Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Microsoft Zune Software Review

Its been some time since the last post. Well I was kinda busy with my family(holidays are on), my new phone(Motorola RAZR) and Assassin's Creed.

Microsoft Zune(not to be confused with the software) is a portable media player and is Microsoft's answer to the popular iPod line of media players by Apple.

This Microsoft Zune Software was designed with good looks and functionality in mind. Apart from managing the Zune media player, it also functions as a music player for the PC(much like iTunes does). Microsoft also added support for Windows OS based phones.

This is a review/analysis of the Microsoft Zune Software version 4.8


Zune is a complete media management solution capable of audio and video playback complete with a marketplace for discovering and downloading new music. It has pdocast and music channel support. It can also add pictures to its libraries and can play slideshows.

The performance is great. No audio/video stuttering issues whatsoever. I've been using it for quite some time now and I have not encountered any bugs/problems till now.
The interface is fluid and slick. The transitions and mouse over animations are nicely done.


  • Windows PC running Windows XP SP3 or higer
  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • Broadband Internet connection

A wi-fi network is necessary for you to wirelessly sync your Zune device to your computer.


Before we dive into the specifics...

There are four main tabs located on the top left corner of the screen. These are
  • Quickplay: Recently played media
  • Collection: The media library
  • Marketplace
  • Social


Zune welcomes you with an attractive opening screen, know as the "Quickplay" screen. This screen has three subsections
  • PINS: You can pin your favorite content to this area.
  • NEW: Displays recently added content
  • HISTORY: Displays recently played/viewed content


Below these three sections is another row of faded tiles. Clicking these tiles brings up the Smart DJ playlist section. Smart DJ automatically creates playlists based on music that is close to the kind of music you select as the base for the playlist. This allows you to explore new music. The playlists can be saved or discarded. These playlists are not static i.e. each time you play a Smart DJ playlist the songs are changed(even with the same artists). So you'll never listen to the same music.

CD/DVD burning,ripping support, device management and playlist creation are accessible via the icons at the bottom left of the screen.

Smart DJ Playlists

Think of this screen as the library screen in Windows Media Player. Here you can manage your entire media library. This screen has five sub sections
  • Music: Manages the audio files. All the standard audio sorting features are included.
  • Videos: Simple video browser.
  • Pictures: Simple Picture browser
  • Podcasts: Accessible through the Zune marketplace
  • Channels: Accessible through the Zune marketplace



The Interface here too is generally very clean and the all the album art and videos are shown in the form of tiles. On the upper right part of the screen are the sorting categories which are available for the content you have selected.


The Zune Marketplace allows you to buy new music and download apps(for Windows Phone 7 only), podcasts and music channel episodes. It also gives music suggestions based on the music you play.

The Marketplace, cool right?
I'm not gonna dive into the specifics here, since I'm concentrating on the music player here not the marketing features.


The Social feature sets up a Zune profile for you. Then you're on the Zune social grid. Its pretty standard stuff. You can add friends, send messages, listen to their music etc. Zune will suggest people with similar music interests.

Social, that's my Zune profile!
As you play music, the number of total plays will be recorded and will be displayed right next to your profile name in the extreme top right corner of the screen. You will also be awarded with badges for achieving a minimum number of plays for a given badge.


The Now Playing screen is the probably the best looking screen I've ever seen on any media player. Its a mosaic of all the artwork images present in the library. The artwork tiles keep changing the artwork and the color overlay varies.

The Mosaic

After sometime background changes to a more artist-centric one. This one shows single pictures of the artists with random generated text giving the user information about the current artist/track.

Single Artist Now Playing


The mini player, really small yet functional and good looking. It accesses your Smart Lists and Pins when not playing music. Or you can just go ahead and shuffle all your music.

When playing music, it allows you to play/pause, skip track and access the current playlist.
That's it for the interface.


To access it just click the button right next to the minimize button in the full player.


This is something most media players lack. Its a really useful feature through which users can download appropriate album information for their music. Hence getting correct file names, track numbers, genre, artist and album names and artwork.

