Diary of an MP3 beginner
by Jenn Shreve
(IDG) -- When I first heard about downloadable music in early 1998, it sounded shady. MP3 sites were in violation of copyright laws, and were difficult to find. And the process sounded too complicated.
But what a difference a couple of years makes. Following the easy instructions on Listen.com, a directory of legal downloads, I installed RealJukebox, which enables me to play MP3 files. It turned out to be the easiest of the MP3 programs I tried.
I then visited 10 downloadable music sites, all of which were mentioned on Snap.com's MP3 beginners' guide. In almost every case, I quickly figured out how to download the files onto my hard drive. Using my slow but steady 56Kbps modem, I was able to download MP3 files onto the hard drive of my 2-year-old Compaq (CPQ) Deskpro. While the files sounded clear, they each took more than 14 minutes to download an average of three times the actual song length.
But while the download process has been streamlined and simplified since I first heard of downloadable music, the sites themselves vary greatly in user-friendliness, variety of music, revenue sources, editorial offerings and focus. And due to the rapid growth of the industry, most download sites suffer from serious navigational problems that make finding music difficult.
Of course, once an MP3 file lives on your hard drive, it's easy to access and play. So while building a music library may be slow going at first I occupied myself with checking and sending e-mail during the two hours and 29 minutes it took to download nine songs once in place, it allows you to play DJ on your PC without once prying open a CD case. To this MP3 newbie, that seems well worth the time.
Click here for a chart reviewing, from IDG.net, of the best and worst MP3 sites around.
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