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The Truth About Last Year's Xbox 360 Recall

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the value-for-the-money dept.

Microsoft 255

chrplace forwards an article in which Gartner's Brian Lewis offers his perspective on what led to last year's Xbox 360 recall. Lewis says it happened because Microsoft wanted to avoid an ASIC vendor. "Microsoft designed the graphic chip on its own, cut a traditional ASIC vendor out of the process, and went straight to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., he explained. But in the end, by going cheap — hoping to save tens of millions of dollars in ASIC design costs, Microsoft ended up paying more than $1 billion for its Xbox 360 recall. To fix the problem, Microsoft went back to an unnamed ASIC vendor based in the United States and redesigned the chip, Lewis added. (Based on a previous report, the ASIC vendor is most likely the former ATI Technologies, now part of AMD.)"

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SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23737899)

_0_
\''\
'=o='
.|!|
.| |
goatse now available for Xbox Live download [goatse.ch]

Re:SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (5, Funny)

renegadesx (977007) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738219)

Actually Goatse Troll is on topic for once! Red Ring of Death! Get it?

I'm Shocked.... (5, Funny)

ZiakII (829432) | more than 6 years ago | (#23737903)

Microsoft designed their own graphic chip and it crashed? I'm shocked... I tell you shocked!

Re:I'm Shocked.... (5, Funny)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#23737931)

Crashed?

The Red Rings were a FEATURE! I tell ya!

Re:I'm Shocked.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23737957)

He added: "Our partners are doing good work." Rather, "the challenge" was created by "Microsoft-initiated design,"Bach said.
Yep, sounds like the Microsoft I know and love.

I hear the same team got reshuffled and put in the Vista group.

Re:I'm Shocked.... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23738057)

I'm shocked... I tell you shocked!
... probably burned is more like it. Might have gotten a shock if you licked it....

Re:I'm Shocked.... (5, Funny)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738511)

Didn't you see the goatse troll above? you aren't supposed to be licking the red ring...

Re:I'm Shocked.... (4, Funny)

aliquis (678370) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739565)

No, you are only supposed to poke it a little in the middle to turn it on.

Re:I'm Shocked.... (5, Funny)

Drinking Bleach (975757) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738083)

It's no wonder why the BSOD displayed in the wrong colors....

Why is parent "Troll"?... (0, Offtopic)

Jorophose (1062218) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739779)

Considering Microsoft is a software company and hardly a hardware company (most of their keyboards/mice the only non-gaming hardware sold under their name are produced by other people) so seeing their GPU fail is nothing spectacular...

IGNORE PARENT (0, Offtopic)

Jorophose (1062218) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739813)

I'm such an idiot that I didn't even take a moment to realise what GP was getting too...

Give him his troll rating. There are some hardware engineers at microsoft. We all make mistakes. Cut 'em some slack. I didn't think MS had any hardware engineers working on it, or at least not forming the bulk... But then I remembered the cash and how stupid I can be.

yes, go cheap, that's the way (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23737923)

it seems that every time some company tries to cut corners, it only ends up biting them in the a. my company does the same thing, and the kludgy results are nothing short of spectacular.

Re:yes, go cheap, that's the way (5, Insightful)

boner (27505) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738003)

well, it's the difference between an MBA making a business call based on cost/profit analysis and an experienced chip designer looking at the actual risks involved....

MBAs are good in cutting corners in traditional businesses, but generally have no understanding of technology risks....

Re:yes, go cheap, that's the way (5, Funny)

CyberLife (63954) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738853)

MBAs are good in cutting corners in traditional businesses, but generally have no understanding of technology risks....
This sort of arrogance is so common it's not even funny. I once presented a GIS plot to such a person. You know, the kind of thing that crunches so much data it takes a cluster of machines upwards of several minutes just to produce a single frame? Well this guy argued if I needed so much computer power to make a simple picture I must be doing something wrong.

Re:yes, go cheap, that's the way (3, Insightful)

TripHammer (668315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738939)

well, it's the difference between an MBA making a business call based on cost/profit analysis
All profit-seeking companies do this. This is not an inherently bad thing - you wouldn't have a job otherwise.

