Scott Hanselman

How to update the firmware on your Zune, without Microsoft, dammit.

January 11, '19 Comments [11] Posted in Tools
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A glorious little ZuneAs I said on social media today, it's 2019 and I'm updating the Firmware on a Zune, fight me. ;) There's even an article on Vice about the Zune diehards. The Zune is a deeply under-respected piece of history and its UI marked the start of Microsoft's fluent design.

Seriously, though, I got this Zune and it's going to be used by my 11 year old because I don't want him to have a phone yet. He's got a little cheap no-name brand MP3 player and he's filled it up and basically outgrown it. I could get him an iPod Touch or something but he digs retro things (GBC, GBA, etc) so my buddy gave me a Zune in the box. Hasn't been touched...but it has a super old non-metro UI firmware.

Can a Zune be updated in 2019? Surely it can. Isn't Zune dead? I hooked up a 3D0 to my 4k flatscreen last week, so it's dead when I say it's dead.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: After I spent time doing this out I found out on Twitter that there's a small but active Zune community on Reddit! Props for them to doing this in several ways as well. The simplest way to update today is to point resources.zune.net to zuneupdate.com's IP address in your hosts file. The way I did it does use the files directly from Microsoft and gives you full control, but it's overly complex for regular folks for as long as the zuneupdate.com server exists as a mirror. Use the method that works easier for you and that you trust and understand!

  • First, GET ZUNE: the Zune Software version 4.8 is up at the Microsoft Download Center and it installs just fun on Windows 10. I've also made a copy in my Dropbox if this ever disappears. You should too!
  • Second, GET FIRMWARE: the Zune Firmware is still on the Microsoft sites as well. This is an x86 MSI so don't bother trying to install it, we're going to open it up like an archive instead. Save this file forever.
    • There's a half dozen ways to crack open an MSI. Since not everyone who will read this blog is a programmer, the easiest ways is
    • Download lessmsi and use it to to the open and extract the firmware MSI. It's just an MSI specific extractor but it's nicer than 7zip because it extracts the files with the correct names. If you use Chocolatey, it's just "choco install lessmsi" then run "lessmsi-gui." LessMSI will put the files in a deep folder structure. You'll want to move them and have all your files right at the top of c:\users\YOURNAME\downloads\zunestuff. We will make some other small changes a little later on here.
      LessMSI
    • If you really want to, you could install 7zip and extract the contents of the Zune Firmware MSI into a new folder but I don't recommend it as you'll need to rename the files and give them the correct extensions.
    • NERDS: you can also use msiexec from the command line, but I'm trying to keep this super simple.
  • Third, FAKE THE ZUNE UPDATE SERVER: Since the Zune servers are gone, you need to pretend to be the old Zune Server. The Zune Software will "phone home" to Microsoft at resources.zune.net (which is gone) to look for firmware. Since the Zune software was made in a simpler time (a decade ago) it doesn't use SSL or do any checking for the cert to confirm the identity of the Zune server. This would be sad in 2019, but it's super useful to us when bringing this old hardware back to life. Again, there's as half dozen ways to do this. Feel feel to do whatever makes you happy as an HTTP GET is an HTTP GET, isn't it?
    • NERDS: If you use Fiddler or any HTTP sniffer you can launch the Zune software and see it phone home for resources.zune.net/firmware/v4_5/zuneprod.xml and get a 404. It if had found this, it'd look at your Zune model and then figure out which cab (cabinet) archive to get the firmware from. We can easily spoof this HTTP GET.
    • NERDS^2: Why didn't I use the Fiddler Autoresponder to record and replay the HTTP GETS? I tried. However, there's a number of different files that the Zune software could request and I only have the one Zune and I couldn't figure out how to model it in Fiddler. If I could do this, we could just install Fidder and avoid editing the hosts file AND using a tiny web server.
    • From an admin command prompt, run notepad \windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts and add this line:
      127.0.0.1 resources.zune.net
    • This says "if you ever want stuff from resources.zune.net, I'll handle it myself." Who is "myself?" It's our computer! It'll be a little web server you (or I) will run on our own, on localhost AKA 127.0.0.1.
    • Now download dot.net core, it's small and fast to install programming environment. Don't worry, we aren't coding, we are just using the tools it includes. It won't mess up your machine or install anything at startup.
    • Grab any 2.x .NET SDK from https://dot.net and install it from an MSI. Then go to a command prompt and run these commands. first we'll run dotnet once to warm it up, then get the server and run it from our zunestuff folder. We'll install a tiny static webserver called dotnet serve. See below:
      dotnet
      dotnet tool install --global dotnet-serve
      cd c:\users\YOURNAME\downloads\zunestuff
      dotnet serve -p 80
    • If you get any errors that dotnet serve can't be found, just close the command prompt and open it again to update your PATH. If you get errors that port 80 is open, be sure to stop IIS or Skype Desktop or anything that might be listening on port 80.
    • Now, remember where I said you'd extract all those cabs and files out of the Firmware MSI? BUT when we load the Zune software and watch network traffic, we see it's asking for resources.zune.net/firmware/v4_5/zuneprod.xml. We need to answer (since Zune is gone, it's on us now)
    • You'll want to make folders like this: C:\users\YOURNAME\downloads\zunestuff\firmware\v4_5 copy/rename copy FirmwareUpdate.xml to zuneprod.xml and have it live in that directory. It'll look like this:
      A file heirarchy under zunestuff
    • The zuneprod.xml file has relative URls inside like this, one for each model of the Zune that maps from USB hardware id to cab file. Open zuneprod.xml in a text editor and add http://resources.zune.net/ before each of the firmware file cabinets. For example if you're using notepad, your find and replace will look like this.
      Replace URL=" with URL="http://resources.zune.net/
    • <FirmwareUpdate DeviceClass="1"
      FamilyID="3"
      HardwareID="USB\Vid_045e&amp;Pid_0710&amp;Rev_0300"
      Manufacturer="Microsoft"
      Name="Zune"
      Version="03.30.00039.00-01620"
      URL="DracoBaseline.cab">

