by Lih-Tah Wong
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Tech Gear - Remote view and control of your TV

Since the late 1990s I have been trying to solve the problem of getting TV that can be viewed on a PC in rooms with a PC network access but no cable TV outlets.  Then at CES in January, 2004 Sony released a product that used a 7-inch tablet device wirelessly connected to the Internet to view TV material from home.  They called it LocationFree TV and it was very expensive; just the tablet itself sold for over $1000 and you still needed the base station at home.

Conceptually what this Sony product does is allow you to "place shift" to watch your home TV in a different location, just like a video recorder lets you "time shift" to watch at a different time than the original program.  So instead of being in front of your TV you can be anywhere in the world that has an Internet connection and you can see all the source material from your home TV or other sources streamed onto your PC screen.

Fast-forward to late 2005 when Time magazine had an issue listing the most innovative products of the year.  Among them was an inexpensive (less than $300) device that performed the same function called the Slingbox from Sling Media.  Essentially it was the same idea as the Sony product, and allowed you to view your TV material on any PC that was networked.  Well, guess what my brothers got for Christmas presents?  :-)

On the PC you load the Sling Media application (there is even a version for a PDA!).  This app lets you change channels or even devices (TV, VHS recorder, digital personal video recorder, cable TV converter, etc.) by controlling the Slingbox.  Attached to the Slingbox at home are two infrared emitters that send commands to your two devices just like your remote controller.

Suffice it to say that this is really a neat device and it works very well right out of the box!



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