Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Help My Zune

This is an off topic technology post. I'm looking for technical help and, frankly, just letting you know I am here. I have been busy with work and have a lot of travel coming up. I'll post as I can. Also, I haven't seem too much that really struck me as interesting.

I lost my MP3 player. By "lost" I mean it was quite possibly stolen by housekeeping personnel in a hotel. Unfortunately, it is equally possible that I left it in the hotel's fitness center. Either way, my Samsung MP3 player is no more. The much greater tragedy is that my outstanding Shure headphones went with it.

I have struggled for a couple weeks to figure out what to get as a replacement. My penultimate decision was to get a very cool new Samsung YP-P2. The Samsung has a very slick iPhone-ish design and touch screen interface. I also figured that a Samsung to Samsung upgrade would make migrating my collection easy.

Best Buy, changed my mind. Basically, the sales guy told me to look at Microsoft Zunes and iPods because they have the most accessories and the most stable designs. This rang true in that I have always wanted a speaker dock that was designed for the Samsung. None exists in the U.S. (although I did find one on a UK web site). So, I started looking at the Zune. I have an anti-iPod bias because I like the idea of being free to pick my music source and did not want to get tied into iTunes. I had seen good reviews of the 30 GB Zune online but it was very bulk in my hand.

The Best Buy guy told me that the 30 GB model was old school and that the 80 GB had a much better form factor and interface. Unfortunately, he also told me that they did not have any. That was a lucky circumstance for Circuit City, which was selling the 80 GB model on its web site. I found a generally favorable review on the reliable cnet and made the purchase.

From a hardware perspective, I love the device. It's bigger than its Nano-sized Samsung predecessor but with that comes a very attractive 3.2-inch glass screen capable of playing video in the landscape orientation. Video podcasts I have downloaded from Zune look great. The interface is controlled almost entirely from a touch sensitive button on the front. Wipe up or down to adjust volume or scroll through tracks. The left to right movement is a bit more awkward but the button can also be pressed to make a tactile connection. The earbud headphones are better than most and fit my ear reasonably well, but are certainly no replacement for my Shure's.

So far, my biggest complaint is that the FM reception is spotty. Reception is periodically crystal clear but for the most part staticky. So much for my hopes of listening to Steve Dahl while on the Metra.

The Zune desktop software looks great and is quite easy to use for basic functions. But, importing my collection has been a pain. Many of the tracks were not recognized and had to be hand tagged. In some cases, Zune found and applied the proper album art but in other cases it seems to have applied a random cover from another album. I have updated the album art on the desktop over and over. In most cases, the change takes. But, and this is where I am looking for help, in some stubborn cases, the art reverts to some other album cover. It is very annoying to hear a U2 song and see a picture of Weird Al Yankovic. Any one have an answer to this?

I have not quite figured out the social networking tricks my Zune can do. Supposedly, if I am near another person with a Zune, I can share or receive a track. So far, I haven't had the opportunity, but it sounds good in theory. I do think the podcast features work quite well.

Interestingly, Zune graphic designers seem to have a hippy-ish, psychedelic take on things. Plus, they have some cryptozoological flourishes in the design. You can see both in my "Zune Card" below.

So, in closing, if you know the answer to my Zune problem, please help. Re-tagging my files is keeping me from sleeping.

UPDATE: Yes, I fixed the links. Also, I forgot the irony in this post. It turns out that Zune's only really play nicely with Microsoft's Zune marketplace. That's basically the same arrangement iPod has with iTunes. Meaning, of course, that my anti-iPod stand against being stuck with iTunes is exactly what I bought into.

No comments: