EPIC FAIL: The Day the Zune 30’s died

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The day the music died

Don McLean sang about this day, for years we thought he was referring to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. We never imagined it would have been our music players that died.

For those of you who don’t know yet, Microsoft’s 30GB Zune’s all across the world have frozen at boot.

They’re calling it the “Zunpocalypse” or the” Z2K9 Bug” and it’s drawing criticism from the tech community, leaving many to wonder if the bug will be fixed only  for people with Zune 30’s under warranty.

Around 2am local time, Zune’s restarted and hung on the Booting Screen. Some have reported success resurrecting their devices by opening it disconnecting/reconnecting the HDD and battery, though that’s not recommended if you want to keep your warranty intact.

Only the 30GB Zune’s seem to be affected by this problem, and only those with the 3.x firmware (users with Zune 30s and the 1.x and 2.x firmware have reported no problems).

Since today is the 366th day of the year, some have postulated the presence of a bug in the 3.x firmware as it interacts with the Zune 30 hardware where the extra day is not properly handled, though Microsoft has yet to confirm anything other than the existence of a problem and that they are working on a fix.

Microsoft’s Major Nielson, an active participant in the end-user community claimed the problem had been acknowledged and repaired (https://twitter.com/majornelson/status/1088246543) then recanted (https://twitter.com/majornelson/status/1088280898) and said he’d rattle the cages of the Zune team (https://twitter.com/majornelson/status/1088291488) and let us know when there was a fix (https://twitter.com/majornelson/status/1088297066).

Microsoft Zune team has officially gone on the record, positing a “Status” message on Zune.net which reads:

Customers with 30gb Zune devices may experience issues when booting their Zune hardware. We’re aware of the problem and are working to correct it. Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience!

The Zune Boards has the following message:

Hey folks. Brian [MossyRoc] from the Zune team here. We realize there is an issue with the Zune 30 and a team is working hard right now to isolate the issue and develop a plan. I will be providing you with updates as I can. I [we] appreciate your patience, I realize this is an inconvenience and we are working hard to remedy the issue.
Brian.

Zune.net’s Matt Akers of the Zune Product Team opened a sticky thread regarding the issue:

Hi guys,

<p>I wanted to start a sticky thread to give you a place to discuss the issue with the Zune 30's freezing. Rather than hijacking other threads or creating tons of repeat threads, please post here if you want to discuss. </p>    <p>I will post any information I have in this thread as it becomes available. You can also monitor <a href="http://www.zune.net/en-US/support/default.htm">http://www.zune.net/en-US/support/default.htm</a> for updates on the issue.</p>    <p>I can assure you that the team is working to understand and resolve the issue as soon as possible. My apologies to all of those that are affected by the problem. Thank you for your patience!</p>    <p>-Matt</p>    <p>     <hr align="left" width="25%" size="1" />Matt Akers      <br />Zune Product Team      <br />.: This posting is provided &quot;as-is&quot; with no warranties, and confers no rights :. </p> 

Some are advising leaving the Zune at the startup screen until the battery dies, and repeating the startup/battery drain process to completely drain the battery (such that the clock loses track of the date/time). Some have reported success doing this, only to be thwarted when they dock/sync with the computer, or set their clock. This has led others to speculate that the “problem” may be resolved when users start up their Zune’s tomorrow, New Year’s Day – after a battery drain, of course. Time will tell.

UPDATE 12:46

Matt gives us an update (emphasis added):

Hey guys, I know this sucks, and I can promise you that we are working on resolving the issue. Wish I had more insight right now, but I promise I will post here when I know something.

<p>In the meantime, just hang tight, and <strong>don't go performing any Zune 30 surgery or anything</strong>...</p>    <p>Thanks,</p>    <p>Matt</p>    <hr align="left" width="25%" size="1" />Matt Akers    <br />Zune Product Team    <br />.: This posting is provided &quot;as-is&quot; with no warranties, and confers no rights :. 

Update 12:55

CNN Headline News covers the Zune 30 bricking problem: http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/12/31/zune.player.failures/?iref=hpmostpop

Update 13:13

Matt gives us another update, with some hope – and a warning (emphasis added):

Hey guys, I am totally feeling your pain here. I want to let you know that we are close to understanding the issue and just hang tight (I know it’s tough, I miss my ol’ 30, too).

<p>Also, I<strong> wouldn't recommend cracking your Zune open and performing any surgery</strong> or anything. :) Just disconnect it from your computer or charger and let it sit for the time being. </p>    <p>Thanks for being patient everyone!</p>    <p>-Matt</p>    <hr align="left" width="25%" size="1" />Matt Akers    <br />Zune Product Team    <br />.: This posting is provided &quot;as-is&quot; with no warranties, and confers no rights :. 

