Amazon’s DRM-free MP3 Downloads

Yes, you’ve read about this some­where else already. How­ev­er, I just want­ed to pro­vide a lit­tle detail on the ser­vice as-is. The files are prices at 89¢ to 99¢ each, and appear to all be 256kbps .mp3 files. Ama­zon has a small appli­ca­tion to help man­age down­load­ing the files and adding them to your music data­base (iTunes or Win­dows Media Play­er, appar­ent­ly); though it’s for Win­dows XP & Vista (no mac ver­sion, boo!) or Max OS X if you hap­pen to be on that type of machine (I was­n’t when I was try­ing this out; but yea!). The files you down­load are .azm, which appears to be just a wrap­per around what­ev­er .mp3 files you’ve pur­chased. I don’t know that the .mp3 files have tag/header infor­ma­tion that ties them back to the pur­chas­er, a la iTMS Plus songs. Frankly, I don’t care, either, pro­vid­ed it does­n’t have any data that can lead some­one to get into my Ama­zon account.

KT Tunstall's Drastic Fantastic

KT Tun­stall: Cool Scot­tish rock­er chicky.

The music that is avail­able is fair­ly impres­sive. Of course, it’s not as large a cat­a­log as the iTMS has. I was able to find some fair­ly obscure music (exam­ple: Bat for Lash­es, who I’ve writ­ten about before), though not every­thing I was look­ing for. Any CD’s for sale that have down­load­able .mp3s now have a link on that CD’s sale page, and vice-ver­sa. I down­loaded KT Tun­stal­l’s Dras­tic Fan­tas­tic (which is a great album and I’ve devel­oped a small fan­boy-crush on her already…). Down­loads are fair­ly fast (rough­ly the same as iTMS) and I used the Ama­zon down­load app to place them into iTunes for me. I’ve yet to try this out on the mac and I’ll update as soon as I can (I can only hope that if you don’t use the app, the .amz wrap­per isn’t used as I don’t think my mac knows what to do with it).

So far, I have to say that I’m pleased as punch with Ama­zon’s store. Frankly, even if you don’t use their store, you’ll ben­e­fit from what they are doing: help­ing to pull down DRM just a lit­tle more. How­ev­er, giv­en the com­pet­i­tive pric­ing and use of more com­mon file for­mat (.mp3 instead of .m4a), I think I’ll use Ama­zon’s ser­vice when­ev­er pos­si­ble for the near future.

Update: John Gru­ber has more infor­ma­tion and opin­ions than you could ever want on this over at Dar­ing Fire­ball.

Get Yer Facts Straight

The Wash­ing­ton Post’s web­site has a fact check­ing blog for (most­ly) politi­cians. I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in the claims and state­ments made by 2008 pres­i­den­tial con­tenders. They’ve even includ­ed a handy “Pinoc­chio Test” scale for each entry. See also: (not .com, Mr. VP) by the Annen­berg Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Center.

Edith Deaver, 1914–2007

Edith Deaver, 1914-2007

My grand­moth­er, Edith Deaver (or just grand­ma Deaver) died ear­ly this past Mon­day morn­ing. She had her three daugh­ters near­by and, after liv­ing for a long, healthy life, she suc­cumbed to those 93 years of time her on Earth. She will be missed, but no as much as she missed her hus­band Cicero, who had passed away some 11 years ear­li­er. I like to believe that they are togeth­er again. Born and raised in the moun­tains of North Car­oli­na, she left for the more coastal flat-lands to live most of her life in Hope Mills, NC. She had spent the more recent years in Birm­ing­ham, AL. Though she did not always have a hap­py or easy life, she made the most of it and raised three won­der­ful ladies (my mom and aunts) with my late grand­fa­ther. I remain grate­ful for her, for all that she did for my fam­i­ly through both good and bad times, and that she was tak­en after a long life with­out much suffering.

Appreciating the Classics

iPod Classic Packaging

Our new iPod “clas­sic” – which comes in much more com­pact pack­ag­ing than old­er iPods. The large cube box has been replaced with a much slim­mer case. Also, you don’t get a charg­ing block with it anymore.