MBAs are good in cutting corners in traditional businesses, but generally have no understanding of technology risks....
So if you have business savvy you can't possibly understand technology risks? Oh please.

Re:yes, go cheap, that's the way (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23739683)

So if you have business savvy you can't possibly understand technology risks? Oh please.
Strawman. The problem is that MBA degrees are churned out as "one size fits all" managers, suitable (pun intended) for any industry by virtue of having no specific training for any of them.

You can have business savvy and technological expertise, but it's a roundabout path through today's educational system if you're not teaching yourself at least one. And I think we all know the proportion of people who are capable of serious self-education.

Going cheap may well be the sensible way... (3, Insightful)

dfsmith (960400) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738213)

Consider: would you rather spend $10M on a platform that may flop and not make a dime

OR

Spend $1B on a platform that has made multi-billions.

Re:Going cheap may well be the sensible way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23738449)

"Spend $1B on a platform that has lost multi-billions."

There, fixed that for you.

And it's true, too. Look it up.

Re:Going cheap may well be the sensible way... (0)

x_MeRLiN_x (935994) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738769)

I did just that, and it turns out that you're full of shit. [joystiq.com]

Re:Going cheap may well be the sensible way... (2, Insightful)

Nossie (753694) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739001)

xbox 360 turns a profit - JUST

still got a while to pay back for the original xbox sink hole

Re:Going cheap may well be the sensible way... (3, Insightful)

PJ1216 (1063738) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739057)

I'm not sure of the numbers, but finally turning a profit one quarter does not mean you've finally made up all the money you lost all the past quarters from selling the systems at a loss. It just means they're no longer selling them at a loss. They had already dug a hole, but finally started to climb out instead of going deeper. It doesn't necessarily mean they are out of it though. They *could* be at this point, but that article says nothing the platform making up the billions it had already lost. Eventually they will and maybe they have at this point in time, but that article is a red herring. It just means they stopped losing money.

Re:Going cheap may well be the sensible way... (3, Informative)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739175)

Income of $524 million
Loss of $423 million
Equals a spread of $947 million, almost 1 billion.

Add the $1 billion recall, still looks like Vista and Office are paying for the XBOX 360.

Re:Going cheap may well be the sensible way... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23739639)

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that I'm missing something in your math, but wouldn't one *subtract* the loss from the income to get the spread?

Re:Going cheap may well be the sensible way... (1)

JKatan (712860) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739235)

Dont think that really applies in this case. MS makes Billions every quarter. 10 million is a very small percentage of their earnings to investment ratio. really its just greediness that came back to bite them in the stink hole.

Re:yes, go cheap, that's the way (4, Insightful)

HiVizDiver (640486) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739263)

Not so sure about that... I would argue that very often when something breaks, it is because they used a cheap vendor, but that the logic doesn't necessarily apply backwards - that using a cheap vendor means it WILL break. I bet there are loads of examples of people doing things on the cheap, where it DIDN'T fail. You just don't hear about those.

Re:yes, go cheap, that's the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23739629)

Isn't this type of corner-cutting what profit-based business is all about? The whole goal is to do what one can to increase efficiency, and that involves finding cheaper ways of producing the same thing. "Cutting corners" is thus merely an epithet used when a business misjudges the trade-off between low cost and quality or botches the implementation. I would guess this kind of thing goes on all of the time, only nobody realizes it, because the results rarely are as catastrophic as this.

One upshot from what I'm saying here is that there really isn't a cautionary tale in this, beyond "just don't screw it up next time" or "don't fail", which is indeed valid, but not terribly useful. Strictly speaking, "don't go cheap" is an absurdity in a capitalist context. Businesses are going cheap in ways too numerous to count or even notice.

Bleh... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23737927)

...hoping to save tens of millions of dollars in ASIC design costs, Microsoft ended up paying more than $1 billion for its Xbox 360 recall.
I'm glad that I am not wealthy enough to be able to afford to be that incompetent.

More info please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23737935)

I never heard of this recall, whats it all about, which xboxs did it affect and why did it happen? What happened to the xboxs?

Re:More info please (-1, Troll)

x_MeRLiN_x (935994) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738661)

There wasn't one. Some idiot at EETimes pulled it out of his ass and Slashdot was more than happy to help propagate anti-Microsoft falsehoods.

