pt's "How-To" Tuesday…How to play purchased music on other systems…


So you've got an iPod, you go and buy music but then your machines dies, or have many many computers and devices you listen to music on, or maybe sometimes you use an operating system not supported by iTunes, how can you listen to your purchased music? Well, usually you can't- why? Because the songs you purchased are DRM protected, that means you can only listen to them on specific computers and devices. For most folks the limits of a few computers or devices are fine, but for the gadget geek- nope, we have too many computers and devices. It would be like buying a DVD but only being able to watch it in some rooms, or only some TVs.

Now to be clear, this isn't a way to take music you bought and give it to someone else, this is so you can listen to your own purchased music on other systems or devices. In fact, your personal info is still in the file. The application we're going to talk about is called hymn, and here is the description from the site:

The purpose of hymn is to allow you to exercise your fair-use rights under copyright law. It allows you to free your iTunes Music Store purchases from their DRM restrictions with no sound quality loss. These songs can then be played outside of the iTunes environment, even on operating systems not supported by iTunes. It works on Mac OS X, many unix(-ish) variants and on Windows.

A little history
hymm started out as "Playfair" which was on Sourceforge, where you could grab the source / program. Then, Apple had requested for it to be removed, so PlayFair outsourced itself to India, where it was later removed, again. Now the application is called "hymn", or "hear your music anywhere".

According to the site "Anand Babu has taken official ownership of the project. FSF India (Free Software Foundation of India- is providing legal support".

How it works
hymm decodes the songs you have purchased using the key from your iPod and/or your operating system and make a new file which is not protected, it keeps the cover art and song data as part of the file. Since this is using your key, you can only do this for your songs, which I personally think is fair- they're the songs you bought, you should be able to put them on your other computers or devices.

The application works on a Mac or PC and the source code is also available from the hymm site.

Here's how to use the application.

  1. Download the appropriate application (Mac or PC) from hymn, here:

  2. Install the application as per the instructions. The Mac version allows you to drag and drop the files, for the PC side you need to use the command line version.

  3. Mac: It's pretty simple, all you need to do is grab the .m4p files from your music folder and drag them in to the main window. They are usually in: (home)/music/iTunes/iTunes Music/(artist name)/(album name)/ The songs will appear in the list and you can then covert them.

    mac hymn
  4. Click convert! You'll be asked where you want these files to go and once converted it will become a m4a file, which means you can play it on other systems/devices. Keep in mind that your username/data is still in the file.

  5. PC: For the PC you'll need to use a Command Line Interface, which means you'll need to type in what to convert. To make this simple, create a hymn folder on your C: drive. Place the application in there, also move your m4p files in to that folder as well.

  6. The music you purchased is usually here:
    C:\Documents and Settings\(user name)\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Music

  7. Click the Start Menu, then click Run…Type cmd, this is the command program.

  8. Type: cd c:\hymn this will get you to the folder you created in command line mode.

  9. Type dir to see a listing of the files in the folder. You should see your m4p files as well as a file called "hymn.exe".

    cmd dir
  10. Type hymn. You'll see a list of options.

    cmd options
  11. To keep this simple, convert one file by typing the following (for this example, our file is called test.m4p).

    hymn test.m4p

  12. You'll notice a small pause, and then when you see the command line again, it's done! Double click "My Computer" then double click the hymn folder, you'll notice there is a new file test.m4a, and this is an unprotected file with all the data as well as your personal data inside of it. When you click once on each file (the m4p as well as the m4a) you'll notice one says "protected and one does not in the side panel.

  13. There are many other options in the application as you could gather, from specifying more files, or having the output extension AAC.

There ya go, that's it, here are some links.


Hymn manual: