Archive for Fileophile

Done to Zune

Saith Wikipedia: “The Zune hardware players were discontinued in October 2011.”

So — hard to find these days? Not necessarily:

Zune for sale in 2017

On t’other hand, the price of the Zune 120 at release was, um, $249.99.

On the upside, Microsoft still vends Zune Groove Music.

(Sort of via Consumerist.)


Trapeze be unto you

I’d wandered over to the iTunes Store for something or other, and got to wondering: “Geez, how long have I been doing this?”

We turn back the clock ten years and change, and find this statement:

I opened up the Store and said, “If they have [insert song information here], I will sign up, and I will purchase that track, and no doubt there will be others to follow.”

They had that track. It was, in fact, “The West Wind Circus,” a narrative by Adam Miller that Helen Reddy cut back in ’73 for her Long Hard Climb LP; it has stuck in the back of my head for lo, these many years, but never pushed its way far enough to the front for me to track down either the LP or the current CD release. (Yeah, yeah, I know: Helen Reddy. Forget those 45s you threw away; this is a lovely song, beautifully sung.) Ninety-nine cents well spent, I’d say.

There are a couple of live versions on YouTube, but they stay so close to the studio-recorded original that you might as well listen to the LP track, which led off side two:

“Is that all there is to the circus?” Peggy Lee had asked four years earlier. Well, yeah, if you can retain your ironic detachment. Not here, though.

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Poisoned especially for you

Google, which by now knows enough about you to tell you where you left your car keys, is about to do a number on you musically:

Beginning on Monday, streaming music service Google Play Music will relaunch with an unparalleled scare-the-pants-off-you artificial intelligence function that can deliver playlists based on your location, what you are doing — or what mood you are in.

Thanks to its hold on your e-mail, calendars, maps, traffic app and even the motion sensor on your phone, Google can deliver music to get you ready to work out at the gym, ease into a vacation and even pick you up if you’ve been complaining about being blue.

“Google understands the kind of place you’re at, so home means something different from the gym, a bar, a park or an airport,” Elias Roman, product manager at Google Play Music, told The [New York] Post.

I’m not entirely sure what I think about that. The Los Angeles indie band Ships Have Sailed, however, is entirely sure.

(Title swiped from King Crimson.)

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A cascade of fumbles

Remember when I was a detail-oriented worker, perhaps not the fastest, but guaranteed to get to the end of the project with as few problems as possible?

Gawd, I miss those days.

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A somewhat quieter stream

Classical-music performances may vary in length, often due to conductor preferences. (I have two recordings of Ravel’s Boléro, and one runs two minutes longer than the other.) So I’m not particularly worried if this piece was performed slightly faster than normal:

Then again, it could have been a sloppy editing job. You never know these days.

(Via Maria Dahvana Headley.)

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Another satisfied customer

Wouldn’t be this guy:

Twelve dot four has little to recommend it, unless you were horribly put out by the cavalier treatment of the sidebar in earlier versions. And it’s already ticked me off for something entirely different: if I decide to add an entire album to the Play Next function, the album will be played in reverse order, last track to first. Abbey Road, for instance, will start with “Her Majesty.” Worse, I happened to find this out on the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross soundtrack for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which has 39 tracks.

Dear Apple: I’d tell you to quit when you’re ahead, but you’re not ahead anymore.

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Ma, it’s the revenooers

iTunes Radio is being folded into the larger Apple Music service. What does this mean? Exactly what you think it does:

iTunes Radio, Apple’s ad-supported streaming service, will soon no longer be free.

The company plans to make the service part of Apple Music, which costs $10 a month, beginning Jan. 29, according to BuzzFeed, who first reported the news. The update means that Beats 1, which launched last year alongside Apple Music, will be the company’s only free music streaming offering.

Apple launched iTunes Radio in 2013 in the United States and Australia. The streaming service is similar to Pandora and other Internet radio services in that you can create custom stations based on genres or specific songs. The service is ad-supported and didn’t allow on-demand access to music.

I have no idea whether Friday Radio, the custom station I started in 2013, will survive in any recognizable form.

(Title from Snuffy Smith. Feel free to Google it.)

