You Know My Label, Look Up My Songs

So you want to upgrade EMI-labeled music you purchased from iTunes to the higher-sonic-quality versions without copy protection (when they become available in iTunes next month)?

Mac user? Try the tip “HOWTO: Another way to find EMI songs on your computer” by Erica Sadun. Missing from the instructions: the “Other” menu choice is available if you click the Kind button in the Find dialog. Unfortunately this tip works only for Mac OS X users.

What about Windows PC users? Windows XP search doesn’t let you search with such detailed attributes as you can with Mac OS X. I haven’t found any tips out there for searching Windows iTunes libraries properly (other than using iTunes itself).

Of course, there is also the problem that EMI includes other record labels. What of those songs whose copyright information lists one of EMI’s labels, like Capitol, instead of EMI? (Here’s a list of EMI labels. Good luck with that.)

All of which leads me to suspect that Apple will provide a way to search your iTunes library for purchased songs by specific labels. Perhaps EMI will promote this new capability through the iTunes store. Something has to give, here — EMI wants to make money on these upgrades, and Apple wants to see DRM-free music succeed. Look for this new capability shortly.

Apple iTunes

Apple Store

Share

A Tale of Two Windows PC Replacements

Updates, patches, and configurations for Microsoft Windows PCs throw businesses for a loop, and slowly the IT departments of these businesses are responding. And they’re not jumping on the Windows Vista bandwagon.

Bottom line, if a business outfits hundreds of Windows PCs to workers who run basically the same set of applications, it is wasting money on hundreds of little nightmares happening now or waiting to happen. If they deploy thousands, the potential for these nightmares to lead to costly disasters is exponentially higher.

What to do? For some companies, especially large ones that can test solutions in pilot programs, the answer is to replace the PCs with ultra-thin clients that run, well, nothing. Almost nothing. No need for a hard drive, no Windows, no applications, which run from a central server. Administrative costs are lower, thanks to centralized administration and control. New applications, upgrades and patches are much simpler to deploy, since they only have to be installed on the servers, not on each individual desktop.

This is how Sparkasse Haslach-Zell, a savings bank headquartered in Zell, Germany, solved this problem. Saddled with aging equipment — 166 MHz Pentium-based PCs — and a complex mixture of Windows desktop applications, the bank needed to integrate and simplify IT administration in order to increase the effectiveness of its staff. The company replaced them with Sun Ray ultra-thin clients linked via broadband connections to Sun V20z servers. Rather than change the applications or adopt new systems, the company chose to make use of its Windows and Linux applications by running Sun Ray clients with Java Desktop System software, Solaris on the Sun server, Citrix MetaFrame to manage Windows-based applications, and RayMote W*Admin software from Slovakia-based UNIT to manage Solaris and Linux applications.

Not only did the bank increase productivity, it also turned a bit greener by reducing its power consumption by 94% — a Sun Ray ultra-thin client consumes just 11 watts versus 150 for a typical PC. Sun Ray clients also have fewer components, so both acquisition and repair costs are reduced.

Following this notion, Valparaiso University put more than 120 Sun Rays across its campus — in labs, in the library facility, in its administrative offices, and in dormitories — in order to eliminate the complex, costly and time-consuming administration of Windows PCs. As a result, the university reduced IT maintenance by 97% — eight hours per week to one hour per month.

What about high-performance applications? If you dig down in the weeds of Valparaiso’s story, you find that one of the issues, in one part of the university, was the cost of outfitting Geography and Meteorology departments with high-performance Windows PCs running graphics applications. It would have cost as much as $6,000 per Windows PC and would have required a significant time commitment from IT. By contrast, the Sun Ray, at half the size and consuming only 5% of the power of a traditional PC, offered a smaller footprint, dramatically lower power consumption and the ability to run both UNIX and Windows environments from a single desktop — all at prices significantly lower than comparable Windows PCs.

Reliability, it turns out, is crucial to some of these students who are out in the field tracking hurricanes. The team needs to monitor weather reports and satellite data — A PC freezing up at the wrong moment can put their lives at risk — but with the Sun Rays, according to the university’s senior systems administrator, system lockups are a thing of the past.

Want to give your workers something simple and easy to use? Consider this tale of two Windows PC replacements. If you still think it would be better to outfit them with Windows XP or Vista PCs, good luck with that.

