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:

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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:

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Every artist is different there-great stuff 🙂

Collection

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:

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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!

Windows 7 Stuff


We had our Windows 7 launch day at work last week and we all got Windows 7 pens and Windows 7 slinkies…which are officially awesome!

The slinky and pen:

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The posters we got up around the office:

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They’re nice and clean and simple-I like them.

As an added bonus, here’s my software poster wall:

 SDC10744 <—This isn’t the only one!

Hope you like it 🙂

There is a picture of me in front of the big Windows 7 stand thing we had but I, oddly, can’t find that one anymore 😉

MS Exam 70-680 training videos


Exam 70-680 is the new Microsoft MCTS exam for Configuring Windows 7 that builds towards the MCITP accreditations.

I’ve been thinking of taking this exam for a little while and now there is what’s shaping up to be an excellent series of training videos available from @Bibbleq. He’s an IT Admin and has started putting these videos together in his spare time to help out anyone looking at this exam – so ‘nuff respect for that 🙂

I’ve watched the 1st 2 videos that are available and they’re really good. Well presented, clear and I’ve definitely picked up a thing or two, which is what it’s all about isn’t it?! I’m not sure how many will be in the series but I’m confident that once you’ve seen them all, you’ll be in a position to pretty much go and take the exam straight away!

First video is here.

Second video is here.

Third video is here.

Fourth video is here. This is the start of Section 2.

Section 2 Module 2 is here. This covers DISM & ImageX.

Homepage is here.

Nice one Bibbleq!

Microsoft Total Recall


This is a great piece on the work going on inside Microsoft Research called MyLifeBits. Gordon Bell and his colleague Jim Gemmell have been working to digitally record nearly everything that goes in in Gordon’s life…and make it a useful data repository. As Graham said:

“I was saving everything, but it became clear that the problem was a search problem. You could save everything…but the big problem was organizing and then searching…”

They created a database to store all this data and then wrote software to collect, scan and label all the things captured, which include emails, pictures, phone calls, web pages visited, documents, scanned receipts and more!

A real life example:

“If I’ve ever seen a Web page, I’ve got a copy of it, and I can find it again quickly because I only have to search my own corpus, not the entire Web.”

That sounds pretty great to me 🙂 The number of times that I know I’ve seen something on a site and I either can’t remember which one, or I get the right site but just can’t find the page is crazy…and this’d be a good way to sort that out. Not sure about storing EVERY web page though you know 😉

This work is a great example not just of what Microsoft Research get up to, but also a great example of what IT in general can do for the world. 10-15 years down the line when MyLifeBits is commonplace-finding information will be so much easier!

Check out the full article over at MS Research here.

A great example of Crystal Xcelsius


Crystal Xcelsius is a fantastic product and some of the things that people do with are amazing…huge data visualizations laid out on maps with automatically refreshing data and various gauges, sliders, graphs and all sorts:

 

Thanks to http://dashboardsbyexample.com/

I’m pretty sure that the Wall Street Journal Election Calculator was created in Xcelsius-you can find it here.

It does a great job of making boring, grey spreadsheets and reports much more engaging, interesting and effective. However, I’ve never found an example I can use on a regular basis…but now i have 🙂

Web 2.0 Presentation Tools from SAP – this set of tools from SAP’s Timo Elliott is great. They use Crystal Xcelsius to integrate Twitter into your Powerpoint presentations-how great does that sound?!

I had a little play around with it earlier and used it to show tweets about MS licensing, scrolling live across the bottom. Twitter keeps increasing in popularity as a way of interacting with presenters and of giving feedback during a talk, when it can still make a difference. These tools mean you don’t need to have separate apps running on your machine or even a separate machine used solely to receive & manage Twitter feedback.

You can download the Powerpoint with guides and the tools to integrate it yourself here:

http://www.sapweb20.com/blog/2009/10/web-20-presentation-tools-from-sap-integrate-twitter-into-powerpoint/

I really like this. It’s very useful, current and a great advert for SAP’s Xcelsius technology.

Tell No One


I’ve just finished watching an excellent film called “Tell No One”, the story of a husband’s turmoil when his dead wife seemingly re-appears. With intrigue, suspense, car chases, shootings, thoughtful twists and some wonderful acting, this 2006 film is definitely a hidden gem. It’s sits a little over 2 hours long but it makes use of the time very well with no real lulls in the pace and always making you want to find out what happens next.

One thing that may put people off, but I really hope it doesn’t, is that it’s in French with English subtitles. Often “World Cinema” is an instant turn off for people as the prevailing stereotype of foreign films is pretty much intellectual, self-important, boring and arty…and this perhaps applies even more to French films! Yes, there are some foreign films like that but there are also plenty of English/American films that fit that description, so I feel international movies should be given a chance.

Tell No One is a great example that foreign films can be just as engrossing, thrilling, fast paced and enjoyable as anything coming out of Hollywood and I’d highly recommend it 🙂

1 Year anniversary


Today (24/09/09) is the first year anniversary of my first blog post 🙂 It wasn’t much, just a little hello to get me started followed the day after by a post on the MS Roundtable.

I’m not 100% sure what made me decide to start blogging, although I’d joined Twitter a few weeks before so I think that might have been part of it! Seeing people sharing information to help others to discover new things, solve issues being experienced and just generally being social with people all across the world was pretty great and I’m really glad to be part of it now 🙂

Thank you to everyone who has visited, linked to and mentioned my blog. I’m happy that it’s been useful to you and I hope it will continue to be so 🙂

Going to Pieces: Awesome horror documentary


I’ve just watched “Going to Pieces: The Rise & Fall of the Slasher movie” and it’s brilliant…interesting, enjoyable and it brought back memories of watching all those awesome 80’s horror films back in the day 🙂 It’s full of interviews with horror legends like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Tom Savini & Rob Zombie among others as well as clips from all the films you love like:

It’s great to hear first hand accounts of what it was like to be part of (pretty much) creating a whole new genre with tales from the directors, FX guys and stars. It’s also great to see clips from films that you’ve forgotten about or perhaps never heard of…my LoveFilm list jumped up by about 15 films this evening with a bunch of films I’ve not seen for years like House of a 1000 corpses, Nightmare on Elm Street & Maniac Cop as well as films I never got round to watching like Maniac, Slumber Party Massacre & Prom Night 🙂

Do you like Scary Movies?

If you’re into Horror/Slasher films in any way then you should definitely check this out. If you’re kind of interested in them and would like some help in choosing which films you should watch-check this out. If you don’t like horror or gore-then stay away 😉

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 🙂

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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?!

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