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Right now, over Net

I frankly didn’t envision this kind of response, which explains as well as anything else why I am not working in the music industry. As of Christmas eve, the Beatles can be streamed through your favorite service, and in the first two days, says Rolling Stone, 673,000 Spotify playlists got an infusion of Fab Four.

If you’re wondering which Beatles song got played most often, wonder no more: it’s “Come Together,” the opener to Abbey Road, which enjoys a singular status among Beatles tracks: on 45, it was the B-side to the one and only time George Harrison got an A-side (with “Something”). At the time, we were told that it was really a double-A disc, but it followed Apple practice: A-side gets the green side of the apple, B-side gets the sliced side. “They blessed me with a couple of B-sides in the past,” said Harrison at the time, “but this is the first time I’ve had an A-side.” Lennon, for his part, thought “Something” was the best song on Abbey Road, so he wasn’t complaining. Curiously, “Something” didn’t make the top ten streams, but Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” did.

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One step toward Red

I don’t know anyone who’s signed up for YouTube’s Red service, which allows consumption of, one assumes, mass quantities of media for a monthly subscription fee. And up to this point, YouTube’s actual revenues from yours truly equaled the proverbial goose egg. Still, some things are worth paying for, and as an experiment — and in my capacity as a longtime non-subscriber to Discovery Family, which the cable company has pushed out to some far-distant Nosebleed Tier — I put up some coin of the realm yesterday to watch the newest episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a show-business fable titled “The Mane Attraction,” ever-so-slightly based on George du Maurier’s Trilby. (The manipulative manager is named “Svengallop,” fercryingoutloud.) We’re talking $1.99, or $2.99 for actual HD. Mostly, I was curious to see how convoluted paying for an episode would be.

As it happens, the answer to that was “Not very,” since I already had a Google Wallet specified: two buttons, and the deed was done. (Your mileage may vary.) They are offering a season ticket — 26 episodes for approximately the price of ten — so I may do that for Season Six. After all, one must support the content creators at some level, and paying the cable company an extra $200 a year is not a level I’d consider useful.

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I wouldn’t have thought this possible

Did the iTunes Store actually run out of Adele’s 25?

I’m guessing this is from Apple’s UK outpost, what with the price quoted in sterling. But this still doesn’t explain how it could be sold out; I mean, it’s not like digital files take up so much warehouse space. Is there a specific allocation of licenses to each iTunes operation? (I checked the US location last night, and it was willing to sell, albeit at $10.99.)

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A full-fledged river

And now, boys and girls, the single most-often streamed song in the entire history of streamed songs, at least on Spotify:

Yep. Five hundred twenty-six million streams since its release in March. Must have made the creators at least fifty bucks by now.

At first, I was wondering if “Lean On” got so many streams because it was catchy enough to listen to but not enough to buy, but its #4 charting in Billboard suggests otherwise. And the video, which has something like 750 million views, has Turkish subtitles, which fascinates me, given that this is an American group with a French DJ, the singer is Danish, and most of the exterior photography was shot in India. (This is positive multiculturalism, dammit.)

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Apple does it again, sort of

The absence of Taylor Swift notwithstanding, Apple’s music-streaming service is drawing a pretty fair number of paying customers:

6.5 million users are now paying for Apple Music, the company’s music streaming and download service that offers users unlimited access to over 30 million tracks. A further 8.5 million are still trialling it, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who dropped the figures during the WSJD Live conference [Monday] night. Apple music costs £9.99 ($9.99) per month, with family accounts going for £14.99 ($14.99) per month.

Considering rival Spotify boasts around 20 million paying users after a full seven years of operation, that Apple’s netted over six million subscribers since its launch on June 30 is impressive.

Of course, one can always be cynical:

[I]t’s likely that a few of those customers currently paying for the service simply forgot to turn off their automatic subscription renewal at the end of Apple’s free three-month trial period, even with Apple’s reminder emails.

I assure you, I’d notice ten bucks (or ten quid) being siphoned (or syphoned) out of my wallet every month.

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Too good a tool

Bad news in the mailbox from the Fortress of Bezosity:

The Amazon MP3 Downloader is no longer available as of today. We’re sorry for any inconvenience!

