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How To Use Limewire File Sharing Software  Print E-mail
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Written by Bryan Dailey   
Tuesday, 01 May 2001

Sharing files for free on the Internet is now a fact of life and no matter how hard the major record labels and movie studios try to suppress this practice, computer programmers will always be at least one step ahead of them. The number of people who are downloading music is growing exponentially. In a number of recent polls of college students, a majority of those who regularly download music said they would be willing to pay a subscription fee to legally use a service such as Napster. This of course would result in a multi-billion dollar industry, but the major media companies may have missed the boat completely, since programmers have now figured out new ways to anonymously trade files. The RIAA has been focusing on putting the brakes on Napster, but all the while, a host of alternatives with more advanced technology have popped up.

The heir apparent to Napster’s throne as king of file-swapping is LimeWire. Forget Napster, it is yesterday’s news. With LimeWire, a free application downloadable on the Net, you can search for and download not only MP3 audio files, but also documents, programs, video clips (including entire feature films) and photos. The trading of files using LimeWire is a much more anonymous process than Napster’s version. Rather than linking to all of the users through a single hub (aka: a Napster server), LimeWire scours the Internet for thousands of different Gnutella servers that each have thousands of users connected to them. Gnutella is a serverless peer-to-peer information and file-sharing network that has 200,000 unique users and is growing a rate of seven percent per day. This rate of growth will push Gnutella past Napster’s user base in a few months. With Napster, every person has a user name and profile, making it quite easy to find out who has a certain song saved in their shared music file. With LimeWire, when you search for a song, you may know the IP address of the server you are getting the file from, but you don’t see the user name of the provider. Metallica alienated a huge number of their fans by compiling a list of people who had downloaded their music and then having these users banned from using Napster. I don’t see any talk of Gnutella or LimeWire users getting blocked, so this is obviously a testament to the fact that people can do their trading with a new level of anonymity that Napster does not enjoy.

We are not here to tell you that you should download and trade copyrighted material using LimeWire. That is a decision that you, the user, must make for yourself. We will merely tell you how to use LimeWire and its extensive list of features, and to explain to you why it blows Napster out of the water. LimeWire was designed by a team of software engineers that hail from institutions such as MIT and Columbia University, as well as respected companies that include Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, CIBC Oppenheimer and Compaq. This is a powerful program with some serious brainpower behind it.

The first step to beginning your journey into the LimeWire experience is to visit the LimeWire website at http://www.limewire.com where you can download the free program. The most current version is called LimeWire version 1.3. It is written in Java programming language and will run on any computer with the ability to run Java version 1.1.8 that is connected to the Internet. When Napster first made waves, it was a PC-based program – Mac and Linux users were up the creek without a paddle. Of course, Napster’s software designers eventually solved this problem but LimeWire has taken care of this from the start. When downloading the program, users have the option to get the Windows, Mac, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris or assorted versions labeled "other." I’m not sure what these other operating systems are, but I’d venture to guess that if you need something other than the major operating systems mentioned above, you know exactly what "other" means. The only extra little perk for Windows users is the fact that two versions of a LimeWire screensaver are available to download. It might make an interesting conversation piece at work, but I don’t think non-Windows users will feel too left out not having a screensaver of a LimeWire logo floating around their screen. AOL users can use LimeWire if they have AOL version 6.0.

-Once the program has been downloaded and installed, it’s time to get the party started. Installing LimeWire on a Mac was simple using the on screen directions. A file is created in the Mac applications folder called simply "LimeWire." This contains the program, a host of extensions, an uninstaller and the most important folder called "Shared." This is where tracks and programs are saved when you download them. It is also where other users access your files. If you have a file that you don’t want to share with everyone else on the Gnutella network, simply move it from your Shared folder to some other place on your computer. In LimeWire’s default mode, the following file extensions can be searched for: html; htm; xml; txt; pdf; ps; rtf; doc; tex; mp3; wav; au; aif; aiff; ra; ram; mpg; mpeg; asf; qt; mov; avi; mpe; swf; dcr; gif; jpg; jpeg; jpe; png; tif; tiff; exe; zip; gz; gzip; hqx; tar; tgz; z; rmj; lqt.

The LimeWire interface looks very similar to Napster, with a column for the name of the file, the file type, size, speed of the owner’s connection, and the location of the folder. A field called "score" is also listed, but it seemingly has no relevance because it always says 100. From what I gather, it represents the relevance of the search term in relation to the result that it yielded. One major advantage of LimeWire over Napster is the fact that Napster was limited to a maximum of 100 search results per query. LimeWire will search as many of the Gnutella servers as are available and will bring back as many files as it finds. There are ways to filter out unwanted results, as well as a parental block to prevent kids from accessing adult content areas. You can also narrow down your results by using the various sub-search tabs that are just to the right of the search text box, or leave it on "Any Type" to get every file that is relevant to your particular search.

A search for the words "Pearl Jam" with the "Any Type" tab set yielded well over 1000 results, with everything from regular studio tracks to bootleg audio and video to photos of the band and album covers. When doing the search with the "Audio" tab clicked, over 900 files were found. The majority of people using this program are swapping MP3 audio tracks, but there is still a good chance that you can find your favorite band's video or that episode of "South Park" that you missed last week.

