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All posts tagged "Software"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tip: Use the Hierarchy To Your Advantage

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 11:30 PM

Never one to do things the easy way, the Zune team came up with their own unique way to handle song organization; where each song belongs to an album, and each album belongs to one artist. But while this method of organizing enables advanced manipulation of songs, artists, and albums, its complexity can be confusing to new users who may be more familiar with a more straightforward implementation like those found in iTunes and Windows Media Player.

The default ("Artist") view of the Zune client app organizes your collection into a three-pane hierarchy of Artist-Album-Song, with songs being the most basic level on the right of the screen. Selecting an artist or group of artists filters the Album pane down to show only albums by those artists. Similarly, selecting an album or group of albums will only show songs from those albums in the Song pane. The advantage of organizing your collection in this way is to allow you to use artists and albums as song groups: an Album can have multiple songs each with their own genre, and an Artist can have multiple songs each with their own contributing artist. Read more...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tip: Slideshow in Now Playing

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 11:00 PM


This fresh tip comes courtesy of ZuneBoards' ACE who reminds us there's more than one way to enjoy the Now Playing area. In addition to the default mosaic of your album art, you can also set a slideshow of your own photos to play while you're rocking out.

It's easy enough to do; go to the Pictures tab of your Collection, and right-click the folder or picture you want to start. Click play slideshow and you'll be transfered to the Now Playing screen which should be filled with your pictures. You can alternate between controls for Music or Slideshow by clicking the button toggle.

P.S. ACE: I get the bug too (Vista RTM & SP1--haven't tried XP), but only from photos in the Public user folder. My personal photos load fine.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Spring Cleaning: Purge Those Temp Files

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Content Creation & Management" @ 09:00 PM


This tip has been sitting in my inbox for a while, but it's truly a useful one. With spring right around the corner (yeah--right) it'll soon be time to get rid of your winter baggage. And what better way to do that than get rid of the old crap lying around your hard drive? Every time the Zune software needs to convert a video to portable format, it retains your local copy and keeps temporary copy of the converted output. Over time these can build up, taking precious space on your disk.

Props go out as usual to ACE and the ZuneBoards team for bringing this to my attention, so I'll let them take over from here:

"Simply go to:
  1. Start
  2. Computer (or My Computer on XP)
  3. Right click your C: drive
  4. Choose properties
You should see something like this:"


Thursday, January 24, 2008

10 Zune Tips

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Articles & Resources" @ 10:00 PM


Well, Tip Tuesday sure fell off hard. I guess there just aren't enough good tips at this stage in the Zune's life (in other words I was too lazy to keep it going), but rest assured that we'll keep posting tips as we receive them. For now, enjoy this set of 10 great tips from Zune.net forum member khu.

Including such classic hits as:
  1. Store content on Zune but not on PC
  2. Drag and drop from explorer to Collection
  3. Copy by Playlist
  4. Import playlist
  5. View your playcount
  6. Shuffle...then shuffle more...
  7. Zoom for that closeup
  8. Use quicklist to repeat a single song
  9. RDS and the FM Radio
  10. Find location of file
Props and much love to khu for the detailed explanations. Got any more tips? Post 'em in our forums or the Zune.net forums.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Use Any Media Management Program With Zune

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 11:00 PM


ZuneBoards' renowned PityOnU has just dropped his highly anticipated zAlternator software. The hack, currently in RC, cloaks your Zune as a generic Windows Portable Device, allowing it to theoretically sync with WMP, WinAmp, iTunes, or your favorite media management library. The instructions are pretty basic too.

Yes, that's my Zune in WMP... I can view files, sync, and reverse-sync with the device. It's pretty cool.

Get your device into "sync" mode (have it show "syncing..." with the "starry night" Zune logo on the screen), and hit ctrl-alt-del, bring up Task Manager. Go to the Processes tab and end the process "Zune.exe". Now bring up zAlternator. Follow the instructions, setting the Desired Service Provider to "Generic" and then clicking "apply." Now open your program of choice and everything should be golden.

Just keep in mind that for those wanting to use iTunes (blech), the service is still in beta. Use at your own risk.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Got Errors? Fix 'Em!

