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August 25, 2007

Zune roadtrip heads north

by Harvey Chute

Thanks for indulging me this past week as I've chronicled my family's journey down the west coast of our country.

On Friday we started our northward return - this time, going along California's Pacific Coast Highway (#1). We stopped for a tour of Hearst Castle - a really well-done and interesting tour - well worth the two hours.

We saw many elephant seals just north of Hearst Castle. We've now seen elephant seals, sea lions, and harbor seals on this trip - all of the Pacific coast's pinnipeds.

From there up through Monterey, we were treated to one spectacular view after another on the sharply twisting highway. A sampling of our pics is below.

Past Monterey, we left the coast and headed over to Fairfield, California. We surprised the girls on Saturday with a tour of the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield - a big hit for our ten year olds. We left with several pounds of jelly beans, including some fun bags of irregulars (or "belly flops").

zune graphic

Most of today we spent in Napa Valley, touring vineyards. The pics below are from Sterling Vineyards, which has a gondola that carried us up to the grapes, and another impressive tour.

Tomorrow morning we head up I-5, to stay with friends in Oregon, then we'll be back home on Monday. It's been a great road trip!

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August 23, 2007

Zune in Hollywood

by Harvey Chute

Today, I'm back in Hollywood, where I first met Zune so many months ago at Microsoft's pre-release event.

We stayed in the Beverly Hilton on Santa Monica Boulevard. (Thank goodness for Hilton Hhonors points!) The pic below shows the view of the boulevard from our room.

ZuneWidow is unable to say the name of that street without giving it that "All I Wanna Do is Have Some Fun" cadence: "san-tah-moni-ca-bou-le-vard". Obviously she over-Zuned on Sheryl Crow during the past five days on the road.

Here are some shots from Hollywood Boulevard: the famed Chinese theatre (no premieres today); the El Capitan theatre (home of Jimmy Kimmel Live); and the Hollywood sign as seen from Hollywood and Highland mall.

At the Virgin megastore, we see Zune on display, including the car kit and gear bag on the outside window.

Going from west Hollywood to Beverly Hills, we stopped across from the LA Police Department headquarters, to pose my Zune and ourselves at the entrance back into Beverly Hills.

After a long morning on the street and in the heat, we treated ourselves to an afternoon of play in the pool. "Hey, how about another strawberry daiquiri for my friend Mr. Zune here? He's been working hard!"

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August 22, 2007

Zune sells out on woot!

by Harvey Chute

About an hour ago, woot! sold out its allotment of 6,300 white Zunes.

Following the time-honored woot tradition, it released ordering stats once the last Zune was purchased:

Order pace was one Zune sold every 11.973 seconds.

89% of purchasers bought 1 Zune; 6% bought 2; and 5% bought 3.

I was one of the purchasers who bought two. Another great deal from woot!

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August 22, 2007

Today's woot!: 30GB Zune for $149.99

by Harvey Chute

Here's a good deal on a 30GB Zune, from one my favorite websites: woot!

$149.99 plus $5 shipping.

The way woot works: they don't tell you how many they have available. If you've been thinking of a Zune, get one (or two or three) while quantities last!

Thanks to Jander and Trastan for the tip!

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See Zune Players on Amazon: Black, White, Brown

August 21, 2007

Zune roadtrip - San Francisco

by Harvey Chute

More Zune travels - here are some pics from our day in San Francisco.

I dropped my wife and daughters off on the north end of Golden Gate bridge (shown below), then drove across to the south side while they started walking across. I ran back to meet them halfway. The brilliant sunshine at the north end turned into a thick bank of wet fog partway across, that left us soaked at the south end. What a great way to experience the bridge! We were really glad we did this, even after our ten-hour drive that day to get to San Francisco.

The best deal in San Francisco for visitors is to pick up a muni passport - $11 per person gives you all-day passes on all city buses and cable cars.

Pics below: running to catch a cable car; on board; and high-fiving the passing cars (and fire engines)!

We were told that San Francisco's Chinatown is a lot more "in your face" than the smaller Chinatown we're familiar with (in Vancouver B.C.). It's fascinating, and a memorable cultural experience. We ate lunch at Great Oriental cafe on Washington.

