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January 15, 2007

Chat Zune-to-Zune (sort of)

zune graphic

Wireless sharing is sweet for exchanging music and pictures between Zunes. But wouldn't it be great to be able to actually communicate with another Zuner using your Zune's wireless capability?

Well, now you can. Zunerama member Zunadu has created a collection of 1,000 graphics files containing short phrases that can be beamed back and forth between Zunes.

The phrases are organized into folders, so you can fairly easily get to the message you're looking for. Zunadu calls his collection "ChikaZune".

Example ChikaZune conversation:

  • Zune 1: Good morning
  • Zune 2: Dude!
  • Zune 1: How've you been?
  • Zune 2: Bored
  • Zune 1: Any new rips?
  • Zune 2: Yeah
  • Zune 1: Send me!
  • Zune 2: Do you like it?
  • Zune 1: Excellent!
  • You get the idea. It won't support a debate about Shakespeare-vs-Sir-Frances-Bacon, but we're betting there are not a lot of those underway in the text message world anyway.

    For quick and discrete messages from one end of the lecture hall to another, this'll work for ya. See our ChikaZune thread in our forums for more, and to download the graphics.

    Comments | Permalink

    cucusoft graphic

    January 14, 2007

    Sharpen up your album art

    zune graphic

    Disappointed with how grainy the album artwork is when displayed on your Zune? You're not alone.

    Zune heavily compresses album art when it resizes it, and as a result the player often displays mediocre quality artwork. This simply does not take advantage of the player's bright 3-inch screen and its 320x240 display resolution.

    Today, Zunerama member Trastan explains how to greatly improve the quality of the album art displayed on your player, by reloading your library with artwork in Zune's 240x240 display size.

    Trastan used two downloadable tools - MediaMonkey and Album Art Tagger - to correct the 3000+ songs in his collection.

    See this thread in our How-To boards for how you can do that, too! Thanks, Trastan.

    Comments | Permalink

    SHOW US YOUR ZUNE! And win your choice of 13 great Zune cases from Incipio. Post your pic to win!

    January 13, 2007

    Zune's "3 plays in 3 days" music sharing limit could be eased

    zune graphic

    When Zune owners wirelessly share songs, the music can be played up to 3 times in 3 days. Today TechBlog reports that the 3-in-3 restriction may be reviewed in an upcoming meeting between music industry execs and Microsoft.

    "We went to them when we started up with the Zune and said, 'We can do this to you, or we can do this with you. We want to do it with you,'" says Bryan Lee, corporate vice present for Microsoft's entertainment business.

    A meeting is planned for early this year, to evaluate consumer reaction to the Zune, and possibly to change the 3 plays in 3 days restriction.

    Thanks to ZuneThoughts for the story tip.

    Comments | Permalink

    Find Zune accessories

    January 11, 2007

    Death of my CDs

    zune graphic

    Now that I have most of my CD collection ripped and loaded into my Zune library, I find that I'm rarely breaking open a CD case anymore.

    Initially I thought I'd just use my Zune on the go - while out walking, jogging, running errands, and on airplane flights. But now with my Zune car adapter, I've found I can clear out the old CDs (and, ahem, cassette tapes) littering the glovebox, passenger seat, and random cupholders. I now have the pleasant problem of wondering what I'll do with all that newly-available storage space.

    This shift hit home to me even more with Microsoft's announcement about its partnership with Ford - to integrate music systems into vehicles. Industry analysts are predicting that CD players will not even be available as an option in vehicles in a very few years.

    So the travelling days are over for my CDs. They stay at home... but even there, I don't pull them out as often anymore. With my Home A/V dock, my Zune player is the preferred means of delivering music through my stereo. I'm starting to view my CDs as simply backup media. I may even box them up one day and move them up to the attic.

    The only good use for CDs that I can see right now is as a means to acquire DRM-free (unprotected) music. To each his own, but I find the Zune Pass a simple and actually liberating experience for acquiring new music easily and without being nickled and dimed for it. Yes, I said liberating - a feeling I never thought I'd have with a subscription service.

