The Trials of Napster

Mickey and I just purchased a couple of Sansa Clip MP3 players specifically to use with a new Napster To Go subscription.  In the end, we got everything working, but we had to jump through numerous hoops to do so.

I’ll save the suspense – most of the problems came from the Windows Media Player DRM.  This wasn’t an easy conclusion to come to, though – the only thing I saw was the fact that none of the MP3s I attempted to download from Napster’s service successfully completed the transfer and whenever I plugged the Clip in, my computer locked up entirely.

Of course, this was after downloading and installing the Napster software, which was a huge pain in the ass.  Why is that?  Try finding it.  Go ahead – try.  Napster appears to be going through a transition which allows the use of their service strictly through the web.  The problem is the fact that their “To Go” subscription service that works with portable MP3 players requires the standalone app – which is no longer available through any page on their site.  The main page, the FAQs, the Account page, even pouring through all the help pages did not yield a downloadable link to their app.

I ended up finding it through a cached Google page – Mickey found it on a 3rd party site (which always skeeves me out a little).  After going through this, I then had the crashes.  The timing was fairly sporadic, sometimes it would happen immediately when plugging the Clip in, sometimes after five minutes; but it always happened.  I managed to get it usable for long enough to flash the firmware (a ballsy move, crashes considered – I could have easily bricked it), but that still didn’t fix the issue.

I found the fix after scouring forums and got a direct link to a Napster WMP DRM repair tool, which did the trick.

On the whole, I have a decent quality MP3 player for $15 and a huge library of songs for $15 per month.  Luckily, I’m technically savvy enough to go through proper troubleshooting, firmware updating, cached page retrieval, and DRM repair – so the savings is mine.  For those not so fortunate, the price increase to go to an iPod and iTunes is well worth every penny to avoid this kind of hassle.


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