We ended the day at Fisherman's Wharf, walking along the waterfront and window-shopping. And, of course, delighting in the sea lions lounging at Pier 39.

Tomorrow morning, we leave for Los Angeles, where we'll be for three days. More updates and pics to come!

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August 20, 2007

Zune roadtrip - Oregon coast

by Harvey Chute

Greetings, Zuners, our Zune road trip down the Pacific coast continues. From our latest stop in Newport, Oregon, we continued down Highway 101 along the Oregon seaside. The shot below was taken at Port Orford - just one of the many amazing Oregon beaches, lined with soft clean sand and peppered with sea-stacks.

My model Zune is bedecked in Case-Mate's Signature Leathercase. (You can win one of your own here.)

Along the way, we played various Zune games. My favorite is the old stand-by, "Name That Tune". Hannah came up with a game where one person calls out a theme, plays 10-second clips of three different songs, and then the rest of us guess which song fits the theme. Like any serious ten-year-old, she had about three pages of rules that go along with the game. I won't repeat them here.

Some advice from ZuneWidow: "DON'T ZUNE AND DRIVE!"

About mid-day we hit the California state line, and saw some beautiful elk just outside of Klamath, California. Then we dropped into the amazing Redwood forests.

I grew up in the forests of British Columbia, and remember seeing pictures of cars driving through the middle of these enormities - the world's largest living things.

A highlight of yesterday was the five of us walking across the Golden Gate bridge. We'll be in San Francisco for the next couple of days. Then the Zune road trip heads for Hollywood.

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Zune DVD tutorial


August 18, 2007

Zune roadtrip - Day 1

by Harvey Chute

We got an early start this morning, with wheels rolling at 5:30am. We stopped every once in a while for a stretch - it's a gorgeous northwest day, and I'm glad we brought the frisbee to help get us on the run and uncramped every couple of hours.

First real stop was in Olympia, where we re-fuelled at Starbucks. The pic shows my girls with a Zune in DLO's Leather folio case.

We stopped briefly at the State capitol, where I snapped a few pics for our Zune Photo Gallery.

Further south, we had a picnic lunch in Corvallis, Oregon - a beautiful college town - and took care of some Zunerama business. I didn't have a chance to mail these parcels yesterday, so we found a post office in Corvallis. (Dave, rhinze, Bang, and audax, your Zunerama giveaway prizes are on their way!)

Early afternoon, we made it to today's destination: Newport, Oregon. Here's the view from our balcony. (Or at least the view when someone happens to be holding a Zune player in your way.)

Celeste models the Griffin Tempo armband. Later, I ran a couple miles on the beach with the armband.

I'd prefer a flash Zune for running, but I find the Tempo does an admirable job keeping the player secure while I'm on the move. The soft, duney sand in this area makes for a tough beach run, though!!

I'll post again the next day or two as we continue our southern journey. Zune on, brothers and sisters.

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Zune accessory giveaways


August 17, 2007

Zunes on the road

by Harvey Chute

We're loading up, and heading down the left coast for a family road trip.

2,700 miles round trip, from Bellingham (twenty miles from the Canadian border) down to Los Angeles.

Our packing list would make any Zuner proud: DLO car charger? Check. Griffin cassette adapter? Check. Papa's Zune? Check. Running case? Check - in fact, I'm bringing a sampling of Zune cases to test out enroute.

Also, my oldest daughter is bringing her Zune. ZuneWidow seems to feel that two Zunes in the car is enough, so she's leaving hers at home. Crazy, I know!!

We could take a quicker route down I-5, but instead are hugging the coastline most of the way down. I've heard great reports about the scenic route along #1 and #101.

So posting will be light from now through the 27th! Have a great week, Zuners.

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August 16, 2007

The mysterious Binary Zune

by Harvey Chute

zune graphic

No one seems to know the story behind this one, but a Zune with a binary design has appeared on Flickr and on various Zune sites.

Stefan from iwantapinkzune indicates that this was evidently a gift to the Zune web team.

We've added it to our encyclopaedic Zune Versions Gallery.

Do you know anything about the origins of this limited-edition Zune? Hit the comments link and enlighten us!

