We’ve done a bit of traveling this week: I was in Austin for a few days to do some usability testing, and my family came with me. Then, back for a day, we left to go to my mother’s for the July 4th holiday.
all this meants lots of ipodding, which in turn led to a discussion about itunes, which is a piece of crap for Windows. It’s such a sluggish memory hog that I have to think it has some bloat. While apply makes things easier, that ease comes at a price and DRM files is one of those costs. [Apples sells DRM-free songs at a higher bit rate--for $1.29 per song, though only for some songs and artists as required by record labels, not Apple.] Yes, it’s easy to just purchase and download songs via iTunes [once it starts]. I mentioned some alternatives to my wife that I had tried, like songbird, but found them lacking. But mediamonkey is a different story, as seen by this comparison and this review [which includes the author's favorite addons].
After installing the latest free version, I confess I liked it immediately as its scan of my 8000+ song files took a fraction of the time of iTunes. I’m convinced the MediaMonkey is a superior player, but how about syncing with our iPods? Again, MediaMonkey quickly accessed the iPod when it was connected to the computer whereas iTunes is slower. In fact, when I inserted our older iPod Shuffle which was synced with iTunes on another computer, I didn’t see the usual iTunes message that the device could only be synced with one computer.
That leaves the trickest part of moving away from iTunes–purchasing songs from Apples music store. Being the only option, that meant just one login [which also meant that all purchases were charged to my account and my AMEX card]. MediaMonkey provides an integrated web browser, and in its navigator pane, it has a Web folder with links to amazon, CDUniverse, eMusic, HDTracks, and AllMusic. Unfortunately, rhapsody is not linked, a store that recently re-launched with no DRM and with iPod compatiblity. You can check out this 2007 comparison of amazon and itune, which has improved since then in amazon’s favor. [I still find amazon's interface clunky at times, however.]
Rhapsody requires using their downloader, and instead of using all my existing music files by artist, it saves the MP3s to a rhapsody/ folder. [The good thing is that if I move the file and rescan--which is blazing fast--I don't have to worry about the stupid duplicated songs like in iTunes.] Amazon also requires a downloader but it can be configured to use my existing file structure rather than the default Amazon MP3/ folder. Even though the Amazon music catalog is around half that of iTunes, I’ve found all the songs we’ve purchased from iTunes Music Store on amazon, including a few songs that I’ll be talking about in a future post.
I’m running this past my wife, and all seems good. While song purchasing and downloading isn’t quite as easy as with iTunes, it’s still pretty easy using Amazon and Rhapsody with MediaMonkey, and I’m not sure that we’ll have much reason to go back to iTunes.
Just a clarification: Apples and iTunes aren’t evil, but I prefer a media player that syncs my iPod with the freedom of using any download service, which MediaMonkey does.