The Day the Zunes Stood Still – “The Great Zune 30GB Blackout”

December 31, 2008


UPDATE – 12/31/2008 5:34PM:

Incidentally, all my Zune 30GB devices charged and woke up this morning as promised – functioning just fine as if nothing had gone wrong.


UPDATE – 1/1/2009 4:50PM:

Something that I needed to verify turned up a few hours ago:  The Original Zune 30GB was a re-factored Toshiba Gigabeat S. This is where the hardware originally came from and why the Zune 30GB devices are so much different from today’s existing Zune 80GB/120GB and Zune Flash 4GB/8GB/16GB.


UPDATE – 12/31/2008 2:42PM:

Well that was quick!  The resolution was posted here:

As I understand it, the Zune 30GB device had a hardware interfacing driver that was written by an outsourced/non-Microsoft 3rd party and it wasn’t written to take into consideration ‘leap years’.  When we hit day 366, the Zune hardware driver reported something alien to the software/firmware (the stuff that you flash onto the device every revision) and – walla. Lock up.

The Zune 4/8/16GB Flash devices and the Zune 80/120GB devices were all engineered by us so we wrote the drivers for that and accurately accounted for leap years. This is the reason these devices are unaffected despite the fact that the firmware on all the devices are the same.

It was possible to crack open the Zune and disconnect the battery from the hardware and otherwise blank the clock on it. Doing so will get the device working again since it will think the time/date is something like 12AM, Jan 1st 2006. But the moment you sync the device with the Zune Desktop software, it syncs the clock and BOOM. Dead Zune again.

The current workaround will likely be “just wait until January 1st, 2009”. Allegedly, this will fix the problem. I’m pretty sure we’re working on fixing this driver issue so that this doesn’t happen again in 4 years.


UPDATE – 12/31/2008 2:18PM:

I’m hearing 2nd hand that the Zune team knows exactly what the problem is.  Instead of posting a patch immediately, the resolution may be as simple as just waiting until January 1st 12:00 Midnight, making a more appropriate title for this post, “The Great Zune 30GB BLACKOUT” being that it looks like this might just be an issue for exactly 24 hours.

I won’t go into details and instead leave it to you to put your thinking caps on and figure out why this is isolated to 30GB devices, why the simple act of synchronizing your device with your PC using the Zune Client would cause a lockup again even after ‘hard resetting the device’ and getting it back to a usable condition, and why simply waiting until January 1st 2009 might be the trick.  The answer is actually quite logical.

Anyway, cross your fingers.

 UPDATE – 12/31/2008 1:23PM:

Well, fortunately, this is a problem that is isolated to just the 30GB as far as I can see because I also own a Zune Flash 8GB and a Zune 120GB device and neither has had any problems whatsoever.  This is just bizarre.

And apparently the fit hit the shan in newsrooms worldwide and the whole world has started writing about the “suicide” deaths of all these Zune 30GB that people have been writing into support about.

ORIGINAL POST – 12/31/08 6:31AM

First of all, NO, I don’t have a resolution for this problem.

At 12 Midnight on December 31st, 2008, for some reason a huge number of Zune 30GB classic devices turned themselves on, rebooted, and froze on the "ZUNE" boot up screen.  The problem simultaneously occurred across Zune 30GB devices all over the place apparently and has lit up the boards like wildfire.

Labeling themselves as "Victims of the December 31st 2008 Zune 30 Meltdown", folks are posting comments all over the Internet boards about how everyone’s Zune 30GB devices seemed to be in a state of perpetual frozen-ness.  It’s almost strangely unifying.

The occurrence itself however is downright eerie.  Some folks have reportedly popped the case open and did a hard reset of the device which has reportedly fixed the problem although some are saying that the fix appears temporary… until the device attempts to sync with a desktop either via wireless or via cable, at at which point, it locks up again.

