Monthly Archives: April 2003

Apple Music

Monday afternoon brought a big announcement from Apple Computer: the introduction of their iTunes Music Store. This is a service available to Mac users that will allow them to browse a huge library of music from within the iTunes music program. Users can find individual songs that they like from artists like U2, Eminem, Sheryl Crow, and Bob Dylan, and download them directly to their Mac for only 99 cents! Or, users can download entire albums for prices ranging from $9 to $15. Albums and songs you download can be burned onto CD or DVD, shared with up to three computers, and downloaded onto your iPod.

Currently, to use this service, you must have a Macintosh computer running Mac OS X. Apple supposedly has plans to release a Windows version of the service later this year.

I won’t go into the full details of the service – you can find them at the link above. But I’ll talk about why I like it.

First, the ability to download and pay for a single song. Every so often, there are songs I hear on the radio or on TV that I would like to have a copy of. One way to get that song is to purchase the entire CD that the song comes on. Another way is to buy the CD single, if it’s available. Yet another, and increasingly popular way, is to use a file sharing utility such as Gnutella or Kaaza to find someone else’s digital copy of the song and download it over the internet. This last method is illegal, and though hordes of internet users download songs like this every day, the recording industry ( with government help ) is increasingly cracking down on song ‘traders’ and forcing them to pay fines for their illegal use of these copyrighted files. I personally have downloaded a few songs in this manner. I don’t really like doing it, but it’s a much more economical alternative than purchasing an entire album when I only want one song.

Now, Apple has introduced another alternative. And this is an alternative I can live with. For 99 cents, I can LEGALLY download that one song that I want. I don’t have to pay any shipping costs, don’t have to buy the actual CD, and I don’t have to pay any sort of subscription or usage fees – just a one-time price of 99 cents, and I own the track. On top of the legal-ness of this option, there are other added benefits over common internet file sharing programs. First, each track available has a free, high-quality, 30-second preview. So you know what you are getting before you buy it. Second, where file-sharing utilities such as Gnutella depend on the availability of peers on their network, Apple’s music service uses their existing high-capacity content network to distribute files. So you will never have to wonder if you will be able to get a fast enough connection to the server. Third, Apple’s selection is large and predictable. For most people, the songs you’re looking for will be there. If you find that the store is missing some artists, albums, or songs, you may submit a request to Apple to include these at a later time. New songs are released every Tuesday, so there’s a good chance that the stuff you’re looking for will be there soon.

Another benefit the iTunes music store has for me is the simplification of the music purchasing process. Right now, I go to Best Buy, Sam Goody, Tower Records, Virgin Megastore, or wherever. I look through their selection to see if they have the CD I want. I bring it to the counter, wait in line, and purchase it. I take it home, unwrap the packaging, and take the CD out of its case. I put the CD in my Mac. The Mac automatically starts up iTunes, rips all of the tracks from the CD into mp3 format, and ejects the disc. I take the disc out, put it back in its case, and store the case in a rack. In general, that’s the last time I deal with the CD. From there, I can listen to the tracks on my computer in iTunes, or synchronize them to my iPod. I can take the iPod to the gym, in the car, or hook it up to my speakers at work. In other words, the only thing I use the CD for is as a medium to get songs into digital form.

What the iTunes Music Store has done is removed the “Compact Disc” part of the process. Now when I buy music, it is already in digital format. I just purchase the songs or albums I want, they are downloaded to my computer, and that’s it! No ripping, opening CD’s, or worrying about scratches. No waiting in line, no wondering if it’s in stock – digital music is always in stock!

On top of that, “iMusic,” as I’ll call it, charges less than most retailers for the purchase of albums. Here is a comparison:

Album: Coldplay, “A Rush of Blood to the Head” Price at… Amazon.com: $13.49 BN.com: $14.23 Tower: $13.99 BestBuy: $13.99 iMusic: $10.89

That’s almost 20% less than the next cheapest price.

And iMusic is set up with Amazon’s patented (yes, grumble grumble, for better or worse…) “One-Click” technology. This stores all of your purchasing information on Apple’s servers, so that all you need to do is click on ‘Buy Album.’ Boom – it’s on your computer! Or, you can set up a shopping cart, collect everything that you want to buy, and buy it all in one shot. Again, no need to enter your address, confirm your credit card info, or enter passwords.

In creating iMusic, Apple has also adoped the Advancced Audio Coding (AAC) encoding standard. This is the same format used for audio encoding in 3G wireless phones and for the sound tracks on DVD’s. The AAC format provides higher quality sound than the mp3 format, in less space. Or, you can get smaller AAC files at the same sound quality as mp3. I have taken advantage of this, and started converting my existing mp3 collection into AAC format. This saves storage space on my hard drive, and more importantly, allows my iPod to hold more music than before.

To showcase the Music Store, Apple has released iTunes 4. The new version of iTunes includes the new Music Store module, as well as support for AAC encoding and decoding. There is also a new music sharing feature – you can share your iTunes library with people on your local network or over the internet.

Apple is once again leading the pack. Other companies will have no choice but to follow suit. Just remember when they do – who was first in the game? Apple.

Thanks for reading. I’m off to shop for some music… 😉

Upcoming

Just a warning… I am working on a rather long blog entry about Apple’s new music service. It should be ready later today, but just as a reminder, please scroll down after you are finished reading it, and check out the other great posts on our blog. 🙂

Thanks.

Craftola

Jennifer visited us this weekend. We went to the science museum on Friday night and spent Saturday being crafty.

