My parents, sister and her husband got me a cool gadget for my birthday – a Slingbox. The slingbox is basically a cable TV to streaming internet video converter. You hook it up to your cable TV connection and your home network. Then from any other computer in your network or even from the internet you can watch your cable TV.
When I first heard of this device, I didn’t think it was very useful. Why would I want to watch my TV on my computer? Well, I still don’t. I DO want to watch somebody’s else’s TV, namely my parents’. You see in New Hampshire, all the Red Sox games are on TV and they’re free (given you have cable). I currently pay $15/month to watch Red Sox games on MLB.TV.
So here’s the solution: a Slingbox installed at my parents’ house, connected through their DSL modem. Wherever I am, I can connect and watch the Red Sox. Awesome.
Installation was pretty simple. My Dad plugged it in and got it going. All I really had to do was remotely configure his router to allow me to connect to it from the outside.
While the video rate is about the same (~400kb/sec), the quality of the picture is not quite as good as MLB. That’s easily made up for by unobtrusive SlingPlayer screen and an end to the endlessly repetitive commercials on MLB.TV. I also get to always hear the Boston announcers, which of course of I prefer. I like the docking feature that makes the video player stick to the side of your screen and doesn’t allow other windows to end up on top of it.
The player software is pretty slick. You can do everything remotely, including upgrading the firmware. My parents don’t seem to notice any problems with their network connection either. While I don’t need it yet, I’d like to see a Mac OS X version of the Player, and perhaps even one for PalmOS. It would be cool to at least listen to the audio on my Treo.
I can’t imagine watching anything other than Red Sox games on it, though I suppose I could watch TV 3 hours ahead if I wanted to. It’s definitely a cool gift. Now it’s time to cancel my MLB.TV subscription. 😀