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November 27, 2006

Zunerama member wins our first free Speck case

23 more to follow in twice-daily drawings

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Congratulations to Zunerama member jonespopkid - this morning's winner of a Zune case from Speck!

Starting today, we're drawing twice a day to give two dozen Zunerama members a free Speck case to wrap their new Zune in.

Check out the Speck cases - the ToughSkin above, and the Active Sport, Canvas Sport, and Executive are below. Sweet.

Are you our next winner? Enter now to win!

Comments | Permalink


November 27, 2006

Our wishlist for Zune

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With Thanksgiving behind us, we're now in that wishlist-making time of year. For Zune, the timing is appropriate.

Microsoft's Zune team, already busy supporting the U.S. roll-out of Zune, is planning its next set of Zune upgrades and enhancements. And they're interested in our ideas.

If you've been with us for a while, you may remember the Wishlist for Zune II forum thread that we started on September 1. We followed that up with our blog 20 Wishes for Zune II.

Now, though, we Zunerama members are several weeks older and wiser, and many of us have now experienced hands-on use of our own Zune players. So it's time to refresh our wishlist.

We're gathering ideas for features and enhancements for Microsoft's Zune team, in the areas of:

  • firmware updates for the current Zune 30GB player,
  • updates/enhancements to Zune software on your PC, and
  • hardware updates for the next models of Zune players
  • See our Zune wishlist, and add your own wishes, at this forum thread.

    Comments | Permalink


    November 26, 2006

    Zune hack: replace the 30GB drive with an 80GB

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    At the risk of going overboard on Zune hacks, we're going to post another one today. Be forewarned: this one's not for the faint of heart. And definitely is not sanctioned by Microsoft.

    But if you just absolutely, positively need more than the already-respectable 30GB of storage that comes with your Zune, you can get out some tools and hardware to upgrade it to 40, 60, or even 80GB.

    Thanks to iPodMods, for posting the detailed instructions.

    Maybe they should consider renaming their site to ZuneMods. We've posted the links in our Zune Hacks and Mods board. You'll know it by the sign on the door: Abandon warranty all ye who enter here.

    Zune on! And be careful out there!

    Comments | Permalink


    See Zune accessories on Amazon:
    Zune Travel Pack   |   Zune Car Pack   |   Zune Home A/V Pack   |   Zune Tough Skin

    November 25, 2006

    Zunerama giveaways: 44 more prizes to be given away

    Zunerama members: it's giveaway season, and we've been working hard with Zune accessory makers and third-party software providers to give you free stuff.

    Our first winner was Topher Sikorra, who entered to win a brand new 30GB Zune player. Topher's Zune arrived last week.

    Topher will be joined soon in the winner's circle by 44 more Zunerama members who will be selected over the next few weeks.

    So don't delay - get your name in to be eligible for all drawings. Up for grabs are Zune cases and accessories from Speck and Incipio, and DVD rip-and-convert software from M2 Solutions.

    In fact, Zunerama has more giveaways announced than any other Zune site. And we'll be announcing even more great prizes soon.

    It's free to enter all giveaways. Sign up now in our Giveaway boards!

    Comments | Permalink


    To celebrate the Zune launch, we're giving away two Speck cases per day. Are you in? Enter here - it's free!


    November 24, 2006

    Another Zune hack: sending any file wirelessly to another Zune

    You probably know that you can transfer a song or photo to another Zune, using the player's built-in Wireless feature.

    Now, you can send any file to another Zune... with a little trick to make the Zune think it's sending a photo.

    First, you need to put in place the USB drive hack from this morning's blog. With that registry hack, you can drag any files to your Zune just as if it were another disk drive.

    To send one or more files to another Zune, temporarily rename the files with .jpg extensions. Put them in a folder and sync to your Zune. Now you can send them to another Zune, wirelessly. When you send them, include a real photo as well, otherwise you'll encounter an error message.

    The receiving Zune can then sync those files with their PC, and rename the files back to their correct filename extension.

    It's not the most elegant technique, but I think it's a cute little Zune trick.

    Thanks to ZuneScene for the posting the hack tip on our forums.

    Comments | Permalink


    Find Zune accessories

    November 24, 2006

    Zune can be used as a USB drive

    Some people like to use their media player as an external USB drive - where files of any kind can be stored as a backup or to transfer to other PCs.