As an alternative, you can download your music directly through your web browser. To help make this easier, we’ve completely redesigned web browser downloading. It now gives you the option to download albums and multiple tracks at the same time using .ZIP files. ZIP is a file format that compresses content for quicker transfer.

If .ZIP files save any transfer time, it’s because they move several files under a single filename; actual compression of an .mp3 music file, already compressed to begin with, is next to nil. The last musical .ZIP file I acquired, Go Home Productions’ Sleazy Egyptian EP, managed to get 9-percent compression on a couple of tracks, which is amazingly high.

The real bummer, for me anyway, is that the Downloader was smart enough to find one’s iTunes directory and install the files on the fly, even while they were being tossed into the Amazon MP3 folder.

Oh, yes, this trick is still doable — with the Amazon Music app. I suppose I’ll have to see if this works on the desktop, because it definitely won’t work on my Dumbphone.

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Tagged as an afterthought

The iTunes application has never really dealt well with classical music: to do it right, you need more tags than just “Album,” “Artist” and “Title,” and purchased classical tracks, if they’re tagged at all, are often tagged either inappropriately or uselessly. (Omnibus collections are inevitably the worst, probably because they’re just thrown together out of existing tracks.) Even if you get all your tags in place, though, you’re still not out of the woods:

“To give you a really specific situation, there are two settings of the Te Deum text by Benjamin Britten. And it would seem to me that if you type in ‘Britten’ and ‘Te Deum,’ you would see some of them,” the composer Nico Muhly told me. “But it says, ‘no results found’.”

I want to submit to the record here that Muhly’s hard drive contains seven different files that could be reasonably called the Britten Te Deum. In fact, it contains more than 2,000 files, or 11.9 gigabytes, of music by Benjamin Britten. It also contains 97 different settings of the Te Deum text.

“What’s extraordinary about it is that I tagged everything really, really well. It’s in Artist, Album Artist, all these things are organized,” he said.

But when “Britten Te Deum” is searched — and he sent me a screenshot of this — nothing comes up. “It’s not like, let me show you too many results. It just does not compute.”

Not that it would matter if you did get results:

Even when the search function does locate a file, he says, pressing “return” to play it does not start playing the highlighted file, but the first file listed alphabetically in iTunes. “Which of course is only Aaliyah.”

I did my own test, looking for Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in E, K. 380, Andante comodo. Search function came up blank no matter how many terms I entered; it recognized the composer’s name, but didn’t seem to connect it to any actual tracks. (And yet it’s there, on the Transformation set by Yuja Wang.)

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What do you got?

Jon Bon Jovi was asking this a few years back, and it occurs to me that the question probably ought to be asked of subscribers to streaming-music services:

Even as recently as five years ago, people would have had quite a bit of music stored on some device that they carried with them. I have a tiny little iPod Shuffle that I can clip to my sleeve when I work out that will play music long past the point I have fallen face-first into the treadmill. And thank you for asking, but that statement does actually imply an amount of time measured in more than minutes. But since streaming the music is easier, people don’t bother to stop and store it, especially when the process is kind of complicated.

I have spoken before of my SanDisk/Sansa ClipZip, its four gigabytes swollen to 36 and its operating system replaced by something entirely different. It contains 5,000 or so tracks specially selected by — well, by me, actually, from the several collections I maintain. Then again, I’ve been storing music for, literally, fifty years, so I’m used to the concept. Not so some of your young streamers, which fact accrues to the benefit of the services themselves:

They do much better financially when people link up to them every time they want to hear a song and they get no new money if someone listens to that same song held instead in a file on a device’s own data storage.

Then again, how many streams will it take to bring in ninety cents — 70 percent of a $1.29 single at the iTunes Store, once Apple takes its cut — in revenue? Maybe I’ll have to ask Jon about that.

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Not so much purple

The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince has made what one might call a Swift move:

Prince has removed his discography from all streaming music services except Tidal. “Prince’s publisher has asked all streaming services to remove his catalog,” reads a note on Prince’s Spotify artist page. “We have cooperated with the request and hope to bring his music back as soon as possible.”

