Parrot Zik Headphones, iOS and Surface RT

Posted Posted in Surface, Windows 8, Wireless Streaming


Over the years, I’ve used several flavors of earphones/headphone for private listening. Starting in around 2005, I decided to go the earphone (canal phone) route and purchased Shure E5’s, for use primarily with an iPod. They were amazing, but extended sessions seamed to lead to wax build up on the device and in my ears and there were two ear infections that I believe were connected to their use. So, I decided a larger, over the ear set of “cans” was the solution and I’ve been happily using Bose Quiet Comfort QC15 ever since they became available in 2009. While not audiophile phones (because one of my requirements was noise cancellation and there just isn’t any such thing – yet – as a set of cans that provides both noise cancellation and audiophile quality), the QC15’s have been great. And as I’ve upgrade to iPhone and iPad devices, these earphones and headphones all continued working and they worked plugged in to any 3.5mm audio jack I’ve used on any device or computer.

One of my “at home” uses for noise cancelling headphones is to shut out noise of all too frequent thunderstorms, plugged in to whatever device I am using that is running on battery power. This includes some late nights laying in bed on my back,  listening to soft symphonic music while violent t-storms rage for a few hours, usually falling asleep. I’ve always had a (probably paranoid) concern about the headphone cords. So for a few months, I’ve been doing research on Bluetooth over the ear headphones.

After a bit of research, and a short demo last winter at the closest Apple Store, and three nights of t-storms last week, I decided it was time to purchase Parrot Zik headphones.



I picked up a pair of at my local Brookstone’s (5 minutes away vs. 30 minutes for the Apple Store). Brookstone has a 30 day no questions asked return policy, which is how I justified not ordering from Amazon (cheaper), since I had no idea how or if they would work with Bluetooth on my Surface RT, etc. A standard wired audio cable is supplied for wired connections, but that doesn’t interest me.

My pre-purchase research indicated that it was likely that before I could use these with iOS 6, I needed to perform a firmware upgrade since iOS 6 support required V1.03 or higher. (I had the Brookstone store manager check their stock and the most recent firmware they had stamped on boxes was 1.02, so I took that box). I used a Windows 7 machine to perform the upgrade after charging the battery. The firmware upgrade process was a great experience. You plug the headphones in via included micro USB cable, and drag and drop the firmware, safely stop and unplug, and wait for the red light to stop blinking (the device appears as removable storage to Windows).

These headphones are software controlled by either an iOS app or an Android app, and since I’m an iPhone 5 user, this is no problem for me. While I intended to connect to other devices, it was the initial setup that needed to be done on a supported device. Tons of settings, lots of experimentation. All of the settings that can be tweaked by an iOS device are documented online. You use gestures on the right ear cup – up and down to control volume, left and right to advance to next track, and tap to pause and restart – and there are sensors in the ear cup that pause the music if you remove the headphones and dangle around your neck. About a 5 second learning curve.

Let me say here that I think sound quality is great after settings are tweaked. That is my opinion, others may differ. And once you tweak the settings, they stick.

I’d read some comments that the Zik can only be paired with a single device at a time (one of the negatives) so before I attempted to pair with my Surface RT, I used “forget this device” on my iPhone 5. After that, it was simple to pair with my Surface RT. There are several steps that will work to get to the pairing dialog on Surface, RT. What I did.

1. On the Start menu, search for bluetooth by typing the word bluetooth (search Charm, “bluet” is all I needed)


2. I selected Add Bluetooth device

3. When the Parrot Zik appeared (the firmware version number is included in the device name) I selected it.


4. That was it, a few second later the device appeared in the Devices list

I opened the Music App and selected an album, and voila, I was in business. All the gestures worked, the quality was terrific, and I was able to roam around my three story condo without losing the connection.

Pro’s and Con’s

As a plus, the Parrot Zik’s have microphone functionality as well, and on my iPhone, I can tap to answer and end calls, ignore an incoming call when I’m already on the phone, etc. and if you are playing music, it pauses while you use the phone.

Well engineered and beautifully styled.

Great sounding

Great software for supported platforms (iOS and Android)

For me, the most serious drawback is that while optional extra batteries are available (I’ve ordered one), no external charger is available.