    • UPDATE: As mentioned above, I did all this work (about an hour of traffic sniffing) and spoofed the server locally then found out that someone made http://zuneupdate.com as an online static spoof! It also doesn't use HTTPS, and if you'd like, you can skip the local spoof and point your your \windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts with an entry pointing resources.zune.net to its IP address - which at the time of this writing was 66.115.133.19. Your hosts file would look like this, in that case. If this useful resource ever goes away, use the localhost hack above.
      66.115.133.19 resources.zune.net
    • Now run the Zune software, connect your Zune. Notice here that I know it's working because I launch the Zune app and go to Settings | Device then Update and I can see dotnet serve in my other window serving the zuneprod.xml in response.

Required Update

It's worth pointing out that the original Zune server was somewhat smart and would only return firmware if we NEEDED a firmware update. Since we are faking it, we always return the same response. You may be prompted to install new firmware if you manually ask for an update. But you only need to get on the latest (3.30 for my brown Zune 30) and then you're good...forever.

image

Enjoy!

Your iPod SucksZune is the way

Guardians 2 Zune


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Relationship Hacks: Playing video games and having hobbies while avoiding resentment

January 7, '19 Comments [11] Posted in Musings
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Super Nintendo Controller from PexelsI'm going to try to finished my Relationship Hacks book in 2019. I've been sitting on it too long. I'm going to try to use blog posts to spur myself into action.

A number of people asked me what projects, what code, what open source I did over the long holiday. ZERO. I did squat. I played video games, in fact. A bunch of them. I felt a little guilty then I got over it.

The Fun of Finishing - Exploring old games with Xbox Backwards Compatibility

I'm not a big gamer but I like a good story. I do single player with a plot. I consider a well-written video game to be up there with a good book or a great movie. I like a narrative and a beginning and end. Since it was the holidays, it did require some thought to play games.

