Wednesday, April 15

Up, up, damned Xbox!

As I mentioned, Tim's Xbox 360 sputtered and died recently. To be exact, the console stopped showing video. That sort of ruins the gaming experience, from our point of view.

This was actually pretty upsetting for Tim. It was his favorite Christmas present... ever. His parents and I had gone in together on it 2 Christmases ago. Unfortunately, when they bought it, they didn't get him an extended warranty.

In retrospect, I should have insisted. But I had my mind on other things. It's kind of irritating to me that we missed this obvious idea. After all, it cost $300 total and lasted just about 2.25 years. That's $133 a year. A little higher than I would have liked. On the other hand, that means we were paying less than $3 a week. So I suppose it's how you look at it.

That said, I was hoping we could salvage it. So Tim called Microsoft. Unfortunately, they only fix it for free for 1 year after purchase. That warranty was completely over.

For a mere $119, we could have Microsoft take a look. The operator told Tim that no promises were made about whether it could be fixed. What a deal!

That idea was nixed immediately. I did a little research online and found that the lower-end consoles are only $199. We can buy the basic one, since Tim's current console already has a hard drive.

But I was still hoping that we could get away without buying anything. So Tim used a Microsoft support gift card we had. The people really couldn't tell us much of anything. We were told it might be something as simple as a faulty port, it could be the A/V cables or it could be a problem with the motherboard.

So we did a few at-home trials. We tried the Xbox on a different television. Still no video. So it wasn't the ports on the TV. Well, I was convinced, anyway, but Tim thought both TVs were pretty old. So he took it to a friend's house to triple check. Sure enough, it wasn't the ports. If it had been, we could simply have used the TV in the bedroom -- or kept an eye out for another TV on Freecycle.

Then we got some new A/V cables from Gamestop. That didn't help. And, just to be thorough, we checked them on both TVs. We decided it definitely wasn't the cables either. If they had been the problem, it would have been optimal. These would have been the cheapest "fix," since they cost $16 after sales tax. (As it was, Gamestop has a liberal 7-day return policy, so it cost us nothing to try.)

Unfortunately, that left only problems with internal hardware. Still, I didn't give up. I got on to the Microsoft FAQs section and checked if there were any answers there. (There weren't.) But it reminded me that there are entire forums devoted to Xbox problems.

A few keyword searches later, I found some references to the no-video problem. Apparently, it was a relatively common problem with a specific batch of Xbox 360s. This reminded me that, about a month after Christmas, Tim's mom called to say that Microsoft was willing to fix/replace the problematic batch that had come out. But Tim was reluctant to part with his gift so early on. Over time, he forgot. (Let others learn from our mistakes... When there's a recall, take advantage of it!)

From what I could glean, Microsoft used "X" bindings (appropriately) that put strain on the motherboard and video chip. It's relatively fixable, if you open up the console, take off the bindings and reglue them. The materials would cost about $20-30. There are even step-by-step YouTube video instructions.

This is a good reminder to us all. We're a consumer society. When things break, we're more likely to replace it, rather than attempt to fix it. But often with a little research, you can extend items' life indefinitely. Our first VCR lasted over a decade. Whenever it would begin acting up, my mom would take it apart, clean the wheels, and put it back together. When the pipes froze in the winter, rather than call a plumber, Mom would dutifully plug in a hair dryer and start thawing them herself.

But my favorite story was our toaster. As Mom got ready to leave for college, she was given a used toaster. It was just sitting out in someone's garage. Well over a decade later, the toaster started to falter. After some investigation, Mom replaced the cord and used it happily for several more years. It finally died for good when I was in college -- at least 20 years after she received the toaster... the used toaster.

Her general attitude was: If you are going to replace it, why not stop and try to fix it first? It worked out more often than not. Of course, I should add that Mom is the same person who used my old cloth diapers as rags until they wore out completely. That was somewhere after my 20th birthday. "Waste" isn't really in her lexicon.

Given all that, it may seem strange that I have decided to replace the Xbox rather than fix it. Certainly, that was my first impulse. Tim and I sat down and watched two of the five videos. It didn't look too terribly difficult, however it was time consuming and required a steady hand.

That takes me out of the equation instantly. I have an essential tremor, like most of my family, and so my hands shake pretty much all the time. And in this particular scenario, a shaky hand could easily scratch the motherboard.

So it would be up to Tim. I floated the idea by him. He was reluctant. First, it's time-consuming, which isn't terribly ADD-friendly. Second, he was pretty sure he'd end up hurting the motherboard, too. Either he would scratch it or somehow spread glue on a vital part.

But the real clincher was that I've pledged to be more realistic and less demanding of myself when setting goals. Logically, it shouldn't be that difficult of a task. We could follow logic and tell ourselves that we were going to fix it. We'd truly mean to. Then, I'd be too tired to go get the materials, or Tim wouldn't have the attention span for it on the appointed day. The console would gather dust, right along with our good intentions.

