No Zune for you! – at least on Monday and Tuesday

The Zune service will be down for scheduled maintenance on Monday, September 29, 2008 from 12:01am Pacific Time, for up to 48 hours. During the downtime, Zune Social, the forums on Zune.net, and all of Zune Marketplace will be offline.

We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause you.

Please check back soon. We look forward to sharing our picks, plays, and recommendations with you in the Zune Social and in Zune Marketplace shortly!

Sincerely,

Your Friends at Zune

Battery life and Wifi – the *** in the Zune 3.0 armor

If you’ve installed the new Zune 3.0 software and firmware update, are you using the new Internet connection functions to Zune Marketplace and Zune-to-Zune gaming?

Both my daughter and myself each have a Zune.  She has my hand-me-down Zune 30 (original) and I have the newer Zune 80, so I have been able to test this on both models.  Unless Microsoft has beefed up the battery life of the new Zune 120, I’m sure that it, too, will suffer from the problem.

The issue is that Microsoft recently announced a partnership with McDonald’s and others to provide free Wifi access to Zune users.  The new Zune software allows Internet access to Zune Marketplace (new feature) and also connection features for Zune-to-Zune song sharing (not new), Zune-to-Zune community (not new), and Zune-to-Zune gaming (new feature).

So, both my daughter and I have been burning up the Wifi wires using the cool, new Marketplace connection.  You can basically access Zune Marketplace directly from the Zune and download songs, check lists like “What’s New”, “What’s hot”, etc.  Really cool feature.  However, this EATS battery juice like nothing I’ve ever seen!  The Zune hardware is simply not made for this feature.  While it works great, it only works for what seems a few minutes at a time before you have to charge the Zune’s battery.  This is a major reason why the Zune battery should be user replaceable so that you can keep spares on hand.  My daughter sat in our living room yesterday, searched Marketplace, downloaded 2 albums, and had to recharge her Zune.  That was after starting from a full charge.

So…all of this cool news about “free Wifi at McDonald’s” isn’t really great news at all because just as soon as Zune users start to download songs while eating their Big Macs, their Zune will go dead before they can say: “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun”.

Luckily, Microsoft keeps improving the Zune with each model and each software/firmware upgrade, so maybe they’ll pay extra attention to the battery life in future models.

I’m still a Zune lover, but I recognize the limitations, and will have to work around those to get the best enjoyment I can out of the hardware.  Why can’t anything be perfect – ever?

Zune 3.0 software is much kinder

The latest update to the Zune software handles downloads, synching, and performance much better.  Download my daily Podcasts and synching the Zune would generally cause a slowdown of my computer.  Not anymore. 

Good job Zune crew!

2 options for audio books on the new Zune software – one brings back fond memories

audibleoverdrive

Zune 3.0 allows you to connect with either Audible.com or Overdrive.com to download and listen to audio books on your Zune device.

“Cool!” you say.

What’s interesting about this?  Overdrive.com is the company that was huge into eBook processing for Microsoft for their MS Reader format eBooks that never took off.  Overdrive.com slipped off into nothingness as Microsoft stopped promoting the MS Reader format (which I liked, btw.  Best eBook format there was at the time – and much better than having to deal with Adobe’s horrid software and file formats).

So, is this a way for Overdrive.com to make a comeback?  I really don’t thing so, as they are up against Audible.com which is a pretty popular option for audio books.

So, what is Overdrive.com offering the Zune crowd?

A free, easy-to-use application, OverDrive Media Console allows you to download and enjoy OverDrive audiobooks, music, and video on most Windows computers. Use OverDrive Media Console to navigate, play, and bookmark OverDrive media titles, and to manage and customize your media library. OverDrive Media Console grants you the added functionality to transfer media to supported portable devices and to burn CDs of audiobooks and music (when allowed by the publisher).

http://www.overdrive.com/software/omc/download.asp

OMC

But…are the books supposed to be this expensive?

CloneWars

The new Zune clock

Nothing special, but a useful gadget…

Zuneclock 001

You enable and disable it in the Zune settings…

Zuneclock 002

You can choose to display it or not.  Change the display format between 12hours an 24hours.

Zuneclock 003

And, you can set the time.  I don’t see that the Zune can update the clock on its own.

Zuneclock 004

The Zune 3.0 pictorial software installation

Here’s a photo view of my installation of the new Zune 3.0 software.

1st screen:

Zune1

2nd screen:

Zune2

3rd screen (checks for updates, prepares computer, installs the software):

Zune3

4th screen (installation success!):

Zune4

The Zune software layout has changed a bit:

Zune5

Sign-in is not automatic, even though you may have chosen that option with the previous version:

Zune6

You must go online and accept the new terms of service to be able to use the new Zune 3.0 marketplace.  Enter your Zune email address:

Zune7

Give them some additional info (same stuff as in the previous version):

Zune8

Next Zune.net tells the 3.0 software that you have read the new terms:

Zune9

Interesting “Channels” option in the new 3.0 software:

Zune10

What’s a channel?  Zune.net explains:

Zune11

After you hook up your Zune for the first time after the software installation, new device driver software is installed for your computer:

Zune12

During the software setup after the device driver installs correctly, you must start the actual device upgrade through the Zune software.  Notice that you have the option to install GAMES!

Zune13

Games on the Zune, you say?

Zune14

The Zune device has to be updated to take advantage of the new software updates.

Zune15

The Zune ROM update:

Zunestuff 001

The Zune is rebooted 3 times during the process before you get the success screen:

Zune16

Next you have to (once again) link your Zune Tag to your device:

Zune17

And, after everything is updated, your Zune device must synch *everything* again.  I suspect Microsoft is updating the DRM on the files you have.

Zune18

New Zune features…

Radio – Add Song to Cart:

Zunestuff 003

Zune Marketplace option:

Zunestuff 004

Zune Marketplace drill-down:

Zunestuff 005

Games included (if you chose that option during installation):

Zunestuff 006

Texas Hold ‘Em (in landscape mode):

Zunestuff 007

Hexic (standard portrait mode):

Zunestuff 008

New to Zune.net:

gamesaudio

audiobooks