Defective by Design

Defective by DesignDRM is a scheme of the past. Why the iTunes store is still florishing, I can only guess. Ease-of-use and tight coupling with the Apple product line (lifestyle) might be the reason. Since april, all of the iTunes songs are DRM-free. The problem is, this right is not invoked on already purchased items. Well, I think they’ve lost one customer today, and it’s a kind they need.

More draconian DRM schemes and patronizing functionality limitations behind the cut

I present to you: my father. He’s what we call a ‘late adopter’. If it wasn’t for my mother and me, he’d still be writing stuff in WordPerfect, run them through our rusty dot matrix printer and then send them by post services. Recently, some ‘new’ applications peeked his interest: he browses the internet for info on cycling tours, spends some time in Google Earth and (although with trial-and-error) uses a 2000′ era word processor.

For his birthday, my mother  bought him an iPod. I laughed it away … Mum, he still thinks that Google is equal to the internet. He’s not going to rip cd’s, maintain a music library and – god forbid – transfer the songs succesfully to his iPod. I’m glad I was wrong. I installed iTunes for him, dumbed the options down enough for him to find his way, and he got going.

Last month, the system he was working on (an old AMD 1800+) started acting weird. Random lockups, reboots and a very unresponsive experience as a whole. So we moved to a new system. I installed iTunes again. After loading it up, the library was empty. And this is were the fun starts.

  • After afternoons and afternoons of careful cd-ripping, track selection and album cover searches, my dad collected about 300 tracks on his iPod. Being well aware of the awkward design decision to autosync the iPod with an empty iTunes library on the computer (and thus losing all the stuff on his iPod), we had put the iPod in user management mode.
  • After connecting it, we couldn’t find an option to transfer music back to the library. Plain and simple: because there isn’t one. Try to explain that to a 46 year old beginner-level computer user. Files are on location A, I want them on position B. Why can’t you do it, Jeroen?
  • Fine, I thought. I’ll find another way to get the tracks of the iPod. I used freeware application Floola to copy the songs to a folder on the desktop manually.
  • After closing Floola and re-opening iTunes, the iPod could not be recognized any more. Only option: “update & repair”. I had the songs copied over, so I decided to go for it. After a tedious install procedure, the iPod was recognized, but empty.
  • I imported the Floola-copied songs into the iTunes library. All seemed to go well.
  • I tried to copy them over the the iPod. It worked for all but 14 songs. My dad bought these in the Apple Store, so this computer had no authorization to play or copy them.
  • Even after authorizing, de-authorizing and re-authorizing the computer, I still can’t play or copy the songs. The password is correct, I get the message that I am authorized, but they won’t play.

So fuck you, Apple. Fuck you and your draconian DRM scheme.

Try to explain this to my father: in one afternoon, he had his iPod wiped and legally (!) bought songs rendered unusable. Not to mention the songs he bought in the store but weren’t on his iPod. I guess we lost those for good.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with VLC Media Player and it’s great save stream functionality.

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