VLC will play iTunes Music Store tracks

My favorite media player is something called Video LAN Client, or VLC, which plays everything from Quicktime to Divx and RealVideo. It's free and open source, and improves steadily. Now, someone's hacked in support for M4Ps, the DRM format used by Apple for the iTunes Music Store singles. Alas, it requires that you be using a machine that's been authorized by Apple to play the tracks in question.

That's a pretty big problem for me. Let me tell you my iTunes horror story. I'm a great Apple customer. I buy a new Powerbook every ten months or so. I've convinced all my family members to buy Powerbooks. Wherever I go, I leave a wake of Apple customers behind me.

So last year, when the iTMS debuted, I was in Toronto, and I showed my Mom how to stream music off of my Powerbook. I even authorized her to play my iTMS tracks -- I spent about $50 in the first day that the store was online.

Then I got back to San Francisco, and everything was fine. Apple announced the Aluminum 15" Powerbook, and that day, I ordered one to replace my 10-month-old 12" Powerbook, which was dying and underpowered. The 15" machine died a week after it arrived. I sent it back to Apple as a lemon and it was broken up for parts and a new machine was sent to me. I restored my data to the new Powerbook's HDD and tried to authorize iTunes to play my music, but I was SOL: I'd already authorized my old 12", my mom's iBook, and the Powerbook that was now back in Apple's parts-stream. So I de-authorized the 12" and away we went.

The first run of Alumninum Powerbooks had a screen defect, the "white blobs" problem. I had it in spades: huge, distracting white blobs all over the screen. Once I had the time, I moved all my data over to the old 12" and send the new machine back to Apple a second time, this time to get a new screen. While the new machine was in Texas getting repaired, I was in San Francisco, and I attempted to use the iTunes on my 12" Powerbook, only to be prompted to authorize the machine to play my susbtantial, expensive library of iTMS tracks.

But I couldn't. Between my mom's iBook (3,000 miles away in another country), my original Powerbook (broken up for parts by Apple) and the replacement Powerbook (back in the shop due to a manufacturing defect), I'd done all the authorizations that Apple's "speed bump" DRM would allow me. The Help links on Apple's site went to pages with support forms that returned errors when I filled them in. So, the "FairPlay" system was punishing me for:

  1. Buying so much iTMS music that burning it to CD and ripping it back as MP3 (and re-entering all the metadata) was too big a chore to contemplate
  2. Buying a new Powerbook at full retail every 10 months
  3. Buying new Powerbooks as soon as they are announced, before all the manufacturing bugs have been shaken out

Apple tells us that its DRM "keeps honest users honest." I'm a pretty honest user. Apple's DRM hasn't kept me honest, though: it's kept me angry with Apple. It's kept me feeling like a sucker for giving them my money. It's kept me in chains.

So I'm waiting for someone to hack support for unauthorized AACs into VLC, because I'm not confident in my ability to continue to authorize the machines I buy to play the music I pay for.


(via Hack the Planet)

DVD Jon has written in with more info on this -- once you crack your music with VLC, you can play it on as many CPUs as you want