I bought another gadget last week. I'm selling a few bits and bobs on Ebay as part of the process of gadget turnover and so I reckoned I could afford a different toy. This one is called a Slingbox. These things are all the rage in the 'states at the moment and were launched recently in the UK.
The name is a kind of clue to what it does. It takes your TV and slings the picture round the world And it is a box. A rather ugly (to my eyes), silver box with writing on the top. However, how it looks is not a problem, since you never need to see it. I've got mine hidden underneath the TV at home.
When you buy a Slingbox you get quite a few wires as well. There is one to link your Skybox to your TV aerial (it has a Freeview Digital TV tuner inside so it can receive terrestrial TV), another to link to your Satellite or cable box (I've got mine plugged into my Sky+ box), a third wire to some remote control emitters so the Slingbox can control the Sky+ box, a power lead and finally a cable to go into your home network.
What the Slingbox does is take your home video and make it visible on a network. You run the Slingplayer program in a PC and if it can connect to the Slingbox it can view a video signal that the box sends. So you can take your notebook PC into the garden and watch the Paul O'Grady Show via WIFI.
Things get even more interesting if you have a broadband connection. By careful tweaking of the settings in your network router you can make your Slingbox visible on the internet (the instructions tell you how to do this and there is also an automatic method which might work for you). Then you can watch your telly from anywhere in the world with a network connection. Including (possibly) at work. Lots of people have bought Slingboxes with a view to doing this. Be warned though, that it doesn't always work. If your employer has any kind of firewall in place then you might find that packets don't make it from your front room to your cubicle. There are some sneaky configuration options that you can try which might allow the data to tunnel in to the corporate network, but this is a bit of a grey area. As is watching the telly in company time I suppose.
I really got the box so that I can watch stuff anywhere in the house, and also when I go away (public networks and hotel networks should not be restricted in this way). I also discovered that they will be releasing a player for mobile phones and pocket PCs which would be sooo cool that I just can't resist it. Being able to watch TV on my Imate Jasjar sounds like a lot of fun.
For what it does, I reckon the Slingbox is good value. There are other ways that you can get a similar effect, but these involve much a larger investment in computers, TV tuner cards and the like. I don't think that my Slingbox will be apearing on Ebay any time soon...