Article by Kevin Savetz

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Copyright © by Kevin Savetz


Kazaa Media Desktop 2.5.1
Free
Sharman Networks 
www.kazaa.com
Rating: 2 CPUs

Kazaa Media Desktop, once everyone's favorite way to download MP3s and old episodes of "The Simpsons," has finally jumped the shark. Just when you thought it couldn't stuff any more cruft into a P2P file-sharing utility, it managed to do so.

Version 2.5.1 adds BullGuard P2P, an improved virus-protection tool that for the first time is enabled by default. Previous versions included Bulldog Lite, which was disabled by default. Tabbed search results, new in 2.5, also make searching easier.

Kazaa's core functionality remains unchanged. You can search for and download MP3s, software, video files, and documents from strangers' computers. And you can share your own files with the world. As always, files are badly organized and often poorly named. Downloaded MP3s are often glitchy. These are all usual P2P annoyances, but they aren't the biggest problems with the program.

Kazaa is absolutely loaded with ads. The installer shoehorns two adware programs on the PC. You'll see banner ads popping up and a toolbar in your Web browser, even when you're not using Kazaa. The app is a living, breathing ad machine, with at least two animated ads and up to six button-sized ads on the search window alone. To its credit, Kazaa's Web site and installer are upfront about the adware baggage.

The program includes a "participation level" feature that rewards you for sharing as many or more files than you download. Although anti-leech functionality is common (and necessary) in P2P apps, Kazaa's is overly restrictive, especially for new users. A low or moderate participation level means you'll get fewer hits in your search results and lower priority in download queues.

If the RIAA and MPAA's antipiracy saber rattling hasn't scared you away from P2P file-sharing networks and you can tolerate incessant ads, Kazaa is worth having as part of your P2P arsenal. Conversely, given the increasing availability of inexpensive and legal music download alternatives, such as iTunes and BuyMusic.com, you might want to ditch Kazaa for good.

Reprinted with permission from Computer Power User magazine.


Articles by Kevin Savetz