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

August 15, 2007

Five Zunerama members get lucky with DLO

by Harvey Chute

Our Zune Home Dock giveaway is now complete. Thanks to DLO for gracing five of our members with this sweet A/V kit. It was a great kick-off to our one-year birthday celebration!

You can see all of our DLO winners in our giveaway board.

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Find Zune accessories on Amazon

August 14, 2007

Squatters

by Harvey Chute

I recently fat-fingered the Zunerama domain name in my browser. I typed zunearama.com instead. And, lo and behold, a squatter site appeared, with some boilerplate Zune content... and with an offer to sell me that domain name.

These sites get hits when people mis-type the name of their intended website. And, they hope that the site owners will buy their domains in order to avoid confusion.

I'm not buying, but was surprised to find Zunerama targeted by this practice.

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August 13, 2007

Gear report: Zunerama goes to Boston

by Harvey Chute

I spent most of last week in Boston, courtesy of my day job. What a great city! I hope to get back someday, hopefully with my family. It's only failing is an explicably low density of Starbucks restaurants - what's up with that?

I brought my Zune, natch, and had a good run with it one cool night. I was staying in Cambridge, at the Charles Hotel. I ran from there through JFK Memorial Park, followed the Charles River east to the JFK Street bridge, crossed the Charles to the "Boston side", followed the river back to the next bridge ("Elliot Bridge"), and circled back to my hotel.

One benefit of running in a strange city, at twilight: it's motivating. It's ill-advised to run while wearing earphones, I know, especially in an unfamiliar and partially unlit route like this one. Anyway, I maintained a pace a little quicker than my usual 8:30 minute miles.

Gear report: On this run I used the Griffin Tempoarmband. One of the best features of this case is the cord wrap, which lets me adjust and lock in the length of my headphone cord. Dealing with headphone wires while running is a pet peeve of mine. Every Zune case designed for active use needs something like the Griffin's cord wrap to keep those wires under control.

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August 12, 2007

Google and Universal Music to provide music downloads

by Harvey Chute

Exciting news this week: Google and Universal are launching a music download service, with a twist: Universal will sell its music directly (unlike the third-party model employed by iTunes and Zune Marketplace).

Christened "gBox", the idea is that Google will display advertisements when a search is made for an artist. Clicking the ad will take the user to gBox, where DRM-free tracks can be purchased for 99 cents. This is the same price as DRM-loaded tracks from iTunes and Zune Marketplace, and 30 cents cheaper than iTunes' DRM-free tracks!

Google gets paid by Universal when ads are clicked, and Universal gets paid by consumers when tracks are purchased.

A challenge to iTunes, Zune Marketplace, and other offerings? Definitely. Over and above the attractive price, it puts into question the favorable treatment that iTunes enjoys from music labels, such as exclusive tracks and other goodies. That treament may diminish once Universal starts pushing its own online service as a rival to iTunes.

Launch date is August 21, 2007.

Thanks to Zunerama member JohnCz for the story and Gizmodo link.

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August 9, 2007

First to announce: new iPod or new Zune?

by Harvey Chute

Zune was released on November 14, 2006. The latest iPod digital players (30GB and 80GB video players) were released on September 19, 2006.

(Note: Apple's iPhone, released this past June, is in another product category, competing with smartphones.)

We getting close to the 2007 Christmas shopping season, and both companies have been hinting about new players with new features.

So who will be first to announce the next, next-gen digital player? Does it matter? And what kind of one-up-manship are we likely to see this holiday season?

Post your thoughts at the comment link below. Thanks to Zunerama member JohnCz for the thread.

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August 7, 2007

Microsoft releases brown Halo Zune for military personnel

by Harvey Chute

Microsoft announced that it is offering a brown Halo Zune exclusively for military personnel and their families, at discounted rates through military retail stores.

They are also giving away 300 of these to a group of soldiers leaving for active duty.

Like the black Halo Zune, these will come with pre-loaded artwork, trailers and music from all three Halo games.

We've added these to our Zune Versions gallery. Thanks to segadc for the story tip.

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August 6, 2007

Time for some J

by Harvey Chute

If Zune had an iconic figure, it would be J Allard - the leader of Microsoft's Zune team. As a young Microsoft programmer, Allard famously ignited the company's Internet strategy. He is also credited with providing the technical vision for Microsoft's Xbox and Xbox 360 projects.

