Category Archives: Music

Amplify your music with MagicPlay and the Raspberry Pi

MagicPlay is an open cross-platform audio streaming standard (think “HTTP for music”) that supports synchronized streaming to multiple speakers (like Sonos). For more details, see this Verge story. In the near future you’ll be able to buy WiFi speakers, TVs and other products that come with MagicPlay support out of the box. If you want to try MagicPlay right now, you can turn an existing device such as the Raspberry Pi into a MagicPlay device and stream music to it using doubleTwist Music Player for Android.

Prerequisites:

If you would like to skip building the source code, you can download a binary package instead.

1. Download the AllJoyn source code (AllJoyn is a P2P framework developed by Qualcomm to power the Internet of Things).
2. Unzip the AllJoyn code: tar -zxvf alljoyn-3.3.0-src.tgz; cd alljoyn-3.3.0-src
3. Clone the following two repositories:

4. Apply this patch: zcat magicplayd.diff.gz | patch -p0
5. Build AllJoyn library: make OS=linux CPU=armhf VARIANT=release
6. Build and install audio service: cd services/audio; make CPU=armhf; sudo make CPU=armhf install

The MagicPlay service (/etc/init.d/magicplayd) has now been installed and will automatically start on boot.

Note that if you want to use a USB sound card with MagicPlay on the Raspberry Pi, you will need to modify services/audio/src/posix/ALSADevice.cc prior to step #7 and replace “plughw:0,0″ with “plughw:1,0″ and “hw:0″ with “hw:1″ (since the USB sound card would be sound card #2).

To get beta builds of doubleTwist Music Player for Android, make sure to join the doubleTwist Google Plus community.

The setup pictured below includes a LP-2020A+ Lepai amplifier ($20) and Micca MB42 speakers ($50).

RaspberryPi-MagicPlay

MagicPlay1MagicPlay2

doubleTwist desktop has launched

After a lot of hard work, we’ve finally released doubleTwist desktop. The goal of doubleTwist is to simplify the flow of media across devices and social networks. To give an example: say you shot a video with your Nokia N95 cellphone. How do you send that video to your friend and make sure he’ll be able to play it on his iPod or Sony PSP? Yesterday, the easiest solution was to give up. As of today, the answer is doubleTwist. With doubleTwist, you’ll be able to share and sync digital media without worrying about codecs and bitrates.

Download doubleTwist and send us your feedback! If you are a developer and want to add support for a new device, check out our developers page.

Quote of the day

A friend sent me this quote:

No way that “the market” forced Apple to do anything. Steve Jobs is the undisputed master of all reality. Surely Mac loyalists will find some way to spin this… I know! Steve didn’t want all that money anyway, so he decided to lower prices of his own volition. Surely he will soon lower prices on the iPhone and the iPod, right?

— Posted by Ed

EMI goes DRM-free at higher pricepoint

EMI has been rumored for months to start licensing DRM-free tracks at a higher pricepoint. From today’s press release:

London, 2 April 2007 — EMI Music today announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital repertoire available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

Apple’s iTunes Store (www.itunes.com) is the first online music store to receive EMI’s new premium downloads. Apple has announced that iTunes will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads, with their DRM removed, at a price of $1.29/€1.29/£0.99. iTunes wil continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for $0.30/€0.30/£0.20 per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.

When people a while ago requested that Apple start selling DRM-free content from independent labels, some Apple fans argued that Apple couldn’t do this because it would break consistency in iTunes and create consumer confusion. Now Apple is going to be selling some DRM-free music at a higher price point. So much for the consistency and confusion argument! It will be interesting to see how this offering will be branded in the iTunes Store (DRM-free or “Higher Quality”?).

EMI is the smallest of the four major record labels and is in the worst financial shape. More conservative labels such as Universal and Sony BMG are unfortunately not likely to follow anytime soon.

Will Steve Jobs follow up with “Thoughts on Movies”? Highly unlikely, although the thought of a Disney director calling for an end to video DRM is entertaining! Steve’s main argument in “Thoughts on Music” was that CDs don’t have DRM. The studios have always insisted on copy protection (Macrovision, CSS, AACS) and that’s not likely to change in our digital lifetime. Perhaps Steve will start drafting another manifesto after the Apple TV has 90% market share ;)

Update: Steve’s Thoughts on Movies during the webcast:

Q: I take it then that you are going to be advocating the removal of the DRM of the videos you sell on iTunes. Any particular [inaudible] you could do that now with Disney given your involvement with the Disney company?

A: You know, video, uh… I knew I’d get that question today. Video is pretty different than music right now because the video industry does not distribute 90 percent of their content DRM free; never has, and so I think they are in a pretty different situation and so I wouldn’t hold the two in parallel at all.

