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ITunes Music Swap Just Won't Die

Leander Kahney Email 06.06.03

Apple Computer may never be able to stop Mac users from sharing music over the Internet, despite its best attempts.

Last week, Apple released an iTunes update that disabled the ability to stream music over the Internet.

In April, Apple added a feature that let Mac users share tunes over a local area network, such as an office or a couple of Macs hooked up at home. This feature also permitted users to stream iTune music files. When some users published their addresses and began streaming iTunes music files over the Net, Apple responded by disabling the streaming aspect of the feature.

The move enraged a lot of Mac users, who were using the feature to stream music from their home machines to machines at work.

"Apple force-feeds customers shit, calls it sunshine," is how Cory Doctorow put it in a widely cited rant against Apple on the boingboing weblog.

But what Steve Jobs takes away, hackers are giving back.

On Thursday, programmer James Speth released a hastily written piece of software called 401(ok) that restores Net-wide music streaming to iTunes.

"I really liked the ability to access my music from anywhere, and I didn't like that the 4.0.1 update removed that feature," Speth wrote.

In the software's Read Me file, Speth writes that the software is "inefficient, ugly and poorly written. If anyone really uses this thing, I'll work on making it better."

The hack makes it fairly easy to restore Net-wide music streaming to iTunes. A more complicated, but more powerful hack exists in Andromeda, a software application that makes use of Mac OS X's built-in Web technologies, the Apache Web server and the PHP scripting language.

Although Andromeda requires a complex setup, it even streams copy-protected music bought at the iTunes Music Store. However, streamed tunes are still subject to Apple's copy-protection scheme. Music bought from the store is restricted to three Macs predesignated by the user, and if a machine hasn't been authorized, it won't play the songs.

However, Jim Heid, a contributing editor at Macworld magazine, had the simplest solution to keep streaming in iTunes: Drag the iTunes application into a new folder before installing the update. By changing the application's location, it won't be overwritten when the new version is installed.

"Keep both versions," Heid writes, "they'll coexist on your hard drive?. When you want Internet sharing, simply launch version 4.0."

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