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Mistake in latest issue (September)

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Mr.H's picture
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In the latest issue's "Test Express" on "media players", you claim that the Netgear EVA8000 can play protected AACs from the iTunes Music Store. This is not the case.

Apple have never licensed fairplay to any third parties, and Netgear's info page for the EVA8000 makes sure to state "(unprotected)" next to AAC in its list of supported audio codecs.

The only AAC files bought from the iTS that the EVA 8000 can play are the new "iTunes Plus" DRM-free tracks.

Clare Newsome's picture
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Re: Mistake in latest issue (September)

Dear Mr.H,

Regardless of what the Netgear website may say, you can rest assured that we tested all the network players in our test with a wide range of file formats, and that the EVA8000 did indeed playback our iTunes protected files.

We believe that this may be dependent on the PC (or NAS device) having iTunes software installed. It may also be possible that the Netgear is considered by iTunes to be another computer on the network, and is therefore able to access this content (as Apple do allow you to share your purchased files with a limited number of other devices). We have written to Netgear for comment and will post their reply.

Have you tried to stream iTunes downloads to the EVA8000 yourself? If you have, and have experienced problems doing so we would be very interested to know.

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Mr.H's picture
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Re: Mistake in latest issue (September)

Clare,

The fact remains that Apple have never licensed FairPlay to any third parties. In Steve Jobs' open letter about DRM that was posted several months ago, Steve categorically ruled out the licensing of FairPlay. The open letter can be viewed here.

user="Clare Newsome" wrote:
(as Apple do allow you to share your purchased files with a limited number of other devices).

I believe that you are mistaken. The only third-party product that I know of that can play FairPlay protected files is the Motorola Rokr, which runs an "embedded" mobile phone version of iTunes. Would you care to name the "limited number of other devices" that you are thinking of?

How exactly did the EVA8000 "play" these files? Did it actually get iTunes on the server PC to play the files, and then stream that output to the EVA? That is the only way that I can think of. If this is the case, further clarification would be nice, "transcoding" in this manner would either increase network bandwidth (if the server streamed pure 16 bit, 44.1 kHz PCM to the EVA) or decrease sound quality (if the server re-compresses the output from iTunes to a lossy codec such as mp3 or AAC before serving it to the EVA), and in both cases increase the CPU load on the server.

I followed the release of the earlier model, the EVA700. When it was released, Netgear claimed that it could play FairPlay protected content, and everyone got rather confused. A reversal of Apple's decision not to license FairPlay to any third parties would be simply *massive* news, and such a move had not been announced by Apple or anyone else. However, Netgear quickly realised that this was a mistake on the part of marketing, and clarified that the EVA700 could not, of course, play protected iTunes content.

I suppose another possibility is that the EVA8000 is actually a PC running Windows and iTunes, with a Netgear interface on top.

Clare Newsome's picture
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Re: Mistake in latest issue (September)

When I referred to other devices purchased files can play on, I meant the five computers/iPods Apple allows you to share the files with - there's an article on Apple's website explaining it.

As soon as Netgear get back with a response, i'll let you know. But the fact remains the files played!

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Mr.H's picture
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Re: Mistake in latest issue (September)

user="Clare Newsome" wrote:
When I referred to other devices purchased files can play on, I meant the five computers/iPods Apple allows you to share the files with

I see. Yes, I am well aware of the capabilities of iTunes. But iTunes and iPods are not "third-party" products.

user="Clare Newsome" wrote:
As soon as Netgear get back with a response, i'll let you know. But the fact remains the files played!

I did some investigating and it looks like the EVA8000 gets iTunes on the serving PC to play the file, and then the raw PCM output is streamed to the EVA. This only works if the server is running Windows, it won't work with OS X. Call it semantics, but I don't think that that is the EVA "playing" the protected files - of course, the end result appears to be the same as if the EVA8000 were playing the file itself, but the method differs. Said method will bring with it problems: the aforementioned high network bandwidth for uncompressed audio, and also the fact that the EVA8000 must "hijack" iTunes in order to play the files. This means that if anyone is using iTunes on the serving PC at the time, their listening will be interrupted.

Thank you for contacting Netgear. I eagerly await their response.

While we are on the subject, I am at a loss as to why most professional reviewers have given favourable reviews to the Apple TV. Yes, it has a very slick interface, but everything else about it - extremely limited codec support, maximum 720p output, lack of content, no Dolby Digital or dts 5.1 surround sound output (!) - is highly disappointing. The EVA8000 and Pixel Magic HD MediaBox that you reviewed a long time ago are clearly much superior products. If it was me, I'd give the AppleTV 2 stars.