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Zune forums

In the forums now: 237 Guests, 0 Users

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October 29, 2007

A different kind of doubleshot

by Harvey Chute

zune graphic

A lot of us have been squinting at the pics of the new Zune players, and one unconfirmed question has been: What happened to the doubleshot?

We're referring, of course, to the distinctive two-tone finish of the Zune 30GB player - where the edges of the plastic body had a contrasting translucent color.

It turns out we'll still have a doubleshot in the new players, as confirmed today by Cesar of ZuneInsider - but "different from last year's".

Cesar quotes Zune design director Steve Kaneko:

"We have maintained the double-shot plastic for this year’s devices. The surprise this year is that we used a light inside color and a tinted outside shot that carries the hue."

Evidently the event gives an interesting "colored bottle" look to the players. The players have a plastic front, and a metal back - which reduces the thickness of the overall device. So that doubleshot look will only apply to the front of the player.

Hit the comments link to discuss amongst yourselves.

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October 29, 2007

Mystery of the left-handed Zune

by Harvey Chute

zune graphic

A sharp-eyed Zunerama member spotted a Zune 30GB playing a video in left-hand orientation - in the Wisin y Yandel music video released this weekend.

We've examined this and tried to explain it. Has the video been mirrored? No - if you flip it left-right the resulting image (below) has the headphone jack on the wrong side of the player.

zune graphic

What about a 180-degree rotation? If you turn the image upside down (shown below), it would explain the configuration - assuming the video was loaded and displayed upside down. Seems like quite a contortion, just for the video to show a left-handed orientation.

zune graphic

Is this a hint of an unreleased firmware update, accommodating those lefty Zuners out there? We're not ready to go that far... but it's most curious. Hit the Comment link to join in on the sleuthing.

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October 27, 2007

Zune album art quietly being improved?

by Harvey Chute

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Reports are spreading in our forums that Zune Marketplace seems to be delivering higher-quality album art with your song downloads. The result is crisper album art displays on the Zune player, and in Zune software on your PC.

So far no confirmation from Microsoft on this, but it appears they're working behind the scenes on catalog updates. One Zunerama member has noticed artists dropping momentarily from the catalog, and then reappearing with higher-resolution album art.

This will be a welcome enhancement, particularly with the Zune 80's 3.2-inch screen. Low-res artwork will show pixelation on that screen, but the newer high-res versions should display your now-playing artist beautifully.

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October 25, 2007

1-click to get your Zune podcasts

by Harvey Chute

With next month's Zune update, expect to start seeing this symbol appearing on podcast sites: zune graphic

That's the icon (or "chicklet") that you'll use for 1-click subscription to podcasts.

Clicking on the link will launch Zune software and will place the podcast in your collection, according to Rod Greenlee at ZuneInsider.

This works even if the podcast feed is not in the Zune Marketplace podcast directory.

Something to look forward to with the Zune updates on November 13!

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October 22, 2007

More madness from Woot - $79.99 Zune 30GB

by Harvey Chute

You can get a brown 30GB Zune for $79.99 from Woot today, while quantities last.

They're refurbs, but still... an unbelievable value. For the price of a Shuffle, you can get a 30GB video player with built-in FM, and - with next month's firmware update - wireless sync to your PC.

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October 22, 2007

Zune limited editions - we count 22

by Harvey Chute

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Our gallery of Zune player versions now has twenty-two - yes, 22 - variations of the beloved 30GB player.

Charity Zunes, pre-release prototypes, promotional special editions, tribute Zunes... you name it, we've got'em in our gallery along with pics and links to source material.

Anticipating more of this LE-mania with the new players, we've expanded our gallery to include the new 4 and 8GB players, and the 80GB player.

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Zune DVD tutorial


October 22, 2007

Win V-Moda VIBE earphones - only the brave need apply

by Harvey Chute

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In our latest Zunerama giveaway, we're sending one of you a pair of V-Moda's renowned VIBE earphones. These $100 earphones are sure to please - I've had my pair for several months and they are a treat.

Want in? Click the pic.

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

October 21, 2007

Zune customer support guide leaked

by Harvey Chute

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Zune Scene's source on Microsoft's Zune team has leaked several dozen pages of a Zune customer service manual. Most of the material is unsurprising, but it makes for an interesting inside look at the new Zune players and software.

