Barber says his "best guess" at this point is that the embedded radio, not the USB adapter, causes the signal. The signal is created even if the Xbox console is shut off: Just plugging its AC adapter into an electrical outlet seems to trigger the radio to look for -- and keep looking for -- a companion wireless controller. "It's even worse when you have multiple Xboxes in an area," Barber says.
At one point, IT staff wrapped the console in a static discharge bag, the material used, for example, to wrap and protect consumer electronics gear from static damage during shipment. The same properties make it act like radio "blanket" to muffle a transmission. Sure enough, the Cognio software showed a significant drop in the Xbox signal's strength.
The next step is more systematic testing. "We want to get several consoles together with a bunch of WLAN clients, to create a busy [RF] environment, and do some measurements," Barber says. "Are we seeing frames being dropped in the air, or people getting disconnected?"
Answering that question may be a bit more urgent, with Christmas looming, and the likelihood of still more brand-new Xboxs and other wireless entertainment products turning up in January when students return.