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Napster - The Basic Stuff

Napster has recently begun blocking access to mp3s on its service as per a court ruling (read more in the FindLaw link on the left). Even though the free mp3-trading service will be going to a pay service in June or July, they have to block almost 200,000 songs immediately as part of an agreement with RIAA. Since it started blocking files, users have only been able to trade about 50% of what they once did, and as they (Napster, RIAA, you and me) continue to add files, sharing will be scaled down even more dramatically. Outlined below are a few ways for PC/Windows users to get around the block - but it should be noted that these work arounds aren't permanent, fool-proof, 100% always totally searchable, and that they aren't encouraged or condoned by Napster and its affiliates. At least some of them, however, will allow you to reclaim most, if not all, of the files you're sharing with other users. If you have no idea of what any of this means, keep reading!

You can also try a free program called NapEncoder. It's kinda buggy, but they're working on new versions constantly.

If you don't have the latest version of Napster, you can download it from Napster's site (PC and Mac versions available).

1. First None of these suggestions are fool-proof or permanent!

Figure out how many files you have. When you log in to Napster, check out the bottom left corner of the screen. It should say something like "Online (yourscreenname): Sharing XXX files" where XXX is the number of files. Remember that number.

Rename your files. How you choose to do this is up to you, but below are a few suggestions:

Add a couple of numbers or letters before and after the entire mp3 filename - "00" or "35" or "XX" (without quotes) or whatever you like, but not after the "version" of the song - i.e., if you have an mp3 called Sting - Come Down In Time (Elton John cover), add the numbers before the info in the parentheses.

Misspell a band name or song title by one letter, but still searchable (obvious), or exclude one word from the band name or song title. Examples:

Madonna > Madona, Maddonna, Maddona, adonna
Shania Twain > Shani Twain (or just Twain)
Whiskey In the Jar > Whisky in the Jar, Whiskey Jar
Blue Moon > Blue Mooon, BlueMoon, Blue-Moon, Blu Moon
Leave out the artists' name(s): Climax Blues Band - I Love You would become just I Love You. If there are alot of songs by that title, it's probably going to be harder for people to figure out what version of I Love You you have. If it's a unique title, like Rhapsody In Blue, it's most likely that those searching for the title will already know it's George Gershwin.

Add dashes (-) in the title. Sun 60 - Tell Me Like You Know becomes Sun 60 - Tell-Me-Like-You-Know.

You might find it easier to add a couple of numbers or letters before and after the filename, since not everyone searches or knows to search all these recent variants.

If you have the latest version of Napster, you can rename your files by clicking the "My Files" button at the top, then right-clicking a filename and choosing "Rename File". If you don't have the latest version, open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder that you keep your mp3s in. If you don't know what folder that is...

Click the "Start" button on the Windows toolbar, choose "Search" (or "Find") > "Files or Folders", set the search to look on drive C: (or whatever drive you keep your mp3s on), and type *.mp3 in the search field. Your computer will search itself and make a list of places mp3 files are kept on C: (or whatever drive you chose). Or...

In Windows Explorer, Navigate to C:\Program Files\Napster\Music. This is the default sharing folder that Napster chooses for you if you don't choose a different one. Or...

In Windows Explorer, Navigate to C:\My Documents\My Music. This is another default folder.

If you're still lost, in Napster click "File" > "Preferences" > "Sharing". A red box next to a folder name indicates that there are folders below that folder that are being used to store your mp3s. Keep clicking the "+" (plus signs) to the left of the folders marked with red boxes, until you end up at a folder with a box to the left containing a black checkmark (grey checkmarks in boxes next to folders beneath that folder mean that those folders contain mp3s in them also). That is the folder that your mp3s are in. Do the same thing under the "Downloading" tab; that is the folder that your newly downloaded mp3s are in, until you move them to another folder (possibly the "Sharing" folder).

Now that you've got all your files renamed...

2. Second

Add yourself to your Hotlist. The list of files here are the files that Napster actually tells others you have available for download, that are searchable in Napster. When other users put you on their Hotlist, they can click your name when you're online and see what you have available to share.

In Napster, click "Actions" > "Add User To Hotlist", and type your username in exactly as you entered it to create your Napster account. Once you've done this, click the "Hotlist" button, double-click your username (or single-click, in older versions of Napster), and bingo, your file list is populated. Once it's populated, check out the bottom of that screen to see how many of your files are actually available to share.

After you've renamed all your files and checked your Hotlist, and you're still missing mp3s (i.e., there's a difference between what the bottom left corner says you're sharing, and what your Hotlist says you're sharing), you can use DOS to print a list to compare to your Hotlist.

Open DOS. You will automatically be at C:\WINDOWS>.

At the prompt, type: cd.. (two periods). This will put you back at C:.

At C:, type: cd \progra~1\napster\music (provided your mp3s are in C:\Program Files\Napster\Music - if they are in C:\My Documents\My Music, type cd \mydocu~1\mymusi~1.)

Now that you're at the mp3 folder, you can view a list of the files in the folder on the screen, or you can print the list out.

To view a list, type: dir *.mp3 /p. When you're prompted to "Press Any Key To Continue..." and you do not wish to continue, press Ctrl+C to go back to your prompt.

Two ways to print a list:

1 - At the prompt, type: dir *.mp3/O>LPT1 ("O" as in October). "LPT1" is your default printer.

2 - At the prompt, type: dir *.mp3/O/B>dir.txt. This puts a list of all your mp3s into a file called dir.txt in your mp3 folder. To open that .txt file, navigate to it in Windows Explorer and double-click on it, or open Notepad, click "File" > "Open" and navigate to the file in your mp3 folder. Open it. Choose "File" > "Print".

Once you've figured out which mp3s you're missing in your Hotlist, simply rename the files and right click the file list in your "My Files" or "Library" and choose "Refresh", and do the same in your Hotlist.

3. Third

You'll have to test your renaming scheme to see if Napster is searching your renamed files or not. There are a couple of ways to do this.

Ask a friend also on Napster to search for one of your files - preferrably something with a unique name. If you have nothing unique, rename one of your files to something unique, refresh your file list, and ask them to search. If your name comes up in the search, Napster is searching your renamed files. Congrats! If your name does not come up in the search, Napster is not searching your renamed files. It's possible that the renaming scheme isn't adequate to dodge the block. Keep trying!

Wait for someone to download one of your renamed files. Since Napster is blocking files left, right and center, and soon will be going to a pay service, people are downloading at a frenzied rate right now. You shouldn't have very long to wait. Even the 14.4 modem user will find five or six users attached to them at any given moment (provided they've opted to allow five or six users to share - you can change this value in Napster by going to "File" > "Preferences" > "Sharing" (and "Downloading")). If someone attempts to download a renamed file from you, you've been successful. Yay!

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