After my enthusiastic post about the Xbox 360 as a Media Center Extender, I belatedly discovered that updating the software for the 360 had disabled my older extenders, including the original Xboxes and a Linksys hardware extender.
I hunted around online for help and didn't find any, so I spent a fruitless hour and half on the phone with Microsoft tech support (being bounced from Xbox support to Xbox 360 support to Windows support, each time eventually escalating to managers who weren't able to help). Finally, at wits-end, I asked Charlie Owen, a Microsoft project manager who runs a great Media Center blog, if he had any suggestions.
Charlie put me in touch with the team that had worked on the Extender port. After a few days of running diagnostic tests, we discovered that it was due to a version conflict between some of the earlier Extender software I'd been running on the original Xboxes and the new Extender manager that you download and run on the Media Center PC as part of installing the 360. It's now solved and I'm happy.
Two lessons from this:
1) If anyone else is having trouble getting older extenders to work once you've got an Xbox 360 on the network, do this:
Make sure you have the latest Extender software. That's 1.01 for the Xbox, and to use the below process you need the DVD version that was sent out earlier this year. Delete any files from the previous version by going to the Xbox dashboard, selecting "memory" and deleting the "Media Center Extender" entry. On the 360, disconnect the Media Center (it's on the media tab). Uninstall the extender software from the Media Center PC, and reboot.
Then download and install the new PC extender software. Put the 1.01 extender disk in the original Xbox and go through through the usual 8-digit code entry to associate it. On the 360, use the media tab options to do the same. This should clear your system and ensure that everything's working with the latest versions of the software.
2) The Microsoft team (Rob Lehew, the MCX project manager, and his colleagues) were totally great and quickly got me to the solution by diagnosing packet traces and otherwise walking me though some process-of-elimination steps. Obviously I'm not the average customer and they don't usually have project managers doing tech support. But because the team has a number of active bloggers who are accessible and willing to respond to users, it's much easier for anyone to find answers quickly from people who know the most about the product.
This is a great example of how company blogs can improve consumer relations by putting a human face on the development team. That's helpful in problem solving, as in my case, but it's even more useful in passing on tips and tricks from the pros and inviting suggestions from users on future development.
The old model was mostly to use newsgroups and forums for this, and that still has its place for really specific tech support. But I find blogs far easier to navigate and read, and you can subscribe to them in a way that you can't with newsgroups. Obviously not all developers want to take on the email and comment burden that comes with having a blog, but it only takes a few to really improve the customer relationship. Hats off to Charlie and the rest of the Media Center team for the fine role model.