Monday, February 23, 2009

Xbox 360 "Black Screen, No Video, No Sound" Problem

Okay, so I think my Xbox 360 has died again. Far as I can tell, this is the exact same problem I encountered in December. I was playing a game and out of nowhere, the graphics got all weird and discolored, with phantom red and green shades of color added to everything (like when you change Windows to display in only 16 colors, but worse). For a few days, it would go through this routine and I could play for an half an hour or so before the graphics would go haywire again (on the dashboard, in-game, the works), like a precursor to the unfortunate events to come. Eventually the system failed to work at all, turning on and making the familiar hardware boot-up noises and spinning green controller lights, but showing only a black screen and offering no sound output at all.

I did some research online and found that this is some kind of new hardware problem, similar in nature to the infamous "Red Rings of Death" (RRoD), or "3 Red Rings" problem. Apparently the system gets so hot that over time the motherboard can bend and warp. This can cause the X-Clamps (pictured above) that hold the heat sinks in place to flex, popping off the soldering points and jeopardizing the CPU and GPU. I don't how this is different from the previous RRoD errors. Maybe the repairs Microsoft made have caused the system to be vulnerable to this new problem. Maybe they changed the way the hardware handles the RRoD error to some new symptom, saving them the costs of repairing the many overworked systems that still fall under the extended 3-year warranty.

Conspiracy theories aside, the hard simple facts are this.. My system was repaired once in the summer of 2007, after only 5 months of ownership. The system Microsoft returned to me was a refurbished 360 (not my original console), and it seemed to work for another 18 months or so, before giving up the ghost again. This new error I received was not the same RRoD-related problem, and so my now out-of-warranty system would take $140 for an official repair from Microsoft. Instead, I decided to get my system repaired at my local Play N Trade for much cheaper, and it worked fine for 2 months before succumbing to the same sorry fate once more. I am fed up with paying any more for repairs on a game system I enjoy using, but loathe servicing.

I have decided to roll up my sleeves and take the plunge into repairing the system myself using this free tutorial or others like it on the site. Since I've already had it repaired once and have probably already voided my warranty because of that, I feel like it's either this or buying a brand new system (cheapest model, 360 Arcade, costs $200), so I figure it's worth a shot. Wish me luck! I'll post more details as the situation unfolds.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Organizing the SocNet Mess

If you're like me, you have a pension for joining your fair share of social networks, but have trouble keeping track of it all. Take twitter for example. It's a great way to trade status updates with your friends and maybe even a web celebrity or two, but once you start adding more than a handful of people the feeds can get downright noisy. And if you have a particularly active friend (I'm not pointing out any names here) locating a particular post can be a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. So what on Earth can we do to stop this mess of social madness How about a feature that's just about as old as email

Folders, Lists, Labels, or whatever you want to call it. It's really very simple. Just like in your Inbox, your default view displays a global listing of all the updates you choose to follow. For Facebook it would be everyone on your friends list. For YouTube, it would be every channel you subscribe to. Then, you could create your own lists or rules containing whatever specific subsets you would like to track individually. For example, you could add your closest friends to one list and call it BFFs. Label another one Podcast Updates. Another one could be Online Deals. Then you could check whichever update feed you had the urge to inspect, prioritizing certain ones over others, just as one would do while perusing a well-organized email account. Unread counters, content search capabilities, the whole nine yards.

Organizing things might just make sifting through the online social jungle a less daunting. And less time monitoring your online social life means more time for a real social life. Or possibly more online social interaction for some.. Well, whatever makes you happy!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Far Cry 2 Dizziness and Burnout Paradise Love

So, after hearing everyone praise it so much, I decided to throw Far Cry 2 into the Gamefly queue. Never have I had a game give me dizziness this bad since hovercraft races in Diddy Kong Racing on the N64. Modern games have been pretty good about making 3D motion feel more natural and less fluid, adding momentum and weight to your movement and head turning. I dunno what it is about this game though. Occasionally a game will make me dizzy, but this game literally made me nauseous.

It's a shame. I really admired its cool game concept and new take on the series. Open-world FPS game set in Africa, with optional side quests, lots of vehicles, AI buddies to save and bail you out, and alternate ways to solve each mission. I just don't know if I can play this game w/o reaching for some Dramamine.

Guess that just gives me more time to enjoy Burnout Paradise then. Criterion is supposed to release a pretty big patch tonight, but as of this writing there are some problems. Apart from Blizzard, Bungie or Valve, I've never seen a dev support a game this much, post-launch. They totally redid the driving model, overhauled the graphics, introduced bikes, added a DLC party mode, and are even giving people what they've been bitching for.. event restart. It might not be the most lucrative way to churn out the profits, but that kind of support builds customer loyalty that tends to garner a fan following. Kudos to any developers who takes a similar stance.