Why I deleted my digital music collection

I deleted my digital music collection on the weekend. More than thirty thousand tracks, taking up over 160 GB of space, all gone. It took me years to collect all of those songs, but just minutes to get rid of them. The story of my digital music collection is probably not very unique, but it does illustrate just how far technology has come in such a short period of time.

It started, of course, with Napster. Everyone was talking about Y2K until Napster came along and stole the spotlight. Like so many others, I downloaded the software and quickly found myself searching through thousands of songs. I tried Kazaa and a bunch of other services too. Those services opened my eyes to what was possible and introduced me to a bunch of new artists. Eventually I learned about BitTorrent. No other service came close to matching the convenience, selection, quality, or speed of BitTorrent. I never had a favorite site, but I did use Suprnova, The Pirate Bay, and Mininova.

Once I realized how useful having music in the MP3 format really was, I used MusicMatch, and later Windows Media Player, to rip nearly all of the CDs my family owned (which, let me tell you, was quite a few). One of the first MP3 players I had was Creative’s Nomad Jukebox. It was huge (and looked very much like a discman), but it had a 6 GB hard drive. I loved my original iPod, well except for the battery life. In 2004, I got the Creative ZEN Touch for Christmas (which despite the name did not have touch functionality). I had a variety of other MP3 players over the years, and my favorite was probably the iPod Touch.

Score! iPod touch!
Purchasing my iPod Touch from the Apple Store in NY in 2007

I have purchased one and only one album with DRM. If I remember correctly, it was Social Code’s A Year at the Movies. Though I had read a lot about artists earning more from concerts than albums, I wanted to try to do the right thing. Turns out syncing it to my devices was not easy. Moving the album to a new computer was even harder. The experience was so horrible that I vowed to never purchase DRM-enabled music ever again.

I tried lots of different software for managing my growing library, but nothing worked better than Windows Media Player. I have never been a fan of iTunes, which is quite possibly the worst software ever written for Windows. Most other apps just fell over when I added the entire library, but WMP just kept working. I spent quite a bit of time organizing songs, making sure they had the right metatags, adding album art when WMP couldn’t identify it automatically.

Now I find myself wondering why I ever put in all that effort. The answer of course, is that I didn’t have any other options. You couldn’t buy digital music at first, and then when you could, it was laden with DRM. Streaming music services didn’t exist probably because Internet connections were slow and intermittent. The “cloud” wasn’t yet a thing.

I haven’t touched any of my downloaded music in months. That’s why I deleted it. I’ve been a paying customer of Rdio for exactly a year now, and I love it. With over 12 million songs in the catalogue, there’s rarely something I want to listen to that isn’t available on Rdio. It works on all my devices and in pretty much any browser. It connects to Facebook to automatically share what I am listening. The audio quality is fantastic. Every album and song is labeled correctly and has album art. It’s amazing that I get all of that for just $4.99 per month. Streaming music services have most definitely arrived!

I know some people prefer to “own” their music libraries, but I have never felt that desire. I never built a massive physical media collection like a lot of people did, so I guess I never developed any attachment to “owning an album”. For me, listening to the music I want, when I want, where I want, is really all that matters. Five or ten bucks a month to have access to an impossibly large collection, on any device, at any time, is totally worth it to me.

As much as I love Rdio, I think I’ll probably switch to Xbox Music when it becomes available. For me it’s all about the ecosystem, and I have chosen Microsoft’s. An inexpensive service that works on my computers, my Xbox, and my phone with a first-class experience on each? Yes, please.

BitTorrent Exploit Discovered in Opera

Post ImageAs much as I love Opera, it is still just software, and that means it too is vulnerable to security issues. Maybe not as badly as IE or Firefox, but vulnerable nonetheless. That said, I’d be remiss if I only posted about Opera’s positives and ignored this bit of news:

It is being reported that Opera v9.20 is vulnerable to an attack which causes it to consume 100% of its host machine’s resources, rendering the PC unusable.

There is currently no work-around so anyone worried about this situation should disable the BitTorrent engine within Opera by following the instructions found on Opera’s site.