    My CDs are beyond showing their age - they're on their last gasps of breath.

    Comments | Permalink

    We're giving away ten licensed copies of M2Convert for Zune - software to convert DVDs and multimedia files for your Zune. Are you in to win?

    January 10, 2007

    Zune Home A/V Pack

    zune dock

    We've just posted a full review, with many pics, of the Zune Home A/V Pack, in our reviews area.

    After using this for a couple weeks, we consider it a must-have Zune accessory.

    Check it out!

    Comments | Permalink

    Vaja is giving away 3 of its gorgeous leather cases to Zunerama members. Get your choice of Vaja's Balance, Classic, Classic Top, or Classic Top Retro cases. Enter to win!

    Vaja Zune case Vaja Zune case Vaja Zune case Vaja Zune case

    January 9, 2007

    Apple unveils iPhone

    macworld steve jobs

    At MacWorld in San Francisco today, Steve Jobs unveiled some innovative new products, including the long-rumored iPhone.

    The iPhone integrates video iPod capabilities (music, video, pictures) with cell phone capabilities. Most notably, though, it has a 3 1/2" screen, uses touchscreen controls, has full Internet browsing using Safari.

    macworld steve jobs

    Price is $499 for the 4GB model; $599 for 8GB model. It will be available in June 2007.

    Some great design ideas, and as usual Steve Jobs presents it all with amazing flair. Thanks to engadget for its excellent coverage of the keynote.

    Comments | Permalink

    January 9, 2007

    New Zune models to debut this year


    New models of Zune players will be released this year, Microsoft indicated this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

    Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, said that new models are planned for release "later this year", in a meeting with analysts at CES.

    It's not likely that those models will include a Zune phone, Bach said. "It's probably on the table of things for us to look at, but not the number one thing we are focused on."

    That's good - we want to see a flash-memory Zune first.

    Thanks to Yahoo News for the tip.

    Comments | Permalink

    January 9, 2007

    Zune Games confirmed

    peter moore

    The timeline is a little iffy, but according to Microsoft's Xbox Executive Peter Moore, video games will be available for Zune within 18 months.

    Moore announced this at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas this week. Moore cited the advantages of Zune's large screen as a platform for handheld gaming.

    We agree - games are a natural for Zune. And, while we hate to wait for 2008, this is another sign that Microsoft is continuing to pour resources into Zune, and expand its capabilities. All good stuff.

    Thanks to engadget and Zuneboards for the tip.

    Comments | Permalink

    January 8, 2007

    Big week ahead

    zune graphic

    Two big events this week: the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and MacWorld in San Francisco.

    At CES, the largest gadget show in the world, we hope we see new Zune accessories unveiled by the exhibitors. The show started Sunday afternoon.

    MacWorld Expo is also this week, with a Monday kick-off. There is some speculation that Apple might announce a full-screen video iPod (not likely), a bump in capacity to 100GB (would be nice, and might happen given Toshiba's new 1.8-inch 100MB drive). There's even talk about the possibility that Apple will announce the addition of WiFi or Bluetooth to iPod.

    And, who knows? Apple might even surprise everyone and introduce the long-rumored Apple iPhone.

    Comments | Permalink

    January 6, 2007

    Marketplace vs iTunes: the Rock'n'Roll research project

    zune graphic

    Today we're kicking off a project to compare Rock'n'Roll content on Zune Marketplace with iTunes Store.

    We're taking Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and researching which songs are available in Zune Marketplace, and which are available in iTunes Store.

    Ten Zunerama members have agreed to help with the research. I'll be compiling the results shortly, and we'll see how the online stores compare. Check back here in a few days - and see which site is the king of Rock'n'Roll downloads.

    Comments | Permalink

    January 5, 2007

    Where the Zunes are

    The map below tracks Zunerama members with their home location. You can add your own location through this thread. Our 1,400 members hail from twenty countries. The map has only been up for a few hours, but it'll be fun to see it light up as members mark their locations.