.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

Share

Take a Sad Song and Make it Better

Apple has taken a sad song — the copy restrictions on its music — and made it better by removing the Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection for its high-quality music format in a deal with record giant EMI.

The news (see “EMI, Apple partner on DRM-free premium music” by Caroline McCarthy of CNET News.com) is that Apple will sell songs in a higher-quality audio format from its iTunes online store, at a higher price ($1.29 per song), without DRM. The songs will play on any computer and any digital-audio player. Entire albums and individual songs will be available in this higher-quality, non-DRM format, but they will not replace DRM-protected songs currently sold through iTunes at the older price ($0.99 per song). That way, consumers have a choice. And for those who’ve already purchased DRM-protected EMI songs at 99 cents apiece can upgrade them to the new format for 30 cents apiece. Steve Jobs suggested that half of iTunes’ music tracks will be available in both DRM-loaded and DRM-free form by the end of 2007.

According to The New York Times (“EMI Dropping Copy Limits on Online Music” by Thomas Crampton), Steve Jobs is responding to an attack on iTunes in Europe. Mark Mulligan, a London analyst at the research firm Jupiter, was quoted: “Jobs was clearly here in Europe to send a strong message to the discontent in Norway and the French parliament.” Jobs emphasized how much the music labels have benefited from sales through iTunes. “ITunes has brought more than $1 billion in revenues to the record companies at no additional cost to them. Everybody wins here.”

Indeed, everyone wins and especially Apple as it retains its control over the online music market. As I wrote before (see “Splendid Time is Guaranteed For All“), the online music industry will change dramatically for the better when the Beatles started selling their songs online, through iTunes — which is undoubtedly the direction Apple Corps (the Beatles label) is heading (see “Apple and Apple Give Peace a Chance“). I also noted before (see “Let It Be… Naked (Without DRM)“) that stripping DRM from songs removes the barrier to freely using the music you own on different players. The connection was not so obvious until Apple made its first non-DRM deal, with EMI, the record label that controls a vast quantity of classic rock from the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and yes, the Beatles (by distributing for Apple Corps).

Conspicuous by its absence from this deal is the Beatles catalog. EMI’s digital catalog does not yet include the Beatles — the label has the rights to the group’s recordings on CD, but the Beatles’ record company, Apple Corps, has not yet granted digital rights. When this happens, I expect to see another fanfare of news stories that will add yet another boost to this DRM-less higher-quality format.

Amazingly, EMI’s research showed that higher-quality, DRM-free songs outsold its lower-quality, copy-protected counterparts 10-to-1. Apple is using a higher bit rate (256 kilobit-per-second) with the AAC format, so the files are larger — about the same size as the song files in my library from CDs, because I use the 256 kbps rate with either AAC or MP3 when I rip CDs.

Also amazing is how the record labels can still charge so much. An album of songs will cost about $13-$15 either on CD or in this new iTunes DRM-less format. However, with the CD you get a physical backup of the track at the highest quality, along with artwork, credits, and liner notes. This deal puts the profits back into music sales for EMI, if only by reducing the cost of making CDs and distributing them to stores at wholesale prices. But it may not change my buying habits — I just ordered Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall (CD/DVD) on CD from Amazon rather than purchase it on iTunes. Classic rock is, well, classic, and I want the liner notes and the extra DVD in the package.

Apple Store

Share

Microsoft Blinked — iPod Sees Vista

Among several Windows Vista patches released yesterday, Microsoft included one that lets iPods be disconnected without getting corrupted (see “Microsoft trying to make Vista iPod-friendly” by Ina Fried, CNET News.com). As I reported here and in my other blog (see “iTunes Pulls Over at Vista Point“), iPods suffered from eject problems at the hands of Vista. Many thought that Apple was shunning Vista and being sluggish to fix things on purpose; others thought that perhaps Microsoft was sabotaging the iPod and iTunes. In this industry, both are possible and even likely.

This time, Microsoft blinked first and fixed the problem. Microsoft this week reported 20 million Vista licenses sold since its release. It’s interesting to note that Microsoft has not reported how many copies of Vista it has validated, which would be a very good measure of actual usage. Nevertheless, 20 million Vista PCs are supposedly out there, and some of their owners have iPods. And yet, over 100 million iPods are out there, many connecting to Windows XP machines and Macs.

