Posted by Dan on August 9, 2012

LocationFree Base Station.. A Forgotten Device

lf_pk1

Sony’s LF-PK1 came with little fanfare in 2005 when it was first released. For whatever reason, the majority of gamers who owned a PSP did not realize how much the LocationFree base station could do for them. They just saw the icon on the XMB as something else to ignore just like Crackle video (from RSS), SenseMe, and others that flopped. You have to give Sony credit. They are ambitious and will try to experiment and develop something fresh and new. The same thing goes for their games. Always innovating and discovering..

So what gives? Why did the LocationFree not hit the strides that it could have with integration with your PSP in addition to your PC or Mac? Was it the cost, lack of marketing, or simply a device that was too complicated for the average user? The best answer would be all of the above. Today you can still purchase a LocationFree Base Station and Sony was extremely intelligent on how they built it from the ground up. As long as this device functions it will always be viable with the technologies used. Although the chosen use of NetAV as a Dynamic DNS (DDNS) host is the default, you have the ability to enter an alternative DDNS host in case NetAV ceases to link properly with the software or ceases to exist at some point, future-proofing the device quite well! Standard coaxial cable is available only on the LF-B1/LF-PK1 revisions of the LocationFree base station, which provides many additional possibilities for devices you can control. Other later revisions added the ability to learn Remote Controls/Remote Control Functions and the final revision (LF-V30) even provides component video input, although only SD video is sent through, making the LF-PK1/LF-B1 with a digital coaxial connection superior from a video quality standpoint.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

For those who may not be 100% familiar with Sony’s LocationFree base station, I’d like to give a clear explanation exactly about what it does in a few simple points:

Media Streaming - This is the main purpose of the LocationFree base station and allows you to stream media from your cable/satellite TV to any place in the world where you can make a WiFi connection with a compatible LocationFree device. Compatible devices range from Desktops/laptops to the PSP and even Android Devices courtesy of ThereTV. Since LocationFree is the only commercial streaming media solution for the PSP (aside from Remote Play with a PS3), it’s your only mainstream option and clearly the best choice. The PSP can have trouble however due to it’s very limited capability browser connecting to a WiFi hotspot and is also limited to 802.11b speeds maxing out at 12Mbps, which is fine for what the LocationFree base stations are intended for.

Security Monitoring - With a LocationFree base station and your PSP or other device, you can easily monitor live security footage

Multiple Platform Compatibility - You can connect to your LocationFree base station with the LocationFree Player software for PSP, PC, or Mac (with discontinued 3rd party software that is now difficult to find on the open market)

Mobile DVR management - Forgot to record a show? Use the LocationFree Player to access your cable, satellite, or TiVo DVR and take care of it!

Extra wireless router - Most of the LocationFree base stations can double as a wireless router, providing an extra wireless access point.

Variety of connectivity - This holds especially true with the LF-PK1/LF-B1, which lets you control both a coaxial source and 2 other A/V sources (including both composite and S-Video inputs). The LF-V30 also provides a good variety with Component Video (480i only), Composite, and S-Video. The LF-PK1/LF-B1 is the only base station that has coaxial, while the LF-V30 is the only base station with Pb/Pr/Y Component Video, so it’s important to consider what kinds of devices you want to control when selecting a LocationFree base station.

Remote Control Learning - This is a feature of the LF-B10, LF-B20, and LF-V30 and is not possible with the LF-PK1/LF-B1. You will be limited to the pre-packaged list of devices that can be controlled based on Sony’s software.

A Few Fun Ways to use various Location Free Base Stations

  1. Use the LF-V30 to connect to a first generation AppleTV using Component Video and the Remote Control Learning feature to learn the Apple Remote.  Since you can store your SD quality movie library locally on the hard drive, it makes a compelling argument for being quite useful as a media hub for home and away usage.
  2. Connect an early Roku player that has Component Video Output to do the same thing and also gain Netflix on the PSP, something that is not currently (and likely never will be) a possibility since it is an available feature on the Vita.
  3. With a VCR (along with other devices that can be controlled and have multiple inputs and 1 or more a/v output options) and the remote control learning function of base stations that support it, you could potentially control even more devices by connecting them to the inputs on the VCR
  4. If you have ever thought about home automation and the home automation hub runs off of an IR based remote control, you could potentially control your lights, heating/cooling, and other things in the house with your PSP.

Summary

There are many more uses for the LocationFree base stations than meets the eye, both for practical and entertainment purposes.  By simply getting creative with a device that can be controlled by IR and the LocationFree software vast possibilities await the savvy user.  Configuring the base station is fairly straightforward for the intermediate to power electronics user, but could be cumbersome to a novice.  The Sony LocationFree base station and LocationFree Player software were designed to have a long, useful life and can accept various custom network configurations - even another DDNS server in case NetAV ceases to exist or function properly within the provided software.  Sony failed to promote this product enough and did not bring it to market at an affordable price - something that clearly undermined it’s capabilities.  If I had one device to compare it to offhand in terms of what it offered but didn’t deliver the way it should have, I would cite Apple’s G4 Cube.

You can find a Sony LocationFree base station on the cheap these days on eBay (although the LF-V30s still tend to go for a premium due to them having Component Video inputs).  Pick one up today and start experimenting!

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