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Nice Presents, but Some Assembly Required

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Robert Schlesinger tried to add his Xbox to his wireless network but got nowhere, despite weeks of trying. (Hyosub Shin - The Washington Post)


_____WiFi Special Report_____
Here, There, WiFi Anywhere (The Washington Post, Apr 25, 2004)
Flexibility Comes Relatively Cheap (The Washington Post, Apr 25, 2004)
Seeking a Simple, Safe Connection (The Washington Post, Apr 25, 2004)
_____Finding WiFi Spots_____
Getting Online, On the Road (The Washington Post, Apr 25, 2004)
Getting Connected With the Hot Spots (The Washington Post, Apr 25, 2004)
_____The WiFi Effect_____
Share the Word . . . (The Washington Post, Apr 25, 2004)
Murky Was Clear Choice (The Washington Post, Apr 25, 2004)
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By Robert Schlesinger
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, April 25, 2004; Page F09

It seemed the ideal tag-team Christmas present: My wife bought me a Microsoft wireless adapter to plug my Xbox into our home network, while her brother bought me a one-year subscription to Microsoft's Xbox Live online gaming service.

Then I tried to set all this up. First the Xbox insisted there was no network in the area, and then it did find my network but reported that the signal was too weak -- even while my laptop, parked next to the game console, quickly loaded a technical-support page at Microsoft's Xbox Web site.

My next move was to call Microsoft for help. Again and again -- over several days, I left multiple voice mails and got only two calls back, both strategically timed for when I was away from the phone. In between, an anonymous tech-support minion sent a form e-mail informing me that since "I have been trying to contact you for some time now, but I have not received a response . . . I will be closing the case 'Resolved.' " A flurry of follow-up calls and e-mails failed to yield any more responses from Microsoft.

But I was not deterred, launching a series of experiments that took me across Northern Virginia: I took Microsoft's wayward wireless adapter to the homes of friends who had both an Xbox and a wireless network to see where it would work. These tests allowed me to pin the blame on my old (but paid-for) WiFi router.

So I sold the wireless adapter to a friend with a cooperative WiFi network. Then I took a different approach to the problem: I tried every other brand of wireless adapter I could find at the local Best Buy. All this netted me was a lot of commuting time and a stack of return receipts; none of these gadgets spanned the chasm between my Xbox and my home network.

In mid-January, I decided I'd had enough of my wireless Vietnam and raised the white flag. As much as I might enjoy blasting away at other gamers across the nation, I couldn't stand to spend another day trying to make this work.


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