DAAP Licensing

DAAP (Digital Audio Access Protocol) is a protocol defined by Apple and used for iTunes streaming. Apple has licensed the DAAP protocol to at least one company: Roku. Their SoundBridge product is a networked music player that streams music from your computer. Thanks to Bonjour and DAAP the SoundBridge can stream music from an iTunes library without any configuration necessary.

The first version of DAAP was reverse engineered. In response, Apple added hashing of secret values to the next version of DAAP to block non-iTunes clients from connecting to the new version of iTunes. The new version of DAAP was also reverse engineered.

When Apple released iTunes 7 last September, they changed the secret hashing. You would think they would have informed their DAAP licensees of this in advance and provided them with updated DAAP documentation (they wouldn’t need to reveal the release date of the new iTunes version).

Not so.

According to this forum post by Roku’s Mike Kobb they were not given advance notice, let alone any updated documentation. It appears that it took Apple several weeks to supply Roku with updated DAAP documentation.

In light of this, it is not surprising that Steve Jobs is claiming that licensing FairPlay is not feasible and using bogus arguments to support his claim. Licensing FairPlay is quite feasible, it’s just that Steve doesn’t want to do so. Of course, from a business perspective I don’t mind ;)

I knew last year that Apple had licensed DAAP to Roku, but I didn’t learn until today that Apple had stabbed Roku in the back. Thanks to snorp (developer of ipod-sharp and other cool code) for pointing this out to me.

Steve’s misleading statistics

In his article “Thoughts on Music” Steve Jobs argues that people are not really locked into the iPod.

Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.

Its hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.

Yes, hard to believe, until you realize that Steve is using misleading statistics. There may be 90 million iPods sold, but not all of them are currently in use. Furthermore, it’s the number of iTunes Store customers and average sales per customer that’s relevant, and Apple has never disclosed these figures.

Many iPod owners have never bought anything from the iTunes Store. Some have bought hundreds of songs. Some have bought thousands. At the 2004 Macworld Expo, Steve revealed that one customer had bought $29,500 worth of music.

If you’ve only bought 10 songs, the lock-in is obviously not very strong. However, if you’ve bought 100 songs ($99), 10 TV-shows ($19.90) and 5 movies ($49.95), you’ll think twice about upgrading to a non-Apple portable player or set-top box. In effect, it’s the customers who would be the most valuable to an Apple competitor that get locked in. The kind of customers who would spend $300 on a set-top box.

Steve’s Thoughts on Music

Steve Jobs has written an article titled “Thoughts on Music” in which he blames DRM entirely on the labels. Steve claims Apple wants to sell DRM-free music but the labels won’t let them. This of course flies in the face of reality. From an article in the NYTimes last month:

Among the artists who can be found at eMusic are Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne, who are represented by Nettwerk Music Group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. All Nettwerk releases are available at eMusic without copy protection.

But when the same tracks are sold by the iTunes Music Store, Apple insists on attaching FairPlay copy protection that limits their use to only one portable player, the iPod. Terry McBride, Nettwerk’s chief executive, said that the artists initially required Apple to use copy protection, but that this was no longer the case. At this point, he said, copy protection serves only Apple’s interests .

Josh Bernoff, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, agreed, saying copy protection “just locks people into Apple.” He said he had recently asked Apple when the company would remove copy protection and was told, “We see no need to do so.”

Apple’s statement is a detailed treatise on the subject, compared with what I received when I asked the company last week whether it would offer tracks without copy protection if the publisher did not insist on it: the Apple spokesman took my query and never got back to me.

It should not take Apple’s iTunes team more than 2-3 days to implement a solution for not wrapping content with FairPlay when the content owner does not mandate DRM. This could be done in a completely transparent way and would not be confusing to the users.

Actions speak louder than words, Steve.

Audiobubble Music Store

I received an email from the Audiobubble team about their online music store.

Audiobubble isn’t your average online music store.

It began in early 2005, when two musicians, Shaun Russell and Tom Chambers, decided to create a music service that was fair to artists and fair to customers. Tired of puny 30 second previews, lack of customer trust and lack of freedom for the artist, they created the Audiobubble concept.

We don’t use DRM because we know it isn’t consumer friendly. Shame that Napster, iTunes and other online music giants can’t wake up to this fact. Audiobubble is about freedom. Join the revolution!

I signed up for an account and was listening to previews in no time under Ubuntu Linux. The only information asked for during signup was email, username and password.

Payment is handled through PayPal, so if you don’t have a PayPal account and refuse to sign up for one you’re out of luck.

Other online stores that sell music files without DRM: Magnatune, Bleep, Mindawn, Audio Lunchbox.