3 again went well. And I found inspiration, new knowledge, and old friends there.

Those of you looking for my slides and handouts, they are at the preceding link. You are welcome to share them, per their Creative Commons license. I’d appreciate credit when you share them. And I’d appreciate your feedback on this blog’s comments. Continue Reading »

“Building multilingual websites in Drupal 7 and Joomla 3″ (IUC37 tutorial)

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 30 Sep 2013 | Tagged as: Joomla, Unicode, drupal, meetings and conferences

I can’t believe I didn’t announce this before now. I’m delighted to be asked, once again, to present a tutorial on Building multilingual websites in Drupal 7 and Joomla! 3, at the 37th Internationalization and Unicode Conference (IUC37), this October in Santa Clara, California, USA.

This is my abstract, from the Unicode conference program for my talk: Continue Reading »

I still do

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 22 Aug 2013 | Tagged as: marriage equality, personal

Today back in 1998, my uncle Spencer Boise asked me, “Jim and Ducky, do you both recognize the rights and responsibilities inherent in the marriage contract?” and I replied, “I do. I have come here freely to take this woman to be my wife. I promise to love her, comfort her, honor her, and keep her, above all others.”
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Top Posts: StackOverflow “How do I get SQLAlchemy to correctly insert a unicode ellipsis into a mySQL table?”

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 31 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Unicode, robobait, software engineering

I post on various forums around the net, and a few of my posts there get some very gratifying kudos. I’ve been a diligent contributor to StackOverflow, the Q-and-A site for software developers. I’m in the top 15% of contributors overall, and one of the top 25 answerers of Unicode-related questions. Here’s my second best-voted answer in StackOverflow so far.

The question, How do I get SQLAlchemy to correctly insert a unicode ellipsis into a mySQL table?,  was asked by user kvedananda in February 2012. In abbreviated form, it was:

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Top Posts: StackOverflow “Django headache with simple non-ascii string”

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 31 May 2013 | Tagged as: Python, Unicode, software engineering

I post on various forums around the net, and a few of my posts there get some very gratifying kudos. I’ve been a diligent contributor to StackOverflow, the Q-and-A site for software developers. I’m in the top 15% of contributors overall, and one of the top 25 answerers of Unicode-related questions. Here’s my top-voted answer in StackOverflow so far.

The question, Django headache with simple non-ascii string,  was asked by user Ezequiel in January 2010. In abbreviated form, it was:

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