After much debate and self-reflec­tion in our home over the past cou­ple of weeks, we decid­ed to get an 80GB iPod Clas­sic. We new that we were due for an upgrade from our old 20GB 3rd gen­er­a­tion iPod. It’s tiny mono­chro­mat­ic screen was hard to see much on. The size was­n’t too much of an issue (of course, that’s part­ly because it could­n’t dis­play video or pho­tos). We played around with the iPhone quite a lot and debat­ed get­ting an iPod Touch. There’s no deny­ing that it has a gor­geous screen and sexy interface.

How­ev­er, once we start­ed look­ing at what we actu­al­ly use an iPod for, the Clas­sic was the right choice. I lis­ten to music most­ly in my car and that slick inter­face (you have to turn it side­ways) would­n’t work in a DLO trans­pod. Fur­ther, flick­ing around music prob­a­bly isn’t a smart thing to do while dri­ving. Also, we use the iPod as a hard dri­ve to back­up pho­to & video stor­age while on vaca­tions and 16GB was­n’t going to be enough (I can aver­age as much as 500 pho­tos a day, which is about 3.5GB per day when shot in RAW).

All that being said, it also came down to a judge­ment in val­ue. I sim­ply did­n’t want to pay more for some­thing that did less of what we need from it. We don’t have the extra dough to be spend­ing on friv­o­lous fea­tures that we’ll rarely take advan­tage of (i.e. – the iPod Touch). We real­ly did con­sid­er get­ting an iPhone, which would be nice to reduce the num­ber of gad­gets (phone, Palm, cam­era, iPod, lap­top) but in the end, I think that even the mighty iPhone falls short of any one of those devices when com­pared direct­ly. It’s not as good a cam­era as Ange­la’s Canon Elph, let alone my D50. It does­n’t have the third par­ty soft­ware that Ange­la’s Palm has (nor will it ever as far as Apple is con­cerned, it seems). We have mobile phones that do a good job of sync­ing with our macs (for con­tacts, cal­en­dars, etc.). Ange­la’s iBook is great for surf­ing while not at home (though, obvi­ous­ly for only one of us at a time should be we apart). Last­ly, I’ve enu­mer­at­ed why the iPhone is not the per­fect iPod for us. Sure, the con­ve­nience of one sleek gad­get ver­sus five bulk­ly ones is allur­ing, but ulti­mate­ly not a rea­son­able option for us. At least not for the present time (I prob­a­bly will get a iPhone if a 3G net­work ver­sion is avail­able when I decide to replace my w810i).

No Music

There’s been some typ­i­cal blog/complaining about the inter­face upgrade, which I sup­pose was the most sig­nif­i­cant change between the 5G and 6G iPods. Giv­en that I was using a (seem­ing­ly ancient) 3G, I don’t miss what­ev­er they are pin­ing for, to tell the truth. The “Ken Burns effect” on the album art in the back­ground does­n’t both­er me, though I sup­pose it looks more attrac­tive with some cov­er-art more than oth­ers. Per­haps Apple could allow for users to select which art gets used? I don’t find the Cov­er Flow fea­ture to be that great on the Clas­sic, but it’s also not par­tic­u­lar­ly slug­gish, either. Some recent reports have indi­cat­ed that the sound qual­i­ty has dropped due to a change in some of the inter­nal hard­ware, but only audio­philes are like­ly to pick up on this. Frankly, if the qual­i­ty mat­ters that much, I doubt these peo­ple lis­ten to music on an iPod they down­loaded from the iTunes music store. As I stat­ed above, I lis­ten most­ly in my car on an FM mod­u­la­tor; the sound qual­i­ty is at least as good as the FM recep­tion on my stock Ford stereo so I don’t get too uptight about that sort of thing. Audio­books and pod­casts sound just great, as far as I care.