There are pictures of us making paper here along with pictures of my newly finished Quilt. (an extreemly late wedding present for Mrs. Joanna Trautman)

Just call me Wizard

I know you’re all shocked to see a post from me in the Techie category. Frankly I’m surprised as well. Here’s a little story for you.

A couple of Friday’s ago I was sitting on the couch with my Peter and I expressed my burning desire to play old school Nintendo games. Figuring that I would just have to suppress that desire I went back to watching the Friday night drivel on TV.

A short time later I heard the familiar Do-do-do, do-doot-do-do, etc. coming from the den. Peter had made it so that I could play these games on the computer. Woohoo!

I enjoyed playing Super Mario Brothers 1, 2, and 3, but couldn’t get very far in the games. I finally pinpointed the problem. I am the poster-girl for what Peter calls “the movsies”. In other words it is very hard for me to get Mario to jump without making the corresponding moves with my arms. ie. to jump right I would swing my arms to the right. While using the keypad it was impossible to make these movements.

Friday, Peter came home with a present for me. A game controller hand thingy… I can plug it into the computer and play to my heart’s delight.

I’m still not very good, though.

Found

This site has been keeping me quite occupied at work today. It is just a ton of stuff that people have found lying around…Pictures, notes, etc. It is pretty interesting reading the comments about the items.

Rule of thumb

Rule of thumb… whenever you see a really long post by me at the top of the blog, there was probably a post by Becky just below it… so at least take the time to scroll down through my message to see what came before it. 🙂

State of the Tech

In the world of technology, no news can sometimes be good news. I haven’t mentioned a whole lot on the blog here, mostly since things have been working pretty well. But for the sake of pure information, here is a status report on where the Wood Family’s technology is at.

Land Line Voice Communications Currently serviced by Comcast Telephony. This service runs in through our cable lines, and connects to our apartment’s phone jacks. The call quality is good, and our local, regional toll, and long distance calls are all handled by the system. The caller ID information is also better than the information Verizon used to provide. We have two similar GE telephones, one with caller ID, and the other with a digital answering machine.

Wireless Voice Communications Currently serviced by Sprint PCS. We have a service plan that provides 500 anytime minutes, unlimited night and weekend minutes, and unlimited PCS-to-PCS calling. This means that Becky and I can make as many calls as we want between our two phones and will not be charged for them. This also means we can call my parents’ or my sister’s cell phones from our cell phones at no cost to us. We have had some problems with Sprint not billing us correctly for PCS-to-PCS minutes, but I have been able to resolve those problems by ultimately going to our local Sprint PCS store and talking to the assistant manager (who it turns out is originally from Mount Vernon, Ohio). Becky currently has the venerable Sanyo SCP-4000 (coming up on 3 years old… it didn’t even make it onto Sanyo’s “previous models” page!) and is loving it. I am currently using the Samsung SCH-A400, and am rather frustrated with it. Thus I’m currently looking at purchasing a new phone. One of the candidates is the Sanyo SCP-8100. This is a PCS Vision-enabled camera phone. It has similar features to Sanyo’s 5300, but is smaller in size and has a lower quality camera. Since I already have a digital camera, that’s not such a big deal. It looks like a fun phone to have, especially with Sprint’s Vision service, and it comes in at a good price when I get the phone upgrade discount. I actually got to check out a demo model at the local Sprint PCS store, and it looks to be a very solid phone. It’s a bit thicker than the phone I’m using now, but still easy to carry and use.

Data Communications At home we are currently using Comcast High-Speed Internet. We have not had any problems with our service. It just works!

Our web hosting provider, Site 5, has been performing admirably well. I have not had much need to contact their technical support, and their service has been up and running consistently. We still have plenty of storage space left on our account. Becky and I also run our email through Site 5’s servers, and we haven’t any problems with that. Five stars for Site 5!

Computing Becky’s desk is currently equipped with an HP Pavillion 6730 running Windows XP Home. I recently relented and gave her back the LCD monitor so that she could have some more room on her desk.

My desk is currently equipped with a SuperMac S900 and a PowerBook G3 “Firewire”, both running Mac OS X 10.2.5. The S900 was upgraded a couple of months ago, and has been performing well since then. When I gave Becky back the LCD monitor, I bought a new 17″ CRT monitor to use with the S900. It was a fairly cheap model, $100 after a mail-in rebate, but it performs just fine for everyday use.

While we were visiting my parents over Easter, I took the opportunity to install Mac OS X on their computer. From what I tried while I was home, and from the reports I’ve heard since I left, things are working well!

Audio Entertainment My iPod continues to perform well, day after day. Thanks to some recent software updates by Apple, its battery life has improved significantly. It is almost filled to capacity, and I’ve recently had to delete some less-frequently-listened-to music files from it in order to add new music.

Video Entertainment We recently upgraded to Comcast Digital Cable, so that we could get all of the TV stations we wanted, and then some. In particular, Becky wanted TLC so that she could watch While You Were Out, and I wanted to get some of the news stations and FX network. Incidentally, upgrading to Digital Cable put us into a Comcast Bundle, so we now actually get our High-Speed internet for a little bit less per month!

The home entertainment system hasn’t been used too much recently. Becky and I have been too busy to have occasion to watch a DVD, but hopefully we will have more time to do that soon!

That’s all that’s noteworthy on the technology front!

My Amazing Talent

Here is a rundown of all the things I did this morning between 6:15 and 6:45.

Got up, showered, dressed, made: 1 sandwich, two lunches, 1 breakfast, brushed hair and teeth, kissed the husband in his sleep, ate breakfast, drove the 10 minutes to work, parked, punched in at work.

Phew! I didn’t know I had that kind of speed packed into me!