Someone mentioned the Slingbox technology to me a while ago, but I never got around to checking it out. Recently, a couple of online retailers put the Slingbox Pro units on sale and I picked one up. I didn’t even bother checking out the Web site to see what the units could do, I just bought blind and waited impatiently for UPS to show up at my door with the technology.
My Slingbox came yesterday and I had it hooked up and running in a matter of fifteen minutes. So what does it do? It’s actually like a media trebuchet. You load up your DVD player, television tuner, satellite DVR or cable connection, pull back the handle…and let it fly. Where does it land? Well, anywhere you have a Slingbox client. That could be a MacOS or Windows desktop, Symbian device, Windows Mobile smartphone or PDA, or a select few PalmOS devices. This means you can watch all the stuff you have piling up on your video recording devices at home pretty much anywhere you go. Using a somewhat kludgy but effective interface, you can even control your video devices remotely so that you can select the shows you want to watch, change the channels on your TV, and so on.
Now for a little bad news. Some smartphone clients are not supported and others can be flaky. Unless your wireless coverage area is pretty good, the video performance is going to be choppy. PalmOS support is weak at best, and most people think the regular client interface is terrible. Sometimes you have to do a little tweaking to get things to work properly. Just make sure you check the compatibility list and realize that your mileage may vary.
There is no Linux support at all. But thanks to Google and some dedicated hacker types, I was able to find documentation and supporting libraries which will help you install the Windows Slingbox client under Linux using Wine. I personally can’t stand a network device that you can’t configure without a client, and this is one of those devices. Slingbox’s support department and technical documentation isn’t the best, either. However, if you’re even slightly computer savvy and have a half hour to kick around, you’ll easily be able to get the Slingbox up and running and be on your way to enjoying watching your TV and recorded shows anywhere you go.
The Slingbox site is a little obnoxious with all of its flash videos and such, but it does have enough good information to get you going. I’m a little bit of a Johnny-come-Lately to the technology, but I’m sure there are lots of others out there who haven’t partaken of it yet either. I’m not usually one to advocate proprietary technology, but it’s always nice to come across something that actually just works and isn’t a colossal pain in the ass to set up. So if this technology is something you need (and for anyone with a DVR, I would recommend it) save up a few thousand pennies and pick up a Slingbox. I think you’ll like what you see.