April 2008

At some point over the last few days, without any fanfare, I surpassed my first 1K (1,024) of plays. I have said before that I am completely addicted to the Zune. I listen in the car during my hour-long commute. I listen at work, pretty much all day. I watch podcasts or videos during my lunch break. I have not even listened to a CD since I bought the Zune back in early February.

While I [heart] my Zune, I do have a few thoughts on things I would like to see happen with the device, software, and site. In no particular order:

  1. A fix for the random reboot problem. It does not happen to me nearly as much as other people, but Microsoft’s lack of response is a bit unnerving. The Microsoft knowledge base refers to Zune.net as means for support, and yet none is given for this problem.
  2. Better video organization/navigation. Video on the Zune is great. Organization is not. You have two choices: List all the videos, or list videos by genre.
  3. Caching of lists on the Zune. Ever notice that if you go into a menu that has a large number of items, you can hear/feel the hard drive whirring away while the list of items is created? Since items can only be added during sync, why is the list of items seemingly built on-the-fly? When I select “Pictures”, I want the list of pictures to just show up. I do not want to wait 3 seconds while the hard drive thrashes together a list for me.
  4. Allow me to remove media from my PC without having it removed from the Zune during the next sync. Sync’ing as a guest or using hard drive hacks is not an acceptable solution to this problem.
  5. I would like to see status updates from the Zune Team. The community has been waiting a long time for the next version of the firmware and software. Regular updates from the Team would be great. It does not have to be anything special. Maybe a notice at the top of the page stating the development status or estimated time until realease.
  6. Support for more video file types. I cannot even begin to guess why the Zune software does not allow you to add AVI files. Considering the fact that most digital cameras encode video into an AVI file, this seems like a short-sighted descision on Microsoft’s part. Allowing users to sync FLV files would be a huge bonus as well since YouTube, Google, and Yahoo! all use this format. What if the Zune software and Internet Explorer worked together? IE could give you a right-click context menu option to add a video from a web page directly to your Zune’s video collection, ready to be moved to the Zune on the next sync.
  7. Fix the software. The Zune software is slow. The software uses too much CPU when sitting idle. It has problems burning and ripping CDs. You cannot edit meta tags with it. The list is long and needs to be addressed.
  8. Name the software. I brought this up recently in the Social. Refering to the software as “the software” or “the Zune software” seems to water down the Zune experience. It should have a name that is original, catchy, and, like the Zune, does not start with “i”.
  9. Games. Yeah, I said it. I was originally against this idea when the video from the Game Developers Conference made its rounds on the intertubes. While I will not use my Zune for gaming, I will use my Zune and my programming skillz to create custom applications. I have some ideas in mind, but I will save those for furture posts.
  10. No clock. I know it’s controversial. Clocks lead to Alarms. Alarms lead to Calendars. Calendars lead to Fear. Fear leads to Suffering. All are paths to the iPod side. Need them we do not. Listen to Yoda you should.

What about you? If you could have the Zune Team fix, add, or enhance something, what would it be?


Ask any Zune fan why the Zune is better than an iPod and you will get the same responses.  The sound is better.  The video is sharper.  While all valid reasons, one reason is often overlooked: accessories.  While I agree that the Zune could use a few more useful accessories, I love the fact that the market is not flooded with junk for the Zune.  So, here are 7 reasons (a.ka. “junky accessories”) why the Zune is better than the iPod:

iBig Box

iBig Box
A giant, inflatable boombox speaker dock.  I’d say more, but the picture manages to capture the awefulness so well.  Why ruin it?


iCarta iPod Toliet Paper Holder
An iPod near the crapper.  Some might call that “poetic justice”.


Yee-haw!  Got me a giant belt buckle for my iPod-thingy.


CEO Billfold Wallet
Some might say this is a great idea.  Just wait until you accidentally put it in your back pocket and sit on it.


Concerto Table
A table that looks like a piano.  And is an iPod dock.  And has built in speakers.  And costs $14,000.  See where I’m going with this?


Great idea until someone sees the cord coming out of your pants.  I suppose they could come in handy if you wanted to act out Tom Cruise’s famous scene from Risky Business.


iBreath Breathalizer
Attach it to your iPod and blow it.

The Zune is better because it will hopefully never have these things.  What items would you like to not see made available for the Zune?

If you have a Zune 30 or 80, you probably know you can watch videos, podcasts, and view pictures and album art on your television. What you may not know is that you do not have to buy an expensive dock or cable from Microsoft to do it. If you are like me, you have a cable from a camcorder lying around somewhere. If not, you can pick one up for cheap. You can also use a scrap iPod cable if you happen to have one buried in your junk drawer.

Using this chart from anythingbutipod.com, we can determine the pinout of the Zune A/V cable:

Zune A/V Cable Pinout

The only difference between a standard camcorder cable and the Zune is that the right audio channel (the red connector) and the composite video channel (yellow connector) are reversed. This is easy enough to fix. Plug the cable into the Zune and then connect as follows:

Cable’s Yellow Connector –> TV’s Red Connector
Cable’s Red Connector –> TV’s Yellow Connector
Cable’s White Connector –> TV’s White Connector

If you are using an iPod Video cable, the chart shows that the video channel is the same. Only the left and right audio channels (red and white connectors). To use the cable, connect as follows:

Cable’s Yellow Connector –> TV’s Yellow Connector
Cable’s Red Connector –> TV’s White Connector
Cable’s White Connector –> TV’s Red Connector

Once the Zune is plugged in, follow these steps:

  1. Set your TV to use the input you have your Zune connected to.
  2. Go into the Zune’s “settings” menu. Select “tv out”. You will see a message informing you that to turn off “tv out” you need to hold the play/pause button down and shut off the Zune.
  3. Confirm the message.

You should now see the Zune’s main menu on your TV. One thing to note that I found confusing at first: when viewing on the TV, the Zune’s controls are always oriented vertically. Even when watching videos, the Zune is held as if listening to music.