(Note – this article is a pseudo-excerpt from the book The Spartan RV. Learn more about living life more fully, without STUFF in that book)
A reader asked about a simplified RV Entertainment system…
I thought I would elaborate while spending some time talking more in depth about how to get the internet in and out of the RV. I did not dive in deep enough on that subject on my earlier video.
If you don’t see the video below this text, then you need to click on the title of the article until you see the video.
Hello, friends of rv52.com and Fitty. I had a reader write in and ask me if I had a simplified RV entertainment system. Also, she wanted to know if my system has been updated. She felt that maybe my components were old and some of that. So, I thought I would address the question.
Here’s the entertainment system that I’ve had for a long time. What has changed? Really, not too much. We’ve switched out of the Clear wireless for the modem, and I’ll explain a little bit of that later. But, the biggest change in our system is we upgraded the Mac Mini in the center right, and we got rid of the Western Digital USB because the Mac has a plenty large disk drive to save movies.
That’s it. That’s really almost the only change. We even added more devices on the left hand side. This network still stands pretty much as it was.
Let’s start with a blank slate here. I’m going to draw a line that’s going to divide us between outside the RV, which is the Internet, and inside the RV. This addresses a lot of the questions I get. Most of the inside the RV questions… There aren’t that many. Quite frankly, people I think are fairly confused about all the choices about how to get Internet and what they mean. So, let’s go over some of that.
First off, outside the Internet there are really only two kinds of Internet
– wired and wireless. There are really only two ways. It’s, you could argue, a big oversimplification, but let’s go into this a little bit.
On the wired side you have what’s called cable, which is Cox Time Warner, and it refers to a special type of wire which the cable companies have run. They’re able to send Internet signals over the same wire that the send the TV signals. There’s also twisted pair which is AT&T and the phone companies. They’ve been doing DSL. Now they’ve got U-verse. And, I’m sure there are all sorts of similar things. They go over a type of wire called twisted pair. There are probably others, but the first two I mentioned are really the big dogs.
On the wireless side you have WiMAX which is in some ways sort of rare. We purchased it. We had it through Clear, and then Clear was purchased by Sprint. The neat thing about WiMAX is I had no usage limits, which I’ll talk about later, and we were able to do movies and things like that over the WiMAX connection. But, I don’t think they actually went out to a lot of cities.
I find WiMAX very confusing because Sprint called it 4G, but there’s also 4G cellular and they’re not the same. It’s very, very confusing. The 4G you see on your phone, if your phone says 4G, is simply not the same as what Sprint was claiming. Very confusing. The technology is called WiMAX.
Then, there’s cellular where you have Verizon, AT&T, Sprint’s cellular. Those typically are the same technology as your phone. There’s a 4G LTE, those are the type of technologies you’ll see. That’s another wireless technology.
You can get these little boxes. They’re about the size of a wallet maybe. They bring in a cellular signal. They put Wi-Fi out which could be very good for an RV, but that’s not what I’m going to recommend for a number of reasons.
There’s satellite like HughesNet, for example. It’s a really, really, really good choice for RVers as long as you don’t do movies. Movies change everything. There are probably other radio systems that I left out. But, those are the three big systems that come to mind.
On the inside of the RV, regardless of what you pick on the outside, wired or wireless, you have to have a box that takes the outside Internet and converts it to something that you can use inside the RV That’s usually called a modem. The modem usually attaches to a router. Sometimes they’re all one thing. Sometimes they’re two boxes.
In my case they’re two boxes. But, you almost always have this combination. I want to stay with those green boxes in this whole presentation. So, just watch the green boxes.
On the output of the router you have wired or wireless. The primary wired is Ethernet, and the primary wireless is Wi-Fi. Let’s move on. Remember this, though, this is a very important diagram.
Let’s talk about the people who might want to use these technologies to watch movies. Let’s say they are convinced they’re going to use Netflix or they’re going to use Amazon and they’re going to watch streaming movies. I’m going to outline what I think is the most sensible path based on a couple of things.
The first thing and most important thing is fair use. All the wireless people… Because a signal that contains your Internet going out on wireless goes everywhere. Everybody can see it. It’s like one big wire and everybody has to share it. So, there are limits on what you can do.
Because of that cellular, satellite, they all have this thing called fair use. If you go over it it’s either going to cost you a boatload of money or they’re just going to shut you down. We’re on T-Mobile. If you go over the fair use limits on T-Mobile they slow you down. But, when I say slow you down it’s almost stopped.
Let’s look at the most sensible path that you’ll have for getting your movies in and around your RV Inside the RV I haven’t seen too many RVs wired for Ethernet. That’s really not what people do and it’s not what’s convenient. So, I’m just going to take that off the list.
