Friday, November 15, 2013

iTunes? More like cryTunes

Pull up a seat, make yourselves comfortable, and I will tell you a tale. A classic tale that will echo throughout the ages, an emotional roller coaster of frustration, rage, anger, irritation, aggravation, grief, longing, and buttmad.

This isn't your average, everyday joke reuse. This is... ADVANCED joke reuse.

I guess you could say that this story began in the year 1711, on a lonesome ship in the middle of a stormy sea, where a group of alchemists attempted to summon a devil to aid their quest for the grand panacea, an elixir granting immortality to any who imbibe it. Surprisingly enough, the ritual worked, and all aboard the vessel were granted everlasting life, only to be cut short by the hand of another immortal. But that's enough of my backstory. It could be said that my troubles began a few years ago, the moment my brother won a free iPad in a raffle, but refused his friend's offer to give him $200 to smash it against the ground then and there. This resulted in the unfortunate affliction of owning an iPad, and a yet more severe case of having to deal with iTunes. But little did I know, all those frustrations were but a prelude to the fugue that was to follow.

A few months ago, I saw an update on Serebii that said that the soundtrack for Pokemon X and Y (That's right. It's another one of those posts) would be sold on iTunes. Gamefreak had finally called me out on my bluff that I would legally pay for and download video game music if only I was given the chance. And I was glad they did. Gamefreak, and video game makers (Developers? Producers? Birthers?) in general make some pretty spectacular music, and they deserve to be recognized for it, monetarily. Sure, it meant that I would now have to actually pay for the music, and opportunities to become poorer usually aren't something that I celebrate, but as long as the money was going to a good cause, it would be worth it, because it would allow me to fit way too many commas in one sentence, wouldn't it?

And then, on November 12th, a month after the game was released, the full soundtrack was released on iTunes, an impressive 212 songs for a meager $10. Deals don't get much better than that, right? I mean, sure a lot of the “songs” are probably just short jingles and sound effects, but even if as much as half of them were proper songs, it's still be chin and earlobes above most other songs you'd buy off iTunes. Hell, just a few days prior, I had considered buying the Bastion Soundtrack for the same amount of money, and it only has 22 songs. As it turns out, I should have purchased the Bastion Soundtrack, and heeded its words more carefully. Indeed, some day, these tears were gonna spill.

After taking a few minutes to download iTunes and get an account set up, I moseyed on over to the soundtrack, and-- wait, what? You know, Gamefreak, when I said “if even as much as half of them were proper songs”, I wasn't just trying to win a pretentious-sounding sentence competition. That was supposed to be an exaggeration. I didn't expect that that would be anywhere close to the truth. Well, whatever. Even just 20 songs makes for a pretty burly album, so I shouldn't complain. I'll just click on the “buy” button, enter some credit card information, fail to understand how the money that I'm spending correlates to real world time spent working, and get on with my life. Eh? It says the connection has been reset, and the purchase couldn't be completed. And if I try it again? Same thing. I guess I'll check out the internet to see what they have to say about this problem. This guy says that his problem went away after he logged out of iTunes then logged back in, so I guess I'll try that. No, that didn't work. This says that switching my DNS settings solved this guys similar problem. For all I know, DNS stands for “Do Not Switch”, but if someone on the internet says it's a good idea, who am I to argue? And... nothing. Same error. Maybe my firewall is blocking all the grass and ice types from getting in? Let's see what happens if I disable that for a bit. Huh. That didn't work either. I'm kind of running out of ideas now. Maybe it'll work if I try switching this narrative from present tense back to past tense? But that didn't work either.

The remainder of this story will be told in first person omniscient.

The error message seemed to indicate that some kind of error was occurring with my network as the album was being downloaded, so I reasoned that it may have been the size of the album that was causing the error. To test this hypothesis, I tried downloading a song. To my surprise, and immediate regret, the download was successful, and I found myself in possession of a song I had already possessed.

Pictured: Immediate Regret

So individual songs were able to slip past the music embargo iTunes had placed on my computer, but what about albums? I didn't know if all albums would produce the same error, or if it was just the Pokemon soundtrack. And, being a scientist, I knew that there was only one way to test my hypothesis: by experiment. So I decided to try to buy a different album, and see if it would work. So, with as little consideration as possible, (consideration is the enemy of scientific endeavors) I decided to buy The Decemberists' newest album, The King is Dead, because, hey, why not? I mean, sure, I spent $10 on an album that I could have just listened to on Spotify for free, but... wait. Actually, that is a pretty good answer to the question “Why not?”.  But the real kicker was when I later found out that I could have bought the Bastion Soundtrack on iTunes for the same price as elsewhere, killing two birds with one stone.

Pictured: Delayed Regret

At this point, I had had it. It was time to bring out the big guns. If no one else on the Apple forums had asked about this problem,  I guess it was up to me to nut up and do the opposite of shut up. So I made my own little discussion about how I could download other songs and albums, but not the Pokemon X and Y soundtrack. And apparently this is a problem others have experienced, as 8 other people indicated that they had the same question. While I was waiting, I figured that I might as well listen to some of the music I just bought. But, of course, my hardships were not over yet. Whenever I tried to play about half of the songs, it would ask me to authorize my computer to play my iTunes music. After entering my credentials, it would tell me that my computer was already authorized, only to ask for authorization again if I tried to make like Sam and play it again.

And in the face of all of this, I kept circling back to one question: Why? Why is iTunes the top music merchant in the world if this is how their software works? It certainly isn't because of quality. As it turns out, when you buy music from iTunes, you don't actually get an MP3 file, and whatever it is that you get, it isn't compatible with anything other than iTunes, and converting it to a more widely usable file is expensive, inconvenient, or illegal. And the whole "authorization" thing I mentioned earlier. You can authorize 5 computers to play your iTunes music, and then your account is basically dead, and you can't play that music on any other computer, as far as I can tell. And for what benefit? Why do we, as a society, allow Apple's monopoly on music to persist? Is it just because we've come to associate digital music with iTunes, and are too lazy to try something else, like Amazon Music or Google Play? And I think it's a real shame, because iTunes has a vast library, with even more music than Spotify.

Pictured: Even more music

 And at this point, I was going to lecture to lecture on the evils of DRM, and how information wants to be free, and how I wish that I could support the people who made some music that I enjoy without the money going to an evil corporation that is an enemy of Liberty and Justice. But I just managed to download the Pokemon soundtrack, and I'm quite enjoying it, even if many of the best songs are above my clearance at the moment. So I guess you win this round, Apple. I'll save my jokes about how you're "rotten to the core" for another day.

And what of the end of our tale? How was it that that most cursed of days drew to a close? I listened to Hyadain and cried myself to sleep. And that, kids, is how you make a silver lining out of a mole hill.

Pictured: ADVANCED joke overuse