Category Archives: Zune

Updated Mp3tag Sources for Zune 4.0

A new Zune release, a new updated set of sources for Mp3tag. The instructions are the same as always:

  1. Download the latest Mp3tag Zune Marketplace Sources:
  2. Unzip the two .src files into %appdata%Mp3tagdatasources
  3. Click the Sources button in Mp3tag and you’re ready to rock!


Two notes about this update:

  1. I renamed the sources to “Zune Marketplace” from just “Marketplace”, mostly to put
    it at the bottom of the list making it faster to select as well as giving Zune some
    branding love.
  2. Now this change may be a bummer for some, I no longer have a good end-point for
    the 800×800 album art.  I used to be able to do a little dance and grab the
    nice hi-res album art but no longer.  I’m still poking around to see if I can’t
    find a better source but for now you’re stuck with 200×200.

UPDATE: I’ve changed the scripts slightly to accommodate a change in version 2.48 of Mp3Tag where the BAND field has been renamed to ALBUMARTIST. 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.

image image

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.

ZunePass Just Got Upgraded

One of my passions is music, especially the discovery of new music. Back in the day I used to walk into Wax Trax Records in Denver or Albums on the Hill in Boulder and walk out with a stack of CDs that I’d grabbed for no other reason than I liked the album art or the tight-pants wearing clerk behind the counter nodded vaguely in its direction. Sometimes it worked out; Mentallo & The Fixer, Arctic Monkeys (before they were big, bought only because the word Monkey was in their name), and a few others. Other times it was a huge waste of money.

That is one reason I love the Zune Pass, I no longer have to waste $30 to $80 a month just to discover if I like an album or not. I can give it a listen a few times and then I decide if it’s worth my hard earned coin. Yes, even though I have an all-you-can-eat music subscription I still buy all my music as MP3s in the end. Oddly enough I’m still saving money compared to my previous random sampling method, because sometimes that tight-pants wearing bloke likes some right proper shite.

Enter the new Zune Pass upgrade, which is that you can still listen to everything in their catalog but you now get 10 tracks free a month. No DRM, you own them even if you cancel you Zune Pass, they are yours. This is awesome, it’s like free money and I believe it’s the first of its kind of all the online services. When you break it down you’re really only paying $5 a month to have full listening access to the entire Zune catalog.

I’m also a member of eMusic (which rocks and makes a nice compliment to Zune, especially now that they’ve added audio books), which has a similar concept of paying a fixed price for a fixed number of tracks per month but they only offer 30-second clips of the songs. Next are the iTunes/Amazon but again, 30-second previews. Being able to fully absorb an album as well as own 10 of them free and clear, well, I just saved myself $10 a month.

Updated Mp3Tag source for Zune 3.0

With the release of the new coolness otherwise known as the Zune 3.0 update a few people have let me know that my Mp3tag sources that hook into Marketplace data no longer work. After a little digging the problem was that the Zune team put everything into a namespace thus breaking all the tags I was searching on. A little search and replace magic and now we have an updated

Get it while it’s hot!

As an aside I was at the EMP, the Experience Music Project in Seattle which is like a huge museum/learning center centered around all things music and I discovered that the Zune team is actually one of the sponsors. Very cool

ZuneKeys Updated for Zune 2.5

Another new Zune client update, another ZuneKeys. For those that don’t know ZuneKeys gives you a few hotkeys to control playing and pausing the Zune software from any application (hence why they’re called global hotkeys). I stole the idea from WinAmp because I’m always needing to pause or skip tracks and it’s much easier to do it with a quick Ctrl + Alt + Home rather than opening up the software and finding the pause button.

It’s a super-tiny 31k app. Just unzip and run and it sits in your tray listening for a hotkey. Uou can play, pause, stop, skip tracks or adjust the volume. If anyone on the Zune team reads this I’d love to know if there are any official messages I can send to the application for control because right now I’m faking it by sending the same messages those fancy (and bulky) multimedia keyboards send.

Download ZuneKeys

Hello Zune, We Meet Again

So “Meet Again” is a bit of a misnomer since I use my Zune everyday but each time an update comes out it always feels like I’m relearning the Zune all over again. This time it’s the Zune 2.5 Spring 2008 Update and like every previous update I have a love/hate relationship with it.

The Love

This is an interesting update because they’ve actually added a ton of new features but they’re not all immediately obvious. The feature that jumps out the most is the new video section in the marketplace which currently has TV episode purchases but I’m assuming will eventually expand to include movie rentals and purchases. This helps bring the Zune in line with iTunes and the XBox’s version of the Marketplace and really helps round out the media experience.

