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All posts tagged "software"

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Microsoft Splits Zune Teams: Hardware, Software Now In Own Divisions

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


"Microsoft has quietly reorganized its Zune team, splitting up the hardware and software teams, CNET News has learned. The software and services portion of the Zune team—the bulk of its staff—will be added to the portfolio of Enrique Rodriguez, the vice president who currently runs Microsoft's Mediaroom and Media Center TV businesses. The hardware team, meanwhile, will now report to Tom Gibbons, who also leads the hardware design efforts within Microsoft's Windows Mobile unit. The move was made on January 22, as Microsoft made its first-ever companywide layoffs—layoffs which also hit the Zune team, although Microsoft won't say how many people were cut. In an hour-long interview on Thursday, Rodriguez said the move was not made in response to recent Zune sales, but rather as the company looks to create a more unified entertainment business and gears up to expand the Zune service to be available on more than just Microsoft's own devices. "The goal is to make non-gaming entertainment a first-class citizen within Microsoft's business," he said. That means building better software and gaining scale "a little further out than just in Redmond.""

Zune/Windows Mobile interoperability was inevitable, and, as it happens, necessary. The integration of Zune with Windows Mobile makes sense, not just on a business or marketing level, as the two products share a common center; Windows Mobile needs to be more consumer-friendly, and Zune needs a larger adoption base. By merging the two platforms, we can hopefully see better phones and a more connected media player experience. There is no reason why, at this point in the game, Microsoft should have so many divergent sync and media solutions. It's time for these all to work together, seamlessly. Hopefully at the Mobile World Conference, starting tomorrow, we'll begin to see some of the potential for this reorganization, and maybe even an international release or two. And hey, anything that makes "non-gaming entertainment a first-class citizen within Microsoft's business" is a-ok by me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Zune 3.1 Firmware and Software Released Today

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 09:00 AM

Today, the Zune 3.1 release come out - and for a .1 release, it's looking pretty big! The most obvious change is that there are now three new games, bringing the total to five. There are three new games - Checkers, Sudoku, and Space Battle - along with a multi-player enhancement to Texas Hold 'Em. The three new games, and their descriptions are as follows:

Checkers: "Checkers - the eternal strategy challenge you can learn in minutes and play for life. Play the classic game or try suicide mode, in which the first to lose all their pieces wins."

SuDoKu: "Solve Sudoku by filling in all nine rows and columns with the numerals 1 through 9. Each numeral can only be placed once in a given row or column. Play the classic 9×9 or a quick 6×6 game."

Space Battle: "Survive as long as you can against increasingly aggressive waves of alien attackers! Customize your ship and add weapons to your armory as you progress through the game."

Texas Hold 'Em is enhanced with new multiplayer optons. I don't have any details about this, but I presume it's for local WiFi play with nearby Zunes. There are also new single-player difficulty levels for you Texas Hold 'Em pros out there.

Other enhancements with this 3.1 release include:

  • Zune Social enhancements include a visual refresh to make things easier to navigate, and a new feature called "Like Minded Listeners" that will let you see how compatible your music tastes are with friends and other listeners.
  • There's improved stability and performance in both the device firmware and desktop software. One the device they've improved the play count reporting and content synchronization, especially channels and wireless purchases from the device. The device side firmware should also eliminate some of the lag we sometimes see.

Want to snag this 3.1 release? Just sync your Zune and sometime within the next few hours you should see the 3.1 update pop up. Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Encoding Made Quick and Easy With TMPGEnc MovieStyle

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 07:00 AM

TMPGEnc MovieStyle ($39.95 USD) is video encoding software created for device-specific encoding. It has a slick, user-friendly interface that's quite easy to use - once you get it working. TMPGEnc MovieStyle, like its more expensive big brother TMPGEnc 4.0 Xpress, has an extremely irritating online activation security scheme. I won't repeat myself here - you can read about my dislike of this sort of software protection in my other TMPGEnc review - but I find myself especially irritated because I installed this software to test it while I was a passenger in a car driving back home after visiting some friends in the countryside, and I wasn't able to use the software because I didn't have Internet access. I thought maybe on this cheaper, consumer-focused video encoding product, they'd have a more relaxed approach. There's not even a graceful limited trial mode for the software when it can't be activated - it simply won't load until the license is activated online. These sort of heavy-handed, "treat your customers like thieves" tactics are frustrating to see. But let's get on with the review, shall we? Read more...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zune 3.0 Now Available!

