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March 26, 2007

My quest for an exclusive interview with J Allard

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The other day I was talking with my slacker friend Jim and, knowing about this humble website, he asked if I'd scored an interview with Bill Gates yet.

Now, I like to think of Zunerama as a decent-sized fish in the very small pond of successful Zune websites... but I don't expect to have hit Bill's radar quite yet. But Jim's question got me thinking: What about J Allard?

Allard, as you may know, is the top gun on Microsoft's Zune team - leader of design and development, and recently expanding his role to include business development. Allard is a heavy hitter. He's credited with overseeing Microsoft's wildly successful Xbox and Xbox 360 projects. He's also renowned for having a great influence on shaping Microsoft's Internet strategies.

So I don't expect this to be a cakewalk. I'm going to have to justify why Allard might want to give up a coffee break to spend a little time with Zunerama. I'm aware, for example, that even mega-tech-blog Engadget only got 20 minutes of Allard's time during the Zune pre-launch. He's had few interviews that I'm aware of with mega-sites or the legitimate press - let alone a modest Zune blog like Zunerama.

But I like a challenge, too. So, today, I'm announcing my goal: to score an exclusive interview with J Allard.

Stay tuned as I develop strategies, tactics, and timeframes. Oh, and if you've got his number, please email me with it. :)

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March 26, 2007

Virtues of Wireless Sharing: Random vs. Planned

Wireless song sharing can be used in many different ways. Some assume that it's meant for exchanging songs with strangers - random Zunes that you might encounter in your travels. Is that really what was intended?

So asks Jason at Zune Thoughts, in a thoughtful post about Zune sharing.

"Let's look at the way the WiFi sharing was implemented," he continues. "First, your Zune has to be powered on for the WiFi to work. WiFi also has to be turned on. Next, you have to be within 30 or perhaps 50 feet of another Zune. And if you're listening to music on your Zune, I don't believe there's any sort of audible prompt or interrupt in your music telling you that someone is trying to share music... How often is that really going to happen?"

"The far more common scenario, and the one I believe the Zune was really designed for, is the purposeful sharing of music via WiFi with friends in a social setting. I've done this several times, and it involves two friends, each with a Zune, each with some music they want the other person to check out because they think it's cool. In that scenario, headphones aren't even involved - each person turns on their Zune, finds the music they want to share, and sends it over. It's fast, easy, and I've discovered some really amazing new music that way - music that I never would have discovered if my friend hadn't shared with me."

Makes sense to me. What do you think?

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March 25, 2007

Release your inner designer with Zune SketchUp models

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Some enterprising Zuners have created 3D models of their Zunes - and of cases for their Zunes - using Google SketchUp.

SketchUp is a free modeling tool that's quite intuitive and fully-featured. It's fun to use, too - definitely worth checking out. Its uses are practically unlimited; I've used it to put designs together for woodworking projects, for example.

Some Zunerama members have used these models to create Zune cases for our Design Your Own Zune Case contest, sponsored by Incipio. We're getting some creative design submissions. Each week a random entry is selected to win an Incipio case, and in a few weeks we'll select our Grand Prize winner - who will win $250 in Microsoft Points, *and* get their case created by Incipio!

You can download the SketchUp models, and see a variety of original Zune case designs, at the Comments link below.

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Zune accessory giveaways

March 24, 2007

March Madness: win one of ten limited edition brown Canvas Sport cases from Speck!

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You've probably seen the cool black-and-white Canvas Sport cases from Speck. (If not, check our our photo review).

Now, Speck is offering Zunerama members a chance to win a limited edition BROWN canvas sport case for your Zune! These are so "limited edition" that I don't have a pic of them yet.

We'll draw two random winners every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from March 28 through April 6.

Enter early to be eligible for all 10 drawings. Good luck.!!

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Find Zune accessories on Amazon

March 19, 2007

Stream any music to nearby Zunes

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With one accessory - the Zune FM transmitter - you can stream any music you have on your player to nearby Zunes.

Most people who have the FM transmitter bought it for use in the car. The transmitter sends music on your Zune to your car's FM stereo tuner, using available FM frequencies.

But, given that Zunes have built-in FM tuners, you can use this accessory for another useful function: playing DJ for nearby Zunes. Each Zune can tune in to the frequency being transmitted by one Zune with the FM transmitter.

Just another way to share music - and one that you can use for any music on your player.

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Find Zune accessories on Amazon

March 15, 2007

Nabbed Zune recovered - thanks to wireless

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Uh-oh - did your Zune suddenly disappear from your backpack? Well, if you're lucky, there's a chance you can track it down - thanks to Zune's wireless feature.

