Since the Zune 4 software was released, I have been using it fairly exclusively as my media player when using Windows. I really enjoy using the software, and I like the way it tracks and shares my recent plays. In the spirit of Xbox “achievements,” the Zune social system even issues “badges” once you’ve listened to a specific artist enough times.
Unfortunately, however, the Zune software is only available for Windows, and I use Linux about 99% of the time on my home computer. I do, however, have Windows XP installed as a VirtualBox guest so I can use Windows programs like Photoshop, Internet Explorer 6 (for Web development testing), etc. I thought it would be simple to use the Zune software inside of that VirtualBox. I was wrong.
Apparently, the Zune software will not recognize media files stored in a VirtualBox shared folder. When you attempt to play the files, you will most likely receive an error stating that the file couldn’t be played, and that it might have been moved.
Having recently acquired an iPhone, I thought this might be a good opportunity to attempt to compare the iPhone with the Microsoft Zune and see how the two stack up against each other. Obviously, the iPhone is going to have some capabilities that simply cannot be matched by the Zune, but I think you might be surprised to see how they stack up when evaluated strictly as portable media players (PMP).
I do love my Zune, which will show through in this article a good bit. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am not a Microsoft fanboy, nor am I an Apple fanboy. I do have a certain bias against the iPod (mainly because of the iTunes software), but I have tried to write this article as objectively as humanly possible. I am definitely open to comments about any mistakes, incorrect assumptions, etc. I make in the article. I am not, however, looking for fanboy comments from either side spouting subjective opinions about whether Apple is better than MS or the other way around.
In my personal life, I am almost exclusively a Linux user, which makes it difficult to truly enjoy either device. Keep that in mind as you read my opinions on the matter at hand.
I have no idea how many people use the Wal-Mart music download service, or, for that matter, how many used it when Wal-Mart was still selling DRM-protected WMA files.
However, if you are one of those people, you are in for some bad news. Those files will do nothing but take up space on your hard drive this time next week.
That’s right; Wal-Mart has finally decided to shut down its DRM server, which is where those files acquire their licenses. If a license cannot be located for those files, they won’t play. Further, if you have them on your digital media player (iPod, Zune, etc.), they’ll most likely be automatically removed next time you sync.
What can you do to save these files? About the only thing you can do is to burn those files to a CD, then rip them back off of that disc in mp3 format. Be careful; if you rip those files back off of the disc into WMA format, chances are that the files will still have the DRM protection.
There are probably various semi-legal applications out there that allow you to digitally convert the files without the need for blank CDs, but those apps are usually only semi-reliable and often difficult to configure and use properly.
Celldweller, an artist I have followed for close to 15 years, through multiple aliases, has come up with another innovative way to promote his music. In partnership with a group called trueAnthem, along with video game publisher ubiSoft, is giving away 16 free tracks from various sources, including his debut album from the Celldweller project, fan remix contests and his forthcoming sophomore release.
For those of you that don’t know, Celldweller is just one of many projects/alias for a man generally known as Klayton or Klay Scott. For a while, he was known as Scott Albert (possibly his birthname, although confirmed biographical details are extremely difficult to come by), Buka, Dred, Circle of Dust, and many more. He has collaborated with many different artists from all walks of life. Some notable collaborators on his various projects include Tommy Victor of Prong — Prong is now signed on Klayton’s “fixt” record label — Mark Solomon of Outer Circle, The Crucified and Stavesacre, Living Sacrifice, Klank, Criss Angel and many more. He has been credited with inspiring other great industrial artists including Stabbing Westward.
He has provided music for countless video game and motion picture soundtracks (including the Spiderman movies), the theme song for MTV Sports, the three-part (over three hours of music) soundtrack to Criss Angel’s live “Angel Dust” (a combination of Angel’s last name and the last word in Klayton’s original project Circle of Dust) stage show, much of the music from season one of Mindfreak (Criss Angel’s TV show), and so much more.
About a week ago, Microsoft released Zune 2.5, the latest update for the Zune media management software. Apparently this software update adds in some functionality that was previously removed (smart playlists) and adds quite a bit of new functions.
Other than the addition of smart playlists, Zune 2.5 didn’t really add any functionality that I envision myself using very often. I found a very good, accurate review of the new software and firmware on Paul Thurrott’s Web site.