Using Apple TV on Holiday Destination WiFi – Sandals Case Study
I find it useful to read Tripadvisor questions and answers during the resort selection phase of the holiday planning process, as it provides really diverse insight into the experience others have felt important to share. It’s quite interesting to understand people’s priorities and views especially when they differ and a little debate develops in the answers to the questions.
However, I actually feel quite sorry for the people visiting the far away destinations who innocently enquired if AppleTV could be used at some big name resorts and rather that the expected techno centric discussion, the responses ranged from how you should not be watching TV on holiday to how uplifting life without entertainment can be. There were also quite a few comments about the Jamaican networks being slow and outdated.
I then remembered the hours and hours spent awake in those small hours due to jet lag and I thought having AppleTV would actually be a great option. I will just say that during these previously jet lag induced waking hours – I have never been inclined to go and checkout the local cathedrals, although a couple of shots at the bar round the corner could arguably have helped the situation and if all else fails there is always counting sheep.
So we were had already booked the Sandals Montego Bay resort and I now planned to take my AppleTV gen 4 along to see if I could get it running with the smart tv in our room at the resort. I have stayed at the Sandals Montego Bay and St Lucia resorts previously and I recalled that we had 4 devices connected to their network using the free service – suggested as suitable for reading email and checking flights. I also recalled the requirement to enter room number and surname in a simple app/web page based device registration process. So my plan was to register our IOS devices and see if I could get Apple TV to connect to the network. I had a feeling this may present a small challenge so I packed my MacBook just in case.
So fast forward to yesterday – we arrived and I had our IOS devices and AppleTV gen 4 connected to the Sandals network and running – serving up Netflix within the hour.
You can see below the speedtest app showing a connection offering a steady 3.8mb/sec upload and 3.8mb/sec download speed.
This is not a particularly fast connection by today’s standards and the performance difference between this and my 300mb/sec Voom Business service back in the UK could be clearly seen, in the implementation of a few visible, additional tactical pre-view buffers dealt with flawlessly by AppleTV/Netflix etc. However, there was no buffering during the movie play back whatsoever, the audio and video was excellent with a tiny bit of lower resolution at the beginning of the movie playback. We watched a couple of episodes of Lucifer on Netflix using this setup and it performed adequately throughout.
However, I had brought an old CAT 5 Network Lead with me, so having found an Ethernet socket on the wall behind the drawer unit I connected to the AppleTV Ethernet Port. However, having switched the power to the AppleTV off and on again and checked the Network settings, there was no evidence of the Ethernet connection, however, the WiFi connection was visible and I left the Cat 5 Ethernet Lead connected.
See below the picture I took to capture the connection between the AppleTV and Smart TV:
On day 2 after firing up the AppleTV it reconnected to the network without issue and the pre-view buffering had disappeared completely. I ran the AppleTV speedtest app again and got the results below. I checked the AppleTV Network settings and indeed the Ethernet connection was visible.
This is not bad by today’s standards and the performance difference between Sandals and my 300mb/sec Voom Business service back in the UK was negligible. However, as I was not sure why the Ethernet certainly did not appear to be working the day before, I left the setup as it was for the rest of the holiday.
So my objectives were successfully achieved and unexpectedly surpassed.
In the Tripadvisor reviews I had see a lot of hype about Jamaica internet being slow and outdated. However, if you have ever stayed at a Sandals resort you will understand how much they are prepared to invest in customer experience and have built processes to routinely enable this. You may also have picked up on the massive contributions they make to the local economy and community employing and educating thousands of locals and bringing tourists into the community. If the Jamaica internet was indeed outdated they would simply invest in bringing it up to spec for the benefit of themselves and the community.
I spoke earlier about a potential challenge, here is why – at this time a popular method used by hotels and resorts to manage network bandwidth useage, is to limit the number of devices per room which can connect to the network at any one time, which often requires registration of devices via an app/web based input screen or some kind of portal. The issue here is that AppleTV gen 4 network setup does not include the facility to enter this post connection information, so even though the connection to the Sandals network is made, there is no internet feed. However, this was not unexpected and I had come prepared.
The challenge as I saw it – was to enter this post connection information via some other means. Put simply – I had my MacBook with me – so I used my MacBook to connect to the Sandals network inputing the room number and surname in a web page presented by Safari, then shut down the laptop and fired up AppleTV and up came requests for Apple ID, Netflix login details and Apple device access verification challenges – exactly as expected. Job done.
Based on this, the popular question I can see being asked is – how can I register the MacBook and AppleTV as the same device… Actually it couldn’t be simpler – first connect the AppleTV to the network, then in the AppleTV network settings note the MAC address of the network adapter. Then disconnect AppleTV and connect the MacBook using the same MAC address as the AppleTV set on the MacBook network adapter.
Breaking it down for this workaround – identified by the AppleTV MAC address, the MacBook effectively presents itself as the AppleTV device to the network for registration. Once the device is registered, the network feed to this device is then enabled. When the MacBook is disconnected and AppleTV connected to the network it just looks like the AppleTV has reconnected, the device is validated and the network feed enabled. Simples!
