Size Does Matter

Here’s a nice web page that shows a visual comparison in size between the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, and Zune HD. Basically, the Zune HD is smaller overall when compared to both Apple products. In my book, small is actually a good thing if you want to carry your Zune to more places…

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Apps on the Zune HD?

appsA blogger for the Seattle Times wrote a brief comment on what he saw at at Zune HD demo recently, and the most interesting part of his comment is his reference to Apps on the new device. Apparently, he saw “Apps” on the main menu screen of the demo unit, and the Zune demonstrator mentioned that Microsoft wasn’t ready to discuss the possibility of Zune applications or app developers.

This is extremely intriguing, since most people want games and cool apps for their mobile devices. Since the iPod Touch has such apps and games, it only makes sense for Microsoft to follow suit. From what I’ve read, you can create apps for the existing Zune models now, however, these apps are made via a gaming programming language and are not the easiest to create. In fact, it’s down right hard to create a Zune app now since you have to jump through a lot of hoops and hacks to do so.

Hopefully, Microsoft will have a easier way of creating Zune apps and will provide good documentation to potential developers.  I’m not entirely sure what the Zune OS is based on (i.e., is it a derivative 0f WinCE, Linux, etc?) but I hope app development is easier than for the Windows Mobile OS devices (Pocket PC and Smartphones). I’m currently working on writing an app for the Palm Pre WebOS device (Linux OS) and it is surprising easy to create apps (I plan to discuss more about this on my tech blog), however, the WebOS programming tools aren’t very mature and there’s lots of holes and lack of capability currently. Hopefully, Microsoft will make programming for the Zune HD much easier.

Zune HD Demo at local Best Buy Stores

Apparently, the Zune HD has been spotted at several different local Best Buy stores in the US. It still isn’t available for purchase, but representatives at Best Buy were demoing certain features of the Zune HD. Here’s a link to one person who commented on what he saw at a Best Buy demo. In general, it sounds like all the features talked about in the beta reviews still hold for the production units.

The only downside noted, is that the Zune HD doesn’t come with the premium ear buds but rather the standard ones. This seems strange, since my Zune 80 came with the premium ear buds which I really like (since they insert into your ear canal and cut out a lot of background noise), and the Zune HD seems to be the high-end Zune in the product line. Whatever the case, I have an extra set of Zune premium ear buds (from last Christmas) which I can use when my current ear buds give out.

Here’s a pdf file that contains a list of cities that will be demoing the Zune HD this weekend at a local Best Buy store.

Fix your Video Codec Problems with AntiPack

videosAndy Babgvant (famed DVRMSToolbox developer) has recently put together a freeware package called AntiPack, which is a set of video codecs and tools to help those having issues with video conversions. As you may have read in some of my previous postings, using bad or inefficient video/audio codecs can be root of most video conversion problems. AntiPack was designed to avoid this, give the user a concise set of codecs that work on a PC system (ranging from Windows XP to Windows 7). Now, I trust that Andy knows the process of video conversions, so I’m sure that AntiPack will work on your system. Personally, I haven’t tried out AntiPack as of yet since I’m trying to diagnose an issue with the USB controllers on my home PC. I’ll definitely give AntiPack a test run when I get Windows 7 installed on my system in October.

Using Orb to Watch Recorded TV Shows While on Vacation

In a recent posting I discussed the cool free service at www.orb.com that allows you to stream videos from your home PC to a remote PC or device via the Internet. I actually used this service yesterday while on vacation at a nearby resort water park. It was late in the evening and my wife and kids were asleep (and I forgot my Zune!), so I pulled out my Dell laptop and connected to the hotel’s free WiFi and began watching a recorded episode of ER from my home PC on my remote laptop. The video actually played back without any pausing for video buffering, but the video and audio resolution was subpar. This was mainly due to the slow WiFi connection, no doubt due to everybody in the hotel surfing the web and checking emails late in the evening. In any case, it certainly sufficed in letting me watch a recorded TV show to wear me down before I feel asleep.

Of course, it would be GREAT if I could do the same thing using a Zune HD with a WiFi connection…. 🙂

Buyer’s Remorse is Now Kicking in…

buyer_remorseOk, my natural instincts are kicking in– I’m having buyer’s remorse after ordering the Zune HD. As I laid in bed last night watching a Monk episode on my Zune 80, I was thinking that my current Zune seems adequate for my needs. With the 80 GB storage space, I don’t have any worries  about filling it up…. will a 32 GB Zune be enough? That is my biggest concern.

I don’t have a lot of songs on my Zune 80, but I do have lots of videos (TV shows) and audio/video podcasts which definitely take up a lot of space. A typical 320×240 1-hour video takes up about 380 MB of space, so 80 videos is about 30 GB of space. Now, 80 videos may sound like a lot, but that’s only 8 episodes for 10 different TV shows.  Of course, I probably won’t have the full 32 GB of storage space available to me, so it will feel confining not to have the same space as I have now on my Zune 80.

In the end, I think it will be worth it to have all the new features of the Zune HD (i.e., high resolution OLED touch screen, HD Radio, Internet Web Browsing, etc.) and sacrifice some storage space. I could wait for a Zune HD with more storage, but it probably would cost much more than $300 US (which is over my limit for a media player).  So, I need to just sit tight and not ruminate over the lesser storage space of the Zune HD, and hope Sept 15th comes up fast!

Just Pre-Ordered a Zune HD

zune_hd_wideWell, I bit the bullet and pre-ordered a Zune HD 32 GB player. It was just too good to resist! 🙂

Now, I wasn’t too sure what the big advantage is to pre-ordering versus just buying it at a local retail store (since either way it is available Sept 15th), but since my wife gets a 10% discount from Amazon I asked her to order it for me. So, hopefully Amazon won’t have any big shortages and I’ll get my Zune HD around the release date.

Normally, I’m not the type to pre-order anything. I usually wait to read reviews, check out my potential purchase live at a local store, and finally agonize over the actual need to make the purchase. In this case, since I already have a Zune 80 that works perfectly fine for my needs, I ‘m a bit surprised at my uncharacteristic decision to pre-order the Zune HD.  After looking at all the new features, it wasn’t too difficult for me to justify upgrading to the Zune HD. Of course, I’ll need to get use to going from 80 GB of storage to 32 GB, but I think that is manageable.

What I’m really looking forward to, is having a slimmer unit that is lightweight, has a larger and nicer touch screen, and has the ability to access the Internet with a web browser. I can certainly see myself pulling out my Zune HD to check my email or read some news at Starbucks or any other locale with free WiFi. And because of the smaller size, I will certainly be tempted to take my Zune HD with me to more often than my heavier Zune 80.

What I find interesting, is that the Zune HD appears to be superior to the iPod Touch. Granted, Microsoft has mimicked the user interface of the Apple iPhone/Touch, but I think they added a lot of flair to it. The hardware appears to be nicer than the iPod Touch (in my opinion), and I think Microsoft has a real winner here. If they can get developers to create apps for the Zune HD, that would be the icing on the cake! 🙂

Once I get my Zune HD I’ll post my personal review of the player and will give everyone the pro’s and con’s compared to my old trusty Zune 80.