It's dead, Jim.

Back in November(ish), my Xbox 360 died from the dreaded "Red Ring of Death" -- three red lights and no display. It was very sudden; I had been playing the previous night with no incident, and that night, I hit the power button, and it flashed red. No warning.

At the time, the standard Xbox warranty was 3 months, and mine was a little older than that. The Xbox support person told me it'd be $130 to repair. Instead, I decided to take advantage of the Best Buy replacement plan. $50 for the original plan, plus $60 for a new plan on the new box, and I'm still ahead -- plus I get a new box the same night.

Within the next month or so, Microsoft increased the warranty period to one year, promising refunds for those who paid for out-of-warranty repairs. This, naturally, didn't apply to store-bought plans or other third-party deals, so instead of being $20 ahead, I was $110 behind.

Fast-forward to Monday of this week. I'm playing the space dogfighting game Project Sylpheed. At one point, as one of the other pilots announced we were entering enemy territory, the screen was obscured by red vertical bands. I silently hoped that it was part of the game, but the slightly reduced framerate had me fearing the worst. The mission ended, and I got an invitation to play Shadowrun with some Geezers. On my way out of one game and into the other, I noticed the menus and videos looked fine. More hope, only to be dashed when the games started, and I appeared to be looking at the game through a screen door. I had a feeling that it would be the last time I turned the box on.

I was right. Turning the 360 on, I got one flashing red light, a screen full of text in various languages telling me to call Customer Service, and an error code, E74. I tried unplugging everything -- the hard drive, power cable, network cable, Vision camera -- and turning it on with just the A/V cable and power cable, but there was no change.

It was too late to call 1-800-4MY-XBOX that night, so I called in the morning and set up the repair. That was Tuesday. I got an email update yesterday with a UPS tracking code on the "coffin", and according to UPS, that will be delivered this coming Tuesday.

A couple of silver linings to this cloud. For one thing, it decided to break now, so it's likely I'll get it all fixed up (or replaced) in time for Halo 3, about 7 weeks away. Also, because I swapped my last one for a new one less than a year ago, it's under warranty.

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