Slingbox Pro is superb, but crippled

I got my Slingbox Pro this week, and the easiest way to summarize the experience is that it just works. It comes with all the cables you could possibly need. Plug it into the DVR, plug it into the TV, plug it into the network, install the software on my PowerBook, run the config wizard. I’m only using it on my LAN, so there was no network configuration step. I selected my DVR model and entered some passwords; that was it.

The client software for the Mac is still in beta, and it’s not perfect. Plus, my 1GHz PowerBook 17 can’t render the video at full quality, but it still looks excellent for my purposes. On my more powerful Windows laptop the video quality is stunning, even over wireless.

Bummers? Sling Media apparently is not interested in pissing off any media content companies, so there is no recording. This would suck if I really wanted to use this to watch video over the internets, which a basic selling point for most people. Also, there is only one connection allowed to the device at a time, which makes it less interesting for families perhaps wanting to broadcast living room content throughout their home.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 2007

I ran the 2007 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon last Sunday. I finished in 3:41 in relative comfort, which was my goal. It was my second marathon, and an 18-minute improvement over my previous time. As advertised, it was a very flat course, perfect for PRs, and I suspect I’ll run it again next year for this reason alone.

This was my first visit to Phoenix/Scottsdale. The area is nice in many respects, but I didn’t enjoy the character of the city itself very much. Not particularly unpleasant, but not my kind of place. Had I been able to venture out into the surrounding mountains, I may have felt differently.

Arizona Biltmore entrance

Thanks to marathon rates, I was able to bring my mom along for the trip for a stay at the Arizona Biltmore resort. While not cheap, I definitely recommend this place for the beauty of the grounds alone.

Arizona Biltmore lobby

The Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture, together with the landscaping and the mountain backdrop, makes this a very mother-friendly sort of place. Even though we had a “normal” room, we still had a 40+ inch LCD HDTV (with HD service; a little pre-marathon Firefly never hurt anybody) and free wired high-speed internets.

Arizona Biltmore fire pit

Luckily for me, the day of the marathon was Phoenix’s coldest in 17 years. My mom was a bit disappointed about the covered flowers, but coffee around the fire pits and the clear skies were enough of a distraction. Oh, and watching her marathoner kid.

PiP + ethernet = Slingbox

A consequence of using my HDTV as a monitor for my email/webgoofing computer is that while I’m on the computer I don’t have access to television. I’m not (yet) a big TV junkie, so this is usually not an issue, but occasionally it’s nice to have weekend news and interview programs going in the background while I catch up on a few hundred emails. I’m paying for the service, after all.

So use picture-in-picture, either through the TV or a computer video-in, right? My television doesn’t have built-in picture-in-picture, and it would probably get in the way as a full-time video overlay. And, thanks to digital oppression management policies, I can’t find a reasonable HD computer input.

So, I’m going to try a Slingbox Pro to stream video the three or four inch trip from my DVR to my Mac. An added benefit will be that I can do the same into my office area, all for only a little more than the price of a non-HD computer video capture device. Stay tuned for judgements on the video quality.

Mac Mini or MacBook?

Sometime early this year, I will give my mother my PowerBook 17 and replace it with either a Mac Mini or a MacBook. Either way, I plan to at least wait until this month’s product announcements. I may wait until OS X 10.5 is released.

I’m thinking Mini, since I keep the machine hooked up to my television at all times, and it’s around $500 cheaper. A MacBook would be equally (if not slightly more) powerful, and would have the benefit of being portable, and thus more desirable as an hand-me-down machine (you know, for example, if my mom discovers she absolutely *must* test Intel-compiled binaries on her laptop).

Any thoughts?