AmazonMP3 and Linux – Clamz

Amazon’s MP3 download store is a very well stocked and typically well priced source for your MP3 music needs. The files free of DRM and are offered up a nice quality without having to pay extra like with iTunes Plus.

In order to download all songs in a single go and receive the full album discount, you need to use the AmazonMP3 download client. The great bit is that a Linux client is offered, and there are several versions packaged up for various distributions, however, these are often hit or miss. There are usually workarounds and methods to get the dependencies you need, but there is a better solution.

Clamz is the hands down way to go. Free and open source, Clamz is a great command line client to download your AMZ files (the full album versions of the downloads).

Head to Clamz project page linked to above, compile and install as usual, and then head over to this link to activate Clamz with your browser.

Now you can One-Click buy your albums. You’ll receive the AMZ file for download which you can then grab your music with something simple like:

mkdir new_album && cd new_album && clamz [thefile].amz

Besides the simple grab as highlighted above, you can do a few other things with Clamz:

$ clamz --help
Usage: clamz [options] amz-file ...
General options:
 -o, --output=NAME:       write output to file NAME (may contain
                          variables, see below)
 -d, --output-dir=DIR:    write output to directory DIR (may also
                          contain variables)
 -r, --resume:            resume a partial download
 -i, --info:              show info about AMZ-files; do not download
                          any tracks
 -x, --xml:               output XML data from AMZ-files; do not download
                          any tracks
 -v, --verbose:           display detailed information
 -q, --quiet:             don't display non-critical messages
 --help:                  display this help
 --version:               display program version

Output options:
 --allow-chars=CHARS:     allow filenames containing CHARS
 --forbid-chars=CHARS:    forbid filenames containing CHARS
 --allow-uppercase:       allow uppercase letters in filenames
 --forbid-uppercase:      forbid uppercase letters in filenames
 --utf8-filenames:        allow UTF-8 filenames
 --ascii-filenames:       force ASCII-only filenames

Filenames (-o, -d) may contain the following variables:
 ${title} ${creator} ${album} ${tracknum} ${album_artist} ${genre}
 ${discnum} ${suffix} ${asin} ${album_asin}

As you can see, Clamz gives you a lot of power over your downloads that you don’t have with the Amazon client [note: it’s been a year or two since I’ve used the Amazon client, things may be different now]. This inevitably leaves you with the ability to create batch processing of your AMZ files if you are downloading a lot of music in a single go. Just download all your AMZ files and then create a simple shell script around Clamz to download all your files to corresponding directories. Splitting out to proper directories could easily be done by reading in parts of the AMZ XML using Clamz with the –xml switch and grabbing any information you might want to use.

Clamz is a must have for those that purchase music from Amazon.  Fast, simple, and essentially foolproof.

Amazon Prime Streaming – Another Netflix Alternative for Linux?

Amazon announced this week that Prime users would now have access to a pool of free content to stream instantly from the video-on-demand portion of their website.

While the content might not be the latest and greatest blockbuster movies and shows, it is a substantial amount of content and worthy to be considered a viable contender for the streaming market. Take a look at the Netflix instant content pool. It’s pretty substantial now, but it still does not contain the latest movies (which are home rental only for the most part). Also consider that when Netflix instant started it was a rather meager offering of mostly meh content. Given such, it might be a sign of possible things to come for Amazon streaming.

Prime being a $79 a year opt-in might seem steep. If you are already a prime member, then it’s a moot point or better, further validates your spending $79 a year so you can get that video game on release date for free or so you can get that $10 paperback second day without having to pay the sub-$25 shipping penalty. If you aren’t a prime member, this seems like a great time to jump in. Along with awesome shipping, you can now stream movies and television instantly as well.

Still not sold? Here’s the cool part for us linux (or *BSD, etc) guys and girls: streaming is system independent, and so far seems to also be browser independent. Can you view Flash? Then you should be ready to roll watching Amazon’s instant content.

Now with Hulu (and Hulu-desktop) and Amazon instant being friends of an operating system independent approach, will that push Netflix along to allow all of us paying customers with Linux to utilize the instant features? Or will Netflix keep it’s head buried in the sand and stay cozy with Microsoft? Remember when we thought Flash was so evil, well looks like Silverlight has trumped that by leaps and bounds.

Before ending, I’ll make a quick note on performance. As of now, streaming is around 480p (supposedly). I’ve tested it out on two media PCs both running linux; Fedora setup connected to a 50″ plasma via HDMI and an Xubuntu setup connected to a 32″ CRT via s-video. Both setups streamed very nicely, and while it obviously isn’t in HD, even on the 50″ television, the quality was just fine. The big positive performance point (sorry) was that there was not a single buffer wait, stutter, or hiccup in the stream. Granted, this isn’t a very scientific comparison, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the power of Amazon shining through in the technical side of the streaming business. I mean they already figured out a nice way to stream content without sleeping with Microsoft to keep the bad guys from ripping content. [Update: There are HD options available. The Best of NOVA #6 and Yellowstone are both offered in an HD version and looked and streamed great.]

Prime member? Check it out. Not a Prime member? Seems like  a great time to join in, especially if you are a frequent Amazon shopper.