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dwashington12
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PostSubject: Microsoft's response to the Xbox's ...   Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:23 pm

afro Microsoft's response to the Xbox's strange wireless signal: It could be anything lol!

After 37 days, Microsoft issued a 43-word statement on the report of a strange, strong radio signal apparently generated by its Xbox 360 game console, and noticed by Morrisville State College, Morrisville, N.Y.
Essentially, the statement says the problem could be anything, and that Microsoft should not be blamed because the Xbox meets federal requirements, and that it has not received reports about it.

The entire statement, averaging about one word per day, is: “Any number of scenarios could account for wireless LAN disruptions in a college dorm environment where several electronic devices operate in close proximity. Xbox 360 complies with all applicable FCC regulations and we have not received reports that would indicate such a problem.”

But the original Network World story posted online Dec. 13 did not describe a WLAN disruption or even a problem, though there is some limited and anecdotal evidence that the unusual and still unknown signal in the 2.4-GHz band may make it difficult for nearby Bluetooth devices to connect with each other.

What Morrisville is trying to discover is whether the signal actually does come from the Xbox, and whether it affects the WLAN or wireless clients, or might in the future. Microsoft is correct in saying there were no “reports” because there is only one in our story.

The story described an anomalous signal discovered by the IT department at Morrisville State College, which has deployed a campus-wide 802.11n net based on equipment from Meru Networks. The IT staff were exploring the radio environment in one of the college dorms, using Cognio’s RF analysis software. The software revealed a signal, in the 2.4-GHz band, that was quite strong and jumped around through many of the frequencies in that band.

As noted by the college IT staff, this apparent frequency hopping is not a characteristic of conventional Wi-Fi signals, but it does resemble Bluetooth, which also uses the 2.4-GHz frequency. But the Cognio software, which is designed to specifically identify the types of radio signal it discovers, identified this one as unknown.

Morrisville Network Administrator Matt Barber eventually brought in his own Xbox 360, plugged it in, and the Cognio software captured the same signal pattern. The signal was created even when the Xbox was not actually turned on. Barber speculates that it might be the continuing attempt by the console to find and connect to Microsoft’s companion wireless handheld gaming controller. When Barber shrouded the Xbox with a static discharge bag the signal dropped noticeably but was still present, according to the Cognio scan. When the Xbox was unplugged from the wall, the signal stopped.

Barber emphasized then that there was as yet no indication that the signal was actually interfering with the Morrisville WLAN access points or clients. But the IT staff discovered that in the presence of this strange signal, they had a problem getting their wireless Bluetooth headsets to associate with their Bluetooth-enabled cell phones. They had to actually touch the two devices together to set up that connection.

In an effort to determine whether there is actually a problem, Barber plans to run some tests using several Xboxes and clients in fairly close proximity, as you might find in a multi-story college dorm.

One issue that has not yet been explored is what role the company’s 2.4GHz gaming controller might or might not play in this RF pattern.

The 2.4GHz band is notoriously crowded, and interference prone as a result, being used by cordless phones, baby monitors, as well as by larger numbers of 802.11 b and 11g equipment, and a growing number of consumer electronics products, including Wi-Fi phones and even digital cameras.

On Dec. 6, a week before the story was posted online, Network World contacted the Seattle, Washington office of Edelman, Microsoft’s PR agency, via e-mail, summarized the information, and requested an interview with someone from the Microsoft Xbox team. With no interview or comment forthcoming, the story was posted on Dec. 13, including a statement that Microsoft had not yet replied, but the story would be updated when the company did.

Over the next nearly 4 weeks, subsequent requests for comment have been met with the explanation that the holidays were making it difficult for anyone to reply. At the just-ended Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, an e-mail sent to another Microsoft PR contact requesting a meeting with someone from the Xbox team at CES never received a reply. The two-sentence Microsoft statement was finally received Friday Jan. 11.
During a pre-CES briefing, an executive from chipmaker Marvell said in passing that Marvell supplied the Wi-Fi chip for the Xbox, though there has been no official statement from Marvell or Microsoft about this. The Xbox actually has two potential radio connections, both in the 2.4GHz band: one to the wireless gaming controller, one to a Wi-Fi network.

At CES, a Marvell employee on the executive’s staff would neither confirm nor deny the executive’s comment. All this employee would say is that 802.11 silicon doesn’t exhibit frequency hopping, though Bluetooth does, and that “Microsoft doesn’t use standard interfaces.”
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