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it locked up.  well, i'm not sure lock up is an accurate term as i still saw something going on, but maybe i was jaded by an animated gif :-0.

here's what happened...i'm trying to test out the video feature a bit more, specifically movies, etc.  my goal was to put a new release movie on the zune.  my wife and i just watched the da vinci code (no i didn't read the book, but i really enjoyed the movie -- good suspense, good subtle action).  so i seeked out some dvd rip software to get a dvd to wmv or something like that.  i tried xilisoft software that seemed to have the most options.  i put the dvd in and set it to WMV format full mode (keep aspect ratio).  now, i'm not sure if it is my laptop speed, etc., but it took forever!  like 5+ hours.  i did get a WMV file, but it played super 'choppy' like stuttering every few seconds -- not a clean encoding.  so if anyone has recommendations, let me know please.

so i started wmp-zune and plugged in my zune.  i dragged the wmv file (800MB) to the zune and clicked start sync.  it started, it completed...but then held in a "synchronizing..." pattern...on the device and in the software.  then i got a popup window in the software saying that the connection is "slow" and that i should re-connect and/or reset the device (note: to reset a zune you will press *and hold* the up and back buttons for about 10 seconds).  okay, done.  connect the device again, and it just hangs -- i can't view what files are on the zune now.  frustrating.

i *do* think, though it has something to do with resources having already been consumed on my machine because of the overnight encoding that the laptop was doing.  so i rebooted my machine.  okay, back from reboot, plugged it in and was able to do what i needed. 

one thing i did notice though was that the sync is a true sync.  in itunes, i can change the option to let me control the sync...and i like that option.  in wmp-zune, i don't see that option.  so if i deleted files from certain folders, on the next sync (which is automatic upon plugin) those would be removed from my device.  this is *not* something i like.  why?  well, let's take movies.  i may be converting a movie for specific purposes and don't want the extra space on my computer to be consumed...once i've moved it to my portable device, i want to delete it from my computer -- but keep it on my device.  hmm...i'll have to research.

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well, i've been playing around with it for a while -- taking it everywhere trying to keep it out in the open to elicit responses.  people have asked/noticed (likely because of the brown) and the response has been okay to say the least.  "is that the new ipod" is the typical question.  "interesting" has been another, well, interesting response.

i've managed to transfer 18GB of music to it from my itunes on my mac (i use mp3 format already) and it took a lot longer than i anticipated once they were on my machine.  the zune software (i'm going to go ahead and call it WMP-Zune because that is what it looks like) i think could use a bit more polishing.  quite frankly, one thing that bothers me is the font sizes -- i feel like i'm going blind -- if this is a 'social' let's bring out da funk with the fonts people -- or at least make them bigger.

i found some things that i didn't like as well. 

1) playlists -- my friend billwil gave me this heads up -- and sure enough i can't figure it out.  once you have a playlist on the zune, you can't easily delete it (or i can't figure out how).  i can see it in wmp-zune but when i right click, delete is disabled.

2) pictures and folders -- the zune comes preloaded with imagery and they are organized in folders -- i wanted to put some pics on there as well and put them in folders.  i don't organize my pics in folders on my machine, but wanted them categorized in the zune -- i can't figure out how to create a new folder!  righ-click, nope. file menu, nope.  hmm...i think it expects the folder to be on your machine and then sync...i'll try that

3) audio types -- clearly this device is tailored at music/videos.  key being music.  i'm not a huge consumer of podcasts or audio books, but i keep about 5 podcast subscriptions and usually keep 1-2 audiobooks on my ipod for the long drives and travel (i've really only read one book cover to cover -- the last mission by harry mazer -- read it in 4th or 5th grade because it had a ton of cuss words in it and i thought that was cool).  here's what i like about itunes -- subscribe to podcast.  wmp-zune doesn't have that.  now i suspect the solution is to use another tool, like , and just ensure it dumps it into the zune music folder to sync.  but then on the zune there isn't a 'podcast' category -- i'd have to go to music and hope/ensure that my podcast files are tagged appropriately, put in a playlist, etc.  same with audio books.

the thing i don't like the most is still the accessories (lack thereof).  i really want to tryout the car kit and the 'premium' earphones.  every place is backordered.

