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November 16th, 2000


Napster 1.0b1
Contact And Other Information
Manufacturer: Napster Inc.
Product Home Page: Napster for Mac
Description: MP3 sharing tool
Price: Free
Requirements: PowerPC running Mac OS 8.1 or later
System Used For Testing: Power Computing PowerCenter with PowerLogix G3 upgrade, 96 MB RAM, Mac OS 8.6.1
[Preview]
Napster 1.0b1: A Preview Look At The Music Sharing Utility
by Oliver Dueck

Introduction

Napster, the online MP3 sharing app, has been available for PCs for quite some time now. Not only is it the most controversial of the various music sharing programs, it is also the most popular and the easiest to use. Recently, a Mac beta version was released.

Actually, unofficial Mac versions of Napster have been around for a while, too. The most popular of these was Macster, from Black Hole Media. The official version of Napster for the Mac is basically an enhanced version of the Macster client. This means if you have Macster installed on your Mac, Napster will use its preference settings.

Installing & Setup

Upon installing and first running Napster, you choose to open a new account or use an existing one. You can also set up the rest of the preferences: your connection speed, your default MP3 player, your downloads folder, etc.

Napster does more than just give you access to vast libraries of sound files; you can also choose to share your music. Naturally, if you choose to do so, the faster your network connection, the better. You can set the maximum number of simultaneous downloads and uploads to be unlimited, or to be any number between 1 and 10.

Using It

Napster's interface is quite simple and intuitive. There is a floating tool bar with nine buttons; it also displays the number of current users and how many files you have access to.

The most important window in Napster is of course the search window. In Macster, the search options and search results were two separate windows; both are now contained in the same window. Searching for music is quite simple: simply type in the artist and/or song title and hit return. You can further refine your search by limiting the number of results (between 1 and 100), and choosing a minimum, exact, or maximum bit rate, frequency, and connection speed.


Click the thumbnail for a larger view.

For each file displayed in the search results, you can view the file name, file size, bit rate, length, user, the user's line speed, and the user's ping results. You can also sort by any of those attributes.

To download a file, simply double click on the name and Napster will attempt to retrieve it. Files which are being downloaded and uploaded are displayed in the Transfer Manager window, which shows you each files progress and how much time is remaining.

We found performance - both in searching and in downloading - to be quite good. Naturally, it all depends on what type of connection you have. With a 56K modem, downloading songs is rather tedious. But if you have a high-speed connection (cable, DSL, or a T1/T3), finding songs can take longer than downloading them.

Napster has some other useful features. You can make a "hot list" of users, as well as an "ignored users" list. Furthermore, you can chat with individual users, or on multi-user channels. Napster also has a basic music info editor that allows you to edit the name of the artist, the title, the album, and the genre for an MP3 file.

Conclusion

For a beta release, Napster for the Mac is a surprisingly polished product. We experienced no crashes or bugs. The only problem was that the Napster servers were often too busy to connect to, especially during prime evening hours. But even so, Napster is a must-have for any Mac MP3 freak and we highly recommend it.



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