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Dear Lazyweb... (itunes edition)

Dear LazyWeb,

Having long since surrendered and moved my music into iTunes, I find myself with several itunes related questions.

  1. iTunes tracks are now DRM-free, which is great. However, I have a number of older tracks that still have DRM on them. Is there an easy way to strip the DRM off the files, or am I going to have to do it the hard way? (convert to mp3, or burn to audio CD and re-rip, etc.)

  2. Is there an easy way to share an iTunes database across machines? I have itunes on my desktop,, where I sync my ipod, but I also want to be able to use the same itunes DB on my laptop, since the laptop outputs to the TV in HD and the desktop does not, and I love having pretty visualizations on the TV, especially while crafting or for parties. It seems like the sort of thing that one ought to be able to do. I know I can just copy the DB files across, but I don't want top have to do that every time I want to listen to music on the laptop. Complicating matters slightly is that the actual music files sit on a third machine, my linux server, acessible to both machines via a mapped drive.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 23rd, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
1. i've heard that burning and then ripping removes the DRM but haven't tried it. if you try it, please confirm if it works? and if i do it first, i'll let you know!

2. there's an option to turn on sharing of the itunes library, maybe that's what you need? i forget where it is, tho, sorry!
Jul. 23rd, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
Can't you tell the iTunes store to redownload your purchases?
Jul. 23rd, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
It seems like that would be an intuitive and natural feature to have - I was surprised when I couldn't find it. As near as I can tell from googling, it comes down to pestering a support person at Apple and talking them into authorizing you for redownloads.
Jul. 23rd, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
You can solve problem 2 by sharing in your options/preferences.

Problem 1, assuming you've already paid for all the upgrades ($0.30/song for those that could be upgraded, which was worth it for me), used to be solvable by an app called Hymn. I don't know whether that still exists or not or whether it works with current iTunes, but it might be a place to start looking. I still have a bunch of songs that iTunes no longer sells. I'm just backing them up for now.
Jul. 24th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)
Sharing is exactly what I want to do. Apparently it won't work between my living room (where the TV is) and the bedroom (where the desktop I want to share from is), presumably because there is a switch in between them and itunes doesn't think it's the same "network".
Jul. 24th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
That's a problem you need to address at the router level. If you're wireless and on a Mac, I might have useful suggestions, but if you're on Wintel or Linux, I'm not going to have good advice. Sorry.
Jul. 24th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)
Yeah, windows. I'll fiddle with it later when I am less frustrated.
Jul. 23rd, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
2. This is not a perfect fix, but if you have all of your iTunes library on your iPod, you can connect your iPod to the laptop and play the music from there, through iTunes. This is how I play my music when I travel, and it seems to work just fine for my purposes. Not positive you can run the visualizations through that, though, as I've never tried it. :)
Jul. 23rd, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
I read a rant by someone when iTunes first introduced the new DRM-free format, about the fact that they required anyone who'd downloaded songs in the original format to upgrade them for an additional cost if they wanted to be able to download any songs in the new format, because all your iTunes-purchased had to be in one format or the other. The iTunes store helpfully offered him the option of paying one flat fee to upgrade his entire music collection at once - which given how much he'd bought from them in the past, was something like $1000. But they may have changed that now - not sure.

At any rate, whether or not they still require you to pay to upgrade all your existing iTunes purchases before downloading any new ones, if the new format costs more, they're unlikely to want to give people any sort of way of doing it for free. But of course, there are nearly always various hacks or workarounds available out there for things like this.

Regarding syncing an iTunes library between two computers, I think they actively try to prevent that, because it would be an easy way for people to share music they'd downloaded with other people. The purpose you're talking about - wanting to be able to listen to the same tracks on your desktop and laptop - seems like it ought to be legal, but I don't know if there's a way they could make that possible without also making it possible to sync libraries with other people's computers.

However, once again, there's always ways around it. I know where all the iTunes-related files live on a Mac, so just copying them over would probably work to sync two Macs. But I don't know where they're located on a PC. So depending on which platform you're on, either I could tell you directly what to look for and where to find it, or it might require a bit of exploring.