While I have little doubt that J is doing the right things internally in leading the Zune team, he's pretty much been under the public radar since the Zune launch last fall.

With Allard's track record, credibility, and - yes - panache, he could add a lot to Microsoft's campaign to make Zune a major force in the digital player world. And Zune, that plucky little underdog of an MP3 player, needs every bit of help it can get.

I think we need to see him more. The Zune community, and the tech world at large, needs to hear from a visionary with his kind of credentials.

It's time we had a little more J.

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August 5, 2007

Worldwide Zunes

by Harvey Chute

It's been a couple of months since we last checked our Zunerama Frappr map. That map shows the location of Zunerama's Zune owners around the world.

Have you placed your pin on the map? You can add yourself by clicking the Join button below.

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August 4, 2007

Our latest winners

by Harvey Chute

The winners keep rolling in, and our Zune accessories keep rolling out out the door here at Zunerama headquarters.

Our latest winners:

  • ComposMentis and coot66 each win a Griffin Centerstage case
  • BBIC_Strait, Heatwave316, dman762000, jumper_jax, p3t3rxl1m, and fortune each win a Speck case for Zune
  • atomicpop wins our latest DLO Home Dock
  • Parabet, swanroad and philb967 each get a DecalGirl Skin for their Zunes
  • These and other giveaways are going on now. You can get in the game in our Giveaway Board.

    Comments | Permalink


    August 3, 2007

    Forum developments

    by Harvey Chute

    This past week we welcomed member #3,500 to Zunerama's forum - our little corner of the Social. (For those of you who are counting, we also surpassed 35,000 posts and 3.2 million pageviews.)

    I also figured out, finally, how to pull forum data into our main page. So our Zunerama main page now sports a list of who's currently online in our forums.

    There's a lot of other data I could pull into the main page from the forums. But I'm trying to keep the main page reasonably clean... a challenge, when it's so tempting (and easy) to fill it up with clutter.

    The most exciting development for me, though, is that two of our long-time members have agreed to serve as moderators in the forums: pulse and Jander. This is great for me, and great for our forums! I look forward to sharing moderator duties with these fine members of the Zune community.

    Comments | Permalink


    August 2, 2007

    Zune Tattoo man looks for more

    by Harvey Chute

    zune graphic

    You remember Zune tattoo guy, don't you? Well, he has recently joined our forum. He now has two Zune tattoos, with a third and fourth one planned.

    The third one? "Welcome to the Social" across his back.

    And the fourth? Well, he's contemplating inking in our Zunerama logo, right under the Zune logo on his left arm.

    In the words of Dave Barry... I am not making this up. You can weigh in, and perhaps save this man before it's too late, through the Comments link below.

    Comments | Permalink


    August 1, 2007

    Zune wireless Pong, anyone?

    by Harvey Chute

    We're into some heavy free-thinking in our forums this week, with some tantalizing ideas for wireless games and functions for your Zune.

    I love the idea of Zune Pong, playable wirelessly between two nearby Zunes.

    Thanks to Zunerama member Zaff Sans for some nicely rendered examples, including a Zune background weather widget, a WiFi signal finder, and wireless atomic clock. You can see all the examples at the Comments link - check'em out!

    Comments | Permalink


    July 31, 2007

    Would you buy a second Zune?

    by Harvey Chute

    With rumors heavy about a new Zune coming out later this year, our forum members are debating: Would you buy a new Zune, in addition to your current player?

    New Zune players may include a flash-based Zune (think: Nano alternative), and a higher-storage hard-drive Zune.

    So far, most respondents to the forum poll are game for a second Zune player.

    Personally, I would definitely buy a flash Zune, but would probably hold off on a second hard-drive Zune. So far, I'm content with my 30GB capacity... although I do have to swap out the larger video files when I load up a fresh set of movies to the player. I suppose if I tire of that exercise, I may just spring for a larger 80GB (or 100GB?) Zune player if and when it's released.

    How about you? Would you add to your Zune collection by springing for a new Zune player when it's released? Vote here.

    Thanks to Cooper for kicking off the poll.

