Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I had set Mizuka up with iTunes music store on a Mac Mini with an external drive. At some point, she had filled up most of the external drive with stuff and she alleges that iTunes told her it was going to start moving stuff to another drive. Then certain songs stopped playing. I sort of ignored her mumbling until I asked her to run disk doctor on the drive. The utility told us that her disk was irreparably broken. The songs are broken on her iPod too. (The bad songs skip.) Apple says back up, or when you disk dies you out of luck.

Is there nothing we can do? I'm about to copy all of the music onto a new drive, erase any files that don't play and call it a day. Does anyone have any advice or a better idea?

UPDATE: Kevin Marks recommended Disk Warrior, which seems to have fixed the drive, but now many of the files are 0 bytes long. I guess we just lost a lot of music. Hmm...


Joi, not a solution to your current problems, but this is the experience of a lot of iTunes users. People spend money on music they think they own, but due to the DRM crippledness of the tracks, and of the management software, when something goes wrong they are "out of luck"! What does that mean? Is the money you gave to Apple disappearing from its bank accounts too? It is the slick interface that made ITMS into a success, not DRM. That might have been necessary to have the studios sign up, but now it is a class action waiting to happen.

I think there might be a future in a comprehensive 'home backup unit' ...

In effect, you've purchased a "license" for the downloaded tracks.
iTunes won't let you re-download the tracks to an authorized computer?
(That's how it *should* work, IMHO.)
Why should you be responsible for backing up the tracks when Apple knows exactly what you've downloaded and they have copies of the songs.

After all, the cost of distribution has become negligible, hasn't it?
Barring that, I think it's time to burn old-fashioned CDs of the tracks.

Since she's paid for the music and that's well-documented, I'd bet she could make a good case for being allowed to "restore" the corrupted tracks using a peer-to-peer download program like Acquisition for Mac.

Just Say No To DRM

Got that?

On a different and related topic, why is backup so difficult both on Win XP and apparently on Apple.

The main problem with backup seems to be:

1. Crappy backup software supplied with computers.

2. The sheer volume of stuff that has to be backed up.

3. Laziness (if you move your computer, the backup drive is always the last thing you reconnect and test, at least it is for me).

I think a really simple, really basic network-based backup appliance might be the answer.

Data recovery specialists? Any hope there?

Disk Warrior is good for letting the drive be seen.

Now I'd try FileSalvage and then Data Rescue X.

Data Rescue and File Salvage have good Content scans.

The HUGE problem is that you will get your music back, but probably without track info.

It's probably too late now, but pulling the drive out of the mac, sticking it in an x86 box and running Spinrite is usually a good way to salvage the drive by figuring out where it's ok sector-wise. Then your other tools would work better.

... and after you use file salvage and disk warrior ...

I would suggest making a 4.2 gig partition on the drive that all downloads are directed to. That way, when the partition is full you burn a dvd and then drag the files elsewhere on the drive, but at least you have a backup.

I find it a helpful reminder for me to archive.

I wonder when the industry will understand that we don't need anymore to buy a piece of music, but to buy an identifier.

It creates interesting related problems, but worthwhile, IMHO.

For example, I want to be able to buy "ISBN 2070427641" and have access to it in any kind of comsumption: real book (you pay the price of paper), electronic form, audiobook, etc. I don't want to have to pay the whole thing each time I have lost it.

We are not there yet unfortunately. We are still on an economy of (material, even digital) products ("Manifestation") more than an economy of creation ("Work") (Read FRBR to this purpose).

I thought iTunes would let you sign in from a new computer, login to iTunes, authorize that system w/ iTunes, and re-download the iTunes purchased music. Then she could put them all onto her iPod.

Just thought it might work this way. It was my understanding that you could authorize 5 systems at a time to play your DRM'd music.

wow - this is just typical of the kind of iTunes stories I am hearing - my experience is that they are charging me per song when I ordered the whole album - using the "buy album" button and not the "buy song" button - on several occassions I have been charged per song at the full rate (99c per song) - so in some cases I have been charged more than double the price of the album especially where some of the albums have more than 16 tracks. Has this occurred to anyone else? I have through my network friends who have...

