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All posts tagged "software"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The New Xbox 360 Dashboard with More Zune Goodness

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 11:05 AM


"I have had a chance to use the new Xbox Dashboard over the last week and the new Zune Music Marketplace has been by far my favorite. Docking your Zune to the TV worked but the UI was really awkward with that tiny remote. This solves everything as far as the 10 foot Zune experience in the living room. The Zune team has done a fantastic job with this and has really rounded out the 3 screen strategy for Zune Music. I will mention that this is all streaming and cloud based, you will need a Zune Pass to take advantage of this feature on Xbox. It will not connect to your PC or Home Server. It is unknown if or when that will happen, but for now, it is still a great addition to the Xbox."

An awesome overview video by my friend Grahm - there's lots of good stuff here, but guess what? It looks like it's mostly predicated on having a Zune Pass...which I still won't be able to get in Canada this year, and only some of Europe will be able to get. Sigh. Zune, you are so hard to root for right now!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Zune HD and Windows Phone Output Profile Now Included in Windows Live Movie Maker

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 12:22 AM

In 2008, I was involved in an early beta of the new Windows Live Movie Maker, and I interacted with a friendly Microsoft Product Manager for that program. When the Zune HD came out, I started a little email campaign to get Windows Live Movie Maker to support the Zune HD with an optimized output profile - I really wanted to see Microsoft support their own product.

If you look to the left, I've taken a screenshot of the Mobile Device output profiles from the new Windows Live Movie Maker beta (a.k.a. Wave 4), and wouldn't you know it, there are output profiles for the Zune HD device, and the Zune HD 720p profile, for video output via the dock. Sweet!

I'm not claiming credit for this of course - it wouldn't have been added unless many people asked for the same thing - but hopefully my attempts to connect the right person on the Zune team to the right person on the Windows Live Movie Maker team helped move things along. You'll also notice they've added two Windows Phone profiles - another great sign that the Windows Live Movie Maker team is paying attention to what the rest of Microsoft is doing, and making attempts to be in sync.

This has been a historic flaw of Microsoft's; previous versions of Windows Movie Maker were still using 320 x 240 Pocket PC profiles from five years ago. It's like no one on that team was told newer and better devices had come out, and they weren't called Pocket PCs any more.

Unfortunately, the Windows Live Photo Gallery team didn't get the memo - unless I'm mistaken, there's still no way to batch resize (or resize even one photo) to a Zune HD-sized screen or a Windows Phone screen. Since the Zune software will resize the photos upon sync for the Zune HD, this isn't much of a problem - but neither ActiveSync nor Windows Mobile Device Center will resize images today for Windows Phones, so this is a clear oversight. Guess I'll keep using Picasa for that! Read more...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Zune Racking Up Frequent Flyer Miles

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 09:30 PM


"Starting this summer, United Airlines will include 21 Zune music channels as an in-flight listening option. Passengers will be able to listen free of charge by plugging compatible headphones into their armrest and dialing in the channel of their choice. Channels will be offered commercial-free on both domestic and international flights, with each channel loaded with three hours of unique programming."

With the Continental - United Airlines merger coming up, I wonder what the chances are of replacing the Continental logo on their aircraft with the Zune logo? Yeah, probably pretty slim. It’s nice to have some Zune news about Microsoft getting some good marketing in for a change. I think this is a pretty good place to showcase Zune and it sounds like it’s been implemented pretty nicely on board. On the international flights that always have video on each seat, I wonder if the screen will have any Zune branding on it?

Since the Zune brand is moving beyond the hardware players with the launch of the Kin and soon Windows Phone 7, its definitely important that Microsoft keeps people aware of the music service it offers with Zune. There are a lot of good offerings out there but the Zune desktop experience is one I really do like so I hope we see more stuff like this. CNet has all the details!

Integrate Zune with Windows Media Center

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 03:30 PM


"Are you a Zune owner who prefers the Zune player for media playback? Today we’ll show you how to integrate the Zune player with WMC using Media Center Studio. You’ll need to download Media Center Studio and the Zune Desktop player software. Also, make sure you have Media Center closed. Some of the actions in Media Center Studio cannot be performed while WMC is open."