    Comments | Permalink


    July 30, 2007

    Forum round-up!

    by Harvey Chute

    zune graphic

    Overheard in the Zune forums:

  • We give a teaser about a new high-end giveaway coming up
  • Longtime member xoom breaks down and joins the dark side after his Zune gets stolen
  • The Zune tattoo guy drops in to tell us of his latest plans
  • We announce more giveaways in our Zunerama birthday celebration
  • ...and, we welcome pulse as our latest forum moderator. Glad you're here, pulse!

    Zune on, folks...

    Comments | Permalink


    July 25, 2007

    Photo review: VAF Octavio 1

    by Harvey Chute

    It's here, folks - our in-depth photo review of VAF's Octavio 1.

    This is the highest-end sound system available with an integrated Zune docking cradle.

    How does it perform? Check out our Octavio 1 photo review for a run-down of this impressive product's features and performance.

    And don't forget... we've got a giveaway for one of these happening now. Thanks to VAF for the review unit... and for the Zunerama giveaway!

    Comments | Permalink


    July 24, 2007

    First winner of DLO Home Dock drawn

    by Harvey Chute

    Congrats to Zunerama member masonpwiley, who wins our DLO Home Dock for Zune!

    We will be giving four more away. To enter to win, post a picture of you (or a friend) with your Zune in our Zune Photo Gallery, and let us know about it in our giveaway thread.

    Comments | Permalink


    July 23, 2007

    Almost definite - a new Zune by Christmas

    by Harvey Chute

    This has been so widely speculated that is seems somewhat de facto, but the Zune rumor mill is grinding again - about a new Zune player out by Christmas.

    WhizByte is the latest to chime in, citing an unnamed source at Microsoft as indicating that "you can expect an update later this year prior to the holiday season".

    This coincides with our May 30 Steve Ballmer quote about "something better" coming with Zune this Christmas. And with our May 7 story about flash Zune leaks out of Redmond.

    Meanwhile, Cesar from ZuneInsider reminds us that Microsoft has consistently said that it will "expand Zune along three axes" - new devices, new features, and international expansion. No confirmation of new devices, features, or timeframes... yet.

    I'm dreaming of a bright Christmas...

    Comments | Permalink


    July 22, 2007

    Zune now officially accepted into popular culture

    by Harvey Chute

    In a sure sign that Zune has finally gone mainstream, Google no longer asks "Did you mean zone?" every time you use Zune as a search term.

    Interestingly, I've also noticed that Google no longer asks "Did you mean cinerama?" when I use Zunerama as a search term. Hunh, I guess we've made it into the Google dictionary, too!

    Thanks, segadc.

    Comments | Permalink


    July 21, 2007

    Dueling Hide-a-Pod solutions

    by Harvey Chute

    First, some anonymous iPod-loving wags post a faux website called Hide-a-Pod.

    For $29.95, you get a Zune shell to hide your iPod in - instantly making it undesirable to thieves.

    I had to chuckle at this clever dig at Zune.

    Then, the Zune camp strikes back with their own version of Hide-a-Pod.



    This one consists of a gel product, to facilitate the insertion of one's iPod into one's own very personal storage space.

    I give points to the former for a cleaner looking website, and points to the latter for an impressively quick - if somewhat crude - response.

    Thanks to Gizmodo for the stories.

    Comments | Permalink


    July 21, 2007

    Winner drawn - for 30GB Zune player

    by Harvey Chute

    With a nod to our first birthday today, we're giving away a Zune player to one of you.

    And the lucky Zunerama member is... rockin_amigo14. Congratulations! You get your choice of Zune player - check your email for details.

    Beyond this, we have over 100 giveaways lined up over the next few weeks! The whole smorg is laid out for you in our giveaway board.

    Comments | Permalink


    July 21, 2007

    Happy Birthday to us!

    by Harvey Chute

    We started this humble site on July 21, 2006. It's been a full year:

    325 blog stories published. 214 Zune accessory giveaways. 3,400 members. 4,500 forum topics. 36,000 posts. 3 million pageviews.

    94 website pages (not counting the forum). 25 photo/video reviews of Zune accessories. 1 For Dummies book.

    #1 or #2 on www.topzunesites.com for much of the past year.

    And one grateful owner/editor. Thanks to all of you, who make Zunerama a useful gathering place for Zuners!!

    Comments | Permalink

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