iTunes Plus Stumbles

I was really looking forward to the new DRM-free high-bitrate iTunes downloads. I’m actually more interested in the high-bitrate upgrade rather than the lack of DRM. The iTunes DRM never got in the way of anything I wanted to do, so I was quite content to put up with it.

So now iTunes Music Store has finally rolled out iTunes Plus and it looks quite attractive. There’s quite a lot of good content available, though it is still a bit limited. I was excited to about the prospect of upgrading my current library to the high-bitrate versions, so I eagerly clicked on the button to upgrade the library and then came up against a serious drawback.

The upgrade is all-or-nothing.

Now it’s not a complete disaster for me. My iTunes Music Store purchases have mostly been for things not available on CD and a few individual tracks here and there where I didn’t want to buy a whole album. So I don’t have a lot of upgradeable music. In fact, it’s only 2 albums and two individual tracks, or 18 tracks total.

But even there I face a dilemma with the upgrade. Of the two tracks, one of them I ended up buying the album on CD and ripping it at high-bitrate, so I already have a DRM-free high-bitrate version I made myself. The other individual track is one I’m a bit undecided about upgrading. It’s not one I listen to a whole lot, but I guess I’d probably do it.

As for the albums, one is a must-upgrade. It’s not available on CD, and I’d love to have a high-bitrate version of it. The second album is another one I’m on the fence about. There’s a few tracks on it I’d really like to upgrade, but the rest are so-so.

I thought maybe this was some quirk of the user interface where I didn’t understand which combination of buttons to press to get to upgrade individual tracks or items. But looking at the iTunes Plus FAQ I read, “You cannot choose which songs, music videos or albums to upgrade individually.” So, yes, this is intentional.

Thinking about it, I’ll probably go ahead and do the upgrade. The whole upgrade will cost $5.35 which is less than it would cost to repurchase the one ‘must have’ album upgrade. But this must be a huge decision for someone who has downloaded extensively from iTunes. Those are probably the people most likely to jump at the chance to upgrade, but they face my problem on an even larger scale.

If you have hundreds of tracks that could be upgraded but are like me and find that maybe half of the tracks are still well-liked enough to upgrade, you may have a really tough time deciding if it’s worth spending a lot of money when you really only want to upgrade a few things.

I can understand requiring purchased albums to be upgraded as an entire album. That’s a reasonable restriction. I can’t understand the justification for requiring someone to upgrade EVERYTHING whether they want better versions of everything or not. And as a customer satisfaction issue, I think Apple has taken a serious step backwards with this policy. They should toss it out and let customers upgrade the individual tracks or albums they want.

As it is, Apple has at least one customer who was eager to buy, but then discouraged by this policy. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.

New Product Test

We’re starting a product test of baked potato wedges. A couple other stores are in on the test which have started already or will start soon. The different stores are using different prep methods to test which are operationally easier and result in the best product. The method we use is one I came up with.

We started this afternoon at my Xingtian Temple Restaurant. We start with fresh potatoes, topped with a special blend of spices and then baked in our bread oven. When ordered they are toasted in the high-speed oven. A small serving is $20 and a large serving (double size) is $35. They can optionally be topped with a specialty sauce, cheese and/or bacon for an additional charge.

Because this is a test we may not be able to make it available consistently at all times in the beginning while we try to figure out the demand for the product and work through operational issues of how to prep the product. When things are going smoothly at the Xingtian Temple Restaurant, we’ll start serving this at my Qingcheng Restaurant. Please don’t be disappointed if you find it unavailable when you come in.

I’m pretty excited about this. Our snack sales are pretty low because the bagged chips and cookies aren’t very popular with Taiwanese customers. We’ve had a pretty good response to the potato wedges so far, though it is very early. Besides that though, I had a small serving with cheese and bacon to test it myself and it was quite yummy.

Another promotion we are testing which I mentioned on Forumosa but not here is allowing meal discounts with 12″ sandwiches and salads (previously only available with 6″ sandwiches in Taiwan). This is also being tested at a limited number of stores, including both my restaurants.


