Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Traveling with a Mini

In my duffel bag, next to my clean socks, is a Mac Mini, an extra hard disk, and an EyeTV 200 television capture gadget. I had purchased this collection for use in the RV. This, connected with my Directv box, gave me a digital video recorder (DVR) I was able to capture movies and television shows, and to play them back on demand.

When we headed off for Colorado, I grabbed the Mini and associated cables and when we were installed in the Breckenridge condo, I hooked everything up, and for five weeks, had a very usable DVR setup. Yes, there was a bit up configuration to do, getting the software to understand that I was connected to Comcast in Breckenridge rather than Directv, but it was a pleasant experience.

Then we picked up and moved for a few days to Grand Lake, but there was no time for TV there. Then on to Denver, staying in a La Quinta. Now the horrors started. La Quinta used LodgeNet, one of the worst possible options. Not only was there little choice of channels, but it proved impossible to program the LodgeNet's channel selections into the EyeTV software. I did a little experimentation, but found that there was no real connection between the television channels as listed and what was really coming down the cable. In fact, it appears to me that using the EyeTV capture box on that cable gave me access to the pay on demand channels for free. I can't prove it, but we did watch Aeon Flux, and I think that hasn't hit the HBO style movie channels yet. I did notice another channel that probably was the porn channel, but I didn't tarry long enough to get a show or channel identification. Most of the channels, in fact, looked like status screens to some computer system.

And today, we moved to the Hyatt next to the Colorado Convention center. Mary Ann was off attending her events, so I tried to hook the Mini up to the big Samsung flat panel in the room. No luck. In spite of every kind of video input jack you can imagine readily available on the back, this On Command system gave no opportunity to access the video input. You either watched their channels or turned it off. After lots of experimentation, I turned it off, and packed the Mini back in the duffel. Without the ability to see the Mini's screen, there is no chance I can get it running. I do have it boot up with VNC server running, but there is no usable internet in the room either -- not without going through T-Mobile's login screens, and I can't do that blind.

Why is it that the fancier the hotel, the poorer the services, and the more they charge for them? On Command is going into my black book right next to LodgeNet.

------ Late addition --------

There was a Radio Shack a block away, so I picked up an ethernet Cat-5 cable and connected the laptop to the mini. On the laptop, I turned on internet sharing to share my (non-existent) wireless connection out the ethernet. The mini, looking for any available connection, made the connection. Now, with a pathway established, I ran VNC and connected to the OSXVNC server that I had previously installed on the mini.

Step two, on the mini's desktop, I fired up the system preferences and turned on internet sharing to share it's ethernet connection out the airport wireless. Disconnecting the ethernet between the laptop and the mini, I connected the laptop to the mini's wireless network. It worked.

So now, I have a little isolated private wireless network, hosted by the Mac-mini, which can serve all its stored video to the laptops and also serve as a shared file-server ( I used it for on-the-road backups).

1 comment:

Chris Nystrom said...

Nice. I use my Mac mini for a EyeTV PVR, too. It works so good, we got rid of our main TV. When my ship comes in I want to get one of the beautiful Apple wide screen monitors.