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The next capability I checked out was "Music". The EVA8000 can play your own music or music from Internet radio stations. The Internet radio station capability worked well. Stations were well organized and could be quickly connected to for playback. For playing your own music, options are presented for browsing by Playlist, Artist, Album, Genre, etc. Organization is an important feature when you have thousands of songs. Like all of the EVA8000 menus, I found the responsiveness to be good. I could scroll up and down and to sub-menus fairly quickly.

As far as album art, I've had trouble in the past with systems that would fail to play music where I had added album art using the iTunes music player. As you can see in Figure 6, the EVA8000 had no such problem.

Music Selection

Figure 1: Music Selection

Art wouldn't always show up, but at least it didn't affect the ability to play the file. If you look closely in Figure 6 you can see the same song listed twice. This will happen if you run a UPnP AV server on the same files that are being exported via a shared folder. The EVA8000 documents support for MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, and FLA file formats.

I was a bit surprised to see the advertised capability for iTunes DRM playback. Apple has held this technology close-to-vest, and as far as I recall, they've only licensed it out once for a Motorola cell-phone. When I went to try it out, it worked! My protected music played back just like any other song. But I could tell when a protected song would begin to play. My CPU usage would flat-line at 100% causing my laptop's fan to kick on (Figure 7).

CPU Pegged during iTunes playback

Figure 7: CPU Pegged during iTunes playback

As a comparison, when playing the same protected song through Apple's Airport Express, my CPU would vary between 0 and 2%. NETGEAR obviously has somewhat of a hack going on here when playing these songs. The capability involves the virtual sound device, because when I disabled it, the protected music wouldn't play.

I would guess that NETGEAR's engineers have figured out a way to hook into the iTunes FairPlay libraries for performing the decryption. The result of the decryption is then directed to the virtual sound card, which ships the result over the network to the EVA8000. When queried about this capability, NETGEAR stated: "We do not have Apple Fairplay DRM on the EVA8000. We won't elaborate on the details of how it's done but you will be able to select an iTunes file and hear it on a TV or stereo connected to the EVA8000".

It's a nice hack, but as others have found out, Apple doesn't always take it kindly when other companies piggyback on their DRM system. The danger to NETGEAR is that Apple will make changes in their library to thwart this type of usage in the future. If this happens, you'll no longer be able to play your DRM-restricted iTunes music on the EVA8000.

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