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June 10, 2007

Zune Finally Installed!


Woohoo, I was finally able to install the Zune Software! I've played around with the app just a tad, and so far I like it a lot more than I thought I would. It's clean, snappy and attractive. Read for a short rundown of the installation problems, and some quick ideas of how the installer might be able to avoid this problem in the future.

So the biggest problem, aside from the installation failing, was that neither the Zune Installer or Event Viewer were displaying the error code I needed to properly identify the problem.  Without the error code it was just impossible to know what was wrong, and what steps to take.  I called Zune Support and the rep had me install all the high-priority Windows updates, after which, the installer still failed, but I was left with an error code (1303) in Event Viewer.  To resolve the problem, I followed these instructions, but my attempt to complete step 1 resulted in an obnoxious "Access Denied" error.  The user account I was using is Admin level, so I have no clue why I got that error message.  Nonetheless, I logged out of my primary account and logged in to my other Admin user account I use just for troubleshooting.  This time the commands worked, and the installer was able to successfully install the Zune software.

The problem was that the installer could not create a folder for "ZuneSyncPlaylists" within "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music" and install the necessary files in that folder.  This must have been due to some folder permissions setting.  What's sort of annoying is that the folder name and location implies that it's for user playlist data, not files that are actually necessary to run the application.  So it's a little odd, that the installation fails as opposed to just creating the files somewhere else like in the "Zune" folder within Program Files, or just asking the user where to save the files.  Now, I'm not a software engineer, there may be very valid reasons why they didn't do it that way.  But there must be a solution to this problem that doesn't involve Event Viewer, Command Prompt, Microsoft Knowledge Base Articles, and calls to tech support.

That said I do feel the need praise the Zune Software for several things:

  • The interface is clean, cool looking, and easy on the eyes.  It's easy to learn if you know iTunes.
  • The navigation is great, in fact I might even like it better than iTunes.  Instead of a big list of songs, Zune displays artists, albums and songs more like folders in Explorer.  Navigating is quick, and the back button rocks.  Also, this interface works well even at smaller sizes, I usually use iTunes maximized, but Zune I can keep much smaller which I like.
  • Scrolling through your library is extremely fast and responsive, even with album art displayed.  iTunes on the other hand is a little sluggish, but this may have to do with the fact that I have a much bigger library loaded in iTunes.
  • I actually like the way Zune handles videos much better than iTunes.  It doesn't open another window just to watch a video at say double size, and the playback controls aren't duplicated like in iTunes.
  • The Zune software addresses one of my pet peeves about iTunes which is if you're playing an album, but then start navigating through your library, iTunes won't proceed to the next song if it isn't currently displayed on the screen.  Zune doesn't do this, if you start playing an album it keeps playing until it ends or you tell it to stop.
    UPDATE: It seems not everyone's iTunes does this. I have no clue why...
  • I haven't spent a ton of time on Zune Marketplace but from what I saw it's on par with the iTunes store.  I was even able to find an album (Bjork Family Tree) I had planned on buying that isn't available on iTunes.
  • The Zune software also manages pictures which is pretty nifty, and simplifies the process of transferring pictures to the Zune.  iTunes doesn't handle pictures (right?), but it can be used to transfer photos to an iPod with a color display (which I don't have...).

After using the Zune software, I feel much more willing to consider buying a Zune device.  I hate to go back to this point, but this is why the Zune installer problem is so bad.  The Zune software is great marketing for the Zune player.  But most users probably won't be as persistent as I was in installing the program just out of curiosity.  In fact, Microsoft should consider offering free music downloads just for trying the Zune Software.

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