    To do this, use a small screwdriver to pop off the plastic shielding where the zune cable plugs into and remove the two screws on either side of the plug. Next pop the cover off and locate the battery plug at the top left corner of the zune, using your screw driver, pop the cable connection half way off, and do this to the other plug on the right side. Wait 3 seconds, then push down the right connector and then the left battery connecter. Your zune should start up immediately. Press the backing of the zune down (make sure headphone jack is aligned) and put the screws and cover back in place.

Here’s some of the Internet chatter:

I’ll post an update if I get a resolution.  And yes – I have two devices sitting here completely locked up and I’m waiting for the batteries to run out.

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I am in awe of Fallout 3. Bethesda – you guys are just amazing.

December 31, 2008

image If they weren’t already owned by Zenimax Media or whatever the hell their parent company is, I’d start lobbying within Microsoft to have us look into acquiring these guys at Bethesda and making them all rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Fallout 3 has to be the most RIDICULOUSLY-DETAILED and GINORMOUSLY-DESIGNED game I’ve played in years – maybe even a decade.  This for me has to be the RPG to end all RPGs.  (Or at least until Bethesda tops themselves with Fallout 4)  I don’t remember being this absorbed into a game in the same way since my days playing 80386-based PC games.  It has the immersive-ness of Halo (Combat Evolved), the graphics of Halo 3, the storyline of Mass Effect, the sandbox scope of Grand Theft Auto 4, the side missions of Star Wars:  Knights of the Old Republic, the majestic landscape of Crackdown, and the mystery and atmosphere of Bioshock.

Yeah.  I just listed some pretty f-ing heady names there didn’t I?  That’s how highly I think of this game.  Word to your mother.

At first when I opened the box and played it for a while, I thought that maybe this game was going to be too tedious.  Too depressing.  Too idiotic in its storytelling.  MAN – was I wrong.  Every quest/mission is like another chapter in a book that you’re struggling desperately to finish so that you can find out what happens in the end.  And the stories are genuinely interesting.

In fact, there’s one part of the game that I just COULDN’T get past and got so frustrated I finally did a search on the Internet for a solution.  Sure enough – it was something small and stupid but still, the result was amazing.  (For those of you playing – it was how to get into frickin’ Rivet City.  You know what I’m talking about.)

I think that’s when the size and scope of Fallout 3 really came into focus for me.  Unlike Halo which you never really could get a good view of the scope of the realm that you were playing in, both Fallout 3 and Crackdown have points in the game where you can really see how vast the terrain is and how far, far, far out it goes.  The area in which the game takes place seems to just never end… it’s that huge.

I think it’s that vastness, combined with the great storytelling, plus the VATS combat system and the incredible variety of enemies, weapons, and visual delights in the game make it so very unique.  I find myself falling asleep in my gameplaying chair:  I haven’t done that in yeeeeaaaaars.  The last time I did that I think was Halo – the original.

The games that I can recall myself being this infatuated over in my past gaming history include:

  • Wizardry (Apple II/IBM PC)
  • Bard’s Tale
  • Starflight
  • Starflight 2
  • Star Control 2
  • Another World (a.k.a. Out of this World)
  • Seven Cities of Gold
  • Halo
  • Pirates!
  • Bioshock
  • Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic
  • Portal: Still Alive

I have to point out the games whose gameplay, storytelling, or combat mechanics disappointed me.

  • Mass Effect
  • Halo 3
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Prey
  • Too Human
  • Doom 3
  • Quake 4
  • Far Cry 1/2
  • Saints Row
  • Just Cause
  • True Crime

Yeah.  That’s right.  I said it.  Halo 3 was a disappointment to me.  I haven’t put that disc in my Xbox 360 in ages… and why?  While they did an amazing job on the multiplayer, I got less than I’d hoped for in the campaign – and GODDAMMIT, the campaign is really important to me as a gamer.  I suspect that Gears of War 2, to a lesser extent will fall into this category (I haven’t played it yet since my order has yet to come in) however it’s harder to judge GOW2 because I already know that it’s so beautiful and elegant and it’s strengths like Halo 3, lie in other areas… however I doubt that GOW2’s story is going to go all over the place like Halo 3 did.TICK TOCK – STILL PLAYING

So consider this post my love letter to Bethesda for making a product that for the first time in years, I’m totally wrapped up in and know that I’m going to get months – maybe even years – of playing time on.  And it won’t be “replayability”.  All of it will be straight up first time experiences.