When you're in a mixed relationship (a geek/techie and a non-techie) you need to be respectful of your partner's expectations. The idea of burning 4-6 hours playing games likely doesn't match up with your partner's idea of a good time. That's where communication comes in. We've found this simple system useful. It's non-gendered and should work for all types of relationships.

My spouse and I sat down at the beginning of our holiday vacation and asked each other "What do you hope to get out of this time?" Setting expectations up front avoids quiet resentment building later. She had a list of to-dos and projects, I wanted to veg.

Sitting around all day (staycation) is valid, as is using the time to take care of business (TCB). We set expectations up front to avoid conflict. We effectively scheduled my veg time so it was planned and accepted and it was *ok and guilt-free*

We've all seen the trope of the gamer hyper-focused on their video game while the resentful partner looks on. My spouse and I want to avoid that - so we do. If she knows I want to immerse myself in a game, a simple heads up goes a LONG way. We sit together, she reads, I play.

It's important to not sneak these times up on your partner. "I was planning on playing all night" can butt up against "I was hoping we'd spend time together." Boom, conflict and quiet resentment can start. Instead, a modicum of planning. A simple headsup and balance helps.

I ended up playing about 2-3 days a week, from around 8-9pm to 2am (so a REAL significant amount of time) while we hung out on the other 4-5 days. My time was after the kids were down. My wife was happy to see me get to play (and finish!) games I'd had for years.

Also, the recognition from my spouse that while she doesn't personal value my gaming time - she values that *I* value it. Avoid belittling or diminishing your partner's hobby. If you do, you'll find yourself pushing (or being pushed) away.

One day perhaps I'll get her hooked on a great game and one day I'll enjoy a Hallmark movie. Or not. ;) But for now, we enjoy knowing and respecting that we each enjoy (and sometimes share) our hobbies. End of thread.

If you enjoy my wife's thinking, check her out on my podcast The Return of Mo. My wife and I also did a full podcast with audio over our Cancer Year 

Hope you find this helpful.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Using Visual Studio Code to program Circuit Python with an AdaFruit NeoTrellis M4

December 26, '18 Comments [3] Posted in Hardware | Open Source | Python
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My son and I were working on an Adafruit NeoTrellis M4 Mainboard over the holidays. This amazing little device puts a NeoPixel + an Audio board + a USB port along with a 120 MHz Cortex M4 Core and a mic amplifier and you can program it with CircuitPython. CircuitPython is open source and on Github at https://github.com/adafruit/circuitpython. "CircuitPython is an education friendly open source derivative of MicroPython." It works with a bunch of boards including this NeoTrellis and it's just lovely for teaching and learning.

This item is just the mainboard! You'll almost certainly want two Silicone Elastomer 4x4 Pads and an enclosure to go along.

Circuit PythonAs with a lot of these small boards, when you plug a NeoTrellis into a your machine via USB you'll get new disk drive that pops up. All you have to do to "deploy" your code is copy it to your drive. Even better, why not just edit the code place?

There's a great Python editor called Mu that works well with Circuit Python. However, my son and I are more familiar with Visual Studio Code so we wanted to see how it worked with Circuit Python.

We installed the Python extension for VS Code as well as the Arduino extension for VS Code and the Arduino IDE directly from the Windows Store.

Fire up VS Code and File | Open Folder and open the Disk Drive of the NeoTrellis and open (or create) a code.py file. Then from the Command Palette (Ctrl-Shift-P) in VS Code select Arduino > Initialize. If you get an error you may need to set up the path to your Arduino IDE. If you installed it from the Windows Store like we did you may find it in a weird path. We set the arduino.path like this:

"arduino.path": "C:\\Program Files\\WindowsApps\\ArduinoLLC.ArduinoIDE_1.8.19.0_x86__mdqgnx93n4wtt"

The NeoTrellis M4 also shows up as a COM port so you can look at its Serial Output for debugging purposes as if it were an Arduino (because it is underneath). You then Arduino > Select a COM Port from the Command Palette and it will create a file called .vscode/arduino.json in your folder that will look like this:

{
"port": "COM3"
}

Trellis M4 is awesomeNow, within Visual Studio Code select Arduino > Open Serial Monitor and all of your print("") methods will output to that bottom pane.