Fortunately I wouldn’t have been affected by this. The first thing I did after installing Opera 9.2 was disable BitTorrent downloading in the browser, as I much prefer µTorrent.

Read: TorrentFreak

BitTorrent acquires uTorrent

Post ImageSome potentially bad news today for uTorrent fans such as myself. Bram Cohen, the creator of BitTorrent, announced that his company has aquired the popular client app. TechCrunch has the scoop:

The move will bring quite a few torrent users over to BitTorrent. News site TorrentFreak estimates that buying uTorrent, will bring BitTorrent nearly 50 percent of torrent users.

The acquisition price has not yet been disclosed.

You can read more comment on the deal here. You can also checkout the special uTorrent forum. And here is the BitTorrent press release.

I say potentially bad because BitTorrent has made massive efforts to go completely legit, and has inked deals with many content providers such as MTV and 20th Century Fox. There is some concern that they would add content filtering to uTorrent or backtrack on the protocol encryption work.

Most importantly, I hope that BitTorrent doesn’t add bloat to the wonderfully small and efficient uTorrent.

Read: TechCrunch

Wake up Microsoft – get BitTorrent!

Post ImageEven though Microsoft has lots of money, sometimes there are better ways to solve problems than just throwing cash at them. It seems Microsoft is bent on only delivering software from their own servers, when really, they could be using BitTorrent. It would keep them from making stupid decisions like this:

Microsoft plans next week to charge a nominal fee for Office 2007 Beta 2 downloads, in a move that runs counter to the practice held by most software companies.

Consumers who download the 2007 Microsoft Office system Beta 2 will be charged $1.50 per download, beginning next Wednesday at 6 p.m. PDT, a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

Wake up and smell the coffee! BitTorrent, or even services like RedSwoosh (if Microsoft felt better about paying something for the service) would eliminate these problems. And as a downloader, I’d prefer them anyway, because I can download faster in most cases.

Please don’t pay the $1.50 to download the beta – it’ll only encourage this ridiculous behaviour!

Read: CNET News.com

MoveDigital

Post ImageI had been looking at a service called Prodigem a couple weeks ago, but they informed me they would soon be relaunching. Well, now they have, and with a bang too! Prodigem was acquired by MoveDigital, and the new service they have launched is pretty sweet:

We’re unique, a file is only charged as delivered after the entire direct download is complete.

We also allow your audience to add bandwidth to your account, and we always roll over your bandwidth, so it’s never lost.

A free account will give you 30 days of use, 1 GB of storage space, and 10 GB of bandwidth. Paid accounts start at just $10 for an entire year. On top of that, they can create torrents for your files, and if you upload audio or video, they will even make it streamable for mobile phones.

I played around with the service a little today, and it works great. They show you download statistics for your files (but only if the entire file is downloaded). They even count a proper download for BitTorrent (though, presumably, only for files they seed). Users can also subscribe to your content using the RSS feeds that MoveDigital automatically generates, one for direct downloads, one for torrent downloads, and one for mobile streams.

Overall, it’s a pretty nicely done service. I have only two complaints really, one being that the link to their API does not work! The second is the price is pretty high. Even their Premium account (the highest one), which costs $10,100 for the entire year, is 5 times more expensive than comparable benefits (storage, bandwidth) using Amazon S3. The cost per additional GB of transfer is also 19 cents higher than Amazon S3 (and five times higher if you’re on the Basic plan).

I suppose if you had a high number of partial downloads it would even out, but you’d need a lot of those for it to work. Also note that MoveDigital does charge for partial downloads of data using BitTorrent or the mobile streams, only direct downloads can take advantage of the entire download charge feature.

Read: MoveDigital

Windows Vista Torrent

Post ImageHaving trouble downloading Vista Beta 2, but don’t want to wait for the DVD? Well now you don’t have to. Microsoft refused to offer Vista Beta 2 via BitTorrent citing problems with ensuring that users end up with genuine software. It’s really not that hard, especially for the techy types who use BitTorrent. Thus, Chris Pirillo and Jake Ludington have created Windows Vista Torrent:

The only official tracker for this torrent is found here at VistaTorrent.com. We’re providing an MD5 hash to verify the file after download to make sure you’re getting the real thing. If the torrent URL is anything other than the one from Vistatorrent.com, don’t download or install the file! We’re staking our reputations on providing a clean ISO torrent here. There is no registration required to download this torrent.