    Well, it turns out you can make your Zune do that, through a registry hack. Thanks to Zunerama member lpxxfaintxx, who posted the hack in our forums this morning.

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    With the hack in place, your Zune shows up as a 30GB hard drive on your PC. You can drag and drop files to it just like any other hard drive.

    So... it took just ten days from Zune's release for this hack to emerge. Nice work, lpxxfaintxx.

    If USB drive storage is important to you... it's one more reason to go Zune.

    Comments | Permalink


    November 22, 2006

    Product review: M2Convert for Zune

    This past weekend I tested M2Convert for Zune. The software package converts DVDs and multimedia files into Zune-compatible Windows Media Video (.wmv) files.

    I tested out the software on a series of family videos that I'd burned onto DVDs. I had created these DVDs with Pinnacle Studio, and they featured menus, chapters, and all the usual DVD features.

    M2Convert for Zune is intuitive and takes much of the guesswork out of preparing your DVDs for Zune. Setting up the conversion was straightforward - after inserting a DVD, the few screen options were self-explanatory. You can convert the entire DVD or only specific titles or chapters within it. You can also capture just the audio, if you wish.

    Video quality can be set to be High, Medium, or Low. An auto-size option selects the best resolution for the file to be converted for Zune play, which will typically be 320x240. You can override the auto-size by specifying a 320x240 or 320x180 output.

    In one test, I converted a 2:07 family video, containing twenty chapters. (Yes, that is two hours and seven minutes. Be forewarned about any invitations from me to come on over to watch family videos.)

    Conversion took about three hours, with a small preview window showing the video scenes as the conversion progressed. An 800MB .wmv file was produced, which automatically synced the next time we connected our Zune to the PC.

    The video looks great on the Zune's screen. Audio was perfectly synchronized with the video throughout the converted .wmv file.

    In addition to DVDs, the product will also convert multimedia files on your hard drive for play on your Zune. It supports popular video and audio formats including AVI, ASF, WMV, MOV, MPG, MPEG, AVC, OGG, MP4, DivX, MP1, MP2, IFO, DIC, MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC.

    There are free alternatives available, but for simplicity and ease of use I give M2Convert high marks. It's hard to imagine a more efficient piece of software to rip-and-convert your DVDs, and multimedia files, for playing on your Zune.

    The $29.99 package is available from M2 Solutions Inc.. A 14-day free trial gives you full functionality, but imprints a watermark on your converted videos.

    Giveaway Announcement. During the course of our review, we contacted M2Convert with some questions about the product. And, always looking out for our members, we asked if we might get some copies of the software that we could give away to you. The good folks at M2 Solutions have agreed to give a fully-licensed copy of the software to each of ten lucky Zunerama members.

    You can throw your name in the ring here, and we'll draw randomly for the ten winners. Good luck!

    Comments | Permalink


    November 21, 2006

    Show Us Your Zune! And win Incipio cases!

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    Are you feeling like a proud new papa (or mama) with your new Zune media player?

    Well, get out your camera, because today we're kicking off a contest for all new Zune owners out there: Show Us Your Zune!

    We've launched a forum thread for you to post a photo of your new Zune. And as an incentive, let us tempt you with your choice of Incipio's lineup of Zune cases, in which you can snugly wrap your bundle of joy.

    We'll select a winning entry from your submitted photos, each week for ten weeks. Get your submission in early to be eligible for all ten giveaways.

    You'll get extra marks for creative or unusual shots. Snap your Zune in an unusual setting. Frame it, perhaps, with a landmark of some kind in the background. Or put your own mug in the shot. It's up to you.

    Incipio makes 13 different cases, including its Nylon Sport Case, Micro-Suede Slip Case, and Leather Kick-Stand Case. You can choose the style and color that's just right for you. I've laid out a partial sampling below. You can also see the whole Incipio lineup here. Good luck!!

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    Comments | Permalink


    November 21, 2006

    Zune: keep it away from your kids

    One of the reasons I enjoy this blog is that it lets me combine three interests: technology, writing, and photography.

    This past Sunday, I careened through my house with my digicam and Zune, looking for good settings to show off the lines of my new media player. (Yesterday's blog contains a sample shot.)

    My kids got involved and came up with some creative settings, shown here.

