Zune 4.0 and Windows 7

Finally, finally, finally got Windows 7 on my home machine. After much waiting for Lenovo’s final drivers for Windows 7, I finally had quality time with my T400. Done with the installation I had no problem getting the correct drivers as Lenovo has a very nifty tool on discovering your machine. This will then download and install the necessary components. So in case you didn’t get your Windows 7 pre-installed, just look for ThinkVantage System Update.

Onto Zune! Hey! Finally got me one of the Zune players from one of my colleagues. Shout out to Chewy for that! Not the Zune HD but a Zune none the less. Comes with all the syncing goodness and podcast madness.

So, what’s up with the title you ask? If you read my previous post on the Zune here, you’ll know just how much I love it. With Windows 7, they made some cool features just for the OS, harnessing the power of that amazing taskbar. And can I say I just love that taskbar (and Windows 7 in general)

I opted for the none-iconish task bar. Best of both worlds if you ask me 😉

Jumplists FTW!

For the Windows 7 uninitiated, jumplists is a new introduction to the Windows family. Making the taskbar more functional, jumplists is a fast and easy way to access common tasks on the application without having it on focus. This makes things much easier and faster to do. So far a bunch of apps already has it and more on the way. (Saw some Firefox jumplists a couple of days back). If you want more nerd rave on jumplists, check out Aimee’s blog on making your own jumplists.

Aero Peek

Another taskbar productivity addition is the aero peek. Now all these terms confuse me but I don’t care as long as it works. Essentially on the Zune, it allows me to have access to the basic functions just by hovering on the icon. Hover, some control pops up, click next then boomz! (lol)

That’s it for me and hopefully you guys have tried out Windows 7. I’m so happy that one of my non-techy pals enjoys her Win7 so much that she became an informal evangelist. That’s you RainWalker!

Hit me with Zune and Windows 7 questions!

~Eugene

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Zune 4.0 Review

I’ve been an avid user of the Zune since I got my first Zune pass and I’ve been downloading tons of music and getting to know amazing artists all through out via the marketplace. With the release of the Zune HD, the Zune team also updated the software that comes with it and I have nothing but praises so far. (read my zune pass post here for some context)

Well this ain’t a review on Zune HD just because I don’t have one and I don’t think I’ll have one anytime soon. (Darn restrictions! I bet I’m not alone) This is about the Zune 4.0!

The Zune team made a great job of updating the player in so many aspects. I’m always a firm believer that small changes have great impacts and this update just screams it right into my face. There was no major UI change but rather small functional updates that just makes the experience overly enjoyable. From viewing the mix art to the smart DJ, the Zune just has this easy feel to it that it’s actually a joy to fiddle around and get lost.

The first screen introduces a number of new things that you can do. Focusing on the common things that one does on a music player it gives you easy access to the things that you would most likely do. Rather than wasting your time looking for that album, Zune arranges things for you and gives you place holders for your favorite music.

Smart DJ is something new as well. They have this magic algorithm that lines up related music based on the artist that you feed it. Not just that, but it also connects to the Zune Marketplace for you to discover related artists (this I love).

Mixart was changed to be more viewable. I don’t know if the bigger albums have any significance but I do enjoy looking at this more than before.

Hovering over an album now gives you options on what you want to do with it. Unlike before where you only had one option: PLAY

More pics below and most of it speaks for itself. Conclusion afterwards. 😉

Picks for ye

Music for ye

Music for ye

You get the point

something new though

Apps for ye!

Apps for ye!

Now this is a Zune HD only thing but the best part is YOU, yes YOU can develop your own apps for it. XNA based, I’m still unclear how you can “sell” your app though or how they’re going to distribute an app you submitted. We’ll see in time.

Overall the whole software was vastly improved. Already great on its own, the Zune team revised it with the launch of the Zune HD.

Try it out by going to http://zune.net/en-US/ Just tell them you’re from US and all’s well 🙂

Any Zune users out there? Give me feedback!

PS. My iTunes updated the same day as the Zune. dundundundun. Although I still hate it coz it looks like a board full of ads. 🙂

Hit me! comments below

~eugene


IIS 7 SEO Toolkit

Launched early June ’09, the IIS 7 SEO toolkit is designed for web developers and administrators maintaining huge websites. A module that easily installs to you IIS 7 this toolkit gives you the ability to check your website for inconsistencies regarding SEO.

The toolkit has three main components:

  1. Site Analysis
  2. Sitemaps and Sitemap Indexes
  3. Robots Exclusion

Of the three, I have only used Site Analysis so far. Even though being a third of the toolkit, the Site Analysis alone will give you enough insight into your website with considerable action on your part. If you don’t know anything about SEO, this toolkit will definitely overwhelm you. The Site Analysis will be going through every link in your site and evaluate it based on a number of SEO criteria. A quick analysis of my site would show you how many SEO standards I have already broken. Strange considering my site is small and I try my best to fill up every detail that I can with my Platinum SEO toolkit plugin for WordPress.