Zune and WMC seem destined to coexist, but somewhere along the way the two haven't been integrated as well as most people had hoped. Luckily HowToGeek has a nice writeup on getting the two to play nicely by adding a Zune player tile to your WMC installation. It's not perfect, and the player still opens in its own window, but at least you'll be able play your Zune collection with most WMC remotes without leaving the experience. Give it a try and let us know how it works for you in the comments.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What Should Microsoft Do?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune Talk" @ 06:50 AM


"Let’s be honest, Microsoft has done a bad job at promoting both its Zune HD product and the Zune brand itself. One reason most people say Microsoft jumped into the mp3 market was to compete with Apple and iTunes. Fast forward and Microsoft Zune is barely a whisper. Apple currently controls the mp3 market, Microsoft is not even in 2nd place. Sandisk holds that position. I’ve come up with a few suggestions that Ballmer needs to do to make Zune better"

A blogger by the handle of THEPHOENIX720 has posted five things that he feels Microsoft needs to do to make the Zune a success. And let’s not beat around the bush here, I think the Zune really is, from a sales standpoint, a failure. The technology of the platform is sound but Microsoft dropped every ball it could with it. THEPHOENIX720 is pretty much right on the money with his suggestions. The only problem is that Microsoft should have done everything he suggested YEARS ago.

Now it’s never too late to remake yourself or a product. Apple, in the past decade, has enjoyed a resurgence that no one can claim they saw coming. Microsoft made a huge blunder with Windows Vista only to completely recover with Windows 7. Companies and product lines can be salvaged. But Microsoft has to make an effort! Apple didn’t save itself only by making some good hardware. The iPod itself is a good MP3 player but their advertising campaign was perfect. Their advertising for their computers, iPhones, and iPad have all been right on the money.

Microsoft however couldn’t convince you to buy an umbrella in a downpour. I don’t know why that is. The other points about product synergy and pushing the Zune Pass all SEEM obvious. Yet, Microsoft has never followed through. The original promises of what the Zune could be are finally starting to come to fruition on the Zune HD but never really quite made it there.

In a way, I think Microsoft should go with his fifth option, which is to kill the Zune HD. Before you get too outraged, hear me out! Windows Phone 7 has Zune capability. The Kin has Zune capability. Clearly, Zune has finally become more than just about the Zune player. With the Zune available in multiple formats, Microsoft should do what they did with Vista and give us a "new" Zune. Then you can push the heck out of it. Not saying it would work but sometimes wrapping a good product in a new package lets you promote it in new ways. Microsoft doesn’t even measure on the market share meter here so what do they really have to lose?

What does anyone else think Microsoft can do to get the Zune back on track?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Zune HD vs. Kin Two: A Comparison

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Windows Phone Software" @ 04:08 PM

Adam Lien from pocketnow has put together an interesting video that will interest anyone in the Zune or Windows Phone camp; how exactly does the Kin - which is a precursor to the Zune experience on Windows Phone 7. All in all, there aren't that many big differences between the two - but it's interesting to see the way the Zune experience evolves when you have an always-connected device.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Zune Software & Logitech Keyboards: Why Doesn't This Work Right?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 08:00 AM

I'm generally a big fan of the Zune desktop software - performance could be better (I swear it's gotten slower with every update) - but I prefer it to Windows Media Player so much that I've installed it on every computer I have, despite the fact that I only sync my Zune with one of those computers. It's really nicely designed software; it makes Windows Media Player look like it was designed 20 years ago. I also like Logitech keyboards and mice; I have five desktop computers in my home, and all of them are running Logitech keyboards and mice. I used to prefer Microsoft mice and keyboards, but I found I had fewer wireless signal problems with Logitech products. So on every desktop computer I have, it's Zune + Logitech. But here's the problem with that math...

Image credit: sad face from How to Feed a Ninja.

Every decent keyboard has dedicated media buttons, making it easy to pause, resume playback, adjust the volume, etc. I use these keys all the time...and therein lies the problem. Read more...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Zune HD Gets Game Boy Emulator

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 05:44 AM


"User BackAtIt has taken the wrappings off the first working emulator for Zune, which is currently capable of playing Game Boy and Game Boy Color ROMs, but little else -- though this "Visual Boy Zune" app is ported from the same VisualBoyAdvance code that's enabled handheld emulation since 2004, it's in early alpha with quite a bit of work left to do."

It’s only been a few weeks since the Zune HD was hacked, and while I wouldn’t necessarily say the floodgates have been opened on Zune development, we already have our second really cool application coming from ZuneBoards member BackAtIt. He’s begun porting a Game Boy emulator to the Zune and from the early videos over on Engadget, it looks like it’s going to work very well.

What interests me about this isn’t necessarily the fact that we have a Game Boy emulator (though it is cool!) but rather that it just highlights the tremendous opportunity that MS continues to squander with the Zune platform. As soon as the Zune is hacked, two of the first notable applications that appear are the venerable Doom and Game Boy applications, both of which are essentially on any computing platform out there.

