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How I Defeated the Powers of Evil…

February 1, 2008 2 comments

… that rule the cable television industry.

As some background, I am a die-hard Buffalo Sabres fan.  I have calculated that I have seen over 200 NHL games in person, and all but two involved the Sabres.  I grew up rooting for the Sabres, went to 10 games a year plus the later rounds of the playoffs until I went to college.  Even in college I still made it to a few games a year when I was home at the right time.  I was there for the conference finals loss in ’98, the conference finals and Stanley Cup finals in ’99, and I was one of the first in the entire stadium to see that Brett Hull’s foot was clearly in the crease on his game-wining goal (my seat was right on the goal line).  All that goes to say that my credentials as a Sabres fan are pretty secure.  Oh, my six-month old child already owns his own Sabres jersey.

But actually getting to watch my beloved Sabres on TV has been a struggle to say the least.  I get to watch them when they play the Penguins and when they would show up on Versus.  That boiled down to about 6 games per year at most.  I had planned on purchasing NHL Center Ice so I could watch my Sabres, but my cable company has still failed to offer it and, as it turns out, all the home games would be blacked out here in Pennsylvania.  I looked around at Satellite providers that carry MSG (the home network of the Sabres)  but even the ones that did carry the MSG New York feed (which carry the Rangers/Islanders games).  Alas, I thought I was out of lucky… then I remembered: Slingbox.

I had heard about slingbox and had a friend who used it consistently.  The idea of slingbox is that you connect it to a source and it then sends that video across the internet to your computer or mobile device, allowing you to watch TV anywhere in the world where you have a broadband connection.  As desperate as I was, I went ahead and did it shipped my parents a Slingbox Pro.  The Slingbox pro has a TV tuner integrated right into it, so I could control the channel and my parent’s TV wouldn’t need to be turned on.

My dad was able to manage the set-up no sweat, connecting the coax, power, and network cables to it and connecting the network cable to their router.  The software made the rest of set-up a snap including auto-configuring my parent’s router to allow the transmission of video.  Within 20 minutes of software set-up I was watching my parent’s cable on my computer.

So now I can watch my Sabres, the regional ESPN action which will include Syracuse games I can’t normally watch, the Bills, and have Versus without paying my cable company a zillion bucks.  Beautiful plan right?  Almost…

Slingbox does work well – the problem is not actually Slingbox’s, but the nature of internet.  Most people with standard broadband connections honestly have more speed than they really need.  My downstream connection is 8 mbps.  However, my upstream (the rate at which I can send data is 512 kbps).  The problem with using slingbox across the internet is that it forces you to use your upstream connection.  My parent’s connection was topped off at 384 kbps, which provided decent looking 320*240 vide0.  That’s alright, but when that’s put on a regular TV it looks pretty rotten.  Luckily we were able to upgrade their connection to 1 mbps upstream which is capable of a sustained throughput of around 900k per second, which allows for 640*480 video which looks just slightly worse than your regular analog cable.

All in all, the Slingbox side of things can’t be beat.  I can only imagine that within the same network the quality is outstanding.  However, if you’re going to be using slingbox over the internet I suggest that you upgrade your internet connection to the fastest possible upstream connection.

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Categories: Buffalo Sabres, Slingbox