Free and Legal Downloads Make a Ruckus

So you dig music, right? Yeah, so do I. Don’t like paying for it? Me too! But I’ll be honest with you, it’s a risky time and age to keep downloading illegally, particularly on a university campus. Chances are getting better that you will be caught and, don’t misunderstand, the RIAA is out for student blood and the old, obscenely rich white people in charge of suing students just adore taking baths a la Scrooge McDuck in your and your classmates last dimes.

So what is there to do? Napster, but anyone that knew the original Napster knows that the new Napster is the dead and zombified version of something that was once great. iTunes is pretty good, but you know. Money.

Well, there is a new option and there’s a lot to like about it. There are also a lot of suspect things about it. It’s called Ruckus, it’s free music downloads and it’s here on campus.

Ruckus was made to fill the space between illegal downloads and legal, but pricey alternatives such as the “new” Napster, iTunes, Rhapsody and so on. There are literally millions of songs on Ruckus and you can download as many as you like for absolutely no cost.

I, personally, signed up for Ruckus and the registration system is smooth as silk. The media player you download with the service is rudimentary and a bit underwhelming as far as features go, but it works well enough for what it is. You will need the player to use listen to your Ruckus downloads, Windows Media Player and other methods of listening to music are not supported.

The good news is, the music downloads with ridiculous speed and the quality is as high as you’d expect from an mp3. From on campus I managed to download Incubus’ entire new album, Light Grenades in about five minutes, if not faster. Anyone with experience downloading will appreciate the speed of this service, and the downloading features. From the Ruckus website ( you can select individual songs or entire albums for download, at which point the Ruckus player will download them for you and add them to your personal library.

Another interesting feature of Ruckus is the ability to view your fellow students music libraries. It is extremely similar to the method of sharing the older applications such as Kazaa, Morpheus or Napster used, wherein one user downloads a song, then another downloads from him and so on. I have to say that it is pretty interesting to see your friends embarrassing musical indulgences.

There are, however downsides to Ruckus. First, if you’re the type that likes to rage against the machine, passively or actively, you will not like Ruckus. Make no mistake, this is a corporate endeavor and, as such, there is no soul to be found anywhere in the radius of their website. The design is slick and classy, but practically oozes focus group testing and looks like the interior design of a Hot Topic. Second, Ruckus is free because of the ads it has drenched the website in, so expect to hear all about the brand new Axe body spray scent from the first moment you set e-foot in their territory. Both of these complaints, however, are negligible in comparison to the technical drawbacks of Ruckus.

Ruckus will not work on Apple computers or your iPod. This is supposedly due to Apple’s stranglehold on its own technology and insistence that users use iTunes, which is understandable. But, on the topic of mp3 players and the like, you will not be able to play your Ruckus tunes on an mp3 unless you pay $20.00 per semester for the RuckusToGo service, which allows you to burn your own cd’s and transfer music to your PlaysForSure Subscription compatible mp3 player.

Still, if you’re okay with these drawbacks, or if you just want to download a few albums to listen to while writing a paper, then there are worse choices out there than Ruckus and, all things considered, it is a better option than being sued by the RIAA for illegal downloading. It’s not perfect and it never will be, but in the world of downloading, it is the lesser of many evils.