Sure, there are the crucial proprietary and technological issues to consider, but still, I'm a Napster convert. NI'd dabbled with Napster -- or in my case the Apple-friendly equivalent, Macster -- before, mostly using it for research and for the novelty of plugging in the most obscure artists I could think of to see whether their music was available.
Now that the service has been threatened with extinction, I've become a full-blown addict.
It's not an easy addiction. A measly 56K dial-up connection at home means that song downloads regularly take half an hour, and the lack of a CD burner keeps any tunes I do snag stuck on my hard drive, while my machine at work -- conveniently rigged into a high-speed line -- always seems to crash two minutes before the transfer is complete.
Dominate time Even so, Napster searches over the last few months have begun to dominate my time online and speed the need for a high-speed connection. Last week's obsession was downloading spaced-out hiphop tracks from the forthcoming OutKast record, posted in its entirety a month before the official release, against the group's will.
The week before, I was forced to change my flat-out dismissal of Eminem when a pal steered me in the direction of some of the MC's radio freestyles. The Detroit punk might have a potty mouth, but he can dish out battle rhymes with the best of them.
This weekend it was all about the fake remixes and collaborations that Napster users with ProTools at home are churning out. Ever wondered what Eminem -- who figures prominently in a lot of Napster mixes -- versus Britney Spears would sound like? It's up there, as well as "duets" between EPMD and Jurassic 5 and a real sparring session between human beatboxer Rahzel and Wu-Tang architect RZA that has to be heard to be believed.
Come around So why did it take me so long to come around? It wasn't because I don't listen to music through my machine. I spend hours a day plugged into online radio broadcasts like www.wfmu.org and www.blackark.com.
It was more the belief that I wouldn't be able to find anything online that I couldn't get a hard copy of down at the record shop. Clearly, that's not the case. While most people probably use the application to sample and save money, it's still fun to see how many Sun Ra or Oum Kolsoum tracks are up for sharing. The answer for both is not many.
No doubt to the delight of the Recording Industry Association of America, there's little chance that my current Napster/Macster obsession will cut down on my record-buying habits. I'm a tactile kind of guy.
Even so, I'm hooked, big-time.
SITE OF THE WEEK
Have you ever wanted to speak, or at least write in, another language but didn't want to take the classes? Babel Fish will do it for you. The Web-based application translates between English and half-dozen other languages almost instantaneously. It does your written text as well as Web pages, but it occasionally makes mistakes. The errors that occur, especially when it's translating long passages back into English, are like reading those phony translations of Hong Kong movie titles. MG