“Game Over” Atari 2600/E.T. Documentary

I just got done watching the documentary from Microsoft called “Game Over”, which is the story of the Atari 2600 and the E.T. cartridge being buried in a landfill in New Mexico.  Wanted to write about it a bit, because several parts were pretty powerful for me. [Read more…]

My Xbox 360 Died Part III

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you may remember that my second Xbox 360 died in March of 2008. I talked about it here. This after my original 360 died back in Feb of 2007. Well, my third unit has now died, too. I posted about it on a private forum I belong to when it first happened on July 25th, and I’m posting it here on Aug 5th, and then I have a new update for this blog.

Fri Jul 25th:

My second 360 was the same as the original footprint (the bad one). Turns out they were still manufacturing the original footprint from 2005 in 2008, which was NUTS to me, considering how many of them died. There was some attempts to alleviate the heat problems, but apparently, they were still suspectible. Why on earth MS was still making the original bad hardware footprint in 2008 as a REPLACEMENT for the same footprint is insane to me. I just don’t understand that.

So anyway, I started playing 1 vs 100 last night, and right as it started I heard a rather obnoxious sound – kind of like a loud click coming from the 360, and then it locked hard. My initial thought was “Uh-oh”. While it didn’t sound like a sound I heard from my previous two dead 360’s, it didn’t sound good at all. So I hit the power button for off, then back on again, and there it was. The stupid red rings of death. AGAIN. Xbox 360 #3 has died. MS talked about the failure rate being “acceptable”, but for me, my failure rate is 100% so far. I don’t believe that’s acceptable.

The annoying thing now is that I’m out of warranty. My original 360 had a three year warranty. It was bought on Jan 1, 2006, so I’ve expired that now. My third 360 (this one) was a warranty replacement for the second one, and the warranty for “in warranty replacements” is not another three years, it’s one year (according to the website), and that too has expired. So I’m out of warranty for all three of my 360’s. I suppose I could fight it on the grounds that my current 360 is still the original footprint, and should be warranted for three years, but then I’d get another one.

So I’m stuck now with paying $99 for a warranty repair. To add insult to that, the warranty repair place is about 10 miles from my house (was 8.2 from 3D Realms HQ), and because the facility is in Texas, I’d have to pay sales tax on that. So my replacement cost would be about $110. From what I know of the repair procedure from going through it, they’d likely send me another one of that kind. Since my original purchase was technically a core unit, that’s what they’d send me back. Great. I don’t really want to pay them that much money to get a FOURTH box with the original mostly problematic hardware footprint.

My original 360 was a gift from 3D Realms for Christmas back in 2005 (well, Jan 2006, but you get the point). My second one was technically a core purchase. I got so mad at repair that I went and bought a new core unit – my total out of pocket expense for that was about $80 after I sold my original unit broken on ebay (Got about $125 for that, surprisingly). The second one went back to MS and I got the third one for free under the warranty repair program, so my total expenditure for the three 360’s was about $80, which isn’t too bad all things considered.

NEW STUFF – AUG 5:

The night my third 360 broke a couple of weeks ago, I was getting mad about it, and after I had researched the hardware footprint situation, I was reasonably confident I could walk into a store, and buy the newest hardware footprint (codenamed Jasper) that would solve all the heat problems. There’s a really REALLY good article here about how to tell the difference between all the various hardware footprints there have been. My wife listened to me go on about it, and suggested that since my birthday was coming up in a few weeks (Aug 20th) that I use birthday money to go get the new hardware footprint and solve the problem. She also suggested this because my initial research showed that my third 360 was out of warranty. Which it was, but I initially missed the fact that I could have it repaired for free (more on that later).

So on Sat July 26th, I went to Worst Buy to buy a 360 Arcade. At $199, it’s much cheaper than what it was when originally available, and with information gleaned from the article above, I was confident I was going to get a Jasper machine. Surprisingly Worst Buy was sold out of them. That surprised me a bit. I did notice while I was there, that their 360 Pro units were Jaspers. I wasn’t buying that, but I checked ’em out. So I headed over to Toys R Us, which had one 360 Arcade, and the guy I asked to look at it had some knowledge of the situation, as he said “Oh, you’re looking for the new chipset”. He didn’t think it would be that one, since he said “that has been sitting there for awhile now”. But I confirmed it was a Jasper with the info from the article. Bought it, brought it home.