They’ve listened to the community because some of the most demanded features are there, namely auto-playlists, gapless playback and browsing by genre. They’ve also really started taking the whole “Social” more seriously since you can finally view ZuneCards inside the software and get directly to your friend’s (and their friends) play list. I’d love to see these ideas explored even more, perhaps creating an API that allows you to import your play information from other players and the ability to create custom playlists that can be featured on your ZuneCard.

Another big area that has been improved that’s not immediately obvious is metadata editing. The amount of editing allowed before was so limited as to not exist whereas now they have a solid story in place that allows full editing as well as album info lookup with 800×800 album art. Metadata is near and dear to me so I’ve used almost everything out there to edit with and I’d say the user experience is up there in the Top 5.

Of course there are still a few issues with it, for example I have Fischerspooner’s ‘Danse En France‘ maxi-single and while I can easily find it in the Marketplace the ‘Find album info’ command comes back with everything else but the right album and that happens more often then I’d like. Also it’s easy to get a 100+ result set back and there aren’t any good tools to narrowing that down.

There are quite a few little UI adjustments as well; different font sizes, album art is now displayed next to progress bar, the ‘Now playing’ allows you to always hide the track listing, there is a nice “Save as playlist” option when viewing your now playing queue, and a ton of other great little additions.

The Hate

Perhaps ‘Hate’ is too strong a word but there are still some quirky things about the Zune that frustrate me. My biggest one is that you can’t use the device when it’s connected to your computer. There is a whole laundry list of frustrations on that front:

  • You can’t play music directly off your Zune, you have to copy it off first.
  • You can’t copy a playlist off the Zune.
  • You can’t copy a podcast off the Zune.

What’s ironic is that if the reason you can’t play directly from the device is because of DRM concerns then having to copy it off before playing it only encourages piracy.

With 2.5 they’ve nicely reduced some of the UI element’s font sizes yet they’ve made others HUGE, such as the track number. The track number has all the visual focus while the more important information, the track title, is dwarfed and forgotten in the shadow of THE HUGE NUMBER. People don’t care about track numbers nearly as much these days yet somehow that gets all the focus? I’m completely baffled. Check it out:


Besides your eyes being assaulted by the huge numbers did you notice the bonus UI bug? That’s right, it says “11 songs by album”. Umm, no, sorry, this is actually being sorted by track number.

Besides the track number travesty they seem to have really cranked up the bold knob, everything is now very important. If you look at the properties tab for a song it’s like you just walked into a political debate, everything is really important and demands your attention, right now. It about sets my brain on fire. Also, it’s very curious that you can’t get to the metadata editing screen from the properties dialog. It seems someone with very bad eyesight that hasn’t been to the opthamologist in about a decade got put in charge of the UI team.

I saved the best for last… while I applaud the new metadata editing features there is a huge glaring problem with it, it doesn’t actually edit the real metadata. It may look lovely in your Zune but all your other applications, such as Winamp, Sonos, your mobile phone, iTunes, etc. will still see the same old busted metadata. Instead of correctly updating the underlying ID3 information it just makes some tweaks to the Zune database. Imagine when you get a new PC and you reinstall the Zune software, happily re-importing all your tracks only to discover all that painstaking metadata updating you did is gone. Or you want to show off all the album art you’ve added to all your tracks on your Sonos or Roku Soundbridge, only to see empty little lonely squares.

For this reason alone I’d suggest that you don’t use the Zune 2.5 metadata editing features. Don’t touch it, don’t look at it, don’t pass go. Don’t even think about it. If you want your metadata to really be updated then follow my suggestions here.

UPDATE: I was corrected on this issue by Zach Johnson, the Zune Client Development Lead. Seems the client uses a background thread to handle the actual writing of the ID3 tags. Of course this isn’t the most helpful if you want your changes to take place instantly but it’s better than I had thought. Also, while the ID3 data does eventually get updated the embedded album art doesn’t, which poses an issue for all your non-Zune applications.

The Rest

This is by and large a great update, bringing a lot of new features, fixing some old bugs and really polishing up the experience yet it seems for every bug or feature they fixed they managed to really bungle up some other ones. Metadata editing is very pretty and has a nice user experience, it’s just worthless. The UI has been polished, except for the spots where they just punted. Closer, you’re getting closer Zune team.

