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February 16, 2007

Getting movies on your Zune

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We get a lot of questions in our forums about how to transfer your DVD movies to your Zune.

We've prepared a comprehensive tutorial for Cucusoft's Zune Video Converter Suite. With over thirty screenshots, the tutorial takes you step-by-step through the download and installation of the Cucusoft Suite, and the conversion of your DVDs. You can also use the package to convert other video files to play on your Zune.

With Cucusoft you can:

  • Convert almost all kinds of DVDs to Zune-compatible .wmv format
  • Create Zune-compatible video files, so they sync to your player without needing to be re-converted.
  • Customize the file size and quality of the video file
  • Incorporate subtitles into converted movies
  • Select audio track (English, French, Spanish, etc.)
  • Select video cropping options (16:9 widescreen, 4:3 fullscreen)
  • Convert DVD audio to MP3
  • Cucusoft and other conversion tools - including Super, DVD-WMV, and M2Convert for Zune - are available in our Download Center. The Download Center includes screenshots, downloads of free trial software, and affiliate links that help to keep Zunerama zunin'.

    Comments | Permalink


    February 14, 2007

    Win one of 50 Zunes!

    Microsoft has a promotion underway over the next two weeks. From now until February 28th, you can sign up to win one of FIFTY ZUNE PLAYERS!

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    All you have to do is sign up here: homepage.msn.com/zune, and (on the honor system, apparently) make msn.com your home page. Winners will be drawn on or about March 14.

    Comments | Permalink


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    February 13, 2007

    Update on Where the Zunes are

    Thought we'd share an update today on our Zune location map. The map tracks Zunerama members with their home location, and was set up a few weeks ago by Zunerama member Jander.

    Since that time the map has been viewed 40,000 times!

    You can add your own location by clicking the Join button. (Hitting the grey button at the bottom will take you the full-size map on Frappr.)

    Comments | Permalink


    We're giving away DecalGirl Skins for your Zune. Enter to win in our Giveaway Board.


    February 12, 2007

    Zune with a "zed"

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    As I peruse my Zune's playlists, it reads like a brochure for Canadian content: Barenaked Ladies, Nickelback, Sarah McLachlan, Bryan Adams, Colin James, Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Alanis Morissette, Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen, Diana Krall, Shania Twain, Neil Young, k.d. lang, Cowboy Junkies...

    ...and I'm not even fessin' up to the Celine tracks that somehow got synced. Confound that wife of mine - playing with the Zune Pass again!!

    I feel a mild sense of irony as I view this very Canuck-ish playlist - in that Zune is not yet available to our northernly neighbors neighbours.

    Heck, even one of the better Zune sites (zunethoughts.com) is a Canadian operation, and its editors had to cross the 49th from Alberta - in dark of night, no doubt - to get their hands on their Zune players. And they - like all Canadians - are currently restricted from buying Marketplace content, because you need a credit card tied to a U.S. address in order to sign up.

    The latest guidance from Microsoft is that it's on track to sell a million Zunes by June (and I've seen no evidence to the contrary). I have to believe that somewhere in Redmond there's a world map on a war-room wall, with a little sticky over Ottawa that indicates the Canadian rollout date.

    Maybe it's my Canadian roots showing (I'm a "dual"), but I think it's high time that Microsoft announce that date. It's time to see a Zune with a 'zed'!

    Comments | Permalink


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

    February 11, 2007

    Zune takes a licking...

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    My impromptu, unscheduled field testing of Zune Against the Elements continued this weekend, with my local ski hill Mount Baker again providing the setting.

    Saturday's conditions were spring-like, with ice in the shadows and slushy snow in sunny areas. The thermometer hit 45 degrees at the ski area's 5,000' altitude - unusually warm for this time of year.

    And my snowboarding skills, or lack thereof, again played a crucial part in the field test. The location of this week's calamity was the "Heather" run under Chair 2. Heather is a green run, but has a side route with a short, steep gradient that extends for about 150 feet.

    My Zune was strapped onto my arm with DLO's Action Jacket. The Action Jacket is really made for running, not boarding. It doesn't completely enclose the Zune, so the player is susceptible to the elements, but the jacket is comfortable and is the best thing I've got for boarding with my Zune.

    I had dropped my girls off for their downhill lessons, and was off on my own. Music is great when you're solo boarding and I had my player cranked! I had made several attempts to get down the Heather slope intact, and just was not able to keep my speed checked and my board under control.

