Category Archives: Misc

Miscellaneous content that really has no other category

Red Ring of Death

For some time, it appeared that the dreaded “RRoD” had overlooked my Xbox 360 console.

Over the years, I’ve watched as my brother, friends, family members, and co-workers had to send their consoles into Microsoft for warranty repair.  Sometimes even on multiple occasions.  The ruthless crimson-ringed beast seemed to spare no one.  In fact, I’m almost positive that I do not know a single person that has an early-model Xbox that has not “red ringed” at some point.

On Thursday night, as I went to launch my newly downloaded Battle Field 3 beta, my Xbox beeped loudly and froze up.  I powered it off, and powered it back on – only for it to freeze at the Xbox boot screen animation.  A second power off/on showed me a most unpleasant site framed in a very distinctly reddish hue.  It seemed, much like death itself stalking the cast of a Final Destination movie, that this unmerciful demon of console demise had at last found its misguided way to my Xbox

Personally, I feel this has been a long time coming.  I’ve somehow managed to dodge this bullet for years.  Probably the fact that I have the “2nd printing” of the Xbox 360 Pro with an HDMI port bought me this extra lease on life, but who can be sure.  After a night’s rest, the RRoD continued in the morning.  I decided it was time to take corrective actions.  Microsoft extended warranty coverage for this issue for a period of 3 years.  Since I bought my Xbox in November of 2007, I was 11 months past my warranty coverage.  This leaves my 1st option:  Send the console into Microsoft for 100 dollar repair/refurb.

Since I like 100 dollars in my bank account, I did not even consider this option.

My next thought is to replace the console.  I immediately shop on Amazon and Newegg, but I’m not really enjoying the notion of paying $200 plus for a new Xbox and paying for a data migration kit.

A third option, much more my style, began to creep into my frazzled mind.   “Why not try to actually try to fix this myself?”.  I am a fairly technically savvy person with a family history of MacGyvering – so I saw fit to AT THE VERY LEAST lace up, touch gloves, and slug it out for a few rounds with the RRoD.  I commenced work immediately.

I didn’t use a guide to open up my Xbox; but I should have.  I used brute force and a couple of plastic tabs that hold the top plastic bezel in place are now snapped off.  It was difficult to  get this console open my first time, and it probably took me 45 minutes to have the thing completely disassembled to where I had the system board out and all other pieces off to the side.

With everything opened up and my warranty (or, possibility of ever having one) now completely devoid, I started looking at possible fixes.  Both the CPU and GPU heat-sinks seemed firmly attached, so I didn’t believe that to be my problem.  Overall, the system was pretty clean.  I blew out some of the dust plugging up the fans and heat-sinks overall, but that definitely wasn’t enough of a backup to cause a RRoD in my opinion.

So, I decided it must be the memory chips on the bottom of the Xbox system board.  These 4 chips sit on the bottom side where no fan/cooling will ever reach them.  Microsoft tried to alleviate this by attaching some chintzy thermal pads, but those things were basically a band aid with some high density foam attached to the chips.

I removed the pads and cleaned the memory chips.  I used this guide to replace those pads with some custom “penny based” copper heat sinks.  You take 2 pennies, wrap them together with electrical tape, and stick them onto those 4 memory chips.  From the pic, you can see I have a tube of high-temperature synthetic grease which I layered between the chip and pennies.

The entire process was a pain.  Getting the system back together was harder than taking it apart.  It’s difficult to get everything to line up correctly while keeping those pennies in place on the chips.  After I got it part-way back together, I test-booted the Xbox only to find that the red ring persisted.  Even worse, this time it seemed to red ring before even powering on the fans.  I took this to mean that I had a short somewhere; and indeed it did seem that the system board was crooked from my penny application.  I adjusted screw tension in several places, and removed screws completely in other places – and after some finagling I was able to get the system to boot to it’s “normal” red ring where the fans and everything at least had power.

Further research indicated that the RRoD error code may persist even if you have fixed the problem.  The easiest way to clear that error code was to replace it with another error code and/or reset the onboard chips.  The easiest way to do THAT is to simply overheat your Xbox.  Shouldn’t be too hard, right?  I mean, the thing runs at nuclear temperature even in a ventialted area.  Google reported the “towel trick” was the key, and I watched this entertaining guy do said trick – which apparently means cooking your Xbox for 20-25 minutes.

Since I had the thing apart already, I decided to expedite this baking process by booting it up without the fans installed.  So I turned it on, then wrapped the console in a thick fleece blanket, and about 6 minutes later it completely powered off.  I tried to boot it up again, and I got 2 red rings vs 3 (indicating overheat, yay!).  So, I let it cool off for about 10 minutes before trying again…

It BOOTED!!!  I let it idle for a bit, played some Trials, verified live connectivity, etc etc.  Everything was looking great!  The penny fix in combination with an overheat to clear it out seemed to do the trick for me.