No App for Windows/Windows x86/Windows RT/Windows Phone (I don’t have one, but…). As is the case with some other higher end devices (Sonos), the lack of an RT app is sad, but not surprising. I do wish that I had apps for both, but since I have an iPhone and an iPad, it isn’t the end of the world. If you are Windows eco-system only, Parrot Zik is NOT for you as there is no way to set the sound and noise cancellation parameters.

I don’t know yet if Parrot Zik headphones work with Skype on Windows RT/Windows. I’m not a big Skype user so either way, this is not a problem for me.

Bottom line, I’m happy and if I feel differently within the 30 day Brookstone return policy, I can return for full refund, but I doubt that is going to happen.

Use Non MSFT Certified Legacy DMRs with W8 Device Charm

Posted Posted in DLNA, Play To, Windows 8


My last post detailed the process to add Microsoft non certified devices to the list of supported “Play To” devices in Windows 8 Modern UI Start Screen Apps so that they appeared in the Charms/Devices menu. Once again, if you experiment with this, you will need to verify that your device is a DMR (digital media renderer) that works from the classic desktop explorer/libraries interface by right clicking an asset and verifying Play To appears and that you can successfully send the media to the device).

I already knew my circa 2009 Samsung LN52B750 series TV was not the greatest Play To client (which is why I have been using the WDTV LIVE Hub) but I wanted to enable it to see what kind of results I would get. The LNB Samsung TV series is neither certified by the folks or by Microsoft (just as my Sonos speakers are not certified by either organization).

In DLNA years, 2009 is ancient, and in TV cycle years, prehistoric. Samsung stops issuing firmware updates after 9-12 months so there was really not much hope of improving the DLNA experience after that time. Aggravating, but true. So for most people, the iffy DLNA experience (due to codec and transcoding support) the Microsoft decision to not show these uncertified devices is justified. It would be a support nightmare. But, if you are a geek and accustomed to tinkering with the registry, etc., once again, enabling these devices let you experiment.

Again, this is for geek enthusiasts only and unsupported. Backup your registry and the subkey before you begin. Proceed at your own risk.

Note: I performed this exercise on my Surface Pro and Surface RT with success.

To add the TV to the whitelist, once again, from the Network window, I right clicked the media icon for the TV and accessed the properties.


Since the DeviceShims registry already listed Samsung Electronics,all I needed to do was add the subkey for Samsung DTV DMR and the 32 bit dword IsLegacyDMR and set the hex value to 1. I did have to take ownership of the Samsung Electronics key and give local users full control in order to perform this modification.

Next step was to reboot.

Concurrent with my experimentation with non MSFT certified DLNA DMR’s, I also was looking to be able to play MKV files and had downloaded the trial of Cyberlink’s Power DVD Mobile from the Windows 8 App Store. (I’ll have more to say about this app soon, but I had a WOW experience; it’s one awesome program).

I opened  my Avatar MKV and it played beautifully on the Surface Pro. Now the moment of truth, could I send to my Samsung TV through the Devices menu. You can see in the screen capture below that both my TV and WDTVLiveHub are available from the Devices charm.


The answer is a big YES. My Surface Pro displayed the following:



And the output to the TV worked perfectly.


The picture looked great and there was no lagging/glitching (and sound was in sync – I run audio from the TV out to a home theater system via Digital Optical SPDIF). I won’t say it was a good as watching the original Blue Ray, but close. This same TV has had trouble with mp4’s using Play To where it doesn’t correctly handle the aspect ratio at times. And when I set still digital images via the Device charm, they displayed beautifully.

Use MSFT Uncertified Play To devices with W8 Metro Apps

Posted Posted in DLNA, Play To, Surface


Today I’m one step closer to giving up my iPad as my Surface RT can now perform one more task on my must have list. Full DLNA Play To sharing from the Charms bar/Devices for non Microsoft certified devices was a biggie on my list.

