Guest Review By: Nick Stropko
I heard about SpiralFrog several months ago from a news story I saw, and I was immediately intrigued with the concept. A music download service that is supported entirely by ads seemed to be a fantastic way to achieve the Holy Grail: free, legal music downloads. Well, after several labels signing on, an upheaval of the Board of Directors, and months of waiting, I have been accepted as a beta tester for the fledgling service. Unfortunately, though the business model is admirable, this specific iteration needs some serious work before being released for mass consumption. The interface is confusing and poorly designed, there are several major bugs in the software, and it frankly doesn’t make sense. Though the promise of free, legal music is extremely tempting of music downloads, you may want to look elsewhere until SpiralFrog gets their service on track.
Take Note: This program is still in beta, so any and all features may change in the final version (or subsequent updates).
Microsoft and MTV partnered over a year ago to provide the Urge music service on WMP and yesterday MTV announced that they would be ditching their Urge brand to will team up with Rhapsody. Now this poses a question as to what is going to happen to Windows Media Player, since Urge was its primary music provider.
Many people loved Urge and are kicking and screaming that they’re now stuck with something that comes from Real. I don’t blame them. My experience with Rhapsody software has been plagued with sluggishness, crashes, bugs, and DRM issues to name a few. Others I’ve talked to have also had major problems running Rhapsody, so I’m not alone.
For Microsoft, this could be a blessing in disguise and a chance to convene their fragmented efforts in portable media.
With the announcement this morning of the upcoming Best Buy Digital Music Store (powered by RealNetwork’s Rhapsody 4.0) came firm details about the previously announced Sansa e200R series of digital audio players. Available through Best Buy retail stores across the country and Rhapsody’s online shop, the $140 e250R (2GB), $180 e260R (4GB), $220 e270R (6GB), and $250 e280R (8GB) ship with over 30 hours of preloaded music and its new under-the-hood technology platform dubbed Rhapsody DNA.
One of the coolest features of Rhapsody DNA, which is based on the company’s Helix DRM, is that users can subscribe to particular channels (according to artist or genre) and then receive automatic updates whenever new content in that channel is available.
The Best Buy Digital Music Store and the Sansa e200R series will officially link arms and storm the iTunes/iPod fortress together beginning October 15. And in lieu of battle paint, Best Buy is giving away free two-month subscriptions to its store (normally priced at $14.99/month) with the purchase of a Sansa player.
[Product Page via Gizmodo]
Zen Vision:M owners will now have the ability to playback their favorite literature from Audible. Since Audible content is encrypted with their own DRM scheme, support needs to be added on the hardware side from the MP3 player manufacturer. Creative has added this support in their latest firmware version probably due to a high demand for the service. I know that a lot of people where holding back from purchasing the ZVM due to no Audible support. Grab the latest firmware and you are ready to go.
[ZVM Firmware via dapreview]
Michael Roberson, the guy who founded MP3.com and Lindows, has another venture called MP3Tunes. This service allows you to upload and store you music collection to their servers. You can then access your music via virtually any device: web browser, PDA, EVDO laptop, GPRS phone, and now even TiVo. The MP3Tunes application for TiVo will work for Series 2 and above, but is still in beta stage.
Another interesting note about the service is that it will automatically select the correct file type and bit rate based on the device you are accessing the service with. For instance when accessing from a GPRS phone, it will stream in 32kbps and select a compatible file type based on what your brand of phone supports. I have not had a chance to try it myself, but it looks pretty slick. Check out the video demo for more info.
[Video Demo via Listening Post]
MobiBLU has teamed up with Podcast Ready to make downloading podcasts a snap. MobiBLU will begin shipping the Cube 2 and the B153 with Podcast Ready software preloaded. The Podcast Ready software resides on the players root directory which allows you to get your podcasts from virtually any computer without having to install additional software.
While podcasts have always worked with non-ipods, this software makes getting them easier. In addition to the two MobiBLU players, Podcast Ready will work with any UMS MP3 player or storage device. Yet another reason to use an MP3 player simplified by UMS.
Update: The Cube 2 along with the B153 Podcast Ready enabled players will be launched nation wide though Target at the end of June.
David Berlind the editor of ZDNet enthusiastically explains in a video why we should boycott DRM based devices, telling us that they should have named DRM “Content Restriction, Annulment, and Protection or CRAP for short. The basis of his 100% justified rant is that all of these closed DRM schemes are not compatible with each other, locking you into one type of DRM, giving the examples of Microsoft’s Janus, Apples’s FairPlay, and Sony’s ATRAC DRM systems. This similar to my response to a New York Times article on the same topic.
Berlind suggests that we boycott all of these devices containing DRM that limit our use of music. While that may be very hard to do since most devices are DRM enabled, I would suggest a different approach to this boycott.
- Do not purchase any DRM media. Buy music from the store and rip the CDs yourself. You will be able to put them on any device you want.
Purchase only devices that support UMS. Devices that are UMS require no drivers and do not lock you into one computer or one operating system. Be wary of Microsoft MTP and Apple devices that lock you into one operating system or one computer.
If you watch one thing on the internet today please watch this video and join the boycott.
[ZDNet Video via dapreview]
Creative has fashioned a portal for their two video player, the Zen Vision and the newly released Zen Vision:M. The site indexes a lot of the popular video and audio podcasts. Additionally they have released a beta version of a software program they are calling ZENCast Organizer. This program will automatically fill up your MP3 player with new content as you subscribe.
I believe that is only compatible with the Vision and Vision:M. It is unclear weather or not the Organizer will be compatible with other players as well. Hopefully it will work with any windows media based digital audio player.
So your kid just got one of those new Disney Mix Stix MP3 players. Now What? Instead of loading it up with the latest inappropriate pop music, load it up with some fairy tales, nursery rhymes, bible stories and fables.
The good news is that the files are not DRM crippled so it can be loaded onto most any digital audio player. The bad news is that you can burn it to a CD requiring you to listen to Humpty Dumpy 47 times on your 12 hour ride to Grandmothers this holiday season.
Samsung has announced that it will be working on a music service served by an “iTunes-like” program. Most likely this will begin as an Asia only service for there is no download services in a lot of the Asian countries.
Samsung does fairly well in the Asian markets as far as their digital audio players. However, considering that Samsung memory is in almost every flash based player they more or less cannot loose in the global MP3 player market.