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All posts tagged "software"

Friday, September 4, 2009

Zune Desktop Release Date Confirmed

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 11:58 AM


“Unless Microsoft's playing a nasty trick on its loyal fanbase, the latest Zune newsletter confirms a feature-laden software update, very likely what we've been calling Zune 4.0, is due out on Tuesday, September 15th, the same day as Zune HD takes its place among its fading peers.”

I haven't actually gotten my newsletter yet so I'll have to take Engadget's word that that it has a real newsletter. In some of the least surprising news I've heard in a while, its essentially confirmed now that the next iteration of the Zune software will launch with the Zune HD on the 15th.

I'm definitely looking forward to many of the reported features, especially HD movie content. I keep dreaming of the day that I no longer buy my content on media and get it all digitally and I hope that this moves me one step closer!

Tags: software, update, 4.0

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Which 3 Apps Do You Want?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune Talk" @ 01:17 PM


"Well, just for kicks lets assume that the App store will be available at launch. Here's the question. What apps would you like to see at the launch of Microsofts latest media device? Just to make it difficult, limit your list the top 3."

Forumite Phillip Dyson posed an good question in the forums and I thought it was worth putting up here on the front page so we can get everyone's opinions. I actually really like his Netflix and eBook reader suggestions. But he already picked those so I need my own list of applications. I see my Zune as a very media centric device so my list will really focus on that!

If you want to know though, you'll have to follow this link to the forum discussion.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Zune 4.0 Software Peek?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 10:54 AM


“Firstly thanks to Clubdirthill on twitter for pointing this out. Dave McLauchlan from the Zune Team had the following image as his background on twitter.”

Josh over at Cruleworld spotted this (or at least it was pointed out to him!) and it looks like the now playing screen is going to be changed around a bit. Perhaps not the most exciting screenshot but, hey, it’s better than nothing right? (Just agree with me.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Windows Media Center Support Still Limited

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 10:53 AM


"Zune HD, and the forthcoming Zune 4.0 PC software, will support and transcode Windows Media Center recorded TV file formats from Windows Vista or Windows 7 that contain MPEG-2 video, in either the DVR-MS or WTV formats. Support is limited to unencrypted SD and HD recordings. HD Files with AC3 audio are not supported by Zune."

As Engadget points out (and I was entirely unaware of), this effectively makes HD recordings incompatible with the Zune as the broadcasts all use Dolby Digital AC-3 audio. This is really a shame because it shows that despite all of the promise of interoperability between Microsoft's many excellent platforms, it still hasn't really come close to happening yet. The Zune, XBox and WMC are all, in and of themselves, fine products.

What would really give them an edge over the competition is if they all worked together seamlessly and its still something that they really don't do except in the most rudimentary ways. I know the guys up in Redmond are all very good at what they do so I don't understand what is keeping them from really giving us a truly broad ecosystem for personal entertainment from top to bottom.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Zune Applications Coming?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 01:32 PM


" 'After my post, I got an email from the developer of an iPhone Twitter client. He was contacted by Microsoft a few months ago, with an offer to port his app to the Zune in exchange for 'a bucket of money'. He turned them down, but assumes, as I do, that Microsoft reached out to the developers of multiple popular iPhone apps.' "

John Gruber over at Daring Fireball has made some interesting speculation about the likelihood of applications coming to the Zune HD. Personally, I'm not quite as convinced as John about what exactly this means. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft wanted to see some of these applications on the Windows Mobile OS as well.

Even if this does indicate that applications are coming to the Zune, I don't think this will mean all that much if they do it how they've done games so far. Some preloaded games and apps aren't really very impressive compared to the Apple App Store. I'm still not that convinced its even needed anyway but that's just my opinion!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

MediaShow Express Video Conversion

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Software" @ 03:00 AM


"Express video conversion software MediaShow Espresso is the hassle-free solution for converting all your favorite videos for playback on iPhone, PSP, Xbox, YouTube and more. Simply choose the preferred media player or medium, and let MediaShow Espresso do the rest."

Might need to give this a try. HandBrake provides similar functionality for free, but I've never been particularly happy with the interface. If this will let me convert from ISO's and is simple to set up, it might be a go.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gizmodo Reviews RealPlayer SP

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 04:30 PM


"Real's new RealPlayer SP software, currently in beta, adds functionality to rip YouTube and other streaming videos from the Internet and get them onto whatever handheld you choose. It works well enough, but it's also crammed full of unnecessary features. RealPlayer SP is the evolution of the long-running RealPlayer software, which has become a multi-limbed beast of a program: It's a media manager and player, along with a packaged web browser, a subscription and a la carte music store (Rhapsody), a gaming store (Real Arcade), an audio recorder, and now a streaming video ripper/converter with ties-in to social networking sites."