Re:More info please (3, Informative)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738845)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xbox_360_technical_problems [wikipedia.org]

When a Microsoft Xbox 360 console experiences a "general hardware" failure or "Core Digital" failure, three flashing red lights appear on the power switch's "Ring of Light" in the front of the console. This is commonly referred to as the "Red Ring of Death" ...

The General Hardware Failure error could be caused by cold soldering. The added mass of the CSP chips (including the GPU and CPU) resists heat flow that allows proper soldering of the lead-free solders underneath the motherboard. ...

Another General Hardware Failure is shown by the ring of light flashing one red light, and an error code E 74. This too renders the Xbox unusable. ...

The Nyko Intercooler has also been reported to have caused a general hardware failure in a number of consoles, as well as scorching of the power AC input. ...

An update patch released on November 1, 2006 was reported to "brick" consoles, rendering them useless. ...

In June 2008, the EE Times reports the problems may have started in a graphic chip.
The last one is what this article is (mostly) about...

Re:More info please (0, Troll)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739205)

You fed the troll.
You're supposed to trip trap across the bridge or TRAMP TRAMP and butt the troll over.

When I read that I pictured Ballmer: (5, Funny)

Udo Schmitz (738216) | more than 6 years ago | (#23737953)

Shaking fists at ATI, yelling: "I'll design my own chip! With blackjack! And hookers! ... In fact ..."

Re:When I read that I pictured Ballmer: (3, Funny)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23737997)

Shaking fists at ATI, yelling: "I'll design my own chip! With blackjack! And hookers! ... In fact ..."

You picture Ballmer?

Your therapy bill must be astronomical

Probably not too far off the truth, but still...you think they'd learn.

Re:When I read that I pictured Ballmer: (1, Insightful)

Fearless Freep (94727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738073)

Please don't equate Steve Ballmer with Bender

Re:When I read that I pictured Ballmer: (5, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738207)

You can bite his shiny, metal head.

Re:When I read that I pictured Ballmer: (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23738317)

Why not, they're both played by the same actor.
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0224007/

Re:When I read that I pictured Ballmer: (3, Informative)

CycoChuck (102607) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739303)

Ballmer isn't Bender? I could of sworn that somewhere Ballmer was quotes saying "Cheese it" and then running out of the room when someone asked him about the xbox failures.

Re:When I read that I pictured Ballmer: (1)

WhoBeDaPlaya (984958) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739187)

Well, this is /. so forget the err... hookers?
Here's my mancard :P

Re:When I read that I pictured Ballmer: (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739293)

ATI video chips are used in WMS slot and Video poker / blackjack and other casino games.

Chickens are coming home to roost... (4, Interesting)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#23737961)

I know /. does like to stick the boot into MSFT whenever possible, but in the last 2 hours there has been 3 front page stories, real stories, about the nasty behaviour of MSFT coming back to bite them in their fugly corporate ass.

Or is it all just a hoax? [fugue.com]

Hope not.

Re:Chickens are coming home to roost... (5, Funny)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738059)

Yeah, you're right, it is strange how the stream of Microsoft bashing has slowed so much lately around here.

Re:Chickens are coming home to roost... (1)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738247)

General trolling of Microsoft (a la Twitter) is tedious, and only makes the troll's pet causes look worse for sure.

But this story is about a billion-dollar smack on the wrist. The previous ones concerned a delay, at least, to their hard-won (okay, paid for...) OOXML ISO certification, and the EU's competition commissioner putting a thinly veiled smackdown on them.

I realise that mob-style business practice has built MSFT into a giant, but as the public and their representatives catch up with the new paradigms of the digital age, said practices will become increasingly counter-productive. Which is a good thing.

Re:Chickens are coming home to roost... (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738633)

I realise that mob-style business practice has built MSFT into a giant, but as the public and their representatives catch up with the new paradigms of the digital age, said practices will become increasingly counter-productive. Which is a good thing.
Quite. I was reminded of this [thedailywtf.com] story, more specifically this Douglas Adams-esque line:

"The Savior was a self-made billionaire who struck it rich doing the type of business that makes unregulated industries regulated."

Re:Chickens are coming home to roost... (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738421)

You are so droll, some may not get your ironic humor.

