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Surviving Z2K: Zunes start working after leap-year glitch

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Zunes across the world are unfreezing today as they recover from a leap-year glitch that rendered an estimated 1 million of the digital media players inoperable.

After mass outages were reported, Microsoft explained Wednesday that 30-gigabyte models of its Zune digital media player had malfunctioned as a result of ‘a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way a device handles a leap year.’ In other words, the Zune didn’t know how to handle the fact that 2008 had 366 days, instead of the usual 365, so it froze up. The fiasco quickly became known as ‘Z2K’ or ‘Z2K9,’ after the feared Y2K bug that never materialized in 2000.

Revelers who had spent hours crafting New Year’s Eve playlists to power their dance parties were left scrambling for alternatives.

But it’s day one of 2009, and word is spreading that Microsoft’s advice -- let the battery drain completely, wait until at least 4 a.m. PST on Jan. 1, then sync the Zune with your computer -- is working. Some of ...

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... our readers and many message-board commenters are reporting that they followed the instructions and -- voila! -- their Zunes fired up properly. Here’s what one owner wrote on the Zune.net forum:

WOOHOO!!! Did what MS said to do. Let my Zune battery run dry and then connected it my computer ... Just got up and it was fully charged and was recognized by my computer and Zune software. Works like a champ now.

It’s apparently not working for everyone, but eight in 10 respondents to a poll on ZuneScene, a fan site, report that they’re back in business.

Meanwhile, as our sharp reader RJ pointed out in comments on our first Z2K story, some Zune owners (or maybe they’re iPod owners tweaking the Zune faithful, given the Apple logo on the button above) are treating this like one of New York City’s great blackouts: Quick-thinking entrepreneurs are already selling T-shirts and pins on CafePress.com celebrating the end of the Zune outage.

Now that many devices seem to be working again, the big question on the minds of Zune owners is, what is Microsoft going to do to make things right? There are calls for compensation such as free music (good idea), discounts on new Zunes (good intention) or free iPods (good luck). No word yet from the company on how it plans to keep its Zune faithful in the fold after the great Z2K debacle.

Is your Zune working again? And what remedy would you like from Microsoft? Sound off in the comments below.

-- Chris Gaither


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