The long and the short of it is that if you're using a device like a Zune or a phone that can play h.264 video, this is a decent way to grab content from YouTube and other social video sites and get it onto your device, with conversion if necessary. It does a lot more than that, but the question is whether or not you need that fucntionality...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pre-Order Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade for $49.99, Limited Time Offer

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 09:37 AM


You'll have to excuse the network-wide broadcast (well, except Apple Thoughts of course), but I thought this was something that everyone would want to know about: Microsoft is offering the forthcoming Windows 7 at a steep discount, but only for a limited time. Until July 11th, you can purchase Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade for $49.99 USD (that's an Amazon affiliate link, so your purchase helps support Thoughts Media). The normal price of Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade is $119.99 USD, so that's a very significant level of savings ($70 to be precise). You can also pick up Windows 7 Business Upgrade for $99 if you want that version. When Windows 7 is released on October 22nd, Amazon will ship you the software.

The Windows 7 upgrade will work on a computer with Windows Vista or Windows XP installed. If you have an older computer, you may want to run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to make sure your computer is ready for Windows 7, but in general any computer built in the past four years should be able to run it just fine. Windows 7 is lighter on resources and works well across a broad spectrum of hardware.

Got a netbook? Then you'll want to take advantage of this offer as well - I'm running the Windows 7 Release Candidate on an MSI Wind, and an HP Mini 1000, and it works really well on both of them. I think Windows Vista is a fine operating system, but Windows 7 is even better - it addresses many of the concerns that people had with Windows Vista and adds a degree of polish that means everything is easier to use.

Unfortunately, this offer is only valid in the USA and Canada (Canadians can order from Amazon.ca, Future Shop, and Best Buy). as far as I can tell. Europe is getting a different version of Windows 7 due to the lawsuits Microsoft is undergoing there.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No Zune Left Behind

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 08:30 PM

“Apple's official reason was that the iPhone 3G doesn't have enough power to run those two features. Really? They're saying that on-the-fly voice control (albeit one that doesn't just match what you say to a pre-recorded sample on your voice) can't be done on the iPhone 3G? You mean the same feature that's been available for Windows Mobile FIVE phones for about half a decade now? This can't be done with the iPhone 3G's processor?”

Microsoft has taken a lot of heat over the years on the Zune but the one thing that they simply can’t be faulted on is their long term support of their hardware. The first three generations of Zune didn’t change much in terms of hardware. The firmware, however, has changed significantly.

Every major update has brought the Zune significant new features. And Microsoft has not left any device behind. This is the type of opportunity that Microsoft has to take advantage of. When you’re the underdog, which Microsoft is actually quite skilled at being, you jump on every stumble that your competition gives you and take market share inch by inch. With the economy in the state that it is, consumers shouldn’t be expected to buy a new device for updates that can come from software.

With the Zune, that hasn’t been an issue and hopefully Microsoft keeps this attitude going forward.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Zune HD Will Have Unicode Support

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 09:29 AM


This is news that will make some people happy: the Zune HD will have unicode support, meaning that it will display non Latin-based characters. This means that if you have a song/video/photo that has a file name, or metadata, in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. it wil display the filename on those characters rather than showing you the "unknown block" characters. Not having any files like that myself, I'm unsure of exactly what languages are supported, or how the implementation will work. What would make people really happy of course would be if unicode support was rolled back to older Zune devices - because no one wants to buy a new device to get unicode support. Microsoft has thus far remained quiet about what sorts of software support they'll continue to provide for the older Zune devices. Let's face it, they've extended the feature-life of the Zune 30 further than anyone else has ever done with an MP3 player - so if they were to stop releasing firmware updates for it, it wouldn't be very surprising. I'd really like to see unicode suppot trickle down to the Zune 120/80/16/8/4 devices though - it would be a shame to see the devleopment stop on devices that are still being sold today.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Windows Media Player to Support Streaming

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Software" @ 03:00 PM


"In the announcement of the impending release of Windows 7 RC (basically the final beta), Microsoft on Wednesday confirmed a rumor that I first saw reported by Zack Whitaker of ZDNet last month: a new feature called Remote Media Streaming will let you access the music library on your home PC from another computer over the Web. It's like Slingbox, only instead of accessing the cable box or DVR sitting in your home, you're accessing the music files stored on your home PC."

This would be an excellent feature to implement to the Zune. I mean, come on, the wi-fi is just asking for a killer application and this would be one of the few features that the iPod touch does not use its wi-fi for. Of course, this is probably a pipe dream since this is in WMP rather that the Zune's software.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Crazy Rumor? Netflix On Your Zune

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 06:54 PM


"VolvoShine: @HeathWhiteaker If I said Nothing Everyone Thinks, Fudge Lets Ignore his eXtra tweets. Thats All I can say for now"

There's all sorts of rumors flying around about the Zune right now. Keep in mind that there is absolutely no official word about this. Cruleworld's Lifestream spotted this one and its definitely a big deal if its true. Without coming out and saying it directly, Volvoshine has indicated that we should expect to see Netflix come to the Zune.

