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Master Napster: stuff you need to know
Posted by netwebly | 12.12.2000

File Size
The size of your MP3, measured in bytes. This number will vary depending on the length of a recording, the compression used to create it and other factors you probably don't care very much about.
As a rough guide, most songs you'll find on Napster will be about one Megabyte in size for every minute in length, making the typical three minute Top Forty MP3 somewhere between 3 and 4 mb in size.

A longer file - like an extended forty five minute jam session - can very easily be ten or twenty Megabytes in size. If you're a big Phish fan plan on upgrading your disk space sooner rather than later.When you start running out of space think about managing the size of your MP3 collection by deleting the files you don't really need.

Indicates how much compression has been used to create an MP3. Learn to give this number a quick glance before you start downloading. Your rule of thumb: the higher the bitrate, the better the sound quality of the recording.
The reason? In theory, the less compression used to create an MP3, the better the file will sound. Sound quality will also vary, of course, depending on the quality of the original recording.

Ping Rate
The amount of time it takes for a data packet to travel roundtrip from your computer to a host - in this case another Napster users computer - and back again across the Net, measured in milliseconds.

The lower the number the better. Why? Because the lower the number, the faster your download.

Mislabeled Files
It won't be long after you start using Napster that you first encounter this phenonmenon. The fact is, many of the people you'll be trading files with know less about music than you do. It is not unusual at all to find a file that contains a song other than the one you'd been expecting.

While this can be disconcerting - especially if you've waited patiently for an hour and a half for a file to download over your roommates hand-me down laptop, it doesn't have to be that big of a problem. Your route around problems like this should be obvious. Take advantage of Napster's ability to preview MP3's as they download.

Misspelled Song Titles
Misspelled song titles and band names are also very common - an inevitability when you're dealing with 35 million people, some of whom can't spell their own names, let alone a big complicated set of words like Pearl Jam. If you're having trouble finding a tune, you may have better luck running a search using an alternate spelling. Try ommitting key letters and inserting funky variants like "ph" and "4" in song titles.

If you're one of those people who has a spelling problem - do everybody else a favor and double check artist names and song titles before you make them available. In addition to providing a wonderful public service for the rest of the Napster community you'll be learning to spell at the same time.

Song fragments
Another common problem. Few things are as aggravating as waiting patiently while a file downloads and then finding out that the thing cuts off about a minute before the song is supposed to end. This is particularly annoying of course, if you've spent a long time hunting the file down. There are a number of causes for this as far as I can figure. Interrupted transfers probably account for the majority of these. Many people hold onto them under the theory, I guess, that part of a song you really want is a lot better than no song at all.

Unfortunately once these get into circulation they take on a life of their own. People keep downloading and sharing the things with the unfortunate result that they keep on spreading from hard drive to hard drive until they're everywhere. Do us all a favor: Delete or quarantine the little suckers so they don't keep showing up where they're not wanted.

The Napster Bomb
It's no secret that many people - especially musicians - are philosophically opposed to Napster - especially to the idea of people taking music they have not paid for. You shouldn't laugh at this - as many people do. It's only fair that musicians should be compensated for their work. More on that later....

Some opponents - like StopNapster and the Cuckoo Egg people - are angry enough about what's going on in the Napster community that they are resorting to a kind of low key guerrila warfare to try to slow down file sharing. The basic idea is simple. Create a bogus MP3 containing nonsense or an anti-Napster message and spread it as far and wide as you possibly can. People who download your little napster bomb will be irritated and hopefully - if you are a napster bomber - think twice about using napster to download copyrighted material. These cause no damage. They will only irritate you.

It's worth noting that some people who have opposed Napster in the past have since reversed their positions. Evolution Control, the group some credit with coming up with the Napster bomb idea, have since flip-flopped for reasons you may find revealing.

There have also been rumors - founded or unfounded I can't say - of at least one group of more radically-minded musicians which is attempting to create a version of the napster bomb which actually carries a destructive payload. Luckilly the idea - to use a malicious virus to attack illegal MP3 files on Napster - is close to technically impossible according to our sources. The short explanation: MP3 files cannot carry viruses.

