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April 15, 2007

Photo review: V-Moda Vibe earphones

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This past few days, Zunerama has put V-Moda's Vibe earphones through its paces. These $101 earphones offer rich, resonant sound quality, a comfortable fit, and a great look.

Check out the full review and pics here.

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April 13, 2007

Rumors heat up about next-generation Zune players

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Hello, Zuners, I am back after a few days away with the LOML and my daughters. (For those of you who haven't explored Washington's Olympic Peninsula, I would recommend Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic National Park for a no-frills, seaside getaway.)

Meanwhile, the Zune world is abuzz with talk about the next Zune models being planned by Microsoft. According to a chance encounter by Nate from ZuneScene (incognito) and a loose-lipped member of Microsoft's Zune team, Microsoft is working on an updated Zune hard-drive model and a flash Zune - both to be released this year.

The new hard-drive model will be similar to the current 30GB model, but thinner and with a larger hard drive.

The Flash Zune will measure 3 x 1.25 x .25 inches; it will be video capable (!) and wireless-enabled (!) with a screen covering 75% of the player's front.

A major production run of 2.4 million new players - 2/3 of them being Flash Zune players - is planned between now and end of the year.

All unsubstantiated, and some sites have scoffed at the reports. To my ear, though, this rings true - and the specifics of the information in the reported conversation lend to its credibility.

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April 7, 2007

Photo review - Proporta Aluminum Case for Zune

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The nice folks at Proporta - a U.K.-based maker of gadget accessories - recently sent us a selection of their Zune accessories. Today we've posted a photo-review of the Proporta Aluminum case for Zune. This is the first aluminum case we've reviewed, and we're looking forward to diving into the rest of the accessories we received from Proporta - as well as enjoying the English tea they included in the package. Cheers!

More details and pics in our review.

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Zune DVD tutorial


April 5, 2007

A trick to help organize your Zune videos

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One area where Zune definitely needs improvement is in its video organizing capabilities. We'd like to see support for video playlists, for example. We'd like Zune software to support metadata editing for video files. And we'd like the ability to set up a hierarchy of video folders on the Zune player itself.

We've had numerous questions in our Technical Support board about organizing videos on your Zune players. This post will attempt to explain how Zune organizes videos, and describes a trick you can use to define your own video folder hierarchy on your player.

Finding videos on your Zune player. While there are umpteen ways to view and sort your videos on your PC using Zune software, your options are much more limited on the Zune player itself. Your Zune player simply lists your video files according to the broad media types of All Videos, Music Videos, TV Shows, and Movies.

You cannot change these predefined video categories. Your videos get associated with a particular media type through two metadata fields: Primary Media Type and Secondary Media Type. You typically don't need to mess with these, but if you're interested you can see this zune.net metadata page.

A trick to organize the videos on your player. The broad video categories noted above only go so far to help you navigate through your videos. It'd be helpful to be able to group your videos into folders. Here's a trick that let's you do just that.

If you have several videos that are closely related, you can have those videos displayed as a single entry in your player's video lists - somewhat like a folder name. When you select that entry, the individual videos within it are then displayed. This has the look and feel of drilling down into a folder of related videos.

You might, for example, want an entry for "Family Videos". Then when you click on that entry, each of your individual home movies shows up.

So how do you organize videos into those folders or groupings? By taking advantage of how Zune treats episodes of TV shows.

Update the metadata for each of the related videos - giving them the same Video Title, and giving each one its own Episode Title. (You'll need to set the Media Type to TV Show in order to update the Episode tag.) Video Title and Episode Title are metadata fields - fields that contain properties or information about your videos. Once you've done that, sync the videos to your Zune player. (If the videos were already on your player, you'll need to delete them from the player first - to force Zune software to re-sync them.)

Zune handles the rest automatically. The videos you updated will display as a single folder-like entry, and you can then drill down from there to get to your desired video.

Modifying video metadata. And how do you modify the metadata fields? Zune software should make this easy... and it doesn't. You can't modify video metadata in Zune software; you have to use a metadata editor to get at those fields. Free editors are available, and a good Zune-specific one is dsharpie. You can download it from this ZuneScene link.

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

April 5, 2007

Speck case winners - two more drawings on Friday

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Congratulations to our winners of Speck limited-edition brown Canvas Sport cases - 8 winners have been drawn so far. On Friday, we'll draw the next two.

You can throw your name in the hat here. Good luck!

