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Summary:

Last October, I wrote about an emerging trend – place shifting – in Business 2.0. The concept of watching your television, anywhere, anytime is the next and the most obvious evolution of the time shifting technology popularized (if not completely monetized) by TiVo. Most of the […]

Last October, I wrote about an emerging trend – place shifting – in Business 2.0. The concept of watching your television, anywhere, anytime is the next and the most obvious evolution of the time shifting technology popularized (if not completely monetized) by TiVo. Most of the companies included in that article, such as Orb Networks and Avvenu, have come out with their offerings, impressing most and garnering a lot of positive press. Except one company – Sling Media. They have talked about their product and their concepts for so long, that it is hard not to go for a snooze.

So this past week Slingers decided to stop by, have a few cups of coffee and oh drop off a SlingBox for me. They profusely apologized that I had to use a Windows XP machine to really enjoy their device, given I wear my affection for Mac on my backpack. (Mac support is coming, but if I was you, I would not count on it before the holiday season!) So I have some impressions – not a review – just impressions of their device, which is like a super-bar of Toblerone chocolate only Shaq can enjoy. About a foot long, and four inch wide, the silver-red Sling Personal Broadcaster doesn’t look much, and feels as if its been on Atkins for a few months. It is one of the first few devices that truly and absolutely leverages the broadband.

slingbox1The device has all the requisite connection ports – Ethernet, S-Video, RCA-jacks and so on. I unpacked the box, and connected the device to my Apple Extreme router, with an enclosed ethernet cable. I connected the Comcast digital set-top box to SlingBox using the S-Video connector and hooked up the IR-blaster from SlingBox to the set-top box. After futzing around with the IR-blaster for about 10 minutes, I finally got it working. I connected the Syntax LT32HVM LCD television using the regular coax, which well is the only change I had to make my A/V set-up.

I installed the software accompanying the box, on an Acer Ferrari Laptop running AMD64 and WindowsXP (shudder… but it does power up with a real Ferrari scream!) The installation was simple and went without a hitch. The software guided me through a set-up screen and looked for the SlingBox on my network. After some false starts, the video showed up. It was a hallelujah moment, except a few minutes later, I hit the first snag – channel switching. I could see ESPN without a problem, since I had left the set-top box on Channel 38. (I had planned to see the Yankees-v-Orioles game in bed, since it was likely to be broadcast on ESPN. Well, it rained on my parade. And instead I ended up watch a really long Braves-v-Marlins. The good thing, I got bored enough to switch between different channels.) I had to reset the IR blaster, move it around before things got working. Total set-up time about 35 minutes or so.

slingbox2Having used the product for about three hours, I am fairly impressed. Few things which did not go according to plan – the channel switching causes a little jitter in the video and the quality drops for a few seconds before we see the image become a little steady stream. Using the Windows Media Player, I went into the full screen mode, and well the image quality was sub-optimal. Mind you it is still far superior video compared to the MLB.TV streams I subscribe to. I don’t have a DVR at home for now, so I cannot speak how those devices will work, but from my perspective, I think this one gets a solid 8 out of ten ranking from me. I will update the review in a few weeks after I have had a chance to muck around with it in different location while on the road. It is available at CompUSA and also at Best Buy stores nationwide for $249. There are no service fees and for once I have no problems recommending a product. You will be pleasantly surprised!

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  1. Om,

    Do you know if it is possible to let other people view your SlingBox feed? Or if more than one user can log in (both husband and wife are away on business — both interested in watching different shows)?

    If, in fact, multiple users can have access to your SlingBox feed, it could have even bigger effects on the market.

    Thanks.

    1. como faço para liberar multi-usuários no meu slingbox.
      por favor me ajudem. Obrigado…

  2. no only one user at a time. there is no way you can share this feed. that my friends would run slingbox into a lot of legal trouble. I think they can let maybe a couple of people log in but the thing is you can control live tv one person at a time. so no two people can be watching different channels at the same time

  3. Of my 12 Tivos (9 SD and 3HD) I can certainly find one of the SD ones to hook this into. My frustration is that they’ve ‘released’ this thing but it’s nowhere to be found…c’mon I want my Sling TV ;) This is definitely my next toy purchase if I can find one, I’m already getting bored with the PSP.

  4. Damn, forget to ask a quick question….will the thing support all 10 of the Tivo remote code sets? Having multiple Tivos, I’ve had to set each one to a different set of IR codes.

  5. what router did you use, because i just got mine and i cant set up remote viewing keeps giving me an error. i have a netgear router and every thing is there, the setup just wont work

  6. mike since i don’t have a tivo i am sorry i cannot answer the question. apologies for that.

  7. Sy

    i am using an Airport Extreme for this – I cannot trust other products given the all apple environment i live in. i am not sure what your specific issue is but post it here, and i will try and help out.

  8. Well, in attempting to set up my sling box this evening, it appears as though the IR code set they’re using for ‘Other’ DirecTV with Tivo units (other than Hughes that is, such as Philips, Sony, etc.) is the default code set, which is 0 to those of you who know what I’m talking about. This concerns me as Tivo remotes can support up to nine additional IR code sets (to prevent multiple Tivos from responding to commands meant for one Tivo). This means that I won’t be able to use my main ‘hacked with 225 hours of recording time’ DirecTV with Tivo box with the Sling Box as all three Tivos will be confused by the 0 default IR code set. Sorry for going on about this, there’s probably only about 200 other guys in the country that care about this feature and if you count those that just bought sling boxes, probably only about 5 of us.

    To add insult to injury, my ISP just went down so now I can’t use SlingFinder to set up my remote access (not that it would’ve worked anyway since slingmedia.com is getting hit by a lot of requests from people who bought units today. They even have a message up saying they’re trying to increase the ‘capacity of the Sling Finder service’. Oh well, I’ll try again tomorrow. Live to fight another day.

    I want my Sling TV! ;)

  9. let me know if you figure out the ir code deal. I have 3 tivo’s w/ different ir codes and just picked up a slingbox at compusa today

  10. Victor Blake Friday, July 1, 2005

    Set it up last night. Available through CompUSA in stores. Works pretty good in home network over a wireless bridge (802.11b). Same for upstream through cable and to work.

    Requires both a password and a pretty long (dozens of bytes) authentication key for security — but in reality to prevent more than the owner from using it.

    In home it can eat up about 500kbps max and decent quality at 1:1 — but perceptually lower if you zoom in to 3:1 or 4:1 or so (full screen at 1000 lines). It’s clearly limited by the upstream in cable to 358kbps where I think my upstream is actually at 384kbps. So it begs for upgrading the home cable internet access.

    Buffering is clearly not as good as Real player. Controls are reasonable for direct channel change — but a bit slow to use a cable guide. There is a “Control” mode that ostensibly makes this faster — but I didn’t observe a difference.

    I’d claim one bug/goofy setup problem with the box. That is that if you setup a reserved address for it (or allow it to DHCP) you go through the setup fine and everything works — but then when you go to configure it for off network (Internet access to the device) it asks for its own IP address (which is goofy because it already knows it) and it won’t let you enter the address it is already set to. If you click next it will not accept it. However, I canceled the “Wizard” and it just worked anyhow …

    I might try that soon and see how it goes.

    One great app — if my wife/kids put it on at home (and they are just little ones right now — but certainly a great app when then get older) I can see/monitor what they are watching and control the box …

    -Victor

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