Many people are required to travel for their jobs. Many others simply enjoy travel. No matter what the case is for you, one thing about travel is missing your favorite shows. If you're in a different city you may miss out while away. Of course, your DVR is faithfully recording these shows back at home but what if you want to be able to watch your programming while you're on the road? There are methods for watching your content while out and about and depending on the system you use within your home you may want to choose one of several different options for watching your shows while you're away.
I've written about Slingbox before but it pays to mention it here as it's one of the main methods users can utilize to watch their programming while away from home. You can connect a Slingbox to your cable or satellite provided DVR, provide an internet connection and once setup, control your STB from anywhere you have an internet connection. One advantage of Slingbox is that you have full control of the DVR so you can change menu settings, schedule and delete recordings and of course, stream live and recorded TV to PCs and handheld devices as long as your internet connections on both ends can handle it.
Another advantage is that because Slingbox connect to HD-DVRs via component cables, you don't have to worry about copy protection. Even if your cable or satellite provider uses a 0x03 CCI flag, you'll still be able to push that content to your other devices, at least live. This will continue to work for the foreseeable future but you can bet that at some point the analog hole that is the component connection will be closed. Until then, you can enjoy all of your premium content while on the road.
Slingbox does have one disadvantage as well and that's the fact that if you decide to watch live TV from outside your home you will be using one of the tuners in your DVR. With most cable and satellite DVRs only providing two tuners (though this is changing) you could end up preventing a recording or stop someone in the home from watching a show. It's not a deal breaker but it is something to keep in mind.
Windows Media Player
If you're a Windows Media Center user, you can always go the Slingbox route. It'll take a bit more work as you'll need a component out on your HTPC but I have seen it done. Another method available to you though is to use the streaming options built into Windows Media Player. First you'll want to ensure that you have the latest version of WMP installed on your PC. At that point it's as simple as setting up streaming options and you'll be ready to go. Windows Media Player uses the same libraries as Media Center so as long as you've properly setup your Recorded TV library you should be all set.
Streaming from Windows Media Player isn't anywhere near the same as using a device such as a Slingbox. While Sling gives you remote control of your DVR, WMP will simply grant you access to the files in your libraries. While it does include music, videos, pictures and other media such as recorded TV, you won't have access to live TV and if your recordings are copy protected you won't be able to stream those either. It would be nice to blame Microsoft for this shortcoming but it's a part of the system in place to protect recordings. Unfortunately there's not a whole lot they can do about short of ignoring copy protection which isn't going to happen.
Any open recordings you will be able to stream however. This at least grants you access to most network programming. Not a perfect solution but one that can help get you by if you happen to desperately want to view your favorite CBS show while traveling. Also, the added advantage of being able to access your music, photos and video collection can be nice. Especially if you've ripped DVDs to a hard drive at home. No more packing movies with you for those long trips.
While Slingbox and Windows Media Player are currently your best options for streaming content outside of your home, you can bet that more options are coming. With wireless data becoming more wide spread, cable MSOs and satellite companies are looking for ways for you to take your content with you and yet protect that content from theft. It won't take long before they decide that they want to keep themselves in the loop when it comes to content and they're going to find ways to ensure that you use their service when on the move. Most companies already offer some sort of DVR management from mobile and PC devices. The next step can't be too far away.