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MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC is In The House

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245 replies to this topic

#51 james7ca

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 07:20 PM

Is it possible that your Acer is going into sleep/powerdown mode and not properly recovering?  I rdp and haven't run into any issues so far.  Maybe its just a bug as well that will get fixed on a future Win 10 update...

Thanks, but I don't think it is a sleep issue, the Acer is on A/C power and it isn't even connected to the internet (so no updates from Microsoft). If I had to guess, I think it is a bug in the Connect app/service that is running on the display device (in this case, that's the Acer notebook computer). Also, since I can reconnect to the Minix without doing anything to that device then I think it suggests that the problem is on the Acer. It could be that the display link is being dropped and the Connect app may not recover well from that situation. However, when I force the connection to drop by moving the computer too far away from the Minix the app usually just drops out of the display mode by itself.

 

I've had one other problem with the wireless display mode, sometimes you can't switch out of the full-screen mode on the Acer, so there is no way to return to the Windows desktop that is actually running on the notebook itself (keyboard F11 or fn + F11 or escape doesn't work).  Well, you can force your way back to the desktop by bringing up the task manager with a control-alt-delete key sequence followed by a cancel. However, that also brings up the task manager dialog on the Minix, so you need to remember to cancel in both locations.


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#52 james7ca

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Posted 21 February 2017 - 10:07 PM

Just a quick update on my use of the Minix mini PC.

 

Simply put, it works.

 

However, the wireless display mode that I've been using for remote-style access to the Minix from my Acer notebook is still giving me some issues. First, I'm getting disconnects about every two or three hours (although I have had a few sessions that worked for as long as six hours). By "disconnects" I mean that the wireless display stops updating and the mouse pointing gets very erratic. When this happens I have to re-do the wireless display connection which just takes a minute or so but it is still an annoyance that I'd like to eliminate. Fortunately, I have rigged up a method to do this re-connection by just pressing the power button on the Minix (it's a bit more than that, but I'll spare you the full details), but it can also be done with a keyboard shortcut if you leave a keyboard connected to the Minix. When these disconnects occur the capture session on the Minix continues without issues, so it doesn't cause any loss of subs or problems on the Minix itself.

 

The other problem that I've seen with the wireless display is that you usually can't minimize the so-called connect window (that shows the remote desktop on the Minix), so you can't easily return to the desktop display on the PC that is hosting the remote connection. The workaround here is to bring up the task manager (control-alt-delete) on the host PC (see previous post, #51 for more details).

 

Note, in the above I'm taking about the wireless display feature that is supported natively, no third-party software, in the latest release of Windows 10. Thus, I'm NOT talking about remote access software like Microsoft's Remote Desktop, or Teamviewer, or Real VNC. Those apps work the same on the Minix as with any PC.

 

Lastly, I purchased a 32GB PNY Elite-X U3-speed-class card ($15 from Amazon) to see how the performance of that card compared to my Samsung Pro microSDs. The read performance was very good, at least 90MB/s, but the write performance was only about 30MB/s on the Minix which is one half of what I get with the Samsung Pro cards. So, the Samsung Pro class 10 U3 microSDs remain the fastest cards that I have found (they are also among the most expensive and the only place that seems to carry them is Amazon). Note, in order to get fast write speeds you need a U3-class card, but you want to avoid any cards that use the UHS-II bus interface since the extra pins that support that bus are not present on the Minix or on any of the stick PCs (but, the UHS-II cards will work in the Minix, they just won't be as fast as they would be in an actual UHS-II host device).


Edited by james7ca, 22 February 2017 - 01:14 AM.

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#53 FiremanDan

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Posted 22 February 2017 - 12:58 AM

Thanks for the update. I got a few bucks set aside, I am just trying to decide what I need to get first. I'd really like to be able to take windows off my MacBook and not have to leave this outside for hours on end. 



#54 liquid4

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Posted 22 February 2017 - 06:33 AM

My Minix  should be arriving today


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#55 liquid4

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 01:47 PM

Have my Minix now, what would be the best remote viewer to use with the Minix and controlled from an older Windows 7 HP laptop?


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#56 liquid4

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 01:48 PM

Also have the power meter on order.



#57 Xeroid

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 03:53 PM

Get TightVNC server on Minix (free), Real VNC or Tight VNC VIEWER on Windows 7

 

Have my Minix now, what would be the best remote viewer to use with the Minix and controlled from an older Windows 7 HP laptop?