This is nothing new for His Purpleness: last year he had all his tunes pulled from YouTube, and killed his Facebook and Twitter accounts, although he has since resurfaced on Twitter, where he expressed some annoyance with the very concept of streaming music:

This is where he got that quote, and here’s the rest of it:

“…from pennies on the dollar to fractions of pennies on the dollar.”

To borrow a phrase, it’s a sign o’ the times.

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Meanwhile, back in 1989

I mentioned last week that the first three months of Apple Music would generate no royalties for musicians, and that Taylor Swift’s 1989 would not be available on the service. Sunday Swift issued her own statement via Tumblr:

This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field … but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.

These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.

About two decades ago, I wrote an unnecessarily long piece about a sampler-album series issued by Warner Bros. starting in the late 1960s. Included was a squib from the company’s advertisements for the series:

We can get away with that low price because these celebrated artists and this benevolent record company have agreed not to make a profit on this venture. We (and they) feel it’s more important that these samples of musical joy be heard.

At least 100 people have written me asking why these albums were never reissued on CD. The answer, of course, is that they’d have to renegotiate all those agreements, including those with acts who were no longer active or had moved on to rival companies. It wasn’t going to happen.

What’s different today is the nature of the music business. In 1970, if you heard a track you liked from one of those samplers, you pretty much had to go shell out $4.98 for the LP on which it was released, and the musicians still got something out of it, even after rapacious record-company contracts made the usual deductions. Today, CD sales are in seemingly terminal decline, and sales of downloadable tracks are stagnant; everyone’s flocking to streams (which pay hardly anything) or YouTube (which pays hardly anything unless you have enormous view counts). The biggest artists, like Taylor Swift, will of course survive, but it’s rough sledding for anyone a long way from the A-list.

Swift’s manifesto continues:

Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done. I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music. I think this could be the platform that gets it right.

But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.

And you know what? It wasn’t too late. An Apple exec tweeted late last night that they were giving in:

Whatever Taylor wants…

(Disclosure: I have a copy of Swift’s 1989 — purchased on CD from Target.)

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A great deal of nothing

Think of it as a loss leader, at least at first:

Apple’s streaming music service is coming to a device near you at the end of this month, since it’s likely that there’s some kind of device with iTunes on it near you right now. Yet while Apple is promising musicians over 70% of the revenue from the service as royalties, that also means musicians will get around 70% of nothing for the first three months of Apple Music, since the service will be free to users.

I’m pretty sure Taylor Swift, for one, has done the math.

Still, it’s not like recording artists will receive all that moolah even on Day 91:

Those totals include payments to the people who own the sound recordings Apple Music will play, as well as the people who own the publishing rights to songs’ underlying compositions. That doesn’t mean the money will necessarily go to the musicians who recorded or wrote the songs, since their payouts are governed by often-byzantine contracts with music labels and publishers.

I pulled out my copy of 1989, and it says pretty clearly: “Ⓟ©2013 Big Machine Records, LLC.” Big Machine, therefore, owns the actual recordings. (It is said that Swift and/or her family own a piece of Big Machine.) Swift’s songs are published by Sony/ATV Music, so they too get a cut. Exactly who gets what is established by contracts I will likely never see.

Update, 19 June: Big Machine will not be streaming 1989 through Apple Music, though Swift’s earlier material will be available.

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Leeches want respect

“You can’t defend public libraries and oppose file-sharing,” says Rick Falkvinge.

Oh, yes I can, says Roger Green:

[H]e’s wrong, in three specific ways, one of philosophy, and two on the facts.

Falkvinge’s implication through the piece is that “efficiency” is an incontrovertible good; this is incorrect. Generally, checks and balances have an important place in processes, especially when it comes to government. The argument in favor of the renewal of aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act stems largely on the fact that it would be more “efficient” to have all that phone metadata, for which the government can select those presumed terrorist, rather than doing this process more on a case-by-case basis. I’m rooting for inefficiency, thank you.

As the young folks say, THIS. If the outcome involves something being done to me, I want it done as slowly and ineffectively as possible.

More to the point, though, Falkvinge doesn’t seem to understand how libraries work. Libraries BUY books — one of their primary expenditures — and then LOAN them to other people, exposing them to people who might not have been aware of them. Moreover, authors receive MONEY because libraries purchase works, and an individual copy is generally read, one person at a time (SO inefficient!), by many people.