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See Zune Players on Amazon: Black, White, Brown

October 20, 2007

New Zune displays popping up at Target

by Harvey Chute

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Our forum members have spotted Zune displays at Target, with plastic replicas of the new Zune 4/8, 30, and 80 GB players.

See the forum thread for some nice pics of the replicas and the accompanying glossies.

Thanks to Palmer and Dwain77 for the pics.

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Zune accessory giveaways


October 19, 2007

Inside story from the Zune NYC gathering

by Harvey Chute

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Zunerama members jaxim and Jiggy24 attended last night's Zune preview in New York City. Some in-person impressions of the new players:

Zune Pad: The "best thing" was the Zune pad. "From the videos, you many not be able to tell that the pad is actually a button, not just a trackpad," jaxim notes. "I had originally thought that you could click on the Zune Pad like a laptop trackpad and it would register as a tap. That's thankfully not the case - the pad is also a movable button." Jiggy24 remarked on the impressive responsiveness of the Zune pad.

Jaxim also found out that you can turn off the touch-sensitive feature, to use the Zune Pad exactly like the current control pad on the Zune 30.

User Interface: The UI now shows thumbnails of your videos to make it easier to select videos from lists. Jiggy24 reports that the GUI is very responsive.

The five-star rating system appears to have been replaced with a loveit-hateit rating system. Hit the comments link below for a spirited discussion of that design decision.

Album art is displayed slightly larger than in the current firmware.

Wireless: The new UI improves upon an annoyance in the previous version: if you try to send a song, and you have wireless turned off, you can now turn wireless on without having to go back to the Settings menu.

Body: Jaxim wasn't sold on the glossy "lipstick" finish of the red Zune 4, wondering if it's as durable and smudge-proof as the Zune 30 exterior.

Screen: The display from the glass screens of all new models (Zune 4/8/80) got good reviews ("sweet"). The Zune 4/8 screen looks very sharp and clear. Jiggy24 though that he could see more pixelation on the Zune 80 screen (at 3.2 inches).

Our moderator pinksage has more impressions on her most excellent Zune site GenerationZune.net. Check it out!

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October 19, 2007

Leading Zune states: Washington, Utah, D.C.

by Harvey Chute

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In the past few weeks, Woot has sold about 39,000 Zune 30GB players.

Of those, people in Washington state bought more than their share, purchasing 2.2 times more than its proportion of the U.S. population would suggest.

Is that the Microsoft effect at work?

(Two independent Zune sites are also based in Washington: the Zunerama home office is in Bellingham, and iWantAPinkZune.com is HQ'd in Spokane. I'm sure that has some correlation to Zune sales on Woot, but don't ask me how.)

Close behind Washington state is Utah (2.12 times over their proportion of the U.S. population), and the District of Columbia (1.7 times).

The states that showed the least love for Zune players were Mississippi, West Virginia, and Louisiana.

Other Woot statistics reveal that, when offered a choice, 66% of Woot buyers chose black Zunes. 20% went for white, and 14% went for the much-maligned brown Zune.

More Zune statistics are available from the number-crunchers at Woot.

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October 15, 2007

Battery life for new Zune players

by Harvey Chute

Our Zune community is reacting positively to the Zune battery life specs, released today by ZuneInsider.

The new flash players - Zune 4GB and Zune 8GB - will provide up to 24 hours of audio and up to 4 hours of video.

The new Zune 80GB player will provide up to 30 hours of audio and up to 4 hours of video.

Those figures are with wireless turned off. Audio settings for the test were 128kpbs .wma tracks, and video was 500kpbs .wmv videos.

To see how that compares with the Zune 30, and to the flash and hard-drive based iPod models, check out our spec tables.

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Find Zune accessories on Amazon

October 15, 2007

Zune Pass listening thread #5

by Harvey Chute

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This week, we continue with our new music discovery, with the following albums:

Artist | Album: North Mississippi Allstars | Hill Country Revue: Live at Bonnaroo

Artist | Album: G Love & Special Sauce | Yeah, It's that Easy

Artist | Album: Craig David | The Story Goes

Check'em out, and post your reactions here. Good listening - hope you find some new music to love.

