Like many others, we now buy almost all our music online. From itunes. With DRM. That’s fine (ish) if you use Windows or a MAC, but much more painful if you use Linux, as we do. I believe it’s possible to run itunes on Linux using WINE, but we’ve always used one of the laptops running Windows. We then burn a disc and rip it into Ogg Vorbis on Linux (not sure if that fulfils the terms of the DRM – probably not; but it does fall inside fair use which all copyright is subject to). We have to type the artist and track info in by hand. It’s a right palaver. The DRM especially irritates me since I know that the technology might move on and leave me with an original that I can’t use (though the non-DRM fair use copy would be fine) – I should point out here that I after ease of use, not theft of music, and have a long-held view that widespread sharing is simply theft (see here for why + some comments with alternative views)
Last year Amazon started doing DRM-free 256 kbs MP3 downloads in the US, and I’ve been waiting for it to launch in the UK since it felt like something that easier to integrate into Linux directly. Well, with no visible fuss/press it launched last week, so we gave it a go this weekend. And, in short it’s not only cheaper than itunes, but is an absolute doddle to use. If you buy a single then immediately after hitting the purchase now button then the broswer asks you where to store the file. Select wherever you want it stored, and allow it to download … and that’s it. No faffing about with DRM. Amarok (the music player we use – part of Linux KDE desktop) spots the new song, so it’s in the music list straight away. Looking at the packaged information in the song, as well as the normal stuff it includes an Amazon song purchase reference which seems fine (I’ve no issue with it being tracked) and the album cover art which is pretty cool (not yet checked out if an ipod can pick this up – will try with Kat’s this weekend)
It gets better. The downloader for multiple songs/albums requires a special downloader, and normally you’d have one for Windows and one for a MAC … but Amazon have a Linux package on their site for four different distributions of Linux. I installed the package,and then downloaded an album. I did need to tell the browser what programme to use (/usr/bin/amazonldr) which was annoying, but after that it just worked fine.
And, at the end of it all we don’t need to worry about encyption keys, backup and restores of files that are encrypted, or losing fidelity in moving from one lossy codec to another. Just simple MP3s that play on anything. itunes have had their last shilling
P.S. I do still think Apple make simply the best pieces of engineering in their players, even if I hate the lock-in. Kat’s ipod really does look good enough to lick, per Job’s design request.