Monthly Archives: October 2007

The "Real" Zune Review

Another Zune review you say? Yeah the world could probably do without it but I happened to pick up one of these bad-boys on Saturday courtesy of the Microsoft MVP program (no, its not part of the MVP award, but I spent my credit at the Microsoft company store).

Pre(r)amble

Disclaimer: I am a Microsoft MVP, I get USD$150 credit at the Microsoft company store, I used this credit to buy a Zune and have it shipped to me in Australia. This is about USD$40 dollars less than you can get it at FRYS.

Basically for the past year and a half I have been using my JasJar as my music player. Its not a bad device, in fact nothing on the market competes, but I really wanted to get a dedicated music/video player for those flights interstate and overseas as it seems that the on-board systems are having problems.

Anyway – this review is about someone who is pretty much a fan of the Microsoft platform evaluating the alternative before going out getting an iPod and having to use iTunes (I’m not a fan).

The Unboxing

I don’t have photos sorry, go over to Long Zheng’s blog to see a picture of the Zune box. Once you slide off the cover there is a primary flap under which the device itself rests and a few smaller flaps which contain the sync cable and head-phones.

Now the question on all your lips is going to be – which colour did you get? Well, I decided to go for baby-poo brown, I figure if Microsoft is brave enough to ship it, I’m brave enough to walk around in public with it.

Software Setup

You just know I didn’t bother reading the manual – I just turned the device on and it had some residual charge, so I got to see the content that shipped on the device. There were some interesting music videos and other assorted stuff – I didn’t get a chance to see it all before I dug in and started installing the software on my machine.

Because I am in Australia I suspect that the software wouldn’t install on my machine – in fact it didn’t, so I changed my regional settings to be in the U.S. – then, it still didn’t work. I had to go to http://www.zune.net to download the latest version of the software and install from that.

My overall installation experience sucked because I was actually on a saturated wireless connection out at the SQL Down Under Code Camp – if I had done this on Sunday when I got back to Sydney it probably would have worked without any hitches.

I managed to trick it into working and I finally go the Zune software installed – basically an old version of Windows Media Player which is hooked into the Zune market place.

The First Sync

Having installed the proprietary Zune software it was time for me to try and sync to the device. I plugged it in and it detected that the device was present without any problems but I couldn’t sync any photos to it. The problem was that the firmware on the device was out of date – oh great – another download over the worlds least reliable wireless connection :)

I finally got the firmware down, although a suggestion to Microsoft – make it possible to download the firmware directly as an executable that can flash the device rather than always relying on the Zune software to do it – basically the connectivity error handling in the Zune software needs work.

If I was on a reliable Internet connection at the time I am sure it wouldn’t have been a problem. Once the firmware update was applied I was able to sync without any problems.

The Zune Marketplace

From what I can tell there is a points system where a certain amount of money gets you a collection of points that you can then spend over time. I’m not sure if I like this model because you don’t know how stable the “Microsoft points” currency is – will it devalue over time, either through a deliberate act by Microsoft or the content providers?

Another option is to go with the subscription which allows you to download any number of songs a month and play them on your Zune device only (Microsoft points allow you to burn the music).

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to try the market place out because I don’t live in the United States. This was to be expected because Microsoft said the device was U.S.-only – although I’d like them to release it internationally.

For the time being, all of us outside will need to download our music some other way…

The Controls

This is easily the best media player that I’ve owned, mind you I’ve never owned an iPod, although I have used them. The controls are very intuitive and the UI on the device is obvious to use – no one should need a manual.

The Build

It feels like a sturdy high quality device. Interestingly even though it is a brown device, the outer transparent casing has a slight green tinge to it which you can see if you look at it from an angle – that wasn’t what I expected. The headphones are interesting, they are magnetic so they stick together which is useful for cable management when not using the device.

Recommendation

If you are in the US, this device is as good as an iPod, in Australia, the availability of iTunes is a big selling point and iTunes is obviously one of the reasons Apple is doing so well with the iPod.

