Tag Archives: Xbox 360

I’ve been a fan of the simple and effective Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool for quite awhile, and have often used it to create a bootable USB flash drive for installing Windows 7.

But I recently ran into a problem with a flash drive after connecting it to my Xbox 360 and using it to move my profile. The Xbox 360 must have made some change to the MBR on the flash drive that the WUDT didn’t like, because it was unable to format the drive.

The WUDT would begin to format the drive, then report:

We were unable to copy your files. Please check your USB device and the selected ISO file and try again.

Windows 7 had no problems formatting the drive, but something was obviously missing from the process.

A quick search in Google turned up the solution. The formatting done by Windows 7 or the WUDT wasn’t cleaning the MBR and partition table.

To thoroughly format the drive so that it can be used by the WUDT, open an elevated command prompt and enter the following commands, using the drive number of the USB drive reported in list disk for the value of select disk #.

list disk
select disk #
create partition primary
select partition 1
format quick fs=fat32

For the curious, here’s a more detailed explanation of the clean command:

Removes any and all partition or volume formatting from the disk with focus. On master boot record (MBR) disks, only the MBR partitioning information and hidden sector information are overwritten. On GUID partition table (GPT) disks, the GPT partitioning information, including the Protective MBR, is overwritten; there is no hidden sector information.

I would expect that the MBR and partition table would need to be cleaned after formatting a drive for booting Mac OS X, too.

Credit: http://4sysops.com/archives/windows-7-usbdvd-download-tool-wudt-is-unable-to-copy-files/

I’m trying to find a way to save some Xbox 360 achievements that I’ve earned while my console was offline. Typically, just connecting to Xbox Live will sync up your gamertag and the offline achievements will be added to you profile. This works because, usually, the gamertag is associated with a single Xbox 360, which goes offline and then back online. My situation is different, and it seems like I’m going to lose my offline achievements.

The set up

I have a single gold account and two Xbox 360 consoles. One of these consoles is always online and is used exclusively for watching Netflix (because the drive tray is broken). The other console works fine for games, but is physically located where wired Ethernet isn’t available, and I haven’t purchased a wireless adapter. In order to get the same gamertag on both consoles, I used the recover gamertag feature to bring it down to the online console. This means that the Netflix gamertag is regularly connecting to Xbox Live while my gaming is done on the same gamertag, but offline.

Microsoft doesn’t seem to want to support this sort of arrangement, as it appears that gamertags are associated with individual Xbox consoles and that only the last-to-be-connected gamertag is seen as legit.

The problems

The first problem I’m facing is how to get all of these achievements that were earned offline sync’d up with my Live profile. One might reasonably think that simply connecting the offline Xbox to Xbox Live and logging in would do this, but Live sees the account as invalid (presumably because the account associated with the other box has connected more recently). Upon connecting to Xbox Live, I’m prompted to recover my gamertag, which I know from experience will erase my offline achievements (I’ll get the gamertag as it exists on the online console – which will also render the gamertag on the online console invalid).

I also tried to use a USB flash drive to move my gamer profile from the offline box to the online box. The move itself was successful, but when I tried to connect to Live, it again found the account to be invalid and invited me to recover my gamertag. I was able to move the gamer profile back to the USB drive, remove the drive, and then recover the online gamertag in order to keep using Netflix, but I was back to square one.

I haven’t yet tried moving the offline console’s hard drive with the gamertag to the online console. As of right now, this is the only thing I can think to try.

The second problem I’m facing is that the offline Xbox doesn’t yet have the new dashboard and some of my games have updates available that are supposed to fix some bugs. I’ve read that it should be possible to get these updates by creating a silver account and logging into Xbox Live under that account. That would be somewhat helpful, but unnecessary if I can solve the first problem.

Woot. In what was certainly the best email I received today, against all odds, GameFly shipped Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This is twice now that I’ve gotten a just-released game from GameFly. Timing your returns to get new releases is hit or miss, and I’ve gone through spells where I’ve gotten one game after another from the bottom of my queue, but sometimes they come through.

