As a Boston Red Sox fan, I'm obsessed with seeing every inning of every game. So last year, I subscribed to a new service offered by Major League Baseball that let me watch live baseball games on my computer. For about $100, I could watch almost every Sox game. When I was on the road, I'd just sit back, flip open my computer, go to the mlb.com website, and select the game I wanted to watch.
By and large, I enjoyed the service. At home, if my kids were watching a movie on TV, I would set up my computer in another room (thank you, wireless!) and watch the game there. I also discovered that the reduced screen size on my Windows Media Player wasn't a hindrance to my enjoyment of the game.
But I'm not renewing my Major League Baseball subscription. I didn't like their policy of not showing games on mlb.com that were being aired by a national broadcaster. It seemed to me that Major League Baseball hadn't made the logic leap that the Internet can be viewed from anywhere, not just from a particular physical location.
Last fall, for instance, while visiting Los Angeles, I could not get the Red Sox game on TV, as a different nationally broadcast game was airing on the West Coast that Saturday. But I couldn't watch it on the Internet, either, because of the MLB deal with the national broadcaster. This scenario played out too many times for me.
That's why I'm interested in a new piece of technology called the Slingbox. You've heard of time-shifting? (TiVo fans know that one - watch your favorite shows whenever you like.) Slingbox basically enables you to "place shift."
In other words, I can be in L.A. and still watch the Red Sox.
Called one of the best inventions of 2005 by Time magazine, and given similar awards by Fortune and Business Week, the Slingbox (which costs about $250), is a piece of hardware that allows you to watch your home TV channels from anywhere in the world.
At first glance, it looks more like a brick - the kind you use for your backyard patio. Or, as some other reviewers have noted, like a piece of a big chocolate bar. But looks are deceiving.
You just hook it up to an Internet- connected computer and your TV and download some special software onto your laptop. Slingbox then encodes the TV signal into Windows Media video and shoots it over the Internet to wherever you're located.
The special software allows you to receive the signal on your laptop. And voilà, you can watch the Red Sox ... er, I mean. all your local channels. There are no subscription fees, and the software allows you to change the channel and even use TiVo if you wish.
Just one word of warning: Hook the Slingbox up to a set other than the family TV. People at home might get confused if all of a sudden the show they are watching changes because you are channel-surfing in China or some other faraway place.
• You can read an in-depth review of Slingbox at the CNet technology site at: http://reviews.cnet.com/Sling_Media_ Slingbox/4505-6739_7-31423815-2.html?tag=nav