Update 13:14

The Zune 30 Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zune_30) is updated to reflect today’s problem.

Update 14:08

Zune Insider issues press release with an official update (http://zuneinsider.com/archive/2008/12/31/30gb-zune-issues-official-update.aspx):

[There is] a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year.&#
16
0;

<p>The issue should be resolved over the next 24 hours as the time change moves to January 1, 2009.&#160;&#160; 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.&#160; 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.&#160; </p>    <p>Customers can continue to stay informed via the support page on zune.net (zune.net/support).</p> 

The release goes into a Q&A section, where it poses the following:

Q:  What fixes or patches are you putting in place to resolve this situation? 

<p>This situation should remedy itself over the next 24 hours as the time flips to January 1st.</p>    <p>[…]</p>    <p>Q:&#160; What is Zune doing to fix this issue?&#160; </p>    <p>The issue should resolve itself.</p> 

The release seems to imply that New Years Eve on every leap year Zune 30’s will cease to function, and the official fix is to “just wait for tomorrow, it’ll fix itself.”

Also, there was no mention of compensation for Zune 30 users who effectively lost the ability to use their Zune for the day.

Update 14:54

Microsoft has the audacity to send out their Zune Weekly email newsletter – with no mention of the Zune 30 bug.

Update 15:25

Matt catches the thread up with the official response:

Guys I just received a response from the team. Looks like this issue will resolve itself over the next 12-24hours, great news!

<p>Here is the repsonse (it's also on the first page):</p>    <p>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).&#160; 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.&#160; The issue should be resolved over the next 24 hours as the time change moves to January 1, 2009.&#160;&#160; 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.&#160; 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.&#160; </p>    <p>Customers can continue to stay informed via the support page on zune.net (zune.net/support).</p>    <p>We know this has been a big inconvenience to our customers and we are sorry for that, and want to thank them for their patience.&#160; </p>    <p>Q:&#160; Why is this issue isolated to the Zune 30 device? </p>    <p>It is a bug in a driver for a part that is only used in the Zune 30 device.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; What fixes or patches are you putting in place to resolve this situation?&#160; </p>    <p>This situation should remedy itself over the next 24 hours as the time flips to January 1st.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; What’s the timeline on a fix? </p>    <p>The issue Zune 30GB customers are experiencing today will self resolve as time changes to January 1.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; Why did this occur at precisely 12:01 a.m. on December 31, 2008?&#160; </p>    <p>There is a bug in the internal clock driver causing the 30GB device to improperly handle the last day of a leap year.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; What is Zune doing to fix this issue?&#160; </p>    <p>The issue should resolve itself.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; Are you sure that this won’t happen to all 80, 120 or other flash devices?&#160; </p>    <p>This issue is related to a part that is only used in Zune 30 devices.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; How many 30GB Zune devices are affected? How many Zune 30GB devices were sold?&#160; </p>    <p>All 30GB devices are potentially affected.</p>    <hr align="left" width="25%" size="1" />Matt Akers    <br />Zune Product Team    <br />.: This posting is provided &quot;as-is&quot; with no warranties, and confers no rights :. 

Update 16:02

Matt feels the pressure about the lack of a true “fix” for the problem, and the implication that the problem will happen again every 12/31 in each leap year:

I updated the announcement to reflect that a fix will be applied before 2012. But you can still buy a 120 if you want, they are awesome. 😛

<p><a href="http://forums.zune.net/412486/ShowPost.aspx">http://forums.zune.net/412486/ShowPost.aspx</a></p>    <hr align="left" width="25%" size="1" />Matt Akers    <br />Zune Product Team

That link now says the following:

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).  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.  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. 

<p>Customers can continue to stay informed via the support page on zune.net (zune.net/support).</p>    <p>We know this has been a big inconvenience to our customers and we are sorry for that, and want to thank them for their patience.&#160; </p>    <p>Q:&#160; Why is this issue isolated to the Zune 30 device? </p>    <p>It is a bug in a driver for a part that is only used in the Zune 30 device.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; What fixes or patches are you putting in place to resolve this situation?&#160; </p>    <p>This situation should remedy itself over the next 24 hours as the time flips to January 1st.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; What’s the timeline on a fix? </p>    <p>The issue Zune 30GB customers are experiencing today will self resolve as time changes to January 1.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; Why did this occur at precisely 12:01 a.m. on December 31, 2008?&#160; </p>    <p>There is a bug in the internal clock driver causing the 30GB device to improperly handle the last day of a leap year.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; What is Zune doing to fix this issue?&#160; </p>    <p>The issue should resolve itself.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; Are you sure that this won’t happen to all 80, 120 or other flash devices?&#160; </p>    <p>This issue is related to a part that is only used in Zune 30 devices.</p>    <p>Q:&#160; How many 30GB Zune devices are affected? </p>    <p>All 30GB devices are potentially affected.</p>    <p>Q: Will you update the firmware before the next leap year (2012)?</p>    <p>Yes.</p> 

Summary

The device was waiting for “day 365” to turn to “day 0” probably for some DRM related reason. The problem is that today, 12/31/2008, was “day 366” due to leap year, and a bug in the Zune 30’s internal clock driver doesn’t handle leap years, so it was stuck waiting.

