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M A R T I N   R U S S
I N V E N T I O N,   I N S P I R A T I O N   a n d   I M A G I N A T I O N

Hi-tech Music Online Ideas Radar (added August 2009)

One of the high priority things on my radar is finding ways to do things easily online. There are often ways to do things that require high levels of programming competence and that have a steep learning curve, but I am always looking for ways that ordinary users can access the same or similar functionality without needing to expend lots of time and effort. In fact, I would argue that the time of capable programmers is much better spent making sophisticated technology accessible to all!

This page gathers everything I have found into one place, with real working examples of the major concepts. All you will need is some basic knowledge of cutting and pasting, and HTML (or a decent HTML editor with online help) plus a spirit of adventure... Enjoy!

Custom Search Engine (added August 2009)

Google is one of the most popular search engines on the internet, and with a little bit of effort you can use Google's enormous capabilities to help you make a customised search engine where you control the places that are searched.

The search box on the right is one that I customised to do searches that are relevant to my book: 'Sound Synthesis and Sampling'. The problem with using words like 'synthesis' and 'sampling' in a search engine is that both words have very broad definitions. 'Synthesis' means putting something together from parts, and so a web search turns up lots of results that are nothing to do with sound or music. 'Sampling' turns up lots about statistics or mathematics...

The solution to this is to set keywords that refine what the search engine looks for. The column to the right shows two examples. By putting the phrase "sound synthesis" inside speech marks (") then the search is looking for both those words, and so the results are closer to wwhat you want to see.

You can also define the web-sites that the search engine will preferentially look at (see examples on right), and lots more. The ability to customize the search goes from simple 'fill in this box' keyword setting, all the way through to fine-detail XML files to weight sites, and more. There is enormous scope for customizing the search. (Oh, and other search engines are available!)

Search keywords:
"sound synthesis" "music sampling"...

Search web-sites:

More information:
Google Custom Search

Custom News (added August 2009)

Rather than search for specific items, Google News allows relevant news items to be displayed on a web-page pre-emptively using a service called NewsShow. So the results are sent automatically, and the searches are based on current topical news stories, articles, press releases, etc. You will not get any links to deep technical articles - it is just like the overviews of events that you find in news reports on the TV or on the radio.

Again, Google provide a simple way to do this without doing any major coding, and, in fact, the keywords are set up in exactly the same way as in the Search example above.

This time, there are two different sizes of 'NewsShow' box. The one shown on the right is the 300x250 pixel one, and it is displaying news items related to the phrases "sound synthesis", "FM synthesis", and "subtractive synthesis", whilst the one below is the wide 728x90 pixel version, and is displaying news items related to broader keywords like: 'analogue digital synthesis'. Note that the wide version has an extra link, and less wasted white space.

(Other news services are available - try here for one interesting alternative example)

More information:
Google NewsShow

Wikis (added August 2009)

A Wiki is a web-site that can be created and edited by pople with no knowledge of HTML or web-sites, but who do know how they want their information presented on screen. Some wikis can be edited by anyone, whilst others restrict editability. Wikipedia is a well-known example of a wiki - it started out being able to be edited by anyone, although this poilicy has changed over time.

In my case, the ability of wikis to provide excellent facilites for creating highly-interlinked web-sites, and avoiding any hassle with hosting the resulting site, made the use of a wiki obvious for my online glossary of terms associated with sound synthesis and sampling.

You can find the incomplete glossary here. This is 'work in progress', but I hope to have it finished soon. I can't think of a better example of what you can do with a wiki...

I used Google Sites for the glossary - I know it doesn't immediately sound like a wiki, but it is! Google Sites used to be called JotSpot in its first incarnation, and I've loved it ever since. It has a consistency of approach that gives it inner beauty - a rare and precious thing in coding. More information on Google Sites.
glossary screen shot

Blogs (added August 2009)

Blog is a contraction of 'web-log' - literally a log of what happened on a web-site. It now usually means an on-line diary, but with the implication that not every day needs to be written up, and over time the definition has evolved into meaning a 'live' document where people record their thoughts, feelings, observations, etc.

As with wikis, there are many ways to create a blog, ranging from the flexible and complex to the simple and more in flexible. I've talked about the different types of blog in my own blog (see on right ->).

I also have a 'synthesizer'-specific blog, where I talk about music topics.

I used Google's Blogger for my own personal blog - I chose it because it is very easy to use, has some flexibility and customisability (but not much) and is low-maintenance . More information on Google's Blogger.
blogger screen shot

Google Gadgets (added August 2009)

If you search Google Gadgets for things to add to a web-page, then you will get lots of calendars, games, jokes, pictures of the day, etc. There were just under 200,000 of them when I wrote this page.

Refining your search using the keyword 'music' (yes, keywords are a theme for this page so far) gets you under 20,000. 'Music' gadgets tend to be links to music recommendations sites like Last.fm (Imogen Heap's page in this case) or iLike (Pixelh8's page in this case). I've included sample gadgets for both of these on the right and below...

Of course, if you are visiting this web-site, then the chances are that you've just discovered that your SY99 floppy disc drive is faulty, or you've read an old edition of Sound On Sound magazine, or you've read my book on Sound Synthesis and Sampling. Which means that you are really interested in the technology behind music...

So the Piano or Guitar gadgets probably aren't that interesting to you, and the Metronomes are a teensy bit superfluous when you're used to tweaking micro-tempo envelopes in a sequencer or DAW. If you've been paying attention so far, then you might try keywords like: "sound synthesis", but this doesn't produce many results, and "synthesis" thinks you mean 'speech synthesis'!

If you try "sound samples" then you will find a large number of artist-specific gadgets which often seem to lead to lists of mp3 songs from mp3 download sites that you may have heard of, or may not. After AllofMP3.com et al, then I'm automatically cautious of all mp3 download sites that I've never heard of before! Of course, you will also find lots of artist-specific gadgets made by companies like Amazon, and I have heard of them!

There are some awesome waveforms to be seen at Neries (see right), but with limited applications - bass drums, maybe? (I suspect that copyright would be an interesting topic here!)

Then there are the 'MrTop' gadgets which seem to have been automatically generated with groups of similar keywords, and which just put Google Ads on your web-site...

My advice would be that Google Gadgets aren't very useful to the hi-tech musician.

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