This is not the only time Microsoft blinked first in a confrontation with Apple over multimedia technologies. The company’s failure to field video authoring software — thereby capitalizing on its advantage of bundling Windows Media Player with the operating system — cost Microsoft the high-end video tools market, which is now Apple’s (with Final Cut and QuickTime).

“Microsoft took several steps to sabotage QuickTime,” reported Avie Tevanian in his monopoly trial testimony (as noted in a very interesting read, Microsoft’s Plot to Kill Quicktime). Microsoft’s sabotage “included creating misleading error messages and introducing technical bypasses that deprived QuickTime of the opportunity to process certain types of multimedia files. In some instances users were left with the false impression that QuickTime was not functioning properly.” One particular error message was a warning Windows 95 presented after the installation of QuickTime, stating that some file types might no longer play — and offering to reinstall Microsoft’s player as the default media application.

Now I remember why I threw those CD-ROM titles out — the ones that wouldn’t play on a PC because QuickTime for Windows seemed not to work. I had experience with both sides of this: I published a Mac/Windows cross-platform CD-ROM title called Haight-Ashbury in the Sixties, and I had to answer hundreds of tech support calls about this error message. This sabotage.

Thanks, Microsoft. While you were sabotaging QuickTime, you were also arranging to get its code from a third party.

I remember Real founder Rob Glaser (at that time, in 1995, the head of the Multimedia PC marketing effort for Microsoft) responding to my plans to publish the CD-ROM using QuickTime for Windows, the only cross-platform technology for multimedia playback at that time. He said, “Good luck with that.”

.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

Share

Microsoft Blinked — iPod Sees Vista

Among several Windows Vista patches released yesterday, Microsoft included one that lets iPods be disconnected without getting corrupted (see “Microsoft trying to make Vista iPod-friendly” by Ina Fried, CNET News.com). As I reported here and in my other blog (see “iTunes Pulls Over at Vista Point“), iPods suffered from eject problems at the hands of Vista. Many thought that Apple was shunning Vista and being sluggish to fix things on purpose; others thought that perhaps Microsoft was sabotaging the iPod and iTunes. In this industry, both are possible and even likely.

This time, Microsoft blinked first and fixed the problem. Microsoft this week reported 20 million Vista licenses sold since its release. It’s interesting to note that Microsoft has not reported how many copies of Vista it has validated, which would be a very good measure of actual usage. Nevertheless, 20 million Vista PCs are supposedly out there, and some of their owners have iPods. And yet, over 100 million iPods are out there, many connecting to Windows XP machines and Macs.

This is not the only time Microsoft blinked first in a confrontation with Apple over multimedia technologies. The company’s failure to field video authoring software — thereby capitalizing on its advantage of bundling Windows Media Player with the operating system — cost Microsoft the high-end video tools market, which is now Apple’s (with Final Cut and QuickTime).

“Microsoft took several steps to sabotage QuickTime,” reported Avie Tevanian in his monopoly trial testimony (as noted in a very interesting read, Microsoft’s Plot to Kill Quicktime). Microsoft’s sabotage “included creating misleading error messages and introducing technical bypasses that deprived QuickTime of the opportunity to process certain types of multimedia files. In some instances users were left with the false impression that QuickTime was not functioning properly.” One particular error message was a warning Windows 95 presented after the installation of QuickTime, stating that some file types might no longer play — and offering to reinstall Microsoft’s player as the default media application.

Now I remember why I threw those CD-ROM titles out — the ones that wouldn’t play on a PC because QuickTime for Windows seemed not to work. I had experience with both sides of this: I published a Mac/Windows cross-platform CD-ROM title called Haight-Ashbury in the Sixties, and I had to answer hundreds of tech support calls about this error message. This sabotage.

Thanks, Microsoft. While you were sabotaging QuickTime, you were also arranging to get its code from a third party.

I remember Real founder Rob Glaser (at that time, in 1995, the head of the Multimedia PC marketing effort for Microsoft) responding to my plans to publish the CD-ROM using QuickTime for Windows, the only cross-platform technology for multimedia playback at that time. He said, “Good luck with that.”