#58 liquid4

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 12:06 AM

Tried tight vnc viewer on my minix and laptop. It seems to work great. Thanks for the tip. Now trying to deside what control software to install SGP or ATP. Since I am a raw beginner, APT appears easier.
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#59 Thirteen

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 12:38 AM

Tried tight vnc viewer on my minix and laptop. It seems to work great. Thanks for the tip. Now trying to deside what control software to install SGP or ATP. Since I am a raw beginner, APT appears easier.

Try them out... they both have trials!


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#60 NetGuru

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 07:53 AM

Thanks to james7ca there's a bunch of use using the Minix computer. Just received mine yesterday. Upgrade to Windows 10 Pro so I don't have to deal with other remote access software. Just using Windows RDP. Going to start loading it up with all my apps.



#61 FiremanDan

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 11:25 AM

I think I will be ordering mine by the 15th... Payday... 

I hope to utilize this at dark sites, without internet, or even cell service. 

If I recall, isn't there a way for the computer to create it's own wifi on boot up, which would then be used by an iPad like device to view and control the PC? 

What is this program called? 

 

I am excited to see so many guinea pigs pioneers using this computer w/o major issues before I order mine. lol.gif

 

Oh! Also, what size is the power input jack? I have been ordering 2.1x5.5mm extension cables for my 12v peripherals. These will be able to be plugged into AC supplies, or yet to be ordered 12v "cigarette lighter" plugs for my remote system. It's not the rig runner system I wanted, but it'll do for now until I can gather the needed funds.
To that end, I hope to do the same for this mini PC, which will require adding yet another 12v port on my battery box.  


Edited by FiremanDan, 09 March 2017 - 11:29 AM.

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#62 Coolwataz

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 04:51 PM

Mine arrives tomorrow!  I'm trying to figure out which of my equipment is 2.1 or 2.5mm.  All the spec sheets just say its 12V DC coaxial adaptor but not the size of the plug.  



#63 james7ca

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 08:49 PM

The power plug on the Minix is a 5.5 x 2.5mm, I'm using the Velleman CD016 male to female screw terminals on mine.

 

As for setting up an ad hoc WiFi network, I think the methods to enable that were made much more complex in Windows 10 because it was considered an unsecure and poor performing technology (limited to 11mbps and the 2.4GHz frequency band). In some respects, WiFi Direct replaced it, but as far as I know none of the remote access software can be configured to use WiFi Direct (I may be wrong on that). You may still be able to setup an ad hoc network under Windows 10, but it may not be as easy as it once was under earlier versions of Windows. In fact, if someone knows of a relatively easy way to set up an ad hoc WiFi network under Windows 10 I'd be glad to hear about it (most discussions on the internet talk only about Windows 7 and 8, or they document many failed attempts to do the same under Windows 10).

 

In any case, this is one reason I've been using the Wireless Display feature that is in the latest release of Windows 10, it uses Miracast and WiFi Direct to do the remote access and so it doesn't need a separate wireless access point or an existing WiFi network (it's point-to-point, just the notebook computer and the Minix). The only problem I've had when using the Wireless Display feature it that it isn't 100% reliable, random but infrequent disconnects, and no built-in method to initiate the connection without a keyboard and/or already having a display connected to the target device (at least initially, during the connection phase, thereafter you don't need a second display). As for the latter, I wrote some simple scripts to do the connection automatically at startup and that seems to work pretty well (and with no requirement for a keyboard or display connected to the Minix).


Edited by james7ca, 09 March 2017 - 09:42 PM.

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#64 james7ca

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 01:31 AM

As for network connections, although the Minix has a gigabit ethernet port I decided to try a inexpensive, 10/100mbps TRENDnet USB-to-ethernet adapter because I didn't want to bring another cable down from the optical tube to support ethernet. So, given that I needed a USB cable to support a connection to the mount I just added a hub at the ground level so that I can run multiple USB device over that single cable to the Minix. To that I added the TRENDnet adapter and I was able to get file sharing to work over that ethernet connection at very near to the 100mbps rating (about 10M bytes per second with file transfers). This is while connected to my StarTech USB hub, not directly attached to a port on the Minix itself (so i/o path is Minix -> StarTech Hub -> TRENDnet adapter). I think you could also use that wired connection for remote access if you wanted (point-to-point with no router), but I haven't yet tried that since WiFi can be more convenient for completely untethered access to the Minix.

 

In fact, I'm thinking about working on a configuration that would allow wired ethernet file transfers from the Minix to a desktop computer while I use WiFi for the remote access. That way I could transfer files from the Minix to my desktop inside the house while still having my notebook completely untethered and connected to the Minix over WiFi. The wired ethernet seems to be a lot faster for file transfers than is WiFi and besides if you really load-up on the WiFi (remote desktop and file sharing) then the file transfers and remote GUI can get really slow.

