Three reasons why staying connected is more important than ever
As early as the mid 90s, people in the know were saying that a computer not connected to the internet is just a dumb box. I found that a bit harsh since I was one of those people who didn’t get a permanent internet connection until much later. I still think it is a bit harsh. But now, more than ever, it is oh, so true. Allow me to offer three reasons why you want to take another look at your connectivity:
1. Work from anywhere. Technology did not cut our work hours in half. But it did afford us the opportunity to put in less time in front of a desk. I used to use an application called Logmein to remote into my main computer from any other computer in the world. I had two offices: one in an iron plant and one in the lab. Plus I worked from home sometimes. I needed access to all of the data on all of those computers all the time.
A lot of people depended on their free service. When they stopped offering it, those users went looking for alternatives in droves. Simple Help is one of those services that stepped up to offer a premium service that charges a one-time payment for unlimited use. The freedom to access your main computer from a laptop or secondary computer can make the difference between getting the job done, and making another excuse. Having a source of perpetual connectivity allows you to take advantage of these types of options.
2. Take your home entertainment on the road. There is nothing wrong with watching a little television, or even a lot if that’s what floats your boat. After all, why else did you buy that 65″ TV? Of course you want to watch it. But you can’t always be there when the big game is on. Tablets such as the iPad make excellent portable entertainment systems if you have the right gear and connectivity. I’m a DISH subscriber. But most companies offer some type of online connection to programing. If not, you can always get something like a Slingbox for your mobile television hookup.
You can have access to all your recorded programing as well as live offerings. Anything that would play on your TV at home can play on your mobile device of choice whenever you have the time, wherever you happen to be. The only catch is that you have to have the right connectivity. You can spend your lunch break struggling to stay awake, or laughing at your favorite sitcom. It’s up to you.
3. You’re already paying for it. The key is to stop focusing on minutes, and start focusing on data. These days, the major carriers throw in the minutes for free. What they want to sell you is data. Let them. You will find that for that same $200, and often less, you and your mate can enjoy more data and bandwidth than you can use in a month, with the added value of unlimited text and calling. You do not need unlimited data. You will burn through much less than you think. But you will have constant connectivity for more of the work and play you already pay for.
Product Review: Slingbox PRO-HD
I’ve been interested in picking up a Slingbox ever since the streaming device debuted back in 2005, so imagine my disappointment when I finally got my hands on the new Slingbox PRO-HD for review, only to discover that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Though there are some obvious benefits that come with owning a device that streams video content to your PC, smartphone or tablet anywhere with a halfway decent Internet connection (especially in the we-want-it-now era), the negatives outweigh the positives.
This is one area where Slingbox has continued to evolve and improve over the years. A far cry from the blockier early-gen models, the PRO-HD has a sleeker look that blends in well with most home entertainment and/or office setups. The device is still pretty large compared to how much smaller everything else in the electronics industry is getting nowadays, but the number of A/V options on the back of the unit pretty much dictates its size. If there’s anything to hate about the Slingbox from a design standpoint, it’s that there are far too many cords for a device that you’ll primarily access wirelessly.
On paper, the Slingbox PRO-HD sounds every bit as awesome as I’d hoped it would be. Not only does it let you access three different A/V sources (for instance: your cable TV, DVR and DVD player), but you can also tune in to 1080i HD programming when available. Some people have complained that this ties up your devices at home as a result, but the biggest issue is that the image quality is far from perfect. I tried hooking up the box to my Series 2 TiVo, and even while connected to a better than average Internet connection in the same room, the picture looked muted and pixilated. (I’d hate to think how it would look using shared bandwidth from a Wi-Fi hotspot.) Additionally, while the onscreen remote control works as expected, there’s some slight lag to its response, and every time you open or close the widget, there’s a hiccup in the stream.
Sling Media hasn’t done itself any favors on the mobile side of things, either. Despite offering users the ability to access their Slingbox on a variety of platforms (including the iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire and Android devices), the company charges $29.99 for the software… for each device. That means that if you want to download the app for your iPad and iPhone, you have to pay an additional $60 on top of the already exorbitant $299.99 price tag for the Slingbox PRO-HD. That’s a pretty hefty charge for a service that should be free, and considering how much the box itself costs, it’s a massive turnoff.
Though consumers who travel a lot for business will be more forgiving of some of the Slingbox’s flaws, it’s hard to believe that there still isn’t a better option in this day and age. Anything that costs as much as the Slingbox PRO-HD shouldn’t be riddled with this much mediocrity, because while the device certainly has the potential to be a game changer in streaming video content, it has quite a bit of work to do before that happens.