No Perfect Circle

A circle is 360 degrees. The Xbox 360 has a ring of light. A ring is also a circle, unless it is a boxing ring. The Xbox 360 has made me want to hit things, so I guess that works too. A circle may be perfect, but so far my experience with the 360 has been anything but perfect.

I took delivery of the Xbox 360 almost a month ago and so ended a four month quest to obtain the sacred ivory gaming crack. I cataloged that adventure in a previous post titled A Tale of Two 360’s. That was only half the story. Okay, really it was like 2/3 of the story because it was so frickin long. Here’s the rest. Maybe…

So, if you remember, there was much excitement upon delivery. I went straight to Best Buy following Aria’s Christening apres-ski. I loaded up with Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GRAW), Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero (PDZ). I also grabbed an S-Video cable because my Wega doesn’t have RGB component inputs and, by virtue of connecting to a Wega, I am not yet rocking an HD set. On the recommendation of Ed, I also picked up the Play & Charge Kit. So, after trolling the HD section, I got the heck out of there before I made an impulse buy.

I got home, popped open the box, trashed my old Xbox and DVD player and set up the 360. This brings me to point out two areas – of which there are many – where Microsoft dropped the ball on this thing. Joe Montana?!?! Hang on a tick…

The first is with the power brick. The sucker is huge. The brick has had problems with overheating to the point where some genius propped his in the air so it could have – say it with me – 360 degrees of air flow around it. I simply went with the approach of keeping it out in the air, off the carpet and on its base instead of jamming it inside an entertainment center cabinet. This all seems logical to me, but Microsoft may have wanted to warn people about this. Heck, maybe they did and I didn’t bother to read it in the instructions (just like everyone else with a Y).

The second is deciding whether to stand the 360 vertically or horizontally. Personally, I think it looks stupid lying horizontal, but that’s how it is set up now. You see, the thing uses a tray to load the discs instead of a slot. Anyone who’s loaded a disc tray sideways knows the inherent danger; you could scratch the disc or it falls out of the tray when you open it. Of course, slots also get a rap for scratching discs with the loading mechanism, so you can’t win, although Apple seems to have figured it out as they use them on almost everything with an optical drive.

Thing is, Microsoft obviously designed the thing to stand up vertically for maximum Feng Shui and lay horizontal for those that don’t care for better home and gaming Karma. Look at every picture of it on the web, it’s vertical. The *genius* industrial engineers put a ton of air vents on the base, so that if you do stand it vertically, they are closed off and you lose some valuable air flow. This thing has more computing power than your PC, and yes, that includes the one you bought last week or any other you buy this year. It’s going to get warm in there with all that processing power, so don’t you want as much air flow as possible? Hell yeah you do! So, even though it shuts down automagically before it gets too hot, I’d rather avoid that happening during a game and just keep her horizontal. I can deal with the bad Karma for now because the thermodynamics class I took when studying engineering is winning out over Feng Shui.

Okay, okay, with all that settled I fired the sucker up. Nice welcome screen, yeah… what? No connection to Xbox Live (XBL)? WTF!? My original Xbox was just fine over the wireless network with the same adapter connected. I don’t really recall how I got it to recognize the network because I was in such a blood rage, but it had something to do with piggybacking a neighbor’s unsecured wireless network first and then switching back to my own (Hey, buddy, you might want to secure that thing or I am switching to your network if I ever decide to download pirated warez like my boy BaldBeard).

So, I have a connection again and it is time to migrate my XBL account – that’s OB1 for anyone that is interested – to the 360. I had already taken the time on to link my Passport, set up my Gamer Card and select a sweet chimp avatar, which I assume is the number choice because, quite frankly, how could it not be? Anyway, this should save me some time, because according to MS, it will.

Nope, no Passport… no card… no chimp… no nothing. Great, here’s the fun part where you have to provide a ton of information with a screen-based keyboard and your controller. Fifteen minutes later, my account is up, I am logged in and I already have to change the wireless controller batteries.

Right about that time, the phone rings. Ed has gotten home, put the kids to bed and is ready for some next-gen XBL action with his best wingman. PDZ is on the agenda, so Game On.

I’m sorry, did I say Game On? I meant Game Off. Well, more to the point, XBL Off. You see, once the game loaded, my connection to XBL dropped. Then there was shouting and blood rage again. I tried again and again and again. Took out PDZ and dropped in Kameo. Same thing. Popped out Kameo and loaded up GRAW. Oh-for-three.

A moment of clarity came over me as I remembered back to an issue I had with GRIT – gotta love those Ghost Recon acronyms (that one is Ghost Recon Island Thunder) – dropping me at random times during a game. This was original Xbox, so it wasn’t the box, it was my router. I did a quick check of my router and the ports I needed seemed to be open for the 360 to use thru the firewall, plus the XBL dashboard was working just fine thank you.

Once again I went to the Time to check out the approved routers for XBL. The one I had was working just fine with Xbox, so it should work with the 360, right? Hmm… what’s this? My router is here, but I need a firmware update. Oh, no problem, I’ll just surf on over to the D-Link site and get that.

Long story short, I had to buy a new router… again. There’s more to this portion of the story, but since it is turning into a post the same length as this one, I’ll save it for later. Plus, it stands on its own.

Now armed with a new router, my connection to XBL was being maintained just fine.

Ed and I finally enjoyed our first mission in PDZ co-op approximately one week after I took ownership of the 360 and it was good to be back in the saddle. Other than noticing I had to wear my glasses now to play video games, things seemed a lot like an original Xbox game. I’m not saying the graphics weren’t better, because I was obviously having trouble with the enhanced detail without my glasses, but there’s only so much the standard TV can do with a game designed for an HDTV.

So, when the night of gaming was over, I decided to unload the regular batteries in the wireless controller and put in the rechargeable pack that came with the Play & Charge Kit. I figured I’d let it charge up overnight and I’d have it ready for the next night of gaming. I plugged in the cord and the red light flashed, but then went out. I’m thinking it should probably stay lit if it’s doing something, right? I unplugged it and plugged it in again. Same behavior, so I switched controller ports which resulted in the same deal again. Great, I guess I better check the instructions to be sure… dig those out and sure enough, I’m not stupid. Thanks for validating me.

Now, things almost never, ever break or go bad with my stuff. Knock on wood, I’ve had very good luck with all my hardware, so when something doesn’t work, it’s really odd to me. I think Karma is having its way, so I better go do right somewhere in my life to get my charger do-Hickey working. I have no right to complain about having to go back to Best Buy to exchange this thing, but the thing of it is: this blog gets even more boring if I don’t, so I’m going to leave that for next time.

Look out for I H8 Routers later this week.