The Ultimate Guide to Mp3 Sharing and Downloading

OR
How YOU, too, Can owe the RIAA Over $60,000

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On July 24th, 2001 the "Napster we knew and loved" died and fell to Earth, like some boated flying wombat fallen victim to a poacher's rifle. Millions cried out in fear and loathing: would they once again be paying out the ass, so to speak, to drown out life's Hellish racket with sweet, sweet music? At first, Napster clones seemed to provide the answer. Kazaa, Morpheus and their like popped up all over the internet as easy answers, but they're not. As we're beginning to see, Napster clones can expect to meet the same fate as the original, as they consequetively gain popularity, enter the RIAA's line of fire, and perish leaving hundreds of thousands of music fans out in the cold.

In addition, Sakke noted that "programs like KaAaA and Gnotella are full of spyware (nobody wants that)." This is true. Also any peer-to-peer file sharing tool is bound to be somewhat insecure, and may leave your machine open to malicious connections and hacking attempts. The software I am about to propose also has various insecurities; please be aware of that.

"Please! God, no! Make it stop!"

Never fear! Let me tell you a story. A nice, comforting, profitable story about a hypothetical boy named..."Bert." Yes. Now Bert is an enviable figure indeed. He has a brand new computer with three very large hard drives on it, and each of these hard drives is filled with rare, delicious music encoded at high quality bitrates into mp3 files. All in all, Bert has over 3500 albums on these drives, totaling over 1750 hours of music. Yes, in addition to being lucky in love, lucky in sports AND about as lucky overall as Chiquita's pet monkey, Bert can sit in his genuine imitation leather chair and listen to music for 72 days straight without hearing the same song twice. Now pay attention, because here's Bert's burning secret: He has never installed or downloaded Naptser, KaZaA, Morpheus, WinMX or any other of the most popular (and least permanent) file sharing tools available on the web. Never. Not even to try them out.

"Gasp! Sputter! Etc!"

That's right; he never needed to. He was perfectly satisfied downloading 15-20 albums (200 songs) a day using only three programs (and a website) all of which have been around long before Napster, and which are likely to be around for a longer still. Those following programs are:

  1. CuteFTP (http://www.globalscape.com/products/cuteftp/index.asp)
  2. Direct Connect (http://www.neo-modus.com/?page=Download)
  3. Hotline (Original site down)
Since Bert is a ugly, fat, good for nothing hypothetical construct, I will now explain to you in his stead, in a step-by-step fashion, how to download massive quantities of music with any of these three programs. I will also explain why each one is likely to last longer than Napster (and perform better anyway).

File Transfer Protocol

FTP sharing is the standby, the shoe-in, the last resort of music sharing. It's been around for a long while and isn't likely to disappear for another, longer while. If you've managed any sort of website, you're probably familiar with the basic theory behind this process. Using a simple program like CuteFTP, WSFTP, or BulletProof one connects to a cache of files on a remote computer or server and downloads from or uploads to that cache. For web maintenance, if one isn't running their own web server, then this is how all changes are made to a live website. In the beautiful world of mp3 sharing, this is also how one might acquire a large amount of music very quickly. With the advent of broadband ISPs and 24 hour connections to the internet, hosting an FTP server has become very popular; all you need, on the client end of things, is a database that links your favorite music to the server on which its stored, and which provides 1) that server's IP address, 2) a login/user name and password, and 3) the location of the files you want. Although several websites have provided this service, I have only used two.

The first is (was) Audiogalaxy. In my old school days, I'm talking back in the 9-8 when I was still thought downloading music as common as Chemical Brothers and Beck was cool, Audiogalaxy used to provide a valuable service. There was a little box into which you could enter any word(s) in an artist/album/song's name, and it would return results including the three pieces information I listed above, as well as other helpful tidbits, such as server reliability and speed. But then the insidious plague of Greed settled upon the formerly saintly management of audiogalaxy.com, and they forsook the time-honored database in favor of their doomed Satellite...idea...thingy...in a quest for more advertising cizash. Foolish fools! As you may have heard, they got their due.

Luckily for Bert, you, and I, other websites have taken their place. One in particular. That website is OTH DOT NET, may it's domain be forever hosted. In a similar, but vastly simpler and cleaner fashion, oth.net does exactly what Audiogalaxy used to do, before they got their asses sued. Should you choose to pursue this method, install some FTP client software (such as CuteFTP), go to oth.net, type in what you're looking for and note the results, and enter the relevant information (i.e. IP, username, and password) into your software. Press connect! Browse! Download!