Good news on the unit. Once I got it out of the box, there was no doubt about it. Jasper unit. It was manufactured on March 30, 2009. The Arcade machines are a bit better now than this thing was when it was called a Core at the start of the console’s lifecycle. The new one I got came with a wireless controller vs a wired controller. It also has 512Mb of memory ON BOARD, and not via an external memory card (it ends up being about 400Mb of usable space, which is nice for a throwin). The overall sound of the unit is way quieter, the power adapter is much smaller, and also has much less output. It’s 12.1w now vs the 16.5 of the old units. So all of those should hopefully. FINALLY. Figure out the RROD problem, which was heat related. I plugged in my old cables, and the 120Gb hard drive I had, and I was up and running pretty quickly once I got home. There’s a lot to like about this new model vs the older ones I had.

So a few days after I bought the new model, I discovered that I could get my dead unit repaired for free. While technically out of warranty, that “three year” extension talked about for awhile applies to RROD, and this unit qualified for that repair. So I sent it over to them, and let them repair my third 360. I wasn’t sure what they’d do. I mean, they couldn’t send me the original 2005 hardware footprint AGAIN in August of 2009, could they?

On Sunday the 2nd, I noticed that my info had changed in the repair area of the Xbox website. I had a new Xbox 360 in my list of “owned consoles”, the new one they were sending me back. I could see what the serial number was, so I looked online, and found this link telling me how to decipher the serial number of an Xbox 360 to find out information about it. So from what I found, this unit was made between June 7th and 13th, 2009. (Not that it matters, but it was the 2,791st 360 they made that week in lot 9). So for a unit made in June of 2009, SURELY it would be the Jasper footprint, right? They would send out the corrected hardware – they wouldn’t mess with any of the old stuff, right?

WRONG!

The UPS guy showed up at my door today, and gave me back the coffin. He commented “Oh, an Xbox, eh?” I said yeah, and we got into talking about it. Anyway, he told me that the repair facility in Mesquite TX is actually ON the giant UPS distribution grounds. He said that Microsoft has leased space on the actual UPS grounds so that they can ship these things out and save on shipping costs. Wow. I knew both the UPS plant and the Xbox repair place were close to each other, but I didn’t realize they were in the same actual place! Anyway, as I was walking in, I looked at the stickers on the outside of the box, and my heart sank, as I saw the word “Zephyr”, which is one of the code names for the original 2005 hardware footprint. Great. Just great.

It’s just mind bogglingly amazing that in August of 2009, they’re shipping the same hardware footprint from 2005 that had all the heat problems, and is the one most likely to RROD. I plugged the thing in, and it works OK, but then they all work for awhile.

Something else I found really bizarre about this unit was on the back where the manufacture date normally appears on a 360 was the phrase “Service Date”. The date on the back of this unit is Aug 2, 2009, which was when they packaged it up to ship out to me. So this tells me that they just make a bunch of the original hardware footprint, have them sit there waiting for someone to send in a RROD’ed Arcade or Core unit, and send back one of these. That’s just bloody amazing. I don’t intend on regularly using this unit. I’ve had enough of the 2005 footprint. I’m quite happy with the Jasper I bought, and will be using that. This will go in the closet as a backup. Had I had to actually send them $99 to repair this, I’d be hopping mad about it.

SUMMARY:

So to summarize, here’s the life of me and Xbox 360 units dying and needing replacement.

  • Unit 1 (Core): Bought new on Jan 1, 2006. Died Feb 3, 2007. Sold dead on Ebay for about $120 or so, helped fund purchase of unit 2.
  • Unit 2 (Core): Bought new on Feb 5, 2007. Died Mar 8, 2008. Sent in for warranty repair.
  • Unit 3 (Core): Received from repair Mar 28, 2008. Died Jul 24, 2009. Sent in for warranty repair.
  • Unit 4 (Arcade): Bought new on Jul 25, 2009. Current active machine. Finally have HDMI jack. Best of the bunch.
  • Unit 5 (Arcade): Received from repair Aug 5, 2009. Is bad original hardware again, put in closet as backup.

What a fiasco. If the Xbox 720 or whatever it’s called has this same kind of nightmare, wow, will they have shot themselves in both feet, but probably through several other appendages, too.

If this wasn’t the best console out there this generation, I would have walked awhile ago.