Basically, on a Mac, look in /users/[your username]/Music/iTunes and you'll find the following files:

iTunes Library (a database file in a proprietary format)
iTunes Library Extras.itdb
iTunes Library Genius.itdb
iTunes Music Library.xml
iTunes Music (a folder containing the actual music files)

If you've already got the music files on both computers and just want to sync the database info for things like ratings, play counts, etc., then you'll just need to copy over the first four files. If you're syncing for the first time and don't have any of the music on the second computer, you'll want to copy the whole lot - basically everything in the iTunes folder.

I should note that I haven't actually tried this, but as far as I can see it should work, because there don't appear to be any iTunes-related files anywhere in the Library or Preferences of anywhere like that that I've found. And of course I have no idea if the files are all neatly in one place on Windows they way they are on a Mac. But it could be a starting point, anyway.
Jul. 24th, 2009 02:00 am (UTC)
Yeah, that'll work, but I would have to do it every time I played music from the laptop. iTunes figures out that I'm trying to access my purchases on a different computer, but that's okay. It's most the having to copy the library every time that I'm trying to avoid.
Jul. 30th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
Synchronicity strikes!
Strangely enough, what should show up in my e-mail today but an ad for a program that, from the sound of it, does exactly what you want? It appears to be cheap, and comes in both Mac and a Windows versions.

Just so you know, the e-mail in question wasn't spam, it's from a company I've bought stuff from in the past. Anyway, thought you might find it useful...
Jul. 23rd, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
There are programs that strip away iTunes DRM. Google should help you. (I used one myself a while back... I don't think I have any protected iTunes files left, though, so I don't recall the name.)
Aug. 2nd, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
The iTunes Store does offer an option to "upgrade" your protected (DRM'd) purchases to non-protected tracks for .30 (USD, don't know if it's a different price in the Canadian iTunes store). The new files are of a substantially higher audio quality so you are getting something more than just an unlocked file for your money, which may also make it worth your while. When they first launched this feature the option to upgrade your library was an all or none option, a very expensive proposition for people who had purchased large quantities of music from the iTunes Store. They have since changed that so you can opt to upgrade one album or even one track at a time, thus skipping stuff that you might not care about. It's worth mentioning that you can authorize up to five computers to play your protected iTunes purchases, so you could just forget about unlocking your stuff altogether (you can also deauthorize computers, so you free up a slot if you stop using a machine).

Using the burn to audio CD then rip to iTunes method does indeed strip the DRM but it also degrades the audio quality somewhat each time you convert the file from one format to another. I know at least some software packages that strip DRM employ a similar methodology, essentially burning your files to a virtual CD and then ripping them to iTunes, thus resulting in the same file degradation. Depending on how much of an audiophile you are, it may be worth your while to upgrade your library via the iTunes Store.

Regarding sharing, it's already been mentioned that turning on sharing in iTunes should solve your problem. The source computer should allow sharing. The other computer(s) should look for shared libraries (these are separate settings on the Share tab of the iTunes preferences). The location of your media files (on a Linux box) shouldn't matter. iTunes on the primary computer is essentially streaming media to the secondary computer, so it's pretty much the same as playing the media directly on the primary computer.

I have no idea how to help you with the network issue, especially since it is a Windows network (although a switch on your network shouldn't make a difference), but sharing in general shouldn't be a problem, since it is listen only (a bit like listening to the radio. You can listen but you can't copy/keep what you listen to).

Thinking about your networking issue a bit more... Can your two windows machines see each other over your network? If not, this may be the source of your problem. I know very little about how to change that. I did help someone straighten out a network sharing issue several years ago, but found all of my answers by searching google, so I would say start there. You'll probably want to start with the usual suspects, check your file sharing and firewall settings (if any) on each machine.
Aug. 3rd, 2009 10:25 pm (UTC)
The two windows machines can see each other fine, except for itunes. Weirder, the laptop will occasionally see the desktop via itunes, play for a bit, then decide that it won't see it anymore and stop.
Aug. 4th, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
That is weird. Well, there's only one thing left to do then. Call an exterminator because you obviously have an infestation of Network Gremlins.

All kidding aside, here are a couple of links to articles that may or may not be useful to you depending on your setup and what you've already tried.

Straight from the House of Jobs: iTunes for Windows: Music Sharing With Windows Internet Connection Firewall

An awesome Lifehacker article: Hack Attack: Share your iTunes music library over your home network. I *puffy heart* Lifehacker. They have the best geeky advice.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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