No more buyer’s remorse

The last game I bought was Final Fantasy XIII, which turned out to be a major disappointment. Since then, I’ve wised up and started renting, although from all accounts, Skyrim seems like one worth buying. Still, dollar-per-hour, renting is a far better deal than buying used, and I’ve been able to try out a ton of games I was curious about (most of which I returned within a week or two) that I wouldn’t have otherwise even played.

GameFly referrals really do work

By the way, the GameFly referral program is really ugly, but it seriously works. I’ve been coasting on referrals for the last four months, and as it stands now, I won’t be billed again until January. I’d recommend checking it out if you have the means of putting your referral code online. If you’re not already a GameFly member, if you use this referral link to sign up with GameFly, we both get a free month: http://gamefly.tellapal.com/a/clk/cxlkm. Even if you’re normally on the One Game Out plan, if someone uses your referral, your reward is a free month at the Two Games Out plan (so you get an extra game, too).

As of November 11th, the rewards have changed, though. They no longer can offer cash via Paypal as a reward (which I am fine with). Here’s their communication on the matter:

GameFly Refer-A-Friend: Important Information Regarding Rewards

Thanks for telling your friends about GameFly!

Unfortunately, we are no longer able to offer PayPal as a reward option for our referral program. You’ll still be able to earn a free month of GameFly for every friend you refer (or you can donate it to the Make-A-Wish Foundation).

On December 1st, all users who have selected PayPal will be automatically switched over to the ‘free month of GameFly’ option. Any valid rewards generated in November will be paid out as usual.

We apologize for this change and hope you’ll continue to send your friends our way.

Click Here to access your account, share more and earn more!

Thank you,

The GameFly Referral Program
Powered by Extole

Back in May of 2011, the Xbox.com forums were redesigned. The old forum’s content was transferred to a new subdomain at http://forumsarchive.xbox.com/ and left to rot.

What happened to all the stuff in the “old” forums?

For a limited time, all your posts from the previous version of the forums live on forumsarchive.xbox.com (will be available shortly after the new forums have gone live). They are available for you to go grab any FAQs, walkthroughs, and other valuable posts that you created, so you can repost them in the new forums.


That isn’t quite true, as I’ve found links in posts on ardamis.com to at least one thread that I’d started on the old forum that is missing from the archive, so there has obviously been some culling happening.

I suspect that not only were countless useful threads simply abandoned or even deleted, but probably millions of inbound links to xbox.com were left to 404.

Instead of redirecting all of the links to the old forum threads, visitors following those links now see an ugly IIS server error message.

Server Error in ‘/’ Application.

The resource cannot be found.

Description: HTTP 404. The resource you are looking for (or one of its dependencies) could have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable. Please review the following URL and make sure that it is spelled correctly.

Requested URL: /31685953/ShowPost.aspx

It’s stunning, actually, how poorly this transition was handled, and I’m not alone in thinking that. There are even threads on the new forum about how much better the old one was. I cannot picture any metric by which improvement is measured that would indicate this change was successful. And I would love to know how the decision was made to let tons of inbound links 404. Who on earth would allow this to happen to their site?

One of my most popular articles at ardamis.com was a description of the slow death of my Xbox 360 at the hands of FFXIII, which thankfully didn’t link to the forum threads that it referenced for support. All those threads on how either a) Final Fantasy XIII broke dozens of Xbox 360s, or b) dozens of Xbox 360s just happened to break as people were playing Final Fantasy XIII, disappeared. But I’ve begun a new one, for posterity (and not because I still play the game, which I found to be a huge disappointment). So, to keep the flame of discontent burning, here’s the link to the new thread on Final Fantasy XIII freezing on Xbox 360.

On the upside, a quick look at the HTML of the new pages suggests that the links are not nofollowed, which is something else I found interesting about the old forums.

If you sign up for GameFly using this referral link, we both get a free month: http://gamefly.tellapal.com/a/clk/cxlkm. Even if you are signed up on the One Game Out plan, if someone uses your referral code to join, your reward is a free month at the Two Games Out plan (so you get an extra game, too).