UPDATE APR 2011: I moved this content to new blog software on April 2011, and as of then, the Unit 4 machine is still going fine.   That’s the longest shelf life of any of my pieces of hardware.  Unit 5 I ended up putting in the bedroom, and I use it very VERY lightly, usually when I’m sick and confined to the bedroom.  Here’s the current shelf life of my units as of Apr 19, 2011:

  • Unit 1: 13 months, two days.
  • Unit 2: 13 months, three days.
  • Unit 3: 15 months, three weeks, three days
  • Unit 4: Current primary machine: Going for one year, eight months, three weeks, one day
  • Unit 5: Current backup machine: Going for one year, seven months, three weeks.  Spends 95% of it’s time turned off. Rarely used.  Was a warranty replacement for unit 3.

UPDATE APR 2012: Another year later, and I’m still running fine with Unit 4.  No more hardware problems.  I’d say they solved that issue, as I use it regularly.  The only problem I’ve had is my controllers – as the batteries ceased to hold a charge anymore, I had to get new batteries.   But the unit itself – great.

Since the last update, they came out with a totally new hardware footprint, a smaller, black unit that’s much quieter (and I believe two more revisions after that).  You can’t buy any of the old hardware footprints anymore, but it does make me wonder what they do with warranty repairs now – do they STILL send out the original 2005 hardware footprint?  I would hope not, but something tells me they do.

UPDATE MAR 2016: Well, that “Unit 4” kept working, so they obviously fixed the problem.  In February of 2016, I removed the Xbox 360 from my entertainment center.  That’s because I have an Xbox One, which has had no problems, and with backwards compatibility, almost all of the handful of 360 games I still played I could play on my Xbox One.  So I retired the 360.  I still have both Unit 4 & 5, but I don’t know what I’m going to do with them at this point.  But Unit 4 (The Jasper unit) kept working, so that really did fix the problem.

Breaking the Money System in Animal Crossing Wii

I’ve been playing a lot of Animal Crossing: City Folk lately. I was hooked on this game in the last iteration on game consoles (that being the Gamecube version). This new one is mostly the same, and that’s a disappointment, but there’s enough small stuff changed that it doesn’t feel 100% like the old version. Anyway, I’ve been visiting a lot of people’s towns now. That’s one of the new things, you can visit people’s towns via WiFi and play on their consoles.

That’s cool, as it helps ratchet up one’s stock of foreign fruit. The town you play in comes with its own “native fruit”. That’s the kind that grows wild in your town. For me, that’s Apples. There’s about half a dozen different fruits the game can have. The others are oranges, pears, cherries, coconuts, and one or two others I can’t recall right now. There is a lesser known feature in the game, called a “money tree”. Anyway, I mentioned to a few people whose towns I was visiting about the concept of money trees. I wrote this big email to one of them, and decided to post it here in case anyone else wants to know about this.

In Animal Crossing, you dig things up from the ground (or bury) with a shovel you get at the local game merchant’s store (that would be Tom Nook). Anyway, as you progress in the game, the various objects have “gold” versions, which are snazzier than the standard ones. They look somewhat cooler, but they have better functions. For example, the gold slingshot will shoot three pellets instead of the one the standard one does.

First off, you have to have a golden shovel to do this. If you try it with a regular or silver shovel, it won’t work. You get one of those by burying a regular shovel in the ground, and after four days, dig it up and it will be gold. If you dig it up too soon, it will get the timer restarted, and have to do it again. So keep it buried until the time is ready.

Anyway, you plant bags of money like you would any other fruit. After a few days, the tree will bear bags of money as opposed to fruit. Then you get it off the tree like any other fruit.

The catch here is this. And this goes for any kind of tree, not just money. If you want to GUARANTEE the tree will grow, you need to cut down an existing tree and replant in the same spot, but BEFORE closing over the hole once you’ve dug up the stump. If you do that, it resets the hole, and you’ve lost that. This is particularly annoying if you try planting in a new spot with money, and the tree withers, you’ve then lost that money. Your best best for planting money trees is to cut down an existing tree, and plant in that same spot. Additionally, a money tree doesn’t regrow money once you’ve harvested it. After that, you need to cut it down and replant with fruit, as a single spot will grow money just once.

I only experiment with new tree locations with my town’s native fruit, since there’s a bunch of it, and you’re not out a lot of it fails.

