The internet is awash with reports that the 30GB Zune is committing suicide across the planet. Not just one of them, either. It seems that some weird bug is simultaneously causing the music players to kill themselves, like lemmings leaping from a cliff.
While the Zune is a distant also-ran in the MP3 market, which is dominated by Apple’s, the Microsoft-made device has gained critical approbation with its most recent, version 3.0 models, whose features are quite competitive with the iPod line. Many users appreciate the player’s built-in FM radio and “Zune Social” features, which facilitate the communal sharing and discovery of new music.
Speculation is of course centered around the timing. It is New Year’s Eve, after all, and the conspiracy nuts are calling this Z2K (with or without a +9 at the end). Wired.com NYC Bureau Chief John C Abell prefers the idea that it is “Brilliant Microsoft DRM Technology”, which would be the most hilarious explanation, if unlikely.
The reports say that the units are simply freezing and won’t respond to anything. Grunfloz at the Zune.net forums sums up the issue:
From what I can tell it looks like every Zune 30 on the planet has suddenly crashed. Is this a virus? A glitch? A time bomb? A disgruntled Microsoft employee? Planned obsolescence to make us buy a new one? Or just a terrorist plot to drive the free world crazy?
Update: Microsoft has acknowledged the problem on its Zune support website, but has not yet posted a fix. “Customers with 30GB Zune devices may experience issues when booting their Zune hardware,” said the company. “We’re aware of the problem and are working to correct it. The Zune Social might be slow or inaccessible.”
Meanwhile, Zune users speculated about the reasons for the devices locking up and suggested possible fixes.
Some users report that they have fixed the problem by disconnecting the battery (which requires opening the case) or waiting for it to run out of power and then recharging it. (Thanks to several commenters below, including James, for the tip!)
Others have speculated that Zune’s failure could have been a fallout of the leap year. With 2008 having 366 days, Zune’s firmware may have run into trouble when its internal clock went over 365 days for the current year, speculated some users.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Naval Observatory, which keeps a master clock, has added a ‘leap second’ to today–the last day of the year. The idea is ensure atomic clocks stay in sync with the Earth’s slowly diminishing rate of rotation, said scientists. The bonus second raises another possibility: Will other gadgets go on the fritz tonight because they’re not programmed to deal with the leap second?