I’ve logged 48+ hours of game time so far, according to the in-game clock, and I have to say that I fully recognize that I’ve only barely scratched the surface of the game.  I’m constantly trying to stockpile ammunition… trying to figure out how I level up faster.  It’s insane.  I hope the folks at Bethesda are making large piles of money on this game because it deserves every damned accolade that it’s gotten.  (Which includes several “Best RPG of the Year” awards)

Dear God… what if Bethesda releases an expansion pack like they did for Elder Scrolls Oblivion?  I’m doomed.  DOOMED!

(p.s.  You may have noticed that I never mentioned Bethesda’s other infamous title – “Oblivion” – up until the last sentence.  That’s because while I bought Oblivion for Xbox 360 – I never really played it.  I was told repeatedly about how frickin’ big that game was and that it would kill all my free time so I never really put much time into it on purpose.  Well, look at me now with Fallout 3.  DAMN YOU BETHESDA!  No, wait.  I’m sorry.  Really.  Come back. BFF?)

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Evolution of an Adopted Dog.

December 29, 2008

I know this is a little gratuitous but I’m really proud of our dog Sheepa.  He’s come such a long way.

Before I begin, I want to stress that 99% of adopted dogs aren’t in the condition that Sheepa was in.  He was the "dog nobody wanted" and thus was a project that I undertook.  Most dogs available for adoption are in great health and good spirits – they just need a home.

In the beginning, he was a tattered mess.  Sheepa’s fur was in such horribly bad condition that it was impossible to brush and coarse to the touch.  Because no one wanted him, he didn’t get the greatest of care & his fur was urine-stained and smelly. And what was worse was that he had ticks & fleas all over him and was genuinely unhappy all the time because no one treated him very well.  He was such a mess.  As you can see in the picture he actually started smiling a little once we got him home in a comfortable environment.  He was no longer in a kennel and could romp around freely in an air conditioned condo without worrying about other dogs bothering him. 



SheepaAwakesWithin 48 hours he’d been completely shaved.  We called this, “Lamb” mode since he no longer looked like a "sheep".  His fur was less than 1/4 of an inch long and he was VERY VERY scrawny.  We were shocked at how skinny he was underneath all that bad fur.  He literally took two days of grooming to have him completely cleaned & trimmed of bad fur.  He hadn’t been cut so short in a long time that he seemed cold.  When he came home, he slept… for probably a good 18 hours.  We kept checking him because we didn’t know if he was still alive he slept so soundly and for such a long time.






SheepaIsGoingForAWalkOver the next few months we kept him well groomed and well fed.  We switched to a better brand of dog food (Innova) which he really ate up and we started feeding him some canned food too to make sure he was absorbing it all.  As you can see, his fur grew out very nicely – soft and cushiony!  What was more important however was the fact that he was SMILING.  He started smiling and licking his chops whenever we would bring his ball out or his snacks.  We did discover that his stomach was very sensitive and wouldn’t take certain types of snacks, but one thing was for certain:  He was very well incented by food and he loved to play. 







Over time, he got healthy.  VERY HEALTHY.  No seriously – he actually wasn’t really fat like in the picture.  This is just what happened when we bathed him and put him under the blow dryer.  He looked huge but he really wasn’t that fat.  Although he did gain 5 pounds, this was just a little above normal.  He had a lot of body mass to make up after all.  The ticks from his previous life had leeched away most of his body mass we think and he was just making up for lost weight.








And this is the Sheep today.  He’s very happy and he has a really big smile most of the time.  He’s active and although he’s slowing down due to age (he’s 13) and he can’t hear any more (he went almost completely deaf when he was 12) he still does just fine.  He follows us wherever we go and he’s generally quite happy.   He now knows how to shake, sit, lie down, rollover and stay.  He also knows when it’s time for dinner and he sleeps next to me when I play video games in the living room.

