The Slingbox devices used to let you catch up with the programming on your TV when you weren’t near it, using your Internet-connected mobile device. As cable TV became less popular, their business model faded away, and in 2020, they scheduled a service shutdown for November 9th, 2022. If you own a Slingbox, it’s getting bricked tomorrow – for those reading this in EU, that’ll be today, even. Do you have a Slingbox? You might still be able to repurpose it, let’s say, for local media streaming – but only if you waste no time.
[Gerry Dubois] has been developing the “Slinger” software for the past few months, a small app you run locally that proxies commands and video for your Slingbox, thanks to reverse-engineering communications with Slingbox servers. However, it needs a “hardware password” alphanumeric string, that you need to get from the Slingbox service web interface – which is to be promptly shut down. If you think you might have a use for what’s essentially a network-connected analog/digital video capture card with decent hardware, the GitHub repo has a lively discussion tab for any questions you might have.
One one hand, Slingbox shouldn’t be bricking the devices in a way that requires you act fast – perhaps, releasing a final update that makes the device hacker-friendly, like O2 did with their Joggler appliance back in the day, publishing the hardware documentation, or at least setting up a service up that lets anyone retrieve their hardware password indefinitely. On the other hand, at least they gave us two years’ notice, something less than usual – the amount of time between bricking and an announcement can even be a negative number. For those of us stuck with no operational device, a hardware exploration might be in order – for instance, we’ve torn down the Sling Adapter and even ran simple custom code on it!
The consumer electronics space is always in a state of flux, but perhaps nowhere is this more evident than with entertainment equipment. In the span of just a few decades we went from grainy VHS tapes on 24″ CRTs to 4K Blu-rays on 70″ LED panels, only to end up spending most of our viewing time watching streaming content on our smartphones. There’s no sign of things slowing down, either. In fact they’re arguably speeding up. Sure that 4K TV you bought a couple years back might have HDR, but does it have HDMI 2.1 and Dolby Vision?
So it’s little surprise that eBay is littered with outdated A/V gadgets that can be had for a pennies on the dollar. Take for example the SB700-100 Sling Adapter we’re looking at today. This device retailed for $99 when it was released in 2010, and enabled Dish Network users to stream content saved on their DVR to a smartphone or tablet. Being able to watch full TV shows and movies on a mobile device over the Internet was a neat trick back then, before Netflix had even started rolling out their Android application. But today it’s about as useful as an HD-DVD drive, which is why you can pick one up for as little as $5.
Of course, that’s only a deal if you can actually do something with the device. Contemporary reviews seemed pretty cagey about how the thing actually worked, explaining simply that plugging it into your Dish DVR imbued the set-top box with hitherto unheard of capabilities. They assured the reader that the performance was excellent, and that it would be $99 well spent should they decide to dive headfirst into this brave new world where your favorite TV shows and movies could finally be enjoyed in the bathroom.
Now, more than a decade after its release, we’ll crack open the SB700-100 Sling Adapter and see if we can’t figure out how this unusual piece of tech actually worked. Its days of slinging the latest episode of The Office may be over, but maybe this old dog can still learn a few new tricks.
Continue reading “Teardown: Sling Adapter”
[David] took some interesting steps to put together his own Slingbox-ish setup. He used a Mac mini running Quicktime Broadcaster to capture the stream from a Firewire video camera which his cable/satellite receiver is plugged into. You’ll have to use an OS X machine, but that’s not too difficult these days. Broadcaster is about the simplest way to capture from Firewire and stream. We’re using it in our own office to multicast the signal from a Canadian satellite box.