XBox360 and Wireless Networking
What Wireless Network Protocol to Use for Streaming Media?
Wireless networking for the home has never been so popular, easy, and cheap. The convenience of slapping a wireless router on your high-speed modem is relatively simple task. Turning your whole house into a wi-fi hotspot is just too cool to ignore. Even if you don’t have wireless devices in your home, it’s a great way to shock nosey neighbors with offensive names for your local network. Just make sure you use encryption.
The most popular wireless network protocols today are 802.11 b and 802.11 g. 802.11 g offers 54 Megs per second, which is more than fast enough to stream video and multi-channel audio through your network. The Xbox360, acting as an extender for a Windows XP Media Center 2005 PC on a wireless network, is a convenient way to stream media. However, streaming video files is the most network-intensive job they’ll perform together. You’ll notice that at times when there is a lot of action on screen the video can get choppy. If you’re using 802.11 g it’s not for lack of speed, but has to do with interference. Everything from your cordless phone, to microwave oven, to sunspots might contribute to interference making your video choppy.
There are three ways you can work around this problem:
- The fastest, most secure and uninterruptible network connection is also the low tech option, hard wire. This excludes the use of a wireless connection for any point between the Xbox360 and the Windows Media Center server. It’s understandable that once you’ve gone wireless you might not be able to go back.
- Microsoft’s recommendation is to throw more money at your problem and upgrade to a wireless router that supports the 802.11 a protocol. But this is costly, not only are 802.11 a routers quite expensive, it also means upgrading the wireless LAN card in your Media Center machine. Depending on the status of backward compatibility of your new 802.11 a router, you may even have to buy new LAN cards for all your wireless devices. There is just something creepy about these new routers touting "Xbox360 compatible" right on the label. It’s a clear marketing gimmick that is sure to confuse some consumers into thinking it’s required for the Media Connect service to work at all.
- If you’re working with an 802.11 g access point and going wired isn’t an option, you can save money by buying another 802.11 g router instead of going 802.11 a. This works very well if you happen to have an extra laying around. You can get a ‘g’ router for around $50, that’s several times less than some of the ‘a’ routers you’ll find. The dual-router method involves something called "segmenting" and we’ll show you exactly how it’s done below.
First, if you’re stuck with an 802.11 b router there isn’t much help we can offer here. You’ll probably want to upgrade that sucker pronto. 802.11 b is considerably slower than g as well as being susceptible to all the interference of g. Upgrade or don’t bother taking streaming video too seriously.
Segmenting involves splitting your wireless networks into two parts. One router is going to exclusively handle traffic between your Win Media Center PC and the Xbox360 exclusively using 802.11 g. The other router is going to handle any other traffic on your network on a different channel and will be permitted backward compatibility to any wireless "b" devices you may have.
Traffic between the Media Center Xbox360 will get a high priority on your network. It’s a bit like commuting through rush hour traffic in the morning, but you have your own lane. Your streaming video won’t be susceptible to traffic interference that can occur over a single router. Here are some considerations when setting up your two routers. To ensure that you have the best possible connection to the Internet for XboxLive gaming, we’ll also connect broadband to your primary router. The primary router is the one that will be used for media. This gives Xbox360 the fastest track possible to Live.
Primary Media Router
Enable DHCP (Dynamic Host Control Protocol) for addressing and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption for network security. The primary router will be connected to the outside world (i.e. Internet) so it’ll offer the fastest possible connection to XboxLive for online gaming. This will be the router that only makes three connections: one goes to your Xbox360, one to your Windows Media Center PC, and one will be a hard-wired connection to your other router.
On the primary router, set up WAN in accordance with the specifications required of your high-speed Internet service provider.
You are going to have to set the primary router to a low channel: 1-5 will do nicely. These are the only exceptions. Everything else should be set up as normal. Read the routers manual for more information and details.
Secondary Router: Your Household Wireless Hotspot
Since this router isn’t connected to the outside world, no WAN settings are necessary-- leave DHCP off. Set this router to mixed mode:this means it’ll connect to devices using either the 802.11 b or 802.11 g protocols. Now, when your grandma comes over with her old 802.11 b wireless notebook she can lounge on the couch while she surfs pictures of Tom Selleck.
Set the channel on the secondary router to five higher than the primary. So, if you’ve set your Primary at 1–5, set the secondary at 10 or greater.
Be sure to set a unique SSID on the secondary.
Attach the two routers using a LAN cable, but keep them at least several feet apart. The primary will be responsible for passing the IP addresses to connections to the other router. Other than that, it will be dedicated solely to communications between Xbox360 and the Media Center PC, or Xbox360 and XboxLive. No other traffic on your network will interfere with it. A simple modification from the above recipe might be to pipe the Internet through the secondary router.
Remember that most of the time you won't have interference problems at all. Some of the interference will come from outside sources you can do little about. If you’re watching a movie through Media Center, it is a good idea to keep the cordless phone off and pause the movie if someone calls. In addition, try not to run the microwave oven: prepare your popcorn before or during a pause in the movie.
Following this general outline should give you interference and lag free operation of your movies from your Media Center PC to your Xbox360.