Zune Leap Year bug under the microscope

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

More information about the non-virus problem which hung 30GB Zune MP3 players on New Year’s Eve has been uncovered.

It turns out that the problem is actually on the clock chip from Freescale embedded inside Microsoft’s music device.

As you can see in this post from the Zune Boards message forum, there is a flaw in the programming logic which means that when the Zune accesses its clock as it finishes booting up, it tries to convert the time from its internal count (the number of days since 1st January 1980) into a more human readable form.

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And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course, unless the logic of the code is wrong and it enters into an infinite loop if it happens to be the 366th day of the year.

By now, everyone’s Zune should be working properly again and have shaken off its brain freeze. But unless this problem gets fixed, owners of Zune 30 MP3 players will be frozen out of their music collections again on December 31 2012.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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