.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

Share

Apple TV Smokes the Competition

I wrote recently about Apple’s strategy of building a platform around iTunes — a wireless multimedia home network that not only links together all your PCs and Macs and television/stereo systems using Apple TV, but also extends out to your car and to all your iPod and iPhone devices (see “The Mothers of Invention at Apple“).

This is no pipe dream. Apple TV, shipping as of March 20, is a hardware node of this software platform — you synchronize it to your iTunes library, like an iPod. But the Apple TV box is capable of much more than its current features, which means Apple can extend the feature set pretty easily through updates to the onboard software. A clue that the Apple TV will someday sport digital video recording (DVR) functions has surfaced. In “Are There Plans For Digital Video Recorder Capabilities on Apple TV?” Carl Howe (Blackfriars Communications) submits that new Automator actions shipped as part of the Apple TV software include New Audio Capture, New Video Capture, Start Capture, Pause Capture, and Stop Capture. Automator is a system for automating workflows in Mac OS X.

The Apple TV hardware is not much different than a low-end laptop computer, and it runs a slimmed version of Mac OS X (for a peek inside, see AppleInsider’s coverage). Even though its USB port is “for diagnostics only” or something like that, Ozy from the AwkwardTV project has found a way to boot the Apple TV from an external USB drive attached to it, without opening the Apple TV case or removing the internal hard disk. Meanwhile, higher-capacity replacement internal drives are already available (see IResQ). The box has also been hacked to play xvid and WMV files, if you take a screwdriver to it and alter the contents of the internal hard drive. Joost (still in Beta testing) can run on Apple TV, according to the JoostTeam blog. Once Joost goes live, people can subscribe to unlimited TV shows.

Video-on-demand (VOD) operators must view Apple TV as a threat (see “How Apple TV Will Impact Operators” by Ian Fogg in Jupiter Research Analyst Weblogs), as Apple TV can provide on-demand HDTV content, as soon as the iTunes store begins stocking HDTV titles. Apple TV works with PCs and Macs transparently, taking advantage of whatever broadband connection you have; this gives Apple TV an edge over traditional VOD services that require additional broadband infrastructure. Competing products, such as the XBox 360, rely on Windows Media Center, and have very limited cross-platform capability.

Wildly expensive at $300, the Apple TV is nevertheless a consumer’s delight. Setting up the Apple TV is a breeze once you get the appropriate cables, which unfortunately are sold separately, adding about $40 to the price. See “Apple TV: An In-depth Review” by ars technica, and “MacRumors Review: Apple TV” by longofest for excellent reviews. Besides the fact that Apple TV is a smokin’ hot product, it’s also hot — about 110 degrees Farenheit at first, and even hotter when playing video (see “Apple TV is…hot!” by Erica Sadun).

Apple Store

Share

iTunes 7.1.1 Meets Vista Halfway

As reported before, iTunes has a problem with Vista. The new iTunes version 7.1.1., released last week, which packs a lot of new features, fixes some of these problems, but not all. As I report in my other blog (iTimes), iTunes has been updated to accommodate Apple TV and provide full-screen cover browsing; incidentally, it doesn’t slam MusicMatch Jukebox against the wall anymore (see “iTunes Meets its MusicMatch“). iTunes version 7.1.1 “addresses a stability issue and minor compatibility problems” according to Apple. Most of these related to Vista. Apple also released QuickTime 7.1.5 which delivers numerous bug fixes and addresses critical security issues.

So far there have been no reports of trouble with the iTunes 7.1 update, other than Vista problems. People are mostly thrilled by the full-screen CoverFlow feature for browsing by album covers. It doesn’t yet show the track information on the flip side of an album cover (as demonstrated by Steve Jobs on the iPhone — see “iPhone Tips Revealed in Videos” in my iTimes blog) — that feature may come with the release of Leopard in June. Apple TV preferences are included in version 7.1, and QuickTime includes a setting for exporting to Apple TV. See my overview of iTunes version 7.1.1. features for a blow-by-blow description of cover browsing, managing multiple libraries, and using other new features of iTunes 7.1.1.

* * *

Now godaddy will be offering seo services with their cheap web hosting service in order to market their dedicated hosting even more.