Key Hints:

  • Some servers may be what are called "ratio servers." This means you have to upload a certain amount of music in order to begin downloading. I recommend ripping a few CDs (preferably rare and good) and uploading that. Other servers may be what are called "leech servers." This means you upload a stipulated amount of music, and from that point forward may download as much as you like. The second kind is preferable.
  • Server operators that are sharing one album that you like more than likely share your taste. Download other artists from their server to try them out. This is called branching out your musical taste!
  • Be patient. Negotiating an account is often very like haggling for tomatoes. Being polite and communicative with the vendors will get you the ripest pick for the lowest hassle.
Why this will last longer than Napster:
  • The FBI is not going to knock down the door of Joe Schmoe (or Bert) who is sharing 20 albums on some obscure FTP server. Probably not even if he's sharing 500 albums. Because of the volume of servers, this would be like trying to swat down a swarm of African killer bees with a single greasy chopstick. Although there are a few exceptions, the RIAA is more likely to go after something like Napster, which has received more media attention and can be killed with one fell swoop. The risk for a client downloading music is, in fact, negligible.
  • There is nothing illegal about hosting a database. As of yet, no matter how obvious your intentions, oth.net cannot be sued for hosting information about what other people with whom it has no connection have on their hard drives. They could be sued for distributing software that is specifically designed to share music, but only a bunch of blathering idiots would attempt something like that!

Direct Connect

Direct connect is relatively new software (it shows) that implements a concept similar to that of Napster, but also fundamentally different. Like Napster, a user installs the software and can search a network for music (and in this case, movies, games, and a multitude of other files as well). Unlike Napster, these servers are user-operated. This is a key difference, albeit a subtle one. Hopefully it is one that will keep the RIAA at bay, at least for a little while. Also unlike Napster, it is not well known. Of course, I suppose more overly-generous souls like myself will eventually publicly write about it and reveal its power. Act while you can.

The Direct Connect software isn't exactly intuitive. No, scratch that, it's damned stupid. But for anybody with significant computer experience (i.e. most everybody here on E2), learning to use it should be a breeze. But be prepared to be frustrated. The program progressively appropriates more and more memory the longer it runs, it mysteriously shuts down and restarts, download queues disappear, and more fun facts I'll leave for you to discover. However, there is a wealth of information being shared over its "hubs." Much of this is pirated movies and games, but there is also a lot of good music to be found.

An update, courtesy of Wigs and xerces: DC++ is an open source alternative to the poorly designed DC client. It uses the same network, but it is much more powerful and much easier to use. It is available at http://dcplusplus.sourceforge.net.

Hotline

I am not fully versed on the circumstances of the disappearance of the former homepage of this software (http://bigredh.com)*, but I do know that I am profoundly disappointed. Luckily, the Hotline community is still thriving, and if you can get your hands on the software you gain access to one of the most powerful file sharing tool available. Personally, it is my daily staple; in my college age of dwindling time and energy the one or two servers to which I have access are my proverbial bread and butter. These days, I only venture into FTP and Direct Connect if I'm looking for an artist unknown on my Hotline servers that I really want, or a movie. After browsing the Hotline community for a while, you too might have this luxury. It's like retiring at 35 after a few key stocks that you bought at .50 a share topped 100 and split. Someone more knowledgeable in the world of finance might be able to expand this metaphor to appropriate dimensions.

Anyway, Hotline works very much like FTP servers, in that you use information from an outside database to obtain an IP address, username and password to gain access to a server, where you can download and upload appropriately. Like FTP servers, there are "ratio" accounts and "leech" accounts. However, the Hotline software was designed especially for trading files. Although the UI is a little confusing at first, it proves to ultimately be very powerful. A chat window, status bar, news bundle, and clear folder navigation tool make trading music a proverbial frolic in the sunshine. Also, hotline servers tend to be the most prolific because the software allows for communication among the users (about new music and musical taste in general).

Let me reiterate: a good Hotline server is better than a pot of Irish gold. Hell, it's better than an Irish pot of honey. I currently have full leech access to a server that has enough music to fill up 500 backup CDRs, everything from John Coltrane to Blackalicious to Nobukazu Takemura. Virtually every new release on several key labels gets uploaded before or very near the release date. The people are fun; the discussion is animated. It’s where it’s at. There, that’s it. Go for it.

* According to Martian_Bob, there is a new hotline site at http://www2.bigredh.com. Whether or not this was, or sometimes is, true, no amount of effort could coax this URL to load for me. Likewise, a Google search turned up nowhere. Perhaps try looking for the Hotline software on Direct Connect!


I have tried to keep this as short as possible, but I guess that turned out to be not very short at all.

Feel free to /msg asterix with your alternate experience/suggestions which I will be happy to add.

Word to Uncle Meat and Phr33z.

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