Tuesday, January 20, 2009

MusicXML is music to my ears

Music composition applications like Finale and Sibelius are now learning how to export music notation in MusicXML thanks to a plug-in developed by Recordare, an Altova customer.

Using MusicXML a piece of sheet music - in this case Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98 - can be fully described in XML:

For the full story on how Recordare used XMLSpy, XQuery, and DiffDog, please see "Altova customer Recordare builds MusicXML-based solution" on the Altova Blog...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Microsoft 2D barcode released at CES

In a surprise move Microsoft released a new 2-dimensional barcode format today at CES. Yes, a barcode. The lines that are on the bottom of your milk carton, when you scan it at the supermarket checkout. And no, today is not April Fool's.

Two-dimensional barcodes are nothing new, and are most often seen on attendee badges at conferences or trade shows, but Microsoft's format is the first to use color and to be aimed at a specific reader device that most people already own: a cell phone with built-in camera.

The system is called Microsoft Tag and the idea is that you can encode URLs, vCards, phone numbers, or any arbitrary text in such a tag. The user then needs a reader application on their cell phone - and those are available already for all major cell phone platforms, including Symbian, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android, and Blackberry - and once they scan the barcode, they get the encoded contact, are redirected to the website with the specified URL, or can call the encoded telephone number, without having to enter that number or URL or contact info into their cell phone manually.

MissionKitBarCodeFor a quick demonstration, download the beta version of the reader from http://gettag.mobi and install it on your cell phone, then use it to snap a picture of this barcode on the left and it will take your mobile browser to retrieve product information about the Altova MissionKit for Software Architects from our website. Clearly, it doesn't make sense to use these in a blog, but imagine reading an article about the software in a developer publication and being able to go directly to the website without having to type in a URL...

Btw, if you are using an iPhone, you can get the reader application through the familiar AppStore on your iPhone by searching for "Microsoft".

Microsoft envisions that such tags could in the future be printed on business cards, shown in print ads,XMLAficionadoBarCode on billboards, or even shown on TV, and the system is supposedly so flexible that it can deal even with out-of-focus or tiny versions of these barcodes. Hmm, so I created a new tag already for the URL of this XML Aficionado blog, and now I need to think where I should affix this to - maybe I'll print a T-Shirt with this new design and will wear it at the next conference I go to...

Further information and other blog reactions can be found on TechMeme.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Auroralites dog safety collar

A friend recently pointed out a cool gadget to me that deserves a brief mention on this blog. It is a dog safety collar from Auroralites that uses electroluminescent ("EL") technology to provide a long-lived and bright safety light for your night-time walkies. The product is already being used by police, search & rescue, FBI, and other security K-9 teams, and is now also available for civilian use. The collar is shock proof, water resistant and soft, so they won't break teeth. They produce no heat and are non-toxic. The collar comes in a regular steady-light version and a flashing version with 1s on and 1s off - especially for security applications where you don't want your dog to become a target for enemies. Since Marblehead is a rather peaceful town and I have no intentions to use our family dog in situations where "becoming a target" is even remotely relevant, I opted for the regular non-flashing version of the collar when I placed my order today....

UPDATE: Please do not order this product. My order never arrived, and other customers apparently had the same problem. The company and its website seems to now be defunct. See the comments thread on this blog post for more details!