the Zune

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Microsoft’s Zune is FAIL.

In the wee hours of this morning, all of the 30gb model Zune music players hit a system glitch. A power cycle will not clear it. There are some reports that opening the unit and pulling the battery cables off the connector will clear the situation, but a lot of users won’t be comfortable with that.
This comes after the lowering of the price of the Zunes, and immediately after Apple stated that in 2009, the prices for macbooks and ipods will be dropping.
Not exactly good timing for this kind of news.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t carry an ipod, either. I’ve been using mp3 players for much, much longer than there has been an “ipod” at all, when all mp3 players were referred to as, well, “mp3 players”. I have been getting some really excellent mileage out of the small, flash memory-based ones that can now be bought for very little scratch, and for that reason, you aren’t afraid of a system fail (if it ever did happen), and you aren’t terribly worried about it if you happen to leave it in sight somewhere, and you don’t really mind wearing it when doing housework, yardwork, or even working out.

These days, they all seem to have a lot of the same features: an FM tuner, alarm clock album cycling, true random play, FM recording via schedule, etc. It really comes down to the interface on the device and the capacity, and if you follow it at all, you know that memory costs next to nothing now. The last round of flash-based mp3 players I got (maybe eight months ago) all have microSD slots, which allow for massive expansion, and allow you to swap out your stock of tunes and podcasts on the run.

To everyone with a 30GB Zune: Your music player has passed its “freshness date” Return it to the manufacturer and ask for an upgrade.

Thanksgiving week catch up

Here are some stories that I was going to write about last week among the working, extra travel, and general lazing about:

  • Schoolboy’s lifesaving MythBuster moment The importance of separating true science from collective Hollywood fiction has come into its own. After revealing positive aspects of playing video games (including venting your aggressions, building problem-solving skills, and hand-eye coordination), we are now finding good excuses for watching geeky shows on television. Having seen the episode of Mythbusters dealing with the idea of getting electrocuted by the Metro track, this kid knew exactly what not to do, and saved a life. He was very brave, even at the peak of geekery.
  • Babbling Babelfish sparks international incidentTechnology can help us in a lot of ways, especially when dealing with hard science, mathematics, etc. There are some areas that aren’t nailed down quite as well, and one of those areas is in language translation. The dictionary translation software can help you out greatly, but one really should at least know some of the basics of the target language, especially if the communication is legal, governmental, or really, has anything to do with business. These guys were down a translator, and decided that Babelfish would make a good stand-in.
  • Clean, carbon-neutral hydrogen on the horizonAn exciting 288 percent efficiency gain has been made by a new process for creating clean hydrogen from cellulose. I’m stoked about this!
  • If Gmail Had Been Designed by MicrosoftA fun look at a screenshot of Gmail, walking through User interface traditions used by Microsoft to create something awful. This is brutally truthful and rather hilarious, especially if you have ever done web design.
  • Residents reject rude roadTo the road signage crew: Thou shalt check thy spelling before placing road signs henceforth! By the way, you will all need to update your address books. I now live at 2389 Dolphin Waxing Lane.
  • Quaid’s scareDennis Quaid’s newborn twins got a horribly large overdose at the hospital, which is incredibly scary. The article says that they will be alright. As a parent, I know that something like this can keep you up at night for years afterward. I hope that they are well and safe, and that nurses everywhere are mindful and alert when metering out meds, and also that Dennis and Kimberly have patience and understanding in their hearts.

WinAMP 5.5

The 5.5 version of Winamp came out today, just in time to celebrate one decade of the music software. On Windows platforms, it has often been a favorite of mine. There were times when it fell from my personal spotlight, but through operability, perseverance, and the focus of the development team on great new feature sets that were not available elsewhere, they often saw me trudging back in their direction.

Way back in the early days of MP3 technology, Winamp was the easiest and best option, and besides that, it was the only decent one out at the time that was free of charge (for the basic verion). Yes, Virginia, Windows Media Player did live in the forest during these dark times, but she would not embrace the MP3 format for a few years, opting to push her own agendas, mainly being standard wav formats, as well as her own wma and wmv. Besides, she was highly inflexible, and very few features to speak of. I can’t think of a time when Winamp wasn’t flexible and friendly. It plays tons of audio and video formats, has visualizations, and completely customizable with plugins, skins, and assortments of software development kits if you REALLY want to tweak it, or can’t find someone else’s plugin that does what you want. and that’s been from the very beginning.

Nullsoft has always distributed a single MP3 file with every install. It plays as soon as you launch the player for the first time, so that you know that it is working, and DJ Mike Llama proclaims, “WINAMP! It really whips the llama’s ass!” The company’s name is sort of a jab at Microsoft. Micro-soft being “soft” as in software, and micro- as in the greek µ, meaning small. Null is the term for “empty or missing”, it was “smaller than micro($oft)”. Nullsoft is noted for inventing awesome things as Winamp, Gnutella, Beep, and SHOUTcast, among others, and these are almost all open source.

Winamp sold out to AOL back in ’99, and really suffered for a while, then a couple of years later, lost more market share with the launch of iTunes.

If you have no idea what mp3, wma, wav, or any of this other stuff is about, or if you are just curious, links to increasingly geeky background info starts off by clicking here, by clicking here, or maybe even by clicking here, and continues until you have completely worn out your browser and search engine, of course! …but I got you started.

So it’s time to light ten candles on the Winamp cake, and then it’s ten lashes for the llama’s ass!

Some of the new features:

  • single, unified window (though old school Photochop and GIMP geeks like me never mind grouping functionality and hiding what you won’t use for a while)
  • dynamic sing recommendations(smells like Pandora?)
  • surround sound support for mp3’s
  • there’s a mass auto tagger (I’ve been using an external program for this for a while. awesome!)
  • Podcast directory and auto-downloader(w00t!)
  • even more portable devices supported(yeah. even ipods.), with seperate sync options for each(for those of us with different sizes and brands of portable players)

the need for standards

Microsoft has some tendencies for playing the bully in the world of technology, but they are currently feeling as if they had been dragged off the toilet The ISO has rejected their “open standard” document file format, and this is quite a setback for them.

Microsoft’s whole purpose for getting their “open” standard approved is to maintain their market share. They rely on all of their users feeling like they have everything they need as long as they stick with the MS Windows and MS office combination (and the licensing that goes along with it).

Standards seem like a moot point to the bystander, but when a new de facto standard arises, it can seriously affect how you work, and the success or failure of many products. Anyone remember when the standard was still up in the air for v.92 and v.94 modems? There was a war of sorts, with companies taking sides and starting to sell hardware that supporte one or the other. fortunately, most of them allowed for the logic to be flashed after the standard was decided.

Discussion at LinuxTracker

Here’s the original article that got me thinking on this: ISO Rejects Microsoft’s OOXML as Standard