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.

Microsoft Service Week — Part 1

Doing my part to help Microsoft avoid more layoffs this week. Firstly, been working thru zune error code C00D12F5 – Google Search. Some DRM config problem and all the published KB articles and forum pointers failed. Finally contacted the Zune guys directly and they were super helpful, even took my machine into their labs for a while. Turns out that somehow I had mismatched DRM components, they aren’t sure why, but forcing them all to the same version worked. Hopefully they will write up a KB article on. Zune guys were great to work with, here’s hoping they have future success.

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.