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Zune forums

In the forums now: 229 Guests, 0 Users

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March 30, 2008

Books-on-Zune experts weigh in

by Harvey Chute

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Our forums are blessed with thoughtful members who give advice generously to their fellow Zuners. Case in point: our blog about Zune's Audible support (or lack thereof). I'll highlight Zunerama member pixelsyndicate, who offered insights into how he manages over 75GB of audio books. His advice:

The trick to ripping 12+ CDs (many many more if its the NIV Dramatized Bible) and keeping your collection stable in ZUNE is your proper housekeeping of ID3 tags. Turn OFF the Zune Software option for "Automatically update album art and media information" BEFORE YOU RIP OR ORGANIZE YOUR TAGS because if you do not, your BBC Audio Drama of the Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy will have several song titles like 'So Long', 'Uncharted Backwaters', 'Panic', and the like.

I use Mp3tag (www.mp3tag.de) to manage my album art and meta data. With it, you can occasionally use the Tag Sources from Amazon or FreeDB to find missing information. Just in the likely event that Zune gets all crazy with it, I set my audio book files to Read Only once I get the meta data set up.

I dont merge each CD track into a single MP3 because the 'Resume' function on the Zune player isn't available (as it is with Zune's podcasting support), so I keep them as hour-long tracks, which helps me find my place in the recording if I get interrupted (pausing works fine in most cases).

I specifically name the genre Audio Book or Audio Drama (yes, there is a difference when it comes to BBC beauties like Doctor Who). Mp3tag handles the track numbering for you, but before you rip the CD, ensure they have the same Album and Author for each CD in the collection.

If you need to, or really like to organize stuff, give each CD track a file name like '01-12_HHGTTG_Adams.mp3' (the format being [Number]-[OfTotalNumber]_[AlbumName]_[Author]). It helps to organize large numbers of them prior to having Mp3tag correct all of the track numbers from your multi-CD collection.

Thanks, pixelsyndicate. There's no substitute for good advice from someone who's lived it.

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March 29, 2008

Zunerama to get pre-release look at new Kicker Zune dock

by Harvey Chute

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I was contacted this week by Kicker, the renowned maker of car audio systems. Paige let me know that Kicker will be releasing its Zune home stereo system - the ZK500 - in May, and will be sending me a review unit this week.

Kicker designed this to be the "loudest and most innovative" stereo system for Zune players. The ZK500 features include a 40W amp, 6" square subwoofer, 5" woofers, and bass/treble adjustments.

The ZK500 (and its iPod companion, the iK500) will retail for $349.99. Stay tuned for the Zunerama photo and video review.

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March 28, 2008

My Zune rocks, but it won't read me to sleep

by Harvey Chute

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Our forum is rumbling about Zune's lack of support for Audible books.

I've never used Audible's audio book digital format, but can understand the desire of many for Zune to support it. It's not clear if Microsoft has plans to do so, or whether this week's acquisition of Audible by Amazon will affect any plans for Zune's compatibility with Audible.

What I'd really like would be to be able to download audio books from Marketplace.

In the meantime, I've found that books on CD work reasonably well with Zune. Just rip the CDs, and sync the large audio files to your player. You can then play the file as you would any other track.

And if you wish, you can use this trick to save your position, so you can resume from there later.

Some audiobooks break up a book into many tracks. You're best off merging those files into a single track, using a utility like Merge-MP3 or mp3wrap.

Those are the techniques that I use, at least until Zune gets more robust audiobook support.

Did I miss anything? Let us know your books-on-Zune tips!

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March 27, 2008

My Facebook page just got (marginally) cooler

by Harvey Chute

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I have the world's lamest Facebook page, but it got a little cooler this week.

I added my Zune card, fearlessly revealing my music listening habits to the awaiting world.

Wanna do this to your Facebook page? Here's how.

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March 27, 2008

Cesar talks up Zune apps for Facebook, MySpace

by Harvey Chute

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Max Zuckerman from Channel 8 recently interviewed Cesar, the public face of the Zune team.