The GameFly Refer-A-Friend Program is completely legit, even though the tellapal.com site is primitive and cheesy. Due mostly to this little blog post, I’ve been coasting along on free months for the last year, so if you can find a way of getting the word out (blog post, facebook, etc.), I would highly recommend it. It’s basically like having a free Gamefly account.

All told, as of June, 2012, I’ve been a Gamefly customer for 17 months and have only paid for five. I originally signed up using the free trial code in March, 2011, which I converted into the One Game Out plan in April. And that was fine for me, as I really only had time to play a few nights a week. But once I put this post up in May, 2011, the free months started pouring in. By July, 2011, they stopped billing my credit card and I was getting two games per month, which frankly was more than I needed.

My only gripe is that it seems to take one day longer than I’d expect to receive the games, as I live in Chicago and they’re usually shipped from Pittsburgh, PA. But they were awesome in that they sent Skyrim as soon as it was available (which I’ve had since last October). They sell older games for basically what you’d pay at Gamestop or whatever, and you earn more discounts by being a customer for a while.

So, be good to each others and get a free month for each friend who joins GameFly! (They get a free month too!)

In May, 2011, the Xbox Forums were redesigned and some, but not all, of the existing content moved to a new subdomain: http://forumsarchive.xbox.com. I’ve updated the post to fix the links so they no longer 404, but the rest of the information is dated and probably inaccurate.

I was having some problems with Final Fantasy XIII freezing on my Xbox 360, so I posted a few times to the Xbox Forums at http://forums.xbox.com/. The posts contained a link to a blog post here on ardamis.com that explained my situation in greater detail. I started to wonder if the forums were searcheable in Google, so I checked and found that for the most part, they weren’t.

The regular forum thread URLs contain a nofollow, noindex robots meta tag and end with ‘ShowPost.aspx’, but if you click on the Print button, you’re taken to a URL that ends with ‘PrintPost.aspx’. These printer-friendly pages have no such tag.

If you Google this – site:forums.xbox.com – you’ll see what I mean. There are currently less than a thousand results in Google.

This post is just to test whether I can get a PrintPost.aspx page indexed in Google by linking to it, and whether I can create an inbound link from forums.xbox.com by linking to the printer-friendly version of a thread that contains a link back to a page on ardamis.com.

The URL to the normal thread: http://forumsarchive.xbox.com/31588531/ShowPost.aspx
The URL to the printer-friendly page: http://forumsarchive.xbox.com/31588531/PrintPost.aspx

The URL to the normal thread: http://forumsarchive.xbox.com/31685953/ShowPost.aspx
The URL to the printer-friendly page: http://forumsarchive.xbox.com/31685953/PrintPost.aspx

To test, as of 03.17.2010…
Your search – site:forums.xbox.com ardamis – did not match any documents.

Update: 03.18.2010

Both PrintPost.aspx pages are now indexed. Google Webmaster Tools still doesn’t know of any inbound links to my Final Fantasy post, although there are probably a handful by now.

Update: 03.19.2010

The PrintPost.aspx pages are now showing up as the first two results in Google for final fantasy xiii xbox freeze. My post is the third result.

Update: 03.31.2010

My post is now the first result for final fantasy xiii xbox freeze. The PrintPost.aspx pages are now showing up as the second and third results.

Update: 06.26.2010

The answer is Yes, it is possible to get inbound links that show up in Google Webmaster Tools from forums.xbox.com.

Report this problem to Microsoft.
If you are experiencing freezing in Final Fantasy XIII, report it to Xbox support.

Toll free: (800) 4MY-XBOX or (800) 469-9269
9:00 A.M. to 1:00 A.M. Eastern Time
Have your console serial number ready.
Be in front of your console for troubleshooting.

My Xbox 360 started freezing up last night after a few hours playing Final Fantasy XIII. Either the screen would suddenly go snowy/blank with a bluish-gray tinge, or it would freeze/lock up but keep displaying the last ‘frame’ of whatever was happening. This happened maybe three times, and each time I had to power off at the console, because while the first segment of the ring on the console and the controller stayed lit, the console stopped responding to the controller. There was no discernible difference in the CD ROM activity at the point of lock-up, or before or after it.

I figured that maybe the unit was overheating, and I was falling asleep anyway, so I called it a night.