Someone mod parent + funny!

Another Talisman CF (4, Interesting)

rimcrazy (146022) | more than 6 years ago | (#23737965)

I had the miss-pleasure of working on a graphics ASIC with MicroSquish back around the late 90's on a project called Talisman.

Never, and I say NEVER let a bunch of software engineers try to design a hardware chip. This was the biggest CF I'd seen in all my years (30+) as a chip designer. That they did it again, and with such stupidity again is no friggin surprise.

It is not that software engineers should not be involved, of course they should but when they drive the architecture in complete void of any practical chip design constraints..... and continually refuse to listen to any reason from the hardware designers..... well as they say, garbage in, garbage out.

Re:Another Talisman CF (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738081)

Interesting. I remember the hype about Talisman, and how it was going to revolutionize graphics generation. Thanks for that little bit of history there.

Re:Another Talisman CF (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738327)

Talisman _was_ decades ahead in its concept.

its just that brute force is _sooo_ much easier to implement....

Re:Another Talisman CF (1, Interesting)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738181)

> I say NEVER let a bunch of software engineers try to design a hardware chip.

Well, as a software engineer, I think I would do a pretty good job in designing a hardware chip. Could you please disillusion me in a more detailed manner?

Re:Another Talisman CF (1, Funny)

MicklePickle (220905) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738391)

LOL. As a sysadmin I reckon I could do a pretty good job at brain surgery. Not as good, mind you, but I'd get great results.

Re:Another Talisman CF (5, Funny)

Skrapion (955066) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738517)

As a sysadmin I reckon I could do a pretty good job at brain surgery.
I'm not sure "turn it off and on again" works in brain surgery >:)

Re:Another Talisman CF (1)

djcapelis (587616) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738533)

If you have to ask...

Re:Another Talisman CF (5, Interesting)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738879)

I am a person that designs both hardware, and software, but not chips, At the risk of talking outside of my expertise, I will have a go at answering your question.

Firstly, there are things that software people really like, but it is often better to not do them in hardware. This category contains things like Read/Write I/O registers. From a software point of view, they are nice, but they can double your gate count. They can also increase your capacitive bus loading. DAC and ADC designs can also be affected this way. A software person might use a proper ADC and expect proper ADC registered results. A hardware person might select a resistor, capacitor, a voltage comparitor, and a couple of spare I/O pins. The cheesy R/C approach may save the hardware design from a whole slew of problems including cost. A software person may opt for a synchronous logic approach with all registers clocked every clock cycle. The hardware designer may opt for a much more asynchronous approach, that minimizes the number of clocked registers. This reduces power consumption, and potentially the number of registers too. Often the hardware designer will consider thermal, cost, electrical layout issues as part of his design process. The software person will not be as familiar with how to design a good circuit board and chip design in a cost-effective manner. A good software engineer can learn all of this material with time, but the hardware engineers will do them naturally.

The second category of problems is tools. The modern chip designer is working with a fairly advanced set of tools that the software person is likely to be quite unfamiliar with. This starts with the IC design tools, which are quite specialized. It ends with the hardware engineering tools. Have you ever X-Rayed a circuit board to analyze the cracks in the Ball Grid Array where it bonds to the circuit board? Are you familiar with thermal issues, and thermal images? How about EMI test results? Modern IC package design limitations? A good team of engineers will be familiar with these tools, and know how to use them to get good results.

The third category of problems is mistakes from inexperience, or lack of experience in the correct field. I work with industrial electronics. I think from an industrial point of view. What happens when someone attaches 600 (VAC) to the ground wire of the computer? What happens to the remote sensors when the plant gets hit by lightening? In IC design, there are some known gray areas too. Does the chip reset properly on power up? Do metastable, astable, or self-oscillating states exist in the IC design? Can the chip survive with no cooling? Does the chip have an overtemp shutdown function? What happens if someone starts the chip up in sub-zero weather? Do the analog electronics have sufficient electrical separation from the digital electronics, while avoiding nasty things like ESD latchup conditions?

I've completed chip design courses before, but have never had to design a modern production gate array design. As a person that has done both software and hardware, I know that my skills are not good enough for the most modern IC design processes. My limit is FPGA work, and my preference is clever opto-isolation, power semiconductor, TTL and micro-proccessor based circuits. In analog, my expertise in analog is industrial sensing and survivability. You have to know where your field of expertise is, and what your limits are.

Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23739291)

Good summary of differences between hardware and software design

Re:Another Talisman CF (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739387)

So... hardware design is a "real" engineering (deals with whole range of nastiness the physical reality slaps you with), unlike the hack that software "engineering" is... Is that what you're saying? :-)

Re:Another Talisman CF (4, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739871)

Not really. I wouldn't have a mechanical engineer design a chip either. I also wouldn't have a hardware/mechanical engineer designing a software system. Let people do what they are good at, and stop trying to cut corners by substituting in people where they have no skills.

Re:Another Talisman CF (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23739489)

Actually, this is a more specific case of "Experience matters." Just because you intellectually can understand the idea of designing circuits does not mean you are aware of the obstacles, workarounds, traditions, and general practices of a field.

Engineers aren't stupid, and you can certainly cross-train one to do another's job. But you aren't going to do that overnight. If your product is overbudget/behind schedule/etc, you don't want to make it into a very educational failure by regularly having people operating outside their expertise.

Re:Another Talisman CF (5, Insightful)

Dhar (19056) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738257)

Never, and I say NEVER let a bunch of software engineers try to design a hardware chip.
I've worked with software written by a hardware company, and I can say the same thing from my side of the fence...never let a bunch of hardware guys write software!

I suppose if we can all agree to stay out of the other guy's yard, we can get along. You do hardware, I'll do software. :)

-g.

Re:Another Talisman CF (4, Interesting)

hedronist (233240) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739165)

> never let a bunch of hardware guys write software

I testify, Brother, I TESTIFY!

30 Years ago, I ended up in therapy (literally) after dealing with an assembly program written by a hardware guy. The program emulated a CDC communications protocol that was originally done in hardware. This was on a Cincinnati Milacron 2200B, a machine that had both variable instruction length and variable data length. The hardware guy had implemented the protocol state changes by putting a label *on the address portion* of jump statements (he did this in 50 different places in the program) and then in some other area of the code he would change where the jump branched to next time through. It bordered on an implementation of the mythical COME FROM instruction. Of course, there was zero documentation and almost zero comments.

After one marathon debugging session I was so frustrated I was in tears. My manager came in and wanted to know what the problem was. I gave him the listing and left to walk around the building a few times. When I came back, he told me that it was, hands down, the worst piece of crap he had seen in 20 years. He had me rewrite it from scratch, which I did over a long weekend.

The program's name was RIP/TIP (Receive Interrupt Processor/Transmit Interrupt Processor) and I was in therapy for most of a year. (There were a few other issues, but this was the bale of hay that made me snap.)

Re:Another Talisman CF (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23738473)

What makes you think that it was designed by only software engineers exactly?

I can tell you first hand that a lot of the people on the Xbox hardware team a extremely talented HARDWARE specialists. The way you talk you would think MS locked a bunch of IE developers in a room and didnt let them out until they had designed the chip.

And as for the argument of 'well if they are so talented, why is the chip such a POS?', it is not only software engineers that design shitty hardware. Look at AMD, with the TLB defect in the Phenom chips, is that the fault of the software engineers?

This response may be overkill, but somehow you were modded +5 interesting, but you completely miss the point.

Re:Another Talisman CF (1)

i.of.the.storm (907783) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739913)

Additionally, I had always heard that the GPU in the 360 was an ATI R500 core which was related to the R520 PC GPU cores. Doesn't sound like MS made that if it was an ATI GPU...

Re:Another Talisman CF (1)

emarkp (67813) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738997)

Wow! You're an orphan of the Talisman project? I remember seeing the hype from that on the eve of my Uni graduation. I then went on to work at Intel, working on chip design tools.

No surprise, the hardware guys looked down on the software guys from a QA perspective. Probably because it's a lot harder to patch hardware once it's in the field, and software guys have a hard time learning that lesson.

Re:Another Talisman CF (1)

CycoChuck (102607) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739443)

Wait, Microsoft has software engineers?? Where were they when Vista was being made? I guess they were busy trying to make chips and left the interns to code Vista.