Of course, we could putty into the COM Port but since I'm using this as a learning tool with my 11 year old, I find that a single window that shows both the console and the code help them focus, rather than managing multiple windows.

At this point we have a nice Developer Inner Loop going. That inner loop for us (the developers) is that we can write some code, hit save (Ctrl-S) and get immediate feedback. The application restarts when it detects the code.py file has changed and any debug (print) statements appear in the console immediately.

Visual Studio Code doing some Circuit Python

We are really enjoying this Adafruit NeoTrellis M4 Express kit. Next we're going to make a beat sequencer since the Christmas Soundboard was such a hit with mom!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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The Fun of Finishing - Exploring old games with Xbox Backwards Compatibility

December 21, '18 Comments [13] Posted in Gaming
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Star Wars: KOTORI'm on vacation for the holidays and I'm finally getting some time to play video games. I've got an Xbox One X that is my primary machine, and I also have a Nintendo Switch that is a constant source of joy. I recently also picked up a very used original PS4 just to play Spider-man but expanded to a few other games as well.

One of the reasons I end up using my Xbox more than any of my other consoles is its support for Backwards Compatibility. Backwards Compat is so extraordinary that I did an entire episode of my podcast on the topic with one of the creators.

The general idea is that an Xbox should be able to play Xbox games. Let's take that even further - Today's Xbox should be able to play today's Xbox games AND yesterday's...all the way back to the beginning. One more step further, shall well? Today's Xbox should be able to play all Xbox games from every console generation and they'll look better than you imagined them!

The Xbox One X can take 720p games and upscale them to 4k, use higher quality textures, and some games like Final Fantasy XIII have even been fully remastered but you still use the original disc! I would challenge you to play the original Red Dead Redemption on an Xbox One X and not think it was a current generation game. I recently popped in a copy of Splinter Cell: Conviction and it automatically loaded a 5-year-old save game from the cloud and I was on my way. I played Star Wars: KOTOR - an original Xbox game - and it looks amazing.

Red Dead Redemption

A little vacation combined with a lot of backwards compatibility has me actually FINISHING games again. I've picked up a ton of games this week and finally had that joy of finishing them. Each game I started up that had a save game found me picking up 60% to 80% into the game. Maybe I got stuck, perhaps I didn't have enough time. Who knows? But I finished. Most of these finishings were just 3 to 5 hours of pushing from my current (old, original) save games.

  • Crysis 2 - An Xbox 360 game that now works on an Xbox One X. I was halfway through and finished it up in a few days.
  • Crysis 3 - Of course I had to go to the local retro game trader and pick up a copy for $5 and bang through it. Crysis is a great trilogy.
  • Dishonored - I found a copy in my garage while cleaning. Turns out I had a save game in the Xbox cloud since 2013. I started right from where I left off. It's so funny to see a December 2018 save game next to a 2013 save game.
  • Alan Wake - Kind of a Twin Peaks type story, or a Stephen King with a flashlight and a gun. Gorgeous game, and very innovative for the time.
  • Mirror's Edge - Deceptively simple graphics that look perfect on 4k. This isn't just upsampling, to be clear. It's magic.
  • Metro 2033 - Deep story and a lot of world building. Oddly I finished Metro: Last Light a few months back but never did the original.
  • Sunset Overdrive - It's so much better than Jet Set Radio Future. This game has a ton of personality and they recorded ALL the lines twice with a male and female voice. I spoke to the voiceover artist for the female character on Twitter and I really think her performance is extraordinary. I had so much fun with this game that now the 11 year old is starting it up. An under-respected classic.
  • Gears of War Ultimate - This is actually the complete Gears series. I was over halfway through all of these but never finished. Gears are those games where you play for a while and end up pausing and googling "how many chapters in gears of war." They are long games. I ended up finishing on the easiest difficulty. I want a story and I want some fun but I'm not interested in punishment.
  • Shadow Complex - Also surprisingly long, I apparently (per my save game) gave up with just an hour to go. I guess I didn't realize how close I was to the end?

