31
Jul
chromecast

In our Chromecast review, one of Ryan's complaints was that the device can't be used on public Wi-Fi networks, like hotels, for example. Unfortunately, that doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon, according to John Affaki, Engineering Manager for the dev experience on Chromecast. That's a real bummer for anyone who travels frequently and was looking to supplement the crappy hotel TV for something new and interesting via Chromecasts.

Affaki took to an impromptu Q&A on Google+ to help explain a few lingering things about the unit, one of which was the device's inability to function on captive Wi-Fi networks – that is, one that's behind a login page, like most public hotspots. Here's the skinny for those who are curious:

You'll run into a slew of problems. The major one is that most hotels, even if you get on the wifi, disable peer to peer communication, so you won't be able to control it.

Second, Chromecast doesn't support captive networks right now (open networks with a login page). There may be some work around for this one (by doing certain things on your laptop), but given that you probably won't be able to get past the first item, it's not work going into here.

Which basically leads to the best way to do it, and that's to setup a hotspot with your laptop or phone. 

As Ryan pointed out in our review, using a hotspot would not only be a bit of a headache just to use a Chromecast, but it would also chew through a data cap in nearly no time. Can you imagine streaming one 1080p movie over Netflix using your mobile connection? Yeah... no.

via John Affaki (G+); Thanks, Cabbiebot!

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • The Highest Fever

    Laptop connected to the hotel network via CAT5 (most rooms still have that option right?) and sharing the connection out to the Chromecast from the laptop via wifi?

    Or you could just watch stuff on your laptop.

    • http://www.deathbycone.com Jared Kotoff

      Exactly, if I have my laptop, why not just HDMI it into the tv?

      • wolfkabal

        Not all laptops have HDMI.. Especially any business grade laptop of a few years past (thinking Thinkpads here)

        • mgamerz

          My organization has Dell business laptops and they have HDMI for the last 2-3 years...

      • Jeff Baker

        Cables.

    • Jeff Baker

      Not too comfortable with me and the wife and my kid around my laptop.

  • cabbiebot

    no hat tip? :( sad face. I still love you AP

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      That was my fault. You have full permission to slap me.

      Added a thanks. :P

      • cabbiebot

        thank you good sir! :D

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        One day you will pay dearly. Remember my words, Cameron and pass them on to your posses.

  • Robert Willis

    2 thoughts. 1) Put phone on airplane mode but enable wifi. Connect to hotel wifi. Set up hotspot and proceed with casting. 2) If you have local content and future apps come out to stream it, then you don't need to connect to the hotel wifi at all.

    • http://www.deathbycone.com Jared Kotoff

      I dont think you can hotspot and have wifi on at the same time.

      • cabbiebot

        yup. phone hotspot is on cellular, so can't cast. you need another device such as a tablet or PC on the hotspot the chromecast is on to cast

      • Robert Willis

        I do all the time in airplanes. I keep movies on my phones since it has more storage than my original Kindle Fire. When I want to watch one, I set up the hotspot from the phone which is in airplane mode, connect the Fire, run a FTP server from the Fire (can't run from the phone) and then a FTP client from the phone to transfer the movie. Maybe i can't hotspot a wifi network (i'll have to try that) but i can surely create my own in airplane mode.

        • Cole Mickens

          To configure the device, you need to connect to its wifi and have it connect back to your host router. You could only do this if you could somehow set it up with a third device.

          Imagine: Chromecast is not set up. You go to configure it. You connect to the Chromecast's builtin Wifi signal... and then you instruct the Chromecast to connect to ... what? You can hotspot because you're connected to the Chromecast's Wifi to configure it..... thus, your hotspot isn't active and can't be connected to.

          Sorry to be a buzz kill. You might be able to trick the app and give it manual network config and then somehow switch the Wifi over at the right time. Pretty unlikely.

