XBox360 as a media extender: Failed to stream DivX

Tina's been a little, errr ... skeptical ... about how enjoyable it is that our living room now reverberates to the sound of up to 8 Ferraris simultaneously trying to negotiate a corner in downtown New York City (in surround sound!). So I thought I'd investigate XBox360 as a media extender.

First, I installed "Media Connect" on one of my XP boxes and was able to send pictures and music to the XBox. Very nice, although the XBox360 interface is not nearly as nice as the Windows Media Player interface for Vista.

Then, to see if it would work, I installed XP Media Edition in a Virtual PC (works, with some fidgeting). You then install a software package that allows the Media Center to use the XBox as a media extender (that is, the delivery point for the Media Center PC's functionality. Of course, one of the first things originally said of media extenders is "they don't have fans," which the XBox360 certainly does). Now, I could stream pictures, music, and video to the XBox.

Except when I tried to send video, the MCE said that my network link wasn't sufficient to handle it. This isn't a surprise, as I have only 802.11g connectivity (MIMO may be my Christmas present to myself). Nonetheless, I overrode the warning for the sake of the experiment. If I could really create a single media hub that could stream to the living room, I'd be willing to run a wire along the baseboard....

But the key question is whether I could stream DivX to the living room. So, knowing that the DivX codecs don't ship with Windows, I wasn't surprised to have to go to and download the free codecs (you download the 6-month "Creator" and uncheck the trial software -- it's perfectly legitimate, it's basically a brilliant way for DivX folk to market their commercial products). Ta-Da! I could view DivX in Media Player.

I fired up Media Center and tried to stream DivX to the XBox360. On the 360 it said "Codec unavailable." Since there's no way to install the DivX codec to the 360, that seemed to be the end of it.

However, while Googling around looking for fellow DivX streamers, I noticed a persistent "Use Windows Media Encoder to transcode DivX to .WMV and stream that," suggestion. Well, WME is just a download away, so I tried that. Six hours later, I had transcoded an hour of DivX video. It wouldn't stream to the XBox. Codec issue? Network issue?

Before I debugged that, I wanted to check one thing that has consistently driven me crazy. It actually is what this whole issue is about: although DivX synchronizes perfectly when watched on the PC, there's something about transcoding it for display on a TV that throws the sound synchronization off. This whole project is essentially to free about 12 hours of video I archived in DivX and have been unable to use in DVD projects. So I took my transcoded-to-WMV video, burned a DVD (took 3 hours to transcode that into MPEG-2 for DVD) and put it in the 360. I forwarded to 30 minutes into it and, sure enough, the sound was off by 4 or 5 seconds.

The experiment seemed to be over. Since I can transcode non-DivX-originating WMVs to DVD without a sound problem, but any transcoding of DivX-originating to DVD seems to introduce a sound problem, I assume that there's some mojo about DivX-originating streams.

The XBox360 doesn't seem to be a solution. As far as I can tell, what happens in DivX, stays in DivX.