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All posts tagged "Features"

Friday, January 9, 2009

More "2-Cent Suggestions"

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 10:30 PM

So I sort of got on a roll with yesterday's device suggestions, and I thought I'd try my hand at picking out some of the small things that bug me in the Zune Software. These should be mostly small fixes, but ones I think would greatly increase my enjoyment with the software.

Sync screen:

  • Separate out things I've chosen to sync with things synced automatically through friends' ZCards, Picks, and Channels.
  • Progress bars. I like progress bars, and I miss them from Windows Media Player 11/Zune v1. They provide a granular view of everything syncing, with options for each track. The Zune 2.0 and 3.0 software feels very spartan in this regard.

Find Album Info and Album Art

  • Simply put, the code for "Find Album Info" should be re-written. It hangs on me 90% of the time, and has only worked a couple times. Even then, it typically doesn't work work on more than one album without restarting the software.
  • The browse for album art dialog always opens in My Pictures (or in Vista, Pictures). Most times when I'm downloading album art from the web, I save it to my desktop. The software should remember my last-used location.
  • Lastly, I wish there was an option to resize the album art. The new "Albums" view of the music field is cool, but really doesn't address the core issue of either hard to see thumbnails or oversized album art. Give us a slider control like in Windows and Windows Media Player.

Now Playing screen:

  • There needs to be an option (a la Windows Media Player and practically any other jukebox software) to interrupt the screen saver when playing a video.
  • Similarly, in most programs, hitting the space bar will pause the currently playing item. In Zune, it repeats the last action performed (e.g. advancing a track, turning on and off shuffle, etc.). This is especially a pain while watching a video, since you have to press the space bar once to bring up the controls, then again to pause it. Make space bar = pause on a high level.
  • I love the album art tiles screen, and so I wish there were more settings. If I could control the idle timeout before going to the tile screen, or disable a mouse interrupt (e.g. have to click the button to leave Now Playing), that would be awesome.

Did I miss anything? Anything you'd like to see changed? Sound off in the comments!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Steve Smith's Zune Wishlist (And Some of Mine)

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Hardware" @ 10:30 PM


The Holiday Season may have passed, but Steve Smith still has a few requests for the Zune Team. Two of his three requests have to do with wirelessly syncing while on a dock, and the other is a request for deeper car integration. I'm with him on these, and the two wireless sync requests could (and should) be included in the next update.

On that note, here are a couple things I've been wishing for in the Zune for a while, most of which could be easily implemented:


  • The number-one feature request I get from iPod-owning friends when they use my Zune is for a "view all tracks by artist" feature. It's annoying to have to look through every album by a particular artist just to see what I've got in my collection.
  • Bring back the Quick List. Playing another song, album, or artist will erase any playlist you've been working on, which is quite annoying.
  • A "remove from now playing" feature would be awesome to have, as would a "remove from list after the song has played" feature.


  • Don't force a restart after quitting out of a personal or community-built game. XNA superhero Michael Klucher has a write-up about why they did it, which basically boils down to securing the code and DRM'd files, but I just don't see why they can't reset the flags without completely rebooting the device. This should definitely be a priority for the XNA team.
  • Not really a game, but a simple RSS reader, synced on-the-go or at sync time would be awesome.


  • Allow videos below a certain size to be shared via wifi. I'd love to be able to beam short YouTube videos or music videos to friends.


  • Add an alarm feature so I can wake to music without having to use a third-party XNA app.

That's what I can think of for now. Do you have any suggestions for the device? Sound off in the comments!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2-Cent Suggestions

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 07:30 PM


While the 2.5 update fixed a number of missing features and introduced several new ones, the Zune team still has a long way to go to make everybody happy (don't they always?). GotZune's Jason Rasmussen posts a nice article highlighting the important features that he'd like to see in upcoming releases. Several of these are no-brainers that the Zune team can and should implement in the next release. Some, like DivX/XviD support would be killer, but I don't see anything happening on this front until Zune Gen3 at the earliest.

Jason talks about the need to further integrate Zune into Windows Media Center and Xbox. At this stage in the game Microsoft has so many services that are not only incompatible, they compete with each other. It's time to bring the Entertainment & Devices division on the same page and build a fully compatible ecosystem. I shouldn't have to deal with several different stores just to get the content I want on the devices I already own. The whole point of inconveniencing Zune owners with the Microsoft Points system was to allow greater interoperability between the systems.

Jason also mentions the need to bring back flagging and a five-star rating system. I don't know about other people, but my main use of the flagging/rating system is to remind me to do certain things. Delete a song, for example was a single star (or now a broken heart); remember to add a certain song to a list, or fix metadata was a flag. The problem with this system arises when I can't distinguish which flags or star/heart ratings mean what. If I can't tell if I don't like a song, just don't want it on my Zune, or want to delete it completely, then the rating system is useless. I hope the Zune team can create an elegant way to flag songs for later use. What I'd like to see is the ability to add songs on-the-fly to playlists or sync groups. For example, I could create a playlist called "songs to delete" or "fix metadata" or "for Julie's wedding", and when I'm listening to my Zune and encounter a song that fits this criteria, I could add it to the playlist. When I sync it back to my computer, my lists are all there, and I can do with them what I want.