    Parents: a word of advice. Don't loan your Zune to your kids. I did, and my nine-year-olds are now as addicted to the device as I am.

    In addition to all of our home videos, and 4,000+ family pictures, we've got it loaded with their favorite music, including tracks from each of Dan Zanes' great children's albums. Thanks to our Zune Pass, we're downloading music that I would previously have hemmed and hawed about paying $0.99 a pop for. With the all-you-can-eat subscription, though, it's not an issue to download songs that might be old news in a week.

    Each of my girls has their own playlists. That way, when I'm in the middle of a workout, and shuffling my playlist, I'm not subjected to unexpected encounters with Raffi and Randy Newman. (Okay, Randy's not so bad.)

    Fred cranks it up!


    Yellow works the D-pad

    I'll post more of the pics in future blogs. I promise, they don't all involve stuffed animals.

    P.S. Zuners! Watch this space, for an announcement about a new Zunerama contest we're kicking off. You could win some great Zune accessories. Details coming up!

    Comments | Permalink


    November 20, 2006

    Zune video sharing

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    The currently-released Zune player can share pictures and music wirelessly, but not video. Now, Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft is indeed planning to add a video sharing feature to the Zune player.

    This directly from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who also said to expect a Zune phone. He declined to give timeframes for either product.

    Video sharing is no doubt the much closer of the two, and in fact could probably be provided through firmware upgrades.

    In other words, the Zune player that you bought this week could be expanded through a software update - occurring automatically when you sync your player with your PC - to provide the video sharing capability.

    Comments | Permalink


    November 19, 2006

    Microsoft's strategy: make Zune a strong No. 2 player

    Speaking at Stanford U yesterday, Bill Gates told public television's Charlie Rose that Microsoft's goal with Zune is "more modest" than replacing the iPod.

    "It's a growing market... we can get some of the new users and some of the switchers," he said. He spoke about the need to excite people about the concept of sharing music through Zune's built-in Wi-Fi.

    He also praised iPod as a "phenomenal, unbelievable, fantastic" product.

    Microsoft appears to believe the media player industry is still in an early growth stage, and that Zune can make a significant impact on that marketplace even without iPod-owners having to switch.

    Gates is surely right that it's unrealistic for any company, even Microsoft, to overtake Apple's dominance in the near future. But we wonder how much of the modesty is an attempt to lower expectations for Zune... so that the company can respond with delight when sales numbers are released.

    Comments | Permalink


    November 18, 2006

    Troubleshooting your Zune

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    Most of us have installed our Zune software and are using it without a hitch - but, we've seen reports in our forums of various people having installation problems or in need of troubleshooting in one form or another.

    And, it seems that Microsoft's Zune help desk is not winning rave reviews. We hope this is a break-in period, and that the telephone support improves quickly for Zuners that need it.

    In any event, if you're in need of troubleshooting help with your new Zune, we're here to help. We have many helpful members in our forum who are quickly gaining experience in installing, tweaking, and using their Zune players - and in answering questions for new Zuners, and helping others with troubleshooting.

    That's part of the value of having a Zune community at your fingertips.

    In fact, here are 7 ways you can get help with questions you may have about your Zune!

    1. Use the Help files in the Zune software on your PC (press F1, or Options->Help->Zune Help)

    You'll see an online user manual, with TOC and searchable index.

    2. Troubleshoot online (Options->Help->Troubleshooting online)

    This is a web-based troubleshooting service, for Zune, Zune Marketplace, and Zune Accessories.

    3. You can download Zune manuals from zune.net, if you need to. Pretty much everything there is available online though.

    4. Browse this forum for others who may have encountered similar problems, and how they were resolved.

    5. Post a description of your problem in our Technical Support forum. Chances are, our members can help see you through it.

    6. Call the Zune help desk at 1-877-GET-ZUNE (438-9863).

    It's open 7 days/week, from 6am to 10pm PST

    7. Our Zune FAQ may also be of help. It's not troubleshooting-oriented, but we will be expanding it to include answers to common troubleshooting questions.

    Comments | Permalink


    November 17, 2006

    Hack your way around the Zune A/V kit

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    One of the cool things about Zune is its ability to connect to your TV, where you can display slideshows, listen to music, or even scan through stations on the Zune's FM radio.

