How to turn an Android TV Box for $30 into a full ThinClient by accessing Win10 as Cloud Desktop !
Last HOW-TO Update: 09/08/2019 @ 14:49 BR
My name is Cristian Magadan from MGD Tecnologia, im from Brazil, and this is my how-to to bring to you a good alternative in cheap computers and VDI ( Virtualization Desktop InfraStructure ) projects ! This is the result about a lot of research and investment. Hope you enjoy and apply this solution into your IT life ! Any insight and recommendations are really welcome !
This HOW-TO is shared as is, 'MGD Tecnologia Ltda.' not offers any type of warranty and cannot garantee if will work like as you wish. So, we will not offer free support of any kind of problems. If you have problems and want a commercial support, pls , send us a e-mail.
Cristian Magadan @magadan and mail: email@example.com , linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/magadan/
If you like this HOWTO, you can DONATE any value to us: DONATE HERE or to my paypal mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , thank you.
This is the Official HOW-TO by 'MGD Tecnologia' to how turn cheap chinese Android TV Boxes, into a full Windows ThinClient to access cloud Desktops running any Windows version ( or a Local Windows Terminal Services ) ! VPS Hostings like Digital Ocean and Vultr starting at prices from US$ 5,00 a month ! Yes, you dont need to buy CPU computers anymore !
(MGD Tecnologia, customer project )
In my lab, im using a cheap Android TV Box with only 512Mb of RAM and a slow Rockchip RK3066 ARM Processor running at 1,46 Ghz, very cheap device. This device has a GPU Render Mali-400 MP and comes with Android 7.1 with a very ugly Launcher interface, dont worry we will fix this.
You can use any other chinese Android TV BOX model with more CPU and Memory power ( recommended ), exist a lot of options that you can buy.
See latest the full video demo:
With some tricks you can turn it into a full capable Windows ThinClient to access a Cloud Desktop running any Windows version that you want, You can host the Cloud Desktop running Windows XP, 7, 8, 8.1, 10 or Windows Servers with Terminal Services on Vultr or Digital Ocean VPS Cloud Hostings.
And you learn all the steps here. Let's start...
Check the specs of my Android TV Box
What do you need to start ?
- Setup your Android TV Box with a Keyboard, Mouse and Monitor ( 1.0 - HARDWARE );
- Setup your Android TV BOX with some app packages ( 2.0 - SOFTWARE );
- *(Optional ) Setup a Cloud Desktop with a Microsoft Windows on a VPS Hosting like Digital Ocean or Vultr ( 3.0 - CLOUD SETUP ).
1.0 - HARDWARE:
STARTING ! Connect your usb keyboard, mouse and monitor to your Android TV Box and turn it on ! Setup the Internet connection by your Wifi or cable Ethernet. *If you dont want a Cloud Desktop, you can test or apply with your local Windows Desktop (with rdp enabled ) or with a Windows Server with Terminal Services enabled. I will not cover setup about RDP and Terminal Services here, because if you are here, you should know how Remote Desktop Services work. BTW, you can check this link. If you need help with this you can buy our services on page http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/
So i believe you are ready to go to Software Setup !
2. 0 - SOFTWARE:
Here is the start to convert your Android TV Box to a full Windows ThinClient. All software here is 100% Free, you can use at your company or customers without worry about licenses. You just need to know about Microsoft EULA and Licenses about Windows RDP access on Cloud. ( cover on step 3.0 of this How-To ).
You will need to install some applications to make this a beautifull setup ! Its not necessary to change Android ROM or ROOT your device, you just need install some android apps. Lets go.
What do you need ( With your mouse and keyboard connected to your box, do it ):
DOWNLOAD ALL APKs PACKAGE: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/all_apks.zip ( 128 Mb )
Lets see what is each Android App:
Step 1 : APKPure
Why you need APKPure ?
Many Android apps required by this setup, refused to be installed by the default Google Play Store. This is not a bug, this happens because our Chinese Android TV Boxes are declared as a incompatible device, but we can bypass this limitations with a alternative Android App Store like APKPure. So, with APKPure we can download all the Android software required to setup your Android TV Box as a full Windows ThinClient and give another appearance, look and feel to your device. Without this alternative Store its difficult to complete the setup... You can download the each .apks with our 'alternative download links' above and save all of them onto a Pendrive and make installation one by one on your Box. You choose what is the best method, here we will cover the apk's installations with APKPure Store. Attention: Some users on internet has doubt about APKPure is safe or not, because is not official from Google Play Store. So, we recommend that you verify all .apks before install, unfortunattely is the easy way to install the required apks on your BOX. Do it at your own risk. And pls tell me if our apk's here (alternative download links) has problems with this. I think is safe, but here you can find a thread about this https://www.quora.com/Is-apkpure-safe .
How to install APKPure ?
With your android TV Box connected to the internet ( by Wifi or Ethernet ), open Google Chrome and go to the apkpure website.
Important: Dont forget to setup your Android OS to accept Unknow Sources to install the APKPure. And you need to deal with the Screen Rotate in the Portrait Mode during this setup ! When you open APKPure store for the first time, the screen will rotate ! You can fix this with a little application called "Screen Rotation Control', its free too !
