Posted By RichC on July 22, 2005
I’m probably not the only one, but I’m addicted to tech ‘gadgets,’ no … let me correct that … any ‘gadget.’ I have this insane weakness for interesting new toys. They are most definitely ‘wants,’ but not necessarily ‘needs;’ a lecture my kids hear far too often. Is it a ‘need’ or a ‘want?’ The latest ‘gadget’ is called the Slingbox from Slingmedia.
After seeing an article by Walt Mossberg in the WSJ, I just had to have this little gadget. Basically it connect your home tv/tivo/dvd/dvr signal to your broadband (cable/dsl) router and sends the signal to a registered device over your network, including out over the internet. (my interest in being able to connect when away from home) BTW … here is an MP3 audio interview (rightclick/saveas- 1 meg) with Walt Mossberg talking about the Slingbox.
The release date of the product was early July, it was postponed twice and sort of frustrating as each ship date grew close; it shipped on July 20th. In keeping with “Finagle’s Law” (aka: Murphy’s Law), my Slingbox arrived while I was out of town. Anyway, today I set up the box which is pretty straight forward for those familiar with connecting the plugs on the back of TVs. You first connect the signal you wish to work with to the box, then the network connections. There are multiple options for the variety of hookups, but I found that starting simple is perhaps the wisest. The next step in my case was a bit tricky, but as long as you have DHCP enabled on your router things should work fine. (if you have multiple routers, be sure the Slingbox is on #1)
Next, install the software onto the computer you wish to use the Slingbox on. Its a self installer the has an updater and yes there is already and update and glitch with certain serial numbered boxes. (the price you pay when you must have a new gadget!) The installation ‘could’ go well, depending on your hardware situation as the auto config installer tries to make it easy. In my case I needed to ‘manually’ configure my router to work. That said it worked well on my home network and streams a signal through its proprietary software and viewer called “SlingPlayer.” (screenshot from my notebook below)
I was impressed with the better than average quality of the small images that one usually sees with video streams, but its still not ready for full screen viewing IMHO, so don’t toss your TV just yet.
Next was a run to my local Panera Bread WiFi spot. (using it requires a broadband connection) It must have been set up correctly because I was instantly connected to the channel I had running at home. There is a latency though when it comes to changing channels, etc. Such is the nature of using the internet as your remote control I suppose. (maybe 2-3 seconds?) They do include a feature that devotes more bandwidth to the control and stutters the video/audio, but its still not instant. (kind of like satellite TV latency) Nevertheless the signal was fairly good and I did not experience a signal drop in the stream for the 30 minutes I watched. I captured a blerp of MP3 sound test from my morning coffee shop visit today. I’ll send out a plea for help here … any really good ‘shareware’ program available that will capture the video and audio stream? (I might play with HiDownload Pro when I have time)
As for price, I paid a little over $200 on a preorder from BestBuy.com. So far so good, we’ll see just how much I used it when traveling. I’ll give it a good test next week while in the Canadian Rockies doing some hiking and fishing. (I am suppose to have broadband where I’ll be stating in Canmore! 🙂