Slingbox Lets You Take Your TV on the Road
By Jim Bray
I don't know about you, but I hate hotel televisions. Well, I mean I hate the type of TV and service you get in the class of hotel I can usually afford to stay at, the generic chains that cater to travelers who don't arrive in Ferraris.
For example, I stayed overnight in Backwater, British Columbia last month, on my way home from a week testing a high end SUV. The room was fine, if generic, but the signal that oozed from the room's TV had more noise than, well, my radio commentaries; the snow was so bad I thought I'd been caught in an early Rocky Mountain avalanche.
Fortunately, my son had turned me onto the Slingbox, which just may be one of the niftiest gadgets I've seen for the traveler in danger of going through favorite TV channel withdrawal. With the Slingbox, you can ignore that aging hunk of plastic and glass in the hotel room's credenza and not have to search through the drawers and documentation for a channel list that, if your luck is like mine, isn’t there anyway.
Or you could just go out to a show, or a pub, or sightsee.
But even if you do partake of the local fleshpots, you'll find yourself eventually back in your room and if you have youngsters, they'll probably head for the TV before you have the lights turned on.
Hence the Slingbox, a hardware and software solution that lets you take your home (or office) television service with you, wherever you are on the face of the earth (or, eventually, off earth). All you need is your notebook computer (which you'll have with you anyway, undoubtedly), and the high speed Internet connection every hotel worth its salt offers these days.
We hooked my son's Slingbox into my satellite receiver before we left home, taping its infrared sender in front of the satellite box so it could receive my remote signals for changing channels, etc. Then we plugged it into our cable modem, installed the software onto our PC's, fired up the slingbox, and headed for the coast.
Once in the hotel, I perched my PC where I could see it from the bed and loaded the software. On my computer screen appeared a video window that I could expand to its full screen, wide screen glory (our Slingbox wasn't HD, but you can get HD capability), with a virtual remote control on screen that let me change channels just like I would at home. It was remarkable.
So instead of having to veg out in front of a crummy old TV after a hard day of travel, I could watch all of the right wing subversion I wanted, streaming right from my home. It was great! And because your location is irrelevant to the Internet, the Slingbox will send TV to wherever you are, including to your mobile phone, though I can't imagine watching the Super Bowl on a three inch screen.
You can install SlingPlayer software on any number of computing devices, though only one of you will be able to use it at a time.
We had to string a long stretch of cable from our satellite receiver to our router/modem, which wasn't very hard since it was in the basement and we could run it above the drop ceiling. But the Sling folk also sell the SlingLink, which turns electrical outlets into Ethernet jacks; you can also use a wireless gaming adapter.
If your business takes you to foreign countries a lot, where the local TV is either not in English or doesn't let you find out what's happening back home, the Slingbox could be the greatest thing since cellular telephones. You might find time zone differences confusing, but you can use the Slingbox with your PVR (assuming you have one) and time shift to your heart's content.
I can also see the Slingbox being a Godsend to the office-bound executive who can't make it home in time for the big game – or that important news conference.
The Slingbox works in either PC or Mac environments.
Now all we need is something worth watching other than Seinfeld and Simpsons reruns!
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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