The max money tree you can plant is between 99,000 and 100,000 bells. That’s because you can’t hold more money than that at once, and you can only plant one bag at a time, so the max output for a single tree in one harvest is between 270,000 and 300,000 bells depending on the size of the bag buried. The tree will continue to bear fruit after you harvest it, so once you get a lot of these in your town, it’s best to harvest them before letting others in via your open door. Otherwise they can swipe your money. I haven’t timed it, but money trees usually take a little longer to grow than standard fruit tree (or just a plain sapling).

The money for the tree can come from anywhere, it doesn’t matter what – I just sell off tons of stuff until I’m carrying 100k in bells, then bury it. It helps to raid other towns for their non native fruit. This whole thing goes faster once you have a town full of non native fruit yourself.
This effectively breaks the money system and lets you pay off all the mortgages in pretty quick fashion once you get a couple of 300,000 bell trees going. Plus you can buy all the expensive crap in the city. :)

In fact, that’s the whole reason I did this, as my three year old plays with me, and I wanted to outfit my room with the entire princess line of stuff that the game will start selling in the ritzy town store in April. A bed there costs 300,000 bells, it’ll take a few million to get everything, so I will need a boatload of cash for all that. :)

Me and my golden shovel standing in front of a money tree after it ripens (takes about a week after planting). That’s 90,000 bells you’re looking at. I planted a bag of 30,000 bells. 

Iron Chef America

I was a fan of the original Iron Chef show from Japan, and watched Iron Chef America for a time. It’s a respectful enough sequel to the original, unlike that fiasco with William Shatner. Anyway, I guess I should have expected this. A videogame based on Iron Chef. But I wonder how the heck it is going to play out. A videogame based on a cooking show sounds really quite weird. It probably won’t have any long standing power on the Wii, but I have to admit to a curiosity about the title. Might pick it up later when it gets discounted. :) Will have to wait on reviews of the thing. They have captured several of the Iron Chefs in the game, including Masaharu Morimoto, from the original Japanese show. I have to admit to a curiosity about this title. Too bad there aren’t demos on the Wii like there are on the Xbox 360.

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My Xbox 360 Died Part II

As the two or three of you who regularly read this blog might remember, back in February of 2007, I had a problem where my original Xbox 360 died. My original Xbox 360 was bought on January 1, 2006, and lasted until February 3, 2007. At that time, I had been just out of warranty, so when it died, I was going to have to pay $129 (plus tax and shipping) to repair the thing. I’ve been through this story already, if you read the link above, you can check out my original nightmare.

So, OK – fast forward to today. It’s March 8, 2008. My second Xbox 360 has been going fine, although I’ve noticed as of the last week or so that when I turn it off, it was making an odd grinding sound. Nothing that really caused panic, but it was a sound that wasn’t there before. So today I’m playing some MLB 2k8. Having fun, and then the wife and daughter went out for awhile. I got on the net for a bit, and came back to play some more. And guess what I saw? Well, given the blog entry’s title, it can’t be too hard to guess. In fact, I took a picture of it. It’s shown to the right. This isn’t a red ring picture glommed off the net, I just took this myself.

I have all the major consoles from “this generation”. I have an Xbox 360, a Nintendo Wii, and a Sony Playstation 3. Of the three, I’ve had the 360 the longest (although not obviously the same actual unit). It’s got the most polished interface, the biggest library, and a host of other things Microsoft will tell you about their console. It also has a horrendously godawful hardware failure rate due to what a lot of folks are suspecting is an overall design failure. For the longest time we didn’t hear much about it, but not too long ago, there was a story saying that the overall failure rate for the console is 16.5%! Good Lord, that’s insane. Most hardware failure rates are a couple of percent. You kind of expect that. It’s inevitable. Things break. I get it. But 16/17 percent of all units? No wonder Microsoft had to extend the warranty.

That’s the rub with me and my original Xbox 360 unit. That one was manufactured at some point pre-launch of the console in the fall of 2005. I forget the manufacture date of my original unit. This second unit was manufactured in August of 2006. That was right around the time that Microsoft started coming up with some ways to properly combat the problems the units were having, but I didn’t get an upgraded unit for the second one. It was one from the original hardware design, before they started upgrading things to deal with the original design problems. In July of 2007, they extended the warranty for all units to three years with the red rings problem, and refunded repair money to those who had paid it. My first one died in the window between the original one year warranty, and when they extended it to three years. So I could have gotten away with it, but I was so mad at the time.. oh well.

