DYI Zune Dock

I am only aware of two Zune docks available from Microsoft; The round dock designed for the 1st generation Zunes and the rectangular dock for the 2nd generation devices. Both docks have IR receivers for use with Zune wireless remotes and Audio/Video jacks, and there’s no other docks available just for charging or syncing. Some 3rd-party vendors offer Zune docks that act as speaker amplifiers, but they seem to be bulky and too expensive for my wallet. I just want a simple dock that I can use to support my Zune upright during syncing and charging (much like the docks for a Pocket PC device).

Over at the Instructables.com web site, I noticed several people constructing docks for their iPod Nano devices using common household items such as:

  • Old clock radios
  • The plastic box that the iPod Nano came in
  • Lego blocks
  • Cardboard and duct tape
  • A toy car
  • A tennis ball and nails Continue reading
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Reading eBooks on the Zune?

The Zune is a multimedia device that can display pictures, play music and audio files, and play video files. What it doesn’t have, is the ability to display text files or books (which I believe an iPod can do). One resourceful person figured out how to overcome this limitation by converting text information into jpg image files. By this method, you could create several jpg images representing the “pages” of a book, sync them to your Zune and view them as pictures. Somewhat convoluted, but it should work.

The web site with this information is called instructables.com and they explain how to use a program called jpegbook to convert text to jpg images. As an example, they do this procedure for a Zune 30 gb, so it looks like it works (although I haven’t tried it yet). So, if you need to have text available for reading on your Zune, you now have a method!

Side Note: This brings up an interesting concept — You could create a jpg image file containing whatever you want (such as text, diagram, logo, scanned document, etc.) and sync it to your Zune for viewing. The image would need to be 240×320 in size and the text would need to be big enough to read, but it may come in handy. The only caveot is that there’s no data encryption on the Zune so you couldn’t use this procedure to store sensitive information. But information such as bus schedules, airline flight time tables, subway schedules, etc. could be stored on your Zune this way. Just an idea…

Where Can I Get Videos For My Zune?

This question comes up in forum postings a lot, so I wanted to offer my two cents. In my opinion, the best way to get videos for your Zune is to create them yourself, with the source being recorded TV shows. If you have a DVD Recorder, TiVo Recorder, or TV Tuner card in your Desktop PC, you can easily record whatever movie, TV Show, etc. that you want. Free video editing software is readily available to help remove commercials, and the Video Conversion process that I mention on my blog site will help with conversion. It’s certainly a manual process, but it is free and totally legal. What’s nice with a TV Tuner card is that you could create batch files to automate the conversion and syncing process with your Zune (something I’ll discuss at a later date).

If you’re not into the recording bit and simply want to download videos (legally) you can use the 1-Click YouTube Batch Downloader software that I mentioned in a previous post. Or, do a simple Google search of “mp4 videos” and find numerous web sites with downloadable mp4 files. When I did a search, I found the following sites:

Most of the sites offer videos similar to what you would find on YouTube.com, but they are in mp4 format and easier to download. You’ll find movie trailers, music videos, TV Show skits (e.g., Seinfield and SNL partial episodes), and other personal uploaded video. So, not a bad place to start if you want some free video entertainment for your Zune.

New Rules When Flying With Lithium Batteries

Here’s something that I came across from the US Dept of Transportation regarding lithium batteries on airline flights. Starting Jan 1st, 2008 you can’t pack lithium batteries in your checked baggage. You can, however, carry lithium batteries on the plane in your unchecked bag. So if you plan to bring extra lithium batteries for your laptop, cell phone, or Pocket PC device you’ll need to carry it on the plane and not have it in checked baggage. I guess not having a replaceable battery for your Zune is a good thing in this case.

I normally carry an extra battery for my laptop and smartphone when I travel, but I keep them in my carry-on bag. It’s strange that you can’t have such batteries in checked bags but it’s ok for carry-ons. I guess the DOT is worried about batteries exploding or something, which obviously could happen in your carry-on bag as well. I wonder how many people know about this new rule?

Addicted to Video Podcasts!

I absolutely love watching video podcasts on my Zune. The convenience of having the Zune Software automatically sync the latest three episodes for my subscribed Podcasts is wonderful. At first, I subscribed to any and every podcast available that sounded good, but after watching a few of them I’ve selectively removed some of the uninteresting ones. I wished the Comedy Central podcasts were longer in length (or have more episodes available), and I love the GeekBrief.TV (it’s amazing the two hosts are doing Podcasting full-time, and doing such a great job). The Nova Series is great, but again a bit too short (I want more!).

You can subscribe to Video and Audio Podcasts directly from the Zune Software. There’s a good number to choose from, and if that’s not enough you can search the web for more. The web site called PodCastAlley.com has numerous podcasts which you can subscribe to. Just find the one you want, cut the http: address displayed and use it to subscribe from inside the Zune Software on your Desktop PC.

So far, I’ve been watching the podcasts late at night while in bed just before I go to sleep, so I haven’t been watching too much of the World News-based casts (don’t want to go to bed too depressed). But, I travel quite a bit for my day job so I’m planning to use my new Zune for watching movies and podcasts while on the plane, waiting in the airport, and when I’m stuck in my hotel room. The audio podcasts will come in handy for those long boring drives to customer sites. Hopefully, I won’t lose or drop my Zune during my many travels!

Where to Buy Zune Accessories

Before I got my Zune 80, I never noticed Zune or Zune accessories at the local stores that I visited. It wasn’t until after I got my Zune as a Christmas present, that I started noticing Zune merchandising (maybe Microsoft stepped up their marketing campaign and distribution to retail stores for the holidays?). Of course, you will most likely pay retail prices at local walk-in stores while online stores will give you a discount on price (and often no sales tax). Here’s my list of stores that you can check out for Zune accessories:

Local Retail Stores

  • BestBuy and Circuit City – These stores are well discussed in various Zune forums for having Zunes and accessories.
  • Target – A local department store that sells both Zunes (4/8/80 GB) and a few accessories such as basic covers, ear buds, and amplified docks.
  • Fry’s Electronics – Big electronics and computer store that has the same merchandise as Target on display. I noticed they had the AV Kit v2 available, but not much more in accessories.

Note, that all of these stores have lots and lots of iPod accessories (e.g., chargers, docking stations, covers and cases) so it will just be a matter of time before the amount of Zune accessories catch up. Continue reading

Watching YouTube Videos on Your Zune

YouTube has thousands if not millions of videos on their site for viewing. Unfortunately, you can’t simply “right-click” and do a “Save As” to save a selected video to your Desktop PC. There are several different freeware/shareware “downloader” programs available, but one in particular that I stumbled across works quite well for use on the Zune.

The nifty (free) utility called 1-Click YouTube Batch Downloader allows you to save a displayed YouTube video to your Desktop PC in WMV format (which can be viewed on a Zune). The only bad thing, is that the WMV file will under go the “transcoding” process when you sync it to your Zune device. Since most YouTube videos are small in size, I personally don’t mind the time it takes to transcode. So, this is a handy way of saving YouTube videos on your Zune for viewing away from your Desktop PC.