Slingbox - really cool on the road

Paying for cable access is worth it to me. I like the consistent high-speed internet access. I like the HD TV. I like the Fox Soccer Channel although I seem to have to buy 500 other digital stations just to get that one. But what irks me is that when I am on the road, I am still paying for it, even though I am not there. Wouldn't it be nice if I could access my cable box on the road? Enter the Slingbox.

Now before we start getting into legal issues, it only allows one remote connection to at a time, which makes sense because I can only be in one place at a time. I am still using my cable box for my personal use. It's just that I am not at home. I can watch all the channels on my box, including the HD TV channels. I can use my DVR remotely to view recorded programs. I can pause and rewind live TV just like at home. Except I am on the road. Very cool. What about picture quality? Surprisingly good. If you can get any internet connection around 200 Kbps, then you are in business. Obviously, the faster the connection the better the picture. I only use the Full Screen option when I can get in excess of 1Mbps. WiFi works just fine.

I was able to watch Chelsea v Manchester United live in the English Premier League on my laptop from a coffee shop. I was able to watch the Euro 2008 Final between Spain and Germany live from a campsite hotspot in the mountains of North Carolina. Sad but true! There were a couple interruptions because of a rain storm affecting the Satellite internet connection but only for few minutes. Using the DVR remotely I was able to rewind if I missed anything.

I first heard of this from my sister in England. I said: "All I want is to be able to watch the BBC from my home in the USA. No commercials, no repeats, just the real BBC pure and simple. I would happily pay for it". Even the dreaded TV License Fee. In Britain everyone who owns a TV must pay a license fee to the government. It may sound incredible to US readers who don't like taxes but this is well worth the money. The money is really used by the BBC to produce quality programming. Having no commercials and world-class quality programming is really good value at around $300 per year. So she got a SlingBox and let me have the password. She's paying for the TV License and her cable access but she is sharing it with her brother (me). I am paying for my cable access and sharing it with her so she can watch US TV. The only drawback is if she is watching a channel at home, we have to watch the same channel at the same time. So a pleading email during the day "Can I please watch Dr Who tonight?" usually does the trick. If I switch the channel without asking, she is likely to switch off the Slingbox completely! The internet doesn't override good manners...especially with your big sister...

So what has this got to do with SQL Server? Now that Slingbox Player supports Windows Mobile, I am looking forward to upgrading to a SmartPhone and watching the BBC while running SQL Server 2008 Compact Edition on my cell phone..."Your Data, Any Place, Any Time" - I guess Microsoft has it this space...




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