    You can click and drag to see Zunerama members around the world.

    Thanks to Zunerama member Jander for setting up the Frappr map!

    Comments | Permalink

    January 4, 2007

    Workaround found for skipping issue

    zune graphic

    Today, we break news on a workaround for a bothersome glitch in Zune players.

    Some users have found that skipping or stuttering occurs in the first few seconds of songs. The skipping settles down after a few seconds, but then recurs with the next song.

    Through some collaboration in our Tech Support board, we've found some common characteristics that can cause this. The symptom occurs with Zune players that have been synced to capacity or near-capacity, and where a significant portion of that content has been downloaded through a Zune Pass subscription.

    We've passed those clues on to Microsoft (via David from Zunester), along with this surprising workaround: If you set your backlight to Always On, the symptoms disappear.

    (Backlight settings are found under display in the settings menu.)

    We don't ask why, we just know it works. If you're experiencing this symptom with your Zune, keep that workaround in your backpocket until Microsoft pushes out a fix through, we presume, a firmware update.

    Comments | Permalink

    January 2, 2007

    Photo review of DecalGirl Skins

    zune graphic

    We've prepared a photo review of vinyl skins from DecalGirl, which offers over 70 designs.

    The skins cover the front and back, leaving the sides uncovered. Your sync cable, headphone jack, and lock switch are thus unencumbered by the skin. A small pop-out in the back skin provides a peephole so you can view your Zune's serial number.

    In our review, we tested how well our skinned Zune fit into leather cases, and how readily the skin can be removed from the player.

    You can see the review here.

    Comments | Permalink

    January 1, 2007

    Terms for the different areas of Zune Software screens

    For tips and troubleshooting, it's helpful for us all to use the same terminology for the various areas of the Zune Software user interface.

    Each of the screenshots below has a section of the screen spotlighted. We've labelled each screenshot with the correct term for that screen area, based on Microsoft's online help documentation.

    Address bar

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    Change layout

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    zune graphic


    zune graphic

    Media Selectors

    zune graphic

    Navigation Pane

    zune graphic

    Details Pane

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    Task Selectors

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    List Pane

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    Playback Controls

    zune graphic

    Comments | Permalink

    December 31, 2006

    Zune beat Shuffle for IGN Best Portable Audio award

    zune graphic

    Recognizing the "first major challenge to the Apple iPod yet attempted", IGN awarded Zune its Best Portable Audio award this week.

    Zune edged out Apple's Shuffle to win the award. Zune "takes the win for at least offering some new features," IGN noted. "Betting against Apple is a risky game, and only adventurous consumers will likely make the Zune purchase, however, the Zune hardware itself isn't bad thanks to interesting aesthetics, a bright, animated, and well designed UI, and the potential for expanded WiFi capabilities."

    Comments | Permalink

    December 31, 2006

    Thank You and Happy New Year, from Zunerama

    zune graphic

    As we close out our inaugural year, I thought you might be interested in a recap of 2006 for Zunerama. And, I want to thank you for helping get Zunerama off to a great start!

    First, some random moments from the year that was:

