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Old 06-11-2009, 03:56 PM
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Help Ask Dave (A Microsoft Employee)



We have a wonderful thing going on here, a Microsoft employee answering questions. The community is welcome to ask pretty much, but follow the following rules.

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If you post a questions that goes with the above stuff we will delete it, so don't waste your time posting it. Besides that ask about anything about products and why features were chosen and stuff...

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  #2  
Old 06-11-2009, 04:06 PM
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Dave, what's your favorite DAP?
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  #3  
Old 06-11-2009, 07:26 PM
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What part of the Zune Team are you in and what were you involved with as far as development of the 1st and 2nd generation Zune devices?
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Old 06-12-2009, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Marvin the Martian View Post
Dave, what's your favorite DAP?
Well, I'd be remiss if I didn't say Zune, wouldn't I? Actually I use a lot of players - I like to keep abreast of the competition - and I fly around 200k miles a year, so I spend a lot of time on planes, in airports and hotels.

I will admit that I have a very soft spot in my heart for the iRiver Clix and Clix2. There were 6 of us in the Digital Media Division of Microsoft (as it was known at the time) that carved off and partnered closely with iRiver to build a best of breed device. Long story how we got there, but we basically took iRiver's product and gave it a very substantial makeover (everything from silicon to packaging).

I still bust out my Clix and Clix2 on occasion for kicks...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Machiventa View Post
What part of the Zune Team are you in and what were you involved with as far as development of the 1st and 2nd generation Zune devices?
I'm in Zune business development. There are really three or four of us that span bizdev for Zune - I have a colleague that does all the silicon and hardware bizdev (negotiating with suppliers for components), I have 1-2 colleagues that do music bizdev (negotiating with the labels and studios for the content you find in the Zune Marketplace) and I do accessories, connectivity (in-car and in other places yet to be announced), support marketing programs that need bizdev and some other projects I'll be able to tell you about later.

Other members of our broader team chip in and help - especially if there is a joint opportunity with a partner between Zune and another product like Xbox or Windows - but that's the breakdown of my team (which actually handles a bunch of other stuff - and in total we number 14).

The 1st generation Zune I was involved with peripherally. I was working on PlaysForSure when the 1st generation Zune was in development and joined the effort on a part-time basis a few months after the project was kicked off (which was ~March 2006, I got involved around June 2006). I was still in the Digital Media Division at the time doing automotive connectivity for PlaysForSure devices. I got involved to help define the automotive and "rich host" connectivity for Zune as well, and since I was already spending time travelling to meet the car makers around the world, I added Zune to my pitch and convinced a number of car makers to support Zune connectivity.

Of course, the problem with car makers is that a decision to support a technology this year means it will ship in vehicles 4 years later, so we're just now starting to see the results of that evangelism.

I joined the Zune team full-time just as we were shipping Zune v1, and came on board with responsibility for automotive, connectivity, and active accessories (ie: not cases and cables, but speaker docks and the like).

Cheers, Dave.
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  #5  
Old 06-12-2009, 01:33 AM
DaveMac-MS DaveMac-MS is offline
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Someone asked me "Describe your first day at Microsoft and how did you wind up in the Zune team?" - or something like that at least.

My first day at Microsoft was SCARY. I'm actually Australian and MS had flown out to Australia to interview candidates. I was working as an intern consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers at the time, and was contacted by MS asking whether I'd be interested in interviewing. I passed the phone interviews and so they flew out and we did a face-to-face interview loop in Sydney.

The thing I remember most about the loop is that they kept asking me programming/coding questions, and I kept telling them that I wasn't a programmer. I'd studied electronic engineering in school - bachelor & masters - but hadn't done more than a semester of Pascal. When they tried to hire me to be a "Software Development Engineer in Test", I freaked out - I couldn't code! Don't worry they said, you'll get training at MS.

So I moved from Australia to Seattle, had a couple of days to get settled (instead of orienting myself in Seattle, I flew down to Vegas and partied like crazy - but that's another story) and then on my first day I showed up for "New Employee Orientation". It was a room full of people - maybe 150 - and so I scanned the room, found a seat, and sat down.