    On my last attempt, I dropped down over the lip of the slope. Carved a hard left, slowed almost to a stop - good so far, breathe now - carved a clean right turn - okay, still up! - then, uh-oh, blew my next turn, gained speed too quickly, and lost control in a comical wipeout. Board over head, head over board, I helplessly watched the world tumble around me for several revolutions, until I finally stopped as the slope levelled near the bottom.

    I got up slowly, awash in wet snow, and waved to the skiers laughing in the chairs above me (two of whom were my daughters). I boarded gingerly down the rest of the hill, and on the chair ride back up remembered to check my Zune. Alarm bells went off under my toque, as I saw that my Zune was embedded in slushy snow. The player was literally dripping when I pulled it from the jacket.

    I wiped off the Zune and let it air dry for a few minutes. Thankfully it seems to have decent water resistance. It never stopped playing, and it's doing just fine.

    I wish I could say the same for my body... which feels like it was run over by a large man riding a bicycle. Oh well, by next weekend I'll be fine - and hopefully my Zune and I will be at it again.

    Comments | Permalink


    Find Zune accessories

    February 8, 2007

    This Valentine's, say it with a Zune

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    Beam your loved one some digital hearts and roses this Valentine's, with our selection of Zune wallpaper.

    You can see all six in our wallpaper section. Thanks to Cesar Menendez and the Zune team for creating and sharing these images.

    They've also created some Valentine's playlists available on zune.net: punk valentine, hip hop valentine, candy valentine, and stalker valentine. Check'em out here.

    Comments | Permalink


    February 7, 2007

    Zune.net update: manage your account online, from any browser

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    Today brings a nice addition to zune.net - the ability to manage your account from any web browser.

    Previously, you needed Zune software installed on your PC to buy Marketplace Points, change your password, sign up for Zune Pass, and perform other account management functions. With the new zune.net update, you can do so from any browser.

    The My Account option is under the Support option from zune.net's main page. When you select an account management option, you'll be prompted for your Windows Live ID and password. From that point, your Live ID is carried forward in your browser session unless you log out... using the new logout button at the to each of page.

    Methinks this is just a taste of more functionality to come from being logged in to zune.net. We're still watching that unused hook on the main page... there's still no word on what's to come from that. My bet is still on a Zune user forum.

    Comments | Permalink


    February 2, 2007

    Celebrating our Zuneness

    Our Show Us Your Zune contest has drawn dozens of pics of Zunes around the country and around the world. (Yes, Zunes appear worldwide - even though they're only released in the U.S.)

    Each week we select a winner, who receives a free Zune case of their choice courtesy of Incipio. Next week we'll select our 10th winner.

    Here's a sampling below, of you and your Zunes. See the whole gallery at the Show Us Your Zune thread.

    zune graphic

    Comments | Permalink


    January 31, 2007

    Review: 22Moo's Crystal Clear Case for Zune

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    Today we look at 22Moo's Crystal Clear Case for Zune - a plastic case for your player that comes in clear, red, green, black, purple and grey. We found it to be a serviceable case offering good protection, although with some trade-offs in convenience.

    Comments | Full story


    January 30, 2007

    Marketplace tromps iTunes in search capabilities

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    Being an iTunes user for several years, I never thought much about its search capabilities. Until, that is, I experienced the elegance of Zune software's search.

    Before you iTunes fans cry heresy, consider the following:

    When searching for a song with iTunes, you enter a search term or two (example: "Van Morrison"), and press the Search button to see a list of matching results.

    Simple enough. But if you spelled 'Morrison' wrong (with one r, perhaps, or two s's), iTunes won't return any hits. At best, if you're lucky, you'll see a "did you mean...?" message from iTunes.

    And don't try partial searches, either. If you try to save time and avoid errors by entering "van mor", you likewise won't get any Van Morrison hits in your iTunes search results.

    Another scenario: enter "Eddie Cochrane" as your search term, and iTunes returns no matches. Why? Because the artist you're looking for is Eddie Cochran... you have to lose the trailing e, otherwise iTunes won't help you.

    iTunes search is simply unforgiving of typos or incomplete words, and returns only songs that are exact matches to your search terms.

    Zune software, on the other hand, is much more forgiving, and much more effective as a tool for finding music. Most noticeably, it provides dynamic searching. As you enter your search terms, a filtered list of search results appears in the details pane. Every letter you press further filters the list - so as you spell your song name or artist name, you can see the results changing dynamically. You get immediate feedback on what you're looking for.

    Because of the dynamic search, you can use partial spellings in your search. Enter "van mor", for example, and you'll see all Van Morrison songs appear as you key in the letters.