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Software" @ 04:40 AM


Zune 3.0 has arrived! You should already know what's new and improved, but in case you don't, here's the lowdown. On the desktop side, there's Mixview, Just for You, Now Playing, rich search functionality, and enhanced social features. On the device side, you can now access the Zune Marketplace wirelessly, plus enjoy Buy from FM, Zune Channels, games (Texas Hold 'Em and Hexic), audiobooks, and a clock. To download the Zune 3.0 software, simply visit Zune.net, or if you already have the Zune software installed, run it and wait for the update prompt. Once you have the Zune 3.0 software up and running, connect your Zune to download and install the 3.0 firmware.

We'll be covering all that's new in 3.0 as well as some other significant announcements later today. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Google Launches "Chrome" Web Browser

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 08:50 AM


Yesterday, Google launched their own Web browser. Since this is pretty big news, I decided it was worth posting network-wide. Do we really need another browser? Before yesterday, my answer would have been no - I'm a very satisfied Firefox user, and Internet Explorer 8 is shaping up quite nicely. But after watching the 90 minute Google Webcast yesterday, I was very interested in with what Google had created. There's a great online comic that walks you through why Google created the browser, and what kinds of things were important to Google when creating Chrome. I think this comic is also how the browser was leaked before Google was ready to announce it. Read more...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goodbye Carbonite, Hello Mozy

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 10:30 AM

A couple of years ago I made an impassioned plea to all the readers of our sites to implement a solid backup solution, preferably an off-site one. I figured it was time for an update on my solutions, and a refresher for everyone on the importance of backing up their data.

I was a Carbonite user for a couple of years, but last year I discovered something quite ugly: Carbonite filtered out EXE files, ISO files, and a few other file types. I have a few small ISO files I keep in my documents folder; these are boot CDs I might need to duplicate in the future. And as for EXE files, I purchase digital software quite often, and these EXE files are required if I need to re-install the software. I consider both ISO and EXE files to be part of my data - things that, if I lost, I'd be very upset because they'd be difficult to get back or re-create. Read more...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tip: Restore Downloads from Marketplace

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 01:30 PM

So you moved to a new PC, you wiped your harddrive, or you just want to re-download a track you deleted long, long ago. Lucky for you, the Zune team built a feature specifically for this purpose, and it's pretty simple to get to.

In the Zune software, go to Settings (in the upper-right hand corner of the screen) and then Account. In the left-hand menu select Purchases (it should be the third option down) and then select the individual songs you want to download, or click Restore All to re-download all of your previously-downloaded songs.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tip: Command-Line Switches

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 04:30 PM


Within Windows (a recent favorite site) just published a nice list of command line switches you can use with the Zune software. These are mostly functional (what size to start the window, whether to use DirectX or GDI [a.k.a. "video enhancements"]), but a few are kinda cool. For example, you can create external links to items and actions within the Zune software such as Zune Cards, Marketplace items, and ripping/playing CDs. To view my Zune Card within the software, follow this link. Neat, huh?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tip: Song Info in Taskbar Title

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 07:00 PM

One of the cool new things the 2.5 software update features is a the ability to show info for the currently playing song on the Windows taskbar. When minimized (and playing a song) the title of Zune taskbar item will cycle through the current artist, album, and song, much in the same way the "now playing" field does within the software.

While not yet as functional as Windows Media Player's "mini mode", this is definitely a step in the right direction. Check it out for yourself; Minimize the Zune application and enjoy countless hours of fun and entertainment!

Thanks to Erik S. for the tip.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Zune Software Customizer

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 10:38 AM


“I’ve been working on this in my spare time for a while now and I’ve finally got it to the point where I’m satisfied enough to release it, so others can try it out. Basically ever since the custom background hack was released on ZuneBoards and people started releasing themes for the software I wanted to figure out a way to make customizing the Zune Software easier. I first attempted to make it so that you could sort playlists right inside the software, but I couldn’t get that working, so I decided to start working on other things. Which is what led me to what I am giving you all today: the Zune Software Customizer.”

Welcome back everyone! A buddy of mine sent me a link to this a couple days ago. Basically it allows you to theme your Zune software however you like which I think is really cool! No hacking is necessary as the software does it all for you and it appears that you are given quite a few options when it comes to what changes you can make. Check out MJefferson.net for all of the details, bugs and download.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Zune Finally Installed!