Thanks to ballbagcheese.

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October 15, 2007

Radio Shack needs more "weird stuff"

by Harvey Chute

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I am increasingly disenchanted with my local Radio Shack. A third of the store is devoted to cell phones, another third to iPod, and the remainder to cheap remote control toys. Where's the variety?

It's sad, because my mental image of the store is so different. A childhood memory of mine is going with my dad - a self-taught electronics wiz - to Radio Shack whenever we'd go to Kamloops (the nearest "big city" from the hamlet of my youth). The place seemed like a treasure trove of gadgetry and components.

Today's inventory is so vanilla. More annoying to me are the bemused and somewhat condescending reactions I get when I inquire about Zune. Yeah, guys, I know who the market leader is..!

Yesterday, I drop in on one of my local stores, which has one wall full of iPods and iPod accessories. In the midst of that wall is, inexplicably, a lone no-name Zune silicon case.

I ask the salesman if they are planning to carry Zune. It's a question I've asked at the same store several times over the past year. (My daughters now refuse to enter the store with me.)

He replied that he doubted it, but "you never know, because we've been getting some really weird stuff in here lately".

Someday, I hope that once again I'll see more of that weird stuff in Radio Shack.

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October 14, 2007

Where will you be?

by Harvey Chute

zune graphic

Launch date for the new Zune players - and the Zune firmware update - and the new Zune software - and Zune Marketplace - and Zune Social - is now less than one month away.

Where will you be on November 13?

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October 13, 2007

Radiohead: good idea, poor execution

by Harvey Chute

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British rock band Radiohead released their 7th studio album on Wednesday, making it available initially as a digital download. Downloaders can name their own price for the album. (It'll come out as a standard CD early next year.)

This is one more illustration of how the music industry and its distribution business is changing.

I jumped on the bandwagon this weekend, downloading In Rainbows from the Radiohead site.

It's a great idea, and I applaud the group's boldness. Unfortunately, I wish they'd done a better job with the download experience. It's cumbersome, and intrusive.

For one, the download service doesn't allow PayPal. Instead, it requires that you to go through a registration process with a payment provider called Xurbia. (Do they really need to know my cell phone number?)

You can name your own price, but be ready to name it in British pounds and pence. There's a not-so-helpful link to an external currency converter if you need it.

At checkout, a 45 pence surcharge (about 90 cents) is tacked on for the use of credit/debit cards. (Note: for you cheapskates out there, you could choose to pay only the credit card handling fee. Like the band says, the price for the album is up to you.)

There's no opportunity to opt-out when it comes to the Radiohead mailing list. If you bother to navigate to the terms and conditions page, you'll read: "By registering with the shop, w.a.s.t.e. products may use your e-mail address to send you Radiohead news, updates, ticket info etc."

After registration, you get a link downloading a 48.4MB zip file. That file contains 10 MP3s, encoded at 160Kbps, constant bit rate. That helps with the download size but may be a lower bitrate than some fans would choose. As far as I can tell, they are "clean" MP3s - no protections or owner identifications in them.

It sounds like none of the downloading inconveniences deterred Radiohead fans from getting their hands on the album - and even crashing the download server in the process.

Good luck to Radiohead on this experiment, and hopefully they - and other bands that follow their lead - will smooth out the download process in the future.

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Turn your 
desktop into a beautiful aquarium!

Elegant fish, swaying plants, rising bubbles, full stereo music...
Get 3D Aquarium


October 12, 2007

Hack: sync more video types to Zune players (Vista 64)

by Harvey Chute

zune graphic

A registry hack has existed for a while to enable Zune software to convert more types of video, audio, and image formats.

That hack, though, has not worked with the Vista 64-bit edition of Windows. Relief is at hand today, though, thanks to some registry tweaking guidance from infrastructure architect Jef Kazimer.

Jef notes that Vista 64 uses a different location for key registry settings and files. He points out where to find those locations and how to do the proper string replacements in the registry.

As with all registry hacks: proceed with caution. Check in with our Zune hacks and mods board if you need to - that's the one with the tagline "Abandon warranty all ye who enter here".