 

Here is a picture of the TRENDnet ethernet adapter, very small, good performance (in my hands), and costs only $13 from Amazon. For a little more money you can get a USB3 version that supports gigabit ethernet (but since my connection to the ground is over USB2 I didn't need the faster adapter).

Attached Thumbnails

  • TRENDnet Ethernet Adapter.jpg

Edited by james7ca, 10 March 2017 - 04:21 AM.

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#65 gundark

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 02:31 AM

Great thread. I just ordered mine. smile.gif



#66 rockstarbill

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 03:00 AM

Good thread. I think this is likely a better way to go than the stick PC route. It does warrant some comparison to the Raspberry Pi ($39) configuration that is in the wild today. 

 

A few things I like about this device:

 

1. Runs Windows 64 Bit out of the box, fully licensed.

2. Can run ASCOM, ASCOM compliant devices and drivers natively.

3. Can use familiar software like SGP, APT, SkyX, APCC, Nebulosity, etc.

4. Supports USB 3.0.

5. Allows for storage increases via SD card slot; not limited to USB (which I thought it was based on reading the specs, can someone confirm?).

 

A few things I do not like about this device:

 

1. Power consumption is significantly higher than headless mode RPi3.

2. Device footprint much larger than RPi3.

3. Cost is 4 times more than RPi3 (although if you account for the Windows license fee, the difference is less)

4. Base storage only 32GB. After Windows, ASCOM and other software, you will have maybe 75% of this?



#67 james7ca

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 04:19 AM

The Minix NEO Z83-4 has a microSD card slot, not a full-size SD. The specs refer to it as a Transflash port which is the storage-only version of microSD (doesn't support other types of i/o like a Bluetooth card). 



#68 NetGuru

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 07:30 AM

MINIX has tested the NEO Z83-4 with up to a 128GB microSD card. They said they have not tried any larger ones.  I would check out these reviews before buy one so you get one with a high Write speed. Most microSD's when advertised are Read speeds. 

 

https://havecamerawi...t-microsd-cards

Half way down the page there are Benchmark Speed Test Results.



#69 FiremanDan

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 01:17 PM

Hmmm. So if I am understanding things right, this might not be the solution I thought it'd be. 

My plan was to be able to take this OTA mounted computer out to a remote site with no wifi or cell signal, and be able to power it on and control it over the air to my iPad. But it sounds like I need a computer screen and a keyboard/mouse to get things started at least. 



#70 entilza

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 01:29 PM

No Dan, You just need a $15 USB router that gives you WIFI wherever you are.  Then you can connect to it from your phone / tablet or mac smile.gif  You can power the USB wifi router from your power supply or I just use an external power pack so I can put it in a good spot, usually my car dashboard...  I don't power it with the car because if I flick the car ignition it will disconnect the USB for a moment.


Edited by entilza, 10 March 2017 - 01:31 PM.

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#71 FiremanDan

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 01:42 PM

But I still need a way to get the computer connected to the wifi, and remote desktop or teamview or however I get the thing talking to my ipad right? 



#72 dan_hm

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 01:47 PM

But I still need a way to get the computer connected to the wifi, and remote desktop or teamview or however I get the thing talking to my ipad right? 

When you're setting it up at home you just connect it to an HDMI port on your monitor or TV.  You will need to connect a mouse to the USB port.  You can connect a keyboard or just use the on-screen keyboard.  Then you can set it to connect automatically to whatever wifi source you'll be using in the field.  If you use Teamviewer, you should set it to start when Windows starts AND set a custom password, otherwise it'll change everytime you start it up.  I believe MS Remote Desktop starts with Windows by default, but you might want to check anyway. 



#73 entilza

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 02:01 PM

Yep it's a one time deal, once you set it to connect to that wifi automatically the next time you turn it on it will automatically connect.

 

That's always the 'cross my finger' moment when I get all remotely setup I turn on my little computer and pray it will connect, hah.  It always has so far :)  Just make sure you click the "Connect Automatically"   


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#74 NetGuru

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 02:29 PM

You can setup an ad-hoc WiFi network on the Minix NEO Z83-4 and connect to it from another computer.  That way when you are at a remote site you don't need any access point. It's just a peer to peer connection. Just Google ad-hoc WiFi network for Windows 10.


Edited by NetGuru, 10 March 2017 - 02:29 PM.

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#75 james7ca

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 01:00 AM

There are at least two different ways to use a second computer to control the Minix or a Stick PC (and lots of variations on the first of those two methods).

