Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More Microsoft Update Woes

Oops! It appears that an update released just the other day for the Xbox 360 - rather, forced, as in, if your Xbox is on Xbox Live, as soon as you connect, it downloads the update, and then tells you that you must install the update, let it reboot your system (twice actually, once after the install, and the other after it runs the first time), before you can continue to use your Xbox. The update was intended to fix the audio output over HDMI on some older model Xbox 360 units. Not launch consoles where there is no HDMI port, but the ones just after that, I suppose it is.

Nice plan, but several users on Xbox.com and on blogs and tech sites' comments following news of the update reported that following the update, they got the dreaded Red Rings of Death, named for the infamous Blue Screen of Death in Windows. In Windows, if something goes wrong, you get this ugly blue screen with white text that tells you nothing, really, but means you've got to restart. The Xbox 360 console features what Microsoft calls the Ring of Light; surrounding the power switch are four arcs which make a circle, each representing a player, for up to four connected. One to four of them can be lit. Green means a player is connected, but if you turn your Xbox on and any of them are red, it means something is wrong.

The real clever bit here is that the manufacturer's warranty for many of these consoles is now out of date, and folks who didn't buy an extended warranty with their Xbox are now being told that, following a mandatory update from Microsoft, they must now pay for repairs to continue using their console, which they paid $300 or more for, and which was working quite well before the update was forced upon them.

I got the update, same as anybody else (there's no choice really) but my wife's Xbox continues to work fine. I guess we got one made after the Red Rings problems, or at least most of them, surfaced and were dealt with internally. I don't doubt that I'll end up with Red Rings at some point, but that's why I bought Jen her Xbox at Best Buy. Their warranties are good and they're good for honoring them. They couldn't fix my digital camera so they gave me another one, a better one in fact.

So what's my motivation here? Well it's not the first time something like this has happened. Just last November, Microsoft released version 2 of their Dashboard operating system for the Xbox, then referred to as the New Xbox Live Experience, or NXE. The update was released via the traditional Internet; anybody could get at it and a lot of people did. What they forgot to mention was that if your console wasn't registered with them as a beta tester, you couldn't access Xbox Live for 3 weeks, even if you were a paid subscriber. And they wouldn't tell anybody how to remove the update, if it was at all possible (I'm understanding that it isn't). Oops! And yes, I was one of the ones affected. Found a tech site that was hosting the update. Said all I had to do was unpack it and burn it to a CD or put it on a flash drive; I did the latter. Stuck it in the Xbox and it updated automatically with no intervention from me. But whoops, no Xbox Live for nearly a month. Great job Microsoft, the fuckuppery that Windows has become known for on personal computers has now extended to Xbox consoles. Twice now actually, thrice if you count the Red Rings epidemic, and many do.

Yet I'll still say the Xbox 360 is a better console than the PlayStation 3. Better exclusives, cheaper, and while Microsoft may have its flaws, at least they didn't put PC-crippling viruses on music CDs following the rationale that anybody sticking a music CD in a computer was intending to post it to filesharing sites. Yeah. Real smart, Sony. The worst Microsoft has done (this decade) is Windows Vista, hardly as bad.

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