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Finding Music with MP3 Fiend

As good as Audiogalaxy, or any search engine, may be, it's necessarily limited by the fact that no single, mortal database can exhaustively search the ever-growing, amorphous Internet. To get the best results, you may have to search in several different MP3 databases because the same search terms on different engines will produce different results. (Another popular search engine is Scour.com. Check the reviews of the top search sites in "Top 101 Internet Audio Sites" at the back of the book.) You can find all those sites and other good search engines at this book's Web page, mp3under.com. But first, you should know there's a way to expand the scope of your MP3 searches without trotting from site to site.

MP3 Fiend (see Figure 3.4), a program you run from your own PC, searches 11 of the Web's best MP3 engines simultaneously and then combines the results to display on a single page. What's better, it verifies the results so you don't spend a lot of time trying to connect to an FTP site only to find out it's dead for some reason. The creator of MP3Fiend did not respond to several emails asking permission to include the program on the book's CD. Our killjoy lawyers say we can't distribute it without permission. Instead, surf on over to MP3Fiend.com and download the software. It's worth the effort and connection time. Then install MP3Fiend, and then we'll embark on a metasearch, which spans the array of search engines.

Figure 3.4 MP3 Fiend's main screen. Most functions of MP3 Fiend are launched from this screen. The only menu selections are the words under the large, empty window. They produce a whippoorwill-like sound when you pass the arrow over them. You can turn off the sound.

The first thing you notice when you launch MP3 Fiend (refer to Figure 3.4) is that it has a non-standard look for a Windows program. In fact, in the MP3 world, non-standard, even bizarre, looks are the norm. Some of them are really quite lovely, although incomprehensible. Anyway, don't make any assumptions that something you're used to in other Windows programs still applies. Luckily, MP3 Fiend is so easy to master that you'll get it under your belt in about five minutes. Most of its interface is taken up by a large, blank window where the results of the search will be displayed.

WinMP3Locator Can Locate MP3s, Too

As this book went to press, ReGet Software had just released its WinMP3Locator software. Similar in operation to MP3 Fiend, but seemingly a little slower, WinMP3Locator integrates with your Web browser and download software (such as Go!Zilla and CuteFTP, as well as ReGet's own creation) to search numerous Internet sites for songs. I don't think it's as good as MP3 Fiend, but you can download a free copy at http://www.winmp3locator.com/.

Pay for Play

The free version of MP3 Fiend is fully functional but advertising-supported. To get rid of the ads, you have to pay. Registration is $25, and for your money you also get your name in the title bar, no ads, and tech support. Fiend's creators will also accept contributions of less than $25.

MP3 Fiend itself does not search the Internet. Instead, it conducts a metasearch among the databases that have been created by other sites' MP3 search engines. It's a search of searches.

To launch a search, type some keywords–artist, title, album name, and so on–in the only space where you can type: the data entry box right above the ad. Fiend keeps track of previous searches, which you can get to by clicking the arrow at the right end of the data entry box. You'll get more results from vague searches. "Billy idol" gets more hits than "dancing with myself."

When we enter "billy idol" and press the Enter key–the only way to launch the search–Fiend sends the search terms to Gnutella, Pathfinder, FTPFind, MP3Board, Kermit's MP3 Search, Gnute, Audiofind, Astraweb, 2Look4, MusicSeek, and Lycos MP3 Search. They're all good search engines on their own, and among all of them it's awfully hard not to find anything you look for. Gnutella and Gnute, in particular, are helpful for finding HTTP downloads, which are much easier to use than FTP sites.

As Fiend conducts its metasearch, the Results Form keeps you posted on the progress of the search. (See Figure 3.5) On a 56K modem or faster, searching all 11 databases will take less than 3—5 minutes, and even less time if you set up Fiend to look for fewer than 50 matches. You can eliminate any of the searches by clicking the X-buttons in the left column, and you stop the search by clicking the Close button. You'll know when the metasearch is over because you'll hear Austin Powers say, "Yeah, baby!"

Good Gnews

The recent addition of Gnutella to MP3 Fiend's mix is interesting because it's one of the first indications that open-source music is the wave of the future. Gnutella and a program called Napster enable anyone with a PC and an Internet connection to become an ad hoc MP3 download server. This is no small cheese. We'll get into it in depth in Chapter 5, "What's This Napster? How Can I Use It to Swap Music with Others?"

Figure 3.5 MP3 Fiend Results Form. Fiend keeps you posted on the search process, even though the whole deal only takes a few minutes.

  1. X-Buttons disable any or all the search engines even while a search is in progress. Helpful if you've already got enough hits to satisfy you. Disable an engine permanently by clicking the words Show Engines and then uncheck the boxes to the left of the names of search engines you don't want to use. No, I don't know what En? stands for. Does it matter?

  2. S.I. also reports on the metasearch's progress, starting out with all circles green. They turn tangerine–yes, tangerine–as the search progresses, and finally either become a red circle if Fiend encounters an error or transform into happy faces as an inquiry completes. They serve no helpful purpose, but they're nice to look at. And no, I don't know what "S.I." stands for either.

  3. The Description/Progress column tells you whether Fiend is connecting to a site, is waiting for results, has encountered an error, or is disconnected.

  4. MP3s Found shows the number of songs that match the search terms for each search engine. A running total is at the bottom of the list.

Each song listed in the results identifies an MP3 file somewhere on the Internet that matches your search. Our quest for Billy Idol homed in on 133 files, four of them HTTP downloads. Each of those files is going to require verification, which is time-consuming. You can make the search more efficient if you narrow the search to a particular song. Right-click anywhere in the results list and choose Subsearch Results. You're given a choice of keeping the results you get with a subsearch or discarding the results. We'll choose to keep them. Enter "Dancing with Myself" in the entry box and click OK. Immediately, the list is trimmed by 117, leaving us with only 16 sites. Now, mind you, this is not the same thing as finding 16 copies of "Dancing with Myself" that you can actually download. That would be too easy. Because FTP sites dominate the results, you must do more research by verifying them.

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