The DRM Blues


iTunes was great.

Before Apple’s digital media player and music store came along I was starting to feel like an old fogey that popular culture had passed by. I had been burned one too many times buying an over-priced CD for one or two tracks I may have liked, and purchasing them was no treat. I always found places like Tower Records a tedious place to shop manned by self-important and self-appointed arbiters of musical taste who were going to be so gone when their band finally gets signed. Single 99¢ tracks that can be downloaded at whim was a game changer for me and the rest of the world apparently. The record shop was at the fingertips 24 hours a day. I could buy songs of which I can’t possibly justify my love such as Yummy, Yummy, Yummy or Total Eclipse of the Heart without the judgement of a smirking clerk. I could hold my head up high and punch the purchase button on a Carpenters collection! It’s heaven! I started buying music again, and I have since bought more music digitally than I ever have on CD or vinyl.

Not an iPod
At first I was content burning the iTunes tracks and listening to them on CD players. I thought iPods looked neat, but were out of my price range. I stuck to CDs until iPod alternatives like the fabulous Sansa Shaker pictured above entered my price range. They were terrific MP3 players, but, as it turned out, they wouldn’t play the many tracks that I bought from iTunes due to the Digital Rights Management software embedded in the song files. DRM would hobble the tracks and make them unable to play on anything but an Apple product. There were workarounds such as burning the tracks to disk and then reimporting the tracks as MP3s, but that soon became arduous. CD-Rs were every where!

Then Amazon began to sell digital music or MP3 song files without the pesky DRM. At first, Amazon did not have as deep of a library as iTunes, but that soon changed. It was stupid for record companies not to work out deals with the world’s largest retailer. There may be stuff that Amazon doesn’t have that iTunes does like The Beatles library, but I’ll survive without the Fab Four.

cheapskateWhich is the long way around to my eventual subject. After completing Dan’s Customac Pro, I decided that my not-so-humble CustoMac Mini needed an upgrade to Mavericks which I talked a little about last week. I went with a fresh installation of the Operating System or OS for those of you who need to abbreviate everything, and, other than the 4K Advanced Format issue which I solved, everything seemed to fall into place. Apple’s App store recognized my ersatz Mac, and I was able to download and install my software purchased through that portal. I logged onto iTunes and found all of my purchased music dating back to 2003 safely tucked away in their cloud. I found some movies and TV shows I purchased and downloaded them, too. This was going to be sweet!


Movies and TV shows I had purchased on iTunes would show up in my library but would not play. I would get a black screen and no audio instead. Movies I ripped from DVD would play fine, but not the stuff I purchased. Videos would play on Apple devices tethered to my Hackintosh such as iPads and the AppleTV, but not on the Hackintosh itself. Music I bought from iTunes played fine, but no videos purchased from iTunes.


The checkerboard pattern appeared black and silent on the actual screen. No picture or sound on the computer screen.

I had made a clone of my Hackintosh hard-drive before I had upgraded to Apple’s latest computer OS, Mavericks. I tried booting into that to see if the upgrade had broken something.

It wasn’t Mavericks. It was some iTunes upgrade along the way.

I get audio and a psychedelic light show as video. It’s not working for me.

As I said, the videos will still play on Apple devices but not on my fake Mac. It’s no big deal to me, but if you bought a lot of Apple content which you watch on your computer, you may want to think before you dive into the Hackintosh pool. Either that or wait until somebody at figures out the workaround.

Until then, I’m sticking to Amazon. I’ve been able to watch content I’ve purchased from them on Macs, PCs and Linux.

I guess those walled gardens aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

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2 Responses to The DRM Blues

  1. oldnfo says:

    Looks like a wait for somebody to figure out a hack that works…

  2. Joe_Williams says:

    I’ve been fishing around the forums looking for a solution but to no avail. Apparently this problem has been bopping around for a while and nobody has come up with a real workaround. It’s not the end of the world, but buying something I don’t really own burns me up. I won’t be purchasing music or video from iTunes. There are plenty of other vendors on the block.

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