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Using a Web Site Search Engine–Audiogalaxy.com

The search engine at Audiogalaxy.com is good for quick-and-dirty sweeps for FTP MP3s. The engine regularly prowls FTP sites, creating a database of the files each site has and sorting them by artist and song. More importantly, it gives you all the information you need in the form of user ID, password, and port number to log on to a site. Although the information is basic, most other sites don't do as good a job as Audiogalaxy in laying it out so you know what's what.

Take Your Choice

Dozens of music search engines besides Audiogalaxy are on the Web. One that deserves special attention is look4mp3.com, shown in Figure 3.1, because it lets you choose whether to search for HTTP sites or FTP sites. If you find downloading from FTP too daunting–even with the terrific CuteFTP program included on the book's CD-ROM–or if you simply want to stay away from pirate-inhabited FTP sites, or want to hunt for the good stuff that's only on FTP–look4mp3's dual search is the best place to go.

Figure 3.1 Pick your path at look4mp3–HTTP or FTP. Choose HTTP for (mostly) legal songs; FTP takes you into the rich but uncharted outlaw territory.

Using your browser, surf to audiogalaxy.com. Right under the banner is a space to enter search terms, such as "Billy Idol." You also can search by title, album, genre–such as techno rock reggae–or anything, really, that someone might have included in the information tags imbedded in an MP3 file. There's a no—ratios box if you don't want the results to list ratio sites, which require uploads before you can make downloads.

Worse than Ratios

The no—ratios check box at Audiogalaxy sounds like a good idea. You'll only download from sites where you don't first have to embark on a life of crime by uploading the latest Mariah Carey warble. But it also means that you're going to run into a lot of banner sites. These sites let you in only far enough to read a message that tells you to go to a Web page and click some of the ads on that page. Doing so eventually reveals the secret password, and you can return to the FTP with full access. At the least, this is a dreary annoyance. At worst, it takes you into one of those pop-up madhouses determined tos lure you to a pay porn site. Every time you try to close a site or go back, another banner pops up. I haven't yet figured out the marketing correlation between being irritated and being horny.

If we enter "billy idol" as search terms, the first thing the Audiogalaxy engine does is suggest you narrow the search by choosing one of Billy's song titles, as shown in Figure 3.2. It also suggests other artists that fans of Billy might like, such as Motley Crue and Backstreet Boys. (If you figure out the connection, let me know.)

If you just go barging on down the screen, however, you see a list of FTP sites that carry at least one song by Billy Idol. (Worshippers of other, more obscure butchy rockers may come up empty. And mind you, I'm not suggesting that people rip off sneering, has-been rock stars. It's just that Billy Idol gives me a good excuse to make smart-aleck remarks.) Anyway, if you scroll on down the suggestions, you get to a part of the listing that looks like the screen in Figure 3.3. The callouts in the screen identify the types of information the search engine returns. Some of the information is critical to negotiating FTP sites successfully.

Figure 3.2 Billy Alikes. In addition to finding you a Billy Idol song, Audiogalaxy's search engine suggests other performers it thinks you'll also like.

Pick one of the sites based on its chance of being open and how long it has been since the search engine checked that site to see whether it's online. Also consider whether it's a ratio site and how good a selection of songs it has. When you have one in your crosshairs, copy down the site ID, user ID, and password. All the other information Audiogalaxy supplies is helpful, but the site ID, username, and password are absolutely essential if you're ever going to connect to an FTP site. You'll need them when you get to the next chapter on downloading FTP files.

Figure 3.3 Getting the lowdown on FTP sites. Audiogalaxy lists the particulars of FTP sites that carry at least one matching song.

  1. FTP Hot Copy: An easy way to use some Windows FTP programs such as CuteFTP, included on the book's CD-ROM. CuteFTP watches the Windows clipboard and connects automatically to any FTP URL you copy.

  2. Logon: The word the new user must enter as an identity.

  3. Password: A supposedly secret word needed to connect to the FTP site. If the site does not require ratio uploads, there may be still another, second password you can find only by following the directions you find at the site, which typically take you to a Web page loaded with advertising.

  4. Chance of Being Open: This is the chance, expressed as a percentage, that a user will be able to connect to this site. Many sites will allow only a set number of users to access the site at one time. If a site is very popular or the number of users allowed is very low, this percentage will also be low.

  5. Site Speed: A rough measurement of the average speed of a site, rated from one (slowest) to five blocks (fastest).

  6. Ratio: If there is a Y or a ratio here, this is a ratio site. You will be required to upload songs before you can download any. A 1:10 ratio requires you to upload 1MB of files before you can download 10MB.

  7. Directory path: The location of the following song file on the MP3 server.

  8. Last Checked: The last time the search engine checked the site's status–whether it's online or offline.

  9. Port: A location on the server that listens for access requests. The conventional port number for FTP is 21, but other numbers are acceptable, depending on the server's configuration. If either the port or the IP address is wrong, you won't be able to connect to the site.

  10. Site Name: This is a text name for the benefit of humans. It's not necessary to connect to a site. Some sites have no text names.

  11. Song Lists: Titles and artists of songs found at this site.

  12. IP Address: This is the Internet protocol address–the way computers on the Net see it, as a group of four three-digit numbers separated by decimals (for example, 123.456.789.012).

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