The warranty-voiding work-around is to open your Zune, and pull the battery and HDD cables, then reseat

them and reassemble. Allow to charge but DO NOT connect to a computer (that will reset the clock and your hacking will have been for naught). If you didn’t break anything in the process you should be good to go, just don’t plug in to a computer (or wireless sync?) until after noon GMT 01/01/2009.

The “official” work-around is to let your battery drain (don’t have it cradled or connected to a power source), and plug it back in tomorrow, 01/01/2009 AFTER noon GMT (which is around 5am Mountain Time, where I live). After that time, plug it back in, allow it to charge, and it should boot and operate normally… until next leap year.

The fix, Matt from Microsoft’s Zune team, will come via a ROM update sometime before 2012, the next time the problem will surface (and every subsequent leap year).

Please comment with your experience and whether or not either of the two work-arounds worked for you.

Related Links:

  • http://digg.com/microsoft/Zune_Fail_2
<li><a title="http://forums.thoughtsmedia.com/f9/zune-30gb-devices-failing-start-2009-a-91955.html" href="http://forums.thoughtsmedia.com/f9/zune-30gb-devices-failing-start-2009-a-91955.html">http://forums.thoughtsmedia.com/f9/zune-30gb-devices-failing-start-2009-a-91955.html</a></li>    <li><a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-13526_3-10130017-27.html">http://news.cnet.com/8301-13526_3-10130017-27.html</a></li>    <li><a title="http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/12/31/zune.player.failures/?iref=hpmostpop" href="http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/12/31/zune.player.failures/?iref=hpmostpop">http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/12/31/zune.player.failures/?iref=hpmostpop</a></li>    <li><a title="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zune_30" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zune_30">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zune_30</a></li>    <ul>     <li><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z2K9">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z2K9</a></li>      <li><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leap_second">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leap_second</a> </li>   </ul>    <li><a title="http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=58498960459" href="http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=58498960459">http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=58498960459</a></li>    <li><a title="http://zuneinsider.com/archive/2008/12/31/30gb-zune-issues-official-update.aspx" href="http://zuneinsider.com/archive/2008/12/31/30gb-zune-issues-official-update.aspx" target="_blank">http://zuneinsider.com/archive/2008/12/31/30gb-zune-issues-official-update.aspx</a></li>    <li><a href="http://tech.yahoo.com/news/nf/20081231/tc_nf/63809">http://tech.yahoo.com/news/nf/20081231/tc_nf/63809</a> </li>

9 thoughts on “EPIC FAIL: The Day the Zune 30’s died

  1. Thank you for the info and the updates on this. I haven’t turned my Zune on today, and I think I’ll wait until tomorrow to turn it on to see what happens.

  2. It should be noted, the official statement from Microsoft is “Will you update the firmware before the next leap year (2012)? Yes.”

    Notice how the statement was not “Will you update the firmware to correct this bug in the internal clock driver befoer 2012?”

    They only promised to update the firmware again sometime, at least once, before 2012, but they have not committed to actually fixing the bug at all!

    http://www.JoeLevi.com

  3. Thanks for the updates. I’m just extremely grateful I found your post first before possibly turning on my Zune, seeing it freeze, and having a panic attack/nervous breakdown.

  4. Way to spazz out on the Zune Insider forums, cause voiding the warranty makes much more sense than just waiting for the battery to die (which happens quite quickly for a machine stuck in an infinite loop).

    And read the whole post before you go shooting your mouth off, they’re fixing the problem, and the only way they could possibly get you a firmware update would be to have you connect your Zune to a computer, which would freeze it again. But thinking things through is for people with time on their hands they aren’t spending on trying to make the internet think they’re worthwhile, isn’t it?

  5. @JoeSmith,

    I don’t know if I should justify your comment with a reply or not, especially since you provided a bogus email address and all.

    Regarding my one and only post on the Zune Insider forums, I didn’t advise anything (opening the case, or not). Here on my own blog I re-posted Matt from Microsoft’s advice to NOT open the case (I even bolded that phrase in both posts).