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April 4, 2007

Zune for Dummies taps Zunerama

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A few weeks ago I was approached by Wiley Publishing, Inc. about co-authoring their upcoming Zune for Dummies book. I guess they know a dummy when they see one.

Since then I've been developing chapters, conducting tech reviews, and taking photographs. There are two other authors - Duncan Mackenzie and Brian Johnson, both Microsoft employees. I'm not credited yet as an author (i.e. on the Amazon listing), but am told that before the book is released all three of us will be listed as authors.

It was good of Wiley to think of Zunerama when choosing authors for the book. I've never been involved in a published book before, and it has been fascinating going through the drafting, tech reviews, and copy-editing process.

I'm not sure what the book's release date will be, but will let you know once it's firmed up!

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Zune accessory giveaways


April 4, 2007

Win the Hummer of all Zune cases

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You know who you are.

You take life to the max. Every guy at the espresso station knows your motto: "Go Big, or Go Home".

You're the guy who tapes your forearms on the way to the office every morning. On weekends, you deck out in body armor before heading to the mall.

Well, we've found your case.

Machined from a solid aluminum bar. Virtually unbreakable. Polished to a mirror finish. Lexan screen protector. Soft felt interior. (Okay, that last one doesn't sound so manly.)

Now head to our Giveaway Board, and get the case that completes you.

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See Zune Players on Amazon: Black, White, Brown

April 3, 2007

Zunerama members design new Zune cases

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The graphic above shows a sampling of Zune case designs, submitted by Zunerama members in our Incipio Design Your Own Zune Case contest.

Each week, we randomly pick a winner who gets an Incipio case of his or her choice.

This leads up to our grand prize, where a design will be selected, and the winner will receive $250 in Marketplace Points... and Incipio will create a version of their designed case for them to keep!

Take a look at the designs - and enter your own - in our Giveaway Board!!

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Find Zune accessories on Amazon

April 2, 2007

A day of breaking news

Today was a day of exciting news for Zuners and for all music-lovers. Witness:

  • DRM-free tracks from iTunes. Music industry giant EMI announced that it will provide its music DRM-free on iTunes - meaning that purchased tracks will not be protected. (Previously, all content purchased from iTunes could only be played on Apple products, and had limitations on being burned to CDs.) Tracks purchased at the standard iTunes price of $.99/track will still be DRMed, but users paying $1.29 will get a DRM-free track.
  • What does this mean to you? Well, all tracks purchased through iTunes are in .AAC format, which Zune players read natively. So you may soon be able to get DRM-free music from iTunes, playable directly (and synced automatically) to your Zune player. Nice.

  • DRM-free music coming from Zune Marketplace, too? At least that's what Microsoft hinted strongly at today.
  • Zune marketing Round 2 announced. We've been clamoring for more Zune advertising, and Microsoft has announced a major round of new Zune advertising for its player and music service.
  • Comments | Permalink


    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!


    April 2, 2007

    Enterprising Zunerama member crafts his own Zune car cradle

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    Many of us are waiting impatiently for the first Zune car docks to become available. (I'm talking true car docks - that accept the Zune's bottom connector port, and link it to the car's power system and stereo.)

    Not to be deterred, Zunerama member ryango119 has created his own Zune car cradle - using a Zune A/V dock and a generic car dock.

    He has posted pics and step-by-step instructions in our Zune accessories forum. The A/V dock enables him to keep his player conveniently charged and connected to his stereo system, whenever the player is settled into the dock.

    Until more Zune car docks become available from accessory-makers, necessity will continue to breed inventions like this. Kudos to ryango119 for his ingenuity and resourcefulness!

    Comments | Permalink


    April 2, 2007

    iZune scrapped

    Okay, Zuners, we're back to the business of blogging real Zune news, rumors, and thoughts, now that the iZune story has satisfied our April Fool's urges. Thanks for indulging us.

    Comments | Permalink


    April 1, 2007

    Apple and Microsoft unveil the iZune player

    "Today we unveil to the world... the iZune!", a jubilant Steve Jobs announced this morning in a joint Apple-Microsoft news conference. Sitting beside the Apple CEO was Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who described a new partnership between the companies as "the end of the digital Cold War".

    The two technology icons outlined a major partnership related to their competing digital media offerings. The announcement, taking some industry analysts by surprise, represents an abrupt shift in the strategic direction of both iPod and Zune. The pair spoke to an invited audience made up of Fortune 50 corporate CEOs, UN ambassadors, international royalty, and gadget bloggers.