Let’s see how a standard Site Analysis would look like.

Running the analysis on my site would give you the initial Site Analysis Report Summary

These are basic SEO knowledge that everybody with a website should know. By the looks of it I’ve been skipping a lot of details when I’m putting up new posts.

You can then drill down to a specific entry to see how many of times you violated it.

The best part is when you don’t know that specific error, you can drill down and it will give you a description so that you won’t make the same mistake again.

And it will even show you where in the code your error is. From here you can then base your next steps to resolve this “problem”. I found this really helpful especially since I assumed everything would work out fine since I’m using WordPress and a number of its plugins. Apparently you still have to check some of the code within. So far I haven’t dissected it and I still rely on the plug-ins as I found this enough for my blogging needs. Obviously, the toolkit is designed for more than just blogs.

More screenshots of the SiteMap and Robots Exclusion

Sitemap

I’m satisfied with WordPress sitemap plug-ins and thus I don’t really care about this one.

Robots exclusion allows you to tell where the crawler should go to. WP has the same feature and I don’t know much about site crawlers yet to care.

Well that’s a quick intro to IIS 7 SEO Toolkit. Given more time I would definitely like to explore how they define the SEO criteria. There’s probably a document for this but as of now I can’t find any within the MS sites.

Again, this tool is not for everybody as not all has access to their IIS but for sure website admins would definitely benefit from this.

Links you need to read if you want to know more:

http://www.iis.net/extensions/SEOToolkit

http://learn.iis.net/page.aspx/639/using-iis-search-engine-optimization-toolkit/

http://learn.iis.net/page.aspx/643/iis-site-analysis—video-walkthrough/

Give me a shout out if you discover something interesting with the toolkit or if you found the docu. 🙂

~Eugene


Windows 7 Boot from VHD

For all Windows junkies out there. (and for those loving Mac fans) this is one feature that I’m really excited about. Working with tons of PCs and a lab environment, having one base image for you VHD is quite powerful. This saves time and energy from doing things over and over again. Yea yea, there are existing tools you can use to do this but this one is just better. There’s VMWare, VPC, and other virtualization technologies that you can use but booting from VHD!? Hell yea! (I’m not sure if VMware has something like it though)

This topic has been discussed in several blogs and I’ll be adding to those and linking the ones I found very useful.

Two main steps to get your VHD a bootin:

  1. Prep your image via ImageX
  2. BCDedit to make it show up upon boot.

This is not really a daunting task, the only problem is it would take quite some time. Installing Win 7 via copying the .wim file, Disk Management, getting it prepped via Image X. These steps are quite time consuming but! after you have set it up, you basically have a VHD that you can boot on and install all the stuff you want in it. This is really helpful for me as rather than having to install the common dev tools (Visual Studio, SQL) you would just have to copy your VHD to the host OS and bcdedit (just four lines) your VHD. The amount of time you’ll save is just amazing.

Two blogs that gets it done

http://blogs.technet.com/aviraj/archive/2009/01/17/windows-7-boot-from-vhd-first-impression-part-1.aspx

http://blogs.technet.com/aviraj/archive/2009/01/18/windows-7-boot-from-vhd-first-impression-part-2.aspx

http://thelazyadmin.com/blogs/thelazyadmin/archive/2009/01/12/windows-7-boot-from-vhd.aspx

Follow the two blogs and you shouldn’t encounter any major problems. I’m looking at automating the BCDedit but the guid every VHD produces is unique. My simple workaround is just a batch file that has a variable for the guid. Quick and easy.

Much fun this is! 😉

~Eugene


Marketing in the Social Age [SG event]

Attended my first “social media” event last Monday. It was more of a convenience as the event was held just a level down.

A lot of us has been hearing social media events where everything is organized via Twitter or Facebook. Marketing in the Social Age is one such event.

With main speaker Willy Foo (a renowned photographer in SG) we were up for a night of informational “marketing in the social age”

Speakers were

  • Willy Foo (@willyfoo)
  • Joe Augustin (@JoeAugustin) <- wasn’t present
  • Keith Nakamura (@Sillikat)
  • Derrick Koh (@derrickkoh70)
  • Willy Lim (@willylim)

Quite  a diverse crowd and I was excited to hear what they have to share.

Willy Foo started with an overview of social media and how it is affecting us. Numbers from different social media sites and countries were also presented. Then the agony began. It was off to a good start but I think Willy talked too much about Facebook and it’s small intricacies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one who felt it as others were tweeting about the bad experience and you can see some of attendees leaving early. I did gain a lot of insight from his experiments and would like to hear more. Willy is such an inventive guy as he does a lot of experiments with Facebook (and for sure other social media outlets). Other than that I wish he didn’t take the whole session as he spent more than two hours talking (quite unbelievable if you ask me) but you can really feel his passion and I hope to hear more talks from him.

