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23 October 2010
It's been a while since I last bought music online, but I wanted a new Album for my daughter so that she can practice a song for a pantomime she's dancing in. I thought I'd give the Ubuntu One music store a try.
When I first bought music online there was limited choice of retailers and I went with Apple iTunes. Unfortunately the iTunes files included DRM and were in a proprietary format so were unsuitable for use in Linux or on MP3 players without breaking the DRM. Fortunately I believe all the music stores have realised that they were losing customers by forcing DRM on the consumers and so most are available without DRM now. iTunes however has retained it's proprietary format, so whilst not having to crack the DRM the file still needs to be converted to a more appropriate file for use in Linux or on MP3 players.
As a result of these I used Amazon.co.uk MP3 downloads for a while. Amazon uses MP3 format which is available on most systems (subject to patent, which I believe has now expired in most countries) which is available on many operating systems and devices. The problem with Amazon is that, whilst they created a Linux client to download the music with, it is only available for 32bit operating systems (most modern computers are now 64bit, although some still install 32bit operating systems) and they haven't updated the client since the version for Ubuntu 9.10 (now a year old with 2 new versions of the operating system since then), so unfortunately I'm not able to use it on my main laptop (more about my issues with Amazon MP3 client on Linux).
I predominately use Ubuntu so the Ubuntu One MP3 store seamed a logical choice. I use Rhythmbox as my music player which is fully integrated with the Ubuntu One music store along with Jamendo and Magnatune. Buying new music is similar to other integrated music stores in that you can browse / search for available music, add the downloads to your basket and then provide credit card details. The only pre-requisite is to sign up for a Ubuntu One account, in my case an existing Launchpad account.
Rather than downloading direct to the computer the file is first copied to your Ubuntu One account, which means that the music is made available to every computer logged in to Ubuntu One which is particularly useful if you have more than one computer you want to play the music on. This also means that, unlike other MP3 retailers I've used, there is a backup of the music and it can be downloaded again in the event that the files are lost of corrupted. This is a great feature and means that Ubuntu One leads in terms of functionality.
At the moment Ubuntu One is only available for Linux, but a Windows client is being developed and should be available in beta soon. As these are MP3 files they could be downloaded on Linux and then copied onto Windows.
Ubuntu One is primarily a web based online backup / file sharing tool. As standard 2GB of disk space is provided, with more available for a very reasonable additional charge. It also offers contact synchronization and music streaming to iPhones or Android based mobile phones, which is a bit more expensive.
Ubuntu One also include contacts, file and bookmark synchronisation. With a Windows client this will be a good replacement for Dropbox, although I'll be sticking with Dropbox for the Windows compatibility for now.