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October 11, 2007

Zune's new UI: 12 observations

by Harvey Chute

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We've all seen glimpses of the upcoming Zune user interface - from the limited video clips available showing the new Zune players in action.

Beyond the obvious font and layout changes - and the addition of new menu options like podcasts - our eagle-eyed members have detected some subtle changes in the Zune UI:

  • Volume settings now go up to 40 (compared to 20 currently)
  • Album artwork when browsing by Album looks bigger than on the current firmware
  • Artist name doesn't show on unselected albums when you browse by Album
  • Home screen font is somewhat transparent
  • Videos now provide a thumbnail on top instead of the video name - for videos and for video podcasts
  • The dotted circle (for sync and wifi transfers) is replaced with a set of blinking stars in the shape of the Zune logo
  • When scrolling through the options on the home screen, the currently selected item is bolded
  • When an option is activated from the home screen, or from lists such as songs or albums, the selected item flashes momentarily
  • The icons for battery, lock, and wireless are oriented vertically now
  • When advancing from one track to another, the album art for the new track slides in from the right in a "wipe" transition
  • Podcasts are organized on the player into audio or video podcasts
  • When playing a podcast, the options available are Resume, Play from beginning, and Send. (Podcasts can be sent wirelessly to other Zune players, just like audio tracks.)

    The first-generation Zune UI earned high marks for usability. It seems that the above refinements will make the new UI even more satisfying. We can't wait to dive deeper into it - and especially to see what's behind that Settings menu option.

    Thanks to Ricardo for kicking off the legwork.

    Comments | Permalink


    October 10, 2007

    Why Zune: one man's opinion

    by Harvey Chute

    zune graphic

    Zunerama member Trastan posted a "Why Zune?" piece in our forums, excerpted here:

    "I bought my Zune not because I thought it was the best player, or because I love the screen size, or the wireless sharing. I bought it because I saw the direction that Microsoft was going.

    "I saw them taking the same approach with the Zune as with their XBox franchise. I saw the beginnings of an ecosystem that could bring a series of intelligent products into one cohesive system. Even if that didn't happen with the first devices, I wanted in on the ground floor (just as I was with the original XBox). I want to be able to watch it grow.

    "Even if you aren't a personal user of the XBox, Zune, or Vista, anyone who's not pre-biased should be able to see what Microsoft is working towards. That's exactly what tech blogs and review sites keep ignoring: this is a progressive system.

    "Am I happy with what they're bringing on Nov. 13? Heck yes. I look forward to the ZuneSocial.net website tremendously, the new and unique software, and, while less revolutionary, the hardware and firmware as well. However, these are still just precursors to the finished (if it can ever be called that) product.

    "Microsoft said, time and again, "Don't buy the original Zune expecting new features. Buy it only for what it is right now." Yet, what happened? A revision and addition so grand in scope and original in design that no one saw it coming, and all of the early adopters are on board...

    "Microsoft is showing that you can make a successful business WHILE keeping the consumer's needs paramount. Their newfound openness, philosophies, and the brilliant minds that I see working at Microsoft impress me like no other company. They know what they're doing, and I want to be there every step of the way."

    Your thoughts? Add them at the Comments link below.

    Comments | Permalink


    See Zune Players on Amazon: Black, White, Brown

    October 9, 2007

    Zune challenge: some shaved heads coming

    by Harvey Chute

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    Skeptical about Zune's market potential? David Berlind of ZDNet is, and in a challenge to Microsoft's Robbie Bach, says he will shave his head if Zune hits the #2 spot in the portable digital media player market, by the end of the 2007 holiday season.

    Actually that's a pretty safe bet... it would be astounding for Zune to pull ahead to that degree in all hard drive and flash categories, over the next 12 weeks. Zune is now #4 in the digital player market, behind Creative, SanDisk, and You-Know-Who.

    Today, Sandisk's Carm Lyman has committed to shaving her head if SanDisk falls below its #2 spot. That's how confident she is of the Sansa product lineup for this holiday season.

    No word yet if Bach has taken Berlind up on the challenge. I guess I could put my 1/8" buzzcut on the line, too - but my expectations are not that the world will turn upside down in the next 12 weeks.