    Details remain sketchy, but the core of the partnership appears to be a hybrid music player dubbed "iZune". The player, to be released in the U.S. in September 2007, will play videos, slideshows, music, and games - all on a one-inch screen display. "The screen's smaller, but it's the same resolution as the larger screens," Jobs explained. "So it's a crisper image. And crisper is better." Jobs also noted that the smaller screen allows the device to have an even larger click-wheel.

    Asked about the effect of this partnership on Apple's much-anticipated iPhone, Jobs indicated that Apple is re-thinking its iPhone strategy. "Our accessory-makers are a very important part of the international economy. And it's dawned on us that you can't use a touchscreen interface while the phone's in a case, or even covered by a protective screenguard. Really, it was all my bad."

    Jobs also indicated that pocket-dialers - an important bloc of cell-phone users - had expressed concern that the iPhone design forces users to look at the screen in order to find and press screen controls. "Who wants to pull out a phone or music player all the time, when all you want to do is adjust the volume, or press redial?", Gates concurred. "Heck, with my Nokia I can do all that and more, without taking it out of my bomber jacket."

    After the iZune announcement, Jobs embraced Gates and quipped that he was "sorry about all those 'I'm a PC, I'm a Mac' commercials". Gates patted Jobs' cheek lightly and replied "No problem, Steve. Sorry about destroying your OS business."

    Outside, Macintosh supporters - evidently outraged at the partnering of the former arch-enemies - hurled paper clips and live worms at the doors leading into the closed conference.

    No injuries were reported.

    Comments | Permalink


    March 31, 2007

    Video/Photo Review: Griffin Centerstage

    We've posted a video review, with many pics, of Griffin's Centerstage for Zune. See the video review by clicking on the image below.

    Griffin Centerstage case for Zune
    Zunerama Video Review (01:52)

    You can see pics and the complete review in our review page. Check out this impressive case!

    Comments | Permalink


    Find Zune accessories on Amazon

    March 29, 2007

    Video/Photo Review: BoxWave FlexiSkin

    We've posted a video review, and lots of pics, of BoxWave's FlexiSkin for Zune. See the video review by clicking on the image below.

    BoxWave FlexiSkin case for Zune
    Zunerama Video Review (02:21)

    Get the whole story in our review page.

    Comments | Permalink


    March 28, 2007

    iWars: iPod vs Zune

    A short time ago, in a place not too far from where you are now...

    With those opening words, amateur film-makers Jeremy Justice and Casey Latiolais introduce a well-crafted "Zune vs iPod" video. By far the best we've seen.

    Impressive enough that we had to reach out to find out more about these budding Lucases (or should that be Luc-i?). 22-year-old Jeremy hails from Williamsburg, Virginia and 20-year-old Casey claims to be from Moenia, Naboo. (A rebel base in some far-off star system, IIRC. At least he's not an Empire loyalist.)

    Jeremy's personal goal is a million views on YouTube. Plus, like all cool dudes, he knows that Zune is "beastly superior to the iPod".

    I like him already. Check out the video below!

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    March 28, 2007

    Firmware v1.3 released!

    Microsoft released a new firmware upgrade this morning. Early reports are that the firmware upgrade has cleared up the skipping issue that some users have experienced. Others have noted performance improvements in navigating from one song to another.

    Microsoft also announced that the upgrade should improve syncing and device detection reliability. No new features in this upgrade, but these fixes should improve the Zune experience for a lot of people!

    Comments | Permalink


    March 28, 2007

    Video/photo review: Griffin's Vizor case for Zune

    We recently received a selection of Griffin cases for Zune, and have completed a video and photo review of the Vizor - Griffin's colorful leather Zune case. See the video review by clicking on the image below. You can also see pics and the complete review in our review page. Check it out!

    Comments | Permalink


    March 27, 2007

    First look at Speck's Canvas Sport case in limited-edition brown

    Received a boxful of Speck's new brown Canvas Sport case this week. We're giving these away to Zunerama members - just tell us about a great Zune experience you've had recently for your chance to win.

    For an up-close look at this stylish case and how it works, check out our photo review of its black-and-white sibling.

    Here's a close-up of the brown Canvas Sport. Looks sharp!

    Comments | Permalink


    March 27, 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 by Zunerama member Jander.

    Since that time the map has been viewed 60,000 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.)

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