    But maybe the $99 price tag for the Zune A/V kit is giving you pause. That kit comes with a connector cable, dock, and wireless remote. But if all you want to do is connect your Zune to your television, there's a cheaper way.

    Erica explains how in this O'Reilly Digital Media story.

    All you'll need is a standard AV cable - a splitter with a four-conductor mini-phone plug at one end and three RCA plugs at the other (pictured). These are common, and you may already have one as they come with many camcorders and other consumer electronics.

    Assuming your TV has the standard yellow/red/white RCA jacks, you can connect your Zune. See Erica's story for details on the proper connections.

    In no time, you'll be sending you Zune video, pics, and FM to your TV. And unlike the iPod, the Zune sends your menus as well as videos. Very handy!

    Thanks for the tip, Erica! You can find some more Zune tips at O'Reilly.

    P.S. Need troubleshooting help with your new Zune? Got questions about the Zune software, or Marketplace? Visit our forums, where our members are quick with tips and advice based on our experience with Zune over the past few days.

    Comments | Permalink


    November 16, 2006

    Zunerama How-To: Play your DVD home videos on your Zune

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    Here's how to play your home DVDs on your Zune player.

    If you have precious family memories on DVD, here's a way to get those files onto your Zune so you can enjoy them anywhere!

    Zune likes to have your videos in .wmv format, and Zune software will automatically convert .mp4 and h.264 video files into .wmv for you. However, your home videos are in .vob format. Here are the four steps to transfer those files from your DVDs onto your player.

  • 1. Get software to rip and convert your DVDs
  • You'll need software to transfer or "rip" the files from your DVD to your PC. There are commercial and free DVD ripping software packages; DVD DeCrypter is a free one that we'll use as an example.

    And, you'll need software to convert the ripped file (which will be in .VOB format) to a format that Zune recognizes. We'll use Super as our example program.

  • 2. Install both programs, and open the ripping software.
  • 3. Rip the video from the DVD. (See link below if you need detailed instructions.)
  • 4. Convert the video from .VOB to .mp4 format
  • This is done using converter software such as Super. It's basically drag-and-drop, although there are settings to consider. Again, see the link below for details.

    That's it. Your files will sync to your Zune player the next time you connect it to your PC.

    You can see full instructions, and screen grabs, in this forum thread. Thanks to olion597, one of the resident experts in our forums, for preparing the instructions.

    Comments | Permalink


    November 16, 2006

    Zune giveaway on Zunerama

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    It's a good week for Topher Sikorra, who won a free Zune 30GB player from Zunerama in this week's Zune giveaway drawing.

    Topher entered our contest by submitting his name in our Giveaway board.

    We even gave him his choice of colors, so Topher now has a brown Zune coming his way. Great choice - I've seen those and they look great. That distinctive green doubleshot is sure to draw comments - no one seems to be neutral about it!

    So congrats, Topher, your Zune is on its way. (The bad news: Amazon is apparently experiencing a lot of demand for Zune players, and is estimating a November 25-28 delivery date. Oh well, it'll make a nice Thanksgiving present.)

    We have other giveaways going on now in our Giveaway boards, including a twice-daily drawing for awesome Speck cases. If you haven't already entered, make the best use of your next 30 seconds and get your name in now!

    Comments | Permalink


    November 15, 2006

    Zune: Days of Discovery

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    Zune officially launched yesterday, and across the country people are buying Zunes, and getting their feet wet with the player and the Zune software. Our forums have been active with reports from dozens of people on their experience: from software installation, to syncing playlists, to the operation of the player itself.

    While some people have reported installation problems, most people with Windows XP, SP2 seem to have had a smooth day of it. We did, and after installing the software, and charging my white Zune, I synced all of my music, video, and five years of digital photos onto the device. That syncing also took care of the one-time task of configuring all of the content on my hard drive for access in the Zune library on my PC. This takes place as a background task; in my case it took one hour and twenty minutes to complete.

    I figured a good test of the device would be to hand it over to my nine-year-old daughters. Without direction from me, they were able to navigate intuitively through the Zune's features - playing videos, watching photo slideshows, listening to playlists - without a misstep, or need for asking any directions from Papa.

    Of course, like any self-respecting 9-year-olds, my girls are pretty savvy with technical gadgets. They're probably as adept at using a BlackBerry as I am, for instance, even though they only occassionally get to play with mine. Nevertheless, I think Zune easily passes the ease-of-use test. No user manual needed, folks.

