Rhapsody Beyond Fear

RealNetworks released the latest version of their Rhapsody service last week and I’m hearing lots of great things about it. They’ve done several things mostly right with the service. Support for a subscription model competing with Napster To Go is definitely a positive. I recognize not everyone is sold on the idea of renting music, but I’m perfectly content with this kind of model as a try-before-you-buy approach. It’s cheaper than buying CDs that I only listen to a few times and it doesn’t have the same back alley smarmy feel that’s associated with traditional file sharing. A new share 25 songs with your friends option seems okay on the surface, but it only works if your friend downloads Real Player, which is a turn off because would be easy for them to use Windows Media DRM to share the files through every player that supports it. Real needs to give up on trying to sell us a player and start looking at how they can bring something else of value. Sharing 25 songs with friends to demonstrate how cool the service is would be a good start, but making me add yet another media player to my system is annoying. Harmony is back for iPod owners, at least until Apple answers back with another discordant firmware upgrade. I don’t care how much cheaper the songs from Real are, it’s a fool’s errand to purchase from them with the expectation that tracks will play on an iPod long term.

I’d love to try the service, but after realizing I just spent $39.97 on the Real SuperPass without getting anything in return, there’s no way I’ll be convinced to spend another dime on their products. Back in January I activated a trial version of Real SuperPass to test a few of the features in the full version of the player. I poked around with the features I wanted to test and then promptly forgot about it. I don’t remember giving them my credit card information to test SuperPass, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume I did. The only other possibility is the credit card info was transferred from a purchase I made when Harmony originally announced and I’d hate to think they took the liberty of using that data for SuperPass. Now I’m sure the fine print of the SuperPass offer warned me that it would automatically bill me after the trial period was up, but I can’t find that little detail. I can sign up online, but I couldn’t eliminate the service without calling. Previous attempts to cancel always seemed to fall outside the normal hours of operation. Long story short, I payed $39.97 for a service I never used. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. And despite having the SuperPass active through the remainder of the month, I’m blessed with a stupid popup ads when downloading the player to a new machine. Yes, I can play RealMedia files with Real Alternative, but I can’t effectively stay informed about their services in doing so. I’m currently attempting to find out if I can get all six songs I’m entitled to for having the service active over three months or if they don’t carry over month-to-month. Based on this experience, I recommend choosing Napster To Go over Rhapsody To Go because you won’t get the screwy billing hassles. Napster seems to have problems remembering to remember my password when I connect to the service, but for security purposes, that’s probably better anyway. So once again, Real is leading the pack with the best feature set for a digital music product and the worst marketing practices.

As a subscriber to the ITConversations newsletter, I get weekly updates from Doug Kaye about new shows added to the site, as well as his picks for all time favorite interviews. This time last year, Doug featured an interview with Bruce Schneier. Bruce is one of the world’s leading experts on security, a best-selling author currently known for Beyond Fear and primary inventor of Blowfish and Twofish encryption. It’s safe to Bruce Schneier a security geek. I listened to this interview last year when it originally appeared, but consider it worth a mention now because many of the things he said still hold up a year later. Some of what is talked about pertains to the state of security in the United States, some of what he says probably sounds controversial. Whether you agree or disagree with what Bruce Schneier is saying he makes some compelling arguments about security and privacy in the United States and throughout the world. Be sure to check out what is definitely one of the best interviews on ITConversations.