A little history: In Windows 7, Microsoft introduced Play To which used the DLNA spec to let me send media from my computer to a DLNA DMR. I had so so results with my 2009 Samsung TV due to poor transcoding support, but great results with my WDTV Live Hub and my SONOS speakers. The so-so experience on my TV and the not wonderful experience on other device by many many people caused Microsoft to rethink their strategy for Windows 8 and come up with their own certification process for devices to “insure” a good experience. This translated into a restrictive policy for Windows 8 Start Screen/Metro/Modern UI Apps where only MS certified devices would appear in an applications Settings: Devices menu. What this meant for me was that I could no longer send music to my SONOS speakers from these Apps, although I could do so from the classic Desktop-Explorer-Libraries view. I certainly was annoyed and disappointed. To me, this meant that Microsoft was going down the closed eco-system route and emulating Apple. DLNA is an open standard, and there are tiered requirements. MS was seeking to bulletproof the experience, but in the process left many of us hanging. I certainly wished for, and expressed my desire for, an advanced user setting to “Show non MS certified devices”, and I still think that is the necessary change that Microsoft needs to make.

Others in the geek world wanted a way to use their non certified devices and Rafael Rivera came up with a way for x86 based Windows 8 computers to do just this. He didn’t find a way to do this on Surface RT. And that’s where I most wanted this functionality. Note: The information that follows applies to Windows 8/Windows RT and I have tested on my Surface RT, my Surface Pro, and a Windows 8 desktop.

So I started looking at the registry. What I am about to describe works on both my Surface and Surface RT tablets but it is the only way so far to enable this functionality on RT.

Before you start,verify that your device supports Play To in the classic desktop/explorer/libraries interface. To do this, right click a supported media file in a classic library and verify the Play To menu appears and that you can successfully send to your target device and it plays the media you selected.

There is an interesting key in the registry:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Device Association Framework\InboxProviders


When expanded, it shows devices from just a few companies.



Why only five vendors?

If you export the DeviceShims reg key, things get interesting. For example, specific vendors and specific devices have entries, such as:


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Device Association Framework\InboxProviders


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Device Association Framework\InboxProviders



Do you find the IsLegacyDMR an interesting dword? If you look at the entire exported key, it is one of those AHA moments.

What follow is for geeks only. Use at your own risk. Back up your registry and back up the specific key. And use what follows entirely at your own risk. Obviously you will want to at least use the touch/type keyboard for this process.

First, the DeviceShims key is “protected” and you will need to take ownership and give yourself full control.

1. Right click the DeviceShims key, then click Permissions.

2. Click the Advanced tab, then click the Change hyperlink next to the Owner. You can use your Microsoft account for this.

3. Apply

4. Give users (pcname\username) full control

5. Reboot

Second, you will need to determine the exact information on the device(s) you want to empower to use the Start Screen Play To functionality.

1. Go to the classic desktop and classic explorer

2. Find your device in the network list

3. Right click the device and select properties

4. You will need the Manufacturer and the Model, case sensitive. In the example below, the Manufacturer is Sonos, Inc. and the Model is Sonos Play:5



Third, You need to create the registry values for your device(s).

1. Create a new key under DeviceShims with the manufacturer (Sonos, Inc. in my example)

2. Under the just created key, create a new subkey for the model (Sonos Play:5 in my example).

3. Create a 32 bit dword IsLegacyDMR and set the HEX value to 1


If you export the key, the newly created value would look like

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Device Association Framework\InboxProviders\DAFUPnPProvider\Plugins\DlnaMetadataProvider\DeviceShims\Sonos, Inc.]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Device Association Framework\InboxProviders\DAFUPnPProvider\Plugins\DlnaMetadataProvider\DeviceShims\Sonos, Inc.\Sonos PLAY:5]

4. Reboot

End result:


Here’s my Surface RT happily sending the output of the PRadio App (Pandora) to my Sonos.

Uncertified Play To works on Surface RT

Posted Posted in Play To, Surface



Rafael Rivera has done a lot of work on getting uncertified Play To devices to work on non RT Windows 8 devices. He’s had a great solution now for a few months. But people like me want to use their RT tablets to control their non certified devices via Play To. I’ve done it!

I am happy to say that after much registry examination, regedit testing and edits, I have succeeded in using Play To from Start Screen, Music to send media to my SONOS Play 5 on my Surface RT!1playto-on-rt

This is a biggie for me.


Screen shot above is from my Surface RT and you can see my SONOS devices (and this works).

This one is for geeks only. I’ll document it this weekend and share.