Today, I turned it on, loaded my last saved game, and no more than turned my character around to face the other direction when it froze and gave me a blank screen.

Because the unit had been on for less than 4 minutes, it seemed that overheating was pretty unlikely. I started to Google around to see if this was affecting other Final Fantasy owners, but didn’t find much. My game is freezing during Chapter 3: Branded, at Lake Bresha – The Waters Stilled. Each time I turn toward a group of Cie’th, it freezes. If I just sit at the spawn point and watch the fireflies for awhile, I don’t seem to have any problems.

Microsoft’s support page for Screen freezes when you use your Xbox 360 console has 7 steps for troubleshooting this sort of issue. I’ve gone through each one.

I checked the DVD and it’s pristine – it has been handled exactly once, when I removed it from the case and carefully put it into the drive.

I tried another game (Lego Star Wars) and played it for about half an hour with no problems. I’ve messed around in the Dashboard menus for about 5 minutes with no issues.

I haven’t been connected to Xbox Live since I bought the game. It’s not even connected to my router.

I set the console upright instead of on its side, well away from anything that might be blocking airflow and still crashed.

I cleared the system cache, tried again and locked up.

I made it back to the save point, saved the game to a memory card, and then crashed.

I loaded the game from the new save on the memory card and crashed.

I removed the hard drive, loaded the game from the memory card save, and played for about 2 minutes before crashing again.

I loaded the game from an earlier save point and it crashed within a minute at a point that I played through fine the night before.

At this point, I’m out of ideas. It’s gotta be the game making the Xbox do something that it can’t handle, or a defect with the disk that is not due to mistreatment. My Xbox was actually one I got in exchange from Microsoft when I shipped back a unit suffering from the RRoD. Its date of manufacture is 2006-12-16, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Update: 13 March 2010

I called Xbox support last night and asked if anyone had reported freezing in Final Fantasy, and the guy said I was the first. He suspected the disc, and suggested I return the game or try the disc in a different Xbox. He was pretty surprised to hear that the freezing occurred while the hard drive was disconnected. I asked if they still did replacements like in the RRoD days, and he avoided answering, pointing out that the problem seems to be isolated to the one game.

In a last ditch effort, I decided to install the game to the hard drive and run it from there. It didn’t make any difference – the lockups continued to happen within a minute or two of loading a saved game.

I also figured I’d get on Live and see if there were any patches or updates to download, but none are available so far.

I air dusted the Xbox and the power supply brick, too.

My feeling is that it’s a GPU issue. The last time it froze, instead of blank/snow or a frozen frame, I got a series of blue vertical lines.

If the problems continue today, I’m going to:
a) exchange the game and try different discs,
b) put my hard drive on another unit and test, and
c) bug Xbox support again.

Update: 13 March 2010 (Part 2)

I exchanged the game, popped in the new disc, removed the hard drive, loaded from the save on the memory unit, and it froze. So, to rule out a corrupt save somewhere, I started a brand new game from the DVD with the hard drive still disconnected and it froze in the middle of the second battle. It is not a media issue, a hard drive issue, or a corrupted save issue.

The only thing potentially odd about my setup is that I’m running at 1280 x 720 widescreen resolution output to VGA via a Microsoft Xbox 360 HD AV Cable instead of the usual component output. I’m running Dashboard: 2.0.8955.0.

Update: 14 March 2010

I tried changing the resolution to 1024×768 and it still froze.

I called Microsoft for the second time.

The tech support girl on this call also was unaware of any other reports of Final Fantasy XIII freezing, and sent me through the same basic troubleshooting script, with the addition of disconnecting and reconnecting the cables (something I’d already really done) and verifying that I had enough free space on my hard drive to install any updates (check, 5.9 GBs free). She asked me to turn the console on and off, which I did. While I didn’t realize it until after the call was over, Final Fantasy had started up and then froze at the title screen. I pointed out that I had logged 4 hours of game time without any problems, and haven’t been able to play for more than 3 or 4 minutes at a time since the first freeze, that I was freezing in brand new, unsaved games, with and without the hard drive attached, while online and offline. At every opportunity, she countered with “If it plays other games, then it’s not broken.”

