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Slingbox Discontinued Announcement and FAQ (slingbox.com)
93 points by compsciphd 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 89 comments

Q: Why is Slingbox being discontinued? A: We’ve had to make room for new innovative products so that we can continue to serve our customers in the best way possible.

Q: Will Slingbox be releasing any new products? A: No.

Slingbox is owned by Dish Networks. So I assume they're just discontinuing the Slingbox brand and those "new innovative products" will be released by Dish.

Check out what happened to replaytv (bought by directv) and sagetv (bought by google) if you want to be disheartened.

Although at least sagetv was eventually open-sourced.

Even Microsoft bowed out by discontinuing what was arguably then the best product in that segment: Windows Media Center Edition.

That got me too. Apparently their innovative new products are the most affordable, space saving products ever!

They didn't say whose new products they were making room for. Maybe the best way to serve their customers is to have them buy from a more innovative competitor. :-)

Hardware products available at retailers? No.

Data products available to all and sundry? Step right this way.

Almost beyond parody at this point.

> Q: What will happen to my data?

> A: Customer data will be handled in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.

So, in other words, sold to the highest bidder in every jurisdiction where possible. What an awful non-answer.

In other words, if we could exploit you even more, we would. But it's against the law.


> Slingbox servers will be permanently taken offline 24 months after the discontinued announcement date (November 9, 2020), at which point ALL Slingbox devices and services will become inoperable.

This needs to become illegal. We need a law that requires companies who want to turn off required servers for products they've sold to either offer a 100% refund to everyone who's ever bought them, or fully open-source them so the community can make them work without the server.

It seems a bit unreasonable to require a company to support a product for perpetuity. We already do have warranty laws that require products to do the thing they say they do for a reasonable period of time. Maybe we disagree on the specific duration, but I think few would agree that infinity is a reasonable number.

If a physical device is tied to a company's service and can only be used with that company's service, it's very reasonable.

What the company should do is rent you the physical device--not sell it to you. Cable companies operate on this model.

I'm not familiar if Slingbox's devices fall in this category as I've never used them though.

I don’t think the engineering of the device necessarily has any relevance to this problem. At its core, this is a consumer law problem, not an engineering problem.

We have laws to protect consumer because they have a right not to be cheated out of their money. We don’t make it the job of lawyers and legislators to make decisions about which engineering architectures are right or wrong.

If we decide that consumers should be able to reasonably expect their widgets to last X duration of time, then that right shouldn’t be predicated on an engineering decision the consumer knows nothing about or has no power to choose.

They shouldn't have to support it forever, but they should have to let someone else support it.

you either sell a service or a product, and must brand it as such. IF you sell a product you lose all rights to modify, restrict and do anything with the copy you sold.

Open sourcing sunsetted projects, seems like a really sane approach - because lets face it - it can, and is, used as a form of planned obsolescence.

Strawman. Not the argument of the person you're responding to.

In what way?

The 100%-refund-law approach could be interesting if insurance companies could be convinced to offer companies coverage for this scenario. It would set up a feedback loop where high premiums would incentivize companies to make their devices less likely to become inoperable.

I favor less onerous laws, myself. I think a big problem is that people are generally unaware of how dependent their tech is on company whims. A legally-mandated "ingredients list" or "smoker's warning" note detailing all service dependencies (and associated "stability score?") might help raise awareness.

My friend recently got a $6000 laser cutter that has a hard cloud dependency to do anything at all. It's all through their cloud interface. That thing scares the heck out of me. Just the other day it failed and just getting the error logs required a round-trip to support. It was just a dirty sensor. It constantly advertises its "premium" features and interrupts your workflow if the wifi is spotty (often the case in an industrial shop). I bet the machine will be a paperweight in 5 years, and require either wholesale replacement or a controller retrofit. In the meantime, I guarantee my offline CNC mill will be functional until it suffers some catastrophic hardware failure. Since it supports industry-standard protocols, I can use any of a hundred different software packages to run it, including several open-source ones. Unlike that laser cutter.