    Next, the Zune 30 wasn’t stuck in an infinite loop. It wasn’t stuck in a loop at all. It was stuck in a “waiting for the day to change to a valid day” and 365 isn’t a valid day (0-365 = 366 days) for the Zune 30. But you’re right, the battery will eventually drain to its “standby” state after just a few hours of being stuck at the “white line of death.” Unfortunately you had to restart your device and re-create the “while line” screen about 30 times before the battery was drained enough to make the clock lose track of that day it was. So what you advise wouldn’t have worked without repeating dozens of times, which you failed to mention.

    I didn’t “shoot my mouth off” at all. I stated that not handling leap year in a clock driver was an “epic fail” especially when it “bricked” the entire Zune 30 population in the world.

    The point of my post was simple: we bought a product that WILL fail one day every leap-year. That’s worth (1) a commitment from Microsoft to repair the bug, and (2) compensation of some sort (perhaps credit for a free song or two).

    Next, you don’t know much about USB devices, let alone devices powered by Windows CE (such as the Zune). Yes, the device is somewhat frozen, but certain portions of the software were still working, the radio, for example, was reported to still work (if it was playing at the time the “freeze” took place it was still playing after the “freeze”). This tells us that only part of the device was unresponsive. In any event, you can flash firmware to a Windows CE device over USB even if it’s “frozen” or “unresponsive,” it doesn’t have to be recognized by the OS as a USB device, you can talk to the device itself without going through the OS’s USB subsystem. I’ve done this many many times with “bricked” Windows Mobile phones (which also run Windows CE).

    So, my point behind this post was to let my readers know about the failure, and to provide a single point where they could come for updates regarding the failure. And also to call Microsoft to task for “making this right” by fixing the root problem, and compensating those affected in an appropriate manner (credit for free song or two).

    So, I think I’ve thought things through fairly well, wouldn’t you agree? I think I’ve thought things through much more thoroughly than certain persons posting comments here.

    Anyhow, thank you for the chance to respond to your comment, and for commenting here in the first place.

    Next time make sure you have your facts straight and don’t hide behind a fake email address. Be man enough to stand behind your convictions.

    http://www.JoeLevi.com

  6. @Bryce,
    @Darb,

    Glad I could be of assistance!

    For every one else reading, my Zune 30 continued to “white line” until early this morning (don’t know when, I fell asleep).

    However, around 10am Mountain Time I went to check, the battery was gone, so I charged it up for a while, when it came up the symptom was gone.

    Now I’m waiting for the Zune to fully charge, which is taking a long time, and I’m waiting for Microsoft to release an update that fixes the root cause of the problem (the bug in the internal clock driver).

    http://www.JoeLevi.com

  7. @Bryce, @Darb,

    Glad I could be of assistance!

    For every one else reading, my Zune 30 continued to “white line” until early this morning (don’t know when, I fell asleep).

    However, around 10am Mountain Time I went to check, the battery was gone, so I charged it up for a while, when it came up the symptom was gone.

    Now I’m waiting for the Zune to fully charge, which is taking a long time, and I’m waiting for Microsoft to release an update that fixes the root cause of the problem (the bug in the internal clock driver).

    @JoeSmith,

    Here’s the post on the Zune Insider forum that JoeSmith was referring to when he said I “shot my mouth off.” You decide…

    http://zuneinsider.com/archive/2008/12/31/30gb-zune-issues-official-update.aspx @ Wednesday, December 31, 5:51 PM

    So the “official” word from the Zune team is “just wait for tomorrow, it’ll fix itself” and that you’re not doing anything to fix the root problem (like fixing the internal clock driver to recognize leap year properly)?

    So, we should expect the same problem to occur with our Zune 30’s on EVERY Dec 31st in a leap year, right?

    Sure, that’s not for another 4 years, but isn’t a bit arrogant to know about the bug and to not commit to fixing it, knowing it will only surface again in the future?

    How about compensation for not being able to use our Zune’s for the day?

    http://www.JoeLevi.com

  8. Thanks to DoomHamster (http://twitter.com/DoomHamster/status/1097298818) for a link to the source code and detailed explanation of the bug! http://tinyurl.com/7ja624

    In summary, an unhandled case in a while loop, causing said loop to infinitely repeat until the condition is met.

    This means that JoeSmith was correct in his assessment about being stuck in an infinite loop, but since the Zune has a multithreaded OS, it didn’t lock all functions of the device, just those relying upon the date (thereby nullifying his assumption that the device was bricked and could not be updated via connecting to a computer).

    http://www.JoeLevi.com

  9. my is 8g it die the seem way it will not work it trun on but it with move i paus the up bute it does not it is not a 30g it is a 8g

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