Anyway, this new unit has died now too. At first I tried all the junk they have you try when they die (which I’ve read about enough, and went through once before with my first unit). Unplug the box AND the power supply from the wall. Let them power cycle (the light on the power brick goes out). Plug back in. It actually worked again. However, I knew it was likely temporary, so I turned off the box, and tried again. Three red rings. It’s a gonner.

So I first tried the repair stuff on xbox.com – and got an error about my box being not registered, and then when I tried, I got another error on their website. Great. I was really hoping to avoid talking to someone on the line again, as it’s generally guys who sound like English is their third language. So it was with some trepidation that I called 1-800-MYXBOX. I got another guy who sounded like I was talking with someone in India again. But this guy wasn’t uber hyper, and was talking in a register I could understand. Without going through all of our phone call, I got a repair order put in.

Technically my box is out of warranty, but the three year repair thing covers this, so I don’t have to pay anything. As has been documented elsewhere what happens now is that you get an empty box from Microsoft with UPS postage paid on it. You put your 360 console in there, and ship it off. A few weeks after that, you get it back repaired. I’ve read online that in a lot of cases it’s not the same unit. I am hoping that due to the manufacture age of this unit, they don’t just repair it, they replace it with one of the newer ones. The newer ones have quieter DVD drives, additional heat sinks, chips that use less power, and generate less heat. That kind of stuff. Hopefully that’s what I get.

So now I wait – the empty box should arrive around Wed or Thursday this week or so they said. I now have to wait about three weeks or so to get an Xbox 360 back. I guess this means more time with my Nintendo Wii and my Playstation 3. Despite all the tech problems the 360 has (one of which is the extremely LOUD DVD drive the thing has – the Wii & PS3 are whisper quiet), I enjoy it more than the Wii & the PS3. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy games on the others – or I wouldn’t have them. But the overall experience I think is the best on the 360. When it works.

When my wife suggested that I just buy a new one after my first failure, she did say that if the second one died, that she’d probably put her foot down and say I wasn’t going to buy another one. This all has happened while she’s out of the house with our daughter at one of my daughter’s friends’ birthday parties. I can’t wait to see the rolling of the eyes (rightfully so) when she returns. :) At least this repair is free. What they tell you is that the repair work is not covered by the rest of the three year warranty, although if this happens a third time, I might be too mad to want another one.

The real tease of all this is that I have a development kit Xbox 360 on my desk at work. Those are nice, but the development kit boxes don’t play retail games. Only development stuff. Darnit, otherwise I’d use that to play my games on. Sigh.

So in closing, I have this to say about my second Red ring of Death Xbox 360…

UPDATE Mar 19: My coffin arrived late Wed afternoon at work for me to send my dead 360 back in. What’s amusing is the address on the label they sent me is about a 10, maybe 15 minute drive from work. I wonder if they’ll let me just drop it off. Probably not, but it sucks it’s so close and I have to send it through UPS.

UPDATE Mar 28: Well, my replacement 360 just showed up at 3DR via UPS. It still bugs me that the repair facility was 8.2 miles from 3DR HQ, and I couldn’t take it there myself. Still, from the time out the door to back in my hands was 7 days, that’s really not that bad, all things considering.

Anyway, the first thing I did was open it up to see if I got my same unit back. I DID NOT want my old unit back, as it’s manufacture date was 2006-08-23. This was the original hardware footprint of the Xbox 360, and I certainly didn’t want that back, as both my first and second units were from that “batch”, and both crapped out. My original 360 had a pre-launch manufacture date from some time in the fall of 2005.

So I open the box, and there’s a letter on the top that starts with the text “So that you can get back to playing and enjoying your Xbox quicker, we have replaced your Xbox console with a replacement unit”.

It’s not my same box! Huzzah! So I then check the serial number on the back, and it’s not the same. The manufacture date is 2008-03-08.

It’s less than three weeks old as I get it in my hands. This probably means it’s one of the newer 65ns units (hopefully). These are supposed to have quieter DVD drives, too.

The problem is, I don’t know how to tell. I found a post online a few weeks back telling you how to tell if you’re in a retail store, and can see the box labels. But this is a repair job, so I don’t have the nice fancy retail box.

One other thing is that I thought all 360’s now came with HDMI ports. This one does not. That’s not a huge deal to me, as I don’t have an HDTV, but I thought all the models now came with an HDMI port. Guess I’m wrong.

Whatever, I’m glad to have my 360 back. Hopefully I don’t have any future problems going forward.

Edit: Future me scoffs at this optimism of younger me.

