iTunes Plus (or Minus) .1

So I grabbed iTunes 7.2 today, which allows you to download the new 256K, non-DRM'ed songs from the store. I'm excited about the concept; I've gone back and forth on my stance on iTunes but I recently settled on "against", as the DRM is too annoying. But now I can buy non-DRM'ed stuff so that's awesome. It does cost $1.30 a track instead of $0.99, but I can live with that.

It's a mixed bag though. It looks to me like Apple rolled it out a bit undercooked (or the servers are overloaded). Once I went through the usual iTunes upgrade rigamarole and then turned on "iTunes Plus" it asked if I wanted to drop six bucks on upgrading my library. Turns out I have a Beastie Boys single, and a double CD of Martin Denny tunes that I bought from iTunes that are in the catalog. Cool, I was trying to figure out what was going to be in the EMI catalog that I wanted so I could be a good consumer monkey and indicate my support. I can do this instead.

Well, that's a problem. I've poked iTunes about it on and off all day. The first pass it took it only downloaded about a third of the tracks and gave me the mysterious "Unknown error 504" message on the others. And when it does this it's SUPER ANNOYING! It pops up a message, plays a "bonk" sound and starts bouncing a dock icon until I go acknowledge it. Welcome to Windows XP-style interfaces, iTunes will be your designated annoyance today. But wait it gets better! Once you click OK that releases another download stream to try another track. It probably won't work and it will go through the bounce/bonk/dialog trick again. Until you scream "ENOUGH" and hit the button to pause all downloads. Oh, that will bork any podcasts you were downloading as well. It's also been thrashing the crap out of my system while it was at it - I've had to shut iTunes down several times because while it wasn't actually downloading songs it was thrashing my net connection so badly nothing else was working.

It looks like NOW it thinks it has all the tracks. I'm not super-confident because the last time I quit iTunes it told me I still had three tracks hung. Now they are marked as downloaded, but I'm not quite sure which tracks they were. Right now if I hit "Check for Purchases" it tells me "Unable to check for purchases. An unknown error occurred (5002)."

But given enough time it seems to have worked. The new tracks are 256k, and they are now .m4a files (instead of protected .m4p files). I had a paragraph about how iTunes had falsely decided it could "upgrade" an album I ripped from CD but I just realized it's right and I'm wrong. I did buy the album from iTunes but then I burned it to CD and ripped it back to get un-DRM'ed tracks. So I figured fine, I'll try another album "upgrade" with them and got the 5002 error. Guess I'll try again later. Interesting that it can find the album I've bought even though those tracks are no longer DRM'ed.

So in general I think I'm going to like the way iTunes Plus works, once the birthing pains are over. Right now? I'm hard pressed to recommend you jump right in. Give it a few days to let the water settle and then see if the new tracks are worth the upgrade to you.

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