Zunerama member scoutflyer reports that he was able to track down a friend's stolen Zune that way. The stolen Zune was still in the school building, and by using his own Zune he was able to tell when he got close to the missing player.

Fortunately the perpetrator had not turned wireless off, so the stolen Zune was still announcing its presence to other nearby Zunes.

The perp confessed, and the Zune was returned to its rightful owner. Case closed.

Try that with your iPod.

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

March 10, 2007

Wallpapers for your Zune

Been to our Zune Wallpaper board recently?

Take your pick of hundreds of wallpaper provided by our members. Or, request your own custom wallpaper and see what our members come up with!

Here's a sampling of our "northwest scenes" wallpaper:

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Design your own Zune case, and you could win a free Incipio leather Zune case, or our Grand Prize of $250 in Marketplace Points and the case you designed... created by Incipio! Check out our contest in the Giveaway Board!

March 8, 2007

Zune and iPod: win-win?

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Many seem to believe that the Zune-iPod competition is a zero-sum game: that the success of one takes away from the success of the other.

I don't buy it. The competition between the two companies will create energy and innovation, making each company's products more accessible and, ultimately, more attractive to a wider market.

Apple's reputation as an innovative company is well-deserved. But its loyal iPod fan base is quick to forgive or overlook areas where Apple has let iPod stagnate.

Take, for example, the iPod's screen interface. The quaint, text-based interface - looking almost like a throwback to DOS systems - has been virtually unchanged in the six years since iPod's introduction.

Enter Zune, with a much-improved graphical user interface - not only more pleasing to the eye, but with greater efficiency for most common functions. Now, Apple would surely have gotten around to introducing a graphical interface at some point. But Zune's arrival has made it a near certainty that the next iPod release will move away from its old-school text design - and never go back.

And - who knows? - even the much-vaunted clickwheel could get re-assessed by Apple. The clickwheel's touch-sensitivity has its fanbase, but the merits of it are traded off by its huge footprint on the front of the player. All that real estate used by the clickwheel could be otherwise used by a larger video display.

If you've played videos for a few hours on a Zune, and then switched to an video iPod, you'll know what I'm talking about. The Zune's smaller control pad may be less innovative, but it sure seems to make more sense as a player control.

Apple's iPhone, to be released in June, will bring another set of innovations into play, that will no doubt influence future models of digital media players.

May the leapfrogging by both companies continue. Better products translate to more sales, and a greater worldwide market.

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Find Zune accessories on Amazon

March 6, 2007

Take the Zune Pledge

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Zune is four months old next week, and we Zuners are few and far between. Relatively few of us have had the pleasure of bumping into Zuners and using our players' wireless sharing capabilities.

Given that, it's common practice for many to leave wireless turned off - saving a little battery juice - even when out in public settings. But Zunerama member Jander rightly points out that, by doing so, we're robbing ourselves of potential Zune encounters... just to save an hour or so of battery life.

"Right now, we're trailblazing with our Zunes," Jander notes. "There's not a whole ton of us, and I think it's time we took on a bit of, let's call it responsibility to all those Zuners who are lonely out there, willing to share but unable to find a fellow Zune to share with."

So, take the pledge, to leave wireless on when you're in public settings. If there are other Zuners around you, make your presence known as a "nearby Zune"..!

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Zune accessory giveaways

March 5, 2007

V-Moda Vibes

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A very pleasant surprise on my doorstep today, from V-Moda: a pair of their exquisite Vibes earphones to review.

These sophisticated earphones are handcrafted from metal alloy, and come with three sizes of silicon fittings, in black and white, that serve to isolate outside noise from your listening experience.

From our early tests, these babies sound as good as they look. Stay tuned for our photo review and... just maybe... a giveaway for our Zunerama members. If you're not a member yet, you can join here.

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March 4, 2007

Zunerama goes international

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Even though Zune has been officially released only in the USA, it continues to draw significant international interest.

This is underscored by our most recent 5,000 visitors to Zunerama, who hailed from no less than 86 countries. The graphic above shows the countries outside of the US with the most Zunerama visitors.

In deference to our international visitors, we've implemented Google's translation service into Zunerama. From the right column of any non-forum page, you can click on a language to convert the site to Spanish, French, German, Italian, or Japanese.

All pages get converted - so as you link to other pages in the site, they will in turn be displayed in the language you've chosen. Even our forum posts are converted. (Please respond to forum posts in English, however.)

This is still "beta", but I hope it's useful to our international visitors and members.

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Zune user forum

March 2, 2007

Design your own Zune case... and Incipio will create it!

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Zunerama is pleased to announce another exciting Zune case contest from Incipio!