<side note on zune marketing>

here's another weird thing -- go to zune.net and look at the accessories -- there is a 'show now' button -- sweet, click it.  here's what i see:

zunebuds

xbox site, xbox brand, xbox links, etc. (never mind the no availability indicator) -- this site would confuse my sister-in-law if she was buying new headphones for the zune she just bought her sun.  are these zune headphones as they indicate?  or are they xbox ones since i'm on the xbox site.  and where's the link back to zune?  bad, bad, marketing IMO -- you've lost your brand here.

oh yeah, went back to the first target the other day for some other things -- still no zunes on display (but yes, they are in 'the back') -- hmmm, consumers might not think to ask...someone should contact the retail channels and do some checks.  heck i'll volunteer for some spot checks if i can get some accessories!

</side note on zune marketing>

i'm liking the screen and the battery life seems to stand up to the claims so far -- i'm going to try to rip a dvd tonight and put it on there...we'll see how that goes.

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saw this picture of michael jackson at the world music awards...and couldn't help but think he is wanting to become the crow:

jackson the crow

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very frequently lately i've been paying attention to how organizations have been putting their brands out there via media (radio/tv mainly) and how they are driving traffic (if any) to their sites.  I've noticed a weird (to me at least) trend lately.  the use of myspace.com.  here's two big ones that come to mind that i saw recently: and .

now both of these organizations have a strong brand and are probably widely recognized retail food chains.  but instead of putting and on their tv commercials, i'm seeing myspace.com/burgerking and myspace.com/chilis.  now to me, the main product of these companies is food (and service maybe).  they want us to be salivating over what we saw in the commercial and the next time we are out to eat, that we stop in to one of these places.  so why the social side of things?  burgerking.com and myspace.com/burgerking are two different experiences.  in fact the myspace for burgerking is actually about 'the king' -- yeah, that freaky looking life-size chess piece that you see in the commercials.  the home page of the burgerking.com site shows no reference to him at all (even though he is a strong part of their audience marketing these days).  same thing with chilis -- the myspace is about their current song, whereas the normal site shows more about everything chilis has to offer.

as a consumer of food, do i care about the myspace aspect of these companies?  what is the motivation here?  to get 'friends'?  and if so, are these 'friends' getting special promotional deals?  and are they different than other online deals?  seems to me that this has potential to create 1) stale messaging (i.e., the myspace now also has to be inline with any consistent messaging), 2) brand separation -- from itself., and 3) confusion in some of their audience.  here's an example of #3 (an extreme one, but an example).  i live in a conservative area.  an area, in fact, that has hat community discussions around how 'evil' myspace is.  now, let it be know that i DO NOT subscribe to that thinking.  myspace isn't evil -- predators and people are evil.  myspace is another medium and happens to be the napster of today.  but would these conservative people now visit chilis or burger king if they see that those organizations are promoting themselves on myspace (thus encouraging their children to visit that site), and they just got done watching the latest episode of dateline?  extreme thinking: yes; unreasonable to assume it wouldn't happen: absolutely not.

anyhow, opinion rant over -- resume to normal broadcasting for now.

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8:00am: local Target opens (target had the best 'deal' in my opinion -- $249 w/$25 gift card, but Costco will likely have the best overall retail cost)

8:45am: i arrive at target to see how things are going.  shelves are empty, speaker accessories were empty...only thing there was the display for Zune (which was pretty decent).  wow, i thought, i can't believe they sold out.

as i walked out of the store i made a comment to the person working the area: sold out pretty fast?...to my surprise (or actually my expected result when i walked in the store) he said: nope, haven't even put them out yet.  that's right, no demand for them to even worry about stocking the shelves.  a colleague of mine went to his local best buy...they didn't even know what zune was, nor did they have the zune display setup (but they acknowledged they had it).  he even said he witnessed a couple talking about buying an ipod and the woman really wanting an fm radio as a part of it...the clerk at best buy simply said the ipod didn't have it -- made no mention of the zune (it has it).

made a trip to another target later -- there the clerk was enthusiastic about them but acknowledged that zune had an uphill battle.  he said he thinks it is a better device (comparing it to the 30GB ipod).  my sister-in-law just went and bought one at target as well and said the guy was well informed and really was selling them.

