Hey! This is the old a broken mold. Newer stuff is at abrokenmold.net.
That being said, feel free to rummage through the archives over here. Also feel free to leave comments; we're still keeping an eye on this.

Not too long ago, I got my Switchfoot CD, Nothing is Sound. It was all good, until I noticed the CD case said that the content was protected. Ummm… hmmm. That made me think of DRM. I popped the disc into my laptop, and sure enough, a program autoran… a nice and shiny Flash app that would let me listen to the CD, burn copies (limited copies, of course), or rip the music to my hard drive. I ended up ripping it. Took long enough. Once it was finally done, it was easy enough to launch Winamp and play the tracks. And the catch? They were in restricted Windows Media Audio format, or WMA DRM. Ok, so that works… I can listen to it, and the MP3 player I had ordered supports WMA DRM. Even so, I found the DRM annoying, especially since I didn't know about it when I ordered the album… and the app would rip the music at a maximum level of 192 Kbps, which is OK, but not the best possible quality.

Time to experiment. And… Winamp won't play the disc as a music CD. The audio files couldn't be found from Explorer. I had heard of DRM being removable, so I looked around online. OK, it could be done, but the programs were not free, and according to a blog post I found, doing it that way is illegal. Supposedly there is a analog loophole as mentioned in the post, but I didn't go that way… I think my sound card might not even support it anyway.

I stuck the thing in my old CD player and hit play. And it played. Ok, so the standard music CD data was there. I booted Ubuntu to see what I could do from there. Sweet! I could access the music data from there. Turns out it had both music and data on it, something I believe is called a multi-mode disc.

OK, so simple enough. Rip the CD to FLAC from Ubuntu, encode into MP3 in Windows, using BonkEnc. Easy as pie… almost. Everything was good, except for the fact that a few minutes of garbage sound were getting tacked onto the last track. The CD played just fine in Ubuntu, but for some reason or another, there was a problem ripping the last track.

I ended up using BonkEnc to transcode the last track to WAV, and then fired up Audacity for a little down and dirty editing. I could get the exact length of the ripped WMA using Winamp, and so I planned to trim the file down to that length. Except, Audacity doesn't seem to have any jump to time function. Arg. I hit Google looking for a plugin or some sort of solution, but didn't turn up anything.

So, I had to do it the hard way: zoom waaaay in. I found the time, put the marker there, highlighted back, and trimmed. Saved the WAV, transcoded back into FLAC. Woot. Transcode into MP3, and it's ready for my MP3 player.

It took long enough, but I got a set of unrestricted FLAC files. Later I read that the band wasn't exactly happy about the copy protection Sparrow Records put on their album. They even posted a workaround online, but Sony took it down, and I haven't found out what it is. I did found out on Wikipedia that this stuff is called Extended Copy Protection. And it's evil… but more on that later… it got enough publicity in 2005 anyway.


Matthew said...

Sweet. Nice work. The really easy way (although possibly somewhat wasteful) is to burn them to a CD, and then rip them to unprotected mp3. Or at least that works for m4p files...