Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Apples and oranges

There’s now a decoder for dBpowerAMP products that supports the Apple Lossless format. This is the file format that lets you losslessly compress files in iTunes for playing on an iPod without losing any quality. I wrote about it a few weeks back.
The trouble is that Apple have decided to use the .m4a file extension, the same as AAC, the default lossy format used by iTunes. Which is daft because a number of audio players, like Winamp, have adopted AAC decoders, and, when presented with one of these files, will try to play it as an AAC file. Then they realise it isn’t an AAC file and panic. Winamp actually crashed when I asked it to play a lossless m4a file. If Apple had chosen a different extension (.ale, perhaps?), then Winamp could blissfully ignore those files until a proper decoder had been written for it.
In dBpowerAMP’s case, it’s been necessary for the MP4 decoder to be rewritten to allow for these files to identified. A whole lot of work that could have been easily avoided.
It’s as if the people behind the PNG format decided to use the .jpg extension instead, and then watching while every web browser and imaging application had to be rewritten to accommodate it. Barmy.

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