 

The first, and certainly the most common, is to use remote access software like Microsoft's Remote Desktop, or TeamViewer, or one of the VNC apps, or one of several other third-party utilities (take your pick). However, as far as I know all of these utilities require some type of explicit network connection between the remote PC and the controlling system. The remote control can be done from a desktop computer, a notebook computer (in both cases either a PC or Mac or Linux/UNIX , or Chromebook), or even a mobile system like a phone or tablet (iOS or Android or Windows).

 

Given the above (remote access software) you can establish your network connection using several different techniques. The first is to connect over an existing WiFi network that has been established using a wireless access point (a separate device, also known as a WiFi router). This can be done fairly easily while at home since most people probably already have a WiFi network running there. However, if you want to take your system into the field then you MAY need to carry and use a separate wireless access point so that you can establish a network while away from home.

 

Note, I said that you MAY need to carry such a device. That's because it is possible to establish something called an ad hoc network that does not require a dedicated (separate) WiFi access point or router. In this case the two devices (i.e. the Minix and the controlling PC, et. al.) work in what is normally called a point-to-point connection with no need for a separate access point or router. If you look on the internet you will find lots of information on how to do this type of connection using Microsoft Windows 7 and 8. Unfortunately (I guess), Microsoft has changed the level of support that they offer for ad hoc networks in Windows 10.

 

Be forewarned, there are a lot of links that will come up if you search for ad hoc or point-to-point networking and even if they list Windows 10 in the search results and even if they are titled under "Windows 10" they may NOT show the correct method to create such a network under Windows 10. Most often you will find instructions for earlier version of Windows (Vista, 7, 8, etc.) and I suspect that these so-called Windows help sites are sometimes just a form of click-bait, they want your clicks even if their instructions aren't correct for Windows 10.

 

Below is a link that seems to offer the "correct" method to create an ad hoc WiFi network under Windows 10. Unfortunately, even though this was written by a Microsoft support tech it is obvious that this person wasn't a native English speaker (either that or he was just having a bad day) and note there are typos in the instructions. Thus, to get these instructions to work you will have to follow the entire response thread and you may even need to reference some more links (to fill in the details). In any case, here is that link:

 

  https://answers.micr...5c-0abf10ed2039

 

Now, if someone could point to a set of complete, error-free instruction that they absolutely positively know will work under Windows 10 then I'd like to have that link or set of instructions.

 

Of course, if you want to avoid some of this grief or confusion you can always use a wired connection over ethernet. In that case you can either use an ethernet router (cheap and easier to setup than WiFi) or go point-to-point between the Minix and the PC using a simple ethernet cable (it doesn't even need to be a cross-over cable because most gigabit network connections offer auto switching to support direct PC-to-PC connections).

 

Okay, so all of the above was in reference to using so-called remote access software to control your Minix or Stick Computer. So, what is the second method? It's something called Wireless Display and it is supported only in the latest release of Windows 10.

 

The Wireless Display feature uses WiFi Direct (different that ad hoc networking) and Miracast to establish a point-to-point connection between the Minix and the controlling PC. Once this service is running (and it's supported directly by Microsoft as part of Windows 10) the experience is very similar to using something like Remote Desktop or TeamViewer except that you do NOT need access to a WiFi network, the Wireless Display feature is completely point-to-point by design (think ad hoc networking without any need for YOU to set up a WiFi network). Well, you still need WiFi in both devices and you need to do a simple one-time setup, and (important point) both devices must be running Windows (so no support for the Mac, Linux/UNIX, or mobile devices running iOS or Android).

 

You should note, however, that it is possible that I am the only person who has ever tried to use the Wireless Display feature of Windows 10 to control a remote PC that is running a telescope or astrophotography session. That said, in my hands it seems to work pretty well and since it is directly supported by Microsoft it should only get better in the future (which is something that you probably can't say  about setting up an ad hoc WiFi network, as discussed previously in my notes on remote access software).

 

In any case, if you review the following links (posts within this very thread) you can get some background on using the Wireless Display feature of Windows 10.

 

  http://www.cloudynig...-2#entry7648041

 

  http://www.cloudynig...-2#entry7649324

 

  http://www.cloudynig...-2#entry7649465

 

  http://www.cloudynig...-3#entry7718779

 

That last post documents some problems I've had with the Wireless Display feature, so it's not 100% rock solid, but certainly good enough for use and I've yet to see any of the remote access style software run without issue (i.e. there is always something and YMMV). In fact, I've recently discovered that one of the problems I was having can be solved by using an HDMI emulator or dummy HDMI plug. It seemed that the Minix didn't need that for the Wireless Display to function, but it appears that if you don't use an HDMI emulator then you may not be able to switch between the desktops that are running on the remote PC (yes, the HDMI emulator is plugged into the Minix to solve a GUI problem on the remote PC).

