April 9, 2020

Hacking Entertainment on the Road

On fire with the Amazon Firestick

(All photos by the author)

Just because we’re homeless, doesn’t mean we have to live like savages. This week, we’d like to tackle something that we researched a bit over the past year, and found very little straightforward information on online.

Being a TV Zero family on the road has never been easier. When we first heard of devices such as Google’s Chromecast, our minds went immediately to using it on the road. Could we use it in a hotel environment to say, watch Man in the High Castle or the latest season of Sense 8 on the big screen?

Sure, it could be argued that we don’t travel just to watch TV, but there’s a big difference between a weekend getaway and living and working long term on the road. Eventually, you’ll find yourself laid over in a Red Roof Inn in Knob Noster, Missouri with meager entertainment options, and Netflix starts to look like a viable alternative to the local fried butter fest.

Anyhow, we’ve been using Chromecast and the Amazon Firestick in hotels, hostels, yurts, tipis, house sitting stays and other dubious domiciles, and here’s what we’ve discovered;


The Good: You can use the Chromecast to control and cast web pages complete to your TV, handy if you’re wanting to watch an embedded player in a crazy non-YouTube format. This also allows you to use your 55” flat-screen as a second wireless monitor, because hey, who doesn’t want a Tweetdeck screen four feet wide?

The Bad: Are you an Amazon prime member? You won’t have access to Prime movies or the latest season of Alpha House… that is, unless you want to give some of the more dubious third party apps access to your Amazon account (bad idea). But here’s the real kicker to using a Chromecast in a hotel environment: most hotels use what’s called AP isolation on their networks (I’d be suspicious of a network that doesn’t). This partitions every device on the network off from each other, handy to prevent malicious snooping from the room next door. This does mean, however, that you can’t control the Chromecast from your smartphone, tablet or laptop like you could at home, as the two devices cannot talk to each other. In theory, the tech savvy user could use a small travel router to create a personal network off of the hotel WiFi, or you could use the hot spot on your phone for access, though that would definitely blow though your data plan quick.

A compact setup: The Amazon Firestick

Amazon Firestick

The Good: AP isolation on the hotel network? No problem… the Firestick can work alone, thanks to the remote. No need to have a wireless connection between the device and a controller, such as a tablet, smartphone of laptop.

The Bad: The remote is a bit quirky, and very touchy to use. I prefer controlling the Firestick from the App on my Android smartphone, though again, that’s not an option in a hotel environment. Turns out, the very toughest part of setting up the Firestick is installing the batteries, as the backside of the controller is seamlessly slick. We actually had to watch a video on YouTube to solve this!

We have yet to check out Netflix’s Roku stick while traveling… any one have any thoughts/anecdotes/tales of tragedy and/or triumph? Bueller?

In Florida and looking for a vehicle?

Anyhow, that’s how we survive without slipping back into the savagery that is cable TV on the road. Don’t worry, we’re getting set to go ‘international’ soon… shots are done, and we’re one vehicle sale away from hoping down to South America for a brief shakedown trip to get our world traveling mojo back.

Stay tuned!



  1. Interesting.. I hadn’t heard of “cord cutting” as being referred to as “TV Zero”, but it’s a good term to coin!
    I was having trouble with Fire Stick at a hotel, but fixed it with this: http://kodifiretvstick.com/fix-fire-stick-kodi-not-working/

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