The Latest on the Tayler Family XBox

Thanks go out to several LJ folks who kindly pointed me at pages upon pages of good information about troubleshooting my XBox. I learned lots.

The symptoms I’m experiencing point to three possible root causes:

1) Overheating. This is the most likely, because for the first year or so of use the XBox lived inside a glass media cabinet, and it got H-O-T HOT in there. I suspect that there are temperature-sensitive components that have now degraded and are performing unreliably, but none of the pages I read (or at least was capable of understanding on first skim) indicated WHICH components I should be concerned about. The suggestion was to open the console, dust everything out with compressed air, and keep it in an unobstructed cool place. It’s been living in an unobstructed cool place for the last three months, so I doubt disassembly will help much.

2) Bad DVD drive or dirty optics. Some of my symptoms correlated EXACTLY to this, so I bought (oh, the budget pain!) a lens-cleaning disk at Walmart. Yes, it’s a “dry” kit. They had no wet ones. I ran it last night, and then we watched a DVD with no trouble at all. Granted, one DVD does not prove anything, since the problem has been intermittent. Besides, we tried playing DDR Ultramix 2 again, and it hung on the “don’t fall off the playing mat” warning screen.

3) Bad HD or corrupted data on disc. Some of my symptoms correlated to this, so I followed tech support’s instructions and deleted all my game saves and rebooted. No joy: DDR is still broken.

The upshot of all this: if we want to get the $90 worth out of our DDR purchase, we’ll have to spend another $90 on repairs (that includes the shipping) and do without DVDs or XBox games for three weeks, or we can spend $150 or thereabouts on a new XBox, in which case we’d then have TWO controllers and a spare XBox for cannibalization should I feel ambitious at some future date.

Nintendo has Appled themselves. Their hardware is obviously superior to their competitors — our Gamecube has been trouble-free and crash-free for three years, and our N64 has been beaten up to the point that the I/O jack needs jiggling before it’ll display, but it still plays games just fine. Hardware superiority notwithstanding, I can’t get DDR or Fable for the GameCube, and that’s only the beginning of a long list of games that will never run on a Mac… er, a Nintendo.


23 thoughts on “The Latest on the Tayler Family XBox”

  1. Howard, even though your box is in a cool place now, if it has accumulated dust inside it, cleaning it will at least alleviate the possibility that components will overheat down the road. Dust is an EXCELLENT insulator, and you do NOT need to be coating your high-heat components with insulation to help keep the heat in.

    So it may not solve the problems, but it’s just a good idea to keep the things clean.

    1. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of dust. I blew into the console with compressed air, and fired up the fan – the amount of dust coming out of the console was minimal. To get it any cleaner I have to take it apart, and I’m not ready for that project just yet.


      1. I’m not that familiar with the layout of the x-box, so your judgement will have to prevail on this. I don’t know how prone they are to sucking dust into the guts of the machine. If it’s anything like my PC, a can of compressed air becomes a prized commodity!

  2. The PS/2 I have has been working for… well… since it came out. I got it right away and it’s been stuck in hot cabinets and crappy ventilation since the day I got it, basically. So a little over four years. Ah, Sony, how I love thee!

    Microsoft did not design a game platform with the Xbox. They just mushed a PC down to a smaller size. 🙂

    Alison has an xbox that I think she got when it first came out and it’s doing just fine still. But it probably gets less use than yours has. 😉

    And yah, I never even thought about getting a gamecube because they just don’t have any games that appeal to me that I can’t get for my PS/2 and it has a lot that do appeal to me that it DOESN’T have.

    I vote for the new xbox because damn, it’d be fun to rip the old one open and play with it’s shiny inside bits.

    1. We likely would have gotten a PS2 had it not been for the fact that Nintendo has all the best exclusive properties that interest my four children — Mario, Link, Samus, Donkey-Kong, and Pokémon. Enough of the other, non-exclusive titles appear on the GC platform to keep us mostly sated… right now it’s only Fable and DDR that have me straying. For most of the last 18 months the XBox has been nothing more than a DVD player.


      1. Yeah. If I had kids, I would have gone the GC route, but I don’t so I picked up a PS2 a few months after they first came out. I didn’t get into the rush. I had a video problem with it a couple of months ago, but it turned out to be just my component cables.

        My sister got a GC right when they came out and hers just went bad about a week ago and wouldn’t play anything. Nintendo sent her another one for $50.

  3. That’s why…

    I never got a GameCube and only vaguely considered getting an XBox. Virtually everything worth playing is on the PS2, and when the PS3 comes out, this will probably remain true unless Sony is so incredibly stupid as to forget the lessons they themselves taught Expendo… er, Nintendo.

  4. I actually like a lot of the Nintendo titles better anyway, but I know I’m not in the majority of gamers in that respect.

    But I agree on the hardware reliability (though I still question the design decision to go for a mini-cd format and forgo DVD player functionality). They’ve definitely come a long way since the God awful (and yet, so wonderful) NES.

  5. All the dust-spraying and optic cleaning may have done some good after all. I just finished up a 40 minute DDR session which had zero glitches. Maybe our xbox has been upgraded from wonky to flaky. I can live with flaky I think.

