More About the Zune

Zune LogoIn my last post, I discussed the latest software and firmware updates for the Microsoft Zune. There are a few things I forgot to mention in that post, and in my initial review of the Microsoft Zune. One of those items was the fact that the player refuses to recognize DRM-protected audio files in your “watched folders”. I also neglected to discuss the options available in the Zune software for converting your audio files before adding them to your Zune. I also failed to mention the fact that the Zune software updates finally added the ability to tag your video files.

DRM Files

For me, the fact that the Zune software would not recognize DRM files was especially annoying, because the only DRM-protected files I had on my computer were ripped directly from CDs that I own.

I did not realize, however, that there was an easy solution to my particular problem. I must have initially ripped the files using the Gigabeat Room software that came with my old Toshiba Gigabeat, as all of the files in question were in WMA format.

The other night, after doing a lot of research, I realized that the solution to my problem was right under my nose. If I use Exact Audio Copy (EAC) to rip the CDs to mp3 files, no DRM protection is added to the files.

So, if you’ve got a Zune (or, I’ve heard that this is also an issue with other digital media players, possibly even including the iPod), and you’ve got some CDs that you might have ripped to WMA in the past (using your own software, or possibly Windows Media Player), the solution is extremely simple.

EAC is the program I use to rip 99% of my music, anyway, and it is the program that I’ve used for years to do so. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try something that simple before.

I don’t use services like Napster, or even iTunes, really, so I can’t confirm the following statement. However, I would almost be willing to bet that, if you were to burn your DRM files from any of those services to a CD (even a CD-RW, so that you don’t waste discs), you could then rip them using EAC to remove the DRM protection and add them to your own digital media player. Good luck.

Audio File Conversions

Another thing I’d like to mention about the Zune is that the Zune software offers the ability to downsample your music if it exceeds a specified bitrate. Ideally, I would like to keep the audio files on my computer at a slightly higher quality than the files on my Zune. Therefore, I decided to test the Zune’s ability to downsample the music. Unfortunately, though, the Zune converter seems to be slower than molasses. To convert about 90 minutes of music to a lower bitrate, I believe it took about three hours.

I would not recommend using the Zune software to convert any of your music to the desired format. It’s simply too slow.

Video Tagging

Finally, I want to mention one new feature that was added in Zune 2.5. I didn’t notice this the other night when I wrote the post about the software update, that Microsoft finally added the ability to easily tag your video files. They added three new categories for videos (previously, the only category they had was “music” – if a video file wasn’t classified as a music video, it only showed when you viewed “all” videos). Now, you can choose from music, movie, tv (for which there are three subcategories – series, special and news) and other. In addition to that, they added a dialog to edit those properties, among others, for each video.

You can now simply right-click on a video and choose “Edit” (you can edit the properties of multiple videos at once, if you choose to do so). Then, you are greeted with a dialog that gives you all kinds of options to tag your videos. TV shows can be tagged with the show’s name, the season number, the episode name, the episode number, the air date and a description of the episode. You can add similar information to your other videos.

I am extremely happy to see this feature added, as it was nearly impossible to add this information in previous versions of the Zune software. I did a little research on the subject a few months ago, and found that the only real way to do so was to hex-edit the video itself, and I believe I found out that that only worked on the videos that were encoded in Zune format (it wouldn’t work on iPod-formatted mp4 files).