Thursday

Travels with My Roku - Mobile Entertainment Perfection?

I thought I had this sussed, a three week stay in the US followed by a couple of weeks staying in European hotels - evening entertainment was needed.  My problem is that my entertainment options when travelling usually involve two choices drinking in bars or watching TV, but although most US hotels have lots of channels - I'm afraid I just can't get used to the number of adverts.

I needed a better option for the sake of my liver, so I started looking around for something I could travel with and access my favorite TV channels on things like BBC iPlayer and Netflix ( both free of adverts). Being able to access Netflix on my travels was particularly appealing as it would default to the US version whilst in the USA with lots of different content than the UK version.

Of course, I could watch both of these with Identity Cloaker and my laptop or tablet.   However I for one have never really enjoyed watching films on smaller screens very much so wanted to watch it on the TV. Cables obviously exist to hook up devices to your TV but every time I try this, the hotel TV has different ports or missing sockets.  The solution I thought lay in the numerous media devices that plug simply into any TV and stream online from a variety of channels including Netflix,  BBC iPlayer and other British TV programmes.

I chose the wonderful Roku, as I knew it worked and could use my Smart DNS account on it easily ( here's the one I use), this meant I could watch any channel I liked by switching my location easily.  All you need to do is change the Roku's DNS address to the Smart DNS one and it can access any channel irrespective of your location.

The other big advantage of the Roku is it's size, about the size of a cigarette box, it weighs next to nothing and fits easily into your luggage.`I thought it was perfect, and packed it all up (remembering the remote control) and thought I had with me a mini entertainment package for all my travels. I could watch any film I liked from any region of Netflix and enjoy the BBC on demand too with my Overplay account. Unfortunately this happy state of mind lasted only until my first hotel visit when I encountered the fundamental problem of travelling with a Roku when using public Wifi access points.

I eagerly set up the Roku and checked out how to access the hotel's wifi, this was where it dawned on me. The hotel offered fairly reasonable wifi rates on a weekly basis and you just sign in with your browser to access the internet. I soon discovered that this authentication method was very common in hotels and coffee shops, just fire up your browser and login.

Even when the access was free (as in some US airports) you had to login with an email address. Unfortunately opening a web page isn't something you can do with a Roku, it has no browser and so you can't authenticate the device. Even if you access the internet via a tablet, you still can't authorise you Roku as most grant access rights to the Mac address of the device you logged into.

 If Internet Access Requires Authentication via a browser - the Roku is virtually useless.


It's true and there's no simple solution until the Roku has the facility to open a web page to authenticate itself. There are some technical options of course, you could cone the mac address of the Roku onto a laptop and then authorise it there - which technically should work. However this is lots of hassle and you might even need to keep doing this every few minutes. So next time I'm going to try and take a Chromecast instead although there are issues with this using Smart DNS.

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