I’m assuming you mean vendor XYZ cloud dependency and not AWS/GCP/etc?

why does the vendor matter? The core problem is a dependence on ANY cloud, or any internet service.

I think the open-sourcing is probably more feasible, as some companies that discontinue services do so because they're shutting down and, thus, may not have cash to offer mass refunds.

I agree, but this might be impossible for companies that license various closed-source software from other companies. For example, slingbox may have licensed various hardware drivers, and don't have the right to distribute their source code.

I don't know what the right answer is, but I'm not sure "open source everything" is the right one in this case.

If there is a law mandating open sourcing in case like this because if they don't there is jail time for fraud, companies would engineer their products for such a case. That would put pressure on hardware vendors to develop open source drivers (btw, why not, they already sell the hardware?) etc.

I'd say there's a 1% chance that would result in companies grinding their operations to a halt until their vendors make open source drivers, and a 99% chance that they'd find immediate workarounds, like renting you the box instead of selling it.

If they don't have the right to distribute their source code, then it seems an appropriate legal remedy in this hypothetical would be:

* Make them open source the code anyway, and the licensors can pursue the company's estate for any associated contractual penalty

* Make the company refund the users and prioritize the users as creditors


* Make it explicitly illegal to create such products for which you haven't secured the rights to distribute the entirety of the codebase in case the company goes under.

This would of course cause less "innovation" in the field, though frankly, the planet needs less crappy IoT garbage that barely works and quickly turns into paperweights. But it could also open up some currently locked up parts of the industry. Less low-quality SDKs with per-seat licensing would also be a good thing.

Slingbox can't grant anyone else the right to distribute source code they don't have a copyright for, either. They could release it, but then everyone else could be just as liable as them if they redistributed it. It would be DMCAed to death (nobody would dispute it, since Slingbox is defunct). It doesn't just become public domain, it's still closed-source.

If they don't have the right to distribute the source code, then "open source the code anyway" doesn't really do any good. No one else will be licensed to use it even after the company discloses the code to the world. It would just be like if a hacker broke in and released their source code.

Probably, but give the company either option. They might be bought by someone bigger who would rather refund the cash.

open sourcing it is anti-SaaS, you cant get that MRR if you support on prem. Slingbox is in a fight for it's existence.

Why do we need a law? No one forced you to buy a Slingbox.

We shouldn’t automatically reach to government intervention to solve every one of our pet peeves.

I don’t buy random gadgets that require cloud support from no-name companies for precisely this reason. You’re free to do the same. Eternal support for your consumer electronics is not a fundamental human right.

My only Slingbox purchase was an early standalone model, that didn't need a cloud connection. Migration to cloud-centric models put me off their product, permanently.

You're right that the purchase was a choice, but we already have laws pertaining to fitness, minimum warranties, safety, etc. Without a method of looking into the future to know that a product will be bricked by the maker in a year or two, the next best safeguard is minimums for viability set by law.

Those laws and regulations are justifiable because the hazard of an unsafe product is worth the cost of the regulation to prevent, and their scope generally doesn’t exceed the bare minimum needed to ensure safety. There is no law that says, for instance, that the Slingbox has to be reliable, has to produce acceptable image quality, or has to be priced competitively. As a society we leave it up to the individual to make those judgements.

I am simply suggesting that the question of “How long will the manufacturer maintain the service this device depends on?” should fall in the category of those sorts of questions, and not the “Will this device kill me if I plug it into the wall?” category that regulation should be reserved for.

> Those laws and regulations are justifiable because the hazard of an unsafe product

Most consumer protection laws are not about hazard and safety. For example, credit card companies having to refund fraudulent transactions has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with protecting people in the vastly power-imbalanced bank-client relationship.

Actually there are regulations about reliability, etc. You can't make grossly misleading claims, Magnuson-Moss, lemon laws, companies are routinely punished via class action suits for poor products, and can even be charged criminally for bad products. It's not all just about safety.

Agreed, let's have fewer laws. Let's abolish the DMCA and copyright protection.

We need lots of laws for consumer protection. It's in society's interests to regulate business plans. This falls under right-to-repair.

