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Honey, I Shrunk the MP3s September 9, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apps, DRM, iPods.
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The new iPod Classics sport a ton of storage – 160 gigs to be exact; about 40,000 songs, give or take a few grand. For a few people, that still might not be enough.

Here’s the solution: ShrinkMyTunes.

This new commercial app compresses your songs even further, often twice as much, with no appreciable loss in quality – so you can squeeze off roughly a third of a terabyte from an iPod classic, and listen to 80,000 songs. That’s roughly 7.5 months of continuous listening with no repeats, if my math is correct.

It’s relatively tiny – a 2mb app, and has no frills to speak of: only two settings are available – Better Compression, and Better Quality. It uses a NASA-designed algorithm (“content sensitive heuristic optimization algorithm”) that trims off excess and redundant sound, and adjusts sound quality downward so that it compresses better, without unduly compromising the music. If you can live with it, it’ll at least double your storage. This’ll be great for the legions of 8gb and 4gb iPhone users, shufflers and for the coming horde of 8gb and 16gb iPod Touch users.

It works for most MP3 players, not just the iPods, and maintains all the tags and info after conversion, which averages about 30 seconds per song. You get 2x compression in most cases, 4x in others, like audiobooks and spoken word files. There are gotchas, though: only works for MP3 and WAV files, is audio-only, and worst, it’s for Windows only for now. AAC and Mac support coming within the year, don’t worry.

US$39.95. Here.

Next Big Thing July 7, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in DRM, iTunes, Music.

There is life outside the iPhone.

There’s the iTunes Store.

iTunes is now selling select whole albums from indie bands at much lower rates of US$5.99 and US$6.99 in the Next Big Thing section. Some of them are even DRM-free iTunes Plus tracks. (Clicking on this link will open up your iTunes app and take you online to the Store’s NBT page.)

In the spirit of democratizing music and allowing access to excellent indie bands and giving these bands a crack at getting somewhere, Apple‘s move is commendable. That said, when the heck are you opening up the store to our region of the world? *grumble*

DRM-Free iTunes Plus: Too good to be true June 2, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in DRM, iTunes.
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If you’re one of the few who get to buy from the iTunes Store from over here and have tried out the new DRM-Free stuff called iTunes Plus, don’t feel like you got off easy and can share the music with impunity. Apple, wily old fruit that it is, apparently embeds your account name and email address deep in the innards of the song file, so that if you do pass it around, it’d be a simple matter to track it back to the source.

TUAW reports that your account information is encoded onto the m4a file when you purchase the song, and if you’re comfortable hacking into Terminal, there are detailed (and slightly intimidating) instructions on how to find the information on their site. Alternatively, just highlight your song in iTunes and use Get Info, and there’ll be “Purchased By” information there.

I have one iTunes Plus song in my possession at the moment, the free cut “Ooh La” by The Kooks released this week, which is embedded with my info. No one yet knows if you can hack into the file and remove the info, or if the old trick of burn-and-re-rip will strip it out. I’ll give the second option a shot, but I’m not too comfy with Unix to try out the first one.

Then again, this shouldn’t really be a concern, because we never had any intention of sharing our downloads anyway, right?


UPDATE 6-9-07: Apparently our account names and email addresses have always been embedded in there, ever since. Oh. Ok. You learn something new everyday.