As somebody who spends a lot of time in hotels, for me it is important that I have something to watch in the evening that is vaguely interesting and will allow me to switch off. That can range from just sticking some series on Netflix and wasting the night away or it can be tuning into itpro.tv or twit.tv for some technical relaxation. Either way – none of these options are generally available on a hotel TV.
Enter my favorite new toy – the Roku Streaming stick (thanks to Luke for that recommendation). Setting me back a mere £50 this is one of the best things I have bought in years. I can plug it into any TV with a HDMI port and I immediately get all of my favorite content apps signed into my accounts all ready to go! It covers all my content apps from Netflix, Amazon right through to dedicated apps for itpro.tv and twit.tv. And it has its own remote which is a welcome change from the Chromecast.
Right – none of that is really life hacking is it? Not really. Where this gets interesting is of course the connectivity side. For the Roku Stick to work you need an internet connection and in the case of a hotel you always need to sign into that internet connection…. PROBLEM – the Roku does not have a browser you can use to sign into hotel wifi. Scuppered, gone, dead, not gonna work? wrong! where these is a will there is a way.
The solution is far simpler than some of the solutions I have seen written up around the internet which involve me carrying around a wireless router or sharing wifi from my laptop. So here goes:
My laptop, when it signs into a hotel wifi network is then good for 12 hours or so even if I switch it off and switch it on again – how does that work? Well every network card in the world has a unique identifier called a MAC address (media access control address). It is *normally* this identifier that hotels use to figure out whether somebody has paid for or signed into the internet.
So I thought, what if I could get my laptop to pretend to be my Roku at the start of my stay and then switch on my Roku only once I had successfully signed in. This is very easy to do through the temporary changing of your MAC address. For me as I’m a mac user I’m using a quick set of commands to do this (which I won’t go into here) and are well documented across the web:
*I cannot vouch for these websites or instructions above so as always proceed at your own peril. They are just examples I came across while writing this post.
So that’s it. When I arrive at a hotel, I sign into the wifi using my laptop after I have set my MAC address to match the MAC on my Roku. Once I have signed in I reset the MAC on my laptop, plugin my Roku and I’m good to go 🙂