We had to fill out a bunch of paperwork, then watch a series of videos about MS. Finally they announced that we had a special guest speaker - it was Steve Ballmer - and so he came bouncing out and fired us all up.

We had lunch and then had to report back to our new teams. I was petrified because I was sure my new manager was going to ask me to program something and of course, I would be no match for Microsoft programmers. But, he was already aware of the gaping hole in my resume and had me signed up for coding class.

Anyhow - fast forward 9 years - I spent a year being a tester in Visual Studio, then I moved to Windows to become a program manager in printing & imaging (printers, scanners, digital cameras). We shipped XP, then Server 2003, then the team split into the print team and the imaging team. I went with imaging - taking ownership for digital cameras, and then took on digital media players as well. When the PlaysForSure program kicked off, I took that on before we expanded the team and I did that along with a few other projects (throughout my career I have done a bunch of standards work for MS in various capacities - Bluetooth, UPnP, USB, CEA, etc...) until finally moving to the Zune team.

I moved to Zune because it had a startup mentality, some good friends had moved over and were having a blast, and because I wanted to be involved in starting and growing a business. At the time I had decided to leave Windows to join Zune, I had narrowed my decision down to Zune or a new effort Microsoft was starting up called "HealthVault". Some good friends of mine went to HV from Windows as well (this was after we'd shipped Vista and the old-timers were moving on to new projects), so it was a tough choice. The HV team continues to do great work, and I catch up with those guys too infrequently.

Anyhow - probably WAY more than you wanted to know, but there you have it.

Cheers, Dave.
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  #6  
Old 06-12-2009, 02:38 AM
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Marvin the Martian Marvin the Martian is online now
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OK, Dave:
If you had a new CD and you were going to rip it(lossy), what would be your codec and bitrate of choice?

This could perhaps be a 2 part question, as in one case if you were using a small capacity flash device, and another choice if you were using a HDD device.

I'm just curious if in using multiple devices, in different settings all over the place, if you've happened to grow fond of any one codec over the rest.
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  #7  
Old 06-12-2009, 04:39 AM
DaveMac-MS DaveMac-MS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin the Martian View Post
OK, Dave:
If you had a new CD and you were going to rip it(lossy), what would be your codec and bitrate of choice?

This could perhaps be a 2 part question, as in one case if you were using a small capacity flash device, and another choice if you were using a HDD device.

I'm just curious if in using multiple devices, in different settings all over the place, if you've happened to grow fond of any one codec over the rest.
Actually I'm not that much of an audiophile - which is ironic since I maintain a home studio and used to do a fair bit of recording, including of myself (I'm a pianist).

Anyhow, back in the day I sat down and ripped ALL my CDs in WMA, 192k. For me that was the right mix of high enough resolution, small enough size. That was probably 3 or 4 years ago now. Subsequent CDs I started to rip in WMA VBR, on the 135-215kbps setting, and now the occasional CD I come across I'll do in WMA VBR on the best quality setting (240-355kbps).

I have a media server at home which serves up TV, music & pics through the house. It has 4TB of storage, so one day I'll re-rip everything in lossless formats. However, I have to confess that when I recently discovered ~12 CDs I forgot to rip - I instead opted to just download them from Zune, it was so much quicker than sitting at my PC feeding it CDs...

Cheers, Dave.
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  #8  
Old 06-12-2009, 02:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveMac-MS View Post
Actually I'm not that much of an audiophile - which is ironic since I maintain a home studio and used to do a fair bit of recording, including of myself (I'm a pianist).

Anyhow, back in the day I sat down and ripped ALL my CDs in WMA, 192k. For me that was the right mix of high enough resolution, small enough size. That was probably 3 or 4 years ago now. Subsequent CDs I started to rip in WMA VBR, on the 135-215kbps setting, and now the occasional CD I come across I'll do in WMA VBR on the best quality setting (240-355kbps).

I have a media server at home which serves up TV, music & pics through the house. It has 4TB of storage, so one day I'll re-rip everything in lossless formats. However, I have to confess that when I recently discovered ~12 CDs I forgot to rip - I instead opted to just download them from Zune, it was so much quicker than sitting at my PC feeding it CDs...