    I was eager to see the Zune's video performance. Some have claimed that the Zune's large (3") screen size is not better than iPod's smaller screen, because the resolution is the same (320x240 pixels). After seeing the video personally, I can vouch that there's no cause for concern there. Video images are crisp, movement is smooth, and pixelation is not an issue. I have to think that the video hold-outs are either wishful-thinkers - hoping Zune won't compare to iPod - or are using poor quality video clips that may be pixelated even on the iPod's smaller screen.

    The girls really liked seeing our home videos playing on the Zune's bright screen.

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    Comments | Permalink


    November 14, 2006

    Microsoft's Zune team parties into the night

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    On the eve of Zune launch day, the Zune team partied hard at Seattle's War Room, celebrating the culmination of the project to launch Zune.

    The capacity crowd of Microsoftees and invited guests rocked out to indie band Blonde Redhead.

    There were a few stories of the past months of work leading up to today, but most of the Microsoft people we spoke with were focused on the future... where Zune will go and how it will evolve and innovate. And, of course, a lot of excitement was evident about the Zune experience being opened up to the U.S. this week.

    One definitely got the feeling that, as Bill Gates had said earlier in the day, "this is just the beginning."

    Some party pics:

    War Room. As the crowd lined up outside, we were entertained by a small group of DRM protesters, advocating that neither Zune nor iPod should apply controls to music sharing.

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    Amedeo Pace of Blonde Redhead.

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    Kazu Makino.

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    Amedeo and Kazu chord-crashing with Simone Pace on drums.

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    My favorite memory of the day: in Westlake Mall, as Carrie and I were watching Secret Machines perform, a guy came up to Carrie and said "For $150, would you give a poor U-Dub student your Zune?". Carrie didn't skip a beat: "No, but you can go to Zunerama.com and enter to win a free one."

    I love that woman.

    See you tomorrow, where we'll celebrate the birth of Zune - and hold the drawing to give away that free one to a lucky Zunerama member.

    Comments | Permalink


    November 13, 2006

    Bill Gates launches Zune in Seattle

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    A Zune is born this day. This morning, Bill Gates bounced on stage, in Zune jacket and all, and introduced Zune to a crowd of enthusiastic Seattleites. Bill was preceded on stage by Secret Machines, who played a short set.

    We had breakfast with the Zune team, along with some lucky contest winners, and with Ben, Brandon, and Josh from Secret Machines.

    Pics from the day so far:

    "They're ready for you now, Mr. Gates."

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    Likin' that Zune jacket.

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    Breakfast with Ben from Secret Machines. That's Microsoftee Richard Winn, who runs MadisonandPine.com, on the left.

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    Josh from Secret Machines talks it up with Zune contest winners.

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    Zune ambassador Cesar Menendez, of ZuneInsider.

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    Richard Winn of MadisonandPine shows his Zune player to Brandon.

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    That's my wife Carrie, with her new Zune.

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    Carrie with Alka, who won her Zune by completing CrunchGear's contest - involving taking photographs all around Seattle.

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    Harvey (on the left) debates the fine points of Zune with Matt from CrunchGear.

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    Matt showed me the pattern of locations - the secret key to winning the CrunchGear Zune contest. Wait now, isn't that a pentagram?!

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    The crowd gathers to watch Secret Machines. Bill Gates' appearance was a surprise bonus!

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    Secret Machines drummer Josh Garza gets the crowd rockin'.

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    Brandon, on keyboard and guitar for Secret Machines.

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    Ben from Secret Machines.

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    Robin won her Zune through the MySpace contest.

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    Carrie celebrating with our two new Zune players. What a day!

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    Comments | Permalink


    November 13, 2006

    Zune launch party in Seattle

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    Today we're in Seattle, at one of six Zune launch parties being held across the country.

    We'll be with members of the Zune team, and maybe get more hands-on time with the Zune players. I'm growing partial to the black one with the blue double-shot finish (pictured).

    Entertainment will be provided by Secret Machines, at West Lake Plaza in Seattle. Similar launch parties are being held today in five other cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and Miami.

    You can find details on each of those parties at Zune.net.

    Stay tuned for reports and pics.

    P.S. Today's the last day to enter our free Zune giveaway! Good luck!