    1. I wouldn’t discount the opening up and cleaning out yet. There could still be thermal issues due to dust and cruft – and also while it’s open Howard can spotcheck the capacitors for brown dried gunk, which would indicate electrolyte overflow.

      1. The capacitors I like best are the ones with the plastic skin frantically retreating over the can (mmmm cooking cap) and those with just the hint of a bulge in their top prior to the “pop”.

        And we’ve all seen the fuzzy pillars on the board that mean there’s an aluminium can somewhere in the casing waiting to short something else out….

  6. i worked in a video game store for a while and the issues of broken systems was fairly equal across the board. overall the xbox prolly did have the most issues due to the first gen xboxes having crappy generi-drives that can’t read a lot of the newer games (you’d open a brand new shiny game and get “dirty disk error” whenever you tried to play it) but otherwise i’ve seen my fair share of broken xbox, ps2, AND gamecube. but there are always those “miracle” systems that last forever no matter what you do to it.
    then there was the assistant manager who went through 3 xboxes and 2 ps2’s in 4 months…

  7. Further on the issue of the gamecube….

    It is possible to drop them from great heights and/or to drop heavy weights upon them, without damaging their ability to run games. They actually ran this test on X-Play, pitting a Gamecube, PS2, and XBox against one another, replacing the machines that didn’t survive a test. The cube survived both tests. The Xbox and PS2 survived neither.

    Yet more proof that the right angle is the strongest angle in the natural world.

    1. Well, there’s lots of right angles in both a PS2 and an XBox. I’d argue that it’s proof that Nintendo knows who’s using their devices and how.

      Our N64, with its wired controllers, got pulled off the media cabinet DOZENS of times. Extension cords for the controllers only made matters worse. That repeated abuse is why the cable on the back needs a good jiggle every so often before anything will display.

      We can’t be the only people to have experienced this. Dropping a console from a media cabinet is COMMON when gamers have younger siblings.

      Nintendo solved the problem in two ways. They made the GameCube fantastically durable, and they made wireless controllers available under their own, trusted brand.

      We solved the problem in a third way. All consoles are velcroed to the deck of the media cabinet. You’ll unplug the cord or break the controller before you’ll slide our N64 or GC off the cabinet and onto the floor. I wish we’d thought of that solution five years ago.

      The XBox isn’t velcroed because up until now there haven’t been controllers plugged into it for any length of time, so there’s been no risk. If DDR takes off in this household, that’ll change.


  8. Actually, your parralells with Ninetendo and Apple run deeper than you think. For instance, the marketing of both companies has been incompetently run, as in “Please for the good of the economy take these people out and shoot them so as to avoid fucking any more companies up”.

    Although in the case of Apple it was more due to Steve Jobs’s inherent loopiness* whereas in Nintendo it was more widespread.

    For instance, during the glorious heyday fo the SNES, Nintendo alienated 3rd party developers in two ways. Firstly, they robbed them blind on the cost of proprietary media cartridges. Secondly, they undercut third party game developers on price.

    Since the best way for a console producer to make money is through royalties from 3rd party software development, this was going to bite Nintendo in the ass. It didn’t at the time because (at least IMO) the SNES kicked the Megadrive/Genesis’s butt like a red-headed stepchild.

    However, Sony, being the canny bastards they are, came out with an absolute B2B marketing masterstroke. They created the Playstation, using an industry standard media which was cheap to replicate and which Sony did not have a lock on. This addressed the concerns of the 3rd party developers at the time and they jumped ship en masse.

    Nintendo, however, stubbornly repeated their mistake and stuck with the proprietary media. Which meant that few 3rd party developers would take much notice of them.

    Add this of course to the logistical nightmare that proprietary media entails. Now in the US one is unlikely to notice this. But Australians like me are tearing their hair out! Because here’s the normal way Nintendo works down here:
    Step 1: Tentative Game Release Date Announced.
    Step 2: Release date delayed.
    Step n: Repeat Step 2 X no of times.
    Step 3: Release date delayed indefinitely.

    The last Nintendo product I bought was a Gameboy Advance, and I ended up selling it because apart from some crappy X-Treme sports games nothing got down here. My big joke about Gamecube owners in Australia is “Wow! A Gamecube! Now you can enjoy the wide variety of selections of quality games like Zelda, Metroid Prime and…did I mention Zelda and Metroid Prime? Oh! And don’t forget Zelda and Metroid Prime!”

    Nintendo of Australia’s marketing departments overseas are woefully incompetent. When I heard the Xbox was released, I went for it primilarily for two reasons.
    #1: I was fucking tired of the Japanese game industry forsaking Australia. I STILL think they can take a piss up a rope for all I care.
    #2: Microsoft know logistics. When they say something is going to be available in stores on a certain day it is in stores on that day.

    At first I kinda regretted my decision, but after buying a shitload of great Xbox titles in the after Christmas sales I’m loving it.

    *Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  9. My parents gave me a N64 when they first came out. But being a more nerdy bookworm type, I never used it. My sis used it, bought games for it, and eventually confiscated it. Now that I have kids she let me have it back.
    This year my mom got her a PS2. The N64 still plays fact, I think I’ll hook it up and go play something……

    1. atari

      That’s nothing, I still have my atari 2600 hooked up. And not just some new joystick-with-all-the-games, or my emulation-station, my original box.

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