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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tip for switching video inputs on the hotel TV

This is how to easily bypass this system and watch videos from your laptop on a hotel set.
(If you don't want to read my story, the second picture shows you what to do)

Recently I stayed at an Embassy Suites hotel in Maryland, and they had a nice LG HDTV and an OnCommand remote control with a box on the back labelled OnCommand as well.  I think the system may be built by LodgeNet.



I had brought some DVD's and we wanted to watch a movie using my laptop as the video source and the room HDTV.  That sounds fairly reasonable, right?   Lots of people want to hook up a PS3 video game console, or use streaming movies, netflix, slingbox, and the like and watch video from their own laptop while staying at a hotel.   I should be able to use this HDTV as the monitor, I payed to rent the room!

First I wasted $25 at the neighboring best buy buying an HDMI cable, because I noted that the TV had HDMI connectors on the back and my laptop has an HDMI output.  I could have gone VGA but then I'd have to listen to the sound from the laptop, which is horrible, or have an audio cable plugged into the headphone jack too.  HDMI will also carry sound to the TV.    HDMI cables are a major profit source for Bestbuy because people price shop for the tv and then buy a stupid $50 cable to give them back the profit.   The cheapest they had was $25.  Now high quality cables do make a difference for long runs or marginal equipment, but if you only need a 3 foot cable, a $1.50 cable from monoprice is fine.  I know all about cable bandwidth, speckles and dropped bits, but that is a post for another time.  I should have packed a cable from home, but you can't bring everything.

I get back and I plug the HDMI cable into the TV and laptop and go to switch the input to the AUX or HDMI 1 source.  Whoops, no button on the hotel remote to do that.   I go to the set and push the input button on the side.   Nothing.  It is clearly disabled.   The menu button doesn't work either.  I can't change channels to the new video source either.   Curse you red baron!!!!!!!!   The hotel has lobotomized the TV.  I can sympathize because the hotel doesn't want every new guest calling up that the TV is messed up and all that needs to be done is to change the inputs back to the hotel feed.  So they save a lot of time and headaches with a TV that only tunes to the channels that work.   They also are looking to earn a buck from pay movies too, that is a little less understandable.

At first I thought the solution was to go back to the best buy and get a universal remote so I could push the input/menu buttons.  But I didn't want to spend any more money and the family was getting tired of waiting.   Years ago I used to carry a universal remote on business travel because that was the way to see the blocked channels with the old analog hotel systems. The old time hack was to simply connect the coax cable from the wall directly to the TV (a car key wedged in the metal shield turns it) and bypass the extra hotel box to see the pay per view movies using the universal remote to change channels directly on the TV.  Ahh the old days when technology was so easy to hack.   I'm sure it is not that much harder these days.  I don't want to see their crappy pay per view movies, the laptop has all the video anyone would ever need.

A little googling gave me this
http://boardingarea.com/blogs/traveltechtalk/2008/01/27/hack-the-hotel-tv-watch-what-you-want-on-it/
It has a bunch of suggestions and random information about universal remotes, installer remotes, TV hospitality mode.  It looks like a lot depends on what equipment you are facing.  It definitely isn't worth buying a universal remote until I try some basic unplugging.

The first thing I tried worked!   There is a grey phone line cable that connects from the back of the TV to the parasitic OnCommand box on the back (I saw a similar thing with bugs hanging on your back in star trek and doctor who ).    I simply unclipped the phone cable from the box and let it hang.  Now the input buttons work on the side of the TV and I can change inputs.  TV is unlocked!  Woot!   I plugged in the cable to the HDMI input and laptop and played the movie.  Family hero.



I simply reconnected the grey phone cable when I was done, turned off the set and turned it back on and it was back to hotel normal.  No worries.

Just so you don't miss the hacking fun, on the first try of disconnecting the phone cable, the TV went dead for a minute and wouldn't turn on.  I thought I was going to have to call the front desk and play dumb, but turns out I accidentally knocked the power plug loose turning the TV around.  :-)  Unhooking power and putting it back in fixed the issue.   False alarm.  But as a last resort if things go wonky on you, unplug the TV from the wall and plug it back in after you remove or reconnect the phone cord and all should be right again.  I later confirmed that unplugging the TV from the wall between steps is not necessary to reset the box, I went back and forth several times from locked to unlocked during our stay.

