I've had a Zune for awhile now and to be honest I haven't used it that much because it lacked Podcast support and support for different video formats like DivX. Well I've come across a couple of good programs that help me get around these limitations with the Zune. One of the things I wanted to use the Zune for is Podcasts and in particular The Media Center Show with Ian Dixon. This show is presented by DigitalLifestyle.Com and is very informative if you love all things to do with Media Center.
Podcasts and Zune
So there are a couple of ways to get podcasts on to your Zune. One of course is to use iTunes but that involves a fair bit of converting. You can also use several types of Podcast software and there is many out there. You just have to input "receive podcasts" into a search and you'll have many podcast applications to choose from. There is a good article at the Zune website that explains ways to do this.
I use a program right now called Feed Your Zune by Fireant because it's simple and it just dumps podcasts down to my Zune. Sweet! When I downloaded this awhile ago it appeared that a beta program was open. At the moment you have to sign up for the beta and wait for the product to launch. Not sure what that is all about but hopefully it releases soon. If you haven't seen it below is a screen shot.
So this program allows me to add RSS Feeds to the My Channels section and these channels will get synced with your Zune. As you can see it also allows you to sync video feeds as well which is good for catching up on the news while I'm traveling.
Converting Video Files to Zune
I've been searching around for awhile for a program that would take DVD's and other video file formats down to the Zune for watching while on the road. There are a bunch of programs out there but I really didn't want to pay for one. Cheap aren't I? And if the past is anything to go if I wait long enough Microsoft will either develop a program for what I need to do or buy one that already exists. Well I had a look around the other day on our internal products share and found Microsoft Expression Encoder. Wow what a little find this application was. Expression Encoder is part of our line of Expression products and allows you to encode a wide variety of file formats like Quicktime, AVI, MPEG and WMV. The cool thing is Expression Encoder comes with a bunch of templates pre-installed and one of those is to a hardware device like the Zune.
So in this example I've done the following:
- Import the file I want to convert to Zune format which in this case is a 700MB AVI file.
- On the right hand side of the Expression Encoder window there is a settings tab with the different profiles for video and audio formats. In the video profile list I choose Hardware Device - Zune and by default it chooses the correct audio profile for the Zune.
- At this stage I just have to hit the encode button and sit back and wait. The time it takes of course will depend on the type of machine you have but so far I've done a couple of files and they've taken about an hour to convert. And the good thing is Expression Encoder compresses the file down quite nicely. In this example my 700MB file is compressed down to 235MB for use on the Zune!
So what about the new Zune or Zune 2?
Well there has been noise about this all over the web in the last couple of months and we have finally made announcement details on www.zune.net. So to give you a quick and dirty rundown of the new unit here it is. There will be 2 models. An 80GB hard drive based model and a flash disk based model in 4GB and 8GB models. The 80GB will only come in black and the flash model will come in black, red, pink and green.
- Wireless sync
- Extended Wireless Sharing
- New Touch controls
- a Built FM Tuner
- Sync recorded TV with your Media Center PC. Sweet! This is my favorite one!
- Podcast Support - Should make the process above a bit easier..
- The Zune software is going to be rewritten
- All Zunes including the current model will have a new interface and software. So owners will get access to the new features through a firmware update..
Now the question remains is this. Will the new Zune 2 be officially released in Australia. the word around the campfire is yet but we haven't had anything formally announced as of yet. As soon as I find out I will let you all know..