    Comments | Permalink


    November 12, 2006

    Two days left to join our Zune giveaway contest

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    Have you entered our free Zune giveaway yet?

    This Tuesday, November 14th - the day that Microsoft releases Zune to the masses - Zunerama will draw the name of the winner in our free Zune giveaway.

    So throw your name in now, and check this space on Tuesday for the winner's name.

    You even get to choose the color. Decisions, decisions...

    Comments | Permalink


    November 12, 2006

    Zune press kit

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    We got our hands on an official Zune press kit, thanks to the nice girl at the Zune preview event in L.A.'s toney element nightclub. As we left the preview, one of the comely ladies at the door mistook us for a legitimate member of the press. It must have been the dim lighting.

    The packet contains a 16-page booklet with art and sound bites about Zune, and a DVD with very high-resolution images of Zune.

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    You can get get links to the Zune images in Microsoft's press pass area. You can get there, and to other Zune documentation, through our Zune Documentation Library.

    Comments | Permalink


    November 11, 2006

    Zune questions - answered!

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    For the past several weeks, inquiring minds in our user forum have compiled unanswered questions about Zune. We brought these questions to the Los Angeles Zune preview event, and were able to get answers for most of them.

    We've listed what we learned below. Several of the items have not had definitive answers published before, so we think you can consider much of the following a Zunerama exclusive:

    Q. Will Zune Marketplace be available any earlier than the November 14th?

    A. No. Here's a scoop, though: on the 14th, or very soon thereafter, two new menu options will appear on Microsoft's zune.net site. We believe that one will link to Zune community functions. Hmmm... an official user forum? We believe that the other one will be the link to download Zune software for your PC.

    Q. How quickly does the player start up?

    A. Zunerama tested this in the hands-on preview. It's almost instantaneous. I tried to time it, and it was very close to a one-second start up time, from being completely off to fully started.

    Q. How are the premium headphones different from the headphones that come in the box?

    A. This has since been answered on zune.net, and as we saw from the preview this week, the premium headphones are better quality earbuds, come with 3 sizes of inner sleeves that help to block outside sounds, and include a carrying pack. The headphones that come "in the box" are pretty standard earbuds. In both the standard and premium headphones, the earbuds attach to each other magnetically, so that tangling is minimized when they're being stuffed in a pocket or backpack. A nice touch, to solve a common hassle with other earbuds and cords.

    Q. Will Zune software find album art for songs that already exist on my hard drive?

    A. Yes. Zune will find album art, as well as track information, and sync it with your Zune player, for songs in your PC's music library - even if you didn't acquire the album art or track metadata when you ripped or downloaded the song.

    Q. Does the Zune have a clock (time-of-day) display?

    A. What, you lose your watch or something? The answer is No. It's not needed for the player's functionality, and Microsoft wanted to keep the user interface (UI) as clean as possible.

    Q. Is there a limit to how many other Zunes you can wirelessly send a given song to?

    A. No. You can wirelessly send a song (or album) to unlimited numbers of others Zunes. Note, however, that you can't send the same song to the same Zune more than once.

    Q. Does the Zune software come on a CD or is it provided through download?

    A. Both. Your Zune will include the software on a CD "in the box", or it can be downloaded from zune.net.

    Q. Can you use Zune software even if you don't have a Zune player?

    A. Yes. You can freely download the Zune software from zune.net, starting November 14th, and use it to organize, manage, and play the music, videos, and pictures on your PC. You can also stream music, videos, or picture slideshows from your PC to your Xbox, through your home network.

    Q. Is the "shuffle" feature truly random, or will it play the same pattern of songs each time you use it on a given playlist?

    A. We were told that the shuffle feature is indeed random. In our hands-on tests, this did appear to be the case.

    Q. Do Zune Tags have to be unique?

    A. Yes. Like Xbox Gamer Tags. (Corrected from earlier post.) We heard at the preview that Zune Tags did not have to be unique, but Microsoft has since corrected us. It's the device name that can be anything you want. The Zune Tag is something that represents your ID in the zune world, much like the Gamer Tag uniquely identifies every user on Xbox Live. Gamer Tags and Zune Tags live in the same "namespace". If you have an existing Gamer Tag you can use it as your Zune Tag when you register. That's how you can use MS Points between Xbox Live Marketplace and Zune Marketplace. Thanks to Alan from the Zune design team for the clarification.