The Zune could be an awesome gaming platform. It has the powerful Tegra running its video and it could easily be put to use. Even if Microsoft won’t put out an actual handheld gaming platform, if the Zune HD were to be opened up to developers, we’d have a ton of games for it. C’mmon, Microsoft, open it up!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Best Browser Promo Video I've Ever Seen

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Thoughts Media Off Topic" @ 11:30 AM

This is off topic for sites other than Digital Home Thoughts, but this video is just so darn cool, I wanted to share it with everyone. Worth noting is that it's loading the pages out of the cache, so this is a rendering test, not a "download speed test", but it's perfectly valid because download speeds will vary from location to location. Personally, I still use Firefox more than Chrome - at some point, browsers are "fast enough" at page rendering and further improvements can't be perceived. I value stability and usefulness more than sheer speed at rendering. What about you?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Finally: Zune HD Plays Doom

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 10:09 PM


There are two games that I think are ported to every platform, no matter how successful. One is Tetris. The other one probably doesn't need to be mentioned by name. If you play video games, you've played Doom. If you haven't played Doom then you need to turn in your gamer card. I'm pretty sure I've played Doom on every computing platform I've had other than my Commodore 64.

And now, thanks to Zuneboards member Netrix, you can play it on your Zune. The caveat is, of course, that you need OpenZDK. But if there is anything that shows what people really want out of their Zunes, this is it. OpenZDK has been around for about a week and we already have Doom. You'll have to provide your own WAD files if you want to play anything other than the shareware.

I really wish Microsoft would expand the Zune platform to a full mobile gaming platform. With the Tegra powering it, there is more than enough power to produce some amazing portable gaming. I'm not interested in the Windows Phone or the Kin (though for the Zune platform, I am happy that they're coming to the market) but the Zune as a portable entertainment device can be so much more!

When I get my Zune 64, I'm not sure if I'll go the OpenZDK route, but its definitely on my mind now!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4 Released, Silverlight 4 Later This Week

Posted by Darius Wey in "Windows Phone Developer" @ 09:20 AM


"Kicking off a global launch consisting of more than 150 developer-focused events, Microsoft Corp. announced the general availability of Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4. The company also announced that Silverlight 4 will release to Web (RTW) later in the week. Together, these technologies simplify the entire development process, enabling developers to target new platforms and build high-quality applications. Developers will be able to download Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4 in conjunction with the Microsoft Visual Studio Conference & Expo launch event in Las Vegas."

Windows Phone and Zune developers, take note. Microsoft has three surprises for us this week. The first two are Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4, both of which have gone gold. All four versions of the former are available for purchase; alternatively, if you're an MSDN subscriber, you'll find everything you need in the Subscriber Downloads section. And as for the much-anticipated Silverlight 4, it'll make an appearance later in the week.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Zune 4.5 Video Walkthrough

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 07:30 AM


"A couple of days ago I mentioned that there was a Zune HD firmware update available, version 4.5, and then when I arrived home I performed the update. I had to connect a couple of times and prompt to refresh the software update check before my netback found an update available, but then everything went smoothly. In addition to the new features I mentioned earlier there was another surprise in the update, no more commercials in the games."

Matthew Miller over at ZDNet did a nice little video walk through of the new Zune HD 4.5 firmware. I have to say that the features he highlighted looked really nice. Having the Smart DJ functionality available right on the Zune looks like a great feature. I'm definitely a little jealous since I'm still holding onto my Zune 80.

If only they had a Zune HD in sizes larger than 32 GB. Oh wait, it's finally almost here! Finally a Zune HD looks to be in my near future. The only question I have now is will it be blue or red?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Zune 4.5 Update is Now Out!

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 10:07 AM

I guess the Zune team was all like "Screw that couple of weeks thing we told people, let's release this NOW!". And so they did. I just docked my Zune HD and grabbed the above screen shot. Updating it now...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Zune 4.5 Featured Demoed on Video

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 02:08 PM


"The Zune team gives you a sneak peek into some of the new Zune 4.5 updates coming soon. Matt Akers, host of the Zune Insider Podcast, talks with Nate Muller a PM from the Zune team about Smart DJ coming to the Zune HD device and also browsing Zune Marketplace on the TV through a Zune HD and a Zune HD dock. Nate gives us a demo of how Smart DJ will work on the Zune HD and also some of the new browsing features of Zune Marketplace through the TV from a Zune HD connected to a Zune HD docking station."

