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Configuring mini-pc for home use and dark-site use

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#1 ryanha

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 12:06 PM

Just pulled the trigger on a miniPC (very excited!)

 

I am quite confident that I will be able to figure this out, but thought if someone already has, then I would prefer to learn from them vs. re-learn it on my own.  Either way, my thought process is as follows.

 

My use cases are:

- Use case 1: Home: This is typical use case where I have good excellent WiFi mesh with great signal outside and access to a monitor & mouse/keyboard if something goes sideways.

- Use case 2: Club site: My astro club has a dark side and they have WiFi. I don't want to travel with a screen/mouse/keyboard as backup but I want to be resilient to their WiFi going down. Does not have to be seamless transition to p2p connectivity, but I don't want to be SOL if it happens in terms of connecting my terminal (laptop) to the mini-pc at the scope.

- Use case 3: Friends house: I have a friend that lives in bortle 3/4 skies.  I have an RV and am going out there, want to hop on his WiFi.

- Use case 4: Campsite: Occasionally Ill go somewhere with no internet and possibly no cell service.

 

 

NOTE: I do not want to get extra hardware (e.g. WiFi router) nor do I want to travel with a mini screen/keyboard/mouse.  Not so much b/c of the cost but b/c I think I can do this w/o it. Also I plan on using RDP (Windows Remote Desktop), so this is mostly around network setup, etc.

 

I think for use case 1-3 I can just configure the WiFi on the mini-pc to auto-connect to these wireless networks and unless something goes sideways, I am k.   I cover the case where things go sideways below.

 

For #4 I think there is a way to configure my terminal (laptop) to be a hotspot, so as long as I add the SSID to the miniPC ahead of time it should connect to it directly thinking that it is just a regular WiFi router and then from there I can just remote connect as usual.

 

There is another option which would be to configure my phone to be a hotspot and connect the laptop and the mini-PC to that.  I'll have to try that one out, though not sure what will happen if there is no Internet.  The advantage to this is that I won't have to change my laptop network settings. Plus sometimes ill be using a Macbook laptop and not sure if it has hotspot capabilities.

 

Lastly, there is the "disaster case" where I am in the field and it is not connecting to wireless. I think there is a way to direct connect between the laptop and the mini-pc using a crossover ethernet cable in this case.

 

So, I guess the open things I will research (unless someone has answers) are:

- How to configure my laptop as a WiFi hotspot

- Test whether remote desktop between the laptop and the mini-pc will work if I use my phone as a hotspot

- How to connect/configure LAN (ethernet wire) to work p2p using an ethernet cable (I think it has to be crossover type cable?)

- How to configure order of preference for automatic connect of the wifi networks (in case multiple are active)

 

If anyone has answers to those or other thoughts let me know!  If I figure it out, Ill post what I find.

 

Thanks,

--Ryan



#2 Midnight Dan

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 12:15 PM

For #4 I think there is a way to configure my terminal (laptop) to be a hotspot, so as long as I add the SSID to the miniPC ahead of time it should connect to it directly thinking that it is just a regular WiFi router and then from there I can just remote connect as usual.

 

A hotspot is a wifi link to a cell network.  Since you may have no cell network, you want to set up your mini PC as an "ad-hoc wifi network".  That will allow other devices to connect to as if it were a router, but without it connecting to the internet.

 

-Dan



#3 Joe G

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 02:21 PM

I understand you say you don't want to use a separate router, but why?  I use this little wifi router with my mini PC.  Just plugs into one of the USB  ports.  Uses very little power.  I velcro it to my mini PC.

 

Very simple.  Eliminates all the hassles you describe at various sites.

 

https://www.amazon.c...0?ie=UTF8&psc=1



#4 ryanha

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 02:52 PM

A hotspot is a wifi link to a cell network.  Since you may have no cell network, you want to set up your mini PC as an "ad-hoc wifi network".  That will allow other devices to connect to as if it were a router, but without it connecting to the internet.

