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Published 01-Mar-2001
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All this week's Wiz!

  MIDI Music  

Readers with long memories might recall from early PC days those DOS games that had music accompaniment which looped the same tune over and over. Until better audio features were introduced in Windows 95, for many of us this was our introduction to MIDI music.

MIDI stands for Musicial Instrument Digital interface and came about twenty years ago or so when musicians wanted to standardize the connection between, say, a keyboard, and a sound generator such as a synthesizer. It wasn't long before computers fitted with a sound card took a place in this process. Then along came the Internet to give composers the opportunity to share their MIDI music with others.

One reason MIDI files prove a popular download is their size. A minute of MIDI music is measured in thousands of bytes compared to ten megabytes for a normal audio track or one megabyte for an MP3. A MIDI file is comparatively small because the file contains instructions for the MIDI synthesizer on the sound card to play or not play certain notes using certain instruments or voices.

While there is the size advantage, the disadvantage with MIDI music is that different models of soundcards will differ in what instruments can be played. For example, if a composer writes a jazz MIDI title played with a honky-tonk piano, those of us with soundcards that don't have this particular instrument will only hear the piece with a normal piano.

There are many, many sites to download MIDI music - start with the Standard MIDI Files site. Once you've downloaded some, listen with Windows Media Player or Winamp. If you'd like to compose some yourself, there are free sequencers such as Anvil Studio and many shareware ones for download.

In the next column, webWiz will show you in a few simple steps how to add MIDI music to your site. Particular attention will be paid to ensuring visitors to your site will have the choice to pause a title or choose another piece.

  Learning Sites  

Getting homework finished was the theme in the last column. This week there are several sites that are more general in nature, some covering all school subject, others emphasising a particular subject.

The School Discovery site is one to begin at, in particular go to Schrock's guide where you'll have access to about 2,000 more sites from which to choose.

A couple of other sites worth investigating are Explore Mathematics, Explore Science and ThinkQuest. Finally, one site webWiz found the other day is the Guide to Grammar and Writing. Hopefully you'll see an improvement in the next column.

  Space & Science Activities  

One of the many activities suggested at Hobby Space is satellite watching. One suggested site is the Visual Satellite Observer where you get a quick introduction to finding objects in the sky.

With that information you can visit Heavens Above to choose your location (Rushworth, for example, has an entry in the site's database). After clicking on your location, you're given predicted locations for the International Space Station, Mir and the Hubble Space Telescope. By the time you read this, Mir should have safely disintegrated in the Pacific, so choose the ISS. When webWiz got his readings, all these satellites were fairly low in the sky for observation, so check the site again for more favourable observation times.

  ListBot - Wot?  

If you want to manage a newsletter for your website, club, organisation or business, you can do all the work yourself or you can use one of many free email list managers. As an example, webWiz will take you through some of the handy features of ListBot.

After signing up and giving your list a name, you can choose what information you want to ask your subscribers. For example, if your newsletter will be used for marketing, you may want to gather demographic data. You'll also need to decide what type of mail list you want: a discussion group type list (it can be moderated) or you simply want people to submit their email address for an information-type newsletter.

ListBot provides you with some lines of HTML to paste into your web page so people can choose to subscribe. From the ListBot control centre, you can send out invites to people to subscribe, compose your newsletter and send it to subscribers. If you've got a discussion type list, subscribers can look up past posts held in an archive.

Finally, as manager of the list, you can set privacy levels on who can view the list's archives and membership list, and who you will allow to subscribe. If you want to, or have to, manage a mail list, take a look at ListBot's features.


It's ages since games were mentioned so here are a couple of sites to relieve your anxiety. Sub Sink from Wihlborg Entertainment is supposedly good fun. Quake enthusiasts will find all the news and mods they need at Planet Quake. Console gamers will most likely to see what's happening with the XBox and there are various sites which can keep you up to date.


webWiz is trying out Power Desk as a replacement for Windows Explorer and is finding it far more friendly and convenient. Features include being able to assign folders to a favourites list, viewing files in a viewer pane and opening two panes for moving and copying files.

Winamp has been updated to version 2.72; it's a bit faster and they've solved the problem with their agent clashing with Scandisk. As mentioned previously, it's a great MP3 player, even for older and slower computers. If you've one of the latter, remember to change the decoder settings to half-quality in options/preferences.

Users of the Windows Media Player might like to note that web events using this player have now been internationalised and you can see what's coming up at the WMP Australian site.

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