Full Contact Computing
Bare knuckles, no holds barred computing

P2P File Sharing Roundup

I’ve been using Limewire  http://www.limewire.com/  for music downloads file sharing with friends and it worked great up until a few months ago when it seemed the number of results started to go through the floor. Now I barely get any hits at all. Limewire is really easy to use, only nags a little to go to the paid Pro edition, and allows you to browse other user’s files. But if you don’t have a good selection, it’s time to move on.

I first tried Frostwire http://www.frostwire.com/  , which seems to be a clone of Limewire with different colors . . . and an even lower number of results. Uninstall.

Next came Shareaza http://shareaza.sourceforge.net/  . I have been using this for a few months, actually, and have been fairly happy with it. It usually returns a large number of hits, is easy to use, and allows for browsing other users. It also returns a large amount of garbage in every search. Part of this garbage is Shareaza’s fault – it shows you results where the source is mistrusted or behind a firewall. Why in the world would we want to see these in the first place? I don’t understand.

The second source of garbage is the people trying to foist off malicious files as songs. Sure, all P2P software is going to return junk like this, but Shareaza does it with every search. If your search returns no valid hits, it is still guaranteed to return a half-dozen or more garbage hits. Fortunately they are fairly easy to spot. For one, they usually have (TOPHIT) or (REMIX) or (solo version) appended to the song name. They also usually show a download speed of 4.88MB, which is fast and therefore attractive. And lastly, they make a hash of multi-word titles, so that a search for, say, Turn the Page by Bob Seger will come out as “the Seger Page Turn Bob (REMIX)”.

But Shareaza is not so great on some of the older or more obscure songs, so I continued the search to Ares  http://aresgalaxy.sourceforge.net/ . Ares is simple, clean, easy to use, and fast. I am keeping it for now for further evaluation, but so far so good.

Bearshare was next on my list and the first irritation came up during install when it asked for a lot of personal information and offered to hook me up with girls. Umm . . . wait a minute, is this for file sharing or dating??!?!  But I was able to bypass those screens without giving the information. So I ran a search and got some hits back, clearly marked as to whether the download was free or had to be paid for. I clicked on one of the free ones and now Bearshare asked whether I would like to buy a one-year subscription for $20 or one of their other paid options. What a minute, isn’t Bearshare free? Apparently not. It does say “Free download” on their website and the download was, indeed, free. The installation was free, too, and the search was free. But if you want to actually download anything, well, now, there’s where you have to pay. I consider this to be a deceptive practice and have not included a web link for Bearshare because of this. This software got the boot very quickly!

eMule was my next and final (so far) try. Running a quick search is simple, but after that, eMule definitely has a steeper learning curve than any of the others. For one, you may want to find out why your download isn’t running, or why it is running so slowly, so you will end up reading the info pages on their website with this software.

Basically, eMule encourages you to share your files, so the longer you have eMule running, and the more files you share, the better credit you get. The better credit rating you have, the faster you can download files. Even so, the documentation says that a normal connection and good file sharing on your part will only bring you about 20 – 30 kB/s download speeds. SLOW, in other words.

The redeeming feature of eMule, however, is that it apparently has a huge userbase. I was able to find entire albums by fairly obscure artists. None of the other software could even come close to matching these returns.

So what’s the bottom line?

Limewire – no, based on lack of search results.
Frostwire – no, with even worse search results.
Shareaza – yes, but watch out for the garbage returns.
Ares – yes, and it may edge out Shareaza. We’ll have to see over a bit more time.
Bearshare – absolutely not.
eMule – very slow but also the absolute best source I’ve found for older and less well-known songs.

So my conclusion is to use Shareaza or Ares for a quick download of something that’s popular or contemporary, and load up eMule with a large queue of rare tracks and oldies and let it run overnight. We’ll see how that works out!

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