          • Robert Willis

            Good point. Thanks. Guess I need a 2nd hotspot capable phone. ;)

          • Carles Caño Valls

            The other day the user @Magusnet tweeted this:

            #Linux Laptop + hostapd + 2WiFi Interfaces + #Chromecast == Best Hotel TV Experience Ever! :)

            I asked him:

            I guess a WiFi interface is for the Chromecast and the other one is needed to connect to the Hotel WiFi, right? :)

            And he replied:

            That's right. I just had to add an iptables MASQ rule and everything "just works" native and thru OpenVPN. :)

            I've just asked him to write a how-to in this thread :)

      • Mike Harris

        That's correct. I think the way you have to look at it is this: your phone's Wi-Fi radio can be used to either receive a Wi-Fi signal, or it can be used to broadcast the phone's cell data signal, but it can't be used to do both. You would need a second network connection to receive a signal if you wanted to broadcast it with your Wi-Fi signal.

        Laptops and computers work the same way. You need a second network connection if you want to share the internet.

  • mjnitz02

    I think there's a lot of solutions to get around this though if you really want. For starters you could use a personal hotspot as a network and hook a tablet and the chromecast to it. A solution that would probably work is what I tend to do. I grabbed a D-Link DAP 1350 (a portable travel router) and I plug it into hotels and create my own personal wifi network. There are TONS of these portable travel routers and you can always find them for $10-20 watching SlickDeals and stuff. They make great solutions as you can sign the 1 device into the hotel, and then all your devices are preconfigured to hop on your personal network you brought along in your pocket. I'm sure the Chromecast would have no issues with this setup.

    • Strangers From a Far Coast

      Yea. Not to mention you can make up funny ssid network names like "This Hotel sucks" or "PS Room 41 calm your sex down"

      • Ivan Myring

        No we will not!

    • Samyak Ranjan

      Why go through the trouble? If there's a shot they'll enable the feature?

      • TheFluffyOne

        Because this would work today?

    • Ruben Martinez Jr.

      Brilliant!

      • TheFluffyOne

        If the hotel provides Internet access via an Ethernet cable, then yes. If not, at least some of the travel routers (I've used a couple of Asus devices) will allow you to act as a hotspot for an existing wireless signal. In all honesty I've not had a lot of luck with this latter feature, and have instead connected my laptop to the hotel Wifi, and then shared the laptop's wired connection to the travel router.

        Once you've authenticated to the hotel system via one of the devices, they all get access since security is almost always based on MAC address (and the router or laptop is all they see).

    • t-bon3

      I always have one of these travel routers (WR703N) and a 2m patch cable in my laptop bag, So useful for connecting dongles / phones / tablets / laptops to an ethernet jack in any hotel / office / airport / home / store.
      There are actually a few airports that I visit regularly where there are TV's that could be taken control of with a travel router and a chromecast dongle!

  • watcher64

    You could try a wifi repeater, and if you connected to the repeater, everything going to the network would be id'd by the repeaters MAC, (on some repeaters), so once you logged in to the web page on your phone or laptop, then the chromecast would not need to login once it connected ...

    • mgamerz

      The laptop authenticates to the network, not the repeater. I don't think you can use the same MAC address for two different network devices and have a working network. It'd make hell of the arp table.

      • watcher64

        Not always, true, some captive portals use the MAC address for authentication, if you connect through the repeater, the visible MAC is the repeater. Since MAC addresses are not routable, the repeater does not (on most) forward the MAC .. Now some repeaters do clone and forward, but others just connect, and all traffic appears to come from the repeater, therefore the "captive portal" thinks that all traffic is coming from one device.

        • mgamerz

          Wouldn't it only work with a single device then? How would it be able to route packets to the correct device without a mac address? That's how a routing table works.

          • TheFluffyOne

            Really it should be a WiFi router or access point, not a repeater. The public wireless AP would then just see the MAC of your router, and the magic of NAT will handle the rest...

  • Xephik

    Wait. Why have I not heard of this anywhere before now?! The primary reason I bought this was to use at work while I sit around on my overnight shift. My ISP has an extensive hotspot network that I was intending to connect to. Of course I find this out less than two hours after receiving the shipping email. I was so excited for Friday night =(

    • jeffmd

      Does the wifi require anything on your part to activate? It will connect to open networks, but since it has no keyboard, no user input device, it cannot "do" anything if something needs to be "done" to open the wifi connection.