This feature is not clearly highlighted by the Zune software itself so some people might not find it.(hence the need for a special section just for it)
To access it, follow these steps
  • Right click any album tile
  • Click "Find album info"
  • Now, if you manually want to edit album information click "Edit Info". If you want Zune to give you predefined lists from which you can choose, click "Search". If you want to add some special keywords, you can do so in the text box above the "Search" button.
After Clicking the "Find Album Info"

  • Metro UI (Most of it is tiled)
  • Clean(like really really clean)
  • Awesome eye-candy! :D
  • Easy media management
  • Access to new music, via the Marketplace
  • Social Features
  • Auto metadata and album art download
  • Media sharing support for Xbox 360
  • Integrated media ripping and burning
  • Lag-less. Runs like a charm on fast computers. (I dunno about slow ones since I have an i7)
  • High system requirements
  • Limited format support. (Don't expect it to play stuff like VLC does!)
  • Huge filesize (The RTM version is 470MB)
  • Doesn't any device other than Zune and Windows Phone 7 devices
  • Audio: m3u, m4a, m4b, mp3, wma, zpl
  • Video: m4v, mp4, wma, mbr
  • Picures: jpg, png
  • Look and Feel: 5/5
  • Performance: 4/5
  • Format Support: 1/5
  • System Requirements: 2/5
  • Compatibility: 3/5
OVERALL - 2.5/5

Its not that this software is bad. Microsoft did a wonderful job with the design and interface as well as the performance optimizations on this. Its just the limited format support and high system requirements that bring the overall down. I've been using it for quite some time and I'm higly satisfied with it. Its aimed at a specific type of users.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Android, iOS Dual Boot for iPhone 2G and 3G

This article is dedicated to my close friend Shashankzidane! (Thanks for the idea bro! :D)

Today I'm gonna be explaining how to port android to iPhone 2G and 3G.

However, before we start.

DISCLAIMER: Please try this at your own risk! I am not responsible for any damage caused to your device. You will be voiding your warranty by doing this(if you have warranty left).

Porting android to iDevices is an initiative undertaken by developers who collectively work under the iDroid Project. The link to the iDroid Project is given below

They developed an alternate open source bootloader for iDevices know an OpeniBoot. This bootloader allows them to boot a custom linux kernel, hence allowing them to boot android or any other linux based operating system.

This project is aimed at bringing fully functional Android ports to all iDevices. However, for now only two; iPhone 2G and 3G are supported. Support for iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S and iPod Touch 3G and 4G will be added soon.

Since it is open source, both iDroid and Openiboot are available for download and testing and their source codes have been published. Developers wanting to contribute can join them at the above mentioned link.


Please BACKUP with iTunes before you do anything. We don't want to lose precious data, now do we? :)

  • iPhone 2G running iOS 3.1.2, 3.1.3
  • iPhone 3G with iOS 3.1.2, 3.1.3, 4.0, 4.0.1, 4.0.2, 4.1
Above devices must be Jailbroken with:
  • PwnageTool
  • RedSn0w
  • BlackRa1n
  1. Open Cydia
  2. At the bottom bar, tap "Manage" then tap "Sources"
  3. Tap "Edit" at the top right corner, then tap "Add" in the top left corner
  4. Type "" and hit "Add Source"
  5. Cydia will refresh its sources. Press "Return To Cydia" when its done.
  6. Then in the "Search" section, search for "Bootlace" and install it.

  7. Open Bootlace app from the Homescreen.

  8. Install OpeniBoot and iDroid.

Now you should be able to dual boot into either Android or iOS upon restart. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Essential Software List Dec, 2011

Archivers: For handling .rar and .zip and other archive formats
  • WinRAR or 7-Zip 
Multimedia Codecs: For support for multiple media formats
  • K-Lite Mega Codec Pack
DVD-CD Tools: For burning optical dics and virtual disk mounting purposes
  • CDBurnerXP
  • Daemon Tools Lite
File Copying Alternatives: Replacements for Windows default copy handler
  • Teracopy
 Web Browsers: Replacements for default, Microsoft Internet Explorer
  • Google Chrome (32 or 64 bit); or
  • Firefox (32 or 64 bit); or
  • Waterfox (64bit only)
Download Managers: For accelerated downloads
  • Orbit Download Manager or Flashget
Media Players: Replacements for Windows Media Player.
  • VLC (for video playback)
  • FooBar 2000 (for audio playback)
PC Optimization and Maintenance: Keeps your PC running fast!
  • TuneUp Utilities
  • CCleaner
PC Security: Your PC ain't gonna do much if its riddled with viruses and spyware.
  • Microsoft Security Essesntials
PDF Readers:
  • Foxit PDF Reader
  • OpenOrg Office
Torrent Clients:
  • uTorrent
Download -
Thanks for reading! 


