So what is Xbox Live?
It is an online gaming service for the Xbox. You can play online multiplayer modes of some games, or download content, or post fastest lap times etc.
Is it free?
No. It costs £40 for a years subscription or £5 per month if you want to pay per month. You can buy a starter kit for £40 that includes a years subscription and the headset allowing you voice communication with the other players. [URL]http://uk.special.reserve.co.uk/q_GG5321_official_microsoft.html[/URL]
What do I need?
First of all you will need an Xbox. Also you need broadband internet. 256 kbps is the minimum speed. No dial up or ISDN. It can be through ADSL or cable, whichever you prefer. You will also need a valid credit card for creating the account.
So does the Xbox just plug into the broadband and work ok?
No. The Xbox has an Ethernet port on the back of it. You must be able to connect the broadband to the Xbox via that port, so a USB broadband modem will not work. So you either need an Ethernet modem or a router.
How do I use the internet on my PC then?
To use an Ethernet modem or router with your PC you will need it to have a network card. This will give a port just like the one on the back of the Xbox, and often it has a little LED next to it. If you have one of these then you can either get an Ethernet modem or router. If you do not have one then you will need to buy a network card. These are not expensive. [URL]http://uk.special.reserve.co.uk/q_GG8957_mercury_10100_pci_.html[/URL]
If on the other hand you are not comfortable opening up your PC to fit a network card, then you could consider one of these [URL]http://uk.special.reserve.co.uk/q_GG4568_usb_to_10100_netwo.html[/URL] as a way of getting an Ethernet port on your PC without a network card.
So what about the modem or router then?
Often this is supplied by your ISP, the people you get the broadband through. If you got a USB modem then you will need to replace it. I suggest getting a router, this means you can have the PC and the Xbox connected at the same time. Otherwise you will need to unplug the modem from the PC and plug it into the Xbox every time you want to play.
If you have ADSL: [URL]http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?rb=719885724&action=c2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=48449[/URL]
This is good because it has an ADSL modem in it. All you would need to do then would be run a cable to the phone line, a cable to the Xbox and a cable to the PC.
If you have cable: [URL]http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?rb=3385556078&action=c2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=52897[/URL] This allows you to do as above, but you wonít need the built in ADSL modem.
But that seems a lot of money just to play some games.
True it can be expensive. There is a cheaper way of getting Xbox Live, but it is a bit fiddly. It is called Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). It still requires broadband, and a network card in the PC, but will work with a USB modem. You must have Windows ME or above.
In Windows XP, go to start then the control panel. Click on Network Setup Wizard. Click next. It searches for networks and stuff. Then it gives you a few choices. Pick "This computer connects directly to the internet. The other computers on my network connect to the internet through this computer." Then click next. You'll then be given options. You have to work these out yourself, I don't know what they will be. The first one will ask for your internet connection, which will probably be USB ADSL or something like that. Then you just go through a few more boxes. All rather simple.
How does that work then?
How this works is that you have a single PC with broadband access, then you attach the Xbox to the PC and share the connection. The connection is shared by running a crossover Ethernet cable between the network card in the PC and the Xbox. You also have to run ICS in Windows to set it up. However, you must leave the PC on whilst you use Live, it will not work without it.
What cables am I going to need to connect everything up?
If you use a router then you will need an Ethernet cable. These can be bought in lengths of up to 100m. They may be called network cables, Cat 5 cables, UTP or STP cables or RJ45 cables. They are like this: [URL]http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?action=c2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=43771[/URL] and you can buy longer or shorter ones in different colours. You will need one from router to Xbox, and one from PC to router. They are all the same thing as long as they are NOT crossover cables.
What is a crossover cable then?
A crossover cable looks like a normal Ethernet cable. But inside the wires are turned round so things like PCs can talk to other PCs (or Xboxes) without a router. If you use the ICS method of connecting to Live then you will need one of these. [URL]http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?action=c2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=16484[/URL]
But I have a problem. The PC and Xbox are far apart.
Well you could just get very long cables. But that is not very neat. The better way of doing that is to use wireless. For that you will need to use a wireless router. If you use cable, then you only need a wireless router, it won't need a built in ADSL modem. This would work: [URL]http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?rb=3385767857&action=c2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=60572[/URL] and you will also need a wireless adapter. If you have ADSL then the easy thing to do is to get a wireless router with built in ADSL modem, like this: [URL]http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?rb=3386564639&action=c2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=62234[/URL] If you can put the router near the Xbox and use a cable then that makes it cheaper and simpler as then you can just use either this: [URL]http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?rb=720049507&action=c2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=52898[/URL] or this [URL]http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?action=c2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=50840[/URL] or this [URL]http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/products/index.html?rb=720064993&action=c2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=48444[/URL] depending on whether you are happy to fit a card, use a USB adapter or get a PCMCIA card.
What about having the Xbox wireless?
You can get an adapter for the Xbox to make it wireless: [URL]http://uk.special.reserve.co.uk/q_GG8812_linksys_wet11_11_m.html[/URL] but it is around £60 and so is the greater of the two evils price wise, although it is probably easier to set up.
Could I use wireless to connect a PC to the router and use ICS to connect the Xbox to that PC?
OK, so I am all set. What games should I look at getting?
One of the most popular is the first person shooter Rainbow Six 3. It truly is a wonderful game. [URL]http://uk.special.reserve.co.uk/q_XV5744_tom_clancys_rainbo.html[/URL]
Also available is Counter Strike, the hugely popular PC shooter: [URL]http://uk.special.reserve.co.uk/q_XV1959_counter_strike_als.html[/URL]
Another very popular game at the moment is Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow [URL]http://uk.special.reserve.co.uk/q_XV4005_splinter_cell_2_pa.html[/URL]
Also playable on Live is the greatest ever racing game, Project Gotham Racing 2 [URL]http://uk.special.reserve.co.uk/q_XV4801_project_gotham_rac.html[/URL]
And the final two are personal favourites. Crimson Skies is a flying game set in 1930ís America where you play an air pirate. Great fun both on and offline. [URL]http://uk.special.reserve.co.uk/q_XV1981_crimson_skies_high.html[/URL]
Finally, ESPN NHL Hockey. Ice Hockey?! Yes, it is fantastic, read my review to be convinced: [URL]http://uk.special.reserve.co.uk/q_XV7308_espn_nhl_hockey.html[/URL] .
That concludes my brief guide to Xbox Live. I hope to add to this at some point, hopefully with pictures where need be. If you have any other questions, post them in here and Iíll try answer. Bear in mind that the networking hardware I linked to is not the only stuff that will work with Xbox Live, but is just stuff that will do the job. Sometimes it is the cheapest, sometimes not. Xbox Live is well worth the money, it brings a new dimension to games and has made online gaming more fun than ever before.
Anyone having trouble setting up Live on BT Broadband should check this out:
> Oh please for goodness sake stick this.