That should help matters! So fire up your BitTorrent clients and enjoy Vista Beta 2 goodness. Assuming there are no major problems as a result of this site, I’d say its a safe bet that Microsoft will more seriously consider BitTorrent support in the future.

Read: TechCrunch

Kazaa is Dead

Post ImageActually, Kazaa has been dead for a very long time in my eyes, but now it’s official:

An Australian court ruled on Monday that the popular file-sharing network Kazaa violated Australian music copyrights and ordered the company to modify its software to help prevent it.

Sharman issued a statement after the ruling saying: “In the judgment handed down today, both parties have had a win, although neither side has had a complete victory. Sharman Networks is obviously disappointed that we have not been completely successful. But we will appeal those parts of the decision where we were not successful and are confident of a win on appeal.”

Yeah, I don’t think so. Look what happened to Napster after it was ordered to modify it’s software to prevent illegal sharing of copyrighted materials – dead quick. There’s no way Kazaa will recover from this.

Not that it matters! Thanks to BitTorrent, Kazaa has been waiting for that final nail in the coffin for quite some time. Goodbye Kazaa, I won’t miss you. In fact, I’d be super happy if users couldn’t download the crappy, adware-laden software any more, as it would save me the trouble of having to remove it when I do a consulting job.

Read: New York Times

Microsoft's own BitTorrent

Post ImageIt seems as though Microsoft is working on a technology that is very similar to the popular BitTorrent file sharing protocol. The technology is code-named “Avalance”, and is being created by researchers at the Cambridge facility:

While Avalanche is based on a different system than BitTorrent, both are essentially used for the same purpose–to distribute large files between a number of users.

A Microsoft research paper on the technology both praises and criticizes BitTorrent: “Despite their enormous potential and popularity, existing end-system co-operative schemes such as BitTorrent, may suffer from a number of inefficiencies.” The coding system used by Avalanche, which is based on network coding, is 20 percent more efficient with downloading, according to the research paper.

While the company currently has no plans to implement the technology in any products, or to otherwise release it, you never know, it could find it’s way into something like Windows Media Player in the future. A technology like BitTorrent that includes some sort of DRM would be perfect for Microsoft to allow movie downloads right inside Windows Media Player. I wouldn’t be surprised anyway!

Read: CNET News.com

BitTorrent Search

Post ImageAccording to Wired News, Bram Cohen, who created BitTorrent, and his team of developers are getting ready to release an advertising-supported search engine for torrent files. Ask Jeeves is slated to provide the sponsored links for the search site, which will be available at the BitTorrent website. And apparently, the team is pretty confident that they won’t get sued either:

But [Chief Operating Officer Ashwin] Navin isn’t worried — because the new search engine indexes every torrent it can find without human intervention, the company can’t be held liable for results that happen to point to infringing content, he says. [Stanford University Law Professor Mark] Lemley says that’s probably right, at least as a matter of law: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides safe harbor for “information location tools” if administrators promptly remove links to infringing content upon notice by the copyright holder.

Lots of other people seem to think its only a matter of time until we see a lawsuit, mostly because the MPAA is just dying to sue Cohen:

The MPAA slammed BitTorrent last week for accelerating the spread of a pirated copy of Revenge of the Sith — a leaked studio workprint of the third Star Wars prequel debuted online even as fans queued up for Thursday’s theatrical release.

You would think that the MPAA would learn from the RIAA’s mistakes, but apparently not. Just like CD sales went up in recent years despite downloading, movies show no sign of slowing down either. Episode 3 almost broke Spiderman’s opening weekend record, taking in $108 million. Oh yes, that BitTorrent protocol is doing such harm! Please.

More importantly, even if they do somehow successfully sue the new BitTorrent search engine, they can’t shutdown the protocol, so there will always be torrent files available.

Read: BitTorrent