Free Videos on the Zune Marketplace

If you haven’t noticed yet, the Zune Marketplace has some free TV shows that you can download on your Zune. I’m sure it’s a promotional thing, so they probably won’t be free for too much longer. I was able to download an episode of The Office, Battlestar Galactica, and Heroes. I’m not a big fan of The Office, but hey, it’s free and you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth! 🙂

Update: BTW, there are actually several videos you can download for free from the Zune Marketplace (not just the three I mentioned above). I scanned through all the available shows yesterday, and most of them had one free episode available for download. Also, the video podcasts (which are always free) had lots of new videos for download, so that is definitely worth checking out.

Zune 3.0 Software and Firmware Upgrade

After coming back from a business trip, I decided to install the new Zune 3.0 Software and Firmware upgrade. I’ve read a lot of horror stories on the various forums of people “bricking” their Zunes during the upgrade procedure and having to send them to the Zune Repair Center for fixing, so that made me a bit nervous. But, I felt lucky today so I thought I’d give it a shot.

What took the longest was downloading the Zune upgrade software to my PC. Once I did that, I ran the installer which upgraded the Zune interface on my Desktop PC. I like the new interface (it appears cleaner) and I’m hoping it corrects some minor syncing issues I had with the previous version.

After the Zune software installation, I placed my Zune 80 in it’s cradle and made a connection with my PC. The Zune software immediately displayed a notice that I needed to upgrade the firmware, so I clicked the “Upgrade” button and after about 4 minutes my Zune’s firmware was upgraded to 3.0. It actually worked surprisingly well, as it didn’t require me to resync my video, music, or picture files.

The new firmware upgrade isn’t a radical change (which is good since I didn’t think the original interface needed much changing). It was basically “improved”, with the addition of a few new features and capabilities (the best being a clock!). Hopefully everything will work smoothly, and we can all take advantage of the new features that are unique to the Zune (and not available on the iPods).

History Lesson: Before There Were PCs…

I saw a forum posting on Zunescene.com where a person was commenting about having some trouble with his Calculus class, and it made me think of the days when I was a young engineering student in college. That was about 20 years ago, back in the days when there were no “Personal Computers”. No PC’s or Apple Computers, but only large mainframe systems.

When I was learning Fortran programming in college, fortunately I didn’t have to deal with computer punch cards. Instead, we had the brand new “timesharing” system where our files were stored on a shared magnetic tape and our main interface was a DECwriter terminal. This terminal was essentially a large printer with an attached keyboard (no monitor). So, you typed in your program line-by-line and it printed out on computer paper via a dot matrix printer head. Editing your program was done using anarchic text substitution commands (it makes me shutter thinking about it). No highlighting with a mouse and changing text as you would do today using Notepad on your Windows PC.

When I was studying for a class or doing homework, I often went to the library to find some text books on the subject. Since there were no computers, I had to search manually through a card catalog system (what’s that, you might ask?) and then try to find the book on library shelf. Often times, the books that I was searching for was already checked out and I had to put in a recall request with the library. Of course, this would take about 1-week before the book would possibly show up. In most cases, the book sat on a shelf in a professor’s office, and they didn’t need to return the book for 4-weeks from a recall notice. Continue reading

Are People Still Using Modems?

When I upgraded my old PC to give to my nieces, I noticed that the new motherboard that I purchased had a built-in modem. The same goes for the Dell laptop that I bought for my wife last Christmas. I was wondering, “how many people still use modems these days?”.

I’m not talking about cable modems, but rather the old 56k-baud phone modems that you use to dial a special phone number to connect to an Internet Service Provider. Remember those?

I’ve been using Comcast Cable to provide my house with hi-speed Internet access for over 10 years now (wow, times really flies!). And I know of other people using DSL from their phone company for high-speed internet connections.

With all the free-WiFi available in airports, coffee houses, hospitals, libraries, schools, etc. it seems that there’s lots of opportunity to connect easily to the Internet. Heck, even my local Safeway Food Market has free WiFi available (although I don’t see a reason to bring my laptop when I good food shopping!).

So I wonder, “how many people still use phone modem-based ISPs for Internet access?”. If you’re currently using a phone-modem for Internet access, drop me a response and let me know….

“Copy A DVD” Online Article

The web site howto.wired.com has an online article that explains various procedures for copying a DVD, and they also mention different methods for getting around the standard protection schemes. They don’t specifically mention generating WMV files for Zunes, but some of their methods are still applicable. It might be worth reading if you’ve been having trouble ripping complete videos from your DVDs.

Photoshop Alternative – Paint.net (Freeware)

Just like when people use the term “Google it” as being synonymous with searching for something online, people also use the term “Photoshop it” for describing graphic image editing. Although Google is free to use, Photoshop is not. In fact, it’s quite expensive by my standards.

In the past I’ve used several different freeware applications (such as PaintShop Pro), however, I’ve come across a new application that works very similarly to Photoshop. The program is called Paint.net and is freely available for the Windows platform. The developers update the software frequently, and it has a lot of capability (it does everything that I need!).

So if you’re looking for a good “Photoshop”-like application that is free, check out Paint.net!