Wow, does the TV-out experience ever look fantastic! After the 4.5 update comes out I'll have to hook up my Zune HD to my TV set again...I've only done it once and found the experience a little disappointing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Daniusoft Media Converter Ultimate Review

Posted by Chris Sacksteder in "Digital Home Software" @ 07:00 AM

Figure 0

Product Category: Media Conversion Utility
Manufacturer: Daniusoft
Where to Buy: Daniusoft
Price: $59.95
System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, or 7 (32- or 64-bit)
Specifications: Takes about 73MB of disk space


  • Does many different media chores;
  • Easy to use;
  • Supports many media types.


  • Sometimes options and choices aren't clear;
  • Technical support is prompt and courteous, but ineffective;
  • Documentation is incomplete for some functions.

Summary: So, you have a pile of great home video clips from that new digital camera. Wouldn't it be great to put some scenes of cute little junior on your cell phone to show off to friends, or on a DVD to send to Grandma? Or maybe The Kid has some favorite DVDs to watch in the car on a nice little netbook without a optical drive. Search the Internet and you find 100's of choices for "free" video conversion tools; a few hours or days later you've tried 10 or 12 kinds cripple-ware, ad-ware, and nag-ware , rebooted 18 times to install and un-install them, and had 3 crash your computer. And, none of them are really free OR do what you need. Time to get serious.

The Daniusoft Media Converter Ultimate claims to be a "multimedia processing Titan" that can " . . . remove DRM copy protection . . . , Rip DVD to most popular video files, Convert Video Music between different files, burn movie to DVD disc, directly transfer songs & video to your portable players like iPod, iPhone, PSP, Cell Phone, etc . . ." Is this Titan worth $59.95?


What's Still Missing from the Zune HD Experience?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 07:00 AM

Now that you've had a chance to read about the 4.5 update for the Zune HD, what do you think is still missing from the Zune experience today? What sorts of things do you want the see added to the Zune HD from a software perspective? Myself, I think the app story continues to be weak - Microsoft doesn't move fast enough to get even a reasonable number of apps (say, 100) into the marketplace to offer people options. I know there are developers who would gladly build apps for the Zune HD if Microsoft would give them the opportunity and a platform to make money from.

The US-centric focus of the Zune HD also continues to pain me; it's a great piece of hardware, and a great overall service, but the Zune team seems content to remain in the US and not go international with the product. To a certain extent that's going to change when Windows phone 7 comes out; my understanding is that in order for a Windows phone 7 device to be sold by a carrier in a market, the Zune Marketplace has to be available in that market, and hopefully that means the Zune Pass as well. I hope I'm right about that, because if I am, that means the Zune experience - even if it's not with Zune HD hardware - will be a world-wide thing by the end of this year.

Lastly, I really wish it were possible to play music directly from the Zune HD when it was connected to a PC running the Zune software. I don't have a Zune Pass (though at least now I know how to get one), so I can't do that fancy streaming music thing. When I travel I have my Zune HD with me, and I don't want to plug in my headphones in my hotel room - I was to connect the Zune to my laptop and listen to the music on it. It seems silly that I still can't do that.

How would you improve the software/services portion of the Zune HD?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Zune 4.5 Features Video Demo

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 05:05 PM


Michael Yaeger, Marketing Manager on the Zune team, sat down with Engadget and demoed the new features coming in the 4.5 update. Worth a watch!

Zune 4.5 Update Coming Out Soon

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 03:00 PM

[click here for a high-res version of the software screen-shot above.]

Zune 4.5 is coming soon, and it brings with it a few key updates that some people will enjoy. In terms of a timeline, the exact wording I've received from the Zune team is "the next few weeks". As the launch gets closer hopefully I'll notified of the exact date. So what does the 4.5 update bring to the table? Keep reading to find out. Read more...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Video Walk-Through of the Zune HD Facebook App

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Articles & Resources" @ 01:00 PM


Haven't had a chance to install the Facebook app on your Zune HD yet? Or don't have a Zune HD and want to see this app in action? My friend Matt Miller shot a video - an especially geeky one since he shot it in his car while the Zune HD was connected over WiFi to his Palm Pre - that walks you through the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Music Organization: Which Application Wins?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 12:30 PM


MaximumPC has done an interesting side by side comparison of the big three options out there for music organization on your home PC. To be honest, most people will have a hard time really making much of a selection based on the software and are far more likely to be choosing based on what their device of choice is. In the case of the iPod and Zune, we’re mostly tied to using the software designed for it.

But if you don’t like your options with your current software solution, it’s certainly not impossible to use a different program to manage your media and a different one to load your player. The three that MaximumPC looks at are iTunes (of course), Zune, and Songbird. Read more...

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