Update... stayed in a Hilton Garden in Texas and it also had an LG TV, but the grey hotel box was hidden down inside a cabinet out of sight.  There was the same grey phone cable plugged into the back of the set, and the input button didn't work.  Simply unplugged the phone cable from the back of the set and I can now change inputs to HDMI using the buttons on the side of the set.  Plugged it back in when I left and it went back to working like a lobotomized hotel TV.

28 comments:

  1. thanks! foreal. actually helped me out

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  2. Just brilliant. Thanks so much. Spent to much time trying to figure out remote security codes and I find this and it's just that easy.....

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  3. Thanks so much for posting this.. Worked like a charm

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  4. Thanks!
    Worked perfectly after pressing the "channel" button some times before pressing "Source"!

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  5. No dice on a Samsung TV model LNR32R5HD where the OnCommand box uses a 2.5mm audio style connector instead of the rj-11 shown above. unplugged the 2.5mm connector as well as the power brick for the OnCommand box, no luck. oh well..

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  6. saved my last minute trip w/ my husband to Miami... my 11mo old and I are stuck in a room while his handling business the next few days! THANK YOU a THOUSAND THANK YOUs!

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  7. You are the man! Works perfectly after disconnecting the phone line

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  8. Worked like a charm on an LG set at the Ren Center Marriott in Detroit. Thanks

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  9. Worked for me! I was ready to move to another hotel!

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  10. Perfect Instructions
    LA Downtown Hotel
    LG TV w adapter box, disconnect the RJ11 jack input in front of the TV it worked asap
    Thx

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  11. Hello extended desktop!! Worked perfectly on an LG at a Doubletree in Richmond, VA

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  12. Worked great on an LG at the Marriott in Baltimore! Thanks for the great tip. Now I can actually watch the content I have already paid for, instead of the over-priced hotel selections.

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  13. I'm at my hotel has a LG TV with no buttons on it and uses a "clean remote" anyone know how to set he hdmi for my ps4??

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  14. Legend, thank you very much worked a treat on a Samsung TV in Dusseldorf

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  15. Thanks so much! I disconnected the m.p.i. cable (black) from a lg tv at a marriott to get my dvd player to work.

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  16. So glad I read this. I'm now playin my ps4 in my boring hotel room in New Orleans. Thank you so much I have a week left here

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  17. this is brilliant , worked like magic :D

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  18. Still works 5 years later, the blog post that keeps on giving!

    Got my PS4 up and running on a hotel tv after they wanted to charge me an av fee of $10!

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  19. Unfortunately doesn't work in a Samsung tv in the apartment hotel in Montreal, disconnecting the rj-11 only makea the channel reset to their on demand ad and all buttons in Tv stop working not only menu and source.

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  20. This guy is a hero. LG TV at the sandman inn in Edmonton, worked like a dream and now I have PS4.

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  21. I'm at a best western hotel and it has a clean remote for a samsung tv with no box on the back of it or phone type wire to the tv and the touch screen buttons on tv doesn't work at all only the remote controls tv and I can't change the input to hdmi

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  22. I'm at a best western hotel and it has a clean remote for a samsung tv with no box on the back of it or phone type wire to the tv and the touch screen buttons on tv doesn't work at all only the remote controls tv and I can't change the input to hdmi

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  23. Staying at a Marriott in FL and tv has no box, also the inputs change but screen says no signal. The only thing attached to the back of the tv is the power cord and the white cable cord. Staff said it is because my PS3 is non compatible. Stupid people. Yes it is. They won't fix, can you help? Please.

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  25. Thanks! Brought my PS4 only to find that the input button didn't work on the remote. Couldn't find any buttons on the TV either but after searching, I found a tiny button under the LG logo. Unplugging the phone jack and then messing with that little button worked like a charm. You saved my vacation.

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  26. The rj 11 pin is not connected to the tv
    And the hdmi ain't working
    Any other trick pls?
    I need to connect my PS4
    Fuckin hotel is not allowing

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