Here is the detail behind registering the AppleTV device on the network:First I will explain a little about MAC addresses. MAC as in – Media Access Control – not to be confused with MACintosh, is a device identification method. The MAC address is a unique 12-character hexadecimal identifier which can be used to identify devices connected to a network. The unique MAC address is hard coded into the firmware of relevant devices at manufacture and in our case the workstation operating system reads the MAC address from the devices and stores in the Windows Registry or the Network Interface Scripts in MacOSX, Linux etc etc. Hence it is relatively straight forward to temporarily change the MAC address of the network interface on most computers if you know how. In this instance, the temporary MAC address change fits our purpose perfectly. In fact after implementing the above I changed the MacBook MAC address back to the factory setting and continued to use the MacBook normally registered as a device on the network, in its own right.
I actually did this on my MacBook, but I will also include below the method to do on Windows.
Changing the Network Interface MAC address on a MacBook
Open System Preferences, click on Network and then click on the Advanced button. In this instance we will select the WiFi option in the listbox on the left first.
Now click on the hardware tab to view the MAC address registered for the network device. However, this is the MAC address read from the device firmware and hence is not editable, but make a note of it.
Next open the Terminal and type – ifconfig en0 | grep ether
This returns the MAC address of the first network interface en0. If it matches the MAC address shown above you can proceed. If not try the next device by typing – ifconfig en1 | grep ether repeating this incrementing the interface number en0, en1 etc until you get a match. It is important to get this correct as this interface number forms a part of the command you will type to set the new MAC address on the correct adapter.
Next disconnect the WiFi connection without selecting – `Turn Wi-Fi Off. Press and hold the Option or Alt Key before selecting the toolbar WiFi icon. This will add the network disconnect option to the displayed menu.
Now back to the terminal and assuming your interface number is en0, type the following – sudo ifconfig en0 ether xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx replacing the x’s with the desired MAC address. You will need to enter your password in the terminal when prompted, to complete this command.
Next type – ifconfig en0 | grep ether to check the change has happened as expected. If so enable the WiFi connection and connect to the resort WiFi running through the device registration process, shut down the workstation and fire up AppleTV connecting to the resort WiFi. It should now receive the network feed.
Changing the Network Interface MAC address on Windows
Here is how to change the MAC address on a Windows Machine. Please note that I did not do this on a Windows machine – so the images below are not live screenshots. However, changing the MAC address in this way, enables successful completion of the resort MAC address registration process in exactly the same way:
In Windows 7-10 there are a number of routes to the option to specify an alternative MAC address. We will use the Device Manager route. To get to Device Manager either press the ‘Windows Key + X’ and select Device Manager from the list. Or type ‘Device Manager’ in the search field on the taskbar.
In Device Manager locate your active WiFi adapter, right click and choose Properties.
In the Properties window, click on the Advanced tab and select ‘Network Address’ from the list of Properties. These option names can vary depending on the device ‘Locally Managed Address’ is one I have seen previously.
Select the option button next to the empty Value field and enter the 12-character hexadecimal value.
Click OK to save changes. Check the WiFi connection is enabled and connect the workstation to the resort WiFi running through the device registration process, shut down the workstation and fire up AppleTV connecting to the resort WiFi. It should now receive the network feed.
What did we learn
We learned from the Sandals – Montego Bay example above that copying the MAC address from AppleTV to the WiFi network adapter device on my MacBook, enabled the MacBook to successfully complete the device registration process on behalf of AppleTV gen 4. AppleTV then connected to the network without fail. Objective fully achieved.
I did not test this with Apple TV gen 3 but the network utility appears similar so would be well worth a try. I have never used earlier AppleTV generations. Let me know in the comments if you get an earlier generation of AppleTV to work.
The the speed of the resort’s free WiFi network connection is circa 3.8mb/sec download / 3.8mb/sec upload which is adequate but accompanied by pre-view buffering, but no buffering evident during movie playback.
By leaving the Cat 5 Lead Connected the Ethernet connection did eventually connect, featuring a much faster connection. This worked fine with Netflix broadcasting to the room Smart TV in perfect HD via HDMI.
To Connect AppleTV to the room Smart TV either unplug the HDMI lead from the resort cable TV and plug into the HDMI socket on AppleTV (as shown above) or bring your own High Bandwidth HDMI lead to enable connection from AppleTV direct to HDMI1 on the Smart TV. Using the provided Smart TV remote press MENU and use arrow keys to scroll/select HDMI1 to view AppleTV on the Smart TV.
Despite region restrictions on some services, Netflix worked fine, however, Amazon Prime came up with region warnings when we tried to watch Bosch. We didn’t try anything else – so just be aware of this.
… and finally – If you are going to a holiday destination or staying in a hotel offering WiFi and want to dabble at connecting your AppleTV – below is what I recommend you take:
- Apple TV Gen 4 or AppleTV 4k
- Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable – I took one but didn’t use, the cabling was good in this instance but you can’t rely on that. I will take again next time – just in case.
- CAT 6 – Ethernet Patch Lead – try the Room Ethernet Port to AppleTV
- A WiFi enabled Laptop – MacBook or Windows Machine ideally running 7-10.
- Please see my article which will show the – safe mains power distribution requirements and method.