Category Archives: Music

Sony joins iTunes AU

If you haven’t totally banned purchases from Sony due to the rootkits, you can at least now buy Sony BMG music tracks via the iTunes store; they’ve backed-down on refusing to have their artists available there.

Meanwhile Apple is under fire for including a “phone home” feature that’s turned on by default in the latest version of iTunes (the Mac version only so far?).

Update Friday 7am: EFF: Apple backs down on the “phone home” feature.

Sony, Llamasoft, and stitching

Turns out Sony has a Mac version of DRM, too.

Meanwhile, Texas is suing, possibly for $100K per violation… times 2.1 million CDs sold??? (Thanks Lana)

Jeff “Llamasoft” Minter contributed some of the visualisations in the XBox 360 media player.

Research at the University of British Columbia has come up with stitching software that many say out-performs that provided with digital camera software.

Sony backs down – a teensy bit

Sony has said they will stop using the XCP copy protection software so derided for its sneaky (but clumsy) cloaking mechanism. But they haven’t said they’ll offer replacement CDs to those who’ve got lumbered with it. Apparently it was only ever applied to CDs sold in the USA, though some of these may have gone to other parts of the world courtesy of Amazon and the like.

As for Sony’s uninstallerEd Felten is about to reveal why that too is flawed.

Meanwhile Microsoft has set XCP in its sights, and (quite rightly) said their Anti-Spyware package will remove it.

As if the rootkit sneakery wasn’t bad enough, the EFF has studied the EULA and notes the protected CDs have a licence precluding copying the music onto business computers (eg computers not owned by you). It also requires you to delete the copied music if your CD is stolen, or if you file for bankcruptcy!

And the chorus of people calling for an all-out Sony boycott continues to grow.

I stand by what I said. Pack of evil bastards.

PS. The flaw in the uninstaller is revealed: Sony uses an ActiveX control (known as “CodeSupport”) as part of the process, which is marked “Safe for scripting” and left on your computer, leaving it wide open to attack from dodgy web sites. What a pack of idiots.

They are, however, recalling the affected CDs.

Sony’s evil DRM

Sony BMG, the only major record label that refused to sign up to the Apple iTunes Australia store, has been caught red-handed taking Digital Rights Management measures that put a trojan onto Windows computers. It puts files disguised as device drivers onto the computer. Attempts to remove the files may end up in your CD/DVD drive being disabled. Mark Russinovich at SysInternals has the grisly details. Naturally none of this crap is detailed in the EULA displayed when you put the CD in, and it can’t be easily removed once it’s there — in fact Sony ask you to contact their customer service department to remove it!

The DRM does allow limited copies of the music to be made, but not in a form playable on iPods. Sony blame Apple for this, even suggesting that people complain to Apple, despite that it’s Sony’s DRM that stops it working.

Interestingly on Macs, the DRM doesn’t operate, and you can use the CD as normal, I assume including ripping to MP3. Hopefully that’s also the case on Linux and other operating systems.

Sony has now announced that a patch will be issued. It won’t remove the DRM nasties, but it will uncloak them.

This shows complete contempt from Sony to its customers. What a pack of evil bastards. They obviously haven’t twigged that eventually they’ll lose any copy protection arms race — not only will anonymous hackers figure out how to get around it, but they’ll have alienated lots of customers in the process by producing these broken CDs. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if some people get so pissed-off by the whole idea that they seek out pirated copies (ripped on Macs!) on P2P services.

Interestingly, one label that Sony distributes is distancing itself from their DRM. And Ben Edelman and Ed Bott ponder if Sony is committing fraud by selling these products as “CDs”, given they break the established standard.

Sunday 1pm: Update from SysInternals about the patch

And so we keep waiting

Rumours spread far and wide last month that iTunes Australia would start on October 3rd. Well, October 3rd has come and gone, and nothing happened. So we keep waiting.

More Apple stuff

Blogger Russell Beattie stirs up a hornet’s nest by declaring he’s thinking of switching back from Mac to Windows.

Reports are coming in that the new very groovy iPod Nano’s screen scratches rather too easily, so bad in some cases that the images get distorted.