      I havn't seen it talked about but I kind of though it was a given, who here seriously expects this to answer all those different logon pages out there automatically? Its sort of like a wifi print server, printers nore wifi servers know how to automatically answer those pages, they would never be able to logon to such a network.

      • Xephik

        Yep, it requires a login with your account number for a one time login.

        It just strikes me as odd that some sort of interface or method wasn't put in place for this situation.

        • TheFluffyOne

          Not odd at all. As jeffmd says, there's just no way you could handle the hundreds of different types of captive portal automatically. And it seems to me that the device is aimed very much at the home consumer market, so the living room is their target. That said, read the many other comments that tell you how you can work around this by MAC spoofing, use of a travel router, or sharing a laptop connection.

  • Cole Mickens

    Captive portals: solvable the same way they do the initial device configuration.

    Device discovery on the ChromeCast uses SSDP which is a UDP based protocol. This is why this device also will not work well with basically any non-trivial network. Corporations, schools, universities, multi-router homes, all have very high potential for having discoverability and connectivity issues.

    That's why when I talk about UPnP AV/DLNA vs Bonjour .... well... Bonjour has some niceties that guarantee device discoverability even in those scenarios.

  • Justin Marden

    Even though I understand the security logic behind this, I feel like Google is losing out on a huge market with college students here. I was actually considering buying a Chromecast soon, but I'm a college student and I use campus WiFi (open network with a login page). If it won't work on campus, I might as well not waste my money. It's a shame, I love the concept and idea behind Chromecast. From what I can tell, it's executed really well. Maybe Google will find a workaround for these types of networks. I get the free public WiFi thing, because I don't want someone in a Starbucks controlling my Chromecast or something like that. But the login page-type of internet should be included in my opinion.

    • Brian Marks

      Your dorm room should have an ethernet cable. Just get a personal router, hook it up, and you have your own network to do with as you please.

      • cramer

        Right. Because 1000 APs within 300ft of each other work SOOO perfectly. Even campus I'm aware of out-right BANS students (and staff) from setting up their own wifi, because it creates an absolute RF mess and interferes with the campus wifi.

        • J_the_Guy

          Hide the SSID and and use a 5G router

  • duce102

    I use Chromecast through my mobile hotspot on T-Mobile no problem. Never a hiccup. 1080p the whole time. Lots of data but I pay for unlimited.

  • Jonathan Danna

    Solution: http://www.connectify.me/

    Open laptop, login to wifi, start connectify, connect phone and chromecast to it. Bam. :)

    • mgamerz

      You sure that actually works? I'm pretty sure most campuses and hotels (if they have a decent IT team) block rouge routers because they are a security risk, and this app is a perfect example of it. Not to say it doesn't have legitimate uses.

  • Kam Siu

    i just bring my micro-hdmi to hdmi cable for my tablet whenever i travel. no complicated hookup.

  • Kevin Kintner

    Why not spoof the MAC address of the Chromecast to accept the public Wi-Fi using a computer? Then set the computer's MAC address back and you should be golden. This is how people have been using Rokus on public Wi-Fi for years.

    • Danny Lewis

      Once you pass that limitation, you may have another, much worse, one to figure out. Usually, those networks do not allow devices to communicate with each other. Your device must talk to the Chromecast over the network, but if the network doesn't allow this, then you're not going to be able to control it.

      • Kevin Kintner

        Excellent point that I hadn't considered. My 3 year old Rokus still handle all the streaming I need and are portable enough for travel so I haven't picked up a Chromecast yet.

    • Mike Harris

      This is almost exactly what I've been doing for the past few years with my Xbox... except the complete opposite. The Xbox allows you to change its MAC address in the settings, so I always connect first with my laptop so I can hit accept (or enter a password, etc.), then use my laptop's MAC for the Xbox. I don't know why I never thought to change my laptop's to use the default MAC for the Xbox, but it's still the same result.

