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Reducing lag on Xbox Live


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Finally one of my mates has decided to get Xbox Live and I have someone to play with. :) Unfortunately due to the area he lives in he's had to go for Netvigator in order to get broadband. This is one of those wireless internet radio thingummies rather than cable or ADSL. He's getting great speeds out of it and it all seems good, but he is lagging a bit on Xbox Live. Not all the time, but enough to make the speech break up sometimes and have the occasional jumping car on PGR2.

We both did the diagnostic thing from the Xbox dashboard (Network Settings/Connect and then hit the yellow button) and all his settings are fine but his latency (lag) is twice that of mine.

He's using Windows ICS (Internet Connection Sharing) on his PC to share the broadband connection with his Xbox - same as me so I know this isn't a problem. I'm assuming the lag is probably to do with his wireless broadband, but is there anything at all we can do in terms of PC settings to reduce the lag and smooth out his gameplay?

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I'd first try to link it up without ICS and without the wireless components, i.e. plugging it straight into the modem. If the lag still persists, you know it's the connection itself and you can complain to the ISP. If the lag is gone, you know it's the wireless stuff or ICS. You can then connect it to the PC with ICS without the wireless components. If it lags now, something's wrong with the ICS and maybe upgrading to the latest OS or tuning some networksettings will help (like turning off firewalls or something). If there's still no lag, it will probably be in the wireless components. Look into the manual of the equipment if there are any hints, or maybe upgrade to better quality components.

The eternal rule of troubleshooting: Isolate the problem first, and then go find a solution. Not the other way round.

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You can't get rid of the wireless bit, his broadband connection IS the wireless bit.

Nothing you can do apart from maybe swap ICS for a router. Might save you a millisecond or two. Won't help lag much.

What ping times does he get from his PC to, say, www.bbc.co.uk compared to you?

I get a pretty consistent 10ms through BTOpenworld

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I'll try and find out what his ping times are. Can you ping the Xbox Live servers direct from the PC? That would help to isolate whether it's his connection or his components.

Unfortunately the modem is a USB modem so he can't plug it directly into the Xbox (like I could with my ethernet-based cable modem). At the moment he's using a basic non-switched hub as well as ICS as he's also got his mum's PC on the same network: he doesn't have the correct cable to plug the Xbox straight into the PC bypassing this hub but he's going to track one down. I've already made sure he's got the most up-to-date firmware for this hub so that's one thing out of the way.

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He really needs to change that USB crap for an ethernet connection. It won't be helping. In theory the wireless ought to be faster than wired connections (speed of light vs speed of electricity) but I expect there's some latency in their network somewhere.

He can also try a tracert www.bbc.co.uk to see exactly which point is making things slow.

I get

 1    <1 ms    <1 ms    <1 ms  local.gateway []
 2    11 ms    11 ms    10 ms  rasd1nrp3.kingston.broadband.bt.net []
 3    10 ms    10 ms    10 ms  rasd1nrp6.kingston.broadband.bt.net []
 4    11 ms    11 ms    11 ms
 5    10 ms    15 ms    11 ms  core1-pos13-2.kingston.ukcore.bt.net []
 6    12 ms    11 ms    11 ms  core1-pos13-1.ilford.ukcore.bt.net []
 7    11 ms    12 ms    11 ms  core1-pos13-0.telehouse.ukcore.bt.net []
 8    11 ms    11 ms    11 ms
 9    12 ms    11 ms    11 ms
10    11 ms    11 ms    11 ms  www21.thdo.bbc.co.uk []

The 3 columns are something like min/max/avg ping to each hop

You can probably do the same with the xbox live servers, but isn't it you that he connects to, most Live games are peer-peer aren't they?

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Technically the speed of electricity is the same as the speed of light...

Sending stuff over copper onto a fibre optic backbone in the case of ADSL can have high latency due to noise on the line

With radio waves its due to electromagnetic interference etc

Ping times with wireless BB will always be higher. ignore those Live ping times though... they ping a server in the US when you're actually connecting to whoover's running the server.

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go to network setting on the you xbox dashboard, hit connect and when it has finihsed hit the "Y" button. This will give you call the download/upload and connection speed details there. didn't know about this for a while but when someone told me about it was handy for checking the speed direct from the xbox and not at the PC

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Electrons flow through a wire quite slowly. At about normal walking pace I'm not kidding). However, the effect of electricity is clearly much faster. When you turn on a light switch, it comes on almost as soon as you flick the switch, even though the electrons have not travelled along the length of the wire from the switch to the light.

This is because a wire is pakced full of free electrons that push each other into the filament of the lamp. When an electron is pushed into one end of the conductor, it "nudges" the next one with its electric field, and so on all the way down the wire until the electrons at the far end are "nudged" and we can detect the signal. Thus the effective speed of the electric signal is much much faster than the speed of invidual electrons.

The electric field of each electron propagates at the speed of light, but the inertial mass of the electrons will mean that the speed at which the electric signal propagates will fall short of the speed of light. I've read that the effective speed of electric signals is 60-90% of the speed fo light. Factors like resistance play a part in the exact figure for a particular wire.

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