Comics On The Zune – NYC2123 Dayender Digital Graphic Novel Formatted For the Zune

zune nyc 2123 dayender The Zune should be about entertainment, so I started thinking about what might be interesting to have on there if I was stuck on a bus or an airplane and wanted something to do.

I started to remember a graphic novel that debuted as the first one designed for the Sony Playstation Portable or PSP. It is called NYC 2123 Dayender (NYC2123) and is a cyberpunk drama released amazingly under the Creative Commons non-commercial license.

The Sony PSP’s native screen resolution is bigger than the Zune’s, a beastly 480 x 272. I tried loading the original PSP formated images onto the Zune but they looked bad unless you zoomed in, which just wasn’t practical. So I had a go at reducing the image sizes.
NYC2123 was created using Adobe Illustrator with .ai (vector-based) source files. I had a go at working with the source files but found that due to how they are constructed it would be too much work to shrink them. (The NYC2123 authors used a negative mat, so exporting a smaller version of the relevant area was beyond my expertise) If you know how to handle the Adobe Illustrator .ai source files for NYC2123 to output to a Zune-ready resolution then please email me and I’ll update this page.

So, I took the original jpeg sets for the PSP and used Adobe Photoshop’s image processor to knock them down from the PSP resolution of 480×272 to Zune’s maximum horizontal resolution. This left the resulting images at 340×181. I kicked the quality output up to PS’s level of 12 which actually increased the size of the files some, but the overall size for the folder to 24 megabytes.

Download a complete copy of the digital comic graphic novel NYC 2123 formatted for the Zune using the following link:

Download NYC 2123 for the Zune (15.3 MB)

Pictures and more info after the jump.

Continue reading Comics On The Zune – NYC2123 Dayender Digital Graphic Novel Formatted For the Zune

The Microsoft Zune – Video Creation and Loading

Once I got the Zune working, which was a big pain for me, I wanted to start loading content onto the thing. Audio is easy. Ripping CDs to mp3 is easy, and any albums one might aquire over p2p networks generally have good tagging and are categorized well.

So I decided to concentrate on two things: Images and Videos.

The Zune currently only supports the Windows Media Player format of video file. This looks like a file ending in the .WMV extension with the following properties:

  • Format: Windows Media Video (.wmv)
  • Video codec: Windows Media Video 9 (Simple, Main, and Advanced Profiles), Windows Media Video 9 Screen, Windows Media Video 9 Image Version 2, Windows Media Video 9 VCM.
  • Video resolution: up to 320×240 (QVGA) or 320×180 (16:9 QVGA)
  • Maximum video bit rate: 500 Kbps (recommended for the best balance of optimal battery life and video quality) up to 1.5 Mbps
  • Video peak bit rate: up to 1.5 Mbps
  • Complexity or profile: Main profile, VBR
  • Audio codec: Windows Media Audio (.wma)
  • Maximum audio bit rate: WMA Standard, CBR, 128 Kbps (recommended), up to 192 Kbps, Stereo, 44.1 kHz
  • Maximum total bit rate: 1.692 Mbps, 1.5 Mbps for peak video plus 192 Kbps for audio

That list comes from the Zune.net page on “How to provide content for Zune.”
Like most people, I have a collection of DVD’s as my personal video stockpile which would be great to put on the Zune. Here is the process I followed:

  1. Rip a DVD to its base .vob files. Use DVD Shrink, it will get you there with few problems.
  2. Convert the DVD .vob files into not just .wmv files but .wmv files that fall under the long set of guidelines bulleted above. For this I recommend Xilisoft Zune Video Converter. There are lots of supposed solutions out there for converting video for the Zune. This is one where all the work is done for you.
  3. Join the WMV files. Since DVDs generally have multiple .vob files, you’ll end up with multiple .wmv files. Most of the time you’re going to want all of these joined into a single movie. It makes file management easier, and they are easier to share then. I suggest the freeware tool AsfTools for this.
  4. Sync. This should be the easiest part but it isn’t. Drop the resulting .wmv file into a directory in your Zune library and cross your fingers. If you’re lucky the file won’t need to be converted. If it does than something got screwed up.

Update: As of the Zune 1.2 firmware release you can’t really categorize movies. There is a work around for this, have a look at this thread for more information.

The Microsoft Zune: Part 1 – Troubleshooting the Installation and Initial Firmware

This is the first in what will be a series of posts about the Microsoft Zune device. I’ve been interested in this for some time–having suggested the idea of a wireless media player in 2005.

First things first: Let’s differentiate between software, firmware, and hardware:

  • The Zune Software is the program you must install in Windows to use the Zune. The Zune software resembles Windows Media Player 11. It allows you to browse the Zune Marketplace.
  • The Zune Firmware is the software running on the Zune device. This is the stuff that makes things happen when you turn it on, move through menus, share songs over wireless, etc.
  • The Zune Hardware is the device. This includes the action of the buttons going up and down, the lock switch working, the screen showing bright and the battery lasting for a certain amount of time.

When you purchase the Zune for $250 or less the product includes these three things. You must count each of these to work individually to get a good customer experience.
So far I have not had a good customer experience, but I’ve looked past that because I see it as a device to debug and am enjoying that side of it. If I were a normal consumer I would have returned the device and not gotten another one. It is problematic and unless you don’t mind unraveling knots I would suggest you wait on buying a Zune for at least a few months until more updates are given out by Microsoft.

My biggest problem had to do with getting my Zune firmware updated. The Zune comes with Firmware version 1.0 installed on the device. This is burnt into a ROM, and the device can be reset to this version if something goes real bad. You are required to update to a more recent version of the firmware in order to sync new media to your device. This means that unless you want to use the included media forever you must perform the update.

Unfortunately, my device would not successfully update from the firware. After multiple tries, restarts, firmware restorations, etc. I finally had to use Anne’s computer (which has a very clean Windows XP SP2 install) to perform the 1.0 to 1.2 firmware update.

Here is a brief description of the problem I faced trying to update the firmware on my Zune:

After installing the Zune software I was told that my Zune firmware that needed to be updated to 1.2. I clicked next once it found the device and watched as it updated the firmware. Unfortunately, after getting to “updating the device” I would hear the Windows XP sound of a USB device disconnecting. Then two things happened:

1. The Zune software would sit there supposedly still updating until finally saying that it had failed and that I should try again later.

2. The Zune itself would show the “connect device to PC” or “connect zune to pc” screen with clipart of a computer and a Zune. It would continuously restart itself alternating between the Zune logo and this screen. This occured despite the fact that the zune was connected to the computer via the USB cable.

I tried to solve this problem by disconnecting and reconnecting the Zune, closing and restarting the Zune software and also restarting the computer. The Zune would no longer be recognized by my PC and I could no longer view the pre-loaded content or any of the functional menus.

The firmware restoration only got me back to the point of the computer seeing the device again, but when it came to try and update the firmware the process above would repeat.

If you run into the above scenerio, you are not alone–just stop trying to use your computer. Use someone else’s. :