Connecting my laptop to my living-room TV remotely

Published by Supertortuga on 2017-01-15

I guess that 5 years ago, it would never have crossed my mind that I would ever write an article with such a futurist and abstract title. Well, time has come, so here goes.

Recently I was faced with a small IT problem at home. The situation was that Mrs Supertortuga uses an old laptop of mine to download the mail (she normally uses an Android tablet or phone for most of her internet related tasks). This laptop is still working, but it is getting obsolete, running Windows XP which is no longer maintained. And the usage of the old laptop is also limited by that it is in practice restricted to use at one location (due to poor batteries).

To get the complete picture, I already have a wired LAN and wifi network at home. My 8 year old TV is equipped with a first-gen Chromecast device to stream movies, etc. My laptops, NAS devices, printers, phones, tablets, etc are all connected to this network.

You think I' just a stupid turtle? No, Sir! I'm a stupid tech nerd turtle, that's what I am!

I considered several possibilities:

  • Install a lightweight Linux operative system on the laptop and continue as before. Pros: no cost solution. Cons: I don't have time to set up the system, and though I would not mind using Linux myself, Mrs Supertortuga is not used to it.
  • Purchase a Raspberry PI and install a suitable distro. Pros: low cost solution. Cons: My time is still limited, and I know that I would end up also purchasing a new keyboard, and a new monitor with HDMI input would also be required (the old laptop is connected to an old VGA monitor).
  • Purchase a stick computer (an Intel Compute stick for around 170€) to connect directly to the TV though the HDMI input (I think I have an unused input). Pros: I would do away with the old laptop and monitor, and get a new PC capable of working as a mediacenter. Cons: more expensive than the Raspberry, and I would end up with another lowspecs PC to maintain, which would also soon be obsolete. And I would also need an external bluetooth keyboard and mouse to use it.

Attempting to think outside the box

So, by looking around on the Internet and thinking a bit, I came up with the great master plan:

  • Make better use of my new laptop by creating an account for Mrs Supertortuga.
  • Use remote desktop to connect to the tablet. I found that Microsoft has a remote desktop app (after a lot of thinking they named it Microsoft Remote Desktop) for Android which works great.
  • Use the Chromecast app to cast the screen from the tablet to my TV.
  • Purchase a cheap (around 15€ on Spanish Amazon) wireless Rii bluetooth keyboard with touch panel for easier input.
Schematic chart of connection set-up

Schematic chart of connection set-up

So I configured my laptop and tablet for remote desktop connection, and... It works just great. I had to play around with the resolution and magnification options to find a confortable set-up, but once it was done it was perfectly possible to use my Android tablet to connect to computer. When using the remote desktop connection directly on the tablet, the response time was quick, but when casting the screen from the Android to the TV, there was an annoying lag. This may have to do with the speed of my wifi network, which is not the greatest, but the system is definitely usable.

The only downside with this new set-up is of course that only one simultaneous user may user the new laptop - but Mrs Supertortuga is a low frequency user of the PC laptop anyway.

So, by spending 15€ on a remote bluetooth keyboard, I get a perfectly working and extremely flexible solution for a remote desktop connection, which will permit Mrs Supertortuga to connect easily using the Android tablet, with the added value of being able to cast the screen to the TV set.

I wonder what kind of strange connections will be possible in the future, as technology gets more advanced. Will we be able to have a remote connection to our toaster from our car? Will my fridge send the purchase list to local grocery store? And will I then come home at time to witness how five different delivery drones have been involved in a nasty accident due to an evil hacker attack?


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2017-01-27 10:39:32

Interesting post!

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