This would of course go hand-in-hand with playlist arrangement enhancements such as track re-ordering and a more functional now playing system. Hopefully it won't be November before we see a few of these basic changes.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Zune Update Coming Soon?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune News" @ 10:40 AM


With the Spring Xbox update just around the corner, it only makes sense that Microsoft's other main E&D device should receive the update treatment as well—after all, we haven't really had a significant update since the launch of the gen 2 devices. With many rightly feeling that the upgrade to Zune v2 had taken away several desirable features, it appears we might be getting a few of those back. Zunerama member Ricardo Dawkins spotted a video on Zune.net that appears to hint at a few of the upcoming features, including a new genres link in Browse view of the Collection, a videos (!) link in the Marketplace (but strangely no downloads link), and on the artist page in the Marketplace, a new link for "listeners", likely something relating to further Social integration.

Notice the "videos" link in the marketplace (and removal of downloads link).

Details are of course sketchy (and the video has since been pulled), but we'll keep you updated as the update approaches.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Zune Social update

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Announcements" @ 09:45 PM


You may have noticed that Zune Social was down for the last few days

Included (according to Cesar):
  • Improved overall stability and performance
  • Ability to view Favorites on your profile and the ability to remove a favorite
  • Most played artists will be displayed on your Zune Card, including three of the top songs for each of those artists (based on community usage)
  • Zune Gadgets Page: http://social.zune.net/profile/gadgets.aspx
  • Ability to view up to 24 recently played songs and 24 most played artists (increased from 5)
  • Easier to remove friends (directly from the friends activity module)
  • Timestamp for your recently played songs
  • Song and album information is now displayed in the send dialogs

I'm seeing a lot of the "stability and performance" upgrades, especially in Firefox, though for some reason, a few of the features are quirkier than last time (the "add to friends" link seems to only work when it feels like it, logging in is similar, e.g.), though this may just be due to Firefox's own weirdnesses.

Also, I got kind of excited by the idea of being able to remove a "favorite song," but I guess that isn't fully there yet either (or I'm missing something). I'm also beginning to see a bit of feature creep, as the lists don't seem to be scaling well to the design of the page. I hope they do something about that in the future, but for now I like the integration between the more static HTML and the cool Flash design.

EDIT: I knew I wasn't crazy! Jay-Z, my top-played artist, now shows 25 plays, when just yesterday (see above) it showed 26. The same thing with De La Soul a couple days ago (20 down to 19). Social seems to pick-and-choose which songs it wants to have show up on the "played" list. Sometimes, songs I know are supposed to show up (because their metadata is correct and have shown up before), simply don't. It's a little frustrating, and I hope it's just a small issue that'll be fixed soon. Then again, this is a beta...

P.S. Not sure where Train came from... I looked through my computer and I'm pretty sure I don't have any of their songs...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Purpose-Driven PMPs

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 02:30 AM

"MP3 player makers include many popular [features] so as to “cover all the bases” and appease as many users as possible. This is the way that anythingbutipod manufactures have tried to compete with the Apple- offer just many more features at a much lower price, while Apple offered simplicity at a premium. Both strategies are viable since there are many types of consumers. While Apple’s strategy has worked well, they are now feeling the pressure in the market and are slowly absorbing the jack-of-all-trades approach. It is not as profound since it has been very gradual, but if you look at the history of iTunes, you will see how cluttered it has become by having to accommodate the many features added to iPods over the years. They also continue wow us with petty but impractical ones like “cover flow” as if we were a bunch of attention deficit two year olds."

Grahm Skee at AnythingButiPod has a great write-up on the problems faced with trying to be too many things at once. The iPod began as a great Portable Music Player (PMP) that was good at playing music and little else. As users demanded pictures and video, the iPod adapted to provide those features. The problem is, Apple hasn't really updated the way users interact with their music since the second or third generation. They became too afraid to disenfranchise users, and, in a decidedly un-Apple fashion, made their software and firmware bloated and devoid of any significant advances.

Most of the reviews I've read about the Gen2 Marketplace have pointed to its simple design as an advantage over iTunes. PC Magazine's Tim Gideon, in his review of the Zune80 praised the Marketplace and software as making iTunes "seem like a big, boring spreadsheet". Gideon gave the 80 PC Magazine's Editor's Choice Award.

"I write this in hope that Microsoft will continue to offer the Zune as a simple media centric device and not cave to the people screaming for clocks, games, web browsers, and other add-ons. Time, energy, and recourses are better spent improving the users’ music experience."

When Microsoft announced that they would be getting rid of the five-star rating system in favor of the heart/broken heart ratings, there was a huge outcry from longtime five-star users. I watched from the sidelines, and laughed at how people could be so upset over something as simple as a rating feature. That is, until I found out my beloved flagging feature would be gone too. I was preparing my own internet assault, planning to shout from the rooftops the injustice I had been dealt as a casualty in the "simplicity wars", but I (mostly) refrained, instead agreeing that I'd wait 'til I tried the new device and firmware, and then launch a full-scale campaign.

What I discovered is that I really didn't need the flagging as much as I thought I did. Looking over the software's inbox, I realized I had hundreds of flags that didn't serve much purpose to me, and that on-device features like "go to artist" held much more value than flagging. I realize that I may not agree with all the decisions the Zune team makes, but I've learned that, given enough time, someone will eventually come along to fill in the gaps. That's what the Zune project is all about.

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