OT: Slingbox is a cool toy

riredale wrote on 7/19/2008, 5:36 PM
Has nothing to do with Vegas, but you guys probably enjoy playing with techno-toys as much as I do.

I do some traveling, and my wife travels a lot to places such as Hong Kong and Tokyo. I've always heard that a "Slingbox" was a cool toy, and looking at comments on websites such as Newegg and Amazon reinforced that view. When a SlingboxPro came along a few months ago at a really good price, I jumped at the offer.

A Slingbox is an interface device that takes in a television signal and allows it to be delivered to a user over the Internet. The idea is that you load a program called SlingPlayer on your computer and then from anywhere in the world you can call up your Slingbox and your player will show whatever video is coming into the Slingbox at home. In my case I have it hooked up to my Tivo DVR. In this instance when I start the SlingPlayer application a dead-on-lookalike Tivo remote control also appears on my PC screen. By pushing those Tivo remote buttons I can control my Tivo at home, exactly as though I were using the hardware Tivo remote.

There are several hurdles to jump. First, you need to have at least ~512Kb/sec UPLOAD speed on your home broadband, or the video won't look great. I have DSL here (had cable but the DSL package was dirt cheap by comparison) and consistently get 1.5 down / .5 up, so that's not an issue. The second hurdle is a practical one--my Slingbox sits in the living room, near the TV and Tivo DVR, but my Internet portal is 40 feet away and on another floor. They make a "SlingLink" device that puts the Ethernet on your house power wiring, but it's expensive. I found a few months ago that the local Fry's was selling the same thing by by a company called "Airlink" for just $40 for a pair of adapters. The idea is that you plug one box into an outlet near your router, and a second box into an outlet near the TV. You then run an Ethernet cable from the router to the first box, and an Ethernet cable from the second box to the SlingBox. I wasn't expecting much (the early prototypes a decade ago were not very good) but to my amazement the setup is bulletproof. The two adapter boxes see each other within a few seconds of power-up and from then on everything that goes into one comes out the other as though there were an Ethernet cable the whole distance.

Anyway, I'm a bit nervous that with so many possible failure points (cable, Tivo, SlingBox, powerline adapters, router, DSL line) that this might turn out to be a frustrating exercise, but so far it's great. Of course there's also the angle that it's a bit much to be in some exciting place like Hong Kong and choose to watch Law&Order on the home Tivo, but that's another topic.


johnmeyer wrote on 7/19/2008, 10:03 PM
I have a friend who sets up wireless communication in disaster zones (he's been over in Thailand over the past two months trying to get into Burma and China to help them after the typhoon & earthquake). He loves his Slingbox and watches all sorts of things on his laptop sitting a tent in the middle of nowhere, using generator, solar, or windpower (he is also bringing a hand crank generator for when they have cheap local labor, they can have some buy sit there and crank for a few hours).

RNLVideo wrote on 7/19/2008, 10:22 PM
FWIW, there is a free way to accomplish the same thing. It's called Orb (www.orb.com) and it is a freeware (beta) application that takes the signal from your computer's TV tuner and makes it available on the internet. It also makes your local audio files, photos and documents available for you if you wish (each section can be turned off and on). You can remotely activate Orb's recording feature and watch recorded shows. Although I've never tried Slingbox, I hear that this is a great alternative (and free is always good).

I've used it for over a year, and I love it. It's been in "beta" the entire time and has always been free. I'm sure that will change at some point, but who knows when... I travel pretty frequently, and I can pull up my home cable on my Windows Mobile Treo 700WX. Depending on on the connection speed where I'm at, I'll get some buffering, but most often it is good enough. I think Orb works with Tivo, but honestly I haven't checked into it as I don't have one. I've made my entire iTunes library available, so as long as I have an internet connection, I'm good to go. I have a Sprint EVDO card and I regularly get 700kbps down with it - plenty fast to get a decent stream from home.

dat5150 wrote on 7/20/2008, 7:10 AM
I've been using Slingbox for a couple of years and I agree on its greatness. As you stated, upload speed is the most critical factor in a successful Slingbox experience.....the more the better. Give the slingplayer for windows mobile a try sometime and you have tv on your cell phone. The Sling player allows my dad to watch all the games and golf channel he wants since he has no cable.

I haven't tested the Orb in several years. I believe they've come a long way since then.
richard-courtney wrote on 7/21/2008, 2:24 PM

So you have cable or satellite and your dad only needs an internet (DSL?)

I'd be curious if you can add VOIP (telephone) and use a satellite internet
terminal on your RV for when (if) I retire.
dat5150 wrote on 7/21/2008, 7:14 PM
I have cable internet with 1mb rated upload. My dad has generic cable broadband. Typically, he can pull down 500kbs-1mb video streams off my cable/slingbox setup. Quality is heavily dependent on the upload stream....the more the better. Upload is worth the extra dollars....

Slingbox is not a VOIP unit and doesn't support. Most of the messenger services have a very inexpensive VOIP component (MS Live, Yahoo messenger, etc.)