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On my way to write this I noticed that the Spam-O-Tron™ had accosted a spam comment asking how to deal with spam comments. Is that irony? My brain’s in no fit shape to try to work it out.

Anyway, on Friday I got a prezzie in the post – a new 250GB hard disk for my formerly-4GB XBox 360! Obviously not the Microsoft-manufactured “official” hard disk, because I am neither rich nor stupid enough to pay for such things, but a £30 one off Ebay. I could do it myself, of course, but the bits would cost more than that, never mind the fiddling to get around Microsoft’s cupidity “security”.

So I plug it in and copy everything from the USB stick I’d been using as storage, and then try to copy my Forza 3 save-game to the memory stick as a backup; the game idiotically deletes cars from your garage if it can’t find the appropriate DLC, rather than just locking them or something sensible, so I figured that as I’d moved a load of stuff around it made sense.
Now, imagine Family Fortunes’ “Our survey said… No.” noise. The 360 didn’t make it, but was heavily implied. Thou shalt not copy save games, it has been decreed. Moving is permitted, but you want a backup? Tough.
The only possible explanation for this vexation is also the most tragically, pathetically stupid one: achievements, and, by extension, gamerscore (for those who are unfamiliar, gamerscore is an obnoxious gamification system where each achievement grants you an arbitrary number of points. This is so that you can pretend to have an absolutely ginormous penis by playing computer games). Y’see, if you could copy saves, then there might be a workaround to let people have a ginormous penis by file-system operations rather than the hard graft of interactive entertainment, and that would make some people genuinely, non-facetiously, very upset.
This same reason (excuse? Stupidity? Whatever) is presumably behind Games For Windows Live’s – Microsoft’s universally loathed and derided clone of XBox Live for their red-headed stepchild platform – savegame-mangling encryption, which would be stupid even if the system as a whole worked reliably, which it obviously doesn’t. More reasons for the whole achievement thing to die in a fire. But I digress.

I give up on savegame copying, and install a bunch of games instead. This works well! Hopefully it will mean loading times will now be in the order of weeks rather than months (I have been spoiled by PC games), and it will definitely mean that the angry hoover of a DVD drive won’t need to spin up. Huzzah, etc.

Finally comes a significant reason I bought the hard-disk: copying some media to it. The 360 is quite a capable media player, but having a USB stick poking out of the front is awkward. I turn to Google, to look up how you copy stuff to it across the network.

Google says no. I’m puzzled by this, but never mind. I see vague suggestions that you can copy things from USB sticks to the internal storage. Gosh, it’s like passing around floppies all over again! Except there’s only one floppy and it’s 30GB. And actually works. So I spend a while dumping a shedload of stuff on it, plug it in, and… I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

More frantic Googling to find out why I’m being stupid, but it turns out, shockingly, that I’m not. I hate it when that happens. You can’t copy media to the 360’s internal storage, with one exception: it will rip audio CDs. That is all.

I tried putting the disk in my USB caddy to see if I could do it with Xplorer 360, but that only works over SATA. And I broke some of the disk-holder’s clips getting it out (which I wouldn’t have had to do to plug it into my desktop, but that would be much more hassle). Not functionally important, but quite annoying.

So you have a device that will happily play ripped audio CDs, as well as songs and films downloaded from Microsoft’s shop/rental thing, from internal storage. You have a device that will happily stream just about anything from a MediaPlayer server. You have a device that will play audio and video files from USB storage (or, at least, USB storage formatted to Fat32).

The device will do all these things, but not let you copy files to its hard disk. Why would they do that? I can’t think of any possible explanation. It makes not a lick of sense. And it’s such an obvious feature that they can’t possibly have not thought of it, so its absence must be a deliberate decision. It also prompts the question: what the hell is all that storage for, then? Game installs top out at around 20GB, usually much less than half that, and are almost entirely optional. XBLA games, if you’re even willing to sully yourself with Microsoft’s stupid FunBucks scam, are tiny. Nobody’s going to buy stuff from Zune or whatever they call it (FunBucks! DRM! Extortionate pricing!). So why bother? So that rewinding now takes longer in Forza because I have to watch the cars go backwards? Woo flippin’ hoo. It’s certainly enough to make me regret buying the thing.

I can only imagine the conversation at Microsoft.
“So we’re going to get the 360 out a year ahead of the PS3?”
“And our graphics hardware is more powerful, our memory system more convenient, and our CPU is a standard architecture that won’t take three years’ practice to get the best out of?”
“We don’t have a Blu-Ray drive.”
“It looks like our hardware will be loads cheaper, though. And I think people will live with DVDs for a while yet.”
“Mmm, true. It looks like there’s only one thing for it.”
“I know what you mean.”
“How are we going to fuck this up in software?”


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