I put the unit back together, and by this point I was very comfortable getting it back together correctly. I tightened all the screws, got all the tabs back in place, buttoned it up completely.

With everything hooked back up; I tested the console for awhile playing various games.  I played Trials.  I played Battlefield 3 beta.  I reviewed my settings and live connectivity again…   And after 1-2 hours, it was still working fine.

I have continued playing throughout the weekend with 2-3 hours per session; totaling probably 8-10 hours of game play; and I feel like everything is very stable.  No more red rings.  I have done multiple power on/offs, disconnected/reconnected all hardware and storage devices; and at this time I feel very good about my Xbox and its “Non RRoD” status.

In fact, everyone in the family does!

Take that, RRoD…  I looked through your intimidating vengeful red eye directly into your villainous soul.  After a hard-fought battle, I am confident that on this day,  good has triumphed over evil…

This penny fix was only temporary.  The red-ring of death resurfaced about 10 days later and asked me for a rematch.

This time I pulled out all the stops and researched every possible fix that typically works for the RRoD.  Ultimately, I ended up at 2 main fixes:

  • Replacing the X-clamps that hold the heat syncs in place for the GPU and CPU, combined with replacing the thermal paste on the cores/heatsinks
  • Purchase a heat gun and use it to refresh the solder connections by heating the bottom of the circuit board.

I followed this video tutorial pretty much exactly.  He does a great job explaining the work done, and gives exact specs for the hardware that replaces the crappy X-clamps.  I took it one step further and drilled a grid of holes in the top of my Xbox to improve the airflow over top of the heatsinks.

This work seems to have officially bested the RRoD – as of now it’s been operating for about a month without any further issues.  I’ve also noticed it running much quieter now that I’ve drilled the holes, so I think that has improved the airflow and makes it so my fans have to do much less work to move the same amount of air.

Your move, RRoD.

Netflix Streaming Shakeup

I’ve completely embraced “streaming” as my primary ingestion path for nearly all media formats for quite some time.

As far as movies go, I’ve been a member of Netflix since July of 2007.  I haven’t bought a DVD since.  I’ve never even considered a Blu-ray player or owning Blue-ray disks.  “Stream it or die” is my motto.  From the music side, digital music owns my entire landscape.  I haven’t bought a physical CD since 2001 when Tool’s Lateralus came out.  Whether it’s MP3s in my car or streaming from my smartphone or my computer at work – I’ve never looked back at CD’s and never will.  Overall, I’ve really just embraced all things the streaming at large: Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Pandora,, Grooveshark, iHeartRadio – the list goes on and on.

Streaming media is certainly in an early stage in its life.  I’d call it late infancy or early toddler.  Although the adoption rate for streaming has been thrust into popularity by Netflix and others; the media conglomerates that license and allow distribution of this content have been slow to adapt.  This results in only “some” content being available for “some” time before it expires.  Meanwhile, the services are offered at drastically reduced rates to customers because the media libraries are far from fully stocked.  I’ll be the first person to admit that the Netflix unlimited streaming plan is worth way more than it’s 7.99 a month rate.  But quite simply, Netflix can’t charge much more than that unless they are able to offer new releases and/or a more complete library.

Netflix has started to attempt shaping the industry as it needs to be shaped by increasing the prices on their streaming/DVD combo plans.  Ultimately, this forces most consumers to choose between streaming or DVD rentals by mail – and I feel that the vast majority of customers choose streaming.  I don’t fully support this move with such a gaping lack of new and high end releases in their streaming library, and I didn’t like that they did it in such a “bulk” fashion.  But, in reality this is not Netflix’s fault.  I was originally INFURIATED with the combo plan price increase and the seemingly forced migration to streaming-only.  But the truth is, this is a move that is necessary.

The industry is resisting the adaption of streaming; and it’s been even further compounded now that Netflix and Starz have been unable to reach an agreement to renew their contract.  But this was all the same with the MP3 era – it took record companies YEARS to adjust to a digital age.  Looks like the movie studios haven’t learned anything.  Nobody wants to go pay 12 bucks to see 20 minutes of ads and previews and a movie that they can stream from their home 3 months later at a much cheaper rate without any ad/previews.  People aren’t going to keep buying 5 editions of the same movie on DVD/Blu-ray (DIRECTOR’S CUT.  ULTIMATE EXTENDED EDITION.  ULTRA DEATH PERISH EDITION).

Streaming media is changing the movie industry.  The customer holds a lot more of the cards, and at some point you better realize it.

Down With the Sickness

This is a two part post.

Part 1:
First and foremost, the band “Disturbed” is apparently going on an indefinite hiatus after they conclude the Rockstar Energy Mayhem festival.  I’ll be seeing them play in Detroit with mixed emotions.

