The console that burns

In part on a friend’s insistence, I bought the Xbox 360 console a little less than six months ago. I knew before buying it that the Xbox 360 suffers from a scary problem that is notorious by the name of “the red ring of death.” If your Xbox console is unlucky to have the red ring, it will likely stop working forever. There are no fixes, none whatsoever from the console’s manufacturer, Microsoft, to this problem. There are also no reliable precautions to take to avoid having the problem.

A simple search for “xbox” and “the red ring” will lead the curious reader to finding, among other information, the cause of the problem. It is a design fault: a glitch in the hardware which results in desoldering of electrical joints on a particular chip inside the console in the face of persistent heat, heat that the console generates during its normal operation. When the console cools off enough for the solder to settle back, short circuits ensue. If you are lucky, your console may still work.

The red ring problem in the Xbox has caused distress to countless owners. It has single-handedly achieved the greatest console return rates (the return of faulty consoles back to manufacturer after purchase) to date (as I know of, but may likely be off base here). Microsoft acknowledge the problem and the surmounting dissatisfaction caused to its customers, but have done little to solve the problem. They have shipped subsequent models of the Xbox that they tout fix what is a design oversight, but in reality, they have only been able to dampen the problem slightly: the red rings are not gone, but are a tad bit infrequent — a dampening effect that is for the most part too small to notice. In other words, the problem persists by and large.

A precaution to dodge the problem from happening [sooner] that I read as suggested often, and that I follow myself, is to restrict continuous use of the console to less than three hours. This is preposterous. The Xbox is a hardcore gaming console, something that in contrast the Nintendo Wii is not as you are not likely to play games for a long stretch of time in one sitting, and as is characteristic of all hardcore gaming consoles and the hardcore games that are made to be run on them, players play for hours at ends. If you find this fact hard to believe, hunt down a serious gamer (an individual, mostly likely in their teens but not necessarily so, who is mad about playing console games), and spend a day with them, provided that they spend the day playing games and not sleeping through the day. It is not hard to understand how important prolonged gaming, despite the health hazards it carries with it, is to serious as well as mildly serious gamers. Even if this fact is set aside, to not be able to play games on a console for longer than roughly three or so hours from risk of blowing up the console is ludicrously absurd, for a severe lack of a better phrase to describe it. What sort of a console will that be, you may likely ask.

I winced when I heard about Project Natal. My immediate outburst at that was to the effect, “Shouldn’t Microsoft be focusing on fixing the catastrophic problem in their bloody console as their first priority, instead of on introducing, as they tout, revolutionary controller-free gaming to the Xbox?” It makes absolutely no sense to me why they would do that. The inner gamer inside me is crying for a longer, more involved and more persistent gaming experience, as are many, many other gamers who owned or have owned the Xbox. The Xbox is a great gaming platform, with popular game developers committing to releasing awesome games, with an almost robust mechanism for live community play — if only Microsoft would get serious, smack themselves on the back of the head, and set themselves to chasing out from the root the console burn-out issue.

Saved on a technicality

If your god is forever forgiving, provided that you bow only before him and consider him unparalleled, unchallenged, and single, would you indulge in petty (and non-trivial but non-cardinal) sins and deeds on the belief that at the end of your day you will be forgiven if you so seek forgiveness for your sins from your god?

Would you, then, intensify your indulgences as well as your acts of supplication in the holy month of Ramadan, a scared period of thirty (or more, or less) days where your god is known by you to be at his most merciful and forgiving demeanour?

Would you not think, on reflection, that what is a trivial lie, a dishonest dealing in trade, but a small mistake that your god will not only not mind but also exonerate you from if you spread your arms and submit to him with all your heart?

Are Google Mail and Chat becoming an annoyance?

Is Google Mail faltering under its load?

Its webmail user experience appears to be degrading with respect to response times. It becomes appallingly slow often. I despise webmail interfaces, and therefore much prefer to use IMAP4 (or POP3). I have been content with Google Mail’s IMPA4 access until recently when I started to face a class of problems that have persisted across two different providers I have switched between. Occasionally connections to their IMAP4 servers would time out; frequently, connections would get rejected with a “too many simultaneous connections” response. Google Mail has been thoughtful enough to share mitigation instructions to work around the latter problem, but sadly, those have not worked for me.

Google IM has been having a set of problems of its own. If you have not been paying close attention to your IM client, you would have missed the cycle of disconnects and reconnects Google IM service tends to fall into occasionally. This behaviour is not limited to using third-party IM applications or Google’s Talk IM application, but also prevalent in the webmail-based chat interface. When it is not an issue with the SSL certificate being erroneous, the file sharing functionality would start acting up. In fact, file transfer is almost elusive with Google’s IM services. As far as I know, file transfer support is solid in many Jabber implementations; I cannot understand why Google has not been able to get it right with its IM services.

I am happy that Google is busy integrating and introducing new features frequently into their Mail and Chat services. But are they doing that at the expense of letting the basic functionalities fall apart every now and then?