All things con­sid­ered so far, I like the iPod Clas­sic so far. The inter­face is an improve­ment in my opin­ion when com­pared to the old one. The cost to val­ue ratio is great, giv­en how great a gad­get the ori­gion­al iPod form fac­tor is after six years (which is for­ev­er in gad­get time scales).

Here’s some visu­al com­par­isons between the 3G iPod (back when they essen­tial­ly only came in white) and the cur­rent 6G iPod Clas­sic (now that none come in white):


Okay, so the iPhone and Touch have much larg­er screens, but this is a big jump in screen space (not to men­tion gor­geous color).

Moore's Law?

Wow, that is a slim lit­tle device. Now why could they put a hard dri­ve in the iPod Touch?

Router Software Change

We have used Svea­soft­’s pub­lic release of their “Alche­my” router firmware for the past cou­ple of years. It has been very sta­ble and I’ve not real­ly found any rea­son to change it, despite much of the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing Svea­soft­’s some­what shady busi­ness prac­tices. This week­end, I got an update that the more recent “Tal­is­man” ver­sion final­ly had a pub­lic ver­sion1. I decid­ed I could stand to down­load it and give it a try.

Big mis­take. What is it your sup­posed to do with some­thing that isn’t bro­ken? That’s right: Don’t try to fix it.

After hours of strug­gling with not being able to get net­work traf­fic rout­ed back out to the inter­net and secure my wire­less net­work, I gave up. I down­loaded the lat­est sta­ble build of DD-WRT, based on the rec­om­men­da­tion of Life­hack­er (among many oth­ers). I have the “mini” ver­sion installed and I’m pret­ty hap­py with it thus far. I may even­tu­al­ly upgrade to the full ver­sion, but I sus­pect I’ll end up with a new­er router long before that happens.

Oh, one unfor­tu­nate side note regard­ing DD-WRT: it appears that it’s web inter­face is sim­ply incom­pat­i­ble with Fire­Fox. This befud­dled me for some time but as soon as I start­ed using Safari to man­age the router, every­thing worked smoothly.

Now, to fig­ure out our VOIP router… which will like­ly end in us dump­ing Von­age (pret­ty much like every­one of their oth­er customers).

  1. What? Pub­lic? Free? You can read all about the Sveasoft/ DD-WRT/ Linksys firmware strug­gles else­where. Just know that I’m not pay­ing any­one for a router firmware because they force me to. I’ll glad­ly tip peo­ple for their hard­work, but not because they think they can build a busi­ness mod­el off of sell­ing GNU licensed soft­ware. []

Tennessee Tech in the Top 100

Ten­nessee Tech (my Alma mater) made ESP­N’s Top 100 “Great­est Beat­downs in His­to­ry.” Check out No. 70: “Loy­ola of Chica­go 111, Ten­nessee Tech 42, 1963 NCAA first-round game. Loy­ola went on to win it all.” Of course they were on the receiv­ing end of that beat­down. Wa Wa Waaaah­h­h… (via Kottke)

Don’t Get Scammed on Ringtones

I don’t find myself agree­ing with John Gru­ber on a lot of things, but his lengthy post today on cell phone ring­tones is spot on. I’ve said so myself before here. His mon­ey quote: “And any busi­ness that hinges on your cus­tomers ‘not know­ing any bet­ter’ is a bad busi­ness.” Now, you know bet­ter, so get to mak­ing your own ring­tones out of the music you pur­chased already.

This Is What Internet Security Looks Like

Security KeyHav­ing recent­ly lis­tened to the series on mul­ti-part authen­ti­ca­tion on the Secu­ri­ty Now! pod­cast (par­tic­u­lar­ly episodes 90 and 103), I got this (very inex­pen­sive) Pay­Pal brand­ed secu­ri­ty key to use with my eBay and Pay­Pal accounts. The device is actu­al­ly made by Verisign and they are cur­rent­ly test­ing it’s use with OpenID. I would­n’t have pre­vi­ous­ly rec­om­mend­ed this for most peo­ple, but after read­ing today’s news about bot­net attacks on eBay, I think that pret­ty much every­one should spend the $5 and get one of these.