On one hand, this is a band that has produced alot of very good music.  On the other, they’ve also been the source of jokes and laughs at cheezy sounding grunts/rahs/suack.  It’s like their debut album was catchy, but we also made fun of it.  Their song “Prayer” changed everything.  It was epic and profound.  No longer the brunt of satire, they carried this respect through Ten Thousand Fists, and through some of Indestructible.  However, my unconditional love and respect for this band certainly ceased with the latest album Asylum.

Somehow Disturbed has come full circle in a bad way.  Back to their laughable and comedic roots, the video for “Animal” sealed their fate in my opinion.  It was cheesy and literally laughable to me.  I don’t really fault Disturbed for this; as I’m sure writing music and lyrics over a decade has it’s ups and downs.  I guess I am a little surprised at how far up they were; vs. how low they have come and gone to be.

As Vanlandw honestly and correctly put – “Maybe it’s for the better”.  I think I agree, but it does still effect me to know that I’m seeing Disturbed on what may very well be their very last tour.

Part 2:
I’m pretty sure I had viral meningitis last week.

Signs is Better Than Blade II

Signs is better...

“Reaction to Blade II among critics has been mixed”
“Signs garnered generally positive reviews from movie critics.”

Blade II Rating: 6.6
Signs Rating: 6.9

Blade II Score: 52
Signs Critic Score: 59

Rotten Tomatoes
Blade II Score: 59%
Signs Critic Score: 74%

Make no mistake about it. Any widely used movie ratings system or service will tell you that Signs is a better film than Blade II.

It’s not like Blade 2 wins on one or more of these areas. The critics and users alike universally agree by administering a higher rating than Signs on seemingly every possible system. The fact that Russ says Blade 2 is better should alone be enough for any other man to disagree.

That is without mentioning that Signs is a innovative, creative, and attempts to create a level of depth whether or not you agree with the story. Blade II makes itself a cheesy action whore distancing itself completely from the aspects that made the first Blade movie an interesting film. I continue to give solid backing to my stance, where as critics of Signs can seemingly only cite the ending and the water aspects.

I’ll let vanbergs address that via an email:

“I really don’t understand why some people hate Signs so much. Saying it’s stupid because aliens come to our planet full of water, when water can hurt them, is in itself stupid. Humans drown in water. Maybe we should fucking move too. The sun burns our skin. We should fire a thousand arrows in the sky at all times of the day to blot out its rays. As for “swing away” and the whole concept of fate…you may not have agreed with its religious tones or method of execution, but it at least added *some* amount of depth to the story and characters.

Blade II was so bad and awful, it was a truly remarkable achievement in atrocity.”

And finally I’ll close with my own synopsis written some time ago:

While I don’t share the same undying love for Signs that I did upon first seeing it… It at least makes an attempt to tell an original story. Meaning, it’s not just an “alien movie”. The validity and execution of the preacher’s loss and reclamation of faith can be debated on and on… I feel it was done “ok” and I was able to relate to the story fairly well even though I am not religious.

Blade II is a different kind of movie all together. It is all about CGI’d action sequences, blood, vampire slaying, and sheer Wesley Snipes. But even in that, for what it is, it was cheesy BS. Nowhere near as good or innovative as the first Blade movie. It’s not a deep movie, it doesn’t go into a new level or tell an original story. On that alone, Signs is better.

Some may not like the story of Signs. Some may have wanted it to just be an alien movie. But, the point was that it shot for something greater and I don’t think it was a total failure in doing so. It’s an innnovative and creative story – I think that is un-deniable whether or not you like the film. To tell the truth, I actually think the acting in Signs was pretty good as well. From the Culkin kid, to Joaquin Phoenix, and good ol’ Mel G.

I am clearly not alone in my opinion, and clearly I am not wrong.

Everyone’s problem with Signs is whether or not they like the ending. If you don’t like the ending, then it seems for most people that ruins the entirety of the film across the board. Whether or not you liked the ending, watch the films in an attempt to appreciate the originalality of the story.

With that;
Signs is better.

The Best Possible RickRoll Method

The phenomenon known as “RickRolling” is certainly nothing new. Millions have been duped into watching Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”. And many, like myself, have had it done multiple times.

Some strategies to Rickrolling a would be victim might include

  • Non-specific Youtube link
  • Use of URL shorteners like or
  • URL re-direction

I’d like to take the URL re-direction bullet, make it a bit overly technical, and unleash what I am convinced is an undetectable rick roll method. Prerequisites include an apache web server with mod rewrite (probably do-able with IIS as well, but I am unaware of rewriting URLs in IIS).

  • Create a folder in the root of your web directory. Name the folder something like “index.html”.
  • Inside that folder, create a file named .htaccess (note the leading dot. Required in the name)
  • Put the following text inside that .htaccess file:

    Options +FollowSymLinks
    RewriteEngine on
    RewriteRule (.*) "" [R=301,L]

  • Now, you can link somebody to and they will immediately be forwarded to Rick Astley.

I went ahead and implimented this for display purposes here: