Troubles with Xbox 360 and Live

Was installing today my second Xbox 360. Everything went smoothly in the beginning: Xbox calibrated, asked its questions, found WiFi, connected to Live, and downloaded an update from it.

The next step would be to download my profile, and this is where the sucking part started, as it turned out that the Xbox cannot connect to Live. Connection test was able to find network and internet, but not Live. I have tried everything – restarting, unplugging power, restarting router, reading forums, jumping on one leg, singing shaman songs, beating the drum, standing on head. Nothing. Then I noticed that the DNS configuration on the Xbox has only primary server set, and it is pointing to the router, which has no DNS server of its own. Changed DNS to manual and pointed it to Google’s 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 servers. Nothing. Changed from WiFi to Ethernet, rebooted a few more times, changed DNS back to automatic, changed back to WiFi, and bingo – Live test succeeded. No idea why though, as Xbox settings now were identical to the initial factory settings, and those were not working before. Go figure. And all these while my second Xbox, with absolutely identical configuration, was happily working in the other room, and had no problems with Live whatsoever, including passing tests!!!

Fine, Live sorted out, so now it was time to download the account. Meant to be easy. Well, it was not. After entering email and password, I was present with the list of my accounts, selected the needed one, the download process would start, go about 10%, and stop with error message (80151909 and 80151103, temporarily cannot download profile). Retried it a few times (each time you have to enter both email and password using shit-fuck-crappy-on-screen keyboard, fuuuuuuuuuuck!). Someone from Microsoft recommended to authenticate the Live account, but the account was not asking for it. Then there was recommendation to temporarily change the Live password. Changed it, rebooted Xbox, and managed to download the profile. Finally!

The last step was to get back my old password – I have it on my Windows Phone, and some other devices, so changing it everywhere would be rather painful. Well, the password change page said I cannot reuse the original password, and that I must choose a new password each time. As stubborn as I am, I started changing the temporary password by changing one letter a time, and then retrying to set my original password. Something like 5-7 retries later I was able to reuse my old password, and the fairy tale got a happy end.

Aftermath: working Xbox with Live, and two hours of my precious Saturday time miserably wasted. Thank you, dear Microsoft! Can somebody tell me, how a normal person can set up a new Xbox with the internet connection and Live? He/she cannot, you say? Well, that is what I think too. Context: I am a software developer, and have dealt with computers for 27 years now, since I was kid.

Windows 8: First Experience

Yesterday, finally, I installed my new SSD drive, and this was a good opportunity to bring Windows 8 into the picture. So, just a few notes on what to expect:

  1. Installation was really simple. Regional settings, and serial number was all info requested. It was really fast too, although it is difficult to say whether it was much faster than Windows 7 to SSD.
  2. The thing is booting mega-fast. Both cold boot, and Windows 8’s strange-own-way-of-kinda-hibernating-without-calling-it-like-that are fast; to the extent that most of the cold-boot time is spent by BIOS. No idea how MS made it, but it is great!
  3. The new Start screen and desktop are not that horrible as people claim they are – at least I cannot see any large problems with them. Should I say “so far?” :) Of course, they require certain re-learning, but that should not be too big of a problem. If people handle phone calls on Android phones (and gosh, Android’s UI of phone call related functions is really horrible; but that is a totally different story anyway), then they must be able to master the new Windows UI. :)
  4. Installing Visual Studio 2012 took just a few minutes (again, is it because of SSD? who knows), and the thing starts in just a few seconds. Fantastic!

Of course, not to be called Microsoft-fanboy, or whatever we are called nowadays, I must mention some problems:

  1. Power management sucked badly out of the box on my computer. It was not able to wake the computer up from sleep (nothing was helping, not even THE power button on the PC itself); then, after some tweaking, I was able to wake it up, but the screen was black; then I was not able to put it to sleep; then… and so on and so on. Took me good few hours, but now it seems to be quite OK, although I am still not completely satisfied. What helped me, was turning hibernation off (powercfg -h off in admin mode, to those interested), and then tweaking power options (e.g. not allowing my mouse to wake up).
  2. Metro media players suck, IMHO. They do not support DLNA sources, at least as far as I can tell after a short inspection, and they are missing some vital function, like zooming. Wasted effort, IMHO.
  3. My poor old AMD Radeon HD 4850 PRO video card has the same issues as it had with Windows 7 – hardware accelerated video playback results in black screen, and there is no way to fix it other than reboot. The same PC worked fine with XP – problems started with 7, and now 8 is following 7th footsteps. I understand that the video card is nothing fancy (although it is still better than 90% of video cards in today’s notebooks), but then again one would expect such a basic stuff like DXVA/DXVA2 to work. On the other hand, AMD has always had problems with video playback (and those problems were coming and going in various patterns with each new driver), so nothing new, in a way. And yes, it seems to be almost impossible to sort out the issue; while I was able to use DXVA checker to somehow “fix” media player by disabling hardware acceleration, online videos e.g. at Store still crash.