I don't know why M$ would try to make chips. They do much better in hardware when they have someone else make it then slap the M$ logo on it.

Re:Another Talisman CF (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739493)

Which of the umpteen zillion companies involved with that did you work for? I was at SEI when it was going on and sat through a presentation, although I had nothing to do with chip design.

Re:Another Talisman CF (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739927)

Oh wow! Could you go to the wiki and add to the article there? I did all I could piecing together the fragments of information I was able to found out there (some required photocopying... PHOTOCOPYING!) but that's nothing like first-hand knowledge.

BSA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23737973)

I'm sorry... I appear to be lost. Is this the place where I can bash the boy scouts?

Re:BSA? (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738043)

I'm sorry... I appear to be lost. Is this the place where I can bash the boy scouts?
No, I think you're looking for banniNation [bannination.com] .

Feb. 2008 SquareTrade found a 16.4% failure rate (1)

Paul Pierce (739303) | more than 6 years ago | (#23737979)

in my experience more like 100%. It doesn't seem to be a matter of if it would break, but when.

Every original 360 that I know of has now managed to die (at least once).

Re:Feb. 2008 SquareTrade found a 16.4% failure rat (1)

TeraCo (410407) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738157)

Welcome to consumer electronics, where they are designed to fail just after the warranty expires. The real mistake that Microsoft made was having them fail within the warranty period. (And of course the RROD, which got enough bad press to force them to extend the warranty on that specific issue only)

apology (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23738229)

Not Meta-modding until I get an apology for being rtbl'd.

I apologize for you getting rtbl'd.

Re:Feb. 2008 SquareTrade found a 16.4% failure rat (1)

brkello (642429) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738313)

It doesn't seem to be a matter of if it would break, but when.

This is true of all products. Nothing lasts forever. In this case, not forever is a few months :) But I haven't had a problem with mine.

Re:Feb. 2008 SquareTrade found a 16.4% failure rat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23739079)

definitely not 100%, I still have my original and play it regularly and it works fine as does my neighbour. Just Lucky or maybe because of it being so well ventilated where I have it, either way it is still humming along happily.

US-based vendor... (1)

bomanbot (980297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738029)

I would also think the first guess for the ASIC vendor would be ATI, but isnt ATI a Canadian company? Sure, of course they have US facilities, but wouldnt US-based mean that the man location should be in the US? Because then, NVIDIA would be my guess, as they have their main location in Silicon Valley, I think...

Re:US-based vendor... (1)

k-macjapan (1271084) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738325)

They we're a Canadian company. However they were still operating out of Markham(Toronto), Ontario Canada when the initial design for the xbox360 was conceived. AMD bought them lock stock and barrel on July 6th 2006.

Re:US-based vendor... (1)

bobbozzo (622815) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738503)

AMD bought ATI in 2006, and AMD is in Silicon Valley.

keywords "his perspective" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23738047)

next up rumour and hearsay

that is all

Ridiculous (5, Informative)

smackenzie (912024) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738079)

ATI and Microsoft developed this chip together over a period of two years. The XBOX 360 GPU has been known since conception as an ATI GPU.

Furthermore, the recall was for overheating in general which -- though unquestionably affected by the GPU -- is a more comprehensive system design failure, not just a single component. (Look at the stability success they have had simply by reducing the size of the CPU.)

I'm looking forward to "Jasper", the code name for the next XBOX 360 mother board that will include a 65 nanometer graphics chip, smaller memory chips and HOPEFULLY a price reduction.

Vote parent up (5, Insightful)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738351)

The article is COMPLETE, UTTER bullshit.

Years before the xbox360 has been released ATI was already announced as the system parter for the GPU. No "secret unnamed ASIC vendor" anywhere.
The recall, again, was thermal problems.

Do you really think a completely different GPU by a completely different company could have been designed in a year _and_ totally compatible with the original one?

Re:Vote parent up (4, Informative)

i.of.the.storm (907783) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739933)

Seriously, I thought it was common knowledge that the GPU was ATI. Don't know how this article even got here.

Re:Ridiculous (0, Offtopic)

simple english major (940333) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738435)

"HOPEFULLY a price reduction" - your hope is in vain.

