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New code added to iTunes database file prevents iPods from being used with any program other than iTunes.

Less than two weeks ago Apple revamped its entire iPod lineup along with introducing a new iPod model, the iPod touch. The product line update consisted of new features and designs for Apple’s iPod brand. The update, though, shouldn’t be taken entirely at face value; Apple also managed to sneak in some code that locks the new iPods to only work with iTunes.

Apple has locked out other digital content management software by adding “SHA1 hashes” to the beginning of the iTunesDB file, the database file which keeps track of digital content stored on the iPods. The enhanced code locks the iTunes database to one specific iPod and also prevents any modifications to it. If an attempt is made to either change the database file to a different iPod or to modify the file, the iPod reports “0 songs” are stored on the device. What this means is that essentially only iTunes can add or delete content from the iPod.  

The most plausible reason for locking then new iPods to iTunes is that Apple is becoming conscious of the growing threat that other music services are offering. Since many music labels are dumping DRM, it is now easier than ever for music services like Rhapsody to load non-DRM music directly to iPods through its own player; meaning iTunes is taken out of the picture as the digital content handler for iPods.

Locking iPods to iTunes effectively inhibits other media players from handling content for iPods. This move also prevents other music services from truly competing with the iTunes store and maintains Apple’s dominance.  

Apple has been very aggressive in the past to ensure that nothing changes the relationship between iPods and iTunes. Three years ago RealNetworks attempted to create an alliance between Apple and RealNetwork that would allow Real to license Apple’s Fairplay DRM technology so that it could sell files compatible with iPods.

Real’s ambitions turned out to be a failure when its talks with Apple failed, and so the company decided to simply reverse engineer Apple's FairPlay to create Harmony technology, which allowed music sold via RealNetworks to work on Apple’s iPods along with a plethora of other portable devices.

Apple nearly immediately issued a scathing response, and stated that Real’s move violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Apple also issued a firmware update to its iPods which blocked iPod access to Harmony files. At the time Apple said it was “stunned” by RealNetwork’s moves and accused it of using "tactics and ethics of a hacker."

Do you have an iPod but run Linux?  Tough luck says Apple.  Windows users who prefer to use other management tools, such as Winamp, will also need to use iTunes exclusively for now as well.

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By daftrok on 9/16/2007 7:21:06 PM , Rating: 2
Creative and Archos all the way!

RE: Grrr
By Lonyo on 9/16/2007 8:16:09 PM , Rating: 1
iAudio all the way :P
flac, ogg, wma, wav, mp3, USB mass storage ftw.
(And folder based navigation)

RE: Grrr
By hobbes7869 on 9/16/2007 8:26:54 PM , Rating: 5
This is why I use the old stand by of my Sony Walkman, Cassette player. No DRM there. Sure, I dont look trendy, but damn, I am already married

RE: Grrr
By Pandamonium on 9/17/2007 2:37:36 AM , Rating: 2
That gave me a good chuckle. +1 for you.

RE: Grrr
By Smurfer2 on 9/16/2007 9:03:38 PM , Rating: 3
Hey, don't forget the Sandisk Sansa! Love that thing!

RE: Grrr
By Laitainion on 9/17/2007 6:28:50 AM , Rating: 2
I've got one of those, very impressed with it. Can be set to appear as an external hard drive, or to hook up to WMP (and presumably other programs) for syncing and stuff. Very nice.

RE: Grrr
By acer905 on 9/17/2007 12:11:37 PM , Rating: 2
And have you seen the new sansa? 16GB for the same price as the new 8GB iPod nano, with longer battery life than the ipod, plus everything else the sansa already had. I gotta get me one of em

RE: Grrr
By bolders on 9/17/2007 3:38:36 PM , Rating: 2
I read about this new product recently. When I read that it could take the new high capacity SD cards (think that storage can be raised to 24GB at present) it was a done deal.

RE: Grrr
By CvP on 9/19/2007 9:19:48 AM , Rating: 2
EDIT: iAudio, Creative, Archos all the way!
and obviously, iPod s*** as ever.

sadly, not many people know about iAudios :(

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke
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