Playing Zune tunes in the car

I like the all-you-can-eat economics of my Zune player, it has allowed me to try a lot of music that I would not otherwise have heard. A problem for me tho is — I do most my music consumption in the car while driving. I have the Zune car pack and it is fine for what it is — an FM transmitter. But I hate the experience — dynamic range compression (and this seems to be a particularly bad unit for that), difficulty in finding an unallocated slot in an urban area, interference, etc.

I wish my car had an AUX in jack but alas that slot is already consumed by an iPod interface which works great but of course is unusable by the Zune. Some guys claim they are building an adapter but nothing exists. And I don’t have the time to hack one up myself.

So the other alternative is to somehow get Zune songs into MP3 format so that they can be on my iPod or burned on data CDs and thence playable in the car. I don’t really care about stripping off DRM, I want to be legal, but I want to listen to the songs easily in the car with greater fidelity than the FM path allows.

I’ve been trying TuneBite which as I understand it, pretends to be a sound card, captures a playback, and encodes into MP3 using LAME. It also grabs all the tags from the source song and whacks them onto the MP3. It works but is funky. Very sensitive to task load on the PC, any other task will interfere with the encoding. And it just misses some songs from my collection for some reason.

I’d prefer a less Rube-Goldbergian software solution, but for now this is kind of working.

Trying out a Zune

OK I had pretty much given up on the Zune, but the latest devices actually look nice (the small form factor ones), and now with the subscription service PLUS the keep 10 songs forever each month offer, I am compelled to try.

Trying to get it to work on my XP machine tho was an abject failure. The software download went fine, but there is some DRM problem, I can’t download any tracks. Did a clean install of Zune, deleted all my DRM directories, ran the resetDRM tool that Microsoft provides — dead dead dead. Filed a service request with Microsoft 36 hours ago, no response. The forums are no help. Stunningly painful experience. Tells me that the Zune team doesn’t really test on old crufty XP installs.

I don’t have another machine sitting around, so I decided to go for degree of difficulty points and installed VMWare Fusion on my Macbook Pro, installed Vista, and installed Zune. OK I can at least download tracks now (after massive futzing with file directory permissions on the Mac side, in the Fusion app, and in the Windows install). Plugging in the Zune, USB connectivity wasn’t flawless but good enough, if it doesn’t work for you, just keep attaching the device and eventually all will be well.

So now downloading the top 50 albums of 2008 per the Rolling Stone, as well as the albums listed in the WSJ this weekend. This is what I like about the Zune, the ability to try out music for basically free. That said, the install troubles on XP (and the many forum postings indicating that this is a common problem) is going to kill acceptance of the device.

Recent software of note

* Remember the Googley Milk — major hole on iphone is lack of a todo list. this is my current favorite replacement. Nice PC UI.
* Flot javascript graphing library. or there is what looks to be a server-side google alternative. Now I am embarrassed I have never put a graph on my site.
* Price Advance. don’t know how well it works but seems worthy of a trial
* Crossloop. Remote screen control plus a peer to peer service to help others. I like the business model thinking.
* Resize any window. Sad that I even understand why I need this.
* Single file defrag. I bet I will need this someday
* Senuti iPod backup
* Ebay Desktop. Kind of nice tho late and really why is this an app and not just a better website?
* Mac disk usage utilities

Apple, Starbucks, AT&T, and T-Mobile Suck

OK so I am in the grocery store this AM trying to check college football scores on my iPhone and what do I get? The stupid T-Mobile homepage because there is a Starbucks next door. And to support the iTunes store Apple slams you on to the stupid T-Mobile network, but no other web connectivity is allowed. This sucks. Here in the land of Starbucks, there is a Starbucks T-Mobile Wifi net about every 100 yards, so basically I have to turn off Wifi service continually. Sucks.

Apple — how is this a freaking benefit? You should let all my non-iTunes traffic default to a different wifi provider or edge. Starbucks — this is driving me out of your stores and pissing me off at you even when I am next door! You need to provide free Wifi. AT&T — this is completely screwing with customer perception of the network performance of the device. You need to help Apple get non-iTunes traffic onto your net. T-Mobile — I am never ever going to pay for your stupid service. You had better figure out fast how to shift to a free service business model or you will become completely irrelevant.

iphone annoyances

* I really need this — The Missing Sync for iPhone – Synchronize Mac OS X and iPhone — it is a bummer notes on the iphone don’t sync with anything useful
* the new itunes store network connection in starbucks is a terrible implementation. Since i am not a paid user of the tmobile network, when i walk in a starbucks now, the itunes store lights up, but every other website dies because the tmobile connection is limited to the itunes store. this is terrible, i can’t sit in a starbucks now and just browse the web, unless i go futz with network settings. really stupid. drives me out of the starbucks store.
* lack of select/copy/paste functionality in text fields is terrible
* really needs a todo list app

More stuff I don't need but want

* No-staple stapler is better for the environment (and looks cool) — I hate freaking staples. This looks useful and cheap
* B&W Zeppelin iPod speaker system. I would probably never actually buy this but it looks wicked.
* Powerkayak. Take a nice ecofriendly sport like kayaking, and jam some gas-consuming horsepower onto it! Wonderful!
* Tancher wrist beacon. I think this is just a concept but looks cool and is lifesaving
* Credit Card multitool. This would be super useful. TSA approved?
* Another HD hard disk videocam. Decent reviews.
* Digium asterisk appliance. Now if it would just use my cell service as the outbound line…
* A bunch of awesome watches all with a black theme.
* Emergency food supply
* Edge Brownie Pan. OK I actually got one of these. It works great — the fins really help with heat distribution.

Ignition blog roundup

OK well mostly Rich highlights.

* Tong Family Blog: iPod Backup — Rich points to a summary of ipod backup tools. L this is what you need.
* Brett on field water purification. We just had an instance of giardia in the family so this is timely
* Rich on home NASes. I’ve gone away from NASes as I always have an old PC around and it just easier to whack a bunch of usb drives on it and use it as a server.
* Rich on Seattle Dim Sum.. Rich you have to take me to lunch at Top Gun someday and show me what to order

Vista and iTunes

Man this is pissing me off. I would avoid Vista, even on OEM machines, until Apple and MSFT get this fixed.

I’m pissed off at Microsoft. They jammed all this new media playing goo into Vista, and have all this ambition around Zune, but they haven’t made sure that the most important, most used music playing experience works well with Vista. They let their ambition and ego get ahead of their customers.

I’m pissed off at Apple. Vista has been in beta for like forever, and Apple couldn’t figure out how to get iTunes upgraded in time for consumer release? Everyone was too freaking busy on the iphone or what? Again they let ego and ambition get in the way of supporting customers.

It is really bad. We are constantly rebooting our Vista machine with iTunes.


Grabbag of links

* The blockbuster bestseller is dying. “…the evidence shows we are moving away from a winner-take-all society, not toward it”
* Solar powered flickering candles. Ordered for Halloween
* Great lens guidance from bob and rich. I now know infinitely more.
* Netgear launches powerline 200. Exactly what I need for connecting up the Tivo to the net.
* Quikmaps via iunknown — easy way to markup maps. Nice.
* podcast of ted videos. Subscribed.
* Cellfire mobile coupons via techcrunch. Tried to sign up but doesn’t support the blackberry, darn.
* Some Aspects of aging are out of our control.