I’ve been salivating over the Slingbox devices for quite some time now and yesterday I took the plunge. If you aren?t familiar with Slingbox, well they are a company that makes a device that you connect to your cable or DirecTV satellite receiver and it transmits the show to any PC on the web and even to some mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPod, Android and Windows 7.
To start off with I really like the look of the actual Slingbox device. I found that it goes well with my other black devices on top of the widescreen. From the box picture I expected it to be much bigger, but in actuality it’s not any bigger than it has to be.
The first part of the installation was fairly straightforward. By “the first part” I mean the simple act of plugging it in to my Dishnetwork VIP722 DVR and the wall. Now here comes the first major hurdle you have to jump when it comes to the SlingBox. How to get it on your network. Sure if you live in an apartment then your router/wireless access point is probably close enough to run a cable to the back of the Slingbox, but if you live in a two story house then you can forget about the whole direct cable thing. I say cable because wireless isn’t built in which I think is a major oversight on the part of Slingbox. Luckily for me, I put together a wireless bridge using an old Cisco Wireless Router and some hacked code from the internet. So after plugging it into my hacked router/bridge hybrid I went upstairs to my nerddom and setup a new account on Slingbox.com. You have to do this so you can view the box from the internet from anywhere and it was fairly easy as easy goes. I did a test view and watching TV through the Slingbox web interface, which routes through Slingbox.com is ok. Not fantastic, just ok.
I then downloaded the desktop software which was supposed to hook directly to my Slingbox device using my local network. Sure it seemed to install and find it quickly enough, but honestly I didn’t see a marked improvement of quality. One note to mention at this point. If you are thinking you will be watching TV full screen on your 22″ LCD computer monitor then think again. The bigger the picture the more bandwidth you need and even though I have a monster network pipe here at the office, the picture didn’t look very good once I got past having it take up about 1/4 of the screen.
Now comes the nightmare part. This thing is out of control, literally. I have the Dishnetwork VIP722 DVR and I love it like it was my 4th child. Honestly if you don’t have a DVR to record, pause, and replay recorded shows, then you aren’t living. That having been said, the new addition to the family, the Slingbox, doesn’t like my DVR. I will go a step further, it hates my DVR! Specifically when it comes to controlling it. The Slingbox software comes with a really neat control that automatically downloaded and mimics the actual controller that I use with my DVR. The problem is that when you click on the virtual controller nothing happens and I mean NOTHING. Why? Because TV1 on the DVR is controlled by IR (infared) and TV2 is controlled by UHF (ultra high frequency) which means the little IR adapter sent with the Slingbox is completely useless. So I figured this must be some sort of mistake right, Slingbox has a fix. WRONG! Calling them was a complete waste of time and their only advise was to call DishNetwork. So I called DishNetwork and their answer was to go to RadioShack. And yes, I’m completely serious. I spent 20 minutes setting up the Slingbox and another 5 hours trying to find a solution for this nightmare. Since both Slingbox and DishNetwork proved to be equally useless, I turned to the internet and found other controllerless souls echoing my frustration. It seems DishNetwork used to make a solution and for some unknown reason quit making them. I’m speaking of the TV2 IR to UHF converter with the words “DishNetwork” stamped on it. Well I finally found a company that says they sell them still and I’m having one sent over. As a note this “solution” cost me another $48 which just added fuel to my pissed off fire. I will update this post when it arrives.
What makes matters worse is that Sling Media the makers of the Slingbox are now owned by DishNetwork. And yet they let this sort of issue go on without addressing it?