    Zune software lets you mix and match partial search terms for artist and song name, too. This can be a very quick way to filter your results down to a desired song. Enter "van mor moon", and you'll get an idea of how quickly you can filter down to see Van Morrison's track Moondance.

    Another useful trait of Marketplace search: it returns everything in that artist's catalog - even items that may not be available for download. This actually facilitates search - by providing a positive hit on your search terms. With iTunes, you have to scroll through search results to be sure you're not missing it, buried among the tribute albums and cover versions by other artists. Or, that you haven't missed it because of iTunes' lack of forgiveness about typos and partial search terms.

    On the flip side: While iTunes search is primitive, it is responsive. Press enter, and the results come back faster than the dynamic search of Marketplace.

    The benefits of Marketplace search really hit home to me recently during our Rock'n'Roll research, where I and a small team searched for 500 rock and roll songs in each of iTunes and Marketplace. The efficiencies of Zune's Marketplace really stood out in that research project.

    Zune software may not be perfect, but when it comes to helping you find the music you want... it blows the doors off of iTunes.

    Comments | Permalink


    January 27, 2007

    Zune field test: report from an uncontrolled snowboarder

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    Today I took my Zune (and my two daughters and one of their friends) with me on a snowboarding trip to Mount Baker - our local ski hill and, incidentally, home of the world's record for most snowfall in a season (95 feet, no less). Over the course of the day, I put the Zune through a field test of its battery performance, temperature tolerance, and its ability to withstand an unintentional bounce or two.

    Battery. My Zune's battery workout started at 7:30am when we loaded up the Sienna and started the 90-minute trip to the hill. I don't have the Zune car pack, so I ran the Zune on its battery (fully charged when we left), and connected it to the car stereo via my Griffin cassette adapter. One hour and a half of play, on the way.

    Then I ran it for two hours on the hill, as I snowboarded while the girls took downhill ski lessons. After the lessons, we boarded for another two hours, but I didn't run the Zune then. (Don't like being plugged in when I'm skiing with a group.)

    Heading home, we played the Zune through the car stereo for another 90 minutes. At day's end, the Zune had logged 5 hours, which included a lot of player activity (volume adjustment, and navigation based on song requests from the tired threesome in the back of the van). When we got home, the battery still showed three bars out of four. I don't know if I have a magic battery or not, but this certainly exceeded my expectations.

    Temperature tolerance. Temperatures on the mountain were not severe - about 28 degrees Fahrenheit. As I expected, the Zune's operations and responsiveness were just as good as its room-temperature behavior.

    Wipe-out resilience. I had a few minor spills, and one pretty jarring wipeout that had me wondering how well my Zune had survived.

    The Zune was strapped to my left arm with DLO's Action Jacket, and I had picked up speed to get up an approaching slope. "Layla" was blasting in my earphones, probably inspiring me to push it a bit.

    Somehow I caught an edge and flipped forward into the hardpack, landing on the left side of my chest and my left arm, with my Zune taking part (but not all) of the impact. Yikes! I brushed off the snow - the Action Jacket does not completely enclose the player - and the player was fine, and still playing. Whew. I'll be stiff in the morning, but at least I won't be blaming Clapton for causing damage to my favorite little tech toy.

    Comments | Permalink


    January 26, 2007

    Rock'n'Roll Showdown: Marketplace vs iTunes Store

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    How does Marketplace stand up against iTunes Store, in the world of Rock'n'Roll..?

    Very well, it turns out.

    Despite the prevalent notion in the blogosphere that Marketplace music content pales in comparison to Apple's long-established iTunes Store, my own experience is that I've rarely come up short when searching for music in Marketplace. I decided to test this for the Rock'n'Roll genre.

    So I recruited some volunteers from Zunerama's forums and, using Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, we researched and recorded the availability of every one of them, in Zune Marketplace and in iTunes Store.

    For each song, we checked whether or not the song appeared in the store's catalog, and confirmed whether or not the song was available for download.

    To be consistent, we set some rules for what counted as an "available song":

  • Some songs are not available in either store for individual purchase, but can be purchased as part of an album; we give those songs full credit as being available.
  • In a couple of cases, we found that songs are available only in live versions and not the original studio release; we give those songs full credit.
  • To get credit, the song must be available with the specific artist named in the Rolling Stone list; covers of the same material by other artists or tribute bands don't count.
  • In cases where the original album was not available, we still give credit if the song is available in a compilation album - as long as the compilation album has that particular artist performing that particular song. So, an appearance in a "Best of" album would count, even if the original album was not available.