Cheers, Dave.
The WMA VBR actually does work pretty well.....36% of my collection is in that format, actually(some 85-145, some 135-215). All the CD's I had before I had a DAP I ripped with it.

Since then, I've gone with LAME, for the extra battery life and universal compatibility, but those old rips work well enough that I'm not re-ripping them all.
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  #9  
Old 06-12-2009, 03:16 PM
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Ya, for sure. In my case the most I'm between charges is a 14.5hr flight, so battery life is less of a concern as portability, ease and laziness (not wanting to re-rip existing content).

Cheers, Dave.

Last edited by DaveMac-MS; 06-12-2009 at 06:58 PM.
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  #10  
Old 06-12-2009, 06:47 PM
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Machiventa Machiventa is offline
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Any ideas how the Zune name and logo came about? Any other names you can remember that almost made the cut?
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  #11  
Old 06-12-2009, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Machiventa View Post
Any ideas how the Zune name and logo came about? Any other names you can remember that almost made the cut?
Yup, like I'm sure every other product name from a Fortune 500 company these days, a ton of research went into marketability, domain name availability, translation into a 100 languages (does it mean a swear word in some other language), is it trademark-able, etc...

Its both a long-winded and highly secretive process. I wasn't involved in it.

As for other names, I'm sure there were a bunch that were considered, but aside from project code names (usually cities, nouns, animals, etc...) I only ever knew of Zune.

Cheers, Dave.
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  #12  
Old 06-12-2009, 10:51 PM
Ricardo Dawkins Ricardo Dawkins is offline
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Quote:
I joined the Zune team full-time just as we were shipping Zune v1, and came on board with responsibility for automotive, connectivity, and active accessories (ie: not cases and cables, but speaker docks and the like).
so, you are one of the culprits of the issues between the Kicker z500 and VAF octavio speakers docks with zune devices....

I kid....I kid....I kid
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  #13  
Old 06-13-2009, 05:11 AM
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"Active accessories". I like the term. Is an active accessory different than a passive one? Maybe those "active accessories" are accessories for an active user? Armbands, Nike shoe inserts, etc.?
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  #14  
Old 06-13-2009, 01:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricardo Dawkins View Post
so, you are one of the culprits of the issues between the Kicker z500 and VAF octavio speakers docks with zune devices....

I kid....I kid....I kid
What issues are you talking about? I was very involved with VAF - worked directly with the company and owner on that product. Kicker I was less involved with, although we also work closely with them on automotive products.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Olley View Post
"Active accessories". I like the term. Is an active accessory different than a passive one? Maybe those "active accessories" are accessories for an active user? Armbands, Nike shoe inserts, etc.?
Sorry, I should have explained. Passive accessories are those that either have no electronics in them (cases, screen protectors, cables out, etc...) vs. active accessories which have either a serial or USB connection to the device. Recently, that distinction has moved closer to USB connection accessories only, with just a couple of exceptions.

Cheers, Dave.
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  #15  
Old 06-13-2009, 02:40 PM
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Hmm... "exceptions" to USB connections for active accessories. That leaves WiFi (given) and possibly Bluetooth for connection. My hopes are slightly up.

I already own a couple of bluetooth enabled speaker docks. I don't know of any speaker dock using WiFi. It would be great if this ZuneHD or the next one would have bluetooth. I rank all my players with bluetooth at least one notch above any that don't. That kept the Touch off my top tier, but Apple is fixing that shortcoming with the 3.0 update that will be here any day now.
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  #16  
Old 06-13-2009, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olley View Post
I already own a couple of bluetooth enabled speaker docks. I don't know of any speaker dock using WiFi.
How do you rate the sound quality from your speaker docks over Bluetooth? What format is your source content in, and what quality level speakers do you have?

