Category Archives: Sucks

Reply from AmieStreet

Yesterday, I sent AmieStreet a link to my blog post regarding their decision to disallow multiple downloads of your purchased songs. Here is their response (bold added by

Thanks for getting in touch with the post you made about Amie Street’s forthcoming change in download policy.  Although I know this isn’t necessarily an ideal change for you, I hope you might understand that as a digital music retailer we have to walk a fine line between keeping our customers satisfied and still respecting the wishes of the record labels that provide us with music.  With regard to this relationship we have with record labels, I was hoping to clarify some things with regard to ‘licensing’ and the cost of internet sales.

Although many users see a qualitative difference between the sale of a digital album and the sale of a physical CD, the legal framework surrounding royalties and payments is not different – a digital album is still considered a ‘product’ accompanied by license for personal use as opposed to a ‘license to a product’.  As you might not be aware, that means that every distributed download of a song (note: download, not purchase) is considered equivalent to the creation of a physical CD and so accompanied by a mandatory mechanical license fee of 9.1 cents per song, an amount set by the US Copyright Royalty Board.  (To be more specific, I believe the rate is technically 9.1 cents or 1.75 cents per minute of playing time, whichever is greater.)

Within this legal framework, your purchase is for one copy of the album in question and a situation such as a hard disk crash is seen by record labels and publishers as roughly equivalent to breaking a compact disc; just as you would have to repurchase the CD in such a situation, you would also have to repurchase the MP3 if you haven’t backed it up elsewhere.  We will continue to offer DRM-free MP3s to all of our users, however, and provide no hindrance to making backups of your content as you desire.

I understand that you might not see it this way but as a business we must respect the laws of the country in which we operate; although we would prefer to continue with our existing manner of handling downloads, this is a policy change about which we have absolutely no choice.

Once again, I appreciate your understanding with regards to this situation, and please let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.

The luddites at the Copyright Royalty Board apparently fail to realize that there are millions of songs available for free on the internet with no limit on the number of downloads.

Sigh. I am just going to let the bold parts of the letter speak for themselves. I wish AmieStreet and all other digital media vendors the best of luck in this market. They are doing their best to provide an excellent service in the face of true adversity.

AmieStreet removes ability to re-download your music

I just recieved the email below from AmieStreet, an online music store that charges increasing amounts for songs as they become more popular. You can often pick up a great album for next to nothing, recommend it to others and actually make money back as the songs grow in popularity. It’s a great website and a very novel way of distributing DRM-free digital music.

In several weeks we’re going to be making a change to how Amie Street handles downloads, and we want to be certain you are fully informed in advance about this change. In brief, starting on August 5th we’ll only be able to offer a single download of your purchased music unless you’ve encountered a technical problem.

Although most people only download their music one time, we’ve noticed that you have done so more than once on occasion. We realize that the ability to re-download files has been important to you, so it’s understandable that you might be disappointed to see this no longer available. Unfortunately a number of factors beyond our control, including legal and royalty concerns, have made this impossible going forward.

We’re very happy to say, however, that you can continue to stream all of the music you’ve purchased on Amie Street. That means wherever you have access to the internet, you also have immediate and unrestricted access to stream the entirety of your Amie Street music collection from your library.

To make sure that downloading music continues to be as easy as possible, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the user experience and making updates to the site as needed. The primary voice that directs any such changes will be yours, so if you have suggestions based on your experiences using the site, we’d love to hear from you at Tell us exactly what you like and don’t like, and we can make Amie Street even better!

The truth is, that I have only re-downloaded music on a couple of occasions, most likely because I purchased the music while at work, forgot to take it home with me and then re-downloaded it when I got home.  The other re-downloads have been due to technical issues involving pop-up blockers and an old design of the AmieStreet website, that was fixed long ago. In other words, this is not a service that I use a great deal. Once I have downloaded my music, I know where it is and I do not (generally) need to download it again.

However, I can’t help but feel a little irritated by this move.  It’s not that I want or even need to download my music multiple times – it’s that it feels like a step backwards.  The days of purchasing a physical medium are drawing to an end and more and more services are provided as digital downloads. I haven’t purchased a physical CD for months, probably years, and yet I bought two digital albums from Amazon a copule of weeks ago.

I have dozens of old CD’s that are scratched and no longer play without skipping. To obtain new copies of these albums requires that I buy them again, either digitally or as physical items. This is a constraint of the media, and one that I was perfectly happy with when there was no other alternative. If you break something, you have to buy a new one – it works the same way with all physical property.

On the other hand, AmieStreet (and all other digital media vendors) already know that I purchased the music. Or at least, they know that I purchased a license to listen to the music, which is something entirely different and yet completely meaningless to most people. If my computer bursts into flames or something, why can I not re-download music that I have already paid for? It isn’t going to cost any more to throw a few megabytes acrosss the internet to my new computer, as it would cost to create a new product then package and ship it to me.

Perhaps the idea is that I bought a license to listen to only the version that I downloaded, and no other digital copy of the same song? So by copying it to my iPod or another computer, I’m breaking the license agreement? I would like to think that this line of reasoning is nonsense, but by allowing customers to download a song only once, this is the model that is being applied. AmieStreet (or more likely, a team of lawyers barking at their heels) is trying to apply a physical model to a virtual world which is not constrained by the laws of physics.

