Three Major Streaming/Network Issues With The Xbox 360 That Really Bugged Me And How I Fixed Them

 As you may or may not know, I have an Xbox 360. For the most part I am really impressed by it. I grew up a part of the “arcade” generation. I can remember songs like Pac-Man Fever and still catch myself humming some of the more “catchy” game tunes. We have come a long way since the graphics of the original Pitfall Harry (which were amazing at the time… you could actually see the “block” hair on Harry’s Head!) and the sound of the bleeps and bloops have been all but forgotten with the incredible compostions and orchestrations of top notch composers like game scorer Jeremy Soule (Oblivion).

With all that the Xbox 360 can do, I like to push it to the limit to see what I can make it do for me. Here are three of my latest Xbox 360 issues that I could not find much help about and that I have found a way to solve.

Issue 1: Sharing and Serving Video Files to the Xbox 360.

The promise: Watch videos streamed over your local intranet from a computer to the Xbox 360.

This is a great idea, especially given the puny size of the Xbox 360’s hard drive (a measly 20 gigabytes). Given a simple XP home environment without Windows Media Server on my network, first I had to use Windows Media Connect. This worked fine for sharing pictures and audio files but did not allow the sharing of video files.

Enter the promise of Microsoft Media Player 11. With this player upgrade and a Xbox 360 firmware (downloadable upgrade via Xbox Live) you are now able to stream video files to your Xbox 360 without having Media Center software installed…. problem was- it didn’t work for me.  Even though the previous media connect software worked fine the upgrade and migration to Windows Media Player 11 did not. None of my computers showed up on the Xbox 360’s radar when I searched for media files being shared.

The solution:

After much surfing and reading though Microsoft KB articles (always good for a headache) coupled with personal trial and error, I figured out the problem. Given all other normal issues have been addressed like firewall and connectivity issues (see here for a direct link about this: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/support/systemuse/xbox360/digitalmedia/pc.htm), the solution for me was to disable IPsec passthrough on my local router. Since I am using two routers in between my intranet and 360, I had to make sure that I disabled it on both.

By doing this the Xbox 360 was now able to find the other local computers broadcasting their contents. Granted, now I have to re-enable it to make use of my VPN now! Hopefully there will be a work around for this soon!

Issue 2: None of my video files where actually playable on the Xbox 360.

The promise: Watch your streamable video files on your Xbox 360.

I was actually stunned and frustrated beyond belief once I realized that none of my video files where playable over the new shared Xbox 360 environment.  As a matter of fact, they didn’t even show up on the Xbox 360’s video list! Microsoft really is pushing the issue with this one. The only video file “container” they allow to be viewed on the Xbox 360 via streaming is the .wmv file type! I couldn’t and can’t believe it, nor could I find any information about this anywhere on the net except for one blurb found here http://www.consolenewsblog.com/200-latest-xbox-360-update-supported-video-formats/

I am shocked that the Xbox 360 doesn’t even support the .mpg containers, especially since the Xbox 360 natively supports DVD. It’s not like avi or mpg files are rare or anything! Perhaps better file type support will be fixed in a future upgrade as well. I can imagine, in the very near future, petitions being sent to MS about this by a lot of angry people.

The solution:

Simply re-encode (transcode) your video files. You can do this easily (and it is also quite time consuming) by using the provided Windows Movie Maker. Simply import the video file you would like to view on the Xbox 360 and then save it the “computer” within the software. Make sure that you use the 2.1 Mbps format or you will not be happy. You really won’t be happy with the 2.1 Mbps conversion but it’s better than the others for viewing on the 360.

I have had some marginal success using Super as well. You can download it for free here: http://www.erightsoft.net/SUPER.html. Super is one of the best transcoding freeware solutions available. Please note that Super, although fairly simple, is not for the un-technical user. Video transcoding is tricky and the options and tweaking that can be done with each file is nearly endless. A great resource for help with understanding this process can be found at http://videohelp.com

In addition, I have found an absolutely cool program that bypasses all the Windows Media Player “hocus-pocus” by bypassing the Windows Media Player scheme altogether. It’s called TVersity (it’s free too!) and can be found at http://tversity.com. This server is pretty awesome on the “cool” scale. Not only does it allow you to stream to the Xbox 360 (or other places), it can transcode many common file types into Xbox 360 playable video files “on the fly”! I’ve tried it, it works.  The setup is tricky though and you will also run into the Ipsec issue above.

Issue 3: When testing the network connection from the Xbox 360 the ICMP check fails.

The promise: Why should anything fail, ven if it ultimately works?

Of no real surprise to anyone who deals with networks and routing, when this check fails you probably are still able to “connect” to Xbox 360 Live! service. The real problem is that when this fails on the Xbox 360 the entire troubleshooting process stops and doesn’t continue so that you don’t know if any of the other things further down the “checklist” are causing problems.

The solution:

Most routers are now shipping with the “Block Anonymous Internet Requests” option checked. If this is checked you won’t be able to be “pinged”. Unfortunately, this will block the ICMP request/answer from coming back to you. If you want to check this to see if it is working on the Xbox 360, disable the option on your router and then run the test. Once your done checking this, I recommend re-enabling it!

If you have any other or better solutions, I would love to hear them; please post. I hope this has helped some of you, if it hasn’t, I apologize and wish you well with your own efforts to solve your Xbox 360 problems!

I know this doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Music Technology, but it may very well save some of you a large headache if you run into these issues! Better me than you!

                  ~J. Pisano

Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website jpisano.com.
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