Rare indeed, though not entirely nonexistent, is the file-sharer who goes primarily for things with which he’s not familiar; most of what’s pirated is the stuff that’s already selling well.

File sharing is essentially a manufacturing process, reproducing products that NO ONE is purchasing. NO money is going into the pockets of the creators. Borrowing from my friend Steve Bissette, file sharing “is thievery and impoverishes creators/authors by reproducing work sans payment. There is no ‘loan’ in file sharing: it is a transfer of property, in a material form (here, place this file on YOUR computer). It proliferates [and, I would add, encourages] copying sans payment — VERY different from public libraries.”

I am not here claiming that every last file I’ve ever had on a drive in the last thirty years was acquired with scrupulous attention to whatever EULA may obtain; but there’s a lot to be said for compensating the creators of stuff you actually use. I have stacks of stuff acquired through non-official means, and I’ve discovered that I don’t use any of it on a regular basis. Greater involvement as a result of having written a check? Maybe.

A Taylor Swift quote you’ve seen before:

Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.

And if they want to give it away, that’s fine too. Most of them, I suspect, don’t want to, except on special occasions.

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Inter-track whiplash

Boy, do I know about this:

I’m sprawled across my lumpy dorm room bed, writing the words you see on this very page as iTunes shuffles through my vast music library when, in all its infinite digital wisdom, iTunes follows Ed Sheeran’s beautifully tender “Firefly” with … the Doors’ raucous “Roadhouse Blues?” What gives, shuffle function?!? This is like an ice-bucket challenge for my ears. My mind turns from fluffy pillows and candles to red lights and sticky barroom floors. I mean, I love Jim Morrison, but not as a companion to my pal Ed.

Let it roll, baby, roll.

I admit, some of my own jarring juxtapositions are my own fault. Normally I screen out all the stuff tagged as “Holiday” during normal parts of the year and start letting them filter in around mid-November; this year I forgot to reset the playlist criteria after New Year’s, and suddenly there’s “We Three Kings” — sung by Toby Keith, yet — in the middle of a Sixties-garage medley.

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How hi the fi?

Earlier this week while babbling on about Taylor Swift, as I have been wont to do of late, I made reference to the TIDAL music-streaming service, which offers higher-fidelity streams for roughly twice the price. Em’s not sure it’s worth it:

The first of which is does the majority listener demographic of the music artists who were part of the brand push own the kind of equipment where listening to uncompressed audio actually reveals greater fine detail and fidelity. Or (shameful stereotyping warning) are they more likely to think that a pair of Beats headphones is the pinnacle of the music listening experience (they might be good for some types of bass heavy music. But I seriously doubt they are the best item for discerning the subtleties of lossless audio streams)?

I don’t know. But I’m unsure enough people care enough to pay twice the asking price of a service like Spotify.

Not having wired my mid-1970s stereo rig for Internetty stuff, I do most of my streaming in the room where I do most of my typing, with decent but not inspiring equipment, and truth be told, I’m generally content with, for instance, the iTunes AAC 256 stuff.

And there are other considerations:

[N]ot all music demands greater clarity (Have you heard the Blu Ray audio remaster of The Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks? That kind of previously unheard fidelity almost sounds wrong applied to classic punk rock).

You already know my standard for such things:

In the 1980s, Steve Hoffman assembled a Gary “U.S.” Bonds compilation for MCA, and with decades of accumulated muck cleared away, we could hear the real muck [Frank] Guida was producing. The focal point was “Quarter to Three,” arguably the noisiest recording ever to top Billboard’s Hot 100. Rock critic Dave Marsh had focused on its “peculiar unity,” claiming: “I’ve played it on stereo systems ranging from $49.95 to $10,000, and the equipment makes no difference.”

Although I might make an exception for this YouTubed version with massive tube hum.

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Better than revenge

Last year, Taylor Swift withdrew her catalog from the Spotify streaming service, purely as a business matter:

“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for,” Swift said earlier this year to The Wall Street Journal. “It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”

Apparently she’s found an agreeable number for that price point:

The pop star’s music will once again be available to stream online, on Jay Z’s newly acquired TIDAL music service.

