My review of the Manfrotto 293 telephoto lens support bracket can be seen here
Music Notation Software
Melody Assistant has to be the best buy among all music notation programs. First, it is a very good notation program, which can produce nice musical score printouts. It also can load, save, edit, and play MIDI files.
However, on top of all these standard notation program capabilities, it has several unique abilities that really set it apart. First, instead of using your PC's sound card to produce the musical instrument sounds, it instead uses a "sound database" of sampled sounds. Therefore, you can use Melody Assistant on a PC that does not have a good sound card and still get excellent results when playing a midi file.
This also gives the program another ability that, as far as I know, is totally unique among music programs - it can export a midi file directly to an MP3 or WAV file. In other words, you can open a midi file and save it directly to your hard drive as an MP3 or WAV file. As far as I know, this is simply not possible using other midi programs (Noteworthy, Cakewalk, etc), because these programs use the sound card for output. Most sound cards cannot handle input and output at the same time (i.e. playing the midi file and recording to the hard drive in MP3 format at the same instant). Since Melody Assistant does not use the sound card for output sound production, it can process the data and write it directly to the hard drive as an MP3 file. This is dynamite!
And here is the really amazing thing - it costs $20, with free lifetime upgrades! This is the first thing ever that really is too good to be true! (besides Recorder Digits, of course) ;-)
You should check out all the specs on its website. It is shareware, so you can try before you buy (those 20 big ones!). There is a more powerful version called Harmony Assistant, plus several other products.
Music Notation Software
NoteWorthy ComposerThere are many music notation software products available. One of my favorites is called NoteWorthy Composer. What separates NoteWorthy from the crowd for me is that the entry of notes is so easy.
Most products require you to enter notes with the mouse, which can be very tedious and slow, no matter how adroit you are at mousing. NoteWorthy allows you to use the keyboard (i.e. the computer keyboard - using a midi musical keyboard is another topic all together), using a unique, easy to learn set of keys. Unlike other programs that allow keyboard entry by trying to simulate a piano keyboard with the computer keyboard (e.g. the "a" key is the note C, the "w" key is the note C#, etc), NoteWorthy uses a much more intuitive system. For example, 1=whole-note, 2=half-note, etc, the ENTER key enters a note, the space bar enters a rest, the arrow keys position the cursor on the correct line of the staff, etc.
Using this keyboard arrangement, you quickly learn to enter music very rapidly. Creating music-minus-one practice pieces becomes quite easy.
NoteWorthy has other nice features, of course, with full midi support, good printing facilities, etc. One feature of interest to early music fans is that you can enter music without bar lines, although I did find that to print such music you need to at least have a bar line at the end of each staff (which is not really noticeable). And it is very inexpensive. Check it out with the link above.
"WOW! Bach" Music SoftwareA good way to get music-minus-one versions of the Brandenburg Concertos is with the software product named (rather oddly, I think) "WOW Bach", available from www.superconductor.com.
WOW!Bach consists of all 6 concertos played by a computer (much like MIDI files), but produced with specialized software called SuperConductor (available separately), which is supposed to produce more lifelike music than standard notation software.
Quoting the Help File introduction:
What I find especially valuable is that you can change the tempo to whatever you like, and, of course, turn off the recorder parts in Concertos 2 and 4. This gives you excellent practice material.
The interface is not particularly great, but it'll do. Here are screen shots of its main window and its music score window.