All she could offer was a recommendation to first verify that the game disc was fine by playing it in another console, then send mine in for a $99.99 out-of-warranty repair.

She asked me when I bought the Xbox, so I got to tell her that I didn’t buy it – Microsoft sent it as a replacement to my RRoD’d unit. This makes me think they should offer a life-time replacement guarantee on their replacements, rather than a 1-year warranty.

After I got off the phone, I played two hours of BioShock without any problems.

Basically, the situation is this: I need to get my hands on another Xbox, prove to myself that the disc is fine, then decide whether to have my unit repaired or buy a new one.

Option 1 – Repair: I give them my 2006 Xenon Xbox and $99.99, wait for them to troubleshoot it and then ship me a replacement. This will most likely be a refurbished unit of unknown age (probably an Opus).

Option 2 – Replace: I keep my otherwise perfectly fine Xbox, go to Target and buy a brand new Jasper Arcade for $199.99, or roll the dice with a refurb from Gamestop for $159.99.

Ideally, Microsoft will come around and replace the unit for free, but if it won’t, I’d rather pay the extra $100 and get a second unit, a new power supply, and another controller.

Update: 15 March 2010

I submitted a support ticket to Square Enix at https://support.na.square-enix.com/ after 10 unsuccessful minutes trying to find a phone number.

I began to wonder if the problem was with my 64 MB memory unit, so I moved my profile from the memory unit to the hard drive, removed the memory unit, and put the second disk in. (It’s bad troubleshooting procedure to change two variables, I know.) I started up Disc 2 and tried to open the Settings menu and it froze with the blue vertical stripes. I guess this rules out the disc and the memory unit.

I air dusted the CD ROM drive again for good measure.

I did notice a good deal of heat buildup at the bottom of the console toward the back, right underneath the fans. I checked to make sure both were spinning, and they were. I see only a very little bit of dust on the fan blades and heat sink fins. But this puppy does pump out hot air like nobody’s business.

I played another 2 hours of BioShock tonight, and about 1.5 hours in, the game hiccupped a few times – freezing momentarily, for maybe half-a second or so, but then resuming. Eyebrow-raising, but not enough to convince me that the system was bad. But at the 2 hour mark, it completely froze. This wasn’t entirely unexpected, but I’m bummed none-the-less, because it was working fine for 2-hour (or longer) sessions of Modern Warfare 2 just a few weeks ago. Still, why would I be able to play one game for hours before having problems, but another game freezes before I even have a chance to load a save? And was FFXIII the straw that broke the camel’s back?

Update: 16 March 2010

Now I’m worried that the unit is really damaged, that even if a software patch comes out, it will be too late. What’s more, I don’t want to test the game in my nephew’s Xbox for fear of causing similar damage to his system.

I spent some time Googling today. There are lots people reporting this issue, and many of them have exchanged their discs. None of the posts that mention exchanging the game report that it resolved the issue. Of all the dozens of reports of problems, there are no known resolutions and no acknowledgement by Microsoft, Sony, or Square Enix that a problem exists. Hilariously, a number of people have posted that their calls to various tech support numbers have all been ‘the first they’ve heard of this’. Another surprisingly common observation is that while the problems were first noticed in FFXIII, both Xbox and PS3 consoles quickly began exhibiting problems in other games. Most of the problems occur on older, out-of-warranty consoles, but some newer machines are affected.

On the other hand, I’ve found a few threads wherein people claim that mass breakdowns of consoles occur with each large release. There’s some substance to that, I suppose. Consoles probably wear out at a pretty consistent rate, but around the time of a release, you get lots of people playing a single game and if a console happens to fail at that point, the game is blamed. But I don’t think that this is what’s happening here. Too many people are noting that they’re not playing FFXIII more than say BioShock 2 or Modern Warfare 2, which were other recent big releases. Their systems were operating normally until they started playing FFXIII, and in many cases continued to play other games normally. Less often, but still not uncommonly, once the problems begin, they happen in other games. I was in the former group (and may still be, with luck), and still feel that the game itself is problematic.

