First Slingbox Vacation

I just got back from a weeklong vacation out of town and am pleased to
report that the promise of placeshifting TV is true!

If you haven't heard of placeshifting, then I suggest you head over to the Sling Media or Sling Community
site catch up on what is sure to be the next big thing. Sling makes a
new consumer electronic device called the Slingbox which allows you to
watch your TV from anywhere outside your home!

In my
case, I was miles away in a rented beach house which provided broadband
access. Not long after unloading the car, I set to work, setting up the
Windows laptop. Using the Internet, the Sling software on my Windows XP
machine discovered the Slingbox sitting back at home and began
streaming TV from home all the way to my laptop. The ability to watch
my favorite shows was like a new kind of freedom.

Now, a few
disclaimers. First, I had played with the Slingbox for awhile before I
took the big trip so I was confident that it would work. I recommend
experimenting a bit before you leave the state since it is near
impossible to diagnose problems from the hot spot without having
someone at home.

Second, the technology that Sling has developed
is truly remarkable and seems to be able to optimize the signal based
on the available bandwidth and the characteristics of the display. I
tried both wired and wireless options and both were more than
acceptable. There is, however, a brief, but slightly annoying delay
when you first start the stream as the software races to optimize the
feed. I have found, though, that there are almost always a few minutes
of filler content (commercials, opening credits, etc.) to waste while
the software finds its groove so this too is acceptable.

Finally,
once you get over the thrill of seeing your TV from home on your
laptop, you quickly realize why people buy TVs. Even the biggest
laptops and desktop displays can't really compete with a TV screen for
viewing experience. If I was more prepared, I could have plugged the
laptop into the TV in the house so that I could view the programs on a
bigger screen... oh well, next time for sure. Still, watching my shows
at "Full Screen" mode on a 15" display is much better than the
alternative of fumbling with the foreign (and limited) video source you
often get stuck with on the road.

So, another prediction: I
predict that, like TiVo, people will soon catch on to this new TV
viewing option and will begin to wonder how they lived without it for
so long!

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