According to Digital Spy, Jay Z bought the service earlier this month for $56 million, and TIDAL distinguishes itself from the competition because of its premium, “High Fidelity” sound. The service charges users in the United States a monthly subscription fee of $19.99 — which Swift clearly sees as a better potential pay-out than the fees Spotify pays to artists.

Reportedly, the TIDAL library contains 25 million lossless tracks and 75,000 high-definition music videos; TIDAL has approximately 550,000 users.

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I still have an AOL address, and Apple sent this to it:

Our records indicate that you have been using your AOL Username to sign in to the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store.

After March 30, 2015, AOL will no longer support your ability to sign in to the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store. In order to continue using store features, including the ability to access your previously purchased content, you must transition from signing in with your AOL Username to signing in with an Apple ID.

To make this transition, simply sign in once more with your AOL Username to iTunes on your Mac or PC. You will automatically be taken through a few short steps to complete the process.

Well, yeah, I did do that, a decade or so ago. Bought a couple of dozen tracks before getting a proper Apple ID.

And I have no idea if I transitioned correctly; it took me to the usual Apple account screen, where I filled in everything that wasn’t already filled in but didn’t actually change anything on the account.

To learn more about this transition, visit

Well, not much more.

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Don’t even think about downloading this

And if you manage to pull it off, let me know how you did it:

Trevor Jackson hasn’t released an album in 14 years, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy. On February 25, the creative director, artist, and sonic pioneer behind Playgroup is set to debut a 12-track full-length [album] in 12 separate physical file formats. Aptly entitled F O R M A T, the album is spread out, one song per 12″, 10″ and 7″ vinyl, CD, mini CD, cassette tape, USB stick, VHS tape, MiniDisc, Digital Audio Tape (DAT), 8-track tape, and reel-to-reel tape, respectively, each designed by Jackson and released by The Vinyl Factory. According to the press release, the album pays homage to music formats of the past, in celebration of “the artistry, design and individual experience of playing music via traditional methods.”

If Jackson really wants to stir the pot, he should offer a bonus track on a 78 — or on Betamax.

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Fresh Apple bugs

I have spoken before of the Randomator, a Smart Playlist I worked up on the work box’s iTunes install, which shuffles through 10 percent of the available tracks that haven’t been played in a while, and after playing a track, replaces it with the next one in the chronological list. (Right now, songs from the third week of August are being inserted into the rotation.)

If this sounds OCD, consider that I’ve inserted manual sort codes into the lot of them, so that the Jacksons, for instance, sort out Alan, Bull Moose, Chuck, Deon, Freddie, J. J., Janet, Joe, Michael, Stonewall, and Wanda, to appear in exactly that order. Unfortunately for my neurosis, iTunes 12.0.1 occasionally ignores the sort code when it adds a fresh track to the Randomator. It’s still there — Get Info reveals it under the correct tab — but at least once a day the code is disregarded, which is how I found Lisa Loeb right under Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam instead of under Hank Locklin. I’ve run this playlist through at least five full versions of iTunes; this is the first time it’s done this to me.

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The price of experimentation

This week I bought four songs online, and two of them were the same song — specifically, this one, which I’ve mentioned before:

Last time, of course, I posted a live version.

Anyway, my 40-year-old LP sounds better than that. The problem, for those of us with short attention spans who seldom listen to a whole album at once, is that “Hero and Heroine” is crossfaded with “Midnight Sun,” a decidedly lesser track, and picking a good fade point is a tremendous pain in the drain. So I went out looking to purchase the track from a later compilation album, in the hopes of getting a free-standing version.

As it happens, two Strawbs compilation albums are in print: Halcyon Days (1997) and the more generic-sounding 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Strawbs (2003). I bought one track from Amazon, the other from iTunes. Neither has the cold ending I wanted — though the 20th Century Masters version runs eight seconds longer for some reason. Both sound pretty decent.

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One o’ them newfangled head units

A decade and a half after Gwendolyn’s birth in Oppama, Japan, Infiniti is still sourcing auto audio from Bose, though things are obviously much different today. With a few days to fiddle about with a G37, I decided to do some exploration.