Obviously, such a plan would affect anybody with MP3 files - both legal and illegal. It would be a terrible blow to digital music and to the Net as a whole if the idea ever became a reality.

Ach - Something Went Wrong
How people love to complain about this! When you think about it, its a miracle that Napster works at all. The occasional technical problem is a small price to pay for unlimited free access to the great digital jukebox in the sky. So keep your grousing to yourself and concentrate on fixing the problem. You'll probably be able to do so very easily.

There are file-sharing alternatives you can consider, of course, if your frustration gets the best of you, but for the time being very few can match Napster in terms of either performance or ease of use.

The most common problem you'll have to deal with when you're using Napster will be interupted transfers. These are a fact of life and something you are going to have to get used to if you plan on using Napster on a regular basis. Napster traffic puts a heavy strain on even fastest most well-designed networks. All kinds of things can go wrong - and do on a routine basis. Servers can go down. Traffic can overwhelm networks. People turn off their computers or disconnect from Napster. Small children unplug surge protectors. Such is life.

Other file-sharing programs - like Gnutella - allow you to resume interrupted transfers rather than forcing you start all over again from step one. Unfortunately, Napster does not. Bear in mind that the problems you're having may have nothing to do with Napster Inc.. If your ISP provides unreliable service, your downloading may suffer serious consequences.

If you use Napster a lot there will be times when you will be unable to connect to Napster's servers. Frankly, considering how much traffic Napster handles at peak hours - the number of spikes and surges its servers have to handle every day - it's pretty amazing that these outages aren't more common. In most cases the problem will be fixed within an hour or two at most.

To check on napster's official status visit'll find information on outages here as well as information on scheduled service interuptions for maintanince.If that's the case you'll probably be able to find another server you can connect to in a matter of minutes. If you're an impatient sort of person and just can't wait, your best course of action may be to use Napigator to try to connect to another server. The problem may well be limited to only a few servers.

If that doesn't work you may want to try using one of the unofficial networks based on OpenNap, the open source version of the napster protocol. Using Napigator or a client like Mynapster you'll be able to search - like xnapster, openap or mynapster.

Downloading Files Using a Slow Connection
If you plan on downloading lots of MP3 files using a slower connection - like a 56,6k or 26.k modem, you're going to have to learn to be patient, as most Napster downloads will take a lot longer than you'd like.

There are a couple of things you can do to make this more bearable. The first is to schedule your downloads intelligently. Select the files you want to transfer before going to bed or before leaving for work. Barring an unexpected disconnection - one of the frustrations you're going to have to deal with anyway if you're using a slow line - your MP3s will await you when wake up or return home. Still, you'll be moving at a snail's pace compared to the people who are using high speed cable connections or dsl lines. This means you'll only be able to transfer a fraction of what you otherwise could.

The other thing you can do if you're using a dial-up connection is find one of the widely available utilities which allow you to optimize file transfers. In theory, these programs allow you to increase the speed at which you transfer data by tweaking modem and configuration settings you otherwise probably wouldn't know about. Most are fairly easy to use and available as freeware or shareware. In the long run, over the course of many MP3 downloads, you'll probably save yourself a significant amount of time.

Upgrading your Connection
In this day and age, as the Internet becomes more integrated into our daily lives, taking the plunge and upgrading your connection to either cable or dsl is probably one of the best investments you can make. Think of it this way: you're living in the 21st Century.

Do you really want to rely on a technology that was considered state of the art in 1989?

High-speed Service
High speed service, which was once available only in a few areas, is now becoming increasingly common. Prices, which were once prohibitively expensive, have begun to fall.

You can expect this trend to continue as smaller companies compete with giants like @home and Time Warner for market share. Some regional providers even provide free high speed access. There's usually a catch - but that's life. If you can't otherwise afford a good connection, you may find the convenience worth the sacrifices the free service providers ask.

Obviously, both cable and dsl have advantages and disadvantages. Do your homework before signing up - many providers still ask customers to sign long term contracts before installation - know what you're getting into before you sign the dotted line.


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