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Microsoft plague threatens 30GB Zune extinction

Worldwide mass media-player death

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Updated It would appear that a Microsoft software bug has put the world's 30GB Zune population on the verge of extinction.

According to Zune owners from across the globe, thousands of Microsoft's 30GB iPod imitators suddenly gave up the ghost at exactly midnight Pacific time last night.

"We've got two Zune 30GBs," says one poster to the Zune.net forums. "One was docked in the Zune Docking Station, the other wasn't. At exactly 2am CDT (12am PDT), the docked Zune made the 'unplugged from USB port' bong-noise and went to the boot-up screen with the 100% loading bar...and froze.

"At 2:30am CDT, I decided to check the other Zune. Turned it on and...frozen at the 100% loading screen. Something's clearly wrong with the Zune 30GBs. I hope they get this fixed soon...I just got my Zune for Christmas, and I was loving it!"

You may question the sanity of anyone who loves their Zune. But countless others confirm their 30GB Zunes froze in much the same way, at much the same time. Some have also experienced the sudden Zune death with 80GB models.

Death appears to occur whether the Zune is idle or playing music. In some cases, according to net posters, the device shuts down entirely and then freezes when they attempt a restart. In other cases, it freezes after restarting on its own.

Some claim devices are immune to the Zune death if they haven't upgraded to the latest version of Microsoft's firmware (version 3.1). But Ars Technica has witnessed the sudden expiration of a 3.0 player.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to our request for comment. But judging from comments tossed at other news outlets, the company has yet to determine the cause of the problem - let alone offer a solution.

"We are aware that customers with the Zune 30GB are experiencing issues with their Zune device," Redmond told Ars. "We are actively working now to isolate the issue and develop a solution to address it. We will keep customers informed on next steps via the support page on zune.net (zune.net/support)." ®

Update

At noon Pacific time on December 31, Microsoft tossed us the same statement it tossed Ars. Still no solution to speak of.

Update 2

Microsoft believes it has identified the bug and expects all 30GB Zunes to revive tomorrow, January 1. "Early this morning we were alerted by our customers that there was a widespread issue affecting our 2006 model Zune 30GB devices (a large number of which are still actively being used)," reads a new statement from the company. "The technical team jumped on the problem immediately and isolated the issue: a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year.

"That being the case, the issue should be resolved over the next 24 hours as the time change moves to January 1, 2009. We expect the internal clock on the Zune 30GB devices will automatically reset tomorrow (noon, GMT). By tomorrow, you should allow the battery to fully run out of power before the unit can restart successfully then simply ensure that your device is recharged, then turn it back on. If you’re a Zune Pass subscriber, you may need to sync your device with your PC to refresh the rights to the subscription content you have downloaded to your device."

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