The recent deal UR has made with Napster has empowered roughly 3,600 undergraduates to tune in to half a million licensed songs. With an intuitive user interface and friendly graphics, the Napster client at first glance seemed intriguing. The sound quality was also excellent.Getting the Napster client was easy enough. After creating an account by going to http://www.rochester.edu/napster, I just had to download the client and log in.Once logged in, I was presented with a seemingly endless collection of songs. There are nine general music categories, ranging from alternative to hip-hop to rock. Clicking on each category directed me to the latest music available and the option to tune into a representative Internet radio station.A much more impressive collection could be searched through either the browse button or the simple search box. There is also a throwback to the carefree days of Napster when it was a hub of free music sharing, rather than its current commercial state – users can browse other users’ downloaded collections and listen to what they have to offer.The option is not nearly as useful as in the past, as everything that other users have is easily accessible through the main Napster search engine – if the service has it, you’ll find it without having to poke through other people’s folders.I tried a few searches. Britney Spears not only has all five of her albums available to listen to, you can even read Napster’s personal bio that describes Spears as “blonde, busty and babelicious.” Christina Aguilera, Matchbox Twenty, Norah Jones, R.E.M., Godsmack and Mary J. Blige all returned their most popular hits, conveniently highlighted in blue, and songs previously unheard on the radio, displayed in typical black text.But enough pop. What about classic songs? I tried the old standby, the Eagles’ “Hotel California.” According to Napster, “Hotel California” was made by Lisa Addeo. Similarly, “Margaritaville,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Satisfaction,” “Carry on My Wayward Son” and pretty much any other classics either never existed or were made by bands in the ’90s, according to Napster.One surprising feature is the wide availability of orchestral and symphonic music. True classical music was especially hard to find on peer-to-peer clients, but the new Napster service has a vast selection from all eras. So I proceeded onward, while listening to Addeo’s piano cover of “Hotel California.” Being a believer in never using the help button, I spent some time clicking on random buttons and right-clicking everywhere. One very interesting feature showed up while on this quest of self-discovery.If you select three or more songs you already like, Napster will build you your own customized Internet radio station. This feature is great if you’re bored with your current MP3s and do not feel like experimenting with new genres of music. As the annoying TV ad says, “Set it and forget it.” Once you pick the right three songs, you’re on your way to a solid six hours of music tailored for you.Napster was indeed designed with the college student in mind. With big bubble buttons and lively colors, it is both inviting and fun to use. One extra advantage to the shared service is that it is easy to point friends to songs on the service that they have guaranteed access to.As the Napster poster says, “Good kitty.” Napster is indeed good. So go download Napster and while you’re at it, grab yourself a poster too.They’re cute.He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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