Zune Player

At first I was a little skeptical at the quality of the Zune Player, as it’s basically in direct competition with Windows Media Player.  In retrospect, that’s probably what made it what is today.  It’s designed to sync the Zune media player, and it works very well as an alternative to Media Player.  There are a couple problems that I have with it though:

  • It’s a resource hog
  • It requires a good video card to show effects
  • It sorts things in weird ways when meta data is missing

The Zune Player is built on .NET.  It has a very big initial memory footprint.  It gets better as it settles into place.  My assumption is that it’s using WPF to make itself look pretty, and that’s where all the effects come from.  As a result some video cards aren’t capable of handling the effects renderings.  For instance, my laptop’s video card just dies when the effects are on.  Zune will turn them off if need be.  If the Album Artist meta tag is empty, Zune sticks “Various Artists” in place thereof.  Zune sorts based on Album Artist in the default view, so when I loaded my library into it, a whole whack of songs where under Various Artists, which isn’t all that useful.  With that being said, all the (legally) downloaded content had proper meta tags and were sorted perfectly.

However, with all the negatives, comes a few gems.  Sorting is a breeze.  Playlists are extremely easy to build.  Filtering works.  And it’s a really slick UI.


I’m a little miffed the band image is pixilated, but all the extra info brought with it makes up completely.  Talk about slick.


It also makes decent random playlist decisions.  On the UI and UX side of things it gets the job done.  It’s pretty stable.  It hasn’t blown up on me yet.  I give it my approval.  Check it out: www.microsoft.com/zune.

What Makes us Want to Program? Part 3

In my second post I discussed my run in with ASP, and how PHP was far better.  I ended the post talking about an invitation to a Microsoft event.  This was an interesting event.  Greg and I were the only people under 30 there.  When that’s a 15 year difference, things get interesting.  Especially when you need your mother to drive you there…  The talk was a comparison between Microsoft based technologies and Linux based technologies.  The presenter was a 10 year veteran of IBM, working on their Linux platform, who then moved to Microsoft.  For the life of me I can’t remember his name.

His goal was simple.  Disprove myths around Linux costs versus Windows costs.  It was a very compelling argument.  The event was based around the Windows Compare campaign.  It was around this time that Longhorn (Longhorn that turned into Vista, not Server 2008) was in pre-beta soon to go beta, and after discussing it with Greg, we decided to probe the presenter for information about Longhorn.  In a situation like that, the presenter either gets mad, or becomes really enthusiastic about the question.  He certainly didn’t get mad.

Throughout the rest of the talk, the presenter made some jokes at mine and Greg’s expense, which was all in good fun.  Based on that, we decided to go one step further to ask how we can get the latest Longhorn build, at one of the breaks.  the conversation went something like this:

Me: So how do people get copies of the latest build for Longhorn?
Presenter: Currently those enrolled in the MSDN Licensing program can get the builds.
Me: Ok, how does one join such a licensing program?
Presenter: Generally you buy them.
Me: How much?
Presenter: A couple thousand…
Me: Ok let me rephrase the question.  How does a student, such as myself and my friend Greg here, get a the latest build of Longhorn when we don’t have an MSDN subscription, nor the money to buy said subscription?
Presenter: *Laughs* Oh.  Go talk to Alec over there and tell him I said to give you a student subscription.
Me:  Really?  Cool!

Six months later Greg and I some how got MSDN Premium Subscriptions.  We had legal copies of almost every single piece of Microsoft software ever commercially produced.  Visual Studio 2005 was still in beta, so I decided to try it out.  I was less than impressed with Visual Studio 2003, but really liked ASP.NET, so I wanted to see what 2005 had in store.  At the time PHP was still my main language, but after the beta of 2005, I immediately switched to C#.  I had known about C# for a while, and understood the language fairly well.  It was .NET 1.1 that never took for me.  That, and I didn’t have a legal copy of Visual Studio 2003 at the time.

Running a Longhorn beta build, with Visual Studio 2005 beta installed, I started playing with ASP.NET 2.0, and built some pretty interesting sites.  The first was a Wiki type site, designed for medical knowledge (hey, it takes a lot to kill a passion of mine).  It never saw the light of day on the interweb, but it certainly was a cool site.  Following that were a bunch of test sites that I used to experiment with the data controls.

It wasn’t until the release of SQL Server 2005 that I started getting interested in data.  Which I will discuss in the my next post.

What Makes us Want to Program? Part 1

When I saw this comic a couple weeks ago, it hit a chord just right with me.

Except of course it was PHP, and grade 9.  The funny thing was, I started writing programs way back when I was in grade 5.  I tried to start learning development when I was in grade 3.  Let me tell you, there are certain subtleties to programming that don’t quite become apparent to a 9 year old.

10 PRINT “Steve is Awesome!”
20 GOTO 10

While QBasic was fun to play with, I gave up on that when I found a book on Visual Basic in Grade 5.  I vaguely remember it being Visual Basic 5 too.  I could be wrong.  It was a little more than 10 years ago – you do the math.  The problem I found with VB was that it didn’t feel all that intuitive from a language perspective to me.  I could never find it to flow properly.  But at the time, that’s all I had to go on.  So I gave up on development for a while and tried my hand at HTML.  Once again, certain things just aren’t apparent at certain ages.  When I first tried HTML, I started in notepad.  Shortly thereafter I ended in notepad.  Maybe sports would be more fun?  Nah… Enter FrontPage a few months later.

After finally getting the hang of FrontPage, I built some amazing (read: ugly) sites.  All-in-all they weren’t bad for an 11 year old.

Once middle school rolled around, I tried my hand at the other sciences and found out I really enjoyed biology.  Being the semi-OCD-like person I am, I put all my attention into biology and medicine, with a curiosity for chemistry.  I knew way too much for my own good.

Now I have to mention that all of this is taking place in beautiful Southern California.  I was born and raised there for 14 years.  At the end of Grade 8, my parents decided to move to Canada.  Don’t ask - long story.  And at that time, I was still into the life sciences.  In my next post, I’ll continue on with my story.

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Internals

It's almost released!  Only Three and a half months to go!  Pre-Order at Amazon.