Use Napster while you can

I've been trying all day to download Macster, a cousin of Napster. It's just not working. At least I have been able to get a few other things taken care of, such as shearing my sheep.

Napster is the downloadable program that has musicians everywhere, including Murray Head, singer of the smash hit "One Night in Bangkok," running for their lives. Well, actually people are running FROM Murray Head due to that song, but that's another story.

Anyway, by downloading Napster for your PC, or Macster for the Mac, you can then download music from other people's computers for free. That's right, no charge. So if you are looking for a particular song or CD, you can go to different sites with vast song lists, find the one you want, download it to your hard drive and play it at your leisure.

Back to the Murray Headless musicians, who think they deserve royalities for ALL of their music. Granted, Napster started as an easy way for friends to trade their favorite music, but it has evolved into a free-for-all music shopping spree.

That's why Napster was ordered to shut down July 26 by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel. But that's not why I still can't get the program to work -- because Napster has appealed the decision, and while the injunction is pending, the site lives.

Napster plays things called "MP3s," which is short for Moving Picture Experts Group, Audio Layer III. If you've ever wanted to know anything about MP3s, or this column has given you the motivation to find out more about the music industry on the Web, or you just don't feel like doing any work, go to Web Monkey's MP3 Overview. Whatever you didn't know about MP3s and MP3 players, you will know after a complete runthrough of the information. You can also find places to download MP3s and different types of players besides Napster, which according to its Web site, has 20 million customers. That's a lot of people.

Using copyrighted material for free isn't just limited to the music industry, but whatever the courts ultimately decide will play a big role in just how the Internet evolves. For example, my columns are automatically copyrighted material of the Belo Corporation. So if you wanted to reprint my column, I would have to give you permission, which I would, unless you had planned to insert the second verse of "One Night of Bangkok," at this juncture. It's the verse that doesn't make any sense, which doesn't set it apart from the rest of the song at all.

I was finally able to make Macster work. The problem was here at work, our server is behind a firewall, so it would not connect to Macster's virtual server community. People all over the world, including South Dakota, are connected to Napster or Macster, so you can pull music off their hard drives onto your own.

Once you download and install the music-playa, you still have to connect back to the Macster/Napster community to get music. It's broken into music genres, then you can see whose logged on and what music they have. Pick a song -- I chose ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me," as my first download. Once you have it, open it in QuickTime or any MP3 Player to play the song. There are plenty of programs to listen and/or manage your music -- head to download.com to find the latest.

Pretty soon, you'll be able to add your own music to the community. That is, if Napster doesn't have to shut down. I'm sure there's some way everyone can benefit from this, right? The ultimate loser in the whole situation, though, is Murray Head. Unless he makes a comeback, starts sharing his MP3s and shears his own sheep, that one night in Bangkok is all he'll ever have.