Poor Slingbox experience

I’ve had a Slingbox Classic in the closet for a long time. I finally decided to pull it out recently and play with it. My first problem was a practical one, and not really the fault of Slingbox. I had no available TV video source near an available wired network connection and vice versa.

Having resolved that (sort of), I went about installing the Mac OS X Slingplayer software to setup the Slingbox. Despite lots of fiddling I couldn’t get it to work. The software shows the TV picture in the preview window, but it was never able to complete the setup of the box.

So I borrowed a Windows XP PC and, surprise surprise, that worked. It set up the box and both remote and local LAN viewing work – as long as you use the PC version of the Slingplayer software. Still no such luck with the Mac version.

The little status line on the player says (very briefly) “Connected” and then immediately says “Not Connected” as above. What’s worse is there is no other other error or diagnostic messages.

I spent about two hours on the phone with Slingbox tech support and all they really did was all the things I had already done. They did talk about a firmware upgrade to the (now kind of old) Classic Slingbox I have, but even the tech. support “advanced” rep couldn’t tell me what firmware version to install, where to download it, or how to install it. The tech. rep actually had me randomly try .BIN images and when I would tell him the software says that image isn’t compatible with my Slingbox, he’d put me on hold for a while and come back and have me try another .BIN file, almost at random. I could figure out much of this myself scrounging around the net, but it’s kind of amazing that Slingbox’s own tech. support staff don’t even know what firmware image to put on their own box or how to do it.

Unfortunately, the fact that it works on a PC doesn’t help me. The box is no less useless.

I like the Slingbox concept, for many of the same reasons I like PhoneGnome: It’s small, low power, low heat, simple, dedicated, always on, unobtrusive – overall a much better approach than leaving a whole PC plugged in somewhere to do this. The main thing I don’t like is that it is closed protocol, requiring their player – but I could live with that, if it worked (and I understand why they do that, given the state of video over IP standards)

It’s too bad it doesn’t actually work with a Mac. Obviously the business model isn’t going to work either, if customers cost this much to get up and running (I’m still not up and running and they keep wanting to close the ticket!).