How do I know this? About 6 or 8 months ago, Tim got a bike. He doesn't trust plastic pedals, so he got metal ones. The plastic ones, though, are on there tight. After quite a few tries, he decided he'd get a friend to help him out. He forgot several weeks in a row, then the friend disappeared off the face of the earth (new girlfriend). The hardier pedals are still, patiently sitting on the desk, covered by bills.

So, while there's part of me thinking that it's far more frugal to fix the damn thing, there's a more realistic side that's butting in. Just because, objectively speaking, something should be easy, there is no guarantee it will be. This is especially true when you're fighting depression. I have trouble with a lot of very (seemingly) simple tasks.

So I'm trying to accept that we're not good at completing tasks that we set for ourselves. While I want to work on this trait in the future, I don't think that change can happen right now. We're exhausted and worn down -- both physically and emotionally. So, we're trying to be nicer to ourselves, and part of that is setting ourselves reasonable goals.

Unfortunately, fixing the Xbox ourselves isn't one. Part of me keeps insisting that it should be. But I've had enough experience to know that this attitude only adds to my difficulty in completing tasks, since I then have the added layer of guilt.

I guess, in the end, it's a basic question: Where is the line between trying to better ourselves and setting ourselves up for failure?

I'm convinced that a balance does exist between between self-improvement and a realistic acceptance of limitations. I'm not, however, convinced that I'll ever get it quite right. And given our current load of worries, I think it's smarter to err on the side of caution. That means keeping goals small and the pressure low.

In the meantime, I can look around online to see how much we can get for a broken Xbox 360. We'll add it to the replacement fund.

Have you ever tried to fix something on your own? How did it turn out? When it comes to fixing things, where would you draw the line? What is asking too much of yourself?

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Blogger DogAteMyFinances said...

Our Craigslist has a bunch of Xboxes. Obviously, you have to be very careful and test it out, but that might be worth a look.

April 15, 2009 at 6:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is at least worth trying to fix it. Think of it this way. The darn thing is broken. Let's say that in trying to fix it, you fail and only make it worse. What does it matter? It was already broken! The only way I could see not puttering around with it at all would be if you wanted to try to sell it as-is on eBay. Really! People will harvest broken consoles for parts, or they are willing to fix them because they have the skills and know-how. I had a busted DS Lite (one of the hinges broke, and the top screen picture went funky), and I was super honest with the description and didn't even include the charger or stylus (yes, I specified that they weren't included)...and I got around $60 for it! New ones were retailing for $130. That obviously helped defray the cost of buying a new one!

April 15, 2009 at 6:47 AM

Blogger Alane said...

Do you have a friend or neighbor who could give you a hand? Someone patient so Tim could just be a helper and maybe offer dinner as payment.
You could just give it a shot anyway and if it fails you had already decided to get a new one anyway

April 15, 2009 at 8:01 AM

Blogger Abby said...


You're right, I should keep my eyes open for CL listings. But then we'd still be spending money. My hope is to get one free with rewards.


I mention at the bottom that we'll probably sell the broken version for extra funds. I probably should have put that up higher, since it's a bit of an afterthought as currently presented. I've already contacted one person. We'll get somewhere around $30-60 for the broken console. If the motherboard gets scratched, though, I'm not sure it'd be worth anything.

Meanwhile, logically, yes, it would make sense to fix it. It's more that we have a lot of things going on. So while our intentions would be good, I'm just not sure we could actually get around to it. As it is, Magic the Gathering is one of the most important things to Tim. But when he wanted to sort his cards by set -- even when I was willing to help him -- he couldn't get himself going on it for over a week. I finally took over myself because I needed to keep busy this past weekend.


I think you may have a good point. Right now, we don't have a lot of friends who are available. But Tim's friend Seth might be willing. And, depending on how long it took him, he might take a GC in trade. He's not exactly idle, though, since he's working as close to full-time as he can get plus this is the first quarter he's taking a class at the local community college. Still, it'll take us awhile to get the rewards up anyway. So it's worth asking...

April 15, 2009 at 9:30 AM

Blogger Mrs. Modern Tightwad said...

FYI, Gamestop gave us $40 when our xbox died.

I don't understand why you can't still take advantage of the recall. If it's a recalled xbox that needs to be repaired then it's a recalled xbox that needs to be repaired. I don't understand companies anymore, but I expect very little from xbox.

After someone hacked our password and stole $20 from our checking account via xbox live, microsoft said they wouldn't take care of us because the thief made a purchase (Isn't that what thieves do with stolen money?). But if you fall under the recall you can always call them again and say it was a gift and was never serviced under the original recall.

Good luck!

April 15, 2009 at 5:35 PM

Blogger said...

I have an on-going war with Xbox (details on my site).

If you ship it off to get fixed you will have an additional year warranry. What's nice about that is that for an extra $29.00 per year you can add an additional year of support.

It's crazy we need to pay for Microsoft's shoddy product however I know the games are great!

April 16, 2009 at 12:56 PM


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