Why do we need a law that bans lead paint and asbestos? Why do we need a law that requires cars to have backup cameras? Why do we need a law that requires buildings to have wheelchair ramps?

Because those things dramatically impact society's health and well-being and not being able to do whatever it is that a Slingbox does... doesn't?

e-waste is among the worst flavors of post-consumer waste. If a lack of corporate attention span is meaningfully driving up its creation, then it's probably in society's interest to pay attention to that issue.

> Why do we need a law that requires cars to have backup cameras?

That one is definitely part of the car upgrade treadmill rather than fully supported by evidence. It's also far from universal.

(See also "e-call", the EU proposal that cars should automatically text their location to the police when involved in an accident)

because cloud services for broadcast tv are none of those things.

TBH - I suspect that there probably are laws that cover this in some jurisdictions, which is probably why they're maintaining the service for two years...

If you've bought a new device and it stops working after two years, is it a bit crappy? Yeah, of course it is. Is it legally actionable? Probably not. (IANAL obvs).

24 was perhaps a bad number to choose, since I read that as 24 hours - which seemed a bit hasty. They could have written "November 9, 2022" or "two years" which seems further into the future.

I think this would just result in extremely crappy open source that would be near impossible to get running.

With so many products going to a subscription model, will this be a problem in the future?

Just my 2 cents on this as a long time slingbox user. There was no need for it to be this way. They could make each device work without needing their servers, but they won't. Their customer service has for the longest time been antagonistic to their customers.

It seems like Slingbox doesn't have a NAT-proof solution, and has been using their servers as reflectors, which suggests there's an ongoing opex cost for the bandwidth and maintenance that isn't sustainable.

If they'd charged a subscription fee they might have more incentive to run the servers. Too bad their focus was on "no monthly fees"!

Dish also might have an upcoming/future motive to get Slingbox users to replace it:


The original slingboxes (Circa 2008/2009) ran locally, and could be exposed on your networks if you did the setup.

In 2013/2014, they changed the way that it was handled.

I have 4 Slingboxes -- one in Miami, one in Kentucky, one in Cincinnati, and one as a "backup," -- and am really kinda bummed by this decision.

Sure, in theory they could do that. But it would probably be a lot of work for literally zero payoff.

Did I just correctly hear you describe a patented innovation by VirNetX? Careful with that, Apple just paid half a billion dollar for it.

While I'm confident your reply is tongue-in-cheek, it's a sad indictment of the patent system that a half-billion-dollar "innovation" can be infringed by a few nebulous sentences on a technical forum.

Thankfully, that is not the case.

In fact, all patent applications (in the US at least) are published into the public domain. Feel free to download all of Apple's patent documents from uspto.gov, print them on T-shirts, and sell them on the street corner. *

You just can't build the devices described within the patent and sell them.

*(don't actually do this because I'm not a lawyer and their patent documents may contain mentions of their trademarks which have their own rules)

Just for fun, I didn't literally mean that the post describing the operations would infringe the patent. It only becomes infringing when that description is expressed in a way a computer understands!

Hopefully, my indignation at the absurdity of software patents is now clear.

The best options now are a TV Tuner and Plex media center. It works about the same and, the last time I remember, it doesn't require Plex to stay in business. I could be wrong on that last bit though.

Just think of all those now obsolete Slingboxes in homes and warehouses. Mass-produced products such as this really should be treated similar to industrial waste.

Well, that's what happens with ponzi-scheme-like devices. They rely on new sales to sustain their business and I guess the funds are running out...

This and probably all the other aspects of Dish ownership etc.

I know there's a similar device made by Sony, but I recall that you had to be on the same network to actually use it (this may be solvable).

Maybe it's time to make an alternative device. I know there's a way to capture HDMI video on a raspberryPi, hopefully with decent frame rate.

If you have an HDHomeRun (or another supported tuner), you can attach an antenna and connect it to a Plex server. Jellyfin also has a live TV feature and is completely open source, but I'm not sure of the state of their apps.