The game is also freezing on PS3s, maybe moreso than on the Xbox, and that community seems much more vocal about it. There’s a 7-page thread at http://boardsus.playstation.com/t5/Final-Fantasy-Series/Final-Fantasy-XIII-Freezing/m-p/45391106 and a 5-page thread at http://community.eu.playstation.com/t5/Technical-Help/Final-Fantasy-XIII-problems/td-p/10379629 of people having problems, mostly with older systems. Here’s a video of it freezing, but more exist.

In an attempt to document the scope of the problem, I’ve put together a list of links:

Final Fantasy XIII freezes/locks up

Final Fantasy XIII | Final Fantasy XIII Freezing Up

Issues with GPU begin after playing FFXIII

Final Fantasy XIII Crashing Consistently

Final Fantasy XIII | Game Freezing

Final Fantasy XIII | Annoying Freeze Issue?

Xbox 360 | Final Fantasy XIII | freezing issues

PS3 | Final Fantasy XIII | Warning !! PS3 old fat 40g version , Game freeze!

Update: 17 March 2010

I played another 2.5 hours of Bioshock without any issues at all. My fear that FFXIII’s freezing did some lasting harm to the Xbox may be unfounded.

It’s heartening to see that the problem is getting some attention from sites like Kotaku and GamesRadar. Many of the comments to those stories are from people who aren’t experiencing the crashing. While only a small percentage of FFXIII owners are getting the freezing, it’s still quite a real and annoying problem.

Update: 17 March 2010 (Part 2)

Square Enix emailed me this:

Dear Customer,

Regarding your request for technical support. Please find your answer below.

We hope this letter answers your questions.

We apologize for the problems you are having with your SQUARE ENIX Xbox 360 game stalling. Here are some things I would recommend to clear up the problem:

*Be sure to check if there are any scratches or damage to the disc which could cause the laser to have a problem reading it.

* If you’re experiencing problems in some other area of the game, or it is inconsistent to WHERE the game is freezing, it might be something within the system. You may want to try using a cleaner for your system, which can generally be purchased at any video game retailer.

* If you are playing with your Xbox 360 laying flat, you may want to try placing it on its side and playing with it vertically.

* If none of those tips work, try the game in another Xbox 360 at that point to see if it does the same thing. Video game retailers usually have systems for demonstration purposes, and they are usually cooperative when this type of request is made.

*We do highly recommend to install this game on your HDD (which the new Xbox Dashboard update will allow). Doing so here in the office did assist in a smooth gameplay with no problems of frame-rate or graphic/loading problems.

*If you have already installed the game, please now try to uninstall the game and try playing. Another suggestion to correct this may even be to change the resolution of your display. This can be done within the Xbox 360’s display settings under “My Xbox”.

If the problem persists after that, then you may have a defective or damaged disc. Contact our customer support at http://support.na.square-enix.com and if your game is still within the 90-day warranty period you can obtain a replacement.

We hope this information has been of assistance.

Thank you for contacting the SQUARE ENIX Support Center.

I may pursue the replacement discs, but I really doubt that it will make a difference. I’ll confirm that the discs are fine on another machine this weekend. With the exception of cleaning my DVD drive with a lens cleaner, I’ve exhausted their suggestions.

This state of being not-quite-broken is pretty frustrating, and it reminds me of Yossarian’s jaundice in Catch-22.

Yossarian was in the hospital with a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice. If it became jaundice they could treat it. If it didn’t become jaundice and went away they could discharge him. But this just being short of jaundice all the time confused them.

If my Xbox would just completely fail, I would replace it and be happy. But because the problem is with just one game, I keep waiting for a logical explanation and a fix.

If a representative from Microsoft or Square Enix would like my system and discs for troubleshooting, just ask.

Update: 20 March 2010

Here are a few more threads:

Loading/Freezing issue

This game and freezing up!

Final Fantasy XIII Freeze issues

Per the email from Square Enix, I uninstalled the game from the hard drive. When I tried to launch it from the disc, I got an unreadable disc error. I removed the DVD and cleaned it, but no joy.

My DVD drive is shot. When the tray closes, it makes two thumping noises and then a little whir. The disc never spins up. This affects all discs.