Sheepa’s been the greatest gift.

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PODCAST: Vegas Undressed… podcasts of a different sort.

December 23, 2008

image I’ve been listing to one of the podcasts below – “The Vegas Cabbie”.  It’s basically this guy “Rick” the cabbie who drives a taxi in Las Vegas.  He talks about stuff that’s happened in Vegas and gives the occasional tip about what to do when in Vegas. 

Now I thought this dude was an utter train wreck when first started listening to him.  I mean, he’s sounds… like… CRAZY!   But after listening a few podcasts, I think he’s alright.  I question whether or not he’ll actually keep doing the podcast, but whatever. What changed my mind?  He actually had a couple good tips.  And when I thought about it, who better to advise visitors on things Vegas-related than a cabbie?

Here’s an example of some of the things he answers:

  • “How do you get through airport security quickly, if you’re late to your flight?”
  • “How do catch a cab at McCarran Airport without waiting in the cab line?”
  • “When is the best time to fly into Vegas?”

Not bad ‘eh?  I can think of a 1000 questions to ask him and I’ve left a message or two for him.  But nonetheless, this could be good if he keeps it up.  And yeah, he’s a little eccentric and nuts but I think that’s part of what’s entertaining about him.  I think he’ll be a permanent fixture in my Zune.

Not everyone owns a f-ing iPod y’know?  Some of us prefer the Zune or the iRiver or the Zen.  And the only reason I found your podcasts was because Vegas Cabbie got posted to the Zune Marketplace – not iTunes.  Also, would you consider getting a Vegas BARTENDER to do a podcast?  I would think that’d be a fun podcast to watch – plenty to talk about, lots of advice to give, etc.  And maybe a Vegas casino host.

Anyway, it turns out that his podcast is just one of 4 podcasts posted to  I can’t say I’m fans of all of them, but I’ll let you be the judge of them.

image The Stripper Method
Two Las Vegas strippers teach you on their video podcast what it is they do and how they do it.  It’s more like a distance learning podcast for women in the exotic dancing profession.


image The Vegas Cabbie
Rick the Vegas taxi driver tells you through his video podcast how to get around town and otherwise enjoy Las Vegas from his years of expertise as a cabbie.


image That Show with Those Guys
A video podcast with 3 dudes that sit around and run through a ton of ‘guy talk’ in Vegas about Vegas stuff from differing Vegas locations like the Palms, the Rio, etc.


image G-Spot
An audio podcast about the arts and entertainment scene in Las Vegas.  Being that I’m not a Vegas resident, this really doesn’t appeal to me but for anyone that is in Vegas as a resident I’m sure this might be interesting.

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Charlie Brown Advertising Agency video

December 18, 2008

God, this is funny.  It’s so well done – it’s probably the product of a big name firm like Crispin Porter, Chiat Day, or BBDO.  Half of the people I know in the Media & Entertainment industry can probably relate to this video.



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NEWS: Puppy Mill agent “Pet Love” of Beverly Center Mall closes its doors!

December 10, 2008

I got this in the mail today.  This is just incredible – this place has been an institution for selling puppy mill dogs to the Hollywood elite.

Best Friends Animal Society

Dear Members and Friends,

Yesterday, the upscale Beverly Center Mall in Los Angeles announced it will terminate the lease of the Hollywood pet store institution, Pet Love.  Since last July, Best Friends staff and members like you have been at the Beverly Center educating potential customers that those cute puppies at Pet Love really come from cruel puppy mills.  

Mr. HappyThe goal of the Puppy-Store-Free-LA campaign is to convince stores to offer homeless pets for adoption rather than sell dogs from puppy mills. We’ve already seen two pets stores shut down, and now we have the biggest victory we could have hoped for. Pet Love, a store that sells to the Hollywood elite, is shutting its doors.

