I have left this tombstone entry for historical interest.
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A defunct website that was giving the recording industry nightmares. The recording
industry shut it down. It reopened with safeguards to ensure it does not exchange
copyrighted music and with royalty payments for downloads. It also has an instant
messaging service. Then it shut down again.
Originally Napster allowed people to swap collections of music in MP3
compressed digital format. The Napster site provided a giant index to
everyone’s collections. You selected the music you wanted and it downloaded
directly from a person who had it and who was currently on line. All kinds of stuff
was in there, including the obscure stuff from your youth you would never find in a
record store. Even Mike Nichols’ and Elaine May’s comedy sketches were in
I have seen portable MP3 music players for sale for about
, that are like solid state
CD (Compact Disc) ’s you can
download with 30 minutes worth of music. There are also portable players for MP3 format
CD s, e.g. 8-12 hours of
music on one CD
Napster was in legal trouble as you might expect because most of the material
being shared is copyrighted. However, it also provided an inexpensive forum for new
groups to become known.
Napster’s search engine was not too bright. You had to get the spelling of
the artist and title precisely correct. In case people filed songs under incorrect
spellings, check those too. Napster would give you dozens of duplicates rather than
automatically choosing the fastest source or most desirable compression ratio. Songs
were not filed by the original CD
serial number/track or the official song title burned into the original
CD, so it is hit and miss
just what names songs are filed under. It could pay to disconnect and re-search at a
later time. You may get on a different server with a different collection of other
people. You can’t search the collections of people who are not currently on
When you pick a source, choose a T1 or Cable (green dot). These people are
unlikely to disconnect part way through your download. People with 56K modems (yellow dot) are quite likely to hang up at any minute.
There are some people who will deliberately disconnect you. They want to collect but
are unwilling to share. People are usually not fully aware of you downloading from
their machine, though they could check if they wanted to. Napster is currently not
smart enough to know how to resume the download from a different source of the same
file after a disconnect. The technology is pretty flaky. You have a high chance of
the transfer aborting part way through particulaly if you have a modem
MP3 files are about twelve times as compact as normal audio CDs. Songs can be
encoded in roughly a megabyte per minute of play time. This means you can put ten
times as many songs on a CD
if you use MP3 format. They won’t play in an ordinary
CD player, however. A
typical song is 3 to 6 megabytes. A typical hard disk is 8 gigabytes, i.e. 8000
megabytes, room enough for about 2000 songs or 130 hours.
You can back them up to CD.
Each CD holds 600 MB, room for
about 150 songs or 10 hours in MP3 format. To convert traditional audio
CDs (Compact Discs)
to MP3 format use a program called Simple. It lets you interconvert
CD, wav and MP3 formats. The process of creating MP3 format files is
How do you create a jukebox to play a long list of MP3 songs you have collected
from Napster? There are three main choices:
, also a free version. Its main function
is downloading songs into portable MP3 players. It requires a 300 MHz or higher
speed CPU (Central Processing Unit) to work. It automatically tries to play any
CD you put in your
CD drive. This can
interfere with data autorun. Real Audio products tend to be presumptuous,
installing themselves without permission and using up great hunks of
even when you are not using them and shoving ads down your throat at every
opportunity. This company started out great and has become more obnoxious with
every passing year.
popular with the young crowd because you can decorate it with custom skins to change the look. It can play many different formats
including mp3, voc, wav, midi, mp2 and cda.
It will do loops and random shuffling. It has a built-in equaliser so you can
fine tune the sound. It has a built-in browser which is set up with some popular
online cd stores, so when you play a song, it looks the id3 tag up on the
Internet and tells you where you can buy cds that have that song. You can cook up
playlists and save them by name. Winamp will also convert to wav files for creating standard CDs.
Was Free. Napster itself had a built-in juke box. Under the
library tab, you can play mp3s by double clicking on them, or you can highlight a
group of them, right click and say add to play list, then when you tell the first
song in the playlist to play, it will go through all of them. It also has a loop
and random functions.
You can also create traditional audio CDs
from your MP3 collections. You must first convert to wav format, then burn a CD
with Roxio (née Adaptec) Easy CD
Creator. The CD
burning software will accept tracks direct from
various audio CDs
or wav files, but not MP3 files directly.
There should also be playlists you can exchange with others. You would feed the
playlist to Napster and it would automatically collect all the songs in the playlist
for you. It would also be nice if a failed search were put on hold for a week. If the
song appeared, you would get an email telling you to get online quickly.
What do you do if you don’t know the artist or song title, just snatches of
lyrics? Try these sites:
One final warning, the exchanging of copyrighted materials for commercial
purposes is illegal and doing it for non-commercial purposes is a legal grey area.
You might get a nasty letter from one of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)
lawyers, or, ironically, from Napster itself.
A unified, distibuted, general purpose, Napster-like,
file delivery scheme for sending anything, files, software, pornography, updates,
deltas, web pages, email, newsgroup postings, music, video… would scale
incredibly well and work astoundingly fast even with the flakiest home computers if:
Files were digitally signed so you can be sure they have not been tampered
with. Most traffic would also need to be encrypted.
You need some reasonable but not necessarily perfect scheme to help you find
places where the file you want is cached. Napster did this fairly well.
Napster’s clever design ensured that the most popular files were also the
most widely available in cache to be served. Its problem was it did not have unique
names or unique id numbers for files which left it up to humans to scan lists
looking for a suitable place to download. That could be fully automated.
You need some sort of central, very well controlled, scheme to tell you what
the id of the most up to date version of any file is. Napster had nothing like
You also need a well controlled notification system for letting people know
that certain files (e.g. emails) exist ready to be picked up off the general
Internet with the given laundry ticket. You never send files, just
laundry tickets to pick them up. Napster had nothing like this either. Email and
newsgroups suffer from lack of reliable notification. You are forever losing
messages. Even Fedex or the post office can track a parcel for you and guarantee
delivery with a signed receipt. Analogous features should be routine for electronic
delivery of files and email.
Your download software should be able to try several sources
simultaneously and home in the most successful, speediest ones. It makes
sense to share the burden of any given download over many sources. This way even
slow sources can still contribute to the general workload. It is so foolish to wait
hours for a file to download because the source is slower than the target. The
whole process could be speeded up using multiple sources.
You should never have to start over just because some source was flaky. We need
SAX-like protocols that don’t waste
even so much as a byte that they manage to glean before a disconnect. They just
keep picking up where they left off with same or other servers.
You want to get serious about compression and never transmit anything unless
you have squeezed the heck out of it. Further, you should only send changes. The
inept existing MIME-encoded email messages do the very opposite of compression,
engorging them into Monsieur Creosote impersonations.
Eventually you will want background predictive caching so that the messages and
files wanted are already nearby where they will be wanted. We have seen that
Napster was able to do very well without any such cleverness.
We need more audience participation. You should have the ability to play DJ,
compose voice intros to your favourite songs and pass them along. You should be
able to write critiques and discumentaries of songs comparing versions etc and
register these centrally where everyone can find them. You should be able to create
playlists and share them just as you would individual pieces. You should be able to
submit artwork for individual songs and groups of songs and synchronised
Napster In Legal Hot Water
It turned out I was right when I predicted
Napster’s days were limited. If Napster were to prevail, it would depend on
music CD buyers without
computers subsidising those that do. It is ridiculous to expect artists to create new
when they can only sell one copy, which is what will happen as Napster clones become
ever more popular. I have devised a student project to create a new Napster that also
handles the distribution of commercial music.