 

-Dan

Windows 10 has a feature to enable your laptop to be used as a WiFi hotspot (link).

 

The advantage of this is that I can configure the Mini-PC for the following WiFi networks:

- Home WiFi

- Club Dark Site WiFi

- Friend's House WiFi

- Laptop hotspot WiFi (for desolate dark site)

 

That way I don't have to configure my miniPC in any of these scenarios, though I would have to configure my Laptop for the desolate dark site scenario.   

 

The advantage of not needing to configure the miniPC is that without a monitor and keyboard if it gets misconfigured and I am in the middle of nowhere I am SOL :)

 

--Ryan



#5 ryanha

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 03:01 PM

I understand you say you don't want to use a separate router, but why?  I use this little wifi router with my mini PC.  Just plugs into one of the USB  ports.  Uses very little power.  I velcro it to my mini PC.

 

Very simple.  Eliminates all the hassles you describe at various sites.

 

https://www.amazon.c...0?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Just so I understand, you basically configure your mini-router with the various WiFi networks for the various destinations and then you have your laptop connect to it?  

 

Do you ever manually switch between networks when you are at home (and do you ever have to do any network / WiFi changes?)

 

It is not a bad way to go and I am not super-duper against it, but if I can do what I want w/o needing an extra part it is just one less part to fail.

 

Also, I am not sure if the dongle WiFi would be slower than native  WiFi at home (which is the default and most common scenario for me).  The NUC that I got (NUC10i7FNH) claims to do 2.4Gbps wifi which sounds really fast and I def want it to be auto-syncing data to my desktop which is where I plan to do most of my processing.

 

I'll let you know how it goes when I get it next week.

 

--Ryan



#6 Joe G

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 05:38 PM

Ryan,

 

You basically configure the little router as you would any other router.  It uses both the 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz bands.  The thing is tiny measuring about 2.75" square.  It uses 5 volt USB power and doesn't seem to need much.

 

At least with my MINIX mini PC, when the computer powers on you want it to automatically connect to one "KNOWN" network, largely because you don't want to bring a mouse, keyboard, and monitor with you to try to figure out which network it connected to.  That might be an advantage for having this little router.  You set up a network one-time and when the computer boots you know it will connect to that network.

 

Just in case you go this way, there is a Microsoft Remote Desktop Assistant program that will help you set up the connection to various networks.  You need to be connected to the internet to run the program, and it analyzes things and gives you the info needed for connecting your other devices.

 

Download here:

 

https://www.microsof...s.aspx?id=50042

 

In my case I will use my home mesh network while at home.  The MINIX will need to boot to that wireless network.

 

Everywhere else, I will reset the network to the little router's wireless network and connect to that.  Honestly it might be easier to always connect to the little router, but my home network has more range.

 

Microsoft provides apps for the devices you use to connect to your mini PC.  I believe they are available for PCs, MACs, Android and Apple phones etc.  I have the Remote Desktop App on my tablet and it works great.

 

Just some stuff to consider.  Sounds like that is one heck of a mini PC you bought.

 

Picture shows the mini PC with the router velcroed to each other and the tri-pier.

 

 

 

 

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#7 ryanha

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 06:17 PM

 

In my case I will use my home mesh network while at home.  The MINIX will need to boot to that wireless network.

 

Everywhere else, I will reset the network to the little router's wireless network and connect to that. 

 

Sounds like that is one heck of a mini PC you bought.

 

Thanks for the notes!  

 

Yeah on the miniPC, I started out trying to just get something "cheap."  But then I was like, well.... sometimes I like do use autostakkert to stack planetary images while I am imaging just to see what I have.  Then I was thinking .... well maybe I also want to live stack sometimes and also hook up my Sony camera to do time lapse while imaging or to just check on the rig while inside. Then I was like... oh man, what if I bought one that was too slow and then I was like "your crazy, you don't need an i7 mounted to your telescope" and then I was like, "well none of this gear is necessary, that is not why I do it!"