The first thing I spotted was a succession of weird variations in volume. Since the lowest volume seemed to occur at idle, I concluded that this was an effort to compensate for road and engine noise: crank up the RPMs, and the box cranks up the volume. If this actually worked well, I never would have noticed it. To do this correctly, there’d have to be a sensor located near the listener’s head to feed back sound-pressure level on a realtime basis, and I don’t think Nissan wants to spend that kind of money. Digging down in the audio menu, I found a toggle for the function, and switched it off.

Pushing the AUX button brings up satellite radio, which will tune but will not actually deliver a station unless there’s a proper subscription in effect. Curiously, there’s no formal three-connector AUX jack, just the USB port in the console, at an angle where it’s difficult for either driver or front-seat passenger to access while seated, unless you’re riding with Reed Richards. I attached my little Sansa Clip Zip, and smiled as the song titles rolled up on the screen. Downside: I have yet to figure out how I can get the Sansa’s 32GB microSD card to read; the menu only brings up the stuff from the resident memory. And while the device powered on and off when the car was shut off, which was greatly appreciated, the last restart was met with “Check Device Connections.” I’m thinking that Rockbox, puzzled by the start/stop command sequence, basically locked itself up. After a very long shutdown sequence, it started again normally. I’m thinking that if I had to deal with this on a regular basis — and eventually, I suppose I will — it would be easier just to plug in a 32GB flash drive.

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Now I’ve heard everything

After yesterday’s errands, I retrieved the little Rockbox-equipped Sansa music player from the car, and noticed across the display screen: “4964 of 4979.” Evidently over the preceding weeks I’d gone through the entire playlist, except for 15 songs.

Which, of course, raised a question: “What happens after the playlist runs out?” I strapped on a headset and let the machine run for the next hour. The last five:

  • 4975: The Sound-Offs, “The Angry Desert”
  • 4976: Johnnie Taylor, “Who’s Making Love”
  • 4977: Jon and Robin and the In-Crowd, “Do It Again (A Little Bit Slower)”
  • 4978: Dion, “Abraham, Martin and John”
  • 4979: Smash Mouth, “Walkin’ on the Sun”

As that last song started, the “Next:” callout was ominously blank.

And then it reset to the top of the Main Menu, awaiting further instructions. (Pressing “Resume Playback” was met with “Nothing to resume”.) This was, I decided, the ideal time to rework the playlist. (Basically, I replaced a couple of tracks with better-quality versions.)

To restart was a simple (eventually) matter of going to Files/Playlists and clicking on whatever playlist was named. First song out of the box was “We Belong Together” by Robert and Johnny; I ordered a reshuffle starting at #2, just because.

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Not so quiet on the set

“Sooner or later,” I said, “a strain relief doesn’t,” which was the reason I was shopping for a new cassette adapter to plug my little music player (Sansa Clip Zip, modified by Rockbox) into the big Bose box in the car. I had planned three steps, all of which proved to be unsuccessful: contact the individual manufacturer (the US distributor is dead in the water), consult with other users (most seem to have ripped out the head units by now), and resolder the cursed thing myself (which will require much thicker glasses, I’m afraid).

So I’m buying a book on Amazon this past weekend, which is hardly news, and as always, Amazon remembers everything I’ve bought and everything I ever thought about buying, which is also hardly news. While I’m working on the sale details, they toss up a photograph of a cassette adapter now being offered by one of their myriad of merchants, and except for an obviously glued-on label and a 90°-angle plug, it’s the same one I used to have. I anted up ten bucks plus shipping, and waited a week.

It’s here, it’s a little bit noisy, but it works. (And who’s gonna hear the noise with the stereo cranked up?)

Oh, the book? It’s coming in from Jolly Old, so it probably won’t be here until next week.

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Because you have all day

I have no idea how many Repositories of Downloadable Files there might be out there, but I have to figure that none of them are actually having to compete for anyone’s business. One I’ve just recently seen offers the usual monthly and yearly subscriptions (the latter around $75); but if you’re not a paying customer and just happened on their site because you followed a link, you get to wait a bit more than a minute and then fill out a CAPTCHA form before they start sending you the file at slightly above Commodore 64 speeds. For all I know, subscribers may be getting these faster; but am I willing to spend $12 to find out? (Hint: no.)

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