Zune Marketplace as a Mp3tag Source

Given that the current (and past) Zune software lacks any decent metadata editing I’ve been using Mp3tag to adjust the various tags as well as grab album art.  One cool feature of Mp3tag is that you can look up album information from a variety of online sources, most notably Amazon.  From there you can grab track listings and album art to help flush out your metadata.

Only problem is that sometimes the Zune Marketplace files an album differently than Amazon which means it won’t show up correctly in your ZuneTag (see mine in the upper-right).  After poking around with Mp3tag’s extensible "web sources framework" and using Fiddler to watch the HTTP traffic to and from I cobbled together a Zune source that will pull down the exact album information as listed on the Marketplace as well as the album art.

There is a bonus as well, I believe just made their 800×800 album art available via the back-end service I’m using so now you can grab full 800×800 album art even on tracks you didn’t purchase directly from the Marketplace.

Just download and extract the single Marketplace.src into your %appdata%Mp3tagdatasources folder and you’ll be rocking! I’d also suggest you download the very latest beta of Mp3tag because the tag sources (what Marketplace plugs into) dialog is much easier to figure out for first timers, plus I always include the artist in the track listing and version 2.39n supports splitting this into the correct tags.


If anyone actually uses this and needs help getting it up and running just drop a comment.


Thanks to Scott for catching something I should have mentioned but completely forgot.  The Zune software can’t read ID3v2.4 tags, instead it can only handle ID3v2.3 so after you first install Mp3tag follow these steps:

  1. Go to Tools | Options
  2. Navigate to the ‘Tags’, then Mpeg options in the left-hand tree
  3. Set Write to ID3v2.3 UTF-16
  4. For those that like pretty pictures:

Mp3tag Options

UPDATE #2 (5/20/2012):

Updated the download link to point the latest source. A few search engines were still sending people here so I’m fixing up the link to the one that actually works .

Zune Gadgets

Playing with the new gadgets that were released with the latest Zune web-site update. One thing I really like is that if you click an album or artist it’ll show the tracks and if the Zune Marketplace has them available you can preview the music. It’s a pretty cool way to see what others are listening to and get a quick sample, all without needing to have the Zune software installed. Here’s the big version of mine:

Getting Artists to show up correctly in the Zune software

Ever have an artist not show up where you expected in the Zune software?  Ever swear it’s correctly labeled ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ yet it’s showing up under ‘Unknown Artist’ instead?  How about this one, you can find it in the software but under the Zune it’s in the wrong place?  The culprit here is the Zune software’s really weird use the artist and album artist metadata bundled inside the file.  I consider this a huge and highly annoying bug.

A lot of tracks out there only have the ‘Artist’ field filled out while a second, less-used field ‘Album Artist’, sometimes called ‘Band’, is empty.  The Zune, instead of defaulting to the artist when it has an empty album artist, puts all those tracks under the dreaded ‘Unknown Artist’ section.

I just had this comment on an older blog post showing just how frustrating this can be, Shad said…

I am having a hell of a time getting CDs that I recorded in my commercial recording studio to show up as anything other than Unknown Artist. I finally got the folders that I have labeled (by right clicking and renaming them) to show up in the software but when I sync to my PC and update the Zune, they do not show up as "Unknown Artist" in the Zune. I cannot find them at all on the Zune. Any ideas?

I answered him in the comments but thought I’d repeat the steps I use to fix this issue here:

  1. Download and install mp3tag or any other tag editing program. I just like this one because it’s straight forward, free, and small in size.
  2. After you install it run the software.
  3. On the menu go to Tools, then Options.
  4. Select the ‘Tag Panel’ node on the left.
  5. Click the ‘Add Field’ icon on the right, looks like a rectangle with a star.
  6. Under ‘Field’ select BAND.
  7. Under ‘Name’ type ‘Album Artist’ or ‘Band’. Doesn’t matter, it’s for your eyes only.
  8. OK out of everything.
  9. Drag & drop the files or folder of files you want to edit into the main white area of the app.
  10. You’ll notice on the left side you can edit all the metadata about your tracks. Make sure to edit both ‘Artist’ and ‘Album Artist’ to be the same thing.
  11. Save.
  12. Sometimes the Zune software will pick up on your new information, sometimes you have to kick it a little by renaming the file.
  13. Everything should be rocking now!

Another great thing about mp3tag is that it can rename your files using your metadata, can add cover art or look it up from Amazon and guess at what the metadata should be based on filename.  It supports pretty much every single audio format I’ve thrown at it as well that supports metadata.  The renaming is nice because the Zune software lacks the ability to customize how your files are named.

Any questions drop them in the comments.