Monday, 2 May 2011

Easily run Napster in Ubuntu

I was drawn into the streaming music services by the Spotify Free system. This required you to be invited by someone who paid for Spotify. You then got unlimited free access to the Spotify streaming catalogue with adverts (which never bothered me). The Spotify desktop software ran pretty well in wine as long as you updated a DLL file everytime WINE updated and all was right with the world.

Then Spotify committed the heinous crime of trying to force free subscribers to pay for the service by reducing all the free accounts (both Spotify Free and Open) to 10 hours of listening a month and a maximum number of plays of an individual track to 5, total, for the life of the account.

So, the solution? Move to another streaming service! The hero of this story comes from an unlikely past (an anti-hero as it were). Napster used to be the biggest name in music piracy, if you wanted to contaminate your computer with trojans, worms and general malware whilst downloading music illegally you went to Napster (the stupidity of copyright law when it pertains to an infinitely copyable medium is a different rant!). In recent years (after being sued and legislated into the ground) Napster has returned as a legitimate streaming and download service.

Napster drew me in because for £5 a month ($10) you get unlimited streaming and 5 free MP3s a month. This second bit allows me to wean myself off of streaming services. The only issue with the service is that there is only a Windows client (not even a Mac one!). Thankfully they do offer a web interface. After a couple of days of testing I've found 1 and a 1/2 ways to run Napster in  Ubuntu.

Starting with the 1/2 we have WINE. This compatibility layer enables Windows programs to run in Linux. Napster requires WMP10 to run correctly so the first step is to install WineTricks and install WMP10. Then the installation of Napster can take place the same way you'd install any other program.

Napster installs and runs fine, as far as I can tell. This solution is 1/2 a solution because it stalls at the login screen meaning you can't actually play any music. It does this because Napster requires cookies to be enabled in Internet Explorer (something I am yet to figure out).

The fully working solution involves the use of the web interface. The interface runs with numerous bugs in Chrome on Ubuntu but runs perfectly well under Firefox. This is a problem for people who don't run Firefox. However the Mozilla team has provided a solution. Prism is a application created by the Mozilla team which turns any web app into a standalone application (sort of!). For our purposes it allows us to run the Napster web app as if it were the native client.

So until cookies can be enabled in WINE, and there is no guarantee that there won't be yet another problem to be solved after that one, using the web app though Prism is the simplest and most reliable method for running Napster in Ubuntu. If necessary I'll update this post with specific installation instructions if there is a call for it, although I'm busy with exams for most of the month.

[edit] Just tested the music download feature within Prism and it works perfectly using song credits, I haven't tested buying them using a credit/debit card.