Posted by Damion Chaplin in "Zune Talk" @ 01:00 PM


"So the biggest problem, aside from the installation failing, was that neither the Zune Installer or Event Viewer were displaying the error code I needed to properly identify the problem. Without the error code it was just impossible to know what was wrong, and what steps to take. I called Zune Support and the rep had me install all the high-priority Windows updates, after which, the installer still failed, but I was left with an error code (1303) in Event Viewer. To resolve the problem, I followed these instructions, but my attempt to complete step 1 resulted in an obnoxious "Access Denied" error. The user account I was using is Admin level, so I have no clue why I got that error message. Nonetheless, I logged out of my primary account and logged in to my other Admin user account I use just for troubleshooting. This time the commands worked, and the installer was able to successfully install the Zune software."

If you're one of the unlucky people out there to get the 1303 error code while trying to install the Zune software, you'll find this article a useful one. What I find interesting is that he spent all this effort to get the Zune software up and running and he doesn't even own a Zune! Talk about stubborn! If I were just trying out a music program and it didn't install, well, I'd just find a different program. Guess Microsoft lucked out this time.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Zune Software Install on Vista - A Bit Bumpy

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 09:00 AM

Now that I've got my machines all running Vista nice-and-pretty, I went to Zune.net and downloaded the Zune desktop software to install. I ran the installer and it said it was checking for a software update. I chuckled because of course I had the newest version, I just downloaded it right? Wrong. It found an update to the software and proceeded to download it. Why Zune.net wouldn't have had the most up to date version of the software is beyond me, but there you have it.

After that, it proceeded to install, coming to the point where it says "Scanning for Device". At that point I connected my Zune to this system for the first time, expecting it to be detected and go from there. The device was identified by Vista, and it said the drivers were installed successfully. The Zune software installer, however, didn't acknowledge that it was connected. The Zune is connected to the back of the PC, not through a hub. This is a very stock install of Vista Ultimate with only a handful of third party programs installed: SnagIt, AnyDVD, FolderShare, MediaMonkey, and Flash. That's it. So why would the software have so much trouble? I left it on the "Searching for Device" phase for about 20 minutes, then gave up. When I disconnected the Zune the software gave me a pop-up error message stating "It is not possible to change the sync settings at this time. Please try again later." The software installer then said "TypeError: Invalid procedure call or argument [Hint] GetDevice." Gee, that's user-friendly.

At that point it continued onward and scanned my library. The process was a little slow, but then again it was scanning 15,500 pictures and a little over 15,000 songs. After the process finished I connected my Zune and created a new partnership with the software. Everything went smoothly, and my Zune is loaded up with music now. They still haven't added any sort of "smart sync" based on adding photos taken in the last 30 days for instance, but someday I hope they'll go that route.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Zune and Windows Vista: The Pictures

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Software" @ 08:00 PM

Interested in seeing what Zune looks and feels like in Windows Vista, but don't have a copy of the OS to experience it for yourself? We'll give you a short tour. It feels very similar to the Windows XP version, but there are some minor differences. Read on for more.

Zune Compatible with Windows Vista Starting Today

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Software" @ 03:00 AM

A little peeved off by the lack of Windows Vista compatibility? Brush those ill feelings aside, because later today, Microsoft will roll out an official update that enables support for Windows Vista and also corrects the infamous installation issues that have plagued many users since November 14. You'll be able to grab it from Microsoft Update or Zune.net.

We'll post screenshots and additional details later today when the update is made available for download (10AM PST).

Friday, December 8, 2006

Vista Compatibility Coming on January 30th

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 12:44 PM


"To the surprise of many, Microsoft’s hoped-for iPod killer didn’t work with Vista upon launch. But as expected, compatibility is coming – on Jan 30. Jason Reindorp, the Director of Marketing at Microsoft for their own branded digital mp3/media player, the Zune, has finally put Vista owners with a Zune out of their misery and has announced that Vista compatibility is coming on June 30. Apparently this was ‘always the plan’, with an update to be made available to enable Vista compatibility. Why it can’t be made available now, in calendar year 2006, is still unclear. Surely it must already work? Why the wait – there are plenty of people who can legally get access to Vista, with the millions all subscribing to Microsoft ‘MSDN’ program able to download Vista today. There are also still millions of copies of RC1 and RC2 out there."