My Zaxxon Never Looked like this

My Xbox 360 Died

Saturday is the day my wife works, and Daddy gets to take care of Samantha. As that’s gone on awhile now, I’ve gotten better at it, and I find true enjoyment at spending time with my daughter, and watching her grow up right in front of me. Still, I do enjoy nap time. :) So today I made myself some lunch and sat down to play a couple of hands of Uno on Xbox Live before I had to get to some chores, and what do I see? The Red Ring of Death on the front of my Xbox 360. Ugh.

Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death

Everything I’ve read about this says that it’s bad. If you see it, forget it, your system is dead. So I hop on Google, do a search for that, and find a decent article on TeamXbox.com about the ring of death. They offered a few suggestions, as some of the flashing light “codes” indicate something stupid, like loose wires. None of that worked, so I rather dejectedly called Xbox support. After wading through a really dumb computer front end (that tried to act like a person), I finally got a customer service agent. I think I liked the dumb computer voice first.

I knew I was in trouble right away, as I started the phone call with “Red Ring of Death time”, to which I got the response of “Excuse me? What is that?” Like an Xbox Customer Service rep has never heard that term before. This is not going to be good at all. It was obvious Mr. Agent was reading off a script. Now that I can deal with, even if I don’t like it when I get it. But to make matters worse, this guy was acting like he was the host of a local morning talk show. You know the kind, all hyped up on java. Anyway, anytime anything even remotely negative came out of his mouth, he’d follow it up with – DON’T WORRY! Excuse me? What kind of nonsense is this? I work at a games company, I bet you I’d probably spent more time playing my 360 than he did. It was seriously annoying, but given I needed my 360 fixed, I stuck with it for awhile. To make matters worse, this guy had a very thick foreign accent, and spoke way too fast. It was difficult to understand him in the first place. Then he gave me some twaddle about my address on file being in India. Nevermind he had the street address, city, and zip code right. The state said India for some reason. Oh boy – my mind was instantly transported to this cartoon about tech support people which makes me laugh every time.

The guy eventually said that I qualified for a warranty repair (which he later said was an out of warranty repair), and told me it would cost $129 to repair my 360. BUT DON’T WORRY – We’ll pay for the shipping. You cheap bastards, you should pay for the repair too! I had a 2005 model 360, one of the first made (the manufacture date on the back said Sep 2005). So I had just about enough of his happy “Don’t Worry” crap, and said “Excuse me? $129 to repair this? I was told that you guys were fixing all 2005 model 360’s for free – what’s this $129 charge”? I deviated from script, so I think he didn’t quite know how to respond – I didn’t swear at him, but I was obviously sounding agitated. He repeated the line, said something about offering me a case number, which at this point I was seriously mad, and probably wasn’t properly listening to him. I got one more “Don’t worry”, and down went the receiver. Jackass. I don’t want to hear this “Don’t worry” garbage. I almost said “Would you stop sayign that, and just talk to me?” I didn’t, it probably wouldn’t have helped anything anyway. I mostly hung up because I couldn’t take it anymore, but I also decided I should get off the line before I said something which would cause him to hang up on me, and probably enter it into my records as “pain in the ass customer”.

The kicker is that my warranty expired just about 30 days ago. Lovely. Additionally, the repair center is in Texas, so I would have been charged sales tax on that $129 repair fee.

So I cooled off for awhile, and when Lynn came home from work we talked about it a bit. Told her all of what happened above, and she actually brought up the concept of getting a totally new one, when I said that the one I’d get back would be a refurbished model. I hate refurbs, you never know what problem is hidden underneath there. Yeah, they “fixed it”, but something happened to that unit to cause it to need to be refurbished. Never like that, feels like I’m buying a used car. I originally bought a Core system 360, because I was impatient, and didn’t want to wait until I could find a full system. I got mine on January 1, 2006, and full 360 systems were hard to find then. So I have all the extra stuff (hard drive, headphone, wireless controller, remote, etc) that you would need to upgrade a core system into a full system already. We figure that the difference between “repairing” my current 360, and getting a used/refurb model is about $150. That $150 would buy me a new unit, with a more recent manufacture date (one would expect, given the supply problems 13 months ago), as well as a new full warranty, and some piece of mind. Yeah, I probably could save a few bucks, but we talked about it, and decided this is the way to go.

