So you're sitting in a hotel in the middle of Europe and apart from the German porn on RTL and perhaps the BBC World Service on the other, everything is in a language you just can't understand. If only you could access your television at home...
Well now you can with the Slingbox, a simple device that allows you to watch your television stations at home from anywhere in the world as long as you can get to an internet connection and have an internet connection at home.
The strange looking box that looks like three very large computer keys, has a wealth of connection ports on the rear of the unit and these allow you to pass through feeds to push out across the Internet so the Slingplayer software can pick them up.
Included in the box is everything that you'll need to get you started including an ingenious pass through Scart connector and a network cable to connect to your router.
Once you've connected everything up to the relevant systems you want to access - this can be anything from a DVD player to PVR - a quick installation of the software means you are ready to go.
In practice the Slingbox works a treat, and the ability to watch programs on your laptop anywhere around the world is a brilliant idea. For the most part the Slingbox makes this a simple and easy process.
There are of course some limitations and drawbacks, mainly that you have to be watching whatever you've got at home unless you split the signal when it comes into the house. To get the benefit of Sky or Freeview without changing channels on your home TV for example you'll need to either get a separate Freeview box or have multi-room installed and then connect the Slingbox to that treating like a seperate TV without a screen.
Then there is the setup, while incredibly easy, some may experience problems with the network accessibility - basically allowing the Internet to talk to the box. This was mainly due to our router not supporting UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) and not all routers will have this problem, however it is something to bear in mind before investing in the system.
Set these small grumbles aside and once the Slingplayer software is installed you are ready to watch television on your PC.
Depending on what system you have, we tested it out on a Sky+ box, you even get an on-screen remote that replicates your own remote so you can access channels and all the features of your PVR or DVD.
Likewise, the software allows you to watch in full screen mode or smaller windows so as to not interfere with your other "work" and there you can set favourite channels for speedy access.
This for us is where the system comes into its own, especially as you can access your saved TV programs to watch when you've got a spare evening to kill and not therefore affected by daytime scheduling if you are on the other side of the world.
Having lived with the device for over a week now (Pocket-lint was given early access to the service by SlingMedia ahead of the UK launch) we have to say that it’s a stroke of genius.
Although we have only got 100 miles away from the base station in the testing so far, already the software and system has come into its own, especially as where we went didn't have Sky - yes you can even set your Sky+ box to record stuff while you are away.
Where we think it will work even better however is for the thousands of holiday makers that head to France every summer and then complain that there is nothing on TV when they get there.
Theoretically, as we have yet to try this, you could connect your laptop or desktop PC to your television via a TV card and then watch your home television on your television in France or wherever you happen to be.
Of course the signal isn't as good as regular TV and is very much reliant on the upload strength at source (your home broadband package) and the download strength wherever you (again the broadband connection you are using) are trying to access it from however it is none the less a possibility.
The Slingbox is the first of many "LocationFree" television devices in the UK, however where it succeeds is in the price. At £179 it is half that of the Sony offering (£349) about to get its UK launch in the coming weeks.
This is definitely worth a closer look.