I’ll be back to the states May 28 through June 9. This is the time I’ll finally be moving out of the place in Santa Clara. I’ll be looking to sell/give-away/donate/throw-out some of the less portable stuff so let me know if any of you would like to buy or take (best offer accepted!) any of the following gear:

Queen Size Mattress
Queen Size wood frame bed with headboard and two bedside tables (one still in the box)
Wide Wood Dresser
25″ CRT TV
Wood TV Stand
Apex Region-Free DVD Player
Large Wood Desk
Computer Desk matching above desk
Filing cabinet matching above desk
Bookcases of various sizes
500 CD rack
250 CD rack
Sun Ultra 80 4x450mhz 4gb 2x72gb Server
Sun SunBlade 100 500mhz 2gb 2x160gb Desktop
Two Sun Multipacks with 6x72gb scsi disks
1U case with power supply, dvd-rom, floppy, two 3.5″ drive slots with caddies
1 sofa
1 matching love seat
1 la-z-boy recliner
52″ rear projection standard definition TV
Stereo Rack
5 speaker surround speaker system (has subwoofer too but it’s broken) and speaker stands
Denon pre-digital surround sound receiver
Qudraflex-666 vintage receiver
1 two shelf rack perfect for storing laserdisks!
Lots of laserdisks!
20″ Sun CRT Monitor with dual inputs
4 port KVM
APC Smart-UPS 2200 2000VA UPS with four external battery packs and web management card (all batteries replaced May 2005 so should be good for 2-3 years more)
Metal ‘gorilla’ 6 foot high storage rack
Two 6 foot high plastic storage racks
Various other PC and Sun parts, boards, memory, ethernet gear, wifi-b access point, etc.
Two Bay Networks 8 port network terminal servers (serial to ethernet, great for console ports)
Two Remote Power Management units (power on and off gear over the network, one may not be working)
Trek bicycle with Shimano pedal mounts
Brother Laser Fax/Copy/Printer

Basically I’m looking to keep my CDs, Books, some clothes and magazines, and get rid of everything else. Due to lack of time, I’m willing to let this stuff go cheap to my friends. This list was made from memory, so it’s quite likely I’m forgetting things.


Brilliant Satire

A new website, 4/29 Truth, is collecting 9/11esque conspiracy theories about the Macarthur Maze collapse and it’s absolutely hilarious.

I wanted to add its RSS feed as a subscription in my Newsgator Online RSS Reader but got an error message trying to do so. This was perfect fodder for a comment added to the 4/29 Truth site:

Newsgator Online is also in on the conspiracy to suppress the web site. They will not allow the RSS feed be subscribed to using their service, giving the message: “Error: Subscription could not be added. Please check the URL and try again.” Here is a screenshot of what happened when I tried to subscribe:

This is yet another indication of just how much the government is controlling which sites the multinational corporations will allow us to access.

(I really did get an error trying to subscribe but I’m thinking it’s more probably a temporary error and not deliberate.)

EDIT: A few hours later I was able to add the feed without any problems.

Email marketers need to make change of address process easy

I’ve been trying to consolidate the email addresses I use to get away from using tagged addresses. This involves changing my email address on a lot of company email lists. While almost every newsletter and marketing email now has an easy and quick unsubscribe option at the bottom of every mail, few offer an easy change of address function, and many make it nearly impossible.

There are of course a few exceptions, those that make it quite straightforward to change your email address. With others I’m able to use the unsubscribe function and then go back to subscribe the new address on their web site.

But then there are the others. The worst seem to be those associated with magazine subscriptions. They often require you to enter a subscriber ID from the address label on the latest issue of the magazine just to get into the ‘customer service’ area and even then not all of them even have an option to change the email address. There are also a few sites where you use your email address as login name, but there is no obvious way to change the address.

Honestly guys, a lot of these newsletters and such I could easily do without. If I need to spend more than a couple of minutes to figure out how to change my address, I’ll just hit unsubscribe and be done with it. And you’ve just lost access to someone you might have sold something to later.

The solution is simple: down at the bottom of every email you send out, just below your ‘unsubscribe’ link, put a ‘change of address’ link too. On the linked-to page, ask for the new email address and then change it. Don’t ask me for my subscriber ID, my mother’s maiden name or my shoe size. Just my new email address.