So we have a few computers, iPads, game systems, and a smart TV device. We use the internet for a lot of things, so we will need access while we are out on the road.
My original idea was to have an iPhone connect to the internet, then connect to a Raspberry Pi through USB, which then sends out a wifi network signal and everything can connect. Unfortunately, that is no longer possible with iOS 10 on an iPhone 7. I can share the internet connection over USB, just not to a Linux device. So this was a failure. As hard as I tried, I could not get the Pi to connect to the iPhone over USB. It was a $30 investment, so not a terrible loss but frustrating nonetheless.
On to idea two, which is still in progress…
First, I have an iPhone, I have a lightning USB cable, I have tethering included in my cell plan. Just have to find a device that will let me share it. My initial thought was a Mac of some sort since I am an Apple nerd, but the cheapest Macs are the Mac mini, and even that is a few hundred dollars and requires a significant amount of electricity.
The Mac mini I already have is a Late-2012 quad core 2.3ghz i7. Checking Apple’s support site finds information that it uses 11 watts at idle and 85 watts at full power. That is not even close to being a safe amount of electricity in an RV.
I need something smaller, but what? The Pi could have done that, but I can’t get it to work, so I need something small, low consumption, has wifi and USB, and could tether to an iPhone. And that lead me to my bane of operating systems: Windows 10. Or any Windows really, I’m just not a fan. I haven’t used a Windows computer as my home machine in about 15 years with my first Mac being the old lime green 266 mhz iMac. You know the one, that big round translucent green machine. It was my first Mac and I’ve been an addict ever since.
But back to Windows. They have those little stick computers that have a power port, HDMI, USB, and thats about it. Best of all: They only cost about $100. I searched, dug into reviews, read complaints and comments. I thought the Intel version might be the best since they make the chips, but I found that they have horrible wifi. So I ventured further.
I found this little bad boy: Azulle Quantum Access Mini PC Stick. It is small, only about 5 inches by less than two. It has one USB port, so it will need a hub, but that isn’t a big deal. Best of all, it only uses 10 watts of power. And it can be powered off a USB plug, so I can simply plug in the micro USB in a usb port that will be hardwired into the house batteries, and we have a continuously powered small Windows 10 computer.
So that solves the problem of finding a machine that will connect to the iPhone via USB, run on not a lot of power, and be small enough to hide.
Next step: Making a wifi network for the other devices to connect to. I did some searching and found out that Windows 10 does in fact have a wireless Access Point sharing feature. But it looks like a pain in the ass. So I searched some more and came across Connectify. its about $50 for a lifetime license which isn’t that bad for what it does. Right now (01/23/2017) its even on sale so I picked it up for a whopping $15. Pretty decent and cheap enough that if it doesn’t work, I’m not out a whole lot of money.
So I bought it and downloaded it. But I don’t have the Mini PC yet, what do I do? I have Parallels on my Mac, so I installed it there. Well damnit. For some reason, Parallels and Windows 10 and Connectify MAX doesn’t recognize my wifi adapter. So at this moment, I can’t try it out. But at the end of the week, I’ll be ordering the Mini PC stick and I already have Connectify, so it should be all set once it is all up and running.
I did go through the settings in Connectify though and found that I can do a few things. I can change the name of the SSID. Not sure what it will be, but I’ll figure out something that is nerdy enough and unique. I’m good with passwords too, so that is easy enough. I can also turn on the option to have Connectify connect every time the computer boots, so once it is all set up, it should automatically connect to the iPhone internet connection and share that connection over Connectify to the rest of the devices in the RV. Good all around.
But there are a couple other things I need as well. So I make a shopping list!
1. Azulle Quantum Access Mini PC Stick
2. AmazonBasics 4 Port USB 3.0 Hub with 5V/2.5A power adapter
3. Seenda Mini Bluetooth Keyboard W Touchpad for Android OS Windows (QQ-Tech Version)
4. Connectify MAX
5. WD 4TB Black My Passport Portable External Hard Drive – USB 3.0 – WDBYFT0040BBK-WESN
6. Alfa Long-Range Dual-Band AC1200 Wireless USB 3.0 Wi-Fi Adapter w/2x 5dBi External Antennas – 2.4GHz 300Mbps / 5Ghz 867Mbps – 802.11ac & A, B, G, N
And that is about it. A full, complete, Wifi making setup. With Connectify it shares the iPhone’s internet connection, and if you happen to be somewhere that has wifi, like an RV park, you can use the antenna to receive their signal and share it in your RV. Why the 4TB hard drive? Well that is for storing movies and music that can then be played through the RV sound and TV to have in house entertainment.
There will be more info once I get all the supplies, which should be next week. See you soon.
2 thoughts on “Internet Access on the Road”
Why not sharing your connection using the wifi integrated card of rp. You will lose some maximal thoughput but in most situations should be ok. You can also buy an external usb stick for your rpi and you will not lose any performance.
The only problem with that is I can’t connect the ethernet on the pi to the modem, so I’m not sure if I can use a pi to receive and share wifi at the same time. If I could get it to work over USB, I’d do that, but I tried doing that before with an iPhone and ran into trouble. I’m also not sure of the range of the wifi on a pi, but it might work. I have one now that I’m using for other stuff, but I might see if I can try that once we get to somewhere we have reliable power and internet as we are limited with both at the moment.