 

And here is an article that discusses the Wireless Display feature in Windows 10 (with instructions on how to set it up):

 

   http://www.laptopmag...wirelss-display

 

As for the simple script that I wrote to support auto connection to the Wireless Display at boot time (to a headless and keyboardless Minix), the entire process that I used to create this is something that is not that easy to document and I don't want to risk going to full-time software support. Suffice to say that the method involves a keyboard script that runs at startup time on the Minix with the aid of the AutoHotKey utility (basically a keyboard macro).

 

It's kind of a "hack" but I think completely safe and it doesn't require any patches or extensions to Windows (other than the free AutoHotKey utility). Having said that and recognizing that I don't want to offer free, unrestricted software support below is the script that I run at startup time (note, you need to disable any login requirements to the Minix, since this script must be run while you are idle at the startup desktop, you also need the free AutoHotKey utility which you can download from the internet, this is a script that must be run by AutoHotKey).

 

Basically, all this script does is wait for the Minix to boot and then issue the keyboard shortcut WindowsKey+K, then wait again for the Wireless Display list to populate, and then issue a Tab and an Enter key. This starts the Wireless Display connect process between the remote PC and the Minix (you could do the same thing with a keyboard, this script just automates the keystrokes). Note, you want to start/boot the remote PC first, then start the Minix (the power-on sequence is remote PC first, then the Minix).

 

Note, although I believe that this script is "safe" to use and the the AutoHotKey utility is similarly safe I neither offer or take any responsibility for use of this script or the AutoHotKey software. Basically, use at your own risk.

 

 


; AutoHotkey script to connect to the first PC in the Wireless Display List
; Requires Windows 10 Home Anniversary Edition of later.

 

; wait to finish startup or wake
Sleep, 5000

 

; dismiss any splash screen
Send {Escape}

 

; wait for screen to dismiss
Sleep, 1000

 

; second attempt to dismiss any splash screen
Send {Escape}

 

; wait for screen to dismiss
Sleep, 1000

 

; keyboard shortcut for the Wireless Display Connection, Windows+k
Send #k

; wait for window to appear and for list to populate
Sleep, 15000

; check to see if the Wireless Display window is active
IfWinActive, CONNECT
{
    ; Move to the first PC in the list and send enter to select, we assume success as there is no
    ; way to determine whether the wireless display was found.
    Send {Tab}
    Send {Enter}

 

    ; dismiss Connect window
    Sleep, 1000
    Send {Escape}
}
Return

 

Note, this script takes a minute or two to run, since it waits for several seconds at various points in its operation, be patient, if nothing has happened on the remote PC after several minutes of waiting you can probably assume that something went wrong on the Minix. In my hands it works almost all of the time and when it fails it is usually because Windows has put up a login screen (happens now and then even though I have disabled login) or because Windows has put up some other type of alert at startup (i.e. something has gone wrong in Windows or they are reminding you that you want to update to Microsoft Office, etc.). My rate of success in connections is very high, well over 95% and if it fails you generally just need to restart the Minix.

 

So, as a quick review and guide for using the Wireless Display feature that is in the Anniversary release of Windows 10.

 

1.) Follow the instructions to setup the Wireless Display as shown at the link I provided above (laptopmag.com). You'll want to have a display and keyboard connected to the Minix for this part of the process.

 

2.) After you have the Wireless Display feature working the way you want download the free AutoHotKey utility and use that to create a standalone executable (.exe) from the script file that I provided above. You'll do this part of the work on the Minix, that is the system that will need to run the standalone executable that you just created.

 

3.) DISCONNECT from any current Wireless Display session that you may have already opened and test that the script executable (.exe) can initiate a new Wireless Display session (from the Minix, just double click on the executable). You'll still want a display and keyboard connected to the Minix during the testing to see that everything is working correctly.

 

4.) If everything seems correct, configure the standalone executable to automatically run at startup time on the Minix (if you don't know how to do this just search for the method on the internet, it's straightforward and a feature that is natively supported under Windows).

 

5.) Now reboot the Minix and the Wireless Display should be automatically re-connected (the Minix desktop should be displayed on the remote PC). Note, you need to disable any login screen on the Minix, otherwise the boot process on the Minix will stop at the login screen.

 

6.) Now, shutdown the Minix, disconnect the display and keyboard from same and press the power button to restart everything. You should get the Wireless Display connection automatically on your remote PC. After this point you should no longer need a display and keyboard connected to the Minix as long as the remote PC is already running when you start the Minix.


Edited by james7ca, 11 March 2017 - 07:14 AM.

  • PI_CO100, Xeroid and Stamos like this


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