Shamus Summarizes and Pontificates on the Used-Game Debate

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Apple iTunes Defaults to Ripping .m4a - Thumbs Down

I like Apple. I like iTunes. That's what is going to make this hard (and yet so very easy) to write complaints about them. In yet another argument for never ever updating software ever, a setting that I depend on in iTunes buried deep in the preferences menu defaulted to factory settings. I should note that I'm not sure this happened during an update or for some other reason.

I use iTunes for most of my music right now. I've used Winamp (yay), Windows Media Player (boo) and a few of the online services like What I find most often is that none of these free tools is fully featured, but depending on what you need at that moment the right tool is available. That's a presumably common thread for free software, right? But for the longest time, Windows MP would not rip mp3s from CDs and neither would Winamp so when need this I used iTunes only. By default, the star software from Apple will rip your mp3s to a ridiculous place on your computer's hard drive.

C:\Users\USERNAME\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Music

Really Apple? Isn't "Music" used three separate times a little redundant? And why would I care to separate out the "iTunes" stuff into it's own folder tree? Even if I'd bought it through the iTunes store (*scoff*) I'd just want it in the root music folder organized by artist. Thankfully, you can change this in the preferences to wherever you want. Since I share this PC with the whole family, I usually use something everyone can access.


The folders in this directory are organized by artist and album.

Aside from this, iTunes also defaults to encoding ripped music to AAC/m4a (mpeg-4 audio) format. I'm sure there is some sort of computer music snob --and I recognize I'm throwing stones in my glass house-- that could explain to me the differences and the advantages of .M4A for music files versus traditional .MP3. I prefer mp3s. Since music first became something usable on a computer, they've been the bread and butter standard. And I'll keep on preferring them and reinforcing them as the industry standard.

Again, iTunes preferences allow you to specify mpeg-3 and every file ripped from then on will be right. I've had it set that way for years. However, something recently has reset these preferences to their defaults and if there was a warning or notice about it, I missed it. Later, I went looking for stuff I knew I'd ripped from my CDs and couldn't find the mp3s right away. As it turned out, that's because they were saved in a redundant folder, in a different format than mp3. Even my next step for finding lost files using Google Desktop didn't work, because I narrowed my search to mp3 files.

My Steps to Repair

  • Change the settings in iTunes preferences.
  • Delete the \iTunes\ folder, and all M4A files inside it. I know that iTunes will recreate the folders when it next starts up, but at least for the moment, they are goodbye.
  • Find the CDs I wanted on the computer and rip them again into the right place.
  • Consider Winamp once again, as it's pretty good.

That's all, I'm done complaining. Go back to your regularly scheduled whatever.

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