Plex and Jellyfin support streaming from anywhere as part of their core offering, and live on your own hardware, and seem like an all around better option.

> this may be solvable


> Q: Why is Slingbox being discontinued?

> A: We’ve had to make room for new innovative products so that we can continue to serve our customers in the best way possible.

That makes it sound like they have other products that are replacing this. Is that the case, or is this a case of extreme euphemism?

To be fair, they didn't say they're making room for their new innovative [sic] products.

Touché. But they do refer to them serving their customers, which implies that they expect to have customers!

Maybe customer is best served by Slingbox exiting the market?

Slingbox is a brand of Sling Media. A brand which appears to be getting killed off.

Read the next entry:

Q: Will Slingbox be releasing any new products?

A: No.

From the FAQ:

>Q: Why is Slingbox being discontinued?

>A: We’ve had to make room for new innovative products so that we can continue to serve our customers in the best way possible.

>Q: Will Slingbox be releasing any new products?

>A: No.

Certainly a refreshing combination of sarcasm and bitterness.

Slingbox is owned by Sling. Sling is owned by Echostar, which is also Dish Network. Dish Network is getting into the 5G game in a big way.

Since Echostar already uses the Sling technology in its set-top-boxes, I wouldn't be surprised to eventually see a 5G streaming service from Dish that is all Sling-based.

so who are they reselling? verizon, at&t or t-mobile?

They're getting the scraps from the T-Mobile/Sprint merger.


It got a hardy chuckle out of me, so, mission accomplished I suppose.

It really did go on for a lot longer than it should have. Perhaps from its ashes a more reputable, better functioning service can arise.

As someone else pointed out, they’re owned by Dish, so I think “reputable” and “better functioning” are probably out the window.

couldn't see that one coming /s

honestly... how was this even a thing? i never got the appeal or the concept to wanting to watch my own TV from a device. i mean... do people actually miss their local programming that much when they are away?

It's somewhat common for ex-pats to have one of these devices hosted in their home country (at one of their places or at a friends) to watch some of the local programming (typically sports as most everything else can be found fairly easily online).

Exactly, for an expat the Slingbox was perfect (well, the idea was, the actual thing was buggy, but...). You had full control of the cable box, so you could still record shows, timeshift, watch on demand, etc. Plus it only cost about $100 with no monthly fees so it was better deal than "renting" multiple TV series.

I have an HD Homerun and Plex. I've used this setup numerous times to stream college football games that were broadcast OTA when I was away from home for one reason or another.

Yes? It was a fairly recent development that all sports leagues had games online, and even then it requires a fairly steep fee. Perhaps you want to watch local news or are used to seeing a program at a certain time. There's nothing wrong with the service, per se, but the fact that it leans on outside servers does set it up for this problem.

Many people have one in their home country to watch program you can’t find locally.

Weird timing, I saw Slingbox ads constantly last week while streaming CNN. I never quite saw the appeal of this product, but I also haven't had a cable subscription in about 10 years.

I have two Slingboxes. The original one and the last one. This bums me out as I use it to access channels that are not accessible via other means. At least I have some time to find a replacement.

Is there some open hardware + OSS combination that will let me do what Slingbox did?

Yeah, stuff like Tvheadend and MythTV have been around since forever (MythTV came about the same year as Slingbox started development). Just need a basic whitebox computer with a TV tuner/capture card to host, though last I looked into it (which was years ago to be fair) it was still a bit complicated to set up.

I always wanted to set one up back in the day but never did as I don't watch much broadcast TV. I remember a friend of mine showing me his setup and thinking it was cool as heck to be able to stream all around his house or even remotely while he was on the go. Though this predated high bandwidth cellular data so "remote" meant "on a laptop over wifi."

HDMI into Raspberry Pi, Wireguard, xBMC?

open hardware probably not, but the HTPC-community has all the components for this.

Raspberry pi not open enough for you? I guess the tv tuner likely wouldn't open but outside that it can all be open.

I have one in Japan connected to a DVR to watch their local programming. I know many people who does this and this is a big deal for us. Is there an alternative product that does the same thing?

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