    Comments | Permalink


    October 9, 2007

    Zune 80 breaks into CNET's 20 Most Wanted Products

    by Harvey Chute

    zune graphic

    Today the Zune 80 GB player appears on CNET's list of 20 Most Wanted products.

    The Zune 80 seems to be filling the market niche that we predicted: a player with a large screen (3.2") and high capacity (80 GB or 250 hours of video).

    Presently there's nothing in the iPod lineup that offers both of those features - and the market seems to be recognizing that.

    Thanks to Bond007 for the tip!

    Comments | Permalink


    October 8, 2007

    Use your Zune Pass on multiple PCs

    by Harvey Chute

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    Regular readers of this blog know that I'm an evangelist for the Zune Pass, which - while not perfect - is a compelling service that has redefined the music part of my life.

    (For the unenlightened, a Zune Pass gives you unlimited access to Zune Marketplace content for $14.99/month.)

    Our moderator Jander - a recent Zune Pass convert himself - makes note of one overlooked feature of Zune Pass, somewhat hidden in the Zune Terms of Service.

    Namely, if you're a Zune Pass holder, you can play that music on three authorized computers and up to two Zune devices.

    That means full-track streaming or downloading - your choice - on three PCs. Jander, like many of you, uses his PC not just as a vehicle to sync downloaded content with his Zune, but as a music player. With Zune Pass, he can play full albums or playlist recommendations on his PC - checking out full-length tracks and albums at will.

    There's nothing in the TOS to prevent you sharing your Zune Pass with family members, roommates, or friends. The PCs (or laptops) don't have to be under the same roof.

    You can view your subscription price as five bucks per month, for each PC to have access to Marketplace's catalog of three million tunes.

    Like Jander says, that's a phenomenal value.

    Comments | Permalink


    October 8, 2007

    Zune Pass listening thread

    by Harvey Chute

    zune graphic

    We have our own wee bit of Zune Social going on in our forums.

    Every week, Zunerama member bagballcheese recommends three albums from Zune Marketplace in the "Zune Pass listening thread". Others then check out the music, and discuss the artists and albums in the thread.

    From personal experience, I can tell you it's a fun way to get exposed to music that's new-to-you.

    It's open for anyone, of course... not just Zune Pass holders. It's just easier for Zune Pass holders to download the albums at no extra charge!

    Got a little-known album you want to recommend? You can PM Bagballcheese through the forums.

    So... lookin' for a little music discovery? Check out this week's recommendations!

    Comments | Permalink


    October 7, 2007

    New Zune players will sync DVD-quality video; why you should care

    by Harvey Chute

    zune graphic

    New Zune players will sync high-resolution video from your PC, and the Zune 80 will send that high-rez video to your television via the players' TV-out signal.

    While the resolution of the Zune player displays are 320x240, the new players can store those higher-resolution video files without transcoding.

    Specifically, the new Zune 80, Zune 4, and Zune 8 models will import 720x480 video at 30 frames per second (fps), or 720x576 video at 25 fps. (The two resolutions reflect the two standards for DVD video: NTSC (720x480) and PAL (720x576). And those videos can be in WMV, H.264, or MPEG-4 formats - all supported natively on the new Zune players.

    The video out signal of the Zune 80 is 640x480 - implying that those widescreen DVDs are either getting side-cropped or letterboxed.

    What does this mean to you? Two things: Convenience and speed in video syncing, as the new Zune players will accept a lot more common video formats and resolutions without the need for transcoding. And... much better video quality when you've connected your Zune to your TV via cables or a Home A/V dock.

    Thanks to the Zune team for telling us this in our recent conference call, and for subsequent clarifications from ZuneInsider.

    Comments | Permalink


    Turn your 
desktop into a beautiful aquarium!

    Elegant fish, swaying plants, rising bubbles, full stereo music...
    Get 3D Aquarium


    October 6, 2007

    Feature by feature: Zune vs iPod

    by Harvey Chute

    zune graphic

    We've kept our Zune spec sheet updated this week as new information has surfaced on the new Zunes - including what we learned on our conference call with Microsoft's Zune team.

    We've also updated our side-by-side tables that compare Zune and iPod feature-for-feature: for for hard drive players and for small flash music/video players.

    Comments | Permalink

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