Target stores getting rid of Zunes?

target_logoI was at my local Target store and noticed that they were missing the Zune HD products. In fact, they only had a few of the older Zunes available and everything was marked as “Clearance” (the Zunes and accessories). So, it seems that either Target will no longer sell the Zunes at their local stores or they are trying to clear out everything for new Zune HD hardware and accessories? I’m not sure.

I do know that across the Zune display aisle is the Apple iPod assortment of products which seems to be selling in full force. What gets me, is that I don’t see a lot of advertisement for the Zune. The Sunday paper is full of ads for the iPods, but I rarely see anything for the Zune. I’m sure that if stores did more advertising, the Zunes would definitely be selling more. Go figure. I guess we’ll see what happens over the Christmas holidays.

Zune HD… so far, so good.

I’ve been using my Zune HD ocassionally during the day listening to HD radio and for about 2 hours each night watching videos. It’s a really nice media player, and in my opinion superior to the Apple iPods. Having the smaller screen takes some getting use to, as I’m accustom to watching on a square screen rather than the longer-width HD screen. Of course, I’d probably have the same issue if I bought a new wide screen TV since I’m use to watching shows on my old-style picture tube TV. 🙂

Not having hardware buttons to navigate and control my Zune is still taking some time to get use to, but that is to be expected. I definitely like the bright colors on the OLED screen, and I have yet to run out of battery power. Some day I’ll have to do an informal test and see many videos I can watch before I run out of juice.

The one glaring difference between my Zune 80 and the Zune HD is the location of the headphone jack. On the Zune 80 it is located on the top, so I can simply plug in my Zune 80 into its dock for charging without having to disconnect the earbuds. Not so for the Zune HD, since the earbuds are located on the bottom of the device. Not a big deal, but just one extra step to do in the morning when I dock my Zune HD. It would be nice if the Zunes used the inductive-charging technology that the Palm Pre smartphones use…

Zune HD: Missing Manual?

manualNormally I don’t read the manuals or user guides when I get electronic gadgets (who does?). For the most part, I can usually fumble my way around and figure everything out. However, there are a few things with the Zune HD that I just couldn’t figure out. For example, how do you change radio stations? On my Zune 80 I just swipe the touchpad area to the left or right but on my Zune HD, swiping the screen didn’t seem to work. After experimenting, I discovered that you need to swipe on the center of the screen area, right where the radio frequency number is displayed. I also had some issues figuring out how to enter a web address in the internet browser app.

The literature that came with the Zune HD just had a simple “Quick Start” guide, which didn’t go into specifics on how to operate most of the Zune HD’s features, or what some of the displayed icons mean. So, I decided to search the Zune.net web site for more details and came up with just some more vague descriptions of how to use the Zune HD. Apparently, Microsoft just assumed you should know how to use these features or be able to figure them out on your own. I guess I’m getting too old or just can’t figure out stuff anymore.

So, I began Googling around and found some good videos of people showing off how to use the Zune HD. Watching some of these videos did help me figure out how to use my Zune HD better. Jason Dunn at ZuneThoughts.com had some good videos of the Zune HD that I found enlightening, so I highly recommend you visit his site to learn a bit more on how to use your Zune HD.

The Mac Evaluation is Over…and The Verdict Is?

specs_optical20060228In my last posting I mentioned that I was exploring the possibility of switching to an Apple Mac system. Specifically, I was looking at a Mac Mini so I could minimize my investment in a new system and reuse my current hardware (i.e., wide screen LCD monitor, keyboard, mouse). I was able to spend some time at the local Apple Store and talk with a long-time Mac user who worked there, and also had about 2 days of hands-on stick time with a Mac Mini connected to my current LCD Monitor and hardware. Below are my findings:

I have to admit that I was enamored by the coolness factor at the Apple Store, which was loaded with iMacs, MacBooks, iPhones, and iPods. I visited the store in the late afternoon, and it surprisingly filled with customers. I opted to try out a Mini Mac configured with a 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (4 MB Cache), 2 GB of RAM (667 MHz Bus), 120 GB hard drive (5400 RPM), which was the high end model. As you can see from the specs, the speed of the components are those typically found in a laptop (most desktop PCs have hard drives running at 7200 RPM). Of course, this is necessary to fit everything in such a tight, compact package of the Mac Mini.

Instead of giving a length comparison between the Vista OS and Mac OS X, I’ll try to just highlight what I thought was important in my decision whether to switch. First, the Mac booted up very fast (less than 1 minute) and was ready to go, compared to my Vista PC which takes more than 1 minute to boot up, and even then it continues to load system processes in the background as I try to start up Firefox or Outlook. Also, I found the Mac system very snappy in performance, with no noticeable lag in any activity I was doing (albeit, I was just checking email, web browsing, and working with Excel spreadsheets). It seemed that the Mac OS (with UNIX under the hood) was a very well tuned, efficient operating system.

The one thing that really stood out for me, was the appearance of the Mac interface. It reminded me of the various flavors of Linux that are currently available (e.g., RedHat, Ubuntu, etc) with the fonts and appearance of the drop-down menus and windowing system. I’ve always liked the high-res icons that are used in these Linux system, and they are also present in the Mac OS. So, on the surface the Mac OS appears to be just another flavor of Linux that you can download for free from the Internet (although I can’t comment on a performance comparison). Continue reading