Sling Media is scrambling to address service issues that have left many of the company's users unable to access their Slingbox video streamers during the past several days.
For the uninitiated, Slingbox is a "placeshifting device." Connect it to a video source (cable or satellite box, DVR, TV antenna, and so forth), and the Slingbox digitizes the video output for access on a wide variety of PCs and smartphones--essentially allowing access to your home TV anywhere you can access the Internet. At least, that's the case when Sling's service is working properly.
When asked to address the cause of the outage earlier this weekend, here's what a Sling spokesperson said:
"It is the result of a data migration process that, while carefully planned for a long time, still had a number of unexpected problems. Things have gotten better for some users over the last 24 hours, but they aren't nearly good enough for everyone yet. We are working hard to get things back up to our normal levels service."
Sling's support forum indicates that the company "made some changes [...] that seem to have addressed many of the problems" (as of Saturday night), but subsequent user messages indicate that many customers are still encountering difficulties and delays in logging in, while others are blocked from accessing their Slingbox streams altogether.
Indeed, I've had mixed results trying to access my Slingbox on Sunday. Using the Web-based slingbox.com browser plug-in, I was sometimes able to access my video stream after several minutes (when working correctly, the process usually takes about 10 seconds or less). I've had better luck with the dedicated SlingPlayer for Windows software, which allows a direct connection to the box (within a home network, at least), without the need to use the online Slingbox Directory.
Ironically, it's that online account system that may well be the root of the problem. That system that has made it easier for users to access the Slingbox remotely, using just a Web browser plug-in and a password-based account. But even if you're 10 feet away from your Slingbox, you may be unable to access it now because the Internet-based directory system can't match your account to that particular piece of hardware. (It's similar to occasions when Internet DNS foul-ups prevent your browser from being unable to match a text-based URL to a numeric IP address.) It's another reminder that cloud-based systems offer incredible convenience--but only so long as the remote servers are working properly.
If you're a Slingbox owner, share your experiences--good or bad--in the comments below.