See how that quote says June 30th in it? I read that date first, and my blood pressure rose rapidly - I started to write an email to a Microsoft contact I have to ask them if this was really the case, because it seemed even more insane than not having Vista compatibility right at launch (which should be a sad embarrassment for the Zune team). I paused and read the whole article again - and saw that the first date mentioned was actually January 30th...which is more in line with what I've heard and have been expecting. So it looks like we have a final confirmation of a new version of the Zune software that will be compatible with Vista. In the meantime, there's always the hack of course. I'm cautiously optimistic that the new software will also have the ability to transcode DVR-MS files, which an inside source told me was coming. We'll see - but it will be a long two month wait.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Zune Half-Way There

Posted by Michael Boutros in "Zune Talk" @ 03:00 AM

Over the past few weeks I have been reading tons of reviews on the Zune. In pretty much all of them, the reviewers loved the actual Zune device. They have said they love the gorgeous screen, and see tons of potential for the WiFi. However, the actual device is only half of the combo. Almost every single reviewer agrees that the main deal breaker/quirk for them is the included software. They all complain of problems installing the software, synching, etc. and report frequent crashes. Lots of people are turned off by this, and for this reason they don't use the Zune at all.

I think that the Zune team tried their hardest, but it was just too rushed for them and they didn't have time to finalize the installer. Talking as a programmer, the installer is usually the last thing that is done, and I think that the same applies to the Zune software. More then half of all the problems were caused from the actual install, even before the first boot. I don't want to sound rude because I know how hard this must have been to create in only a year, but I think that they could of done more testing on a wider range of computer specs.

I don't know if I am lucky or just weird, but the Zune software has been fine for me. I have about 1000 songs, 600 photos, and 40 videos (most 5 - 6 min). It installed fine for me on the first try, and successfully imported all my music from iTunes and my photos. Sure, it does take a few seconds to play the first song when you open the software up, but it doesn't really bother me. Am I saying the Zune software is perfect? Heck no! I hate cluttered taskbars , and I am really missing iTunes task bar remote. Also, why do my picture playlists show up in my music tab? To me that makes absolutely no sense. Are any of these deal breakers? No. Are they annoying? Yes.

What does the world think?

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Zune: Worst Out-of-Box Experience Ever?

Posted by Damion Chaplin in "Zune Hardware" @ 06:00 PM


"I don't hate the Zune player. In fact, I rather like its design, feel, and weight. I'm not crazy about the control buttons, but I can live with them. I do, however, hate the Zune software. It's shocking that Microsoft didn't simply integrate the Zune's rights management directly into Windows Media Player -- doing so may have eased many of the synching problems. Even with all of iTunes' well-documented software quirks, compared to the Zune it's the Holy Grail of music software. Microsoft is forcing hipness with the Zune, and people don't like that. It's like your Dad wearing urban gear and listening to underground hip-hop. Sure, it might technically be considered cool, but it makes you want to crack open an Emily Bronte novel with a concerto in the background."

I wholeheartedly concur with Mr. Marbles that it was just plain stupid to create a seperate piece of Zune software that's essentially the same thing almost all of us already have on our PCs. The Zune not appearing as a drive that you can manually manipulate is also a big minus in my book. That being said, workarounds exist, and while it may not do it out of the box, I might venture that most of us that desire manual control over our player can use these workarounds easily. The average person (who may have never owned a PMP) would probably rather have their music synced. Of course, I image they'd love to load all the PFS music they've already purchased, but we can't have everything, eh? In all, it's a fair review, just by someone with higher expectations and less patience than myself.

Tags: software, review

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Zune Software on Vista? You Bet! Here's How...

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


"As many of you will know, I recently purchased a Microsoft Zune player (to replace my lost iPod, which never surfaced no thanks to crappy Iberia!). Unfortunately, days before the arrival of my Zune from the USA, I made the switch to Windows Vista. This meant that, when the Zune arrived, I couldn't sync it up with my media-stuffed laptop, as in their infinite wisdom, Microsoft have decided NOT to make a Vista friendly version of the software available yet. DOH! So I set about seeing if the XP software could run happily on Vista! It does... and here's how I did it!"

Paul over at MoDaCo, rather famous for hacking Windows Mobile devices in various ways, has turned his attention to the Zune software - and voilà, he came up with a way to make it work. Way to go Paul! Until Microsoft releases the official update, this looks like an excellent solution for all you early adopter Vista users.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Zune.net Updated

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 03:00 AM


Microsoft has updated the Zune.net site to coincide with the official launch of Zune. You can download the Zune software or hit the Support page for your fix of how-to and troubleshooting guides, FAQs, manuals, and warranty information.

On an unrelated note, be sure to connect to the net when installing the Zune software. There's a Zune software update and Zune firmware update available for download during the installation process.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Zune and Windows Vista Compatibility

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Software" @ 08:00 PM

Click the image above for a larger version (JPG, 80KB).

Last week, Microsoft announced that Windows Vista RTM'ed with business availability expected on November 30, and consumer availability on January 30. Naturally, we were curious to see whether the Zune (its release date being November 14) would be compatible with Microsoft's latest operating system. Read on to find out!

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