Inside your RV you’re probably going to use a wireless technology called Wi-
Fi, sometimes called 802.11. Outside the RV I’m going to cross WiMAX off in a blue line. We used it very successfully. If you’re able to talk to Sprint and buy the WiMAX service that used to be called Clear, more power to you if you can do that. That’s pretty good, and you can watch movies through that.
I’m only going to cross it off with a blue line. It’s what I used for a long time, but I am going to cross it off as my recommended path for this presentation.
Cellular, honestly, is full of fair use limits. I’m going to take it off the list. But, I do see with T-Mobile and AT&T you can buy extra gigabits for pretty high rates. They really don’t want abusers on the system.
Then, I’m going to cross off satellite. Because if you thought it was bad for cellular, satellite’s even tougher on fair use.
I’m going to put a blue line through other radio. Because there might be other systems that are worth considering. I’m just not going to do it here.
Basically, because I’ve got two blue lines, I’m still going to cross off wireless. So, what I’m going to say to watch… If you’re going to watch movies… Everything else is viable unless you watch movies.
If you’re going to watch movies you really need to stay with cable or twisted pair on a wired connection side, which means it’s going to be hard if you’re mobile to be doing this – if you’re very, very mobile. If you’re going to sit and stay a month you can probably get stuff hooked up in a day or two if you carry an AT&T modem or a cable modem with you. Those are standardized. That’s pretty possible.
My reader said, “Hey, I got a smart TV, what can I do?”
Okay. If you do nothing but use the RV antenna inside your RV you’re really only going to get over the air TV in HD You might have a cable connection if you’re at an RV park and may be able to bring the cable into the smart TV through the RV’s existing cable connections. I’m not showing that here because it’s really not much different than RV antenna.
Secondly, I notice that most RV parks still are running not HD. So, don’t expect a lot there.
Let’s go to the next thing you can do. Well, first off, you’re going to have to have a modem. This is the same green box, and I’m showing my Clear modem here.
You’re going to have to have a router. I use the Apple AirPort Extreme. I tested a lot of them and this, for me, has been the best. The little red radio signal thing, this is Wi-Fi. This is exactly what I have drawn on the prior slides.
Now, if I do that with just my smart TV, just by adding these two components my smart TV.. And, I looked up your smart TV and it has built in Wi-Fi. You can get Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, [inaudible 00:09:39],
VUDU, all sorts of neat stuff. You can even play with Facebook.
So, basically you can watch the Internet TV now in HD You can get the majorleaguebaseball.com, Amazon, and just all sorts of neat things.
And, if you don’t mind typing letters using a remote control like on a TV you can surf the Internet, although I will say that typing thing is pretty painful. I was able to get an app for my smart TV which controls my smart TV via my iPhone. That works reasonably well.
What’s the next thing you could do? Well, if I add my MacBook Pro to this, this system like you see here, I can’t really do too much more. I can still surf the Internet and watch Internet TV from my Mac.
It’s not the same thing as the smart TV. They’re not linked. There’s no real way to link them at this point. There may be through apps that are on the TV But, in general the answer is really no.
If I add an Apple TV to the mix I can now put pics, music, and video from my Mac onto the TV. And, if I control it from my Apple TV this is kind of intermittent or spotty. Because a MacBook Air is not on all the time. You close it. You take it with you. Whenever the Macbook Air is not turned on you’re not going to be able to do things with your Apple TV like the pictures, music, and video from your Mac.
The flip side is whenever your Mac is open you can actually project your screen on the Mac onto the big screen TV using Apple AirPlay, and that is super slick. Those are two things you can do. It’s a little bit different perspective on the same thing. But, anything you see on your Mac screen you could put on your big screen TV pretty much at full speed, and that’s pretty cool.
You told me you had a SONOS Bridge. So, you’ll hook the SONOS Bridge up onto your Apple AirPort Extreme router. Then, once you do that with your SONOS Play:1 you can put your SONOS Play:1 speaker anywhere within range of the SONOS Bridge and you’ll be able to play music.
But, with your SONOS Play:1 and your SONOS Bridge, I looked around, and I don’t think you can play any of the sound from your TV onto your SONOS Play:1 speaker. But, you can stream Internet music to your SONOS and you can play iTunes music on your SONOS. Of course, the limitation there is if the iTunes is on your MacBook Pro that’s not something that’s on all the time because it’s a laptop.
So, one big sound improvement would be if you added a Play:5 to your system, the Play:5 got its audio from the big screen TV, and now you could have nice big screen TV sound coming on your SONOS. And, it would also go to your SONOS Play:1 speaker. Then, simultaneously you’d be able to get music off the Internet on both your Play:5 and your Play:1.
There’s your system. Thanks for watching. Hopefully, this’ll help you get a more fun and more useful RV entertainment system. Thanks.