Whatever the reasoning behind this move, it is an utterly pointless restriction and ultimately self-destructive. People that actually pay for their music are once again being hampered for doing the right thing.  Why add artificial barriers for people that actually want to give you their money? When there are unlimited free downloads of almost everything you can imagine, why make the paid version worse?

Those people that do not want to pay for their music will continue to recieve high-quality, DRM-free, re-downloadable media whenever they want it. Those of us who choose to do the right thing and buy their music, will end up with an inferior service and in many cases DRM-encumbered music that treats the customer like a thief .

It doesn’t matter who you are, or how powerful you think you are – like King Canute, you cannot stop the digital tide.

Spore vs The Force Unleashed

Just a quick note to let Electronic Arts know that I won’t be buying Spore – at least until they remove the draconian DRM from it. I’m not paying $50 for a game I can only install 3 times, even if I uninstall it after each new install. What happens when the activation servers go offline in a few years?

Anyway, enough people have written about this, including bombing the Amazon reviews for the game, that I don’t really have much to add. Other than the fact that I won’t be pirating it either. Downloading and playing a cracked version will only enforce EA’s view that the game didn’t sell due to piracy – and not becaue of the ridiculous restrictions placed upon it.

So I bought my son Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for his birthday instead. It’s not a very deep or challenging game, but until you’ve seen a seven year old jumping up and down on the couch while cutting down clone troopers with a Wii remote, using his force powers to blow everything up – well, you just haven’t lived!

Smooth Move, Warioware

At the behest of my wife I have recently purchased a Nintendo Wii. Actually, she wanted to get the Wii Fit, but since the Wii is somewhat of a pre-requisite, we had to get one first.

Warioware Smooth movesAnyway, I’ve been keeping my eye out for some good party games that the whole family can enjoy together, when I came across this list of the best ever Wii games, on Gamespot. As you can see, Warioware Smooth Moves scores 9.1 out of 10 and is even credited with editors choice. Reading through the review, it sounds like the perfect party game – fun, innovative, hilarious, easy to play etc.

However, to play the multiplayer game (for which this game comes so highly recommended) you must first complete the single payer game! In what universe does this actually make sense?

I came home from work yesterday, showed the game to my kids and of course they immediately wanted to play it. I fiddled around with it for a bit, but couldn’t get the multiplayer game to activate. I finally went to the internet and discovered the amazing truth – that you must complete the single player game to unlock the multiplayer game!! So there we all are, crowded round the TV and looking forward to a night of hilarity and the game is useless. Well, unless everyone wants to watch someone else play through it first.

The really daft part of this is that whoever completes the single-player game will have an innate advantage over everyone else who has never played it! I’m really finding it hard to understand why Nintendo decided to cripple what is essentially a party game, by forcing you to play it alone first.

I’m seriously thinking about taking it back to the store for a refund.

Vista SP1, where are you?

Windows Vista ServicePack 1 was released a few weeks ago, and I have been eagerly waiting for it to show up in my list of updates to be installed. Several of my friends have already installed it, but I am still waiting for it to appear…

So I decided to do a little research and discover exactly why I wasn’t being offered the upgrade. Of course, I could have just downloaded it and installed it myself, but I was curious as to why my Windows Update didn’t appear to be working.

Well, it turns out that there are a number of reasons why I wasn’t seeing SP1 as an available upgrade. After reading the support article, poking through the version numbers for a bunch of drivers I discovered that I had a “problematic” driver – “SigmaTel Stwrt.sys – version 6.10.5511.0 or earlier for x86 computers” to be exact.

So the first thing I do is head over to Sony‘s web site and look for an updated driver, but of course it doesn’t exist. The most recent driver on offer is over a year old and is the one I already have that is preventing SP1 from installing.

Second stop is SigmaTel‘s website, and a Vista Support Update link – now we’re getting somewhere! But hang on – this just tells me to go to my PC vendor and get an updated driver from them! It appears that SigmaTel has been bought out by IDT and they are no longer supporting the audio chipset in my laptop.

It would seem that I cannot install Vista SP1 on my laptop, due to a single “problematic” driver that is no longer supported by the device manufacturer (SigmaTel/IDT) or the OEM (Sony). What exactly does “problematic” mean? Will my computer fail to boot, go Bluescreen of Death on me or worse? Or is it something I really couldn’t care less about, like the sound card won’t reinitialize correctly after resuming from hibernation? Will it work? Do I dare install it, only to find out that I’ve just turned my laptop into a useless brick?

Unfortunately, it’s rather difficult to pin the blame on a single entity. Is it Microsoft‘s fault for failing to write a proper service pack? Perhaps they had a very good reason, such as a security issue and the driver no longer works after the issue was fixed? Is it SigmaTel‘s fault for selling the chipset to another company? Is it IDT‘s fault for not writing an up to date driver? Or is Sony to blame, since they are using the technology in their computers and should provide an OEM driver?

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who is at fault – the customers are getting the short end of the stick. And this doesn’t just affect Sony customers, but also Dell, HP and any other vendor that used these very popular audio chipsets.

But the worst part is not that this problem exists, but that Windows Update does not even show SP1 as an option. Hundreds of users are not even going to know that there is a service pack available, let alone to try to update their drivers first! There is no indication whatsoever that a service pack is available, leaving many people completely in the dark.

It’s really quite difficult to Cheerlead things like this. I just hope it gets sorted out soon, but I’m not going to hold my breath…

And in the meantime, there are hundreds of customers – including myself  – that cannot install Vista SP1.