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 10:00 PM


"For those that find their Zune is having USB and wireless sync connection problems, Microsoft looks to have just posted a tool to gather data on those errors. It's free, downloadable and called the Zune Device Diagnostic Tool. The Zune Device Diagnostic Tool is designed to collect relevant data related to the previously mentioned errors so that Product Support Services can better diagnose potential Zune issues. It's a small download - only 250KB - and executes from the one file. You must of course have your Zune connected to collect the data. Microsoft notes in the program description on how to use it. You essentially connect the device and wait for any errors to be displayed. After the data has been collected you can view the report, save it and send it off to Product Support Services for analysis."

If there was a problem yo I'll solve it
Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tip: More Podcasts

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Content Creation & Management" @ 03:00 PM


"Ok - I know this might seem backwards, but here me out. You can use *coughs* iTunes *coughs* to get more FREE podcast content on your Zune... Let's face it. Zune doesn't have a ton of choices (yet) while iTunes, which has been at this for quite some time now, has a huge selection ready for download! They're in the same format (mp4) and once you get them to the Zune Software, you can manage them from there - all you need is the initial download from iTunes! So If you can bear using that 'other' media software, click to find out how...."

I can't bring myself to say more about this. Those needing a larger podcast database should by all means find themselves satisfied with iTunes' more mature collection. Just don't come back wondering what that funky odor coming from your keyboard is.

Check ZuneBoards for an excellent and picture-filled step-by-step. Just keep in mind that only the new Zune models (the 4/8 and 80) can natively read mp4 files. If you have a 30, the software'll automatically transcode to a lower-quality file.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tip Tuesday: Zune on Mac (Software)

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 02:00 PM

It's no secret that the iPod didn't start to take off in popularity until Apple released a Windows version of its iTunes client software--many people would argue that the iPod would not be the success it is today were it not for Windows support. At the same time, the Portable Media Player battle is often seen as a microcosm of the OS Wars, with the two players reversing roles.

Currently , Apple's iTunes client runs on both Windows and Mac OSX, while Microsoft's Zune software is Windows-only. Is it worth it for Microsoft to port the Zune software to OSX, in effect "giving a glass of ice water to somebody in hell"? Sure, it would give the tech pundits one more thing to scratch off the list of preconceived issues with the Zune family, but would it actually matter? We'll leave that kind of hardcore thinking for the Philosophers, because today is Tuesday, and Tuesday is hardcore thinking-free!

Installing Zune on a Mac is just like installing on a Windows machine, except...virtual. Fret not, fellow Zuner, it's not as bad as you'd think. Sure you've got to acquire a virtual machine software (like VMWare or Parallels) or run Boot Camp and install a copy of Windows, but you can handle that, right?

After that, just install the software as you normally would, and you're in Virtual Zune paradise. Just don't forget the paper umbrellas.

The process should be similar with VMWare on Linux. Though I haven't heard any reports about this year's software, Zune-Online's Kostas Tzounopoulos showed that it could be done with gen1 software, the only caveat being that USB 1.1 was the only supported transfer method (a.k.a. slow data transfer).

And that's it for this week! Check back next week for another tip. Got any idea, thought, or suggestion? Paste it in the comments link (I'll be nice, I promise) or check out the forum.

EDIT (12-12-07): Fixed atrocious grammar and general cleanup.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Tip: Bypass Sharing Restrictions By Spoofing A Podcast

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Content Creation & Management" @ 08:15 PM


It's a little early for Tip Tuesday, but this was so juicy I just had to share. For those who don't know, songs sent via wireless share are locked down with a 3-play restriction to avoid copyright infringement. Podcasts are exempt—likely to gain the favor of the podcast community—and the Zune software doesn't (yet) have a reliable method of discerning actual podcasts from music other than to look at the genre tag. Right now, the software applies the genre "podcast" to podcasts it downloads and then places it in the "podcast" section of the software and device. Piecing these together, it follows logically that any song labeled "podcast" can be sent as a podcast and won't have the play restrictions applied to it.

How do you do this? It's pretty simple, really. Go to your desired file in Explorer (it's probably best to quit out of Zune software completely) and right-click it. Select Properties and then the Summary tab. Make sure you're in the Advanced view (if not, click the "Advanced >>" button), and scroll down to Genre. Left-click the corresponding Value field, and replace whatever was there with "Podcast" (minus quotes, of course).

Re-open your Zune software and check your Podcasts (under the Collection top-level menu), and all should be well in the world. It'll sync to your device as a podcast, and enable you to send without any limitations.