Indeed. (2, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739439)

Quite why an article could be titled "The truth about..." when it's well, not actually the truth but just mere speculation.

Speculation that is well known to be false and could've been showed up as such with a quick look at the XBox 360 specs which are available in many places that I'm sure Google would oblige to discover.

The issue has already been outed as being to do with cheap solder iirc that simply couldn't stay put under the heat of the system over extended periods of time.

What's going on..... (5, Informative)

ryszards (451448) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738161)

Microsoft didn't design the GPU, ATI did, and everyone knows ATI have always been fabless. TSMC are the manufacturer of the larger of the two dice that make up the Xenos/C1 design, and while that die has been revised since for a process node change, it doesn't even appear if that new revision has been used yet (despite it being finished by ATI a long time ago).

Lewis seems to be just plain wrong, which is kind of upsetting for "chief researcher" at a firm like Gartner, especially when the correct information is freely available.

While the cooling solution for the GPU is the likely cause of most of the failures, that's not necessarily the GPU's fault, or ATI's, especially for a fault so widespread.

Re:What's going on..... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23738445)

A variety of problems will contribute to a 3 red ring failure. In my case it appears to have been failure of the video scalar chip. What's odd about it is the magic smoke didn't just escape and fail. No it would occasionally work fine, work broken, and not work. Suggesting a problem from the lead free solder being incorrectly applied. Ultimately leading to failure from thermal fatigue.

Given the lead free solder doesn't have a forgiving (nearly idiot proof) eutectic, and the companies producing the 360 were unfamiliar with lead free solder, it's easy to see how massive defects like this might happen. In retrospect I wonder how the enviromental impact from the increased entropy caused by the design choice of lead free solder would have stacked up against just using solder with lead and avoiding all the mess.

Re:What's going on..... (4, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738757)

Now scaler chip makes a LOT more sense to me than the GPU. Everyone knows ATI was the partner for the GPU and there would be few people in the industry that would call a GPU an ASIC. A scaler chip is very much an ASIC and I can see where MS might decide to do their own scaler chip, but they had no chance of doing their own modern GPU without a partner.

Re:What's going on..... (1)

gripen40k (957933) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739623)

Yeah, I would have to concur that the scaler chip is a much more likely candidate for this mystery ASIC than the GPU.

I'm sure proprietary IP for scalars can be bought up cheap and thrown into a design in under a year, but a GPU? I would say that's bordering on impossible to accomplish in that time period.

Re:What's going on..... (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738763)

emphasis would be that ATI partnered on the design they didn't sell the chips, just helped. Last Xbox, Nvidia provided the finished chips just like any other video card for a PC. This round Microsoft cut out Nvidia and only paid ATI for "help", then cut a deal with TSMC themselves for production costs.

Microsoft left a trail of bad mojo with Nvidia over pricing of chips when Microsoft intended to lose money and kept beating them up... then they didn't cut Nvidia in on the new (profitable) one. I'm sure ATI took that with a grain of salt that they would get cut out of the credit just as soon as possible. Hence Microsoft engineers didn't stick around to listen to thermal requirements which ATI is usually better at.

I'd expect guys at Garter to be privy to such deals as it's the kind of thing the Street LOVES when you can brag about cutting out profit for your partners when a product is successful. It's more of a "oops" than a show stopping problem... other than that design error (most of the problems were because of the thermal design) the product is a wild success and microsoft "owes" no partners credit for the win. Note they don't put the IBM Power technology on the OUTSIDE of the box either. Nintendo got beat up by both companies for not giving credit for Wii versus Gamecube (that had both stickers) but both companies rolled over for the M$.

Some Terminology Definitions (1)

omar.sahal (687649) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738175)

I remember when Microsoft kept saying ATI are our partners to everyone. It all ends the same way though (with Microsoft ending up with very similar technology and the partner relationship never being herd of again). They should never have got mixed up with Microsoft. How many companies have they done this to before
P.S
ASIC [wikipedia.org]
ASSP [wikipedia.org]

fa1lzors (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23738177)

SliNg, return it to blue, rubber the public eye: has ground to a To the politically 7members all over

I Can See Balmer Choking The Chip Manufacturers (1)

Skeetskeetskeet (906997) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738255)

Chip developers developers developers developers developers!!!

