I love my iPod and
the iTunes Music Store is truly "the killer
app." I love the convenience of being able to buy
"that one song" that I remember
from 1978 without having to buy an entire album.
The iTunes software itself is a mixed bag. It's slow
starting up and it uses a lot of memory compared to other music
players. I'd like to be able to listen to music
I've purchased without having to run the iTunes
program. I would also like to be able to listen to the songs I bought
from the iTunes Music Store on something other than my iPod. This
part of the hack will show you how to strip the
digital rights management (DRM)
features from your purchased music so that
you can choose the time and place you listen to your music.
This hack will discuss technical aspects of doing this. I
won't discuss the legal or ethical issues related to
digital music because I'm a simple country engineer,
not a lawyer. I might not have legal training, but
I'm a pretty fair judge of what is right and what
isn't. The tools I am about to describe might be
able to be used by some to step over the line from fair use to
something that is not legal. Just remember, just because you can do
something, it doesn't mean you should.
The software used in this hack is called
and it can be found at http://hymn-project.org/download.php. If that
site disappears, you might need to rely on Google or another search
engine to find it. Download the binary version of the program, not
the source files. The filename will be something like
Before you perform this hack, you need to take a few precautions.
I've read reports on the Internet where some users
claim iOpener rendered their original files unplayable.
I'm skeptical because I've used it
without any problems, but it's better to be safe
than sorry. The first thing you need to do is copy your iTunes music
to a safe location. Most likely, your iTunes music is in a folder
called My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes
Once you've made copies of your audio files, install
iOpener on a machine that is already authorized to play protected
iTunes content. Start the iOpener program and have your iTunes
username and password ready. iOpener works by looking at all the
files in your iTunes Library and
Purchased Music folders. If protected iTunes
files are in there, it will use your username and password to unlock
them. It will not work for music that was purchased using a different
account name. Once iOpener has found and converted the music files,
it won't try to convert them again. iOpener also
converts whenever you add new files to the
Purchased Music folders. This can make iTunes
very slow, especially the first time you launch it, so be prepared
for a long wait if you have a lot of music in these folders.
You can manually start the conversion process by clicking the iOpener
icon in the taskbar and choosing Show iOpener. You will see the
screen shown in Figure 1. In the main screen, you
click the button labeled iOpen! and the program will start doing its
job. The Prefs button allows you to tell iOpener to back up your
music prior to converting (recommended) and whether to convert music
every time you add files (it's up to you).
That's the program in its entirety. It
isn't flashy and it doesn't have
sexy features, but it does do this one thing, and it does it well.
Figure 1. The iOpener main screen
After iOpener converts the files, you can look around in your iTunes
music folders. Notice that you now have two copies of every song. One
of the files has a .m4p file extension and the
other has a .m4a file extension. The
.m4p file is a DRM-protected iTunes file and the
.m4a file is an unprotected AAC audio file.
Your iTunes Music Store login name and account information are stored
within the unprotected AAC file. All you've done to
this point is remove the playback restrictions from the file. In
fact, the author of iOpener did this deliberately and I agree with
his reasoning. Play it smart and don't use this
power for evil.
At this point you have unprotected AAC files. But
there's not much you can do with them, so you need
to convert them to another format such as MP3 or Ogg Vorbis that can be used by a
variety of devices.
A good choice for conversion is the
Quintessential Player, available for
free from http://www.quinnware.com. For details on how
to install and use it, see . You'll
need an input plug-in to read the AAC format. Go to the Quinnware web
site and look for the MP4 plug-in. Download the plug-in and run the
installer on your computer.
Start the Quintessential Player after you've
installed the M4P plug-in. Load the unprotected iTunes files into the
Playlist Editor using the Add or + button or by dragging and dropping
files from Windows Explorer. Remember, you want the files with the
.m4a extension, not files with a
.m4p extension. Right-click any of the files in
the playlist and choose Convert → Convert All Files
→ Ogg Vorbis if you're going to convert the
files to Ogg Vorbis, or choose another format to which you want to
convert them. The software will now go about converting the files.
When the conversion is complete, the converted files will be in the
output directory that you specified in the Ogg Vorbis encoder
You'll be able to use the files in any way you want.
For this hack to work, your machine must have already been authorized
by iTunes to play protected files. That means you have to play at
least one iTunes Music Store file using iTunes before attempting this
hack. Also, some files might not convert cleanly in Quintessential.
You might have to use the command-line tool hymn
to do the conversion and then open the
hymn-converted file in
Finally, iOpener does not work on audio books purchased at iTMS. The
file is no different from audio files, it just has a different file
extension. So, convert them with hymn.