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Napster on Linux: From a Whisper to a Scream - page 2

Why Music Fans Should Embrace Napster

  • March 20, 2000
  • By Kevin Reichard

Despite the fact that the original Napster was writer for Windows users, Linux users have a variety of Napster tools to choose from. A search of LinuxApps.com yielded three Napster applications: gnome-napster, gnapster, and Jnapster.

Of the three, gnome-napster is the most advanced in terms of capabilities. We installed it on a system running Corel Linux with a DSL connection and sound capabilities already configured. Of those three traits, DSL and the already-configured sound capabilities are the most important: you'll want DSL if you plan on sending and receiving any sizable number of files (single songs run between 2 and 5 megabytes), and as none of these applications do any sound configuration on a Linux system, you'll need sound up and running before these applications can play anything.

Installing gnome-napster was relatively easy, but newbies will want to follow the directions. For the record: gnome-napster comes in a tar.gz file that must first be extracted and unarchived. After that, you'll need to read the INSTALL file and first configure the installation parameters and then run a MAKE command to build from source code. If you've never built an application, don't worry: the instructions are clear.

As you'd expect from the name, gnome-napster runs under the GNOME desktop manager. After launching it, we logged as a new user onto the main Napster server and then embarked on some file searches. Most users will want to search for specific songs: you can enter as many search parameters as you want. For instance, I began with an installation of Costello, which yielded a variety of Elvis Costello and Abbott and Costello files. (There's more interest on the Web regarding Abbott and Costello than I anticipated.) Honing the search further to Elvis Costello yielded many more returns--well past the default 100 returned files.

As with most searches, I saw the best results when limiting the search the most. I knew that Elvis had performed at Woodstock 1999, so I entered both Elvis Costello and Woodstock, finding a slew of live recordings (the results are listed in the accompanying screen shot). As a way of exchanging files, Napster is fairly simple (which, one supposes, is why it works so well): you simply click on the filename and begin a transfer a la FTP. Unfortunately, most of the desirable Elvis Costello/Woodstock files are stored on a home computer with a 14.4 connection--which means that I probably won't be downloading all the files in a batch.

The Elvis Costello search showed the power of Napster and why the music industry should not be scared of the new technology. As an Elvis Costello fan, I'm not really interested in downloading Allison or Watching the Detectives: I already own those songs. There are some obscure Elvis Costello songs that I wouldn't mind downloading (like The Other Side of Summer), but because of their fringe qualities, they're not available via Napster. Live recordings, which is like mainstreaming heroin to a fan like myself, are not offered by the major record labels, so I don't feel at all bad about downloading them. So, in the end, everyone wins: Elvis wins new fans with his live recordings, the record labels have the chance to sell more CDs after someone hears Watching the Detectives via Napster, and I have some new live music to listen to on my personal MP3 player. All is right with the world.


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