This is something that I would really want to see happen so I will say I am very excited if this is true. I think video subscription is key for the Zune. With that said I'm not sure what this would actually mean. Netflix streaming via Zune software doesn't make that much sense. If I'm at my computer then I could just stream via Netflix anyway.

Now could this mean that the next iteration of Zune software will allow streaming of Netflix via a WiFi connection? That seems to at least make more sense as an option. The only other way to get video onto the Zune would be via downloading it and Netflix has no current service like that. That would be my preference since that would let me watch video when I don't have a net connection but the potential to have Netflix streamed to the Zune itself could be a killer feature.

I don't know what this means but I can't wait to find out!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Unapologetically Zune

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


"Let me be clear: I'm a damn proud Zune owner. I do not apologize for having a device that satisfies my needs as it should. If you're an iPod owner, you should be proud too but don't ever expect me to feel bad when I stand next to you. I probably won't be able to hear you speaking anyway, because I'll be too busy listening to the plethora of podcasts I synced the night before."

Marques (TromboneForHire) ain't gonna take it anymore. Fed up with the anti-Zune sentiment he seems to encounter regularly, he has penned what might be called the Zuners' Manifesto, a diatribe against the iPod owning masses. And honestly, it's about time. Most of my friends who poked fun at me for owning a Zune two years ago have since gone out and bought one of their own (no, we haven't used the device-to-device sharing feature.) And even in my classes, my Zune ownership has become something of an in-joke (there are three of us proud Zuners in Philosophy 001 serving as the active resistance against the sea of iPod Classics and Touches... our rallying call "Red Zune!" can be heard just about as often as the discussions about Dualism and Descartes, but I digress.) Honestly, I think most people hate the Zune out of ignorance. It doesn't have quite the same ecosystem as Apple's ubiquitous iPod, but feature-for-feature, it blows the competition out of the water. If Microsoft steps up its efforts and truly gets the word out (no device-less cartoons with irrelvant messages) and delivers a strong competitor to the iPod Touch/iPhone, I think we could be in business. Have you ever felt the scorn of a stranger because of your choice in media player?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Editing Metadata Shouldn't Change Date Added

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 11:00 AM

My default view in the Zune desktop software is the Album view, sorted by date added - this allows me to quickly access albums I've purchased recently, and I love it. What I don't love, however, is how the Zune software will bump an old album to the top of the recently added list when you change it's metadata. In the above screenshot, the LL Cool J album is listed as my newest album added to my collection, but all I did was mark "Phenomenon" as a song that I liked yesterday - the song itself was added to my collection many months ago.

And while I'm at it, it would be great if the Zune itself had a "date added" option for viewing music - because this is the view I like using on the desktop software, I miss having the same thing on my Zune.

APRIL FOOLS: Apple Subscriptions The Future!

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 07:28 AM

You may be wondering about our new banner. I've long said that if Apple had offered subscription when I was first getting into using MP3 players that I would have jumped on board. Well, fortunately, that's not something any of us have to think about anymore. In order to better compete against the new Zune models expected to be announced this summer, Apple is going on the offensive. To effectively crush the last of their competition from the various other players in the market, Apple is finally going to release an all-you-can-eat subscription service. Highlights include:

  • Commentary on each track by Steve Jobs - Before each song, Steve himself gives his thoughts and reviews the song himself. This is why he's really taken some time off from Apple.
  • Genius Bar Support - With the vast selection of music on iTunes and the ability to get as much as you want, this is far more choice than most Apple users are used to. In order to help users work through this issue, you can bring your iPod to the Genius Bar where they will pick music for you and download it to your iPod.
  • 193 Kbps Bit Rate - While competing plans offer music at 192 Kbps, Apple is committed to ensuring the highest possible quality music experience. The 193 Kbps ensures unsurpassed fidelity compared to the meager 192 Kbps offered by other services.
  • $29.99 per month - While more expensive than competing plans, let's get real. You're listening to this on an iPod. This is the Maserati of subscription music.

There's just not any point of staying with Zune after this. Adam and Jason both agree. I'm excited with the new direction we'll be taking!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Changing Course?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune Talk" @ 02:51 PM


"According to our sources, the company is currently discussing marketing strategies going forward. But the most interesting aspect of this talk is that Redmond is apparently sharing information with key partners for the first time in the platform’s short history. This would mark a definite change in strategy, and possibly indicates that Microsoft is finally admitting that the Zune platform in its current form is not working, and certainly not sustainable from a profitability aspect."

