A good spyware-free kazaa alternative
By Red Squirrel
Shareaza's interface is much more appealing to the eyes then most interfaces. Some have too much "nice graphics" that make it bloaty. While Shareaza is not a plain windows GUI, it does not go overboard in graphics either, and you can also use various skins to suit your taste. The start page is not some crazy page with tons of ads that use more bandwidth then your downloads, it's a plain page and you can search directly on it or use the side menu.
"My Downloads" displays the latest downloads that you have started, "My library" shows the latest files added to your share list, the "Connection" section gives a quick description of the connection status and what not and finally "uploads" shows how many active uploads and allows you go to to the upload section by clicking on it.
The Shareaza search allows you to search files on all networks simultaneously and the search is rather quick. Make sure you are connected to the networks by going to Networks/Choose networks. This is one thing though, I find it should be connected by default, or remember last time you connected, but it's not the case, you need to click on Edonkey 2000 and Gnutella1 each time you start, but Gnutella2 is always connected to by default. A typical search with all 3 networks turned on takes about 5 seconds to start seeing results, even less at times, and depending on the keywords you'll get results coming in like crazy. Unlike KaZaA it's not limited to like 50 downloads or something.
The Shareaza download list is very detailed and gives you more information on progress then most p2p clients. First off, it actually shows you what's going on in terms of various file parts. It's fun to watch the different patterns that occur and what part is downloaded first. If you hover on a download, you will get a popup with a graph with more info. The download speeds with Shareaza can be pretty good at times, in this particular screen shot I was getting bad download speeds, but often enough I'll get in the 20KB/sec range and I've seen it shoot even higher once in a while. The main issue with any p2p network is that there is tons of network overhead to keep track of everything going on so that's why it's harder to get high download speeds, also your speeds depend on the other person's upload speed and allot of ISPs cap that at ridiculous limits.
The upload section is separated in various queue groups. In the options you can setup groups and priorities them. Like uploads, you can get a popup description of progress. One other thing, which applies both to uploads and downloads, there is a speed throttle on top which you can use to limit speed. This is good especially if you are surfing the internet while it is on, since when you get good speeds it may eat up your browsing speed.
Shareaza also features a great media player which can play unfinished downloads, even ones that have different chunks. The media player will automatically fill in those empty spaces and decode it on the fly to play what has been downloaded. Sometimes it will be all weird and stuff, but that's because of the way video files work, but at least it gives you an idea of whether or not you are downloading what you want.
On the next page we'll take a look at some of the settings.
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