In related news, a couple people were asking David Caulton (of Zunester) the best way to go about using audio books on the Zune. He recommended using the Podcast section as well, and pointed out the use of similar tags between audio books, podcasts, and songs. Zune product team member Josh said:

"...anything of genre=podcast will get added to the podcast section. If you want to use the podcast capabilities for audio books, then you should be sure to also set the album title = book title on each section/chapter so that all the sections/chapters get coalated [sic] under the same 'series'."

As with all such hacks, make sure you've got the permission/rights to use the file in this way, and be responsible (I changed the tags in the example file back to their appropriate state.) That said, I imagine Microsoft will fix this pretty quickly, likely relying on a more complicated method of podcast authentication. My guess is that the next podcast exploit will come through setting up a podcast feed to enable downloading songs or something similar.

Tip Tuesdays will resume on Tuesday. Got a suggestion? E-mail us or post it in the forum.

EDIT (12-11-07): Resized image.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Announcing: Tip Tuesdays! (And Play Music Through Your Speakers)

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Announcements" @ 02:00 PM

Last week, I ran a number of tips intended to boost usability, usefulness, and most importantly, fun, in the device, software, and Social aspects of the Zune experience. These were ideas I'd either heard about recently or had been kicking around for some time, and I hope at least some of you found them useful. If not, thanks for not making a stink about it in the comments.

In any event, I liked the idea so much that I've decided to make it a weekly topic: I dig through blogs, forums, and the Zune products, and you sit back and reap the benefits. Sound good? All I ask is that you give me feedback on tips you have, what you find useful, and conversely, what you'd like to see less of. I won't get offended, I promise.

Now onto the question of: Why Tuesdays? Besides the obvious (I like the alliteration—Tip Saturdays didn't sound as nice), Monday and Friday were already taken. So let's kick this off in style, shall we? Starting with a great tip from On10's Sarah Perez. Sarah's recent and amazing selection of Zune Hacks could and very well may serve as filler if this doesn't go as planned. Many have requested a way of playing their on-Zune music through computer speakers, and, just as with Hard Drive support, the answer lies in the Registry.

As with all registry changes, you should make sure to back up beforehand, and generally know what you're doing. But hey, "manuals shmanuals," right? Head on to On10 for the full low-down, but it's mostly straightforward: create a key at [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMControlSet001ControlClass{4D36E96C-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}�000SettingsfilterSpeakerHp] and then a binary value "EnableInputMonitor"=hex:01

Just reboot, enable the input monitor, and you've got a fully-functioning Zune-Music playing machine! Very cool.

If you don't know exactly how to do this, I'd hold off until someone inevitably releases an easy-to-use and feature-rich version. Just keep watching this space, and I'll write if and when it happens.

Tip Tuesdays will be running weekly. Got a great tip you're just dying to share with the world? Post it in the comments or add it to the forums. See you next week!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tips Day 5: Install easily with SZIP (Software)

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 02:00 PM


Editor's Note: This is part of a series of tips on getting the most out of your Zune device, pass, software, and card. Check out the forums for more tips, or to submit your own.

The installer to the first generation Zune software was infamous for its long install times, and often unsuccessful results that would throw up crypic/pornographic error messages. Fortunately, a hacker and ZuneBoards member named Marshillboy came through with a stripped-down version of the Zune installer that cut load times and reduced errors by 99% (or so he claims). The installer for the new software seems to be free of the problems plaguing its older sibling for the most part, but that didn't stop Marshillboy from releasing the second version of his software.

This time, it can be installed on virtually any Windows machine (as long as it has the .net framework installed), and doesn't even need to be connected to the internet. Take that, updates!

Zune tips are running daily this week. Got a super tip you're just dying to share with the world? Hit the comments link or discuss in the Forums.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tips Day 4: Get More Podcasts (Software/Device)

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 02:00 PM


Editor's Note: This is part of a series of tips on getting the most out of your Zune device, pass, software, and card. Check out the forums for more tips, or to submit your own.

By default the Zune software only downloads the three most recent episodes for each of your podcast. But for those of you who just can't get enough Diggnation, Ask a Ninja, or Best Week Ever, you can easily up the number using an easy-to-use yet hard-to-find settings page.

To change the default for every downloaded podcast, click Settings (in the upper-right corner), then choose the subhead Software, then Podcasts. Drag the slider to adjust the number kept, from just the most recent episode to all of the episodes in the series.

Courtesy GenerationZune.net

To change the number for individual podcasts (let's say you only want a couple of the most recent HomestarRunner, but you want to catch up on all of the Dub Session mixes), go to the Podcast section of your collection and select the podcast you want to change. Right-click either the thumbnail of the podcast or one of the titles and click Series Settings (or use the Series Settings button at the bottom of the rightmost column).

