Zune 30Gb ‘worldwide meltdown’

Zune Freeze at startupI went to grab my trusty 30Gb Zune today and it froze on startup – the “Zune” logo stayed stuck on the screen indefinitely. Hitting the web to look for techniques on how to reset the device yielded a few tips but nothing that solved my issue.

I did spot that I wasn’t alone, however – and the newswires are currently hot with the word that this problem is affecting many – if not all – of the original 30Gb Zunes. The support forums are getting pretty busy.

UPDATE: Official confirmation says here that the issue will resolve itself after the date ticks over to 1st January. This is an issue relating to the fact that 2008 was a leap year.

Microsoft has at time of writing, not said anything other than “we’re aware there is a problem and are working to fix it”: how some potential fix might manifest itself remains to be seen – hopefully, the customer experience will be similar to the so-called XBox “ring of death” scenario – I’ve had that happen on 2 XBoxes, and I have to say the smoothness and quality of the return experience is the best I’ve ever had from any company. Maybe that’s where the $1bn was spent…

Anyway, to Zunes… (and note this is the original, 30Gb Zune only – later models – 80/120 and the flash models – are unaffected). Reportedly it only affects the latest firmware – from November 2008 – too, so if you’ve a Zune that’s been sitting in a drawer for a couple of months then it’d probably be OK.

How to reset the device – in essence, reboot it by holding the back button and pressing up on the D-pad. This didn’t work for me in the “frozen” state.

P1010106P1010104How to reformat the device – I could only get this to work by waiting for the device to run out of power, then plug it in (and get the battery charging icon) and as soon as it began its start up procedure, press the back button and hold both the left part of the D-pad and the button in the middle of the pad. It did start the procedure but appeared to hang at stage 4…

A reported fix is available by opening the Zune up and disconnecting/reconnecting the battery – instructions for the brave, here. This would ordinarily void any warranty, though my device is about a year our of warranty anyway. Maybe I’ll wait for a few days and see what Redmond says, though…

What next for Windows Mobile?

Windows Mobile

I’ve been a big fan of Windows Mobile for years – ever since the original Orange SPV Smartphone, the ability to easily sync contacts & calendar onto the phone and the way Windows Mobile handles that data, is far more useful than email, IMHO. I even posted about a cool feature nearly 5 years ago 🙂

Sure, the phone’s had some improving to do since those early days, but the ease of integration was the killer reason to adopt Windows Mobile rather than the various other sync or push-email options (like Nokia’s clunky software to sync contacts, or Good/Blackberry type dedicated email devices that grew to become usable phones).

Now Windows Mobile seems to have gone very quiet. Even though it’s successful (shipping 18 million devices last financial year, according to IDC) and there are a handful of decent devices (more details here), the “shiny factor” is very much with Apple’s iPhone, Blackberry’s Storm, Nokia’s ever-expanding range, and even the very-much-v1 T-Mobile G1 running Google’s Android OS.

The fact that Windows Mobile – as a collective – is out-shipping the iPhone by some multiple (at least in the enterprise) seems to be considered a temporary situation by many commentators, even though analysts predict it to continue for a while to come.

It says a lot that when Forbes commented on the market, they didn’t even make mention of Windows Mobile devices.

Any newspaper or glossy magazine reviews that do side-by-side comparisons of the latest hot gadgets, seem to think that if a Windows Mobile-powered device is any good, it’s almost despite the OS that runs on it, rather than because of it. As an example, CNet rated the iPhone 3G at 8.9, and gave the HTC Touch HD 8.8 – saying that it’s a shame it doesn’t run Android (due to perceived usability/UI issues they had).

Maybe there’s a point – I happen to like the WM UI, certainly when compared with any other proprietary mobile phone UI, but in direct comparison with the smoothness of some of its latest competitors, it can look dated, and so far, the Shiny Shiny WM phones have had some kind of 3rd-party UI, like HTC’s TouchFlo.

So what’s next?

Well, there are rumours of a Windows Mobile 6.5 – confirmed by Steve Ballmer, though only in passing – coming next year, with Windows Mobile 7 on the horizon sometime after that.