This contest has a twist: send us your design of a new Zune case, and you could win one of 7 Incipio Zune cases, or our grand prize of $250 in Marketplace Points, PLUS a version of the case you designed... created for you by Incipio!!

So get creative, and post your Zune case ideas here. Get your submission in early, to be eligible for all 7 weekly drawings and for the grand prize..!!

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March 2, 2007

Download Center for Zune tools

We've beefed up our Download Center, where you can now download video conversion software, DVD rippers, audio tools, spyware tools, registry utilities, and other goodies that no self-respecting Zuner should be without. Some downloads are free, and others have free trialware versions that you can use to check them out.

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March 1, 2007

More DecalGirl winners!

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Three times a week, we give away DecalGirl's amazing Zune skins to lucky Zunerama members.

Our roster of winners includes Zunerama members mas, hpatootp92, Doreen, ellechim, stryker, o_DARKBLADE_o, globe91skate, bballalltheway23, Diego15nets, Ampdawwg, and Crystal3. Congratulations! Each winner gets to pick his or her choice of Zune skin from the amazing DecalGirl collection.

Next drawing is tomorrow; click here to enter!

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February 28, 2007

Firmware upgrade coming

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Microsoft revealed today that a Zune firmware upgrade to Version 1.3 is planned within the next few weeks (tentatively: March 20). According to Cesar from ZuneInsider, the upgrade will include a fix for the skipping problem that is vexing some users and forcing them to use an odd workaround.

Judging from forum comments, that fix will address the most pressing issue with Zune players. Other updates in the firmware upgrade include better device detection (when you connect your player to your PC), improved sync reliability, and an FM Tuner change to preserve battery life when in sleep mode.

Hopefully with this fix in place, we'll see the Zune team move on to future firmware upgrades that include functional enhancements and other goodies from our wishlist.

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February 26, 2007

Zune Marketplace songs are playable on other players

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Many people assume that songs downloaded from Zune Marketplace are playable only on Zune players. In fact, you can play those songs on many other players - particularly players that adhere to Microsoft's Plays-For-Sure standards.

Zunerama member AIZEE demonstrated that this week, when he was able to sync Zune Marketplace music to his daughter's Creative Zen.

This works for songs purchased individually, as well as for songs downloaded through Zune Pass subscriptions.

This has been previously reported, but the compatibility is not widely known and in fact is not officially supported by Microsoft.

Still, if you have multiple players in your household, you may be able to get more mileage out of your Marketplace downloads by playing them on your non-Zune devices as well as your Zune.

Click on Comments below to see larger screenshots.

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February 25, 2007

Review: Speck Active Sport for Zune

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Speck's Active Sport case is the subject of today's accessory review. This armband is one of Speck's lineup of Zune cases which includes the Tough Skin, Active Sport Lite, Executive, and Canvas Sport cases.

Features of the Active Sport include its breathable mesh material, reflective rubberized accents, and a beefy velcro adjustable strap. This well-built case gets high marks from our review for protection, style, and quality workmanship.

See pics and our review results in our photo review of Speck Active Sport. We'll have more Speck case reviews coming up later this week.

You can see all of our Zune accessory reviews at our Accessories and Reviews page.

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February 23, 2007

Did you switch?

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If you are a current or former iPod user, who is now using a Zune, we'd like to hear from you for an upcoming story.

Click on the Comments link below, and you'll be taken to a forum thread where you can post, or send a personal message to us at Zunerama, if you're interested in being a part of this story.

Zune on!

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February 22, 2007

Review: Speck Canvas Sport for Zune

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Today we review another of Speck's line-up of Zune cases: the Speck Canvas Sport case.

As usual, Speck gets it right with this creatively-styled protective case. We give it high marks for style as well as protection.

See pics and our review results in our photo review of Speck Canvas Sport. We'll have more Speck case reviews coming up later this week.

You can see all of our Zune accessory reviews at our Accessories and Reviews page.

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February 18, 2007

Zunerama contest: Presidential Playlists

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In honor of President's Day, we want to see your ideas for presidential-themed playlists. Post your presidential themed songs, or entire playlists, in our Giveaway board.

Extra points will be given for creatively tying a song to a particular president. On Friday Feb 23rd, we'll pick an entry. If it's yours, we'll send you a token of gratitude for your service to your country, in the form of a DLO Jam Jacket.

Have a good President's Day!

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February 17, 2007

Review: DLO Action Jacket

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After all the bumps and bruises I've been putting my DLO Action Jacket through, it's high time we added it to our reviews pages.

The Action Jacket is a neoprene protective case that comes with both a sports armband and a belt clip.

We're giving this case our Recommended by Zunerama rating. See why in the review!

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