Monthly Archives: September 2009 Now Using Silverlight 3.0

One criticism we get as a company is that on the day Silverlight 1.0 was launched we didn’t do a massive refactoring of all Microsoft media-based or media-containing sites to use Silverlight. Since dry humor doesn’t often translate via blog I’m poking some fun at our critics with that statement. Any technology transition takes time, even one we believe strongly in like Silverlight. Given skill sets, market requirements and different time-frames it was never that surprising that the previous still used Flash. It just made sense at the time.

Today is a different story though, today we can count one more site as having come into the Silverlight fold, If you visit my Zune profile and do the right-click dance you’ll see the lovely “Silverlight” popup (circled in red below).


In fact Silverlight is used twice on the page, first as the portion that shows recent plays, badges and the artists a member is following as well as the media player on the bottom of the page.


That little player is pretty nice for playing 30-second previews but it’s even better when paired with a Zune Pass. If you’re logged in and you have a Zune Pass then you can stream the full length track of anything in the Zune catalog. You don’t even need the Zune client software installed to listen to full albums. To give iTunes a friendly little dig you have install the software just to search their catalog.

Two great tastes together at last Zune and Silverlight.

Things I Heart About the Zune 4.0 Software

The next generation of Zune is here and as someone that has been fortunate enough to play with both the new software and a ZuneHD I wanted to share some of my favorite things in the new software. More details on the ZuneHD itself to come, as while I wrote this post the software features kept piling up so I’ll save the hardware focused one for tomorrow.



This is the new landing page when you first open the software and you’re instantly given a rich, media-centric view that shows new items, your most recently listened to items as well as anything you’ve pinned to the Quickplay menu. One of my favorite things about the Zune software is the fact that the UI adds to the media experience instead of just being a database of media.

While Quickplay is a nice, big, in-your-face feature there are quite a few little details I’d like to call out that you may miss.

Smart DJ


OK, so this isn’t really a subtle, little detail and many will argue that this is the feature that makes Zune 4.0 worthy. Smart DJ is like the iTunes Genius feature married to Pandora, able to create a never-ending stream of music based on an artist or song. Where this really shines is when you couple it with a Zune Pass because now you can pull music not just from your collection but from the entire Zune catalog. I’ve already discovered a ton of great music this way with the added benefit of being able to save these Smart DJ recommendations to playlists that I can then put on my device.

Remaining Credits & Expiration Date


Your Zune Pass gives you 10 free songs month but they don’t roll over so it’s nice to know when you’re entering “use ‘em or lose ‘em” territory. Now as their expiration date grows close the number of credits you have left turns a bolded pink and the credit’s expiration date is shown, calling out that you better use them soon. Given that I’m not close to my date it’s hard to screen capture this feature :)

Suggested Songs


If you click on your remaining credits you’ll be offered a list of suggested songs you might want to own, another great feature because invariably right when you need to pick exactly 10 songs is when you completely blank on all the music you’ve listened to, ever, and you end up either wasting the free songs or buying something you didn’t really want.

Content Filtering

If you’re a Zune Pass subscriber you’ve probably found yourself asking, “what music do I actually own and what is from my Zune Pass?” Wonder no more with the ability to filter your content:


New Backgrounds

Silly as it is every new release I look to see what new backgrounds are available and they didn’t disappoint, my favorite new one is Geisha.


Windows 7 Support


One of the best UX features in Windows 7 to me is AeroSnap, the ability to use Win+Left/Right Arrow to automatically position a window at 50% of your screen. The Zune 3.0 software didn’t work with it, 4.0 gives us the snap love.

Taskbar Thumbnails

Full support for taskbar thumbnails, including a nice way to quickly pause and rate the current song.


Jump Lists

Another great Windows 7 feature that you slowly come to depend on is Jump Lists, now fully supported with Zune 4.0, offering quick access to your Quickplay pinned items and Smart DJ lists.


New Now Playing Layout

Another thing I’ve always loved about the Zune software is that instead of going the 1980’s route of WinAmp-style visualizations (sorry candy kids) it went for an artistic mashup of colors, art and metadata. That combined with some typographic treatment has really made the Now Playing screen one of my favorites in the software and something that I’d love to see on my 50” plasma during a cocktail party vs. the seizure-inducing XBox or WinAmp fractural crackfest.

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Here is Now Playing when there isn’t any hi-res art to use. Previously all the album covers were the same size, with 4.0 they’re varied giving the UI a more organic feel.


Whew, and that’s just off the top of my head while I’m waiting for my bus :) Needless to say the Zune 4.0 brings a host of new features and improvements on existing ones that makes this release exciting even without the ZuneHD. Of course the ZuneHD is here and as I’ll blog about later it’s a beauty.

Huh, Where Am I? (Redirecting enginefour to shawnoster)

If you were expecting and are now on don’t worry, it’s all part of my mad plan.  Mad as in these little things really shouldn’t take as long as they do sometimes.

I’m redirecting all my old blog traffic over to (which is where you should now be).  This is also a sneaky way to make sure all my old slugs (the bit after the domain name that uniquely identifies each post) have a corresponding one on my new site.

I created a “Hey I’m moving” post over there that will now redirect to *this* post here if all the regex’s line up :)  Back to our regularly scheduled broadcast.