Following a recent Mac Observer article about the release of a Napster public beta for the Mac, we decided to give it the Gadget treatment. This is only natural, since a past Gadget column alerted fellow Observers to the preview release of another MP3 player, Macster, on which the Napster beta is based.
Napster for the Mac is not a Windows clone, and maintains the slick look and feel of the Macster client. To make joining the Napster network as easy as possible, Napster will detect your old Macster ID and password, and use them if you like. Once you start Napster and join the network, you will be presented with the Napster Toolbar. If you choose to connect upon launch, you can see the number of users on the network, and the size of all the music being shared.
Napster (top) versus Macster Preview Release 1 (bottom)
As one can see from the above screen shots, the new client offers the basic (and necessary) Connect/Disconnect, Search and Transfer Status features. But Napster also offers features introduced while Macster matured from the aforementioned Preview Release 1 to Preview Release 5.5. The most notable, and certainly the most controversial, is the ability to share your MP3 files with others via the Napster network. Rather than go into an extended rant, your humble author suggests you see what the actual artists have to say about the matter.
Another notable feature is the ability to identify and even chat with other users, if you know their ID. You can find this ID while searching for content, but there is another feature that can make finding users with similar interests easy. This is the chat feature, where you can join a channel related to a particular genre of music. This is a great way to keep up-to-date on developments in your particular area of interest.
To round things out, there is a console window where you can get the very latest Napster news, and a comprehensive Help system to help you learn the nuances of the Napster system.
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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