Monday, July 24, 2017

Goodbye Napster

I have long been a subscriber to the service whose current name is Napster. This is a company that came into existence when Rhapsody and the second version of Napster, merged. They changed the name not that long ago.

The service has changed quite a bit over the years. They used to offer the ability to buy songs. I was disappointed when they eliminated that feature. At one time, you could still use older versions of the software, but now, you have to install whatever version is current.

This is a problem for me, because the current version is extremely unstable on my system. I get the distinct feeling that the entire thing is coded to run just fine on newer operating systems. I'm still running Windows 7, for a variety of reasons.

When I say "unstable", I mean just that. It will skip songs randomly that are in a play list. It will play the first few seconds of a song then go to the next one. It will freeze up and then I wind up having to terminate the entire process in Task Manager.

Napster no longer has telephone based customer support, which is just so wrong. I have chatted on-line with a few different customer service agents, all of whom make the same suggestions.

Log out, then log back in. That makes no difference.

Try running it in compatibility mode. Again, this doesn't help at all.

Uninstall the program and do a clean re-installation. Again, this is just a waste of time.

Now, please don't get me wrong. I love the service. There's a vast library of music, much of which I had never been aware of prior to finding it on the service.  It's a real bargain at $9.99 a month...when it works.

My long time work around for the software issues has been to download songs for off-line play. This has worked just fine for as long as I can remember. Granted, the quality isn't the best, as the files are WMA-encoded at just 156 kps. but I use a good audio enhancer that brings everything up to what I consider to be acceptable.

Now, this is where things get tricky. Also, where they get upsetting for me.

For well over a decade, the standard coding for digital rights management was software created by Microsoft. In the case of files from Napster, use of DRM coding is how they make sure that the files will play only for as long as a membership is active. The licenses are set to renew automatically every thirty days.

Until now, everything worked fine. But, on July 14th, Microsoft ended its remaining support for DRM licenses. They had shut down most of the servers exactly two years earlier on July 14, 2015.

No servers means no support for the coding. In turn, Napster shut down its own DRM servers, because there's no point in maintaining something  you can't actually use anymore.

I understand that. I really do. But what this means is that downloading music from the service, which has long been a part of the service, is gone. Files that I have downloaded prior to July 14th of this year no longer play, because their licenses can't be renewed. Files downloaded after July 14th are useless as well, because there is no license to activate.

Now, when I say that what I've long been able to do is something I can't do anymore, there is one thing I do need to point out, in all fairness.

Downloading files to a smart phone or tablet using the Napster app still works just fine. At least, I think it does. I'm basing that statement on what a customer service agent told me yesterday.

But, damn it, I don't own a smart phone. I once borrowed one from a friend for a few hours, just to see if getting one of my own was a good idea.

It wasn't, not at all. I do not have the technical knowledge nor the aptitude to learn such knowledge, that is required.

So, to recap:

1 - I would buy songs individually if I still could. I can't do that.

2- I would still use an older version of the software if that were an option. It's not.

3- The current software is fine when it works properly. Unfortunately, it's very unstable, at least on my operating system.

4- Napster had two years in which to re-encode their files using the new software Microsoft developed to replace DRM coding. Two years, people.

5- For whatever reasons they had, they decided to just leave things as they were. They did this with the full knowledge that some of their loyal customers would be, to put it bluntly, royally screwed.

6- Like some other streaming services, Napster seems to have taken an attitude that boils down to "if they don't have a smart device, tough luck."

I'm upset with all this, as you can see. I am looking for an alternative service but so far, I've yet to find one that offers the option for download and off line use of music files.

If you're still reading this, thank you. I really just needed to vent about this, as it were.

No comments:

Post a Comment