Opinion: Freedom? Yeah Right.

Up until last night I had never used iTunes to purchase a song. Having a Creative mp3 player I knew the songs purchased there would be useless to me, and at any rate nothing beats owning the proper, physical CD. Furthermore, I wouldn’t even consider using iTunes to organise/play my music. Put simply it’s terrible.

However, last night I was forced to break my iTunes store virginity in order to lend my support for Reuben’s Christmas cause (see this post for more info). Now I know why I abstained.

Things did not start out very well, and so began a torturous proceedure. Upon opening the program I was informed I had to update it. Fair enough I thought, until I realised that this meant visiting the Apple website, re-downloading iTunes, uninstalling the old iTunes and finally installing the new iTunes, which in turn led to last.fm popping up in my way to tell me to re-download the plugin for iTunes, which I wasn’t interested in.

Nevermind, I thought. Not every program can have a simple auto-update feature. I’ll let it pass I thought. So then I venture onwards, opening iTunes up in order to buy a single two minute song. Naturally, it doesn’t open. Despite repeated clickings, nothing happens except for the immediate and complete slowdown of every other program open (Firefox, Live! Messenger and Windows Media Player). Rendering the computer absolutely useless, and with Task Manager deciding it didn’t want to play ball and show up on command, I give in and restart the computer.

So, once Windows had sorted itself out, and I’m all ready to go again, I load up iTunes. This time it appears, but all it seems to want to give me is a white box with a blue frame around it. I know Apple likes their white decor, but I was under the impression that this wasn’t a feature.

After repeated openings something must have clicked, and iTunes finally revealed itself to me. Things went fairly straightforward from there and I managed to find Reuben without anything blowing up, or being insulted for my taste in music, which I suppose is a nice change from the mindless dirge of HMV hippies eyeing up every purchase you make.

Having brought the single, I was fairly impressed with the ease it downloaded (yet less impressed with how it took my money, but I don’t think I can really complain about that one). But then I hit the most frustrating snag of all. I was well aware my Creative Zen wouldn’t handle the iTunes torture, but I was not expecting the song to be rendered useless in Windows Media Player. I mean, yes yes, I know Microsoft hates Apple and so on, but what a kick in the tits for the consumer.

I’ve never really jumped on the whole DRM anger bandwagon. I don’t agree with it, but being a CD collecter I don’t consider it a major problem. I can understand that all those tracks sold on iTunes need to be protected in some way, and at the moment DRM is just a solution to that problem, albeit a controversial and problematic one. But I am angry at not being able to play it on a choice of media players. Copyright protection is one thing, but media player usage protection is another kettle of fish.

I wouldn’t mind if iTunes was a decent piece of media organisation kit. But having used quite a lot of players out there (including MediaMonkey and Songbird) I found it slow, unorganised, unreliable and quite frankly bloody terrible. It’s a shame that there is not much else anyone can do about such a problem except for (rightfully so) break the format lockdown and then rant about it, just like yours truly has done. In the meantime, if you share a similar opinion to me, or want to find an alternative to online downloads which will play in any media player, then have a look at eMusic or allTunes, both of which provide music which is playable anywhere, anytime.

Much better.

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