Have you seen this picture floating around the Internet? If your kids have any illegal music on their computers, you'd better delete the files before the Recording Industry Association of America comes after them.
Seriously, this week--at my editor's request--I'm talking about file sharing. I know damn well he's been tempted to file share but wants me do it first to see if I end up in the slammer. (I don't want to ever hear you complaining about your boss, okay?)
Before I talk about different forms of file sharing, I want to start with something more benign. I have a hunch that some of you want to get big files over to a buddy without the bells and whistles of a big collaboration tool. I have lots of articles and columns to get you rolling.
First, read last week's column if you missed my collaboration story.
Then read " Move Big Files Without Breaking a Sweat ," in which I give you five ways to move files from hither to yon. In that column I show you how to use simple tools, things you already have on or around your PC.
Next is " Smart Ways to Transfer Big Files ," in which I explain how to use an assortment of programs for transferring data.
Finally, check out what I had to say about FolderShare, an ultra cool, free, program to, well, share humongous files. It's about halfway down the page in " Who Knew Your... Could Do That ?" Search for "You could share files without using e-mail or FTP?" (I know, every article I've mentioned is something I wrote. It's always about me, right? You're starting to sound like my wife.)
FolderShare, My Hero
Of all the products I've tried and talked about, FolderShare is the one I still use. That's because even the freebie version is handy-dandy for popping a handful of files over to, say, my sister. It lets you queue up to three files to transfer online. Once queued, the files are transferred one after another without you having to manually intervene.
The only significant downside is in a separate feature that allows you to create a file library on your PC and share those files with friends and colleagues. The program limits your sharing to just two libraries of files and you can't have more than 1500 files in a library. But this isn't a big deal, especially for free. (BTW, there's no time limitation on the trial version--which is why I call it a freebie.)
For $4.50 a month, you can bypass many of the limitations and queue and transfer 500 files and share up to 20,000 files in up to 100 libraries. Get the pricing details at the FolderShare site .
Dig This: The Image Quiz is going to kill you--and a big chunk of your day. You're faced with 15 or so images. There's a theme. Your job is to use one word to describe the theme. It's kind of like those psychological tests you took in high school. It's very challenging, believe me. [With thanks to DonM in Canada.]
Peer-to-Peer File Stealing
Okay, it's peer-to-peer file sharing, but you know what I mean. Think back to the days of Napster and illegally shared music, video, and other files. It's a hot topic because the Motion Picture Association of America and the RIAA are both relentless in their pursuit to shut down file-sharing services.
You might want to get up to speed on the issue, so read these news articles: " MPAA Revives P-to-P Lawsuit " and " RIAA Sues Another 762 Over File Sharing ." Both will startle you into thinking twice if you decide to try a P-to-P site.
I'll tell you what: File sharing is still going on, with tools such as BitTorrent, WinMX, and others. But it's gone underground. Read more in Michael Desmond's " Sneaky Sharing ," in which he outlines who's doing what with whom, with juicy details.
What You Can Do For Free
Now, I realize you like to download free stuff, and you still can. Eric Dahl provides a ton of resources--"perfectly legal free digital music available on the Internet"--in " Music for Nothing; Tracks for Free ." But even better is Scott Spanbauer's " No-Guilt Downloads: Free Books, Music, and Movies ." You'll find out about five spots to download these goodies, including four tools to help you retrieve the stuff.
If you want to play around with file-sharing tools, the one Scott recommends is BitTorrent; the one I've experimented with is WinMX. Both, along with a big handful of other P-to-P tools, are in our Downloads library:
- Music & Video Sharing
OTOH, you ought to try BearShare Lite , which our Downloads team says "retrieves a wealth of MP3s, MPGs, and AVIs--and it won't install spyware or adware."
BTW, Napster's still around--as a fee-based service. I've tried it, and it's not bad. But I wouldn't expect it to be bad at $10 a month. The selection of jazz is big enough for me not to have to listen to the same tune for weeks at a time. And the interface, while not what it was in the old Napster days, is easy enough to use. Napster has a free trial so you can get a taste of it without working too hard.
With the new Napster, you're renting the music--so you have to be a subscriber to play the tunes you download. However, you can buy individual tracks: Prices range from 80 to 90 cents each; entire albums cost about $10. In fact, Napster's even offering a way for you to play its music on your portable player. Read " Napster Offers Music to Go " to find out how it's done.
Warning: It's pretty easy to pick up spyware, adware, viruses, or Trojan horses when you float around the Internet using peer-to-peer programs. Some of the P-to-P tools even come with spyware (an extra feature, I guess). You definitely need to have your antivirus software updated, and you might consider arming yourself with an anti-spyware tool. And I just happen to have a series of columns on the topic:
- " Spyware Primer "
- " More on Fighting Spyware "
- " More Spyware Prevention and Removal "
- " Spyware Wrap-Up "
Lately, I've been testing Sunbelt Software's CounterSpy , a brand-new anti-spyware and anti-keystroke-logger product. It's similar to PestPatrol and SpySweeper. I haven't finished testing it and comparing it to other products, but you might want to take a look for yourself. There's a 30-day trial; the product costs $20 with a year of updates.