Neo For Mac OS X - Kazaa!

Macs have always been big on file sharing. Mac OS X raised the bar, particularly with the recent Jaguar release. Yet the best file sharing strategies may be independent of operating system. Take Neo, for example, an OS X client for Kazaa, sort of.

Computing was always intriguing, but all of a sudden things heated up when people realized they could connect to a larger world out there. We've come a long way since then, and many people today have never not known about networking a computer.

A great use of the largest network known to man is a concept called peer-to-peer file sharing. Brought into its own by the publicity around the virtual demise of a little company called Napster, various other clever ways of effecting file sharing have been thought up. It seems that an outfit called Kazaa is the de facto peer-to-peer file sharing standard on the 'Net today. Kazaa Media Desktop is available for Windows, but not Mac. Instead, Mac users can use a neoKazaa client called Neo for Mac OS X.

Neo installs in a standard OS X way. Take the defaults. You can tweak them later. Right now you just want to get started. Neo has a master list of known Kazaa hosts. The first thing you want to do is poll that list and update your local database. Pull down Tools, Hosts Search from the Neo menu and click the Master List button. Odds are pretty good that you'll have ample material to search through. This will take a few minutes, and then you'll be ready to go.

Open the Search Window from the Tools menu. You'll use this window often. What are you searching for? Pictures, audio, video, you name it. Actually, Neo filters on those three categories specifically. Type in any part of a name and press Return. Press the Download button when you find something you like. That's it!

Neo is a third-party client, and the party is pretty exclusive, meaning that third-parties are something like fifth wheels in a double date. No matter. It works anyway. Once you get the hang of this, you can try scanning for Kazaa hosts yourself, though I suggest being discrete about this and at the very least reading the documentation first.

Regular readers of this column will know that I have an old Windows NT machine still around, and it just won't die, though it's tried numerous times. For the fun of it, I attempted to download and install the real Kazaa on it. That attempt failed hopelessly. The error message "Couldn't locate function Process32Next" looked suspiciously like a Visual Basic runtime library was missing, so I downloaded and installed every version of VBrun ever made, but still got the message. Then a young friend of mine alerted me to the existence of Kazaa Lite, which he told me works better anyway. After a little trouble with their web server (site maintenance or something), I had the thing downloaded and installed. Thanks, Michael!

Now, the real Kazaa is a two-way deal. You download, you offer stuff for upload. Well, that's reasonable. And the subject of another article sometime, a longish one, because there are security issues involved. Meanwhile, I now have two ways to search out a file. I also installed the remote desktop application VNC on the NT machine, access it with a suitable VNC for Mac client, and run Kazaa Lite from my Mac. Then, using my Mac's connectivity to Windows machines, I can open Kazaa Lite's shared folder on my Mac desktop and access downloaded files from there. Sweet. And again the subject of another article sometime.

The unix world has a system (for lack of a better word) called Gnutella. If you ever feel foolhardy enough to install an X Window server on your Mac, then you could also install and run a unix Gnutella client. These are raw unix applications that require building (compiling) and installing by hand. There are also native OS X options available from this source. LimeWire, for example, is written in Java and installs as a standard OS X application. A similar X client is called Gnapster, which I've played with. Once you get comfortable with Neo and feel ready to experiment further, look no further than Gnutella.

In all probability the most interesting stuff you'll be downloading is music. Now, I can't see why music companies have been getting so worked up about music file sharing, as most of this stuff is pretty good but not perfect. To me it's like previewing an album before buying. Yes, I may decide to scrap plans to purchase a particular album based on my MP3 previews. It's nice to have the choice. And nice not to be stuck with a dud album. To this day, once you open the wrapper, you've bought it for good, no matter how bad the album may be. Like movie theaters which have enjoyed a renaissance lately, I believe album sales may actually increase due to the presence of Napster, Kazaa and the like. Not only can I preview something I'm interested in, I can also be reminded of tracks I'd long forgotten about but meant to listen to sometime. And then purchase the album. It's win-win.

There have been many occasions where I needed a place on the internet to stash a file or two temporarily. Having admitting privileges on a decent server, particularly one running Mac OS X, helps a lot in this regard. Peer-to-peer file sharing is primarily intended for sharing files you don't yet have, though it would be possible to be your own server in one place and download from it in another. Without a doubt it makes networking even more interesting, and once in a while you may find a jewel out there. Or not. But it will be fun. Enjoy, and don't stay up too late. Ciao.