Posted by: reformedmusings | October 24, 2010

Reconsidering the Ubuntu One Music Store

First let me say that I enjoy the DRM-free music which I’ve purchased and downloaded from the store. Most of the music comes encoded in 320 kbps MP3 format, which sounds great. I’ve purchased a variety of albums including the great Oscar Peterson and some old Uriah Heap classics. I’ve been a bit like a kid in a candy store.

But, there turns out to be several catches. First, Ubuntu uses the 7Digital site in the UK. They realize that most credit cards now charge international transaction fees for out-of-country charges. In the USA, this turns out to be true even if those purchases are made in dollars and use Paypal. Although 7Digital maintains a “local” presence in a number of countries around the world, there’s no way for the consumer to change Ubuntu’s setting. That just seems odd to me since Ubuntu strives for robust language localization. I’m not sure what they’re thinking, as I can manually select Ubuntu repositories from around the world.

Access to the Ubuntu One Music Store only comes through plugins for the Rhythmbox and Banshee media players. Rhythmbox represents Linux’s attempt to duplicate the iTunes experience but without the slavery of Apple.

I’m usually living on the bleeding edge with my software. So, I use PPA repositories to keep some programs absolutely up to date. Rhythmbox’s can be added by typing this in the terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/rhythmbox

This provides the quickest way to add software repositories because it also downloads and installs their authentication keys.

Apparently, the Rhythmbox updates for Lucid have outrun the support libraries. The latest Ubuntu One Music Store plugin won’t load in Rhythmbox 0.13.1. I even tried to update the support structure by using these repositories:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:aptdaemon-developers/ppa
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntuone/stable

This did not solve the inability of Rhythmbox to load the music store plugin. The only solution that worked for me was to disable the PPA repositories, reload the package list (type: sudo aptitude update), uninstall Rhythmbox and the rhythmbox-ubuntuone-music-store plugin, then reload the original Rhythmox packages for Lucid, including the plugin.

That enabled Rhythmbox to load the music store plugin, but Rhythmbox 0.12.8 is unstable and a pain to use compared to 0.13.1. So in the end, I re-enabled the PPAs, again reloaded the package list, then upgraded to the latest versions of Rhythmbox and wrote off the music store for now.

I did find a workaround of sorts. One can access the U.S. 7Digital website directly and buy directly from them through a browser. The prices are the same and you don’t need Rhythmbox or Banshee plugins. This provides all the benefits that I need for both Rhythmbox use and access to DRM-free music.

I’m sure that Ubuntu gets a small cut of all sales through Ubuntu One, and I’m sorry to see them lose out here. I’ll be happy to return to the Ubuntu One Music Store when I can deal directly with the USA store to avoid international surcharges, and when the plugin works with Rhythmbox 0.13.1 or better in Lucid again.

My hat’s still off to Ubuntu for going down this road, but some substantial potholes need attention.

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