the biggest missing link though?: accessories.  the stores i went to had zunes only.  no adapters (home/car), no headphones (yes it can use standard ones, but zune produced some 'premium' headphones branded for the zune), nada.  i think that may be the detriment to long term sales...we really need(ed) some cool accessories to drive it home.  give me an armband or something -- even if i don't use it, let me know people are interested in making things for it.  hopefully someone will come up with an OEM car adapter for me :-).  another thing i don't think we are doing effectively is communicating about the colors (brown, black and white).  even on the site where it shows the device there is no mention of the difference.  now there is no technical difference, but each zune does come pre-loaded with content.  that content is a part of the 'personality' of the device.  now these are my own generalizations and since i've not seen anything official, they aren't gospel.  i thought the brown was ugly...until i saw it and learned more about it (see below).  brown basically is like an x-games theme: skaters, skiers, mountain-bikers.  alternative, world, punk, energetic music.  graffitti, dj pics.  black (from what i hear) is more like blues themed.  white...well i don't know but i'm thinking "think hillary duff" -- no confirmation of that though.  so it ended up that the brown (to me) was more desireable.  only one retail person i talked to knew about these differences!

there are a few things i don't like about it after using it. 

1) the zune software -- it's okay, but i had hoped that i'd be able to do some things outside of the software -- you know, like having windows recognize it as a drive and just be able to drag/drop rather than have some software control my sync situation.  in windows explorer it doesn't even show it as a device -- that sucks.  the software also just looks like a media player skin -- so why not just use media player?

2) ms points -- i've seen this in the xbox 360 for a while...never used them.  i get the whole vision now of course -- i buy points and can use them to apply anywhere to my entertainment experiences whether that be xbox or zune or whatever.  i haven't bought any yet to test out the experience (mainly because my credit card was inadvertently cancelled by wells fargo -- another rant for later)

3) charging -- haven't convinced myself if this is a bad thing or not yet...when plugged in to my machine there is no indication of charging until i do something on the screen.  now i guess that might be good to protect screen burnout and overheating, but it was a subtle thing i like(d) about my ipod that it showed me the charging state.

4) picture scaling -- one of the options the zune has is to personalize it (so far all i've found is the ability to set a background).  the background only displays in a portrait mode of the device (controls on bottom), so i made sure i chose a picture that was portrait-formatted as i was sure others wouldn't look good.  to my surprise, the zune didn't scale it...part of the picture is cropped...hmm, that sucks.  i tried it with a landscape pic and sure enough it cropped a lot.  not to cool i thought...i would have figured a scale at least on a portrait pic!

5) device naming -- it makes a big deal in the setup about naming your device, but the only place on the device it shows it is in the wireless sections.  if my name is part of the personality, maybe put it somewhere more visible?

6) size -- it's 'industrial' to say the least.  my wife is a runner.  this device is not for her...huge and too heavy for her arm -- her ipod nano kills zune in this scenario

7) 'hello from seattle' - a tag line on the back.  first of all if that is meant to give homage to microsoft, then it should be 'hello from redmond' right?  i mean are we saying we don't know where microsoft is?

8) headphones -- you get what you pay for and arguably these are free -- hey, i didn't even use my ipod free ones either.

9) zune.net -- the site has more external links and popups than i care for in a site -- consolidate guys -- keep me at a singular location and brand.

there are a lot of things i do like about the zune as well aside from it being generally a great device

1) capacity -- biggest ipod i've owned is 6gb...main reason was i didn't want a big device...yeah, i know -- but i'm brainwashed and do anything billg says :-) -- of course i had to get a zune!

2) colors -- as mentioned above, each has a unique 'personality' -- the brown actually has a green translucence to it which looks cool; black has a blue one, and white...well again, i haven't seen it but white sucks anyway :-)

3) feel -- it is big and industrial, but that is also good in a way (at least in the design sense).  it feels great, the case appears to be scratch-resistent...it isn't metal feeling, it isn't plastic feeling -- it is nice and solid.

4) no marketing -- the only logo is when it boots up and the etching on the back.  nice -- no fluff -- there to do what it came for.

ultimately i like it so far -- i haven't gone through the task of transfering my 3700 songs in MP3 format from my mac to my pc to be able to sync (ugh), but i'll eventually get to them all a little at a time.  i also haven't had the chance to be within 30 feet of another zune to test out the sharing feature.

check them out though -- again, if you don't have an mp3 player at all (read: you have no context to what an ipod can do), it's a good buy in my opinion for the comparable products out there.