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Friday, 27 July 2007

I’m Back In The thick Of The Action....

....Sooner Than Expected

I had a pleasant surprise when I returned from work on Tuesday. There waiting patiently for me was a white box, which contained an Microsoft Xbox 360. I was informed by a polite letter that it wasn’t my original machine, but a replacement one. Apparently Microsoft was concerned that I would be suicidal because I couldn’t play my favourite games while my broken Xbox was being repaired. Therefore they decided to send me a replacement immediately to reduce my suffering. How thoughtful of them. Judging by the date of manufacture on the unit it is not a new one, but someone else’s repaired unit. I don’t really mind as long as this one works and remains operational.

Thank you Microsoft for the quick turnaround. I had expected to have to wait for at least a month, but the replacement only took 9 working days. On the phone I was told it would be at least 15, possibly even 25. It’s nice to be proved wrong occasionally.

I take back all those insults and I'm impressed with the service. Top marks Microsoft 8-)


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Thursday, 12 July 2007

EX-Box 360

Last Friday my replacement MP3 player arrived from Germany and while I was ripping a large pile of CDs back onto it, I thought I’d have a quick game on my Xbox 360. However, instead of booting up as usual I was greeted by the now famous ‘Ring of Death’ (or RoD for short).


Basically the RoD is when three of the four red lights that surround the power switch on the front of the unit come on. This indicates that the unit has a general hardware failure. This is serious and means that it has to be returned to Microsoft for repair.

After much Googling on the subject, it became clear that this is a very common failure of Xbox 360’s. With the exception of Chunky, most people that I know On-Line have had this fault. Some of them more than once. Coincidently, last Thursday Microsoft finally announced publicly that they are having to repair more units than they would like. They stopped short of giving away any figures, but it’s believed that it could be as high as 15% of all Xbox 360’s sold. Microsoft are currently investing $1.15 Billion to solve the problem and have decided to extend the current 1 year warrantee to 3 years. They even plan to refund people who have had to payout for the repairs because their machines were outside the 1 year warrantee period. In my book this action is commendable and they could have just ignored the issue.

Microsoft wont tell us what the fault is, but the favourite on the net is that the graphics processor (GPU) runs so hot that it is softening the solder around it and the PCB is then warping due to the heat this in turn makes the solder joints crack causing the circuits to be disconnected. Some brave souls have decided to open up their repaired consoles, thus invalidating their warranties, to see what’s going on. It would appear that Microsoft have fitted an extra heat sink to the GPU in an attempt to improve cooling. However, none of the heat sinks inside are fitted with cooling fans, which I would suggest is a mistake. Have you ever tried to run a modern PC without a fan on the processor? Don’t try it as you’ll fry it with in a couple of minutes.

After my experience with On-Line based returns with Creative, (see previous article) I decided to use Microsoft’s telephone service instead. I rang them on Saturday and after the usual ‘Please try it this & that’, they agreed to have it back at their service centre. They E-mailed me a prepaid address label, I packaged it up and called UPS to arrange collection.

It was collected today (Thursday 12th) and my Wife had quite a chat with the driver. He had already guessed what it was by the address on the label and told her that he had already picked up two more today. He said that he gets a lot of them to collect and his weekly average is about four. That’s just one driver from one depot. I hate to think how many that equates to nationwide!

All I can do now is wait and see how long it takes to be repaired or replaced. A recorded message on Microsoft’s customer services line informed me that they were experiencing a high level of work at their service centres and couldn’t guarantee their usual turn-around time of 15 days. It could be 25 days! Only time will tell.


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Monday, 9 July 2007

I Love Electronic Gadgets, But They Hate Me

At the beginning of June I dropped my Creative Zen Vision:M MP3 player about six inches onto a carpeted floor and killed it. There wasn't a mark on it, but it was not responding to anything I tried. I’m still amazed at how easy it was to destroy and it makes me wonder about its long term robustness. After visiting the Creative website, I made a warranty claim, not mentioning that I dropped it. About 24 hours later I received an E-mail with instructions to send it by insured post to their service centre in Dublin, Ireland. I therefore packaged it up safely and sent it off.

The e-mail pointed me to their website where I could follow its progress. This I check daily, but for the first week it didn’t understand the reference code I’d been given. After this I was informed that it had been received on 01/01/1900, which was roughly 107 years before it had been posted. I know that Ireland has a slower pace of life than England, but I wouldn’t have thought that it was quite that slow!

After a week of daily checking the website, nothing had changed and I received another e-mail asking me to send my MP3 player to a service centre in Poland. I replied explaining why this was possible and immediately had a reply telling me to send it in Ireland once more. By now I was a little concerned that they didn’t really know what was going on, I certainly didn’t. Despite my best efforts at interrogating their website, I was unable to find a telephone number to call them on, so I just watched the Website in the hope that ‘”Repair Pending” would change to “Returning to Owner”.

Another week passed and another e-mail arrived. This one stated that they had not yet received it and if it didn’t turn up within 30 day, they would cancel the repair number. Now I was really worried that it was sitting forgotten about on a shelf in some workshop gathering dust. Never to be seen again. Having checked with the Royal Mail that it had been delivered, I once again sought out a telephone number. This time however, I found it on a scrap of paper in the original box. The chap on the other end of the line was very helpful and explained that they had changed over to a new system right in the middle of repair and I had fallen down a crack.

On Friday a new replacement arrived from Germany. It works perfectly and I’m once again able to enjoy mobile music.

Post Script

While I was busy restoring my music files onto my
replacement Creative Zen Vision:M, I thought I’d have a quick game on my Xbox360. I switched it on and was greeted with the now infamous “Ring of Death”!