I think that Microsoft needs to decide if they are really in this space, the device is good, the software is OK, but limiting to just the US is plain stupid. I’m going to stick with the device and hopefully some of my co-workers will get them and we can share music using wireless etc.

SQL Down Under Code Camp – Day 1

I am sitting in the power/laptop room at the SQL Down Under Code Camp being held in Wagga Wagga this weekend. I flew in last night at about 8:30PM and headed out to Montezumas as is tradition. This is actually my first SQL camp as last year I couldn’t come because it coincided with my birthday.

Chris Hewitt also brought along my new Zune which I’ve been spending the morning charging up and trying to work around the network connectivity issues here at the CSU campus to download the software update. Its nearly there and then I should be able to start syncing up my music to the device.

Anyway, time to sign-off, I need to catch some sessions! A big thanks to Greg Low for organizing the event, CSU for hosting it, and Wardy IT for providing the drugs this morning :)

Supporting ASP.NET Application Services in Visual Studio Database Professional Edition

In the current project that I am working on we are using Visual Studio 2008. This means that we can make use of LINQ to SQL to access our fairly extensive database schema, and we can manage the development and deployment of that schema using the Database Professional features of Visual Studio Team Suite.

However, I wanted to leverage the significant work already done as part of ASP.NET around user and role management and this meant I needed to find a way to neatly integrate those database creation scripts into the one I built with DB Pro.

I’d be nice if I could “Add Reference” to the ASP.NET database schema so that my database deployment would include it, but its not possible (yet). Instead what I decided to do was use the export feature of the “aspnet_regsql.exe” tool.

aspnet_regsql.exe -S (local) -E -sqlexportonly import.sql -A all -d MyDatabase

This generates a file called import.sql which I then opened and copied to contents of into my Script.PostDeployment.sql file inside the database project. I also trimmed off the database creation and USE logic up the top of the script to make the schema a bit more portable.

Can anyone think of a neater way?

Is Marshall Kirkpatrick on crack?

I probably shouldn’t pick fights with my betters, but after stumbling across the following line in his post about Microsoft “open sourcing” the .NET framework, I couldn’t resist:

“It’s hard to say what the incentive was for this move, it could be that .NET adoption in the developer community has been so small that a drastic step was needed…”

(emphasis mine)

It might be my implant speaking, but I’ve never regarded .NET adoption in the developer community to be particularly small. It is hard to get solid numbers but I would argue that in the enterprise space .NET adoption probably leads Java, and Java has been around longer. By enterprise I pretty much mean “behind-the-firewall”.

In the wild I’d suggest that public ASP.NET sites are more popular than Java, although I don’t know how well Microsoft is competing with itself in replacing Classic ASP, I still see quite a few well known sites running Classic ASP, although they aren’t really leaping forward in the sophistication stakes.

Of course in the wild Microsoft also competes with PHP, and more recently Ruby and those two platforms are going strong, especially Ruby which has a number of successful high profile implementations thanks to frameworks like Rails.

My point is however is that .NET adoption is solid, it is competing and it is a remarkably complete platform, perhaps more so than anything out there at the moment. I ask myself every day whether I want to jump over to developing on a Mac and building web-apps with Ruby to the exclusion of everything else, but I realize that I’d probably miss some of the features that I’ve grown to love about the .NET Framework.

Second Generation Zune

Looks like the Zune product like has gotten a bit of a refresh, according to Ars. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on one of these new devices. I’ve currently got the option of getting one of the older models to replace my PDA as my current media player, but I might hold off and get one of these newer models.

I’m kinda bummed that the big one doesn’t come in baby poo brown…

Microsoft to release source code for the .NET Framework.

This is very exciting news. Scott Guthrie has announced on his blog about how Microsoft is planning on releasing a read-only copy of the .NET Framework 3.5 source code (including a number of supporting framework source code drops). This is good because developers will be able to debug into the .NET Framework source code to get a better understanding of problems that they come across when developing their own software.

No longer will you have to crack open DLLs in Reflector and guess which path the code is taking. You’ll actually be able to step through it.