All in all, Windows 8 looks rather great, and I am big fan of Metro style in UIs (i.e. clean data-centric approach) – it is sad that they did not replace all Windows UIs, e.g. Control Panel and Explorer, with it. Most of the problems I faced are very likely related to my old-not-really-supported hardware, e.g. AMD is not supporting my video card in new Catalyst, so if you have newer hardware, you will probably have much smoother experience.

Buffalo WBMR-HP-G300N

Some time ago I have moved from my ancient arthritic ZyXEL Prestige ADSL modem to a shiny new Buffalo WBMR-HP-G300N wireless ADSL modem/router.

I am very happy with ADSL part: it has worked out of the box, and there is really nothing no complain about, as it is clearly light-years better than my old crap was. The same goes to its wireless part – got my XBOX, laptop, tablet and phones on-line in matter of minutes.

But… (here goes the famous “but”) … I cannot say that I am so excited about its other features, namely NAS, DLNA streaming a.k.a. Media Server, and BitTorrent.

First of all, NAS supports only FAT, FAT32, and XFS as file systems. We are in the age of 2-3 TB hard-disks, so FAT and FAT32 suck badly. XFS? What the fuck is this fuck? And who gives? So, this was my first disappointment, as my Buffalo USB3 hard-disk had NTFS and a lot of absolutely needed files, but there is no fool-proof data preserving way of converting NTFS to FAT32. It took me two days, and a lot of swearing, to get it to FAT32. The process involved copying files around for backup, formatting the disk to FAT32 (using Acronis tools, as Windows will not format 2 TB FAT32 partitions on its own), copying files back, etc. The speed of NAS is also abysmal – barely getting 5 MB/s on large files on the wired 1 Gbps Ethernet.

The second disappointment came when I have switched the Media Server feature on, but it did not appear on network. Buffalo’s documentation sucks big time – it is simply a collection of screenshots of the router’s web console, and some text repeating what pictures say. In 90% of cases the explanation says something obvious, but useless. For example, if there is a check-box saying “Feature XYZ Enabled” the documentation will say “Check to enable feature XYZ“, but there will be no further explanation regarding consequences and prerequisites. Kind of “try and see“. There is really no troubleshooting information on the internet either, neither on Buffalo site/forums, not in the wild. Wasted something like 6 hours trying to get the damn thing working, until finally I got an enlightenment, that the problem might be in the media itself, namely its quantity – I have something like 25,000 photos, and then some music and movies. Quick trial, and I got my movies served. So, now my media server is getting not the whole harddisk for himself, but only its Movies folder.

And, BitTorrent function just went into the same basket – that shit works only and only if the harddisk’s file system is XFS!!! :)

Good job Buffalo!

Overall, I can recommend this modem for its basic functionality, but then again, taking into account how crappy its advanced features are, there are much cheaper modems without these functions. Rating – 3 out of  5.

Samsung Galaxy Xcover S5690 Review (Updated)

Three months ago I purchased the Samsung Galaxy Xcover S5690 tough phone. The phone was not that bad, with big screen, OK resolution, and rather well behaving Android.

Unfortunately, today (May 9, 2012) the screen broke, seemingly by itself – at least I did no do anything bad to neither the phone, nor to the bag the phone was in. The screen got a large diagonal crack from the middle of the left side to the middle button at the bottom.

Checked it on the Internet, and it seems to be quite usual problem with this phone – the screen is covered with very fragile plastic protector that breaks easily, and screen is following immediately. People say that the warranty is not covering this issue – Samsung replies in these cases that the phone was “physically abused”. Remember, this is supposedly a tough phone, and there are plenty of ads everywhere with cars driving over this phone!

[UPDATE 1] The phone was replaced by Samsung service – clearly it has something to do with Finnish laws about consumer protection or something. Interestingly, believe me or not, the screen broke again after just a week (it got a small punch-hole under the middle button), and WAS AGAIN REPLACED by Samsung service. In the mean-time I have got a leather flip-case for the phone, so now I have the screen protected, and, hopefully, it will not break that easily anymore.

