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Catching up

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on April 9, 2004
(Issue 2215, This old, or new, house)

Every few months, it's good to catch up with our in-box, and revisit a few old columns with some updated information.

A reader who identified himself only as Geoff wrote in with some useful additions to our March 12 column about copyright and the 'Net. Geoff steered us to Mutopia Project, where folks share public domain sheet music. Now, with U.S. copyright standing at an author's life plus 70 years, most anything available is pretty old – we're talking classical and early folk music only. No jazz, blues, rock, bluegrass or country.

But that's still a lot of great music – Beethoven and Bach, Haydn and Mozart. Even Scott Joplin, so we're getting close to jazz! As this is written, there are 392 pieces of sheet music available for free download.

Each work is available in a variety of file formats: PDF (which prints out great sheet music, and all you need is the free Acrobat Reader from Adobe (, although most also have the raw PostScript files, and the editable LilyPond musical notation files. (LilyPond is freeware, part of the GNU open source movement – although it is Unix-based, and running it under Windows requires installation of a Linux layer; haven't tried it, to be honest. But try it for yourself at

Geoff also pointed out the Werner Icking Music Archive. There are hundreds of pieces of free sheet music available for download here as well – and again, they are in PDF format for printing out, plus the TeX-based data files used to make the PDFs. (And TeX doesn't seem a whole lot easier to install or use than LilyPond, quite frankly – learn more at the TeX Users Group.)

Finally, in a last reference to our coverage of copyright, Geoff suggested visiting the Creative Commons at The basic premise of the Creative Commons is it is a place to share your artistic work – music, painting, writing, film. And you don't waive your copyright – you can let others use your work for free without giving up all control. Some real interesting approaches to copyright are being bandied about here.

More computer history

The first week of March, we looked at online computer museums. One not to overlook – although we did – is History San José. Subtitled "Silicon Valley A-Z," this site isn't dedicated solely to technical stuff, but the recent history is definitely weighted in that direction.

And part of the site's future plans is to bring the Perham Collection of Early Electronics fully into cyberspace. Should be interesting.

Blogging along

In late February, we took another look at web blogs – or blogging. The hype seems to have calmed a bit on blogging, giving the technology and culture surrounding blogging some time to mature.

At Technorati, they claim to have 1.9 million blogs they track. How many of those are active, it doesn't say. But what it does do, in beta, is keep track of which blogs are linking to which other blogs – so you can see which ones are the most active within the past 24 hours. Seeing as mutual links are the real currency in the blogging world, this new technology could end up being pretty popular among bloggers.

Domain scams

We're arriving at the point that having a presence on the Internet not only leads to a deluge of e-mail spam, but of physical junk mail as well.

Every couple of weeks, I get pitches from some domain registration company or another asking me to renew my domains through them.

And I suppose its good that Network Solutions no longer has a monopoly on adding domains to the registry (which it continues to maintain under contract with the U.S. government).

But what is annoying is that many of these registry services send you an official-looking renewal notice that makes it seem that your domain registration is due immediately. And they don't make their pitches look like an advertisement (which is what they are); they look like a bill.

Worse are those that send out official-looking notices for other services you never ordered, like search engine listings. I got two of these (one for each domain I own) from an outfit in New York City calling itself the Internet Corporation Listing Service. Wanted $37.50 for "Domain name submission to 14 major search engines."

I'll buy anyone who can even name 14 "major" search engines a free lunch – Google, Yahoo, AOL and MSN account for more than 90 percent of all online searches, and registering your site with each is quick, easy and free. (Actually, the number is probably close to 99 percent, but I don't have the current figure in front of me and am disinclined to look it up simply to undermine the ridiculous, possibly illegal, claims of some outfit that's probably already been shut down by the Postal Service – whoops, no, there they are at Yes, the "bill" did have a line saying, "This is not a bill. This is a solicitation. You are under no obligation to pay ..." – but within the context of the entire thing looking like a bill, that's hardly enough.

Any postal inspectors reading this? E-mail me and I'll send you these bogus "solicitations."