    Q. Can all songs and pictures on your Zune player be sent wirelessly?

    A. Not quite. All pictures on your player can be sent wirelessly. All songs can as well, unless the song came from a music partner that has not allowed wireless sharing of their content. We were not able to find out which music labels or groups of songs fell into which category.

    Q. What are the "Themes" options under the settings menu?

    A. Those are simply background themes. Three themes are provided: haze, night, and amber. Selecting a theme sets the background picture to an appropriate color theme.

    Q. What equalizer settings are provided?

    A. Eight equalizer settings are provided: acoustic, classical, electronic, hip hop, jazz, pop, rock, and none.

    Q. What slideshow transitions are provided?

    A. The transitions are straight cuts of one picture to another. Transitions can be set to 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, or 30 seconds. In addition, you can advance ahead or back in a slideshow using the right or left clicks on the control wheel.

    Q. Does the Zune have seek/scan features for FM radio? Presets?

    A. The Zune has a seek option in FM radio mode. Click right (or left) on the control wheel, and Zune seeks to the next (or previous) station. There is no scan option (i.e. a continuous seeking action). You can set presets to save desired stations.

    I think that covers what we learned. Early next week, I'll have my hands on my very own Zune, and I know some of you will, too. THREE DAYS!

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    November 10, 2006

    Why Zune steers clear of PlaysForSure

    zune graphic

    Microsoft has taken some heat for sidestepping its PlaysForSure model in its design of Zune.

    PlaysForSure is a certification that Microsoft gives to media players and services, designed to ensure compatibility and interoperability, through adherence to a common DRM (Digital Rights Management) system.

    While Microsoft is still supporting the program at some level, Zune is not compliant with PlaysForSure, and intentionally so. Zune players are designed to run music downloaded from Zune Marketplace, and unprotected music that you may already have - for example, from ripped CDs or from illegal download sites. Zune won't play, or at least is not guaranteed to play, music acquired from non-Marketplace download sites, including services certified as PlaysForSure.

    Why would Microsoft go in this direction with Zune? Jason Dunn of ZuneThoughts points out that Microsoft intentionally designed Zune such that the entire end-to-end experience is controlled by Microsoft. The Zune approach enables Microsoft to provide a cleaner and simpler end-user experience than has been the case with integration of multiple music stores and devices in the PlaysForSure model.

    See the ZuneThoughts article for more on why PlaysForSure has been a "dysfunctional ecosystem" for many users, and why Microsoft had to depart from that model to make Zune the best user experience possible.

    Permalink


    November 10, 2006

    Zune accessories: new pics

    At the Zune preview in Los Angeles yesterday, Microsoft had a lineup of accessories set up for hands-on play. Thanks to Drew and Deb from Microsoft's 3rd Party Accessories group, for giving us some quality time to examine the cases, chargers, boosters, and more from the suite of Zune accessories.

    Drew opens the Zune travel pack. It has a hard case and looks durable.



    Inside, it's got a little molded home for the included AC Adapter, Dual Connect Remote, premium earphones, and sync cable. There's a compartment in the upper half that fits your Zune player, and a little extra open storage space below.

    zune graphic

    zune graphic



    Leather cases from Vaja, available in black or brown, are made from Argentina leather. The quality looks very good.

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    Altec Lansing's M604 has a built-in dock, allowing you to recharge and sync your Zune whenever it's docked. It's 14" wide, and comes with a wireless remote.

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    Belkin's acrylic case protects the Zune. It's belt clip doubles as a kick-stand - nice for slideshow or video viewing.



    The Belkin TunePower model juices your playtime by 4 to 6 hours, and has a kick-out stand for hands-free video viewing.

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    Microsoft's FM transmitter wirelessly broadcasts the music on your Zune to your car's stereo.

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    Little-know fact: the Microsoft-branded accessories have the same double-shot finish that the Zune players have. A nice touch.

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    The premium phones differ from the standard earbuds included in the Zune player. They include in-ear sleeves that help block outside noise, and a small carrying case. The second pic shows the 3 different sleeve sizes.

    zune graphic

    zune graphic



    The Speck ToughSkin is tough indeed, but I was surprised how little it added to the overall size. Still pretty compact, even with its extreme cushioning.

    zune graphic



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