In describing the sweet taste of victory, Family Guy resident philosopher Cleveland Brown wistfully notes, "I bet it
tastes good like salt-water taffy. Or a Chunky." Last month, Sling Media provided a sweet-tasting update to the
software that provides the window into its flagship product — the $250 Chunky-bar-inspired Slingbox. The product was
conceived when founders Blake and Jason Krikorian became frustrated that they couldn't catch live sporting events when
they were traveling.
However, the peanut butter to this video chocolate is the DVR. If you were one of those pioneers who bought a first-generation TiVo or are stuck with a LAN-challenged cable or satellite-supplied DVR, the Slingbox is your ticket out of prerecorded prison. Not only can it stream recorded programs to Windows PCs and wireless PDAs around the house, but it can even enable you to watch TV programs from a remote location as well as schedule recordings using your DVR's native interface – all blessedly free of yet another monthly fee.
While these features are offered by Sony's pricier Location-Free TV, it's not a part of many popular DVR solutions today. Sling's latest software improves video quality and allows you to switch among two video sources, including DVDs that flummox Windows Media Center extenders.
When Sling Media chose its company name, it likely sought to evoke the excitement of media flying through a home network or the Internet as if catapulted from a sling. However, like a medical sling, the company provides great support where it is otherwise scant. This becomes evident if you want to access your Slingbox via the Internet (the hard part). If your router does not support Universal Plug 'n' Play (UPnP), you must configure port-forwarding manually. Thankfully, my Belkin router did support UPnP, which meant I got to experience the frustration of learning that UPnP doesn't always work before having to configure port-forwarding manually.