Thursday 29 January 2009

Where to buy DRM-free MP3s online

Written for internet-connected, iTunes and Mac OS-using, (South) Africans

If, like Steve Jobs, Mark Shuttleworth and I, you believe that the Digital Rights Management-free music is ultimately the way to go, then your options for purchasing music online in SA are still suprisingly limited :(.

As Lloyd Gedye wrote, despite the example of the success of the iTunes music store (launched way back in April 2003!) and EMI's success with moving away from DRM-protected music, the South African music industry is still dead-set on enforcing DRM! So much so, that typing in 'buy mp3' into its website's search engine delivers no results. DOH!

So, what options does this leave you with; as a socially-responsible customer, who wants to own (not rent!) the music you buy online? Here are three suggestions:

1 Get DRM-free MP3s from overseas
Check-out how to buy music from Amazon relatively easily at Alternatively, try or

2 Buy from your local...
You can buy proudly South African, DRM-free mp3s online from these shops*:
Rhythm Records offers mp3s from R 7 a pop!
Music.Overtone focusses on "high quality South African music".

3 Do the iTunes Music Store work-around...
Visit MediaWob to buy a voucher that you can redeem through the iTunes Music Store. The process is easy.

* Please note that this is not an exhaustive survey; these are the DRM free sites I could find through search engine look-ups. Please post other shop suggestions. Thanks!

Related links

Your 99c belong to the RIAA – Steve Jobs

Waiting for iTunes to come to SA? Don’t. Use Amazon MP3!

Find South African Music is a resource for promoting and exposing South African music to the world.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Five important iTunes music tags that are often blank... or wrong!

Written for internet-connected, iTunes users.

I've been told that I have too much time on my hands :)! If you find yourself with the same problem and also want to optimise your iTunes music library, I suggest you improve the accuracy of these five song fields*:

1. Setting the correct Equaliser Preset setting ensures your rock ROCKS on your speaker; not pops, fizzles or raps!

2. Often left blank by the automated look-up process, filling the Album Artist field correctly allows iTunes plug-ins to better find the correct lyrics and album covers.

3. The Genre field often needs to be tweaked to one's satisfaction. For example, your idea of Pop may be Bon Jovi. To others it may be Rock. Setting the correct genres for your tunes makes it a lot easier to play music suited to your mood. It also helps Party Shuffle work so much better on your ears :)!

4. If you own a fair amount of mixed music, setting a Start Time for your favourite tunes can avoid listening to a long mix-in from a previous one. Just as setting a Stop Time saves the boredom of a long outro...

5. The Comments field can be useful for creating smart playlists from its keywords. In particular, it's useful for labeling the mood of the music. For example, there are times when one only wants to listen to Indie music that's commented as happy (versus melancholy)!

I can't guarantee that changing these tags will improve your enjoyment of iTunes, but they should!

* Do this on a Mac by selecting one song (or more) and pressing 'Command' and 'I' simultaneously. Then select the 'Info' or 'Options' tab. Happy editing!

Monday 5 January 2009

Getting the most value from your capped bandwidth at month-end

Written for internet-connected, capped-bandwidth-using, (South) Africans.

As bandwidth is relatively expensive in South Africa, here are 2 suggestions to get the most value from a capped-account at month-end:

1 Use all your bandwidth in time!
Like most of you, my ISP also does not rollover unused bandwidth at month-end. So, to avoid forgetting to use it all, simply create a recurring calendar event for each month-end titled: "Check bandwidth availability".

If you've got a fair amount available, then run all your software updates. Once your software's up-to-date, here are other suggestions:
- Download free (or trial) software
- Do internet research
- Freshen up your desktop with new wallpaper and screensavers
- Download podcasts from TED and interesting content from iTunes University
- Update your blog, website, etc. with imagery and audio
- Catch up on YouTube or Zoopy!

For some reason, my ISP does not cut-off FTP downloads once they've begun (even if I've exceeded my allocated bandwidth for the month). So, I like to setup FTP downloads and run them just before month-end. If they are stalled, I simply pause the download and restart them after several minutes. This has worked well for me in the past; I hope it works well for you, too!

Related links
Telkom- SA's nightmare

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