Yeah, it does seem like they're sticking up with the both short ends of the stick. On the one hand, they charge us as if the songs costed a lot to distribute. On the other hand, they want us to do the backup, even though as others have pointed out, they could easily provide us with "backup" copies in the event we lost them. iTunes backup service or "insurance" should be easy for Apple to provide...

Take a look at 8Bit Joystick. He was able to reauthorize his songs.

Most importantly, spread the word. This is what DRM means. You are renting, until a hard disk crash or whatever wipes out your collection, or it becomes obsolete when everybody else moves on to a new DRM format.

It's not as if the iTMS backend can't support multiple downloads. The PyMusique client for iTMS lets you download songs multiple times after you've purchased them (but only if they were originally purchased with PyMusique, afaik). Of course, using PyMusique is a direct violation of the iTMS Terms of Service.

Another thing Apple fails to disclose is that the DRMed songs are more susceptible to corruption due to the encryption used. If a single bit is corrupted on an MP3 or unprotected AAC file, the corruption is limited to that bit. In a protected AAC file, the whole block (AND the following block -- it's encrypted with AES in cipher-block chaining mode) gets corrupted.

"Apple says back up, or when you disk dies you out of luck."

As opposed to Magnatune, where you can re-dowlonad your music...

The simplest solution is to burn them on a CD-R or something when you buy songs form iTMS, and keep the disk on a book shelf in case the trouble you experienced. Actually, if my memory is correct, Apple itself recommends backing up the songs that way (I think I saw such a message when I bought songs at iTMS for the 1st time).

I'm going to forgo the political ranting and offer a practical suggestion based on my own experience:

Always buy hard disks in pairs and use OSX's built in software RAID to reduce the risk of data loss by mirroring your data.

I've had too many single HDs burn out on me in the past and since I adopted this strategy, I have not lost anything of importance. OSX makes restoring the mirror pair very easy in the event of one disk failing.

Note that you can not RAID your boot disk in OSX client, so this strategy is not foolproof. For my boot disk, I clone off to an external volume once a week using Carbon Copy Cloner.

I think I read somewhere that Apple says they don't keep track of who purchased what from the iTMS (at least not forever). I don't know if I believe that but then I can "understand" why they wouldn't want to (e.g. people may want to upgrade their songs for free when they are released at a higher bitrate sometime in the future). I've also thought that Apple could offer the ability to redownload purchased tracks (i.e. to remember what tracks were purchased) as a part of their .Mac service. Just keep a list of identifiers in the .Mac account - another reason to keep on paying for .Mac.


The whole industry would really like people to keep losing their music libraries this way. They do not really want anyone to own their collections. They are more interested in people paying them money for files that will inevitably be lost or corrupted.

if you used norton utilities disc doctor, that would be one source of your problems.

Not only does it not work properly on OS X, it will destroy your data 10 times out of 10.

Its now cobwebware (see :, so stay well clear...

I've heard about Apple offering a one-time re-download authorization on a case-by-case basis: google: "itunes one-time redownload"

Ashley says she might have read that "they don't keep track of who purchased what from the iTMS." Well, I know that on my account, there is a record of all my purchases (in iTunes, click on account name, authorize it, then to "purchase history") Surely this can't be a premium feature of my .Mac account.

I have had both re downloaded my songs as well have had my computer limits list reset, so I had 5 new authorisations.
It's possible and as said by Rick, determined by a case-by-case.

Another thing Joi... you should probably also be warry of the external disk you are using, in particular if you are using the Firewire port. There are several buggy chipsets out there that corrupts data on transfer. And I've had the excact same thing happend to me, where I lost all of my music(twice actually).

Thanks. That's very useful. I'll call Apple and see if they will let us redownload everthing.

Regarding the external drive... is there any documentation about what works and what doesn't? I guess I should google. ;-)

I use Bru Backup from Tolis software to backup to an external drive. Their software is cross platform, has a gui but is fully usalble trough terminal (handy when your remote) and the support is out of this world. Your supposed to pay but so far in the last 2 years they have answered every single support question within 24 hours!

