Napster goes legit (for real this time)

napster.pngI had long ago completely written off Napster as a company that wanted me to 1) rent my music instead of buy it, 2) download music in Windows Media format that wouldn’t play on an iPod, and 3) volunteer to lock my purchases in the Windows Media DRM fortress. Yet today, they joined the ranks of iTunes Plus, Amazon and even Sony BMG when they announced they’ll be selling DRM-free MP3 downloads starting in Q2 of this year. They didn’t specify the scope of this move but I think they understand the industry enough to know that their entire catalog will sell better as MP3’s that are compatible with the millions of iPods filling pockets, purses and fuzzy “iPod socks” around the world. What a damaging blow to Microsoft’s Zune business, however, as Windows-only download services like this are a significant sales channel where the lack of competition makes them actually competitive (sound like a familiar Microsoft strategy?).

I’m happy to see the music business waking up and smelling 2002, finally. We’ve all been saying “consumers want a better experience and more for their money, not the converse” and it’s taken this long for business models to start to change. Of all the brands that it seems should have seen this coming, it’s Napster, but at least they’re arriving to the party while it’s still a party. I’ve got a 60GB iPod that’s only half full; Napster, I’ll be making a download account on March 1.

It takes a lot of iPod to get thru the day

I’m really not trying to gripe. I’m not an ingrate; i appreciate this new job, the promotion, the better working environment… the business cards that arrived today, reading “Associate Software Engineer” (very excited about those, btw). But it’s tuesday of week three and i’m still completely useless, and it’s getting frustrating. It’s not just that i’m supposed to be testing things i don’t understand. It’s that i’m supposed to be designing tests for things i don’t understand, using tools i’ve never used – or sometimes even heard of – and that the (relatively few) people i have as resources sit as far away from me as is possible without an elevator ride. How can i attempt to break something if i don’t know what it’s supposed to do when it’s working, i ask you? Furthermore, how can i design an *automated script* to perform the aforementioned breaking in large quantity at high speed? Oh, and i can’t run our product on my own machine, cause apparently our product requires at least 2.5G of RAM and my desktop contains a 1GB pittance, which means i’m left trying to use a shared test lab environment, of which there are only a handful. Meaning they’re constantly in use by someone or something, via some secret verbal-only schedule that everyone but me seems to know (“of course you can’t use it right now! the [meaningless acronym] process is running!”). Also, it means i have to set the whole bloody thing up each time for whatever it is i’m trying to test, after whoever had it last screwed it all up for their own purposes, something which i’m lucky to get right once in 250 times, much less on an hourly, recurring basis.

It took me two hours to write that last paragraph, cause right in the middle of it a coworker roused me from my headphone-induced solitude. “why aren’t you at the meeting that started 10 mins ago that everyone’s supposed to be at?” Cause i didn’t know about it, smarty. Maybe if there weren’t still two of me in outlook, one that receives email you send me and one that does not, thanks to the genius internal transfer process, i would have known about it? Ya think?

Anyway, i forget where i was going here.. Oh, yes… how happy i am that my iPod is working again. And how disproportionately often i listen to the ‘long day’ playlist, compared to how rarely the ‘getting things done’, ‘hyper-productivity’ and ‘good mood for no reason’ playlists find their way to the D/A converter and down the white headphone wires. I’m just glad it works, that’s all i’m saying. It’s keeping me sane.

For those out there also using their favorite white music machine to steer themselves away from the looney bin, i’ve found some nuggets that you and your therapist might approve of. Download some totally free and DRM-less Bossanova tracks from Brazil. This guy runs Sabadabada for the purpose of digitizing and sharing his LP collection of vintage Brazilian tunage, and many selections from his constantly-rotating offering have found their way into my “must keep brain from melting” mood music.

For such large quantities of free music that you could even choke a luxo-chic 60GB iPod, check out this post on Tofu Hut that compiles gazillions of music blogs, artists that offer their own content for DL, and Pod-able free radio stations. Go nuts.

If you’re absolutely teetering on the edge between functioning member of human society and sociopathic office drone turned serial bludgeoner and soothing beats are not enough to quell your inner Mr. Hyde, turn to the wise words of some of the better (or in some cases, just famous) messengers from american history, as downloadable mp3’s. Sometimes only M. L. King Jr. himself can speak to the beast inside, and if it’s one of those days you can once again turn to your trusty iPod for snippets of audio sanity. On non-homicidal days, these tracks double as ammunition for a disparaging sneer at your cube-neighbor’s heavy Ashlee Simpson rotation.

I know what you’re thinking. Some days there is nothing left to do but disenchantedly battle the freeway home in silence, crawl sullenly into your dimly-lit apartment and imbibe your way to forgetfullness via the good liquor that you hide from your guests. Lest you traverse your downward spiral away from contributing citizen of earth alone, $10 for 900 mixed drink recipes will grant you a scroll-wheel-bearing sidekick for the duration of your journey from happy office drone to jaded, drunken misanthrope. Also great for impressing dinner party guests with your latest spiffy blended concoctions, whilst they mingle in your dimly-lit apartment admiring (and secretly coveting) the diverse collection of brazilian bossanova percolating from your dapper white plastic friend.