Thursday, August 24, 2006

Setting up my Slingbox

I recently moved out of the US and I needed a way to get my daily 5 hour dose of American television while abroad. I found that Sling Media's Slingbox was the best solution.

The Slingbox allows you to stream content from any video source over the internet. While away from your TV, you can view it using their media player, which is available for the PC, Mac and even Windows Mobile enabled phones.

I would wager that most people use the Slingbox to watch their own live TV remotely. On the other hand, I chose to use attach mine to my TiVo. This means that I can queue up hours worth of content and watch it at my own leisure. I couldn't bring my TiVo with me anyway, since the video format for my host country is PAL, and my TiVo is NTSC.

The Slingbox comes with an IR blaster, which allows you to control a number of devices, most importantly a TiVo DVR. The software even includes a TiVo remote control which works just like the real thing.

Here are the components that I used:
  • Broadband internet connection at the video source
  • Time Warner Cable television service with HBO
  • Slingbox with a non-wireless connection to a router (they do have wireless adapters available, but I would guess that the quality would degrade quite a bit)
  • Series 2 TiVo with lifetime subscription and expanded 456 hour capacity and wireless NIC
  • Broadband internet connection in the destination location
I found sympathetic relatives who allowed me to park my equipment in their home and leech off their broadband bandwidth. They had a cable modem and router. I just got a coax splitter and plugged one end into my TiVo and the other into their cable modem. Then I configured their router to allow entrance through a specific port so I could access the Slingbox.

The setup worked fine at their house, but I needed to test it from outside their network to be certain that it would work for me overseas. I wouldn't want to find out that it was screwed up after my 10 hour flight! I would have been up shit creek, since my relatives are not technical enough to fix the problem without me present. To test the remote viewing, I drove to the nearest WiFi enabled coffee shop and fired up the player. It worked!

I am extremely happy with the Slingbox. I would be dead without it. Sure, there is plenty of room for improvement, but I can't think of an easier way to watch my shows. Yes, I could pay $1.99 for some of them on iTunes, but that would get very expensive. I could also BitTorrent them all, but that takes lots of time and is illegal anyway. The Slingbox allows me to watch the shows that I normally watch with very little change to my daily routine.


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