 

Then I talked myself into the unit that was a step above the most expensive one on my list of possibilities :)

 

But hey, now I have a 1TB 16GB i7 PC hooked up to my rig!  (smh) I better learn how to make good images or I will be really ashamed of myself!  Ha hahah! 

 

--Ryan



#8 Joe G

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 08:27 PM

I'm going to qualify what I said above.

 

I have had a little bit of an issue with Windows Remote Desktop.  The app I linked to in post 6 does help. 

 

I have been testing things at home with my home network running and the little TPL router also running.  If you have multiple networks running, I am not sure how the mini PC picks which one to connect to automatically.  Typically when Windows finds a network and you try to login it ask for a password and then leaves the box checked to join that network automatically.  When you have multiple networks and can't see which network to select (because you don't have a monitor), I don't know how this can be "ordered" or prioritized on the mini PC end of things.   If someone knows that would be great.

 

When you run that program above (and you need to be connected to the internet for some reason) on your mini PC when connected to "a" network, it will give login instructions for your client consisting of a PC Name and User Name.  In my case it gave the mini PC's IP number for the PC Name and my Microsoft account user name for the username.

 

I had to run this program for the other wireless network connections which gave different IP addresses for each connection.  So on my laptop that I use to login I had to set up a separate "PC" for each wireless network that was going to be used to connect to the mini PC.  Each wireless network connection had a separate IP address for the mini PC.

 

Here is what the Microsoft Remote Desktop Assistant gave for my home wireless network when it ran on the mini PC:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#9 Joe G

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 08:37 PM

You then need to take the PC Name and User name info to the client PC and enter it into the Remote Desktop App.  Before that you need to download the app from the Microsoft store for your device.  Or the Google Play Store for an Android device, etc.

 

If you have multiple connections over various wireless networks then you will see something like this when you click on the Remote Desktop App.

 

In my case you can see my home network with my Linksys Mesh router.  The next two are connections to that little TP Link router.

 

If you went over to your friend's home, then you would need to make a connection to his network, etc.

 

I guess the advantage of the separate dedicated TP Link router is you could use it anywhere.  It might simplify things.

 

If anyone else has any better ideas, I'd love to hear them.  But I will say now that things are setup, it seems to work extremely well.

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Edited by Joe G, 28 October 2020 - 08:38 PM.


#10 ryanha

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Posted 29 October 2020 - 10:53 AM

 I don't know how this can be "ordered" or prioritized on the mini PC end of things.   If someone knows that would be great.

 

 

Here is a post that shows you how to set the priority order. The second part shows the command line interface steps to take to configure the priority of your wlan networks (disregard the first one it just talks about having one be automatic which is not sufficient for your use case).

 

https://www.windowsc...rder-windows-10

 

--Ryan



#11 ryanha

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Posted 29 October 2020 - 10:58 AM

 

 

 In my case it gave the mini PC's IP number for the PC Name and my Microsoft account user name for the username.

 

I had to run this program for the other wireless network connections which gave different IP addresses for each connection.  So on my laptop that I use to login I had to set up a separate "PC" for each wireless network that was going to be used to connect to the mini PC.  Each wireless network connection had a separate IP address for the mini PC.

 

You *might* sometimes run into issues doing it this way since the IP address *might* be dynamically allocated by the router using a network protocol called DHCP. In your case since you are only connecting with a couple devices this may be fine. There is a way to turn on "network discovery" where nodes on the network will respond to named connections (e.g. "MyMiniPC"). That would be robust to changes in IP address which could happen in some cases.

 

My MiniPC hopefully comes this weekend and Ill play around with it and post what I come up with.

 

Did I mention that I am VERY excited?  

 

--Ryan


Edited by ryanha, 29 October 2020 - 10:58 AM.



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