Managing Harddrive Partitioning for effective system re-install

This time I'll discuss hard drive partitioning to make Windows more re-install friendly. 

This article is gonna be of great help to people who struggle with downloading system software after a clean install!

So lets get started.


Unless you've been living under a rock for the past decade(I know you haven't), you'll have a storage space of 500gb or more in your PC.

This section aims at explaining how to effectively use that 500gb(or more) in the form of partitions that separate Windows from all your important data and software. This way when you format Windows to do a clean install, you don't lose your important data or your software setups.
The screenshot below shows you my current partitioning setup with my 640gb hard drive


Local Disk (C) is where I have installed my Windows 7/is my operating system partition.

Data Storage (D) is where I have a backup of the setup of every software that I need for my system. It also houses a copy of all my important documents and photographs.

The Stuff (E) is where I dump all my movies, games and songs. It can also be used as a extended data storage partition should my Data Storage partition fall short on space.

System Reserved (F) is a partition created by windows upon install and should be ignored.

Points to infer:

1. Don't allot unnecessary space to your operating system partition. Unless you keep installing new software everyday, this partitions size will almost remain constant and will most probably never fall short on space. Recommended size - 80 to 100gb

2. Always make a separate partition for storing all your important software and data. Should you ever re-install Windows try and make sure that this partition contains all that you need to successfully get your system up and running. This is the Primary Backup. Recommended size - 150 to 200gb

3. Keep all non-system esssential stuff such as games, movies, music in a totally separate partition. Games usually don't need proper re-installation when you install a new Windows so you'll have no problems running them. Recommended size - 200gb or more

4. Always make a Secondary Backup of your software and data in an external hard drive. Use the secondary backup only in emergency situations when your primary backup fails you.

5. In all, you need 3 system partitions and 1 external backup.

How to create a system partition:

This article should be able to explain that perfectly:

Things to include for a effective System Backup:
  • System Drivers: These are single most important category of software your system needs to function. Without these your system will either be crippled or will completely fail to run.
  • Operating System Images: These are images of operating system you use. Mainly for helping you re-install should you ever lose your OS DVD
  • General Softwares: These are the software that you would install on your PC. They include media players, archivers, productivity suites etc.
  • A copy of the "My Documents" folder and all other important data.
  • Any other thing that you find important
  • Space permitting, you may also include game setups into this.
Advantage of such a system:

Consider the following scenario, 
You corrupted your windows install somehow and now it refuses to boot. 

If you followed this guide then you have all your system drivers and software available for ready install. You can easily set up a new Windows installation in a mere two hours.
However, if you didn't follow this guide then most probably your partitions are a total mess(just an assumption, you might have it better way that me) and lose tons of important data, software and all your system drivers. Now you're going @$@$!<>$>#$*&@#^@^$&@*#$*@ over the internet!!!!!!! ;)

This partitioning guide coupled with my article on Offline Windows Updates are the perfect guide for complete Windows re-install syndrome immunity(custom term, I used to suffer from it).

NOTE: Please refrain from making too many partitions on the hard drive as it will impact hard drive performance. This is explained in the following excerpt from Wikipedia

"Reduces overall disk performance on systems where data is accessed regularly and in parallel on multiple partitions, because it forces the disk's read/write head to move back and forth on the disk to access data on each partition[2][3] and to maintain and update file system administration areas on each partition. It also prevents disk optimizers from moving all frequently accessed files closer to each other on the disk, which could reduce the number and distance of required head movements. Files can still be moved closer to each other on each partition, but those areas themselves will still be far apart on the disk. (See "short stroking" considerations above.) This issue does not apply to SSD drives as access times on those are neither affected by nor dependent upon relative sector positions." 

Credits -  Anonymous commenter! (Thanks)

Since I'm in a train right now I can't post my own system's data backup screenshot. I'll do that once I reach home. That should really make the Data Backup easy to understand.

Thanks for reading,

PS: Do enjoy the holiday season! :D