I guess we're not exporting the Zune just yet

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/12/08 14:13 -08:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2006/12/08/1242102.aspx

I bought a Zune the other day.

This is something of a departure for me, as I have not bought a portable music player smaller than a Tablet or laptop since the Walkman I picked up over two decades ago. And generally speaking I don't go for the latest entertainment devices, something that has been true since I bought an Atari 5200 around the time I bought that Walkman.

But I figured what the hell, I'd go to the MS Company Store and pick one up. :-)

I bought a white one, which is (according to Carolyn) the least cool of the three colors. But I never claimed to be cool, so that was no problem.

So I set up my new cool Zune.

I found that I was quite happy with the sound quality and especially happy that I was able to sync the over 25gb of music from my Lattitude D820 and still have enough room for all eight episodes of Love Monkey in WMV format.

(that would be Paul Bryan and Aimee Mann from the episode entitled The One That Got Away)

But I admit I was a little bit less happy when I scrolled through those many gigabytes of music.

As you can imagine, I have lots of music on my machine that is imported from other countries, and lots of that music is not in English.

It was very cool to see it in the Zune app on my laptop:

It even included my humorous playlists! 

On the other hand, it was decidely doubleplusuncool to see what it looked like on the device:

Hmmmm. Well, I guess I have to install some fonts. I better go find out how....

But I find article 928210 in the MS Knowledge Base (Boxes (□) or other characters appear instead of letters in the name of a song or an album when you browse for music on your Zune device) which confirms my diagnosis with some decidely un-international text:


This behavior occurs when the name of the media contains characters that are not part of the United States English (en-us) font that is installed on the Zune device.

followed by a suggested seven step workaround, step #6 of which is:

Modify the album name or the song name so that it contains U.S. characters to help you identify it.


I asked around and nobody had any advice on installing some more fonts. :-( 

What are we republicans that we assume that US text == English text? Grrr.

Well, I am not going to return my Zune. But the behavior as well as the text of the KB article (which does not even put in the text that this is a bug) are bad enough that the Zune makes it to the Unicode Lame List of What's [Internationally] Weak this week....

Microsoft Typography to the bridge! Chekov, fire an MS UI Gothic torpedo at the Zune to port!

Update 3:14 PM: In the final insult, this somewhat obnoxious KB article has translations into Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, all of whom screw up the NULL glyph.


This post brought to you by (U+30d0, a.k.a. KATAKANA LETTER BA)

# tzagotta on Friday, December 08, 2006 5:25 PM:

Yes, that is a disappointment, especially since Microsoft preaches quite a bit to developers about Unicode, Internationalization, User Experience, and Design. But it seems that, in the design of its own products, these principles get forgotten.

# tzagotta on Friday, December 08, 2006 5:26 PM:

Also, a question - is Zune running WinCE?

# Michael S. Kaplan on Friday, December 08, 2006 5:48 PM:

It is my understanding that it is a special build of CE, though I could be mistaken about that.

Though at least note that it does support Unicode (thus the null glyphs!). Now we just need the fonts, and Uniscribe!

# Michael S. Kaplan on Friday, December 08, 2006 5:50 PM:

I also await guesses as to what album I showed, from anyone who does not know Japanese? :-)

# Tom Gewecke on Friday, December 08, 2006 6:37 PM:

I'm truly shocked.  And to think that a lot of iPod users complain that this device can't do Arabic, Hebew, Devanagari, Thai, or Vietnamese,  but is limited to only Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Bulgarian, Croatian, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian and Ukrainian.

# Zune-Online.com on Friday, December 08, 2006 10:13 PM:

I have loaded some Greek tracks on Zune. I can read Greek letters on the menus just fine. But when the track plays I also see boxes instead of letters...

# Michael S. Kaplan on Friday, December 08, 2006 11:16 PM:

Yep, that's what is happening here, too. :-(

 This suggests that the device has different fonts with varying levels of script support, and that the themes specify different fonts....

# Rosyna on Saturday, December 09, 2006 1:32 AM:

it's amusing, iPod users were up in arms because it didn't support cyrillic for a very long time. I dunno what I'd do if the iPod didn't support CJK as I have a *lot* of japanese songs (listening to one right now, in fact).

# Dean Harding on Saturday, December 09, 2006 9:14 AM:

I get the impression that the Zune was built by some completely detached group from the rest of Microsoft. Just the fact that it's not a PlaysForSure device sits strangely for me.

This lack of international support is a strange one, though. Especially since it can obviously SUPPORT it, it just doesn't "support" it...

Apparently, the release dates anywhere outside the U.S. are still all "Unknown" so I guess they have plenty of time to fix it...

# gwinter on Monday, December 11, 2006 6:15 AM:

Years ago, I remember borrowing a Rio player from a friend. Any files with non-ASCII characters in the filename can't be recognized at all. I understand things have improved since, but I doubt we'll see the kind of support that we can get from a desktop system. This is why I've never bothered with any of those mp3/audio player.

# Si on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 5:35 PM:

>Microsoft Typography to the bridge! Chekov, fire an MS UI Gothic torpedo at the Zune to port!

Zune team won't let us talk about the future plans, but the fonts used on the V1. are Convection UI (XBox 360 UI font that includes Greek) and a new narrow version of Convection UI with a smaller character set (read no Greek). See http://www.ascendercorp.com/portfolio_custom.html

Subsetting the fonts to the same char set may have been sensible for support reasons, but I think its important to remember that this is a V1. and that the PMC supported a larger char-set.

Cheers, Si

# ian on Tuesday, December 26, 2006 6:05 AM:

Has anyone found the solution or mod to this unicode problem? i've got tons of japanese and chinese songs and im really feeling helpless with those boxes around.. : (

# Michael S. Kaplan on Wednesday, December 27, 2006 1:35 PM:

At present, I don't think there is one. They want people to be reading and writing fluent NULL GLYPH language.

# justinitalia on Tuesday, February 20, 2007 5:07 PM:

that album is christina aguilera (spelling?)... hey, if you have any guesses as to an upgrade or a solution to this problem, please help me =]

i am gonna stick with my zune but i am seriously waiting for a solution to this

# Steve on Thursday, February 22, 2007 10:44 PM:

I wouldn't hold my breath if I were Microsoft. Serves them right for slapping WinCE onto a badge engineered Toshiba music player. I also give them extra brownie points of suckitude for making some of them in that poop brown color tinged with antifreeze green.

# zman on Tuesday, February 27, 2007 11:00 PM:

At least, you may have to wait for a rockbox software. (www.rockbox.org)

# zman on Tuesday, February 27, 2007 11:01 PM:

At least, you may have to wait for a rockbox software.

# etunnel on Saturday, December 01, 2007 3:12 AM:

After spending efforts to convert all ID3 tag text to Unicode and seeing the correct display in the zune software on PC, I found that they all appear as squares on my zune device.  It is worse than the accented character display before.  What a waste of time!  When can zune match up to most of other mp3 player?  Even my dinky old cheap $30 mp3 player from RCA displays the character correctly in a tiny display.  Shame on MS.

# JW on Thursday, January 03, 2008 9:05 AM:

Can we PLEASE get a fix for this.  I'd really like my wife to carry a zune but she refuses to do so until this problem is fixed.

referenced by

2009/01/06 Zune in the zone (aka It is not easy to embarrass a man with no shame)

2008/01/05 Zune 2.0 software is able to support Greek + Cyrillic + more Latin

2007/11/12 Apple 3, Microsoft 0 (aka Sorting Mac and Windows all Out)

2007/10/25 SOL trying to change the CE UI?

2007/09/05 Hats off to you, you naughty people....

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