Stranger Danger

Stranger Danger

Like a lot of condos in Bangkok, we receive a communal feed via satellite dish and the channels are known to change at a moments notice without any warning. As it stands now there are only a few English channels available (Al Jazerra, NHK Newsworld, SyFy and Universal channel). Invariably when I switch on the box I will see a re-run of Animals Unleashed or The Bourne Identity for the umteenth time (I know most of the lines now)

And I’ve put up with that for far too long!

So we recently joined the 21st century and signed up to a Netflix account – at just THB 350 per month, with the first month free, it seems like a pretty good deal. Hooked already, can’t believe that we put up with crap TV for so long (as a technologist I’m a terrible early adapter!)

With the monthly cost of my woeful wifi coming in at 350 THB also, it works out to THB 700 a month for a decent entertainment setup.

The Setup

I’d wanted an HTPC for some time but the cost had put me off, so I jumped at the chance to pick up an Android TV box when I saw one offered on-line recently for under 1K THB.

It’s an MXQ 4K with Kodi pre-installed and getting it up an running took around 4.5 hours.

The problem? AFAIK, there’s no way to connect the media box directly to WIFI that lives behind a captive portal as there’s no way to authenticate with a uid/pwd à la PC web browser. This was not the case when I tried connecting to an iPhone hotspot, which prompted for authentication details.

The solution here was to rig up an ad-hoc wifi hotspot using Internet Connection Sharing (on my old laptop running Windows 7 Pro). That works a treat once you get it going.

Setting up Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) on Win 7

Firstly keep this article close to you. It has useful information that you’ll need.

The first step is to create the WIFI hotspot that the media box will connect to, and the Win 7 ICS features make this pretty easy. No need to any 3rd party apps, it can all be accomplished with a few lines from the CLI:

Run DOS prompt as Admin (right click – Run as Administrator) then use the following:

netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=YourVirtualNetworkName key=YourNetworkPassword
netsh wlan start hostednetwork

NB: After you have defined the hotspot all you need to do is issue the start hostednetwork command after rebooting. The configuration details will persist. If you wish to view the status, including if the media box has connected and authenticated, use netsh wlan show hostednetwork

The other part of the magic is sharing the Internet connection. To do this:

1. Network and Sharing center. Change adapter settings.
2. Highlight the connection being used to provide internet connectivity (in my case Wireless internet connection)
3. Right click. Properties. Sharing
4. Select first instance of Microsoft Virtual WIFI Miniport Adaptor then OK

When I first tried this, I kept getting an error about an IP address already being assigned. The fix was to change the static IP of my local area connection to the 192.168.0.0 range (IIRC)

Other problems

I’ve had some issues when I kept a keyboard plugged into the box. Subtitles disappearing and problems getting the screen to revert back to the default button mode after using the mouse pointer mode. Strange. I’ll get a wireless keyboard and mouse when funds allow.

Occasionally the sound drops out – I purchased a better HDMI cable and that has improved the situation immensely, but it still happens after using the box for a few hours. the solution appears to be reconnecting the HDMI cable but over time this will no doubt loosen the connection, I fear.

It’s important to remember that these are cheap boxes from China. Don’t expect too much for USD 28!

On the plus side, Stranger Things didn’t disappoint! (although took me a few days to get through season 1)

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