Up next was Keith Nakamura from Microsoft, I personally know Keith and it’s interesting how he did his talk. Microsoft being portrayed as an evil empire isn’t always bad and he used this to his advantage. Good work Keith! You won a few fans that night! You can check out what he shared during that night here: Singapore Windows 7 Experience Group

Derrick Koh from Lenevo shared their experience with social media and how it his helping some of his sales people. Quite interesting how social media is helping big companies such as Microsoft and Lenevo.

Willy Lim from NetProfitQuest shared how they are helping SMEs engage social media engines. Some reactions were quite negative but I learned a lot from him. Fundamentals is the key!

The night was topped off with a panel discussion and some questions were raised. A good ending for the night as people tweeted their reactions and questions with the use of TwitterFall.

Overall, the first event of Marketing in the Social Age wasn’t that spectacular but for sure they will improve in the next one. I’ll be there and would be happy to here from you guys again.

You can join their Facebook group here: Marketing in the Social Age

See you in the next event!

~Eugene


Using a Zune Pass outside of USA

Just to set the tone, I don’t really own a Zune MP3 player but I do own a couple of iPods. Got me an iPod shuffle (2nd gen) and an iPod Mini (either 1st or 2nd) a long time ago and they’re still working. My mini is more than five years old and I just use it as a storage disk because the battery dies after a couple of hours. Five years ago I used the iTunes that came with it and it was a so-so for me. I didn’t really enjoy the UI, quite confusing setting it up and the inability to transfer files from one pc to another made me revert to good old Winamp with it’s useful plugins. Haven’t been using any other music player since then (A collegue laughed when she saw me using Winamp). Apparently I’ve been living under a rock for not trying out other players out there.

Come 2009 a friend gave me a Zune Pass and asked me to try it out. That Zune Pass commercial also got me curious. Being the law abiding citizen that I am (*wink* *wink*) it was quite fun being able to  have unlimited music for a month and getting to keep 10. I know that iTunes has changed in those five years and I know its UI has definitely changed according to Apple standards but damn…. the Zune UI looks great. Ok I got you confused now didn’t I? (or not) There’s Zune MP3 player and then there’s Zune their media player.

Red Zune

Black Zune

Zune

Minimalist white is the theme of the entire player with a hint of mixart, your album arts made into a mosaic, here and there. I just love the simple UI and how easy it is to figure out where everything is. The best part is when you get yourself a Zune pass, you can search for a multitude of songs and stream or download (with DRM of course) as many times as you want for a whole month. Within that month you can then choose ten songs that you want to keep for yourself.

Tried the search function with one of my favorite artists, Imogen Heap. I don’t have a copy of her first album I, Megaphone and I wanted to hear how much she has changed, so a quick search will get you all of her albums plus extra info on her. Surprise, surprise it also give me her singles that’s quite unheard of (for me at least).

The Immy lover in me just says that Not Now But Soon is worth buying the Zune pass then and there. =)

My recent love for the The Cure got me excited. I knew they were old but I never realized that they have so many albums. Unlimited songs here I come!

Oh yea! I love Pictures of You!

Check out the other pictures below.

and when you’re playing/sleeping they show you cool pictures of the band and some info.

And the best part of it all is the mixart!

OK OK I didn’t deceive you with the title. Apparently, Microsoft only sells the Zune in the US but that’s not going to stop you from getting one right? 😉 So, few things you have to do to get the Zune Marketplace to work in your place and how to get the Zune player itself

  1. Change your locale to United States (Control Panel -> Change country or region -> Current Location: United States)
  2. Go to Zune.net then download the Zune 3.0 software
  3. Register and remember to choose United States all the way

Now the Zune Pass itself is quite difficult to get and my friends say you can only buy it in the states. too bad 😦 You can always use your credit card to buy but having the physical Zune pass card is just cool.

Now having one card won’t make me blog about it now would I? Thanks to Aimee for giving me a bunch! haha If you get a chance to go to the US or a friend is coming back ask if he or she can buy you one at WalMart or one of those stores. Try it out and don’t be hatin.

ping back to yizhe http://cloudfex.com/cs/blogs/cloud/archive/2009/05/17/using-a-zune-pass-outside-of-usa.aspx Apparently it was a double pass as he was the one who went to the states and bought the cards for Aimee. Thanks man!


Skyfire – Browser on your mobile

Now I know why the name sounds so familiar! It’s a Transformer!

Anyways, that’s not the Skyfire I want to talk about. I’ve been toying with a lot of mobile technology lately, from mobile phones to netbooks and Skyfire is one application that has stood up in the mobile phone area.

Providing you with full (and I say full) browser support that is currently unbeatable by any browser on the mobile phone (including Opera Mobile, IE Mobile, Safari and Nokia’s thingamajig). I’ve been using Skyfire like it was a regular browser in your beloved PC. From watching videos served in Flash and Silverlight, to going through all my social media sites, Skyfire will never fail you. I don’t work for Skyfire but this is how you get a cult following. Dishing out great technology that really serves its purpose. Get Skyfire from http://get.skyfire.com/

(pics soon)