Okay - I've been overwhelmingly vehemently opposed to getting a Zune . . . not only do we not get any sort of meaningful discount as employees on the thing - but it won't play my collection of Plays4Sure music (irony) and well . . . I'm not a huge fan of our Windows Mobile devices . . .
Well - apparently my wife didn't get the anti-Zune memo and she got me one for fathers day and gave it to me early so I'd have something to play with on the plane. Now I was actually sort of happy to get it . . . I mean all my friends have one and I've always felt left out . . . and technically *I* didn't buy it so I don't feel like a sell out. 🙂 But on the other hand I've also heard all the horror stories about the software and the device itself just . . . well . . . sucking and that's all I need in my life right now is more suckiness.
So I unboxed it - plugged it into my USB port and went to Zune.net and downloaded the software (didn't even mess with the CD - didn't read any instructions - yeah I live dangerously). To my surprise, everything just . . . well . . . worked!
The software ran on x64 Vista, prompted me to upgrade the firmware on the device to 1.4 as the first order of business - which it did - without problem - then it scanned my machine for music and walked me through getting ready to sync. I have a huge stash of music I've accumulated over the years so I let it go overnight while I went to bed. The next morning - it was all there . . . well except my Plays4Sure music.
I added some pictures of my kids - some home movies of the kids and it all just works. What can I say - I'm blown away at how WELL a Microsoft 1.0 product works!! On Vista x64 no less!! And the UI is super easy to navigate and it's reasonably responsive / fast and hasn't slowed down in 3 days of continuous use. Oh and the battery lfie isn't bad - I can listen to it all day for 10 hours straight with no problem.
One of my friends is using Sound Taxi to strip the DRM from his DRM'd files so he can get them onto the Zune . . . the only problem is this software uses an unsigned device driver and well - that doesn't fly on x64 Vista - so I have to do my library the old fashioned way - burn to CD and rip. Not looking forward to it. I'm contemplating the $15/month ZunePass which I believe will give me unlimitted music downloads so I could just download all the songs again and keep them on the Zune and not worry about converting . . . it'll be good as long as I've got the service . . .
Finally - why is the Zune cool? Because I found a dude who wrote a program in C# that lets you monitor your Media Center 'Recorded TV' folder and automagically convert any new recordings to Zune capable WMV files. It runs on your system tray and as shows pop-up in the folder, it converts them and you can then sync them to your Zune. I'm doing a bunch of copies of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report and last weeks F1 race as I type this. Yeah it should be built-in to the software - afterall we own all of the software involved - yet for some reason I have to download some 3rd party app to do the conversion . . . anyhoo . . .
You can download this kick-ass freeware here: http://blog.ewal.net/2006/12/21/media-center-on-zune/
It's written in C# and the source / destination folders are hard-coded - but you can download VC#2005 for free from our web site and change the paths yourself - easy as pie.