Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


eMule
by Jocelyn Doire

Quite often when you listen to the radio you tell yourself "Oh, I would like to get that song", and it's quite easy to go to any of the multitude of stores and get it for maybe $15.

But there is nothing more convenient to get a song or other digital material than to start a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) program, type the title and/or the artist, wait a bit to get it downloaded and then be able to enjoy it as often as you want for free. No wonder that this type of activity is now one of the most popular uses of the internet.

It goes without saying that this free download has not pleased the audio and video industry, and they have been fighting very hard to stop it, resulting in hundreds of downloaders having to pay thousands of dollars in the US. In Canada, the industry has lost a few legal cases in the last few years, and as result Canadians are less likely to get sued over exchanged copyrighted material, but there is no guarantees, the legal status is evolving every day.

There is also the issue of paying people that have worked hard to create all that material, and to mitigate that, they are now collecting fees on every CD sold in Canada, among other things. Unfortunately there is no simple solution. For example, the same fee that can help big groups can hurt small ones, as my musician friend told me, because they are too small to claim that money, but have to pay more for CDs when they record their music.

Ok, enough preliminary discussion, lets talk about a P2P program that I find very well done called eMule which is available at
http://www.emule-project.net. There are a lot of P2P programs, such as Kazaa, Shareasa, Morpheus, Grokster, but some of the advantages of eMule are that it's an open source program under the GPL license, and does not have any spyware or other malware.

eMule starts by showing a list of servers that you can connect to. Contrary to older sharing software, eMule does not have one central server that can easily be shut down, instead it uses a multitude of servers distributed all over the world, none of which being the master, this makes the network extremely robust and almost immune to any attack, because even if many servers are terminated, the others will simply carry the load. In fact, as soon as you connect, you also become a server, and anybody in the world can get files from your shared directory.

Once connected (click on the "connect" button at the top), probably the first thing you will want to do is a search for a song or an artist. Simply type the name as best as you can (you can boolean operators), and the program will list all the files that contain the searched words. You can limit the search to only audio or video for example, or to a specific P2P network, or again to a maximum size. Once you have found what you were looking for, simply double click on the file's name to start the download.

The next step is to relax and watch the file(s) transfer. The top window will show what's being downloaded (see below for more info on the progress bar), and the bottom one lists what's being uploaded. If you right click on any downloaded file, you get the option to pause, stop, cancel, get more details, and more. A right click on any uploaded file will give the option to get more details on the uploader and the transfer, or to even send a message to that person.

The time it takes to download a file will depend on many factors, including the number of servers you connect to, the connection speed, the size of the file, and also a credit system that rewards those that contribute the most to the network. Most of the time the download speed will be much less than the maximum speed of your connection.

One of the strong features of eMule is the amount of statistics you can get for about any aspect possible, starting with the progress bar that is the most complex and informative I've ever seen. For example, it will show what's missing, what you got, how available is the data, what's downloading and more, all of this in a single progress bar.

A lot of the features of eMule can be changed from the look of the user interface to the details of the connections and the securities. The help is also quite extensive and fairly easy to understand.

eMule is a beautiful program, starting with the very cool logo of a mule, with the choice of the colors, the extensive amount of info available and the ease of use. I really think that this program is a great model to anyone who writes user interfaces. Not only is the program nice, but it also works very well, it's fast and as far as I can tell, has no bugs.

For more information on peer-to-peer network and how they came to exist, there is an interesting article on the How Stuff Works' web site at
http://computer.howstuffworks.com/napster.htm

eMule is available for free at
http://www.emule-project.net.


Bottom Line:

eMule
Freeware
Web site: http://www.emule-project.net


Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.