-One downside to LimeWire is that you cannot access a file until it is completely downloaded. With Napster, you could listen to as much of the file as you have downloaded, but LimeWire claims to be working on a fix for this in the next version. LimeWire holds in-progress downloads in a file called Incomplete. Once the download is complete, LimeWire transfers it to the Shared folder. The user then takes the file from the Shared folder and does what he or she pleases with them. There is a tab on the LimeWire interface called "Library" that shows what is held in the shared and incomplete folders. If you click on the "Launch" button at the bottom of the "Library" window, the computer searches for the proper application for opening that particular file. Launching an MP3 file on a Mac will usually open the QuickTime player, while opening a movie file on a Windows-equipped PC will most likely open with Windows Media player. This can be changed in the options of both LimeWire and the operating system. It is an imperfect science and may test your patience if you don’t have the proper application to view a movie clip or listen to a sound file, but with some perseverance, you can usually find the right one and download it from the Internet.

With so many search results comes the inevitable downside of having a high percentage of files that do not properly download or simply spin their wheels and seemingly never download at all. I only recommend using LimeWire if you have a high-speed Internet connection. Napster is almost bearable on a 56K modem because all you download are music files that average between one and four megabytes in size. If you are on LimeWire and want to get a two-and-a-half-hour feature film that weighs in at over 657 megabytes, you’d have to devote about a week of your computer’s time to downloading this file on a traditional modem. In the Frequently Asked Questions section on the LimeWire website, there is an explanation for why so many files simply fail when downloading. Modem users should note that they must first be connected to the Internet before launching the LimeWire application or it will not properly load. The LimeWire website says that their programmers are working on a solution for this bug, but the real answer is to pony up the extra $20 per month and get a high-speed Internet connection, be it DSL or cable modem.

Each Gnutella user has a limited number of slots reserved for uploads. When these slots are filled, you’ll see a message that LimeWire is waiting for a certain number of "busy" clients. LimeWire will automatically retry downloads from these clients after a variable period of time in hopes that upload slots will become free. However, if the person who has the file you’re trying to download has too many people requesting files, he or she won’t be able to serve any more file requests, and the connection will be refused.

If there is a firewall on either side between you and the user who has the file you are trying to download, you will not be able to connect directly to him or her. LimeWire has a function that attempts to alleviate this problem by sending a "push" request that asks the owner of the file to bypass the firewall and send the file directly to your computer. Sounds nice in theory, but most people will not be generous enough to take the time to get the file to you. If both you and the person you are trying to get the file from are behind a firewall, the push request will do no good at all.

There are other reasons that a file may fail to download. The person you are getting the file from may have logged off or turned the computer off in during the time that you did your search for files. The other user could have a faulty or an older version of a Gnutella software that is not compatible with LimeWire.

LimeWire has a feature called "Smart Downloading" that will retry a given download until it is successful. This can take minutes or hours, depending on the number of users that have the file for which you are searching. If you close LimeWire, any downloads that were in progress will terminate. These downloads will not resume the next time you start the program, but if you’re running LimeWire 1.3 or above on Windows, LimeWire will continue downloading your files from your system tray until they are completed as long as the computer is still on and is connected to the Internet.

Downloading Actual Feature Films With LimeWire
Downloading movies is a much trickier game than getting songs and tends to result in "Couldn’t Download" messages much more than MP3 files. There are many different types of video files, ranging from AVI and ASF to MPEG and MOV, to name just a few. Most of these will play on all computers if you have the proper software, but can be a source of frustration when you are trying to find the proper video player to play the video file. Advanced users can even burn these downloaded movie files into DVDs using a DVD-R machine and recordable DVDs. DVD-RW machines have dropped into a price range, some as low as $1,000, which make it feasible for you to create your own DVD copies of movies. However, that is another article altogether.

When acquiring huge files such as a feature film, chances are slim that the person who you are downloading the file from will be connected to the Gnutella server for the time required to download the entire movie. Once you begin downloading a file, the LimeWire system is smart enough to hold the download, find another version of the same movie, and pick up from where it left off. It is possible that you could download a feature film from 10 to 20 different users. It sounds nice and simple, but can really be an exercise in patience to get an entire film on your computer. It’s a great novelty and you may be able to find illegal copies of films that are currently in the theaters, but the ability to see a new feature film on your computer screen isn’t going to make a big dent in box office sales anytime soon.

The quality of the files that you download will run the gamut from stellar to completely crappy. There will be some gems and some stuff that you will regret wasting your time to get, but when you find that one rare hilarious song or video clip you’ve been looking for forever, it makes the time and effort worth it. LimeWire is not as user-friendly as Napster, but the sheer overwhelming power of it gives it a huge advantage. There are other Gnutella clients such as ToadNode, MacTella, Gnucleus and BearShare, but LimeWire has more advanced features and internal programming power than all of these combined and is the only one that is cross-platform compatible.

LimeWire LLC is currently in the process of raising venture capital. but with all of the trouble that Napster is having, this may be an uphill battle. Only time will tell if LimeWire can survive the long arm of the law, but shutting down this network of users isn’t as easy as it would be for a service such as Napster. Even if LimeWire ends up folding, there will always be ways for people to trade files online.

The media conglomerates need to realize the promotional possibilities that online file-sharing can provide, and do a better job of giving the consumer a real reason to go out and drop their hard-earned cash for a CD, DVD, DVD-A or movie tickets. The status quo just isn’t going to fly with Gen X and will do so even less with Gen Y. Radio is free and so are most forms of television, and these are the most powerful promotional tools known to the entertainment business. If AOL Time Warner thinks they can bully people into having to subscribe to their service to get music downloads when they kill off Napster, they have another thing coming. The other four major record companies should have backed BMG and supported Napster when they had the chance. Downloading music and movies is here to stay.





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