If you're new to a series and want to see what all the fuss is about, you can tell the software to prioritize the older episodes and play them before the newer ones.

Zune tips are running daily this week. Got a super tip you're just dying to share with the world? Hit the comments link or discuss in the Forums.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tips Day 1: Change Your Theme (Software)

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 02:00 PM


Editor's Note: Today is the first in a series of tips on getting the most out of your Zune device, pass, software, and card. Check out the forums for more tips, or to submit your own.

I'm sure everyone knows by now that you can set your favorite picture to be the background on your Zune. Did you also know that you can change the "theme" of the Zune software? It's true! Just go to Settings in the software. Hit "Display", and then one of the radio buttons to watch background change before your eyes. Just remember, "you are boring if you use slate." --Stefan.

Okay, okay. You've seen this before, or the backgrounds are ugly, or maybe you just want to truly "make it you", I get it. Thankfully the boys at ZuneBoards have seen fit to give you the option of choosing any background you want. That's right, Mr. Hotshot, you can rock out to the Halo3 soundtrack with a Master Chief background, sing along with Cher, or, you know, just leave it at the default. It's your call.

Follow the instructions to pull off the Zune background of your dreams. I can only hope/imagine that due to the new software's code, we'll be seeing more cool hacks like this in the future.

Stay tuned for another installment of Zune Tips tomorrow. Got a super tip you're just dying to share with the world? Hit the comments link or discuss in the Forums.

EDIT: Bill has pointed out to me that, as with practically all other hacks, you need to run this file as an administrator on Vista. To do this, navigate to %ProgramFiles%/Zune (typically C:\Program Files\Zune), right-click your hack of choice, and select "run as administrator." If not, you'll likely see an "access denied" message.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Purpose-Driven PMPs

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 02:30 AM

"MP3 player makers include many popular [features] so as to “cover all the bases” and appease as many users as possible. This is the way that anythingbutipod manufactures have tried to compete with the Apple- offer just many more features at a much lower price, while Apple offered simplicity at a premium. Both strategies are viable since there are many types of consumers. While Apple’s strategy has worked well, they are now feeling the pressure in the market and are slowly absorbing the jack-of-all-trades approach. It is not as profound since it has been very gradual, but if you look at the history of iTunes, you will see how cluttered it has become by having to accommodate the many features added to iPods over the years. They also continue wow us with petty but impractical ones like “cover flow” as if we were a bunch of attention deficit two year olds."

Grahm Skee at AnythingButiPod has a great write-up on the problems faced with trying to be too many things at once. The iPod began as a great Portable Music Player (PMP) that was good at playing music and little else. As users demanded pictures and video, the iPod adapted to provide those features. The problem is, Apple hasn't really updated the way users interact with their music since the second or third generation. They became too afraid to disenfranchise users, and, in a decidedly un-Apple fashion, made their software and firmware bloated and devoid of any significant advances.

Most of the reviews I've read about the Gen2 Marketplace have pointed to its simple design as an advantage over iTunes. PC Magazine's Tim Gideon, in his review of the Zune80 praised the Marketplace and software as making iTunes "seem like a big, boring spreadsheet". Gideon gave the 80 PC Magazine's Editor's Choice Award.

"I write this in hope that Microsoft will continue to offer the Zune as a simple media centric device and not cave to the people screaming for clocks, games, web browsers, and other add-ons. Time, energy, and recourses are better spent improving the users’ music experience."

When Microsoft announced that they would be getting rid of the five-star rating system in favor of the heart/broken heart ratings, there was a huge outcry from longtime five-star users. I watched from the sidelines, and laughed at how people could be so upset over something as simple as a rating feature. That is, until I found out my beloved flagging feature would be gone too. I was preparing my own internet assault, planning to shout from the rooftops the injustice I had been dealt as a casualty in the "simplicity wars", but I (mostly) refrained, instead agreeing that I'd wait 'til I tried the new device and firmware, and then launch a full-scale campaign.

What I discovered is that I really didn't need the flagging as much as I thought I did. Looking over the software's inbox, I realized I had hundreds of flags that didn't serve much purpose to me, and that on-device features like "go to artist" held much more value than flagging. I realize that I may not agree with all the decisions the Zune team makes, but I've learned that, given enough time, someone will eventually come along to fill in the gaps. That's what the Zune project is all about.

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