Cheers, Dave.
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  #17  
Old 06-13-2009, 10:17 PM
Ricardo Dawkins Ricardo Dawkins is offline
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Quote:
What issues are you talking about? I was very involved with VAF - worked directly with the company and owner on that product. Kicker I was less involved with, although we also work closely with them on automotive products.
http://www.zunescene.mobi/forums/ind...?topic=45451.0
http://www.zunescene.mobi/forums/ind...?topic=39619.0
http://www.zunescene.mobi/forums/ind...?topic=39327.0
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  #18  
Old 06-13-2009, 10:53 PM
Olley Olley is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveMac-MS View Post
How do you rate the sound quality from your speaker docks over Bluetooth? What format is your source content in, and what quality level speakers do you have? Cheers, Dave.
It depends on the speaker dock, but my Philips bluetooth dock which also has an aux-in sounds to me the same via bluetooth or wired in. I've got a couple of ipod dock bluetooth adapters, and my Insignia adapter (no longer made), with my Samsung P2 via bluetooth, sounds better via bluetooth than it does with my iPod Touch playing the same songs while docked.

Music is, in all cases, 320kbps MP3 ripped from original CDs. I get the best results using the Griffin Evolve speakers, which is a little surprising since via a bluetooth adapter there are two radio pathways to traverse.

Lastly, I have a Sony Bluetooth transceiver hooked into the MD-in of my Sony home theater amp. Music from my P2, P3, Cowon S9, or SPINN to the amp>speakers this way sounds the same as listening to the same songs on the original CDs playing through the amp's CD input. I'm not trusting my own ears here. My wife can't tell the difference between sources. No guests at my house who have listened to assorted jazz playing through two 6" Yamaha outdoor speakers and a 12" subwoofer (for 2.1) on my deck have been able to tell the difference either. I have a remote for the amp used, and a P2 in my hand. I can switch the amp from the bluetooth input to the CD player while outside among my guests. More than once I've asked them if they could tell the difference, and gotten as many wrong guesses as right ones, with a similar number of "can't tells".

None of these situations are soundproof audio recording studios. Parties on the deck are blessed with nature sounds (mostly birds), neighbor sounds (often lawn mowers or blowers), and mild traffic sounds in addition to the normal party conversation hum. In my office music is accompanied by the whir and click of my PC and it's fans.

My point? Bluetooth is about convenience, and if there is a quality reduction when using it, that reduction is unperceivable or irrelivent in the conditions the music is being enjoyed in.

Olley
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Old 06-14-2009, 06:33 PM
DaveMac-MS DaveMac-MS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricardo Dawkins View Post
so, you are one of the culprits of the issues between the Kicker z500 and VAF octavio speakers docks with zune devices....

I kid....I kid....I kid
Thanks for forwarding the links - I checked them out. I actually wasn't aware of the Kicker issue, and I notice that a Kicker representative stepped in to figure out the problem:

http://www.zunescene.mobi/forums/ind...2240#msg482240

As for the VAF unit - I actually have one of those, and VAF issued a firmware update subsequently to fix a few bugs. If anyone is in need of help on the VAF unit, I can help more directly - send me mail at aussie@zune.net and we'll sort you out.

Speaking frankly, some fault lies on both sides here. For accessory vendors like VAF and Kicker, we publish specifications and details on connectivity so they can make a solid, working product. What has happened is that vendors have discovered they can use the connector on the bottom of the device in undocumented ways to add functionality. That's great while it works - but they don't tell us what they've done AND conversely, they might argue that we haven't explicitly told them what they CAN'T do with the connector.

We need to be more prescriptive in our documentation, and they need to stop doing things that aren't supported in the documentation. Otherwise these situations come along. We're aware of this, and working (both sides) to ensure it doesn't happen in the future.

Cheers, Dave.
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Old 06-14-2009, 06:39 PM
DaveMac-MS DaveMac-MS is offline
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Quote:
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My point? Bluetooth is about convenience, and if there is a quality reduction when using it, that reduction is unperceivable or irrelivent in the conditions the music is being enjoyed in.
Sounds like you've had a pretty good experience - which is awesome. My experience has been less good - predominantly with Insignia, Samsung and Sony devices, and Bluetooth adapters and a portable Yamaha BT speaker set.

The audio quality (for me) was definitely passable - satisfactory background music, or quiet music while working at a desk. Upon turning up the volume, artifacts were definitely heard.

At the end of the day - I have the benefit of talking to all the carmarkers, AV system vendors, etc... They've shared their roadmaps and we have great data on how prevalent technologies are going to be in 1-4 years time.

Data like that is a very large factor in determining what technologies we add, don't add and even phase out (in some cases).

Cheers, Dave.
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