When I got a new tape drive they even wrote a patch!

I ran into a similar problem last week when my iTunes Music Library directory suddenly became corrupt.


as it was when we were ALL vinyl junkies - then as we were CD crazy - a generation of music storage devices have always had an in-built obsolescence - now with MP3's we face a rapid obsolescence - soon we will encounter the nano-tracks - that destroy themselves as we play them! Hey presto no DRM issues!!!


Just go down to Bic/Yodobashi/wherever and pick up two identical external firewire drives. Any of the ones sold by Buffalo/IO Data/Maxtor/LaCie/etc. Connect em to the mini in a daisy chain, OSX will see two new drives on your desktop. Use Disk Utility to make one new mirrored RAID out of those two drives (cant remember the exact procedure but IIRC it was super easy).

Now the important thing is you have to relocate your iTunes library onto the new RAID volume. The files are in ~/Music/iTunes/ and you have to tell iTunes where your music now resides. There are articles out there on this, google for "relocate iTunes library" or similar. Of course you can use your shiny new RAID for storing any other important files, or just keep backups there. A friend of mine setup an Automator job to copy his entire home directory over to the external RAID every night and date stamp the backup folder. Another benefit is that the firewire drives are likely to be MUCH faster than the internal drive of the mini so you get a bit of a speed boost as well.

Thanks. I'll give this a try.

Send a live octopussy to Steve Jobs' house with a message "We Know, You Apprently Don't."

What Rick Elizaga says is true. You can make a personal plea directly to Apple's iTunes support people and let them know you didn't have a CD or DVD backup of your music and the hard drive suffered a catastrophic failure. There may be a wait of a few days, eventually they send an email saying the music can be re-downloaded or not. They flip the sofware switch that says you haven't downloaded any of your purchases yet. Go to the menu marked "Advanced"->"Check for Purchased Music..." Then just download everything again, and back it up to DVD's as soon as it's done so there's at least one known good copy of the purchases songs. I was absolutely destroyed when I destroyed by accident over $400 in iTunes purchases during my ugprade from 10.3 to 10.4.

While I'm a Mac fanatic, like the iTunes store and have bought my share of stuff from it, and love iTunes and my iPod, I still cannot believe that Apple gives you no option to re-download music you've already bought. That is, I think, the iTunes Store's biggest failing, and a competitive disadvantage compared to other purchase services.

I back up my purchased music (as well as burning it to audio CD and re-ripping it to un-DRMed MP3 form, and backing that up too), but saying to customers, "sorry, you lost it and it's gone" is just bad business.

Now, I supposed you could make the analogy that in the old days, if you lost or broke an LP, cassette, or 8-track tape, you'd just have to buy another one if you hadn't made a tape copy, but that's no longer a reasonable excuse. Besides, I don't think there's any _technical_ reason Apple couldn't do that, since re-downloading a song shouldn't be fundamentally different from restoring a DRMed backup you had made yourself.

Yes, now Apple's Backup 3 lets you automatically schedule backups of purchased music if you're a .Mac subscriber:

But even with 1 GB of storage on your iDisk now, if you buy a lot of music and have a lot of other files, that might not be enough. Re-downloading is a dead simple idea, is fully legal, and (here's the rub) is supported by other music purchasing services. Apple shouldn't let them have a customer-service advantage over the iTunes store, but right now they do. It's a shame.

It does look like you're SOL on your purchased music if there's no backup, but maybe an email to Apple Customer Support might yield a way to download the files again. But Apple's wording is pretty clear:

"...if your hard disk becomes damaged or you lose any of the music you've purchased, you'll have to buy any purchased music again to rebuild your library."


You may even wish to consider adding something like this to your home LAN There are similar products available with up to 1.6TB of RAID on LAN.


Help is on the way! Hee Hee. I am sending Jonathan Gilbert over to correct the situation, and to do a scrappy little set.

Actually, the package is close...


help does anyone know if you re-download itunes if you lose all the songs?????

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