Terry Myerson – ex-lead of development and latterly Vice President of Exchange, is now the big cheese at Windows Mobile. I know Terry well, and if anyone can energise the development of the next couple of releases of the software, I think he can.

I’m still using an “Excalibur” device – like Steve, I’m a bit out of touch with the state of the art but I find the size, shape & functionality suits me down to the ground. It’ll be nice to see what comes next…

In the meantime, have a nice Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone!

Updated LifeCam software

It’s not exactly “news”, since the Microsoft LifeCam web-camera driver & software package was updated a few months ago, but I only picked up the latest version the other day and it brought a few smiles when playing with it today, during a call with James Akrigg.

vidcam natural

lifecam The LifeCam software does real-time manipulation of the video coming from the camera, and should be visible in any application that uses the webcam (eg IM, Live Meeting etc). A few of the effects are potentially useful – like the one which blurs the background but keeps the face in focus, but most are just silly: some hilariously so.

What’s kind-of amazing about the software is the facial tracking it can do; either to zoom in and out as you move around (and follow your head movements), or to attach effects to your face or the background, all in real time.

My favourite funny effect is the “big mouth” one 🙂

vidcam wide

I can’t for the life of me think of a business reason for using this, but it certainly raised a laugh …

How Microsoft can help you save money

There’s been much said & written about the credit crunch, the downturn, the recession – whatever you call it yourself, it means that the future’s looking a good bit less certain than it was, and pretty much everyone is tightening their belts and bracing themselves for whatever is coming.

Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Turner, wrote an all-staff email a couple of months ago highlighting a number of things that could save customers money, and since then, there has been an avalanche of papers, presentations, initiatives, marketing plans etc etc, focused on that theme.

My problem statement

The problem I see in a lot of this stuff is pretty simple: the good people who put together the collateral start with a conclusion in mind…

  • Sharepoint marketing folks will write a proposal about how Sharepoint can be used to make people more productive, therefore save money through efficiencies.
  • Windows Server guys will talk about how Windows Server 2008 can cut power usage, which has a direct correlation to reducing both the carbon footprint and the utility bills.

… and so on. All well and good, and some of the output has great stories about real people using the technology to make a real difference. A cynical viewer might observe, though, that the message sometimes looks like "Cut your operating costs, by implementing Microsoft™ Office Sharepoint Server 2007® etc". Yeah, very good, but it wasn’t the act of installing Sharepoint that cut your costs, it was what it allowed you to do differently, or better.

It’s coming together, though

What takes longer than the initial flurry of "this product can save you money" information, is weaving together a more holistic view of the kinds of issues that real world customers are experiencing, then figuring out what all the different capabilities & features of products can do, and applying them in order of importance to help solve the problems. Fortunately, there’s some cracking collateral now, at

(and it’s sub-sites, like the Manage Costs one)

I’m going to write some more on the specific topic of reducing cost, in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…

Border Lines in Word & Outlook

OK, I’ve been bad. Let my blog –

which I used to update fairly frequently, though not the multi-posts-per-day, at-any-hour-of-the-day type thing that Steve Clayton does. Maybe that’s why he wins awards and I don’t 🙂

– wither and dry up. I got a new job about a year ago which means I’m now less hands-on with technology (ie. am now dispensable middle-management overhead), and that’s certainly not helped.

Anyway, New Year’s resolution is to try to keep it up to date a bit more, with tips & tricks, snippets of interesting news and maybe the odd essay on stuff that I think might be important.

Making lines in Word & Outlook

Today’s tip is something I came across by accident and use all the time. Since modern versions of Outlook use Word under the covers as their editor, it applies all through the program. It’s a way to create "Border Lines" quickly.

My favourite use for it is when you’re updating a meeting in the calendar and you want to give the attendees a short explanation of why you’re moving the time, changing the agenda etc. Best place to do that is right at the top of the body text, and a nice line between the original and what’s new provides clear separation.

The tip is – if you type three dashes "—" and press Enter, the Word engine replaces the dashes with a horizonal line that spans the width of the document/appointment/email. Example:

Some wisdom

Some more wisdom

… hit enter at the dashes and it becomes