Sunday, July 5, 2009

I Want My Mmmmm ... TV



Update, Feb. 19, 2010: I review the Slingbox iPhone 3G app on Epicenter: "Hands On With the Slingbox 3G iPhone App: Ahhhhhhhhh…"

For me Independence Day came a day late but not a day too soon: like my forefathers I have exercised my right, my duty to throw off the shackles of terrestrial television.

That is to say, I finally got my Slingbox iPhone app working. It took a long holiday weekend to get to this task, even though I was among the first to buy this shamelessly overpriced bit of software.

My love affair with the Slingbox and all that it represents began at the discount table of a Staples many years ago, where I scored what is now an ancient device which seemed to offer greater freedom than proprietary alternatives which were in great numbers then, particularly one from Sony. My model SB220-100 has served me well, as has the company (in the main); last year, when the device was well out of warranty (even if it ever was for me) they sent me a replacement power supply that went missing in a move, no questions asked.

Slingbox tells me when I fire it up on the iPhone for the first time that the device is "unsupported," but it does work, and we knew this. The company's poor handling of the rollout of the app is well documented, but in brief registered owners were told a few weeks before the app was available that they would have to upgrade their hardware to the latest and greatest they had to offer, and they offered a $50 discount. That, to put it gently, was less than truthful.

I have always been fascinated by and addicted to television, an genuinely disruptive media which continues to disrupt as what we now have to describe as live streaming video. Our first family TV occupied a full cubic yard, received seven channels (a relatively large number; we lived in New York City), took time to warm up (um, just like HD ...), was black & white only, and was actually worth repairing when a tube blew.

When I was a kid, I marveled at the Sinclair portable TV — I never got one, but you can still find them I think, and it remains an engineering marvel even in a world which is no longer impressed by the Sony Watchman (which I do have).

But what a world we live in when a single device can be the platform for what was impossible, difficult and certainly required bespoke hardware. If everything can be normalized through software and connectivity, really, what are the limits?

I'm now set up for remote viewing, and with a jailbreak app which fools the Slingbox into thinking it's in a hotspot and not just a 3G network, can watch live TV just about anywhere, with no recurring fees.

If this is not freedom worth celebrating, then what is, I ask you?

(Photo: CNN on the Slingbox iPhone App)

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