So tonight I ordered a new Xbox 360 Core system, it’ll get here Wednesday, ordered from Amazon.com, and as I belong to their Prime program, I get free two day shipping. No tax either, which is nice. But I’m a) annoyed that I have to even go through this at all, and b) for the doofus I got on the customer support line. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

The only real positive to this is that the original system which is now a brick was one I never paid for in the first place – it was a Christmas present from my company back in Christmas 2005. So I’m not “double paying”. I might have to look into an extended warranty, need to see how much Microsoft charges for that. Oh, and I know the 360 Hard Drive is still working, so I won’t lose all my save games and downloads and things like that. That is good.

UPDATE Mon Feb 5: I was seriously contemplating recreating the copier scene from Office Space with my dead 360 unit. When I mentioned that to a co-worker up here at my office, I was told to go look at Ebay, so I looked there for broken Xbox 360, and wow! Found out people are getting in the neighborhood of $100 for dead, non functional 360 units. That rather stunned me, and I decided to go that route, so tonight when I get home from work, I will list my dead 360 on Ebay, and use that money against the credit card bill for buying a new 360 core. That makes this a little more palatable. I’m still not happy about all this, but given the money for the repair is a wash, and then add this $100 to the mix, and then I’m probably paying in the neighborhood of $60 to receive a totally new unit, as opposed to a refurbished one.

A History of Video Games

Ran across a cool link over the holidays. It’s a nice story by PC World magazine on their website. It tells the story of video game consoles. That much is not new – it’s been done a bunch of times before. What is new (to me) is the inclusion of old TV commercials for the games over the years. That was a nice touch to add to the piece.
It covers from the old days of Pong, the Fairchild F, the Atari 2600, through NES, Sega Saturn, Neo Geo, and up to current with Xbox, Wii, etc.. If you’re a fan of video games like I am, you should check this out, I think it will be time well worth spent.
Here’s a couple of my favorite commercials from the series:

Xbox 360

So far I have to say I’m enjoying my Xbox 360 a lot. Part of it is the rarity thing, since they’re still not terribly easy to get, the fact that I have one alone is cool. But what’s terribly fun to me is the interface of the system. It is always available no matter what you’re doing with a single button press. There’s a ton of information on your friends, what games they’ve played, etc… There’s a messaing system (either text or voice) between players and friends. There’s ways to watch videos from other computers on your lan (same goes for music & pictures). The interface is customizable with different skins, colors, & pictures. It’s just sleek, slick, and to be honest, when I first started my 360 for the first time, I probably went about 3 or 4 hours before I put a single game in the thing. I’m one of these people who loves looking at every option available to me in a piece of software, and whether I use them or not normally, I love the exploration. The 360 interface sucked me in – it’s very brilliantly designed.
It’s very cool being able to bring up one of your friends, and look at their game list, and see what they’ve played. What else is cool is the sense of competition that the system brings with your friends. Every Xbox 360 game has accomplishments – goals if you will – that you can get in the game. Each accomplishment brings with it a point value. That point value is added to your global “Gamer Score”. That score is kept across all games for your account. It’s a very cool way of encouraging you to play games you probably wouldn’t normally play as much of to get points. When you get a game with a scorekeeping function, it’s also very cool to see a high score table of just your friends, as opposed to every single Xbox live player. I know my group of friends seems to be constantly trying to top each other in Hexic (which is a Bejwelled knockoff (but better, IMO) that comes with the 360 Hard Drive). In fact, games like Hexic are great, because they’re small, and you can find yourself lost in them, eihter just playing, or trying to top your friends’ scores.
Another thing is this “HD Era” Microsoft keeps talking about. I don’t have HD yet. Even with prices dropping, it’s not something I have that kind of extra money for. I have a baby. :) But I will eventually. But don’t let them fool you. My Xbox 360 games look a lot better than Xbox 1 games. The quality of them even on my “regular old TV” is way better than what I was used to seeing.
If you can get one, get it. It’s a lot of fun. I probably could write a novel about all the stuff on there, but that wasn’t my intent – just a quick notice on how I love the Xbox 360 interface, and how the unified online solution (point system across all games – even the small ones like Hexic) is a brilliant device, and one that I hope serves Microsoft long into the future. Great idea.
Also, you can see my gamercard here on my blog. Go to the main page, and it’s on the right hand column in the Xbox Live category. Over there you can see:
My Reputation: Ranking of myself based on online games played against others.
My GamerScore: See above.
The Zone: You can choose what level of play you want to play at
The last 5 games I’ve played icons
My Gamer Picture