The iconic store has sold tens of thousands of unfixed dogs in the 15 years they have been in business, adding to the thousands of animals that clog area shelters and where many thousands die annually. But thanks to you, tireless efforts from countless volunteers, and the Best Friends Puppy Mill Campaign staff, the store will no longer be a part of the perpetual cycle of abuse.

This is only the beginning. The closing of such a giant in the pet store industry in LA, like Pet Love, is a huge victory, but we cannot stop now.

We need your help. Doubling our membership means we can take on more of these giants of the pet trade, ask them to stop selling puppies from mills, and put puppy mills out of business. Each of these victories gets us that much closer to a nation with No More Homeless Pets.

Please act now to ensure that we can continue with A-Puppy-Store-Free-America, so more pet stores get the message that obtaining their puppies through cruel commercial breeding operations simply for profit is not acceptable. We cannot do this without you.

Donate and share. By giving the gift of a Best Friends membership you will help us gain momentum as we press forward with this incredibly important campaign.
Thank you as always, for caring for the animals. Together, one day we can live in a nation of No More Homeless Pets.

Click Here!
Paul Berry
  Paul Berry, CEO
  Best Friends Animal Society

P.S. This one pet store closure is just a fraction of the amazing work taking place in our puppy mill campaign. Click here to learn more about the progress being made every day. clip_image001 

Desert Bus is on the trail again… and Penn Jillette comments

December 3, 2008

image This is something that I never thought I’d actually hear about again. 

Way back in the day, (1995ish) Penn & Teller had a video game made called “Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors”.  It was never actually released because the game developer went out of business before it hit the streets.  The game has become something of legend.  It was a a collection of just mini games that were intentionally designed specifically to fool your friends.  One game – the game that put Smoke and Mirror’s on the map, was called Desert Bus.  How they came up with this idea, I’ll never know.

To quote Wikipedia:

The objective of the game is to drive a bus from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada in real time at a maximum speed of 45mph, a feat that would take the player 8 hours of continuous play to complete, as the game cannot be paused.

image The bus contains no passengers, and there is no scenery or other cars on the road. The bus veers to the right slightly; as a result, it is impossible to tape down a button to go do something else and have the game end properly. If the bus veers off the road it will stall and be towed back to Tucson, also in real time. If the player makes it to Las Vegas, they will score exactly one point. The player then gets the option to make the return trip to Tucson—for another point (a decision they must make in a few seconds or the game ends). Players may continue to make trips and score points as long as their endurance holds out. Some players who have completed the trip have also noted that, although the scenery never changes, a bug splats on the windscreen about five hours through the first trip, and on the return trip the light does fade, with differences at dusk, and later a pitch black road where the player is guided only with headlights.

What made this game LEGENDARY is that it takes 4 days and 12 hours to actually complete the journey in REAL TIME and some group of yahoos from LoadingReadyRun actually completed the journey for real and did it for charity.  They called it “Desert Bus for Hope” and they even got donations for Penn & Teller themselves.

imageWell, guess what?  It’s ON AGAIN:  Desert Bus 2:  Bus Harder

It’s going on RIGHT NOW and I’m absolutely beside myself.  I can’t believe that they’re doing it again… and I’ve made my donation.  This is really really insane but I have to absolutely give serious props to these guys.  It’s a great cause and shows serious dedication. 

What’s more – they’ve been driving for 5 days now and they’ve raised almost $70,000 dollars.  Can you believe that?  Their original goal was just a lousy $10,000 and they’ve gotten more than 6x that amount.

They’ve got a live feed going of the actual effort and they’re doing things like singing songs to keep everyone going.  They just got through singing the theme of Gilligan’s Island.  And they’re also streaming a live feed of the actual stream of the game screen in real time.  And it’s every bit as boring as you can imagine.  But there’s lots of people in that room.


My favorite quotes:
”Yay!  We tripled last year’s donations!  We’ll never get to go home!”
”In celebration, I’m going to bed.”

Dear God.  They’re singing the lyrics to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now.  This is actually good Internet viewing.  Good for you, you guys.

Oh.  And Penn Jillette has chimed in on his podcast: