Zune 4.0 Desktop Software

I’ve always been a big Windows Media Player (WMP) fan. I never bothered with any of the alternatives as WMP has always had most/all the features I’ve needed, and I despise iTunes (for way too many reasons to go into here!).

When I first got the beta of Windows 7 back in Feb/March (?), one of the first things I did was check out WMP 12. I was very pleased with what I found…it’s quicker and smoother and has got numerous great new features such as “Play To” for streaming to other devices, the ability to be played remotely to another Windows 7 machine, the ability to preview songs and more. It works really well and is much improved over V11 but recently I’ve been thinking about checking out something different.

I’ve been wanting a Zune for years but as they aren’t properly available here in the UK, I’ve not got one. While thinking on possible replacements for WMP 12, I remembered hearing the Zune desktop software getting good reviews; so I thought – will it work without a Zune? Perhaps obviously, yes it will…and it is truly great!!! 🙂

I’ve only been using it for a little under 24 hours but so far, I’m a huge fan of it. I’ve taken a bunch of screenshots so you can see the elegant, modern, media centre style vibe it’s got going on.

This is the Welcome Screen I get when I load it up:

Zune Quickplay View

It’s divided into four sections:

New: This section contains any news tracks added into the library

History: This contains the tracks/albums that have previously been listened to.

Pins: You can “pin” albums/singles to the front page with a simple right click

Smart DJ: Automatically generates playlists based on your library.

Smart DJ

This I’ve heard a lot about. It creates playlists all on its own, based on artists that you give it as a reference after analysing your music. It’s just finished analysing my music and has given me a Smart DJ playlist based on Wu-Tang Clan and it’s excellent:


As you can, it’s not just other Wu-Tang songs – it’s got Nas and Canibus in there too, artists who are indeed related.

This Smart DJ based on “Onyx” is even more impressive:


Every artist is different there-great stuff 🙂


This is where you can see all the songs/albums/artists/genres etc in your library, much like Windows Media but just better.

Zune Artists View

Rather than them being separate section as in WMP, you can see Artists, Albums and individual songs all at once. This section has got a very current, web 2.0 app style feel and I’m a big fan.

The “Songs” section also includes a “Play Count” column which is what I was originally looking for. I know it’s pretty gimmicky and all the rest of it, but I like the idea of being able to see what songs get played the most. This features aligns quite nicely with today’s IT drive towards ever deeper data mining too 😉

Album View:

This is clearly taken from Media Centre but that’s no bad thing:

Zune Album View

I love the tiled album art background and the changing colour schemes that it moves through…also, the tiles in the background flip round – small things eh?! 🙂

Another nice touch is the ever-present yet subtle graphic equalizer down at the bottom of the screen:


There are a few things that aren’t in there when compared to WMP 12-inc most/all the new Windows 7 features (play to, stream, preview etc) but I don’t really mind that. The biggest downside for me is that I can’t sync my Windows Mobile device with it. I know that seems logical as it’s designed for the Zune but as it can work without one – it’d be nice to have that option. The mobile syncing is the only thing keeping WMP12 in the picture…and I never thought I’d say that…

All in all, I’m a HUGE fan of Zune 4.0 Desktop software and I highly recommend you go and download it here right now!

VStudio 2008 Edition Comparison

Visual Studio 2008 has got a few different versions and working out which one is right for you can sometimes be a bit tricky. Microsoft have made some very useful comparison charts but, as is often the case, they haven’t made them that easy to find!

The different editions are:

  • Architecture
  • Development
  • Database
  • Test
  • Team Suite (This includes all 4 version above)

A nice “at a glance” comparison can be found on the Microsoft site here.

A more in-depth version can be downloaded here.

Hat tip to Softie Rob Caron

Tweetdeck & Bit.ly

I’ve been blogging for almost 1 year now and twittering for just over, but I’ve only just discovered the benefits of using the stat services offered by most URL shortening offerings.

I use bit.ly and it’s great-you sign into bit.ly, shorten the URL, post it in your tweet and viola-you can see how many clicks, when and where they were made, Twitter & FriendFeed conversations (retweets etc) and a bunch of graphs 🙂


The thing that caused me the biggest problem was the extra step in the middle of signing in to bit.ly to shorten the URL-which allows it to track the link. Often I forgot to do this…tweeting the link to a new blog post and then thinking “oh bugger”! I saw a few mentions that Tweetdeck (my preferred Twitter client by far) could link to bit.ly via an API key but following the directions on bit.ly’s site didn’t work. I eventually discovered that this was a feature in Tweetdeck’s latest version 0.30.04 so I downloaded the new version and hey presto I’m up and running 🙂

Once you’ve got the new version, go to Settings –> Services and then under Bit.ly, you can add in your bit.ly API key. Then you can just post your links in Tweetdeck and it automatically updates the stats tracker…an excellent new addition.

On a slight side note-another new feature in Tweetdeck is it now links to MySpace…are enough people still using it to warrant that?!

Free Microsoft Virtualization e-book

Microsoft books are usually pretty excellent with great content covering great products in great details…but they can often be pretty expensive too. However Microsoft have made available, for free-yep completely gratis-a wonderful e-book on their Virtualization technologies. Called “Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions”, it covers:

  • Hyper-V
  • App-V
  • MED-V
  • Virtual Machine Manager (VMM)

and more…and is fantastic! It’s full of great information, how-to’s & descriptions aswell as diagrams such as:


Go and download right now here.

Outlook 2007 Forgotten Attachment Detector

The Outlook 2007 Forgotten Attachment Detector (FAD) is amazing; it’s an add-on for Outlook 2007 that helps prevent emails being sent without their required attachments.

I have been saying for years that something like this should be made, as I am forever forgetting to attach files to emails, both at home and at work. If I had the programming skills I would’ve made this myself…but I haven’t so I didn’t…and instead we have Bhavesh Chauhan of the Office Labs team to thank.

How it works:

It scans the body of the email for words and phrases such as “the attached email”, “the email attached”, “please find attached” and then checks to see if there is anything attached. If there isn’t, it flags it up and gives you the chance to recitfy it.

More information is on the Office Labs site here and you can download the FAD here.

Big up to Bhavesh and I can’t wait to install this at work ASAP 🙂

Office 2007 SP2 is available

As you may already have seen-SP2 for Office 2007 is out and available now. MS have stated it will be added to Windows updates within 3 months but I seem to have it available today…which is nice 🙂 If you haven’t got it and you can’t wait, head over here to grab it now.

It makes all kinds of improvements but the big one is it gives Outlook a great boost, up to 35% faster at starting up, switching between folders etc! It also helps bring the Excel charting more in line with Excel 2003…

Exchange 2010 Public Beta Released

Microsoft today (15/04/09) made the beta of Exchange 2010 available to the public-this can be downloaded here:

Get Exchange 2010 Beta

There are numerous new features in the latest incarnation of the world’s most popular email platform (I think that’s a safe statement to make?!) including:

·         OWA (Outlook Web Access) support for Internet Explorer (IE) 7 and 8, Firefox 3, and Safari 3.


·         MailTips. Are you about to accidentally send a personal e-mail to the whole company? A a time-sensitive e-mail to someone who is on maternity leave for six months? A 30MB attachment to people who have 20MB attachment size limits on their mailboxes? MailTips tells you before you send the message.


·         Conversation view. Have the arrangements for a company party Friday night cluttered up your mailbox to the point where you can’t find the approval e-mail for the urgent customer visit that you need to book today? Switch to conversation view, and collapse those 50 party discussions into one expandable node.


·         Calendar sharing extended to OWA


·         Automatically transcribed text-based preview of voice mail messages

·         Federation – Trust Exchange servers of partner organizations, share calendars, presence. You can schedule meetings with your business partners as easily as you can schedule meetings within the company.

·         Mailboxes can be moved during normal business hours with user online!

      ·      The Exchange 2010 version of OWA will have full parity with Outlook 2010 by the time they both ship; & the Windows Mobile client will come close.

One thing that might surprise some and will probably cause issues for others is that Exchange 2010 will require Windows Server 2008 minimum-so NO Windows Server 2003 support. I’m sure this won’t sit well with everyone but Windows Server 2008 is such a great product, and a huge leap forward from Server 2003, that I’m sure it will only benefit people to adopt it.

I’ve just seen a tweet from @Pbarone that Exchange 2010 will have a “mute” button which will allow you to remove yourself from email threads…that is seriously cool! At least a couple of times a week I find myself caught up in a “reply all/forward” whirlwind where I’m one of say, 6 people that all receive an email and then each of then “reply all” and then that receives multiple replies and so on. It’s very rare that I actually need to see these responses but once one person hits “reply all”, it seems to be the custom for everyone else involved to follow suit…and it can be really annoying so this mute button is a great new feature!

Outlook Thread Compressor

Geek in Disguise Steve Clayton has posted about a great utility, Ewan Dalton’s Outlook Thread Compressor.

“it’s an add-in to Outlook which removes unnecessary emails, on the assumption that most people reply to mail and leave the original intact, so you could keep the last mail in each branch of a thread, and remove all the others.”

I’d just like to re-iterate Ewan’s disclaimer:

“Let me say that again: Thread Compressor, as it is configured by default, WILL DELETE DATA FROM YOUR INBOX.

If you choose to download it and use it from here, you do it with the author’s blessing, but it’s completely at your own risk and Microsoft cannot be held responsible for what it does.”

Head over to http://threadcompressor.co.uk/default.aspx for more info and to download this great tool.

Canvas for OneNote

Microsoft Office Labs have come up with another excellent prototype “Canvas for OneNote”.

This let’s you visualise the different pages in a workbook, or even your different workbooks, from a Bird’s Eye view. This Office Labs video explains it very well but I can’t embed SoapBox here so head over to the Geek in Disguise and watch it here.

The software can be downloaded here and is marked as Vista only…although I’m sire it will run on Windows 7 too (something I need to test soon)…

If you’re familiar with PPTplex (another Officelabs invention) then this is pretty similar in that it lets you see everything all at once, rather than sequentially.

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