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Thinking…Sling November 7, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Technology.
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I’ve been itching to get my hands on a new gadget for some time now, and what’s been on my radar lately is a Slingbox.

The contraption, a product of San Francisco-based Sling Media, is a piece of place-shifting technology that allows people to stream their home cable television over the internet and watch it remotely. On one level, it does sound like a couch potato’s dream come true, but for the constant traveler or the otherwise displaced (such as myself), it’s a very practical way to keep tabs with can’t-miss programming not to be had while away from home.

Like I said: a boob-tube junkie’s dream come true.

The present generation Slingboxes come in three kinds: a plain vanilla model (Slingbox Tuner) for the basic cable connection, a slightly more advanced model (Slingbox Pro) designed for set-top digital cable boxes, and the mother of all models (Slingbox AV) that can connect to a DVR and allows remote control of other A/V devices such as a DVD player as well. Additionally, the company also manufactures networking solutions that make connecting each Slingbox to a home router easier; after all, not every room has an internet connection right next to the television outlet.

For what it promises to do, it is a relatively affordable piece of technology: the models range from about $180 to $250 (retail). That said, however, there are two reasons why I’ve been hesitant to take the plunge and order one. First, while the Slingbox is compatible with most desktop and laptop PCs (as well as mobile devices such as Pocket PCs and Windows Smartphones), it was only recently that Mac compatibility of their proprietary software has become available via public beta. Since I’ve thrown my lot in with Apple and have been getting the family to do the same, I suppose it would be prudent to see how this works out before making any major decisions.

Second, the Slingbox obviously requires a high-speed internet connection at home base. This could be a problem, given the history of undependable internet service from my family’s provider in Manila. In fact, I hear that our internet connection back home is on the fritz again (I wasn’t able to video chat with the folks this weekend), which doesn’t bode well for the prospect of using the gizmo at all.

Of course, there is that one additional problem: when was the last time there was anything really worth watching on Philippine television? I will admit that when I first heard of the Slingbox what immediately came to mind was the ability to watch (Philippine) local news from anywhere – something I’m sure my parents would appreciate whenever they go overseas on an extended basis. But I’ll be damned if the only other thing it’s good for is to get one’s weekly fix of Wow-wow-wee or Pinoy Big Brother. That’s one step forward and three steps back I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Then again, I am willing to try anything once for the sake of a nifty gadget.

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