* * *

.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

Share

iTunes 7.1.1 Fixes Wobble

If you don’t already have it, you need iTunes version 7.1.1., which packs a lot of new features into the number one media player. As reported before, iTunes has been updated to accommodate Apple TV and provide full-screen cover browsing; incidentally, it doesn’t slam MusicMatch Jukebox against the wall anymore (see “iTunes Meets its MusicMatch“).

iTunes version 7.1.1 “addresses a stability issue and minor compatibility problems” according to Apple. Must have been that wobble in one of the wheels. Some Windows Vista problems have been fixed, but not all.

See my overview of iTunes version 7.1.1. features for a blow-by-blow description of cover browsing, managing multiple libraries, and using other new features of iTunes 7.1.1.

.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

Share

Tones for Joan’s Bones

(With apologies to Chick Corea.)

In Japan, they’re wearing iPod shuffles in their headbands and preparing to go underwater. According to Electronista, the Japanese gadgetmaker Thanko has introduced a sports headband for MP3 players that uses bone conduction to play sound, making it suitable for waterproof listening applications (if you waterproof your iPod as well). It’s too soon to tell when this will hit our shores, but you can order them online directly from Thanko.

Bone conduction is a hearing aid technology that conducts “Good Vibrations” through the bones of your skull directly into your inner ear. Place a headset on your temple or cheek, and the electromechanical transducer, which converts electric signals into mechanical vibrations, sends sound to the internal ear through the cranial bones. Thanko had already released a conventional-looking pair of bone-conduction headphones, the Vonia EZ-4200Ps, which sits on your skull rather than on your ears — presumably so that you can listen to your iPod and hear everything else going on in the world, while also protecting your eardrums.

Scuba divers use waterproof bone conduction speakers — typically a waterproof rubber piezo-electric flexing disc attached to the temple. The sound can be surprisingly clear and crisp, though not in stereo, because the sound seems to come from inside your head. I withhold judgement until I get a chance to actually “hear” through them.

The Vonia headband offers a small pocket for holding the iPod shuffle. The wires are tucked inside the headband, and Thanko notes that Vonia owners can fit a waterproof guard on the bone conduction speakers to take the headband underwater. The compartment itself is not waterproof, so you need to waterproof your iPod shuffle. And yes, it is possible to waterproof an iPod shuffle — see the SwimMan’s waterproof iPod shuffle writeup in Engadget.

.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

Share

iTunes 7.1 Meets its MusicMatch

So far there have been no reports of trouble with the iTunes 7.1 update. People are mostly thrilled by the full-screen CoverFlow feature for browsing by album covers. It doesn’t yet show the track information on the flip side of an album cover (as demonstrated by Steve Jobs on the iPhone) — that feature may come with the release of Leopard in June. Apple TV preferences are included in version 7.1, and QuickTime includes a setting for exporting to Apple TV.

But iTunes 7.1 is truly welcome in one corner of the universe — folks who use MusicMatch Jukebox for a variety of things while sharing the music library with iTunes. Some people prefer MusicMatch (MM as they call it) for ripping CDs, super-tagging songs to categorize them quickly, recording from other sources, and so on. Very early models of the first Windows version of the iPod was supplied with MM, before iTunes was developed for Windows. But this version of MM, and all subsequent versions, broke when iTunes 7 was released (see “Does Apple’s iTunes Disable the Competition?“). They wouldn’t work together — MM wouldn’t even open (some suspected a DLL conflict with the skinning or EQ sub-system). Uninstalling iTunes was the only “fix” but that meant losing the ability to update iPods.

MM folks have always felt unsupported; first by Apple, which abandoned MM without so much as an “aloha” and then by MusicMatch itself, which was purchased by Yahoo in 2004 and subsequently dropped out of sight. At some point before Yahoo bought it, the company lost the rights to distribute the iPod plug-in for MM and stopped developing or building fixes for iPod plug-ins. If you wanted to use MM and didn’t have the CD-ROM from Apple with version 7.5, you could still use version 8.1, which is still available from OldVersion.com, along with the iPod plug-in for MM, available from Version Tracker. MM recently re-emerged as Yahoo MusicJukebox, which is MM version 10.1.

Apple really didn’t have to fix this problem, but public outcry had already started. Apple tends to fix problems that hurt its image (unlike Microsoft). So MM users, rejoice, you can get back to super-tagging with MM. Good luck with that.

Thanks to Jay Schmitz, drdrjay@aloha.net, for help with this story.

Apple Store

.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

Share