    We treated iTunes Store and Marketplace consistently when these anomalies came up.

    And the results: out of Rock'n'Roll's 500 greatest songs, Marketplace has 458 songs available for download. iTunes Store has 453 songs available for download. Surprise! A slight edge to Marketplace.

    But stay tuned!! These figures will change over time, as both iTunes Store and Marketplace expand their content. Indeed, if rumors prove true, in a few days iTunes Store's results in our study could surge by no less than 23 songs, if they actually make all Beatles songs available through ITunes Store. That would be a nice coup for Apple, and one - as a Beatles fan - that I would applaud.

    Thanks to our Zunerama members for their help with the research: supernova, Hollikins1101, glowbee, blazingwolf, Sw0rdf1sh, tmgux, rshives, inflamesfan018, ryango119, and stryker.

    Comments | Permalink


    January 25, 2007

    Testimonials - one month later

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    One month ago today, a lot of people opened up Zunes under their Christmas trees. How's it going for them?

    "ZUNE - I love the way Zune is built. The case is obviously designed to withstand scratches.."

    "One month later.. my favorite feature is all the people who see it, ask to mess with it... within minutes,, I've heard people say, 'Man, I gotta have one of these!'"

    "It looked awesome, the screen was bright, the sound was great, and the video looked crisp. I did have some problems with the Zune software at first, but I got all that worked out."

    "... he said, turn your wireless on and all the sudden a message popped up telling me he wanted to send me some pictures. I accepted YES, and in about 30 wireless seconds, I had 105 AWESOME photo's !!!!! THANKS ZUNE!!!"

    These are some of the testimonials that Zune owners have posted recently in our forums. Others describe how one Zune kept the music coming through the night despite power outages during the midwest's recent icestorms. Read how one Zuner claims his Zune is better than a puppy for meeting girls (okay, "geek chic" girls, anyway). And how one member ruined Christmas by bringing his Zune to a family gathering.

    Check out our Testimonials Board for more heartwarmers.

    Comments | Permalink


    January 23, 2007

    Zune: Fill 'er up at your local Starbucks..?

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    More tantalizing hints this week about the future of Zune!

    First, Microsoft plans to make downloadable music available for Zune owners from retail settings, according to Microsoft's Chris Stephenson, who spoke to reporters at the Midem music expo in Cannes this Saturday. These filling stations could include Starbucks and McDonald's... both naturals given that the chains have many WiFi-enabled locations.

    Likin' that!

    I have no inside knowledge on how this would work, but I can envision a simple server macro running at your local Starbucks, continuously scanning for nearby Zunes. It finds yours and offers to send a preselected set of songs to your Zune.

    Second, Stephenson also lent credence to the Zune flash model rumors, reportedly confirming the development of a smaller player using flash memory instead of a hard drive. Oh yes... likin' that.

    And, finally, Stephenson "emphasized that Microsoft had Xbox-scale ambitions for Zune, which means a multi-year, multi-billion dollar commitment".

    What can I say, but... likin' that..!!

    Thanks to The Register via CrunchGear.

    Comments | Permalink


    January 22, 2007

    Microsoft's 3-Year Plan for Zune

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    This week revealed some more hints from Microsoft about its strategic plan for Zune. According to Microsoft marketing director Jason Reindorp, the company has a "realistic, three-year plan" for Zune.

    "You couldn't get a more entrenched competitor," he said in reference to Apple's iPod. "But we feel really good about the first steps that we've taken."

    He noted that the Zune had already captured a 10.2 percent market share in the U.S. in the 30 gigabyte player category, and was on target to sell over a million players by June 30.

    "We're not simply trying to play catch up with Apple," he said. "We are very realistic, we have what is essentially a three-year plan to firmly and solidly get on the radar."

    Microsoft seems to be planning for Zune to have steady and relentless growth, and to ultimately become a major force in the digital player market.

    From the interaction I've had with Microsoft's Zune team, they seemed from the very start to have steeled themselves for a long-haul battle. Which, come to think of it, is one of the things Microsoft does best.

    So here we are... two months and one week into that 3-year plan. If the opening weeks are any indication... it's going to be an exciting next few years for Zune.

    Thanks to Engadget for the story lead.

    Comments | Permalink


    January 21, 2007

    Zune to reach Europe in 2007?

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    Zune could launch in Europe before the end of 2007, according to a Washington Post story that ran this weekend.

    The Post quotes Microsoft's marketing director Jason Reindorp as saying that Microsoft wasn't ready to officially announce a launch date, but that it could be out before year's end.

