I purchase a lot of new technology. I always explain the expenditure to Drue my wife as "research". While this is "mostly" a joke, in some ways it does help keep me familiar with general technology trends. In any case, in November of last year I purchased a SlingMedia device, called a SlingBox. It's an interesting device that "slings" your TV set to any PC with SlingMedia installed and with a broadband connection. The Slingbox is a set-top box that connects to both your TV signal source (Cable box, DirecTV box, or as I have - a TiVo - TiVo link provided for those living in a cave this last 3 years) and to your broadband connection (via either ethernet cable, wireless game adaptor, or as I have - a powerline ethernet bridge). After this relatively simple hardware setup, and a moderately simple software install - you're ready to view your TV on your laptop.
On my initial setup I had the wireless game adaptor connecting the Slingbox to my wireless router. I found this to be too slow and resulted in occasionally jittery video - especially when the phone rang (How can standards bodies allow 900Mhz cordless phones interfere with wireless B networks? But that's another topic.) After changing over to the powerline ethernet bridge the connection was much more stable and consistent - so for those with only wireless networks I'd go this way.
A small nit with the Slingbox that I received. The one I got at the local CompUSA had defective IR cables. These little cables allow your Slingbox to control your TV signal source. After a very attentive support center rep walked me through it, it became clear that my IR transmitter cables were defective. While the Slingmedia rep immediately shipped me a free replacement, I was headed out of town the next day so it was annoying to have to wait.
In any case, I was headed out of town for Thanksgiving week and wanted to watch the Dallas Cowboy game on the Sunday before Thanksgiving at my in-laws house in Philly. I made sure my TiVo was set to record the game so that I would not need to change the channels via the Slingbox (no IR cables, no channel changing with the Slingbox) and off we went. Sunday came and I watched the entire game while my in-laws watched the Philly Eagles lose. Sweet - and by the way the Cowboys won.
So here's my wishlist for my SlingBox.
Better Picture Quality
Everyone will always want a better picture than you can really expect on today's broadband connections. Seems like there's not that much SlingMedia can do about this except buffer more of the video stream. Although I'm not an expert on CODECS, I suspect that perhaps there's more potential for better algorithims there that could improve picture quality - we'll see what SlingMedia does on this front. So picture quality is still an issue - but it's not that bad if you consider the bandwidth problem which is not SlingMedia's fault. An interesting note on the SlingMedia help pages regarding increasing your upstream bandwidth. If you're really intent on getting a great picture out of your Slingbox, you could pay for extra upstream bandwidth. Watching SlingMedia's CEO Blake Kirkorian using his Slingbox on a train (eXtreme Sling), his picture quality is a lot better than mine - so this probably is a good idea if you "Sling" alot.
Windows Mobile version of SlingPlayer
I would LOVE to see SlingMedia create a Windows Mobile version of the software so that I could launch the SlingPlayer on my new Treo 700W and watch my TiVo over my EVDO-enabled mobile smartphone - now that's an interesting place to Sling my TiVo. I know I can get decent picture quality on my Treo 700W, since I do it with SmartVideo. Now if TiVo would just start selling downloadable seasons of shows I could get all of last year's Fox hit 24 (which I missed) onto my TiVo and catch up - this season's 4 hour premiere of 24 totally rocked! (Thanks to Brad Feld for pointing that cool show out on his blog.)