Sniffen Packets

With a name like Sniffen, it's got to smell good.

Installing Lilypond

This week I discovered that I forgot to save the installer for Finale Notepad 2008, and since I got a new computer at work, I no longer had it installed. “No problem!”, I thought—“I’ll just get a new copy. Notepad is free!”

Well, not so much. Finale Notepad 2009 has new features, so it’s no longer free. $10 isn’t much, but the hassle of paying (get out a credit card, keep track of the license so I can get it in the future) and the certainty that I’ll have to pay for upgrades, too, is enough to make me consider looking elsewhere.

When I twittered about my frustration, several friends jumped in and recommended Lilypond. Brian installed it on one machine yesterday, and the output was beautiful, so last night we started installing it on our two Macs with MacPorts, and playing with the syntax.

The magic of MacPorts is that it knows what files you need, and where they go, and what depends on having which other packages. The bad part is that, if you’re the kind of person who never upgrades anything until something breaks, you have a long night ahead of you. At some point I looked at the stream of installer log, and noticed that it was installing/upgrading Python. Since I’d just finished reading about how Lilypond is written in/customized with Scheme, I was confused. Apparently this is common—I watched darcs install Perl and then Haskell shortly afterward. Whatever. I suppose if I am going to treat the installer as magic, I should not criticize the odd-looking sections of its arcane rituals.

The part I am unhappy with is when it was less-than-automagical. I would start installing lilypond, which would crash insisting some piece of teTeX was already installed. Then I’d uninstall that bit of teTeX (forcing it, since it was convinced teTeX didn’t exist), and install lilypond again—only to get stuck on another bit of teTeX that was there but not really.

The output is beautiful enough that I’m willing to put up with the pain of installation—Lilypond produces elegant-looking scores and convenient MIDI files, which will be really helpful for teaching my children’s choir and for a number of other projects I keep saying I’ll get to someday. I’ll post one here once I have one I like.