The Napster method of sharing and distributing music files is a great idea: have users register with a central server, after which point they can access files on any other connected user's machine. Mac users can access, but not yet share, files on this network using Macster.
Legal issues aside, there are some problems with this system. As mentioned, Mac users can only access, and not share files, at least not yet. Another is that you can only share music files. Lastly, if the Napster server goes down, users are out of luck. A newer system called Gnutella addresses these issues, and we'd even venture to say that it is creating a revolution in the way Internet users can share data.
The first piece of good news is that a Java program called FURI allows Mac users to share and obtain files via Gnutella. Just make sure you are using the latest MRJ (Mac OS Runtime for Java) and you're good to go. Launch FURI and you'll see the dialog below.
Thousands of Hosts and Files Await You!
More good news is in the fact that Mac users can share, as well as search for and download, files using FURI. Not just music files, but any type of file. To search for files, just click on the Search tab, enter your search term, and the Gnutella network will be scanned for files matching your criteria. If you find a match, double-click on it to start the download. To share files, your best bet is to drag an alias of the file or folder to the Shared Files folder, inside the FURI folder.
To address our earlier points about Napster and other systems relying on a central server to keep track of things, Gnutella uses a decentralized model, in that each client passes on information about the network to a nearby client. Eventually, all clients know about all other clients. Although this approach may not win any awards for efficiency, it assures that the whole system can't be taken down by a single server failing.
Back to FURI...the Download tab shows what files you are downloading, and the Upload tab shows what files you are uploading to others. Remember that only files which you place in the Shared Files folder can be downloaded by others.
To round things out, there is a Search Monitor which will let you see what types of files other users are searching for. Finally, there is a chat feature, so you can interact with other Gnutella users.
Become part of a file sharing revolution, and check out Gnutella with FURI today!
Have any other Internet Gadgets you'd like us to look at? Let John know via e-mail, or share it with the rest of us in the Mac Gadget Forum.
Monday's Mac Gadget is here to help you with those cool things that we all just have to have on our Macs. Shareware, Freeware, Postcardware, Emailware, and even commercial apps, Monday's Mac Gadget is here to help you find and use the best of these programs.
John is a software engineer who works in the corporate R&D group of a Fortune 500 company, focusing on all aspects of communications technology. He has several degrees that claim he knows what he's doing when it comes to computers. After watching co-workers reinstall Windows, search for device drivers, and experience other horrors during the day, he's glad that he comes home to a Mac (compatible) computer. Have any comments, suggestions, or favorite Gadgets? Drop John a line at