Connect360 from Nullriver is a nifty little app that fools your Xbox 360 into thinking your Apple Macintosh is a Windows PC.
If you've got any sense, you'll already have your Xbox 360 connected to Microsoft's Live service, so it's already on a network. This can be hard-wired or wireless, but we tested it on a typical Apple Airport system, consisting of a broadband modem/router, connected to the Airport base station. This acts as hub for a PowerBook, Power Mac and the Xbox 360 through a Linksys wireless router (designed for the PS2 but it works just fine).
Downloading and installing Connect360 is simple, as is the case with most Mac apps. Once running, the Read Me file walks you through a few tweaks you need to make in the System Preferences > Sharing window, i.e. turning on a specific port to bypass an active firewall.
Once done, you simply quit Connect360, turn on your Xbox and reboot the app. And that's it. As soon as our Xbox connected to Live over the network, it appeared in the Connect360 window accompanied by a cheery chime.
Back on the Xbox, it's then a case of navigating to the Media blade in the Dashboard, and selecting either the Music or Photos options. Connect360 supports MP3, AAC, WAV, AIFF and Apple Lossless formats for Music. For Photos, it can handle JPEG, RAW, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIFF files. For anything else, Connect360 features on-the-fly automatic transcoding.
With Mac connectivity, you obviously get access to all your iTunes tracks and all the images in iPhoto, which appear neatly catalogued and categorised, just as they are on your Mac. (Note that the free demo only provides limited listings; you get full access to your media libraries by paying the meagre $10 registration fee.)
In our case, we're running on an old Airport 802.11b system, so music streaming suffered the occasional drop-out, though this was improved by reducing the audio quality option in Connect360 - it's only playing through TV speakers so any drop in quality went unnoticed. Likewise, accessing photos was a little slow, but they looked great on the TV and the Xbox 360 performs some iPhoto-like panning and zooming to add some life during slideshows.
Connect360 doesn't yet support video files, but one can only assume it's just a matter of time. We'll have to see if Nullriver adds this itself or perhaps piggy-back on Apple's Front Row software. If and when Apple kick-start an iTunes-for-movies downloads system, the ability to stream video to the 360 - and a nearby TV - would be extremely welcome!
Frankly, it always galled me that there was one option on my Xbox360 that was redundant. Now with Connect360, I can make full use of the Xbox's potential. And all for just $10 - well, that, plus £140 for a new Airport Extreme base station...
It's not something you'll use every day, and how useful it is depends on where your Xbox 360 is located, but for $10, it gives us early adopter Mac owners another reason to feel smugly justified in our Xbox purchase.