Dear anybody who develops an application to play music,
One word: FLAC. It’s free, it’s open, it’s what I’m reripping all my CDs into.
Apple, it would be absolutely killer if you supported FLAC in iTunes, and automatically transcoded into MP3 for my iPod. But I’m not going to hold my breath, since you only add features that generate revenue.
This also means you, last.fm. Why don’t you work with FLAC files playing through WinAMP?
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Apple developed Apple Lossless back in 2004 to do what you need FLAC to do, it’s supported by QuickTime, iTunes, iPods and and unlike FLAC it’s not poisoned with a GPL license.
The libraries are a modified BSD license. The utilities are GPLed:
There appear to be quite a few commercial products built with FLAC support now, so either those companies are dumb and opening themselves up for legal action, or there is no problem in using FLAC libraries. Or it isn’t tested yet. :-)
Apple Lossless, on the other hand, is a completely closed standard. The guys who reverse engineered it did so with no documentation, and that continues to that day. Sure, you can use it as part of QuickTime, provided you have an OS capable of running QuickTime. Nothing else on my PC decodes ALE (not that trying WinAMP and Windows Media Player was an extensive test). :-)
I am a huge fan of open standards, so long as they are licensed in a way that makes them able to be used in products. Like you I am not a huge GPL fan because of the encumbrances, but I think the LGPL and some of the other license types (such as BSD & Xiph) do a decent job of enabling people to use open source software without having to release all of their code. In this regard I do think FLAC is the best choice, and Apple’s ALE seems like it is another way to get trapped in Apple-controlled proprietary formats. Given the litigious & sometimes spastic nature of Apple (ATI, ThinkSecret, PlayFair) I hope the guys that reverse-engineered ALE haven’t exposed themselves too badly should Apple decide their work presents a threat.
It was possible to do the FLAC in iTunes bit, with the Quicktime plugin for FLAC, as iTunes handily uses the Quicktime libraries for playback. But comments on macupdate suggest it broke with QT-7, and there’s been no recent updates.
But there was no automatic transcoding. (Actually, does iTunes do that for Apple Lossless into mp3? Wouldn’t it be great if iTunes could manage multiple formats of a file as one, rather than having a lot of seperate copies in the library. I could select the ‘best’ set of bit-rates/formats for playback to a hi-fi, or synchronising to an iPod.)
I always suspected ALE was produced in order to support the protection methods for iTunes to Airport Express playback.