Its definitely interesting speculation even though I can't really say how much of it is true. I don't know what Microsoft's performance goals are when it comes to unit sales but I do think I'd have a hard time believing they're ok with the current market. Microsoft is really more about building ecosystems and the Zune is about as different from their usual business model as it could be.

I do disagree that abandoning "Plays for Sure" seriously hurt its partners. PFS still exists and many devices use it still. It seems to me though that Microsoft would stand to make a lot more money off the Zune if they licensed the codec to other companies. On top of that, they could pull more subscribers into the Zune Pass. I don't think Microsoft needs to do much with the Zune to be honest. This is a market with a pretty simple goal: play media on the go. The Zune does that well. Better than most of the competition actually.

It will be interesting to see where Microsoft goes with it since they really need to have as many people as they can on the platform to make the social aspects of it more fun.

Tags: software

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Zune Software's Speed of Updating Music = Awesome

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 02:42 PM

It's a small, but beautiful thing, when software impresses me - and today the Zune software impressed the heck out of me. I always knew it was quite fast at finding new music in a monitored folder, but I didn't realize how fast it was until today. I purchased and downloaded six tracks from the new Mstrkrft album for my wife (she digs electronic music) and after tweaking the metadata and fixing the file names using the always-awesome MediaMonkey, I moved the files up to my Windows Home Server and swung over to my media editing computer. The Zune software was already running on it, and I was amazed to see it pick up the new tracks on the network-shared drive - we're talking less than three seconds before it found the music. That's a beautiful thing. Compare that with Windows Media Center, which seems to not even find my new music half the time unless I kick off a manual update scan in Windows Media Player, and you can see why I use the Zune software on all my computers for listening to music. Good job Zune team! Even if you don't have a Zune, I honestly reccomend giving the Zune software a try - it's a great piece of software.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Zune.net Update Coming Tomorrow

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 05:31 PM

There's an update coming to Zune, but it's not what some of us were hoping for. I'm at the Microsoft MVP Summit right now and was in a meeting with Jessica Zahn where she shared the information about this update. And unlike most of what's being discussed here, this topic wasn't under NDA so I can share the information with you.

Zune.net and Zune Marketplace will be down tonight, starting at 9pm Pacific Time, for several hours to facilitate this update. There's no device update, nor any desktop software update. So what does the change entail? First, they're moving to a new datacenter, from Seattle to another part of Washington. Everything Zune is getting moved over to the new datacenter, and while users might not notice a difference right away, the new datacenter has room to grow as Zune grows. Nothing too exciting there.

Figure 1: The podcasts page on Zune.net.

There are two features coming in this update that aren't related to the data centre. The first is that audio and video podcasts are now available for subscribing and streaming (audio only) to on Zune.net (shown above), using Silverlight. There are 12,000 podcasts available, making Zune.net one of the largest audio podcast libraries online. The bad news, and you knew this was coming, is that this is a US only feature - the streaming audio will not function if you're outside the US. Read more...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Big Zune Update in March?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 08:30 AM


We all know that the Zune team likes to leak out little hints about upcoming product updates in the weeks before it's relesaed. More often than not, these don't pan out, but the evidence is looking strong for something to be coming out in March.

From a recent tweet from Brian Seitz (MossyRoc): "well we have some cool stuff coming over the next 9 mos starting with little steps in march." And Jessica Zahn's (Jetherealz) recent posts on the Zune Insider blog: "Right now, I'm in a phase where I'm earning my money. I see the light at the end of the tunnel - the week after next is going to be much easier - but right now, it's crazy." from What We're Listening To and "8:00 a.m.: Right now, we're coming to the end of a coding milestone - the majority of the code for this milestone is written, and we're focusing on finding and fixing bugs." from A Day at Zune. No smoking gun by any means, but exciting to hear that they're at least working on something. I'm hoping the 3.5 update (as I assume it'll be called) won't take that long to come out. These months in between releases are killing me!

Tags: software, updates, 3.5

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Zune Software Coming to TVs?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 11:58 AM


"As for entertainment and television, Ballmer said there was a "real opportunity" for Microsoft to have or to provide software for a device that sits next to or in every television set. Specifically, he said that the company's Zune music software, which is already available on the PC and on the company's Zune music players, would be coming to the phone as well as the television."

It's a shame that no one bothered to ask Steve Ballmer exactly what he meant by this statement - we've heard rumours about the Zune software interface coming to Windows Mobile, but coming to television? That's the first I've heard of it. My guess, based on nothing more than a gut feeling, is that this is in reference to an Xbox 360 interface - a version of the Zune desktop software that's optimized for use on the Xbox. And I think it will be a welcome addition if they create it, because the "directory dump" method of displaying music that the Xbox 360 uses today is certainly quite simplistic.

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