Hot on the heels of the flawed (badly, for some people) iTunes 5.0, Apple has released iTunes 5.0.1.

Apple announces iPod Nano (and some other stuff)

iPod NanoWell, after much speculation, this morning (AU time) Apple announced a swag of new stuff, including:

  • the quite ludicrously tiny iPod Nano (I reckon I’d lose it)
  • the very expected Motorola ROKR mobile phone, the first to include iTunes (shame it’s a Motorola. I hate Motorolas.)
  • a shiny new version of the iTunes software, featuring parental controls (woo hoo, does this mean no more Lenny Kravitz’s What The F%$# are we saying for my kids?), syncing data with Outlook (at smeggin’ last), playlist and shuffle enhancements
  • some exclusive content to the iTunes store, which therefore means we CAN’T BUY IT IN AUSTRALIA (grumble)

A buncha stuff

I don’t normally link to the excellent DailyWTF, because it’s full of good stuff, I’d be linking every day. But yesterday’s picture of the server room with a fishbowl to catch the airconditioner water outlet is an absolute classic. (Make sure you read the article as well as look at the picture.)

Classical music labels have criticised the BBC for offering Beethoven’s symphonies as a free download. This strikes me as a tad narrowminded. I’d imagine there’d be a number of people out there who might otherwise not be interested in classical music who might listen to these then go out looking for more to buy. (via Dave Winer)

Microsoft are now offering free evaluation sessions in their products, making use of their Virtual PC technology so you just try things out on a remote session via your browser and Citrix Java client.

New version of Firefox (1.0.5) is available, fixing some vulnerabilities.

New iTunes stores

iPod (from apple.com)Apple has opened new iTunes stores in… Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, with a free track for every Swiss citizen. (Großmutter! Schnell! Was ist Ihr voller Name und Geburtsdatum?)

And Australia? Well The Register says It was claimed this week that only major label troubles prevented the company from opening ITMS Australia last month as planned. Damn labels.

Meanwhile Apple continues to dominate in sales of music players, with new stats showing the iPod Shuffle has more than half of the US flash player market, and iTunes recently sold its 350 millionth song download.

All this is good news for the continued availability of non-copy-protected music. While Apple continues to sell and support MP3, but not WMA, and remains dominant in sales of hardware, MP3 will remain strong.

I don’t want a music format that’s copy protected. I don’t want to pay for music and have it die with my player. Like CDs, it has to last (I’ve got 17 year old discs that are still going strong) and be copyable, so I can move the music onto whatever the Next Great Device for my music is — whether it be a replacement iPod when my battery eventually gives up, or some other new and shiny device in a few years when the iPod seems old and clunky.

Though of course, in Australia at present, even just ripping your CDs to MP3 is illegal.

PS. 11pm. Actually I should probably use iTunes Store before blessing Apple too much, since there seems to be a lot of rumbling about whatever DRM they use.

More on iTunes AU, CH, SE, NO, DK

Country flagsAppleInsider has found the icons for the new iTunes countries, thereby confirming iTunes is about to start in Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Not before time for those AU-ers among us. I’m seeing more and more of those white earplugs on the train to work.

It’ll be interesting to see how it goes. So far all the Australian online music stores have concentrated on selling protected WMA files. These haven’t been setting the world alight, partly of course because the files are useless for legions of iPod owners, and from observations, there are hardly any non-iPod portable music players out there in userland. And for myself, I’d refuse to buy files that won’t live beyond the (hopefully long but inevitably limited) life of my player.

Record companies must surely be waking up to it by now. They can’t copy-protect conventional CDs properly — it either breaks the Red Book standard (and thus compatibility) or it doesn’t work. Anything they try is either useless or has been hacked. So you might as well just sell MP3s. They’re no more vulnerable than CDs. And it’s better to be selling copyable songs than no songs at all.

And the reported Apple price of A$1.80 per track is competitive. A quick scout of some WMA-selling stores showed a typical price of A$1.89 per track, with top ten hits at A$0.99.

The other thing this week for Apple fans is the OS X “Tiger” release, though I’m sure they all already know that.