[UPDATE 2] After I had time to play with the phone once it was out for constant servicing, I realized that it has really small internal storage, something like 160 MB. This is not enough for anything, and trust me, I am really selective about my apps. Moving apps to SD card is not helping much, as many applications want to stay on the phone, especially if the have widgets, or need to start with the phone. All in all, for this reason alone I cannot recommend this phone – there are much cheaper Android phones with better screens, and larger storage, that cost half the price of XCover.

Conclusion [EDITED] If you really need a reliably tough phone, then stay away from this piece of crap mobile engineering. Originally I added, that “there are definitely much tougher models out there in the market“, but now, after looking into it, it is clear that all Android (and iOS, and Windows) tough phones are tough only in comparison with very not-tough Android phones. In fact, they might be tougher in terms of water and dust resistance. The screen is made out of normal glass, so it is breaking very easily. The only advantage might be that it was replaced twice by Samsung, but it is clearly country-dependent policy.

PS Before this phone I always had Nokia phones. My current Nokia E63 is about 3-4 years old, is not “tough”, and was dropped to concrete floor without any silicone case at least 10 times during these years – no problem whatsoever!

ASUS Transformer TF101 Problems

My ASUS Transformer TF101 started to have problems after the Android 4.0 a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich a.k.a. ICS update: occasionally, when sleeping, it can automatically switch on and go into a reboot loop, or switch on and get stucked in the ASUS boot screen; only log power button press, or, sometimes, long volume down button press, can “resurrect” the poor device. This could happen with or without dock being attached. The latest update to Android 4.0.3 (got it today in the night) did not fix the problem. Annoying.

Till today I have tried to do many things to it, but without much success. Today I have made some deeper investigations, and here is what I have found.

One thing is that the device is not really going to what is called deep sleep when going to sleep mode, as touching the mousepad would wake the device up, although pressing keyboard buttons would not. This behavior was not the present in Android 3, so I started to look for a solution. Found it on a few forums (have no links to them anymore, sorry):

  1. Go to Settings > Developer options. Confirm the Attention box by clicking OK.
  2. Enable the Stay awake option, so that its check-box is checked.
  3. Wait a few seconds (I, in fact, went out of settings and came back; just to be sure…)
  4. Disable the Stay awake option, so that its check-box is disabled.

Voila – mousepad is not waking the device anymore! To verify, go to sleep, wait some seconds (30?), and then touch the mousepad.

My speculation about what is happening here is that this option is in essence a 0/1 value, 0 being disabled, and 1 being enabled, but, for whatever reason, it gets some other factual value, e.g. -1, after the ICS update, which Android treats as “Oh! I should stake awake!”, while the Settings UI treats as disabled, e.g. because it performs a check for the value being exactly 1.

Also, there seems to be some evidence that NVIDIA TegraZone might have its fingers in the problem as well, as it is checking for updates every 12 hours, seemingly even when the device is sleeping. So, I have switched its auto-update off by:

  1. Start TegraZone
  2. Go to its Menu > Settings
  3. Switch Notifications off

Also, some people say that installing and enabling Auto Airplane Mode by DON helps reducing the symptoms or even eliminating this annoying problem. I have used it on my Transformer since the beginning, and, obviously, it was not helping on its own; but then, again, I believe that it might help in some cases, and it is not hurting to have it anyway: it is automatically enabling the airplane mode when the screen is turned off/put to sleep, thus preserving the battery when you are not using your device. I do not understand why Google did not put this function directly into Android, to be honest.

So far I did have not seen any unexpected reboots, but it is too early to say for sure – they were not happening every day.

UPDATE 2012-03-25 Well, five days went since my “fixes”, and so far so good. CPU Spy shows that the device really goes into the deep sleep mode, and I do not get reboot loops anymore. Battery seems to last OK too. To be honest, once there was a problem that I could not wake the device up from sleep, but rather it booted, but it might just as well be my problem, if I have earlier put the device down so that its Sleep button was pressed and thus it switched off completely. BUT! Today that fucking motherfucker (no other words apply here, I am afraid) again went into automatic boot and stucked at the ASUS boot screen. Fantastic! Nevertheless, five days is much more than before, so it seems that these “fixes” fix at least some part of the problem.