    Reindorp noted the importance of the Christmas holiday season in launch cycles, and said that Microsoft's "next round of introductions will probably be in time for the holiday of this year."

    We already have several forum members from the United Kingdom, who jumped through hoops to acquire Zune players and get them shipped overseas. They're able to use the Zune software to rip CDs and load their Zunes with content, and can play back music, photos, videos, and FM.

    So what will they gain when Zune launches in Europe?

  • They'll be able to open Zune Marketplace accounts - which presently require a credit card with a U.S. address
  • Zune Technical Support for overseas users should improve. Currently they're less-than-helpful with callers who are outside the official Zune launch zone.
  • Microsoft is planning focus groups to determine how Zune can be modified for European consumers.

    Comments | Permalink


    January 19, 2007

    Wireless sharing - 58% of top songs are sharable?

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    This week, Jason from ZuneThoughts noted some underwhelming wireless sharing results among Zune owners at CES, and from his own spot-checking.

    Zune's wireless sharing is described by Microsoft with a footnote - indicating that "the Zune to Zune sharing feature may not be available for all audio files on your device".

    Curious about this, I conducted a test of my own. I pulled down the top 50 songs downloaded from Zune Marketplace, using my Zune Pass subscription. I then created a playlist of those 50 songs, and attempted to wirelessly send the whole playlist to my wife's Zune.

    When the transfer completed, a message appeared on my player: "Can't send some songs because of rights restrictions. 29 of 50 songs sent to Carrie's Zune".

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    29 out of 50..! Yikes. Click on the song list graphic to view the sync results for each of the top 50 songs.

    The wireless transfer took 5 minutes, 2 seconds to send the 29 songs - or about 10 seconds per song. Pretty respectable, for what amounts to two hours of music. But I don't like having 50-50 odds that I'll actually be able to share a given song wirelessly. This assumes, of course, that my Top 50 sampling is representative of Marketplace as a whole.

    I come away with three observations from this field test:

  • More content providers need to get with the program. Labels need to embrace wireless sharing. With the Zune's copy protection controls, any perceived risks are surely outweighed by the benefits of sharing as an easy way to get music spread around to potential buyers.
  • Songs that can't be shared wirelessly should be flagged. This really should be addressed through a firmware update. As it is now, users go through wireless negotiation - searching for nearby Zunes, sending a "send music" message, having the other Zune accept the send - without knowing until that point whether the song can be sent. An upfront warning message is needed, along the lines of: "One or more of the songs you've selected can't be sent wirelessly. Continue?".
  • Some is better than none. As underwhelming as the 58% is, I need to remind myself... that figure is still 58% higher than would have been possible on any of today's iPods. This is a groundbreaking music sharing approach, and it will only get better from here.

    Comments | Permalink


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    January 18, 2007

    Zune.net gets an update

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    Microsoft's zune.net site gets some updates this week.

    We were alerted to this by an email from Microsoft - which at first aroused our suspicions because the links in the email went to a non-Microsoft site. Maybe we're overly paranoid about phishing, but we checked it out with Microsoft and the email is legit. (The external links are going to an email marketing company to track the traffic.)

    Updates include more content links - including videos, instructions for managing podcasts, and a primer for content providers or webmasters on how to provide Zune-compatible content.

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    You can also now buy Zune media players through the site, through Pricegrabber links.

    Another recent update we really like: under the social page, Zunerama.com is listed as a featured community. We're described as a "blog devoted to everything Zune". Thanks for the nod, Microsoft!

    Comments | Permalink


    January 17, 2007

    Winners everywhere

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    Quick! What do...

    angel, arrokis, A-Str8, BlazingWolf, Blitzkrieg, btonetbone, Bugattifreak, bulletboys, djchocolate, eddt, fireboy, fraxture, goodgirls, HoldenCfld, IronZune, Jason Trent, jmmhooper, jonese8, KushInatoR, lguorong, lostspaz18, LPD, m_zadell, moreorless, olion597, quentin, rebeldawg, RustyBurrito, Scarpad, scoutflyer, Sever79, Soundtweaker, sw0rdf1sh, taCtiCs, tmgux, tmiz29, tosh9i, traviswhoib, VanMan, ViPER, zuneamama, and zunemebaby...

    ...all have in common?

    They are all Zunerama members who have entered our giveaway drawings, and won valuable Zune accessories, software, and even a Zune 30GB player.

    Care to join them? Enter our free drawings and contests in our Giveaway Boards..! We have 35 more winners to be drawn over the coming weeks, and even more giveaways being planned beyond that!

    Comments | Permalink

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