Oops: Zunes Not Y2K9 Compatible

By Mike on 1:34 pm

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Remember Y2k when we all thought the world's computers would suffer a simultaneous melt down when the clock struck midnight on January 1st, 2000? For Microsoft anyway, the Y2k bug suffered a nine year delayed reaction. At the stroke of midnight Pacific Standard Time on January 1st, 2009, 30gb Zune players world wide bit the dust. The affected Zunes rebooted themselves and froze on the loading screen, effectively bricking Microsoft's "iPod killer." The problem effects the 30gb model though some owners of the 80gb model also reported the same issue. The problem occurs with all 30gb Zunes with 3.0 firmware or later. This includes even the newest units. Some people who received a brand spanking new Zune for Christmas are undoubtedly upset.

So what went wrong and how do you fix it? Microsoft issued a press release stating the problem was in how the Zune handles leap years. They didn't elabourate as to why but it sounds an awful lot like what happened with Y2K. According to ArsTechnia and CNET, a Zune board user has identified the problem

"The Zune's real-time clock stores the time in terms of days and seconds since January 1st, 1980. The Zune frontend first accesses the clock toward the end of the boot sequence. Doing this triggers the code that reads the clock and converts it to a date and time." Under normal circumstances, this works just fine. The function keeps subtracting either 365 or 366 until it gets down to less than a year's worth of days, which it then turns into the month and day of month. Thing is, in the case of the last day of a leap year, it keeps going until it hits 366. Thanks to the if (days > 366), it stops subtracting anything if the loop happens to be on a leap year. But 366 is too large to break out of the main loop, meaning that the Zune keeps looping forever and doesn't do anything else."

Microsoft has developed a fix for it and suggests users take the following steps. Microsoft has suggested that users should follow these instructions and not those provided online by third parties.
1. Disconnect your Zune from USB and AC power sources.
2. Because the player is frozen, its battery will drain--this is good. Wait until the battery is empty and the screen goes black. If the battery was fully charged, this might take a couple of hours.
3. Wait until after noon GMT on January 1, 2009 (that's 7 a.m. Eastern or 4 a.m. Pacific time).
4. Connect your Zune to either a USB port on the back or your computer or to AC power using the Zune AC Adapter and let it charge.

One has to have a good laugh at Microsoft. For such a big company with near unlimited resources, they can't even do something as simple as get a clock to work properly on their MP3 player. The biggest problem with Microsoft is that they are not a hardware manufacturer and are in a market they have no business being in. They can do fine with simple things like keyboards and mice but their consumer electronics of recent years have had a notorious failure record. That said, the Zune has been a fairly reliable player thus far. However this incident does nothing to help it's poor reputation. Fortunately the problem has been fixed in a rather timely fashion so Zune users can go back to enjoying their players. Such an incident is rather inexcusable though. No other devices to my knowledge had issues with the date change.

Source: The Register, CNET

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