Not much happening on the Zune Front

Sorry for the lack of postings. I haven’t come across any useful tips lately, so I don’t have much to talk about. I’m still using my Zune 80 daily to watch recorded shows while I sit on the couch with my son, when he watches his Max and Ruby and Bob the Builder videos. So he’s got his DVD player and I’ve got my portable video player. I’m also using my Zune at night for about an hour to watch a recorded TV show before going to sleep (sometimes, I shut my eyes for a bit and wake up with the show ended!).

What’s strange, is that my refurbished Zune (which was sent to me when I returned my defective Zune) seems to have longer battery life than my original Zune. I’m not complaining, as I can watch at least 3 hours straight without having to recharge my Zune.

If I come across any relevant news, I’ll be sure to continue posting again. Otherwise, I’ll check the comments sections daily and will try to respond to your questions ASAP.

And, Happy Father’s Day! 🙂

Zune Giveaway Contest

There hasn’t been much happening over the last few weeks in the Zune arena. I did find this one tidbit that you might be interested in:

Microsoft is giving away a 30 GB Zune in their “Try MSN Mobile Now” promotion. It seems that you can enter daily by doing one of the following:

  1. Go to www.msnmobilefix.com/zune and enter your cell phone number on the form. A text message will be sent to your cell phone with a web page link.
  2. Using your phone’s web browser go to this web site: mobile.msn.com
  3. Go to this web link and enter your phone number

So if you’re big on entering contests, here you go!

Alternative Processing in DVRMSToolbox

As you’ve probably read from my previous postings, I use the freeware utility called DVRMSToolbox (DTb) to automatically process the video recordings from my TV Tuner card to Zune format. Although DTb has a built-in action to convert the DVR-MS recording file to WMV format, it doesn’t have any provision for cropping out the top two lines of the video source (to remove the noise). In this posting, I talk about how I resolved that issue by doing the following in DTb:

  1. Cut out all commercials from the DVR-MS recording file.
  2. Convert edited DVR-MS file to MPEG2 format.
  3. Make an external call to Windows Media Encoder 9 to convert the MPEG2 file to WMV format and crop out the top two lines of the video source.

This has been working ok, but requires an intermediate conversion to MPEG2 format before converting to the final WMV format. Since the DVR-MS format is very close to MPEG2 format, the time for this conversion is minimal, however, I’ve noticed some pixelation in the resultant WMV file between the edited commercial breaks.

Recently, the maker of DTb added a new application called DVRMStoWMVHD which is suppose to convert a DVR-MS file to WMV format and has the ability to crop the video source. So, I decided to replace using WME9 and simplify the video processing procedure. Below is what I’m doing now:

  1. Cut out all commercials from the DVR-MS recording file.
  2. Convert edited DVR-MS file to WMV format (using DVRMStoWMVHD) with cropping parameters

Note, that DVRMStoWMVHD takes as input the same zune_profile.prx profile file that I use with WME9, so the final WMV file is essentially the same as what I was getting using my original method, but I’m able to simplify the process. Whether DVRMStoWMVHD is faster than WME9 or gives better results, I don’t know. So far, it seems to work ok and the WMV file that it generates looks good.

In case you’re curious, the parameters that I’m using in step 2 are the following:

dvrmstowmvhd -i “test.dvr-ms” -o “out.wmv” -p “C:\Dave’s Files\VideoTools\zune_profile.prx” -ch 2 -ct 2

I highly recommend you check out DVRMSToolbox if you have a TV Tuner card and want automate the conversion process of recordings to Zune format.

Google Android OS Challenging Microsoft and Apple?

Microsoft seems to be a company that imitates other companies that have great ideas. They imitated the Windows OS from Apple, tried to get market share in in the iPod/iTunes space (with the Zune product), and also tried to jump on the PDA bandwagon by producing a competitor (Pocket PC/Windows Mobile) with the Palm OS devices. Recently, Microsoft seems to be competing with Google to gain their success in the area of online advertisement via search engines and web-based applications. In fact, some people have joked with Bill Gates during interviews that he wouldn’t say the word “Google” as they were a prime target for Microsoft’s “innovation” plans.

In the area of cell phones, Microsoft did have a lead on other companies since their Windows Mobile OS was a perfect crossover product for the “Smartphone” (PDA/Phone) devices. Apple recently entered the phone arena with their iPhone product, which impressed the general community with their slick, highly graphical OS and applications. However, it seems that Google is trying to one-up Microsoft and Apple with their upcoming Android project, which will provide a new, free OS for modern Smartphone devices. Continue reading