Check it out by clicking on the pic. And don't miss Stefan's detective work as he decodes the secret messages in Cesar's interview.

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See Zune Players on Amazon: Black, White, Brown

March 26, 2008

Music subscriptions: approaching a tipping point?

by Harvey Chute

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Are music subscriptions about to take off? Reports surfaced today that Song/BMG has caught the fever and will be making its extensive music catalog available to subscribers.

This follows the recent Apple rumor that it's working on an iPod music subscription model.

Microsoft made its Zune Pass subscription available in November 2006, at the same time it released its first-generation Zune players. We have long hailed Zune Pass as a subscription model that provides a great value to its users.

But many have doubted the sustainabiliy of subscription services. Yahoo Music shuttered its subscription service last month. This followed Virgin Digital's demise a few months earlier.

The future of subscriptions may come down to a fight between the music labels and those player-makers that offer subscription services (Microsoft and soon, perhaps, Apple). Who can provide the simplest, best-value subscription experience, with the least restrictions?

Logically, the labels ought to win. They should be able to offer their product more cheaply, and with the benefit of not tying the music to a particular type of player.

But the labels have been mis-reading the music industry for so long, I wouldn't bet against Zune Pass, or any future iPod subscriptions for that matter.

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Zune accessory giveaways


March 25, 2008

Zunerama site designers win VIBES

by Harvey Chute

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Congratulations to Zunerama site designers Vipralion, 4tech, and Trastan! Each of you has been awarded a pair of V-Moda's exquisite VIBES earphones.

The talented trio submitted multiple website designs in our Zunerama redesign contest. Thank you for the tasteful and novel design ideas! And thanks as well to our Honorable Mentions: microzune, D4V3, thembc, and MrChuang.

While our actual redesign has been postponed, we didn't want to wait any longer to recognize everyone who contributed artistically and technically to the redesign project. You can see all of the submitted designs in our contest thread.

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

March 25, 2008

Two-for-Tuesday on Woot

by Harvey Chute

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My two younger daughters have two Zune 8s, and no cases. Woot comes through today with a 2-fer - Nike Sport Kit carrying cases. They're made for iPod Nano but should work fine for the Zune 8s.

And the price? $0.99 for both of them, plus Woot's standard $5 shipping.

Get'em while they last at Woot!.

Thanks to jrmcknn for the tip!

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March 23, 2008

Map yourself, Zuners

by Harvey Chute

Are you on our Zune map yet? Make your location known - the Zunerama Frappr map has now been viewed over 130,000 times!

You can poke your pin into the map by clicking the Join button.

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March 22, 2008

Zune public consciousness update

by Harvey Chute

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Apple's music player dominance is so eminent that the term iPod is often used generically to describe any music player.

In this accomplishment, iPod deservedly takes its place alongside Kleenex and Crescent wrenches.

As a Zune enthusiast, I get a minor rush when I hear Zune even mentioned alongside iPod in the media.

This morning's mail brought another of these. Inside my latest Netflix envelope is an eMusic ad, that not only mentions Zune but but lists it before iPod. Sweetness and light!

No tectonic plates moved. But it's a small sign that Microsoft is wedging their little underdog into the public consciousness.

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March 21, 2008

Zune accessory hunt

by Harvey Chute

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Looking for a good deal on a good Zune 30 case? Some of my favorite cases are the colorful pebblestone leather ones from Case-Mate.

You can get 'em now for $19.99, which includes customization.

How about Zune flash and 80GB cases? You'll be hard-pressed to beat this deal that Zunerama member rich3327 picked up at OverStockDealz.

I still haven't found a Zune 80 case that I like. If you have recommendations, kindly let me know.

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Zune DVD tutorial


March 20, 2008

Zune games

by Harvey Chute

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Causing some excitement in the Zune world, Microsoft announced in last month's Game Developers Conference that its XNA Game Studio will support the development of games for Zune.

What does this really mean? There's some confusion about this, and some of the terms may not be familiar to non-gamers or those who don't follow game development.

Here's my attempt at answering a few questions that may be out there.