I'm having a blast (while the spouse and kids sleep, in some cases) finishing up these games. I realize I'm not actually accomplishing anything but the psychic weight of the unfinished is being lifted in some cases. I don't play a lot of multiplayer games as I enjoy a story. I read a ton of books and watch a lot of movies, so I look for a tale when I'm playing video games. They are interactive books and movies for me with a complete story arc. I love it when the credits role. A great single player game with a built-up universe is as satisfying (or more so) as finishing a good book.

What are you playing this holiday season? What have you rediscovered due to Backwards Compatibility?


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Enjoy some DOS Games this Christmas with DOSBox

December 19, '18 Comments [4] Posted in Gaming
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I blogged about DOSBox five years ago! Apparently I get nostalgic around this time of year when I've got some downtime. Here's what I had to say:

I was over at my parents' house for the Christmas Holiday and my mom pulled out a bunch of old discs and software from 20+ years ago. One gaame was "Star Trek: Judgment Rites" from 1995. I had the CD-ROM Collector's edition with all the audio from the original actors, not just the floppy version with subtitles. It's a MASSIVE 23 megabytes of content!

DOSBox has ben providing joy in its reliable service for over 16 years and you should go check it out RIGHT NOW, if only to remind yourself of how good we have it now. DOSBox is an x86 and DOS Emulator - not a virtual machine. It emulates classic hardware like Sound Blaster cards and older graphics standards like VGA/VESA.

If a game runs too fast, you can slow it down by pressing Ctrl-F11. You can speed up games by pressing Ctrl-F12. DOSBox’s CPU speed is displayed in its title bar. Type "intro special" for a full hotkey list.

Note that DOSBox will start up TINY if you have a 4k monitor. There's a few things to you can do about it. First, ALT-ENTER will toggle DOSBox into full screen mode, although when you return to Windows your windows may find themselves resized.

For Windowed mode, I used these settings. You can't scale the window when output=surface, so experiment with settings like these:

windowresolution=1280 x 1024
output=ddraw

These are only the most basic initial changes you'll want to make. There's an enthusiastic community of DOSBox users that are dedicated to making it as perfect as possible. I enjoy this reddit thread debating "pixel perfect" settings. There's also a number of forks and custom builds of DOSBox out there that impose specific settings so be sure to explore and pick the one that makes you happy. It's also important to understand that aspect ratios and the size and squareness of a pixel will all change how your game looks.

I tend to agree with them that I don't want a blurry scaler. I want the dots/pixels as they are, simply made larger (2x, 3x, 4x, etc) with crisp edges at a reasonable aspect ratio. An interesting change you can make to your .conf file is the "forced" keyword after your scaler choice.

Here is scaler=normal3x (no forced)

Blurry DOSBox

and there's scaler-normal3x forced

The instructions say that forced means "the scaler will be used even if the result might not be desired." In this case, it forces the use of the scaler in text mode. Your mileage may vary, but the point is there's options and it's great fun. You may want scanlines or you may want crisp pixels.

I've found it all depends on what your memory of DOS is and what you're trying to do is to change the settings to best visualize that memory. My (broken) memory is of CRISP pixels.

Crisp DOSBox

Amazing difference!
The first thing you should do is add lines like these to the bottom of your dosbox.conf. You'll want your virtual C: drive mounted every time DOSBox starts up!

[autoexec]
# Lines in this section will be run at startup.
MOUNT C: C:\Users\scott\Dropbox\DosBox

If you want to play classic games but don't want the hassle (or questionable legality) of other ways, I'd encourage you to spend some serious time at https://www.gog.com. They've packaged up a ton of classic games so they "just work."

Bard's Tale 3
Space Quest 3

Enjoy! And THANK YOU to the folks that work on DOSBox for their hard work. It shows and we appreciate it.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.