Tuesday, June 12, 2012

viewing your cable dvr on a second tv (part 1)

PART 1: The following series of two posts are a public service announcement.

A secret benefit to the remodel was we were going to install a big, beautiful flat-screen TV smack dab in the middle of the master bedroom wall. I have never had a TV in the bedroom and never really wanted a second TV. But, having an older son, who stays up later, was cutting into my available "True Blood" viewing time. So, since we would have all the walls in the master bedroom open and chopped up for the new bathroom, we decided it would be super easy to install cable TV in the back of the house.

Albert researched a bit, and decided that, no, we didn't need another cable and DVR in the back of the house, with the new Smart TVs we could view the cable TV from the front of the house TIVO on the TV in the back of the house. Did that make sense? That was the bottom line goal, watch TV in the bedroom using the TIVO box in the living room.


Sidebar: we have had TIVO ever since the dawn of Survivor. I was out of town on a business trip about nine years ago and worried to a colleague that my husband might not record Survivor. The colleague, a hardware systems engineer and HUGE Survivor fan advised, "Why don't you just get TIVO?" And we got one that Christmas. Later, when cable came out with their DVR boxes we tried it, but it just didn't match TIVO's smoothness and efficiency. So we have stuck with TIVO.

And, I'm back. The plans called for the cable to be dropped in the wall. When it was time, I double checked with Albert who assured me that viewing cable DVR on a second TV via the network was NO PROBLEM. So I told the contractor to skip the cable. He said, "OK." No comments, no questions.

The Saturday after construction ended, it was TV purchasing day. Yay! Albert already knew what he wanted. The Samsung 55" LED Smart HDTV. We drove joyfully out to Costco. We debated the size for five or ten minutes, but in the end we got the biggest one and walked triumphantly to the cash register line with our purchase on one of those flatbed orange dollies. Any man we passed, looked enviously at our purchase, wishing that he had an awesome wife who would let him buy a 55 inch TV for THE BEDROOM. The heavens opened and the angels sang.

Samsung Smart TV
Samsung Smart TV

Albert spent about a day wrangling the TV into place. Long story, but suffice it to say, I am still somewhat of a believer in paying a specialist for certain tasks. Flat screen TV installing is not for the feint of heart. I was mostly supportive and just stayed clear of the whole situation. Alex was not so lucky as he was needed from time to time to lift and hold.

I will preface the rest of this post with this fact: Albert is a Network & Telecomm Manager for a major hospital in Orange County. If the next bits seem difficult, frankly, they were. I don't think Paul's TV could have pulled it off.

Next step was Albert upgraded our network. He was concerned about viewing streaming video over a wireless network. So he installed wired ethernet connectors using ethernet copper. The ethernet connectors are wall outlet devices which create a wired network for the TV (he used Netgear Powerline AV 500) which he picked up at Fryes. He also got a new router at Fryes as well, a NETGEAR WNDR3700 N600 Wireless Dual-Band Gigabit Router.

Netgear Powerline AV 500
Netgear Powerline AV 500 
Finally, Albert installed a Slingbox Pro-HD (purchased at Amazon) attached it somehow (hey don't ask me) to the TIVO. Slingbox is really the magic. This is the thing that allows you to watch TV anywhere. Let me quote from the Slingbox site, "Don't miss your favorite TV shows and events when you're away from home. On the road, at work, or on vacation, a Slingbox makes it easy to watch and control your home TV from virtually anywhere, anytime on your laptop, tablet, smartphone or connected device." Sounds promising.

Slingbox Pro-HD
Slingbox Pro-HD
So, I have to give this one to Albert. We had bought a "Samsung Smart TV" which has a built in wireless network and an Android operating system, so naturally one would think that this TV could easily integrate with a Slingbox. Here were the issues:
  1. The Samsung TV has a horrible interface. Using the browser is super painful with a TV remote. And, there is no really good way to hook a keyboard up or even buy one. Although, points to Albert, he got a wireless keyboard working ...o....k....
  2. There is a big catch to Slingbox. You need the "Slingplayer" to use the SlingBox. There are two types of Slingplayers. One is downloadable. For a price. The other is a device, that you attach to the receiving TV (and that will cost you too).
The goal, for Albert was to NOT have any boxes attached to the new TV, so he went the Slingplayer route. The immediate next challenge was there ARE NO Slingplayers for Samsung Smart TVs. Turns out, people CRY in the internet forums to Samsung and Slingbox, "Please, please give us a Slingplayer for our Samsung Smart TV," but nobody, apparently, is listening (either the two companies hate each other or they can't figure out a way to monetize or Slingbox has some dumb deal with the player device manufacturers). Either way, boo. But there are Slingplayers for iPads. We each quickly downloaded the $29.99 Slingplayer app to each of our iPads. And sure enough we could independently watch TIVO and easily control the TIVO box on our iPads. HOWEVER, there now appeared to be no use for the Samsung Smart TV.

I suggested we return it.

End of Part 1. Part 2 continues tomorrow (actually it continued for about three weeks but who's counting?). Update: Jump straight to Part 2 here!

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