      The only problem with this setup is that the Wi-Fi quality in the past few hotels I've stayed in (in FL) have been piss-poor, so I always end up turning my phone into a hotspot and using Verizon's LTE, which is amazingly faster than the hotel's connection.

      Also, a few of the hotels I've stayed in recently only offered Wi-Fi. They still had ethernet ports in the rooms, but they were completely disabled. I still prefer a physical connection, so this is a little annoying, but I can imagine many hotels will go this route since it's easier to implement and maintain.

  • Adrayven

    Take a travel-router. Many support repeating for hotel wifi. Hotel wifi security treat the router mac address as the computer so after you go threw the login with your laptop, any other devices connecting wirelessly to your TR don't see the login.

    I've done this before for my Apple TV. Used my old linksys travel router. Worked fine.

    • sssgadget

      Kind of a hassle just to watch Chromecast.

      • TheFluffyOne

        Ultimately very useful when you have two or three devices and don't want to pay for WiFi access more than once. Being able to use the Chromecast is just a side-effect. When you look at it that way, it's not much hassle at all :-P

  • sk102704

    All the solutions suggested in the comments are much better than mine which is to keep plugging in and pulling out the Chromecast from the TV and yelling at it until it works.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I think you're onto something here.

    • yankeesusa

      I like this idea, it seems very interesting :-)

  • Ruben Martinez Jr.

    Do we know anything about WPA2 Enterprise network support? I can't use it at my college :(

  • Cuvis

    That sucks. It seems like there should be a way to make this work.

    One possible workaround would be to use Connectify on a Win 7 system to share the connection.

  • Sleepingeye

    Although somewhat limited in this situation, creating a WiFi hotspot does not necessarily mean using your cellular data.

    I have used a Nexus 1 without cellular service as a bridge to my desk top (which has no WiFi). I connected to the AP, the USB tethered to the desktop.

    Similarly, if you have a tablet, you can hotspot that and use a Bluetooth connection to your phone. The phone is then connected to the hotel WiFi. (You can switch around the devices, if you like). You'll be able to log in using either device and provide internet to ChromeCast.

  • TheFluffyOne

    Sadly this misses the fact that most hotel WiFi access is terrible. It seems that the majority are fitted by people with no understanding of wireless networks and so have dead spots and random signal drop-outs that make them a pain to use. And when the signal is good, you're sharing a tiny pipe with about 200 other people (half of whom are downloading 1080p porn) meaning that even a Skype call or Google Hangout is almost impossible to maintain. Never mind streaming decent quality video from Netflix or whatever... :(

  • SickoPsycho

    I don't know what its like in your area but around here (North Carolina) most hotel WiFi connections are throttled shamefully show. Watching a YouTube video in plain ass 480 is sometimes a pain. Forget streaming movies...

  • shojus

    I will be streaming from my Verizon unlimited data plan so I have no worries until Verizon decides to boot the "unlimited" guys... ;)

  • Arcest

    > Can you imagine streaming one 1080p movie over Netflix using your mobile connection? Yeah... no.

    That's not right. Using wifi you don't use 3G data. Just use USB tethering instead of 3G tethering.

  • creed

    Unless you still have unlimited data! I was going to pick up a Chromecast for our Disney vacation this September and I can connect it and my wife's phone to my hotspot.

  • yankeesusa

    The chromecast may be the reason why sprint will be getting rid of unlimited data. Right now in orlando I have 4g lte and can do hotspot. That would work perfectly. But if everyone started doing this it would definitely make sprint rethink everything.

  • sam

    Oh no...does it not work under water either?

  • Scott Kennedy

    A lot of hotels have ethernet cables in the room. Plug that into your laptop, and setup a hotspot on your laptop. No data usage on your phone, and it should work fine.

  • AngryCollegeStudent

    This is BS. I go to school and live on campus and use its WiFi for 8 months of the year. I wasted $35 on this thing.

  • J_the_Guy

    Can someone answer a technical question for me? Is the phone/laptop/whatever streaming the signal or is it just telling the chrome cast to go to an address?