What is XNA? It's a toolset and runtime environment for game development. The XNA framework takes care of low-level gaming technical details, and facilitates the porting of games among different platforms (e.g. Windows, Xbox, and now Zune).

What is XNA Game Studio? It's an integrated development environment (IDE) for creating games using XNA.

Will Zune games developed in XNA Game Studio be playable on Xbox or on Windows? Yes. If you build a game for Zune using XNA Game Studio, that game can be ported for play on Xbox and on Windows.

Does this mean that games developed for Xbox will be playable on my Zune? No, not in most cases. Zune games will use a subset of the XNA framework, given the limited gaming capabilities of Zune compared to Xbox. Zune games, for example, will be 2D; Zune lacks the graphics processing power to handle 3D games.

Will games developed for Zune be playable on all player models? Yes, according to XNA program manager Michael Klucher. Zune games will play on Zune 30s as well as Zune 4 and 8 flash players, and Zune 80s.

The Zune 30 gaming experience will be hampered somewhat, given its lack of a touch-sensitive Zune Pad.

Can I play music on my Zune while I'm playing a game? Yes.

Does XNA Game Studio support Zune games today? No, the new Version 3.0, which will support Zune game development, will be released in preview "this Spring" (that's soon, right?). Expect the final release later this year, around "holiday time".

Where can I get my own copy of XNA Game Studio? How much? You can get it from creators.xna.com. You can download the Express version for free.

Where will I be able to get Zune games? What, you won't be developing your own? Well, developers can now share "community games" through Xbox Live Marketplace. And, one has to think, Zune Marketplace will have a Games area right alongside its Music and Podcast areas.

For some more info (and lengthy videos) about this, check out Channel 9, On10, and Joystiq.

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Find Zune accessories on Amazon

March 19, 2008

Apple eyeing subscriptions?

by Harvey Chute

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Apple has long been a holdout on subscription services, preferring to sell music by the track or by the album through iTunes Store.

Now, according to the Financial Times, the company may offer unlimited iTunes Store access - - in exchange for premium pricing on iPods and iPhones.

The rumored service would come as a surprise, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been disdainful of subscription models. (Of course, he also dissed Zune's wireless sharing, and that's sure to show up in some form as a future iPod offering.)

The move is reportedly to spur iPod and iPhone sales. Similar plans are being offered by cell phone carriers. And, of course, the move would help Apple counter Microsoft's Zune Pass offering, which has gotten respect as a solid subscription offering.

Apple's not commenting... but our forum members are.

Thanks to scoutflyer for the tip.

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March 18, 2008

What's your Zune elevator issue?

by Harvey Chute

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If you were in a 60-second elevator ride with a Zune team lead, what's the first thing you'd bring up?

That's been on my mind this week as I prepare for next month's MVP Global Summit.

I met my teenage daughter in sunny Los Angeles tonight, and posed that question to her.

She didn't hesitate. "I'd say, Why can't I sort my playlists?"

Turns out, better playlist management is top of her list. She has a large music collection (she is, after all, a Zune Pass holder, like me). And she wants Zune software to show her sorted playlists - so she can easily weed out duplicates, and easily find out what tracks are already in a given playlist.

Makes sense to me.

What's your Zune elevator issue? Let me know and maybe I can get an answer next month!

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March 17, 2008

Up close and personal with the Zune team

by Harvey Chute

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Zunerama has a full month of Zune activities coming up, and the highlight of that for me is the MVP Global Summit.

Microsoft recognized Zunerama last year by designating me as one of a handful of Zune MVPs. That has given me an avenue of access to the Zune team, which I much appreciate, along with last fall's prelease access to the latest line of Zune players.

Next month, I get to interact directly with the Zune team on the Microsoft campus, as part of the annual MVP Global Summit. At the summit, MVPs get access to technical content, participate in direct feedback sessions, and meet with Microsoft executives, product teams, and MVPs from around the world.

I'm excited - and plan to be well-armed with questions and suggestions from our forums.

Anything you want to pass on to Microsoft's Zune team? Let me know!

Photo credit: weblog.helpware.net

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