Students continue to bypass University Napster firewall

by Melinda Rogers

Allen Sopko and his roommates received a pleasant surprise three weeks ago while playing with their computers.
After several months of being unable to access Napster due to a University block on the site, Sopko discovered that he was again able to download MP3s from the site using his University connection.
“I thought that (Napster) was blocked,” said Sopko, an architecture senior. “I guess I was a little surprised.”
Sopko is one of thousands of University students who have been using different file transfer programs to download music files since the block went into affect. Now, students are finding ways to access Napster.
Ken Hanna, information technology manager of the Office of Information Technology, is aware that students are currently able to access free music programs, including Napster.
“There are tricks to get around the default installation,” Hanna said.
Hanna explained that it was necessary to install a default against Napster last spring due to the large number of students using the program. The University claimed Napster was eating up 30 percent of its server’s bandwidth.
Hanna said he also knows that installing a default didn’t stop students from accessing other MP3 download sites.
“Anytime you prohibit students from doing something there are going to be some students who try to get around it,” he said.
Sopko is an example of one of those students. He and his roommates experimented with other programs that were not blocked by the University to download MP3s.
He also used a free Internet connection, instead of his University connection, which enabled him to continue to use Napster.
“We used other programs, but I prefer to use Napster,” Sopko said.
While students continue to access programs to download free music, Hanna doesn’t anticipate the bandwidth congestion problem that occurred last spring.
When students use a variety of programs to download music, the server does not become as clogged as when one program, like Napster, is being used continuously.
“With all the other applications being used, I don’t know that the Napster problem will be as big as it was last spring,” Hanna said.
“Last spring Napster used up a large portion of the network resource,” he said.
“The network is a resource for research and business at the University and we need to use that resource wisely,” said Jill Froehlich, an information technology professor.
At the beginning of the year, Froehlich sent an e-mail to students living in residence halls outlining acceptable use policies for students’ ResNet.
The e-mail stated, “The University of Minnesota, like many other institutions, has prohibited the use of Napster application. High-bandwidth use programs like Napster, Gnutella, Scour eXchange, iMesh … are a violation of the University’s acceptable use policy as an ‘excessive use of resources.'”
Froehlich emphasized the block against Napster had to do with available server space and not with content or the copyright issues for which Napster is currently on trial.
“It is a use of resources issue,” added Hanna.
“The policy is that Napster should not be used as an excessive resource. A certain amount of traffic may be allowed through (Napster), but if usage is a problem again, we won’t allow the whole network to melt down over one application,” Hanna said.
Using a variety of programs to avoid overusing the server is probably not a problem for most students. But some students, like Sopko, are glad to have Napster back just the same.
“I’ve used it quite a bit again,” Sopko said. “It’s nice to have Napster back.”

Melinda Rogers covers science and technology and welcomes comments at [email protected]