I rather doubt that FFXIII is to blame for this hardware failure. I acknowledge that systems wear out with use and it could be simply coincidence that my system failed after I bought FFXIII. I’m still looking for an explanation as to why the game played normally for a few hours before freezing the first time, then failed dozens of times within a few minutes of starting up, while other games continued to play for hours.

Certainly, some of the PS3 owners believe that the game is burning out their lasers, but the PS3 game is on dual-layer Blu-ray while the Xbox game is on standard DVD, so it doesn’t seem likely to me that the Xbox DVD drive is working harder to play this game than any other.

I tested the Disc 1 and my most recent save on a different console and everything played perfectly.

I’m left to wonder how much longer my system would have kept going if I hadn’t bought FFXIII. Would it have still failed on the next game purchase?

In the next few weeks, I’m going to buy an Arcade, but my lasting impression of this is that FFXIII is going to end up costing me over $260.

Update: 1 April 2010

I bought an Arcade back on March 21st, and it’s been playing FFXIII from the hard drive without any problems since. It seems that the brief flurry of attention given to the problems associated with FFXIII has died down, too.

The choice of an Arcade instead of something with a HD seems pretty savvy in light of the news that USB memory support for the Xbox 360 is coming on April 6th. So I’ve gone ahead and ordered a 16 GB stick that should look pretty slick.

I was trying to set up a friend’s Xbox 360 on my home network that uses a D-Link DI-624 router (Rev. C) with version 2.76 firmware and a brand new Motorola Netopia 2210-02 ADSL modem, but I wasn’t able to connect to Xbox Live.

My Xbox, which had been connected for months with an Open NAT while using a old Siemens Speedstream 4100 modem, never had any problems connecting.

I double checked all the connections, powercycled the Xbox, then ran the network tests from the System blade. It would pass all of the tests up until the Xbox Live test, at which point it would fail spectacularly and restart the tests – but this time displaying a “Disconnected” message at the Network Adapter test.

I bypassed the router and plugged the Xbox straight into the DSL modem and was able to connect, but with a Strict NAT. (I should have realized the significance of this right away, but I didn’t.)

So I reconnected the router and kept experimenting. After a while, I noticed that my computers connected to the router also lost their connections when I tried to sign in to Xbox Live.

As it turns out, the suspicious-looking disconnection message was accurate – something the Xbox was doing was causing the router to reboot.

I Googled around and found a few good posts about this problem.

First, I disabled UPnP on the D-Link router thanks to the advice in this Ars Technica forum post. Then I configured it to assign the Xbox a static IP address and then put that IP address in the DMZ. Now the Xbox was able to connect to Xbox Live, but the NAT status was Strict.

I wasn’t going to settle for that, though. I wanted to get an Open NAT.

So I took it out of the DMZ and port forwarded UDP 88 and both UDP & TCP 3074 ports to the static IP address, but the NAT status was still Strict.

Giving the Xbox a static IP address and forwarding the ports had fixed similar connection issues and permitted an Open NAT for almost everyone else, why wasn’t it working for this setup?

More Googling finally turned up the explanation. The Motorola Netopia 2210 contains a NAT router, so no matter what I did with the D-Link’s settings, I was going to keep getting the Strict NAT from the modem as long as it was handling the PPPoE. (This is what I should have realized earlier, when I was connecting the Xbox directly to the modem.)

The Motorola/Netopia 2210 is also a router with full DHCP functions and may not function correctly when connected directly to another router. Not changing the modem to Bridged Ethernet may result in double NAT’ing, increased latency, possible IP conflicts, or possibly a network that doesn’t work at all.

The solution was to configure the modem to use “Bridged Ethernet” mode and set up PPPoE on the router.

As long as you’re setting up PPPoE on the router, you may want to select “Keep Alive” or “Always On”, if those options are available, or set the Maximum Idle Time to “0”. You should also confirm that the MTU value is “1492” and that value is used on all the devices on the network.

Also note that the Motorola Netopia 2210 has an “Internet” light that lights up green whenever there is an active PPPoE session initiated by it. The light will stay off when the PPPoE session is initiated by a router or other device.