Obligatory Simpson's Quote (1, Funny)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738277)

Ha ha!

Penny wise - Pound foolish (1, Funny)

rainer_d (115765) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738303)

'Nuff said.
But it's the effort that counts, isn't it? ;-)

What Recall? (4, Insightful)

cjjjer (530715) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738469)

Funny I don't recall a recall only a 3 year warranty extension covering the RoD.

True to /. form allowing an article to spread false truths...

News for Nerds.... Stuff that may or may not be true...

this doesn't seem accurate, it was solderability (4, Interesting)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738591)

Look at Bunnie Huang's analysis.

The problem wasn't any chip at all. It wasn't even heat. The problem was the chips were not soldered to the board.

http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=223 [bunniestudios.com]

Doesn't matter who designed or made the chips. If they aren't soldered down, they won't work. And that's what the problem was. That's why X-clamps (mostly) work.

Heat is semi-tangential. If the chip is soldered down, heat won't pop it off and if it isn't soldered, any kind of movement will break it loose, even when cold. This is how MS could ship you replacement units that were RRoD out of the box. They were fine before they were shipped and were broken loose during shipping.

Most of the problem appears to be solderability problems, not a problem with chip design or manufacturing.

Re:this doesn't seem accurate, it was solderabilit (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739179)

In the early days my son, it was called 'socket creep'.
Just take the cover off and press down firmly with a little wiggle....

Re:this doesn't seem accurate, it was solderabilit (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23739499)

Also, for those who don't know who Bunny is, he is critical to the hacking of the original XBox... he was the one who first discovered that (an old version of) the Secret ROM was written to the boot flash, he was the first to sniff hypertransport to read the Secret ROM, and if I remember correctly, he was the one to discover where the Secret ROM was (Though after the secret rom in boot flash was discovered to be non-functional, which is another thing Bunny was responsible for, it was pretty obvious).

Microsoft: Jack of all trades... (1)

Socguy (933973) | more than 6 years ago | (#23738887)

...master of none.

From what I understand (1)

DaveCBio (659840) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739139)

The issue was a combination of factors. The mounting for the HS on the GPU was cheap and flimsy. Over time with heating and cooling cycles that the GPU would go through the expansion and contraction fatigued the mounting arms which ceased to apply proper pressure. That lead to inadequate contact with the GPU which caused the temp to rise. This eventually melted the GPU solder between the package and the board to the point where some of the connections were broken. That's why the towel trick works. Apparently it heats the solder to the point that it flows again and will often restore the connection. This eventually fails for the same reason the initial failure happened. So, I am not sure WTF the article is talking about.

misleading or just a lie of an article title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23739219)

I know this is /., but really could the article be any more misleading???

"The Truth"??? No it is not the truth, it is conjecture and thoerycrafting from a 3rd party as to what caused 360 problems.

"Xbox 360 recall" ??? There was no recall, warranty was extended by 3 years to replace any that were dodgy. I know this is /. where sensatalism is lies about MS are supposed to be rewarded but couldn't we cut these sort of SHIT articles out, maybe have the, vetted by someone that doesn't see M$ and then immediately post it as newsworthy.

The small case and the lack of cooling is part of (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739237)

The small case and the lack of cooling is part of it as well. This is want happens when look and cutting down on fan noise comes over what the engineers say is needed for the system to work right and not over heat. The mac mini and the mac cube has some of the same trade offs in this area. The Xbox is like to used in a small space so don't cut out the cooling and a bigger size will also put the PSU in side of the box cutting down the small fanless psus from Craping out as well.

Re:The small case and the lack of cooling is part (1)

DanJ_UK (980165) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739555)

Have you heard the fan on a 360 compared to say, a PS3?

A PS3's fan cools the workhorse of the machine as well as the power circuitry, no?

I'm curious as to why the 360 struggles to keep itself cool + manages to make more noise when the PSU isn't even part of the main console...

Anyone?

Isn't the power supply of a computer one of the main contributors to heat after the processor(s)?

-D

Recall? (1)

llZENll (545605) | more than 6 years ago | (#23739821)

What is this idiot smoking? MS didn't issue a recall, they simply won't charge you $200 to fix your 360 when it breaks due to their design flaw.
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