  • Jul 21 - Microsoft reveals the name "Zune" in an interview with Billboard magazine.
  • Jul 31 - Registered domain name. Almost every other name I could think of was long gone!!
  • Jul 31 - Launched the site with our first blog entry. (I back-dated several stories from July 21, to "prime" the blog.)
  • Aug 18 - Launched Zunerama's user forums with our first post. Nobody read it. :) I set my member name as Zunerama Editor, or Zunerama Ed. for short.
  • Aug 30 - Gizmodo posts story about our other names for "brown" thread. Big hit day.
  • Aug 30 - "Lame Zune marketing slogans" becomes our most-viewed post, and remains so for weeks.
  • Sep 8 - We launch the first annual Golden Zune awards.
  • Sep 9 - Zunerama posts the web's first Zune-iPod comparison table, comparing Zune to Apple's 30GB video iPod announced earlier that day.
  • Sep 14 - Zunerama gets invited to 30-minute phone interview with Chris Stephensen from Microsoft's Zune team. Many hits from our story, which made us the first site to post the dimensions (height, width, depth) and weight of Zune 30GB player.
  • Sep 24 - Launched our first FAQ - initially as a forum thread.
  • Oct 2 - Zunerama gets added as reference site in Wikipedia's Zune article.
  • Oct 10 - New Zune FAQ unveiled - reengineered as a searchable, database driven FAQ.
  • Nov - aaron00lee, pinksage, and nymbis start as board moderators
  • Nov 6 - Zunerama is first site to map the Zune menu structure. Site hits continue to grow.
  • Nov 7 - Announce giveaway of 24 Speck cases to Zunerama members. It's our first giveaway, and soon to be joined by giveaways from Vaja, DLO, Incipio, M2Convert, 22Moo... and more to come! Zunerama quickly leads the web with Zune-related giveaways - with over 60 giveaways completed or underway.
  • Nov 8 - Fly to Los Angeles for the Zune prerelease hands-on event. My first chance to hold and use a Zune player! Get to meet members of the Zune team for the first time: Cesar from ZuneInsider, Richard from MadisonandPine, Matt Jubelirer, Scott Erickson, Chris Stephensen, Alan Shen, and others. Also met Nate from ZuneScene, another Zune site. I'm there with my daughter Celeste, who agrees to pose with some of the Zune players so I can post pics on the blog.
  • Nov 10 - While in L.A., I get interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter, which runs this story.
  • Nov 11 - First of several marriage proposals sent to Zunerama. I presume they're for Celeste and not me. Back! Back! Away, guys!
  • Nov 13 - In Seattle for Zune pre-launch event. Bill himself makes a surprise appearance.
  • Nov 14 - Zune launched!
  • Nov 14 - It's a good day for Topher Sikorra, who wins our drawing for a brand new Zune player. He chooses brown. This Zune might be on its way to Iraq, but we hope it stays safe and sound here in the USA, along with Corporal Sikorra.
  • Nov 16 - Zunerama member Olion597 posts tutorial on how to convert DVDs and video for Zune playback. By year's end, it has been viewed over 6,000 times and has helped countless Zuners.
  • Dec 15 - Zunerama hits grand slam of geekdom - with various stories getting picked up on 1st page of Engadget, Gizmodo, Crungear, and ZuneInsider on the same day.
  • Dec 18 - We welcome jander, our 1,000 member!
  • Dec 25 - My daughter Celeste gets a black Zune from Santa Claus. She's thrilled!
  • Dec 27 - We post our first video reviews, with my daughters giving their opinions about Speck, DLO, and DecalGirl accessories.
  • Dec 31 - Zunerama member xoom, who has added so much to Zunerama with his analysis, observations, and humor, ends the year with 800+ posts - more than any other member!

    By year's end, we've published 175 original blog stories, had over 600,000 pageviews, and our 1,300+ members have posted over 10,000 forum messages.

    And we're starting off the new year with the first Zune accessory giveaway of 2007. At one second after midnight on New Year's Eve, we'll choose one Zunerama member to win a pair of 22Moo's $250 ZuneVG video glasses. How cool is that..!?

    Which brings us to the most important reason for this email...

    The year would not be complete without warm thanks to YOU, for being a Zunerama member and helping make this a leading Zune site. You've given us a foundation that we can all build on in the years to come. We hope you feel like a member AND OWNER of Zunerama, because what you contribute drives what our site becomes.

    Thanks to our moderators - aaron00lee, pinksage, and nymbis - for their great work in the forums, and their support of all of us in the Zune community.

    And I must thank my daughters Celeste, Sarah, and Hannah, for being willing models for my photo and video reviews, and generally sharing in my excitement about Zune and Zunerama.

    And most of all thanks to my wife Carrie, for being one of our first forum members ("commando"), for putting up with being a "Zune widow" on many evenings and weekends this past year, and for enriching this and all parts of my life.

    Happy New Year everyone!


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