Alternative APK Download here: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/APKPure_v2.12.2_apkpure.com.apk ( 9,1 Mb )
Alternative APK Download here: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/Screen Rotation Control_v1.1.1_apkpure.com.apk ( 2,5 mb )
After APKPure sucessfully installed, open it and lets start to download other packages.
Step 2: Update Google Play Services
On APKPure app, search by 'Google Play Services' , download and install it ! Reboot your device.
Alternative APK Download here: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/Google Play services_v12.6.85 (020308-197041431)_apkpure.com.apk ( 42,5 Mb )
Step 3: Install Android 'Microsoft Launcher' app
Open APKPure store and search to "Microsoft Launcher', download and install, setup your Android TV BOX to use this Lancher by Default ALWAYS ! After install and follow the steps, reboot the device and be sure that Microsoft Laucher is the default Launcher.
After install Microsoft Laucher, your Android TV Box looks like this:
Alternative APK Download here: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/Microsoft Launcher_v126.96.36.199682_apkpure.com.apk ( 26,1 Mb )
Step 4: Install 'Null Keyboard' app
Null Keyboard is very important to make our setup complete. This apk will disable (supress) the 'virtual keyboard' from your Android Screen without disabling your physical attached USB Keyboard to your Android TV Box. After install this Application you need to set this Keyboard as a 'default keyboard' of your Android operating system of the TV Box. And set this with your preferred keyboard layout. ( for latin america layout another apk is required to install to make every keyboard combinations works ).
Alternative Download Link: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/Null Input Method_v1.6_apkpure.com.apk ( 24 Kb )
Step 5: Install Android 'Microsoft RDP Beta' app
Open APKPure store and search to "Microsoft Remote Desktop Beta', download and install, you will see a non-beta version, trust me, Beta Version has a lot of speed, on the final of this HOW-TO, i will offer another RDP Client that works awesome, but lets go slow first !
Alternative APK Download here: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/Microsoft Remote Desktop Beta_v188.8.131.523_apkpure.com.apk ( 10,8 Mb )
Step 6: Install Android 'VirtualHere' app
Open APKPure and search for 'VirtualHere', download and install, this piece of software will be responsibile to redirect some directlye attached USB devices between your Android TV Box and the Cloud Desktop computer hosted on your VPS Hosting (Digital Ocean or Vultr).
Alternative APK Download here: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/VirtualHere USB Server_v3.6.6_apkpure.com.apk ( 2,5 Mb )
Step 7: Update Android 'Google Chrome' App
Its important to update google chrome browser
Alternative APK Download here: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/Google Chrome Fast Secure_v68.0.3440.85_apkpure.com.apk ( 64 Mb )
Step 8: Update Google Play Store !
Its important to update google play store
Alternative APK Download here: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/Google Play Store_v10.6.08-all  [PR] 200628961.apk ( 15,3 Mb )
Step 9: Latin Keyboads ( Only for Latin America users , for LATIN Keyboards )
This is a important Package to use with Latin America keyboards that use accents like ( á , é , ç , ã ) !
You can search on 'google' about 'RS Layout de Teclados' and find this .apk, this is a old apk and is not present on the Google Play Store anymore, this is a free version.
Alternative APK Download here: http://www.mgdtecnologia.com.br/apk/RS Hardware Keyboard Layouts_v1.2_apkpure.com.apk ( 94 Kbytes )
NOW Your Android TV Box are are to be a full Windows ThinClient !
Now you can test your Android TV Box as a ThinClient, control the rotation of screen with the app "Rotate Control', after, open the Microsoft RDP Beta and configure a account to your local Windows Desktop to make a test. Enable Remote Desktop Services on your Windows and you are ready to go !
Dont forget to go to "More Settings' of your Android TV Box and make the Languange and Keyboard settings to keyboard work well in RDP Client. VirtualHere settings will be soon available.
'Android TV Box' as a ThinClient connect to a Windows 10 Professional 64 bits with a 1280x720 VGA, 5 years old Monitor. Server Hosted locally.
3. 0 - Cloud Desktop Setup Access by Android TV BOX !
Well, this is the Cherry Pie of the Solution, host a Cloud Desktop on AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, its really very expensive....
So, What is the alternative ?
My approach, is hosting your Cloud Desktops into Digital Ocean and Vultr VPS Hostings that have a good price on VPS Instances. Starting at US$ 5.00/month.
Vultr, already offer some Windows VPS options ( two ) , Digital Ocean not offers Windows at this moment, but both companies not denied if you want to install your own operating system ( .ISO ).
MGD Tecnologia offers a Pre-Installation Enviroment (WINPE) method to install any version of Windows on both Vultr and Digital Ocean.
For corporative projects: According to the Microsoft License ( EULA ) about Windows Desktops on Cloud, and my knowledgement, (correct me if im wrong), today ( 05-08-2018) you have two legal 'EULA' options. You can only host 'Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 with VDA or VDI license' on Cloud or use a 'Windows Server with Terminal Services license with RDS Calls'. So, keep in mind if you want to start Cloud Desktops on your VPS Cloud Hosting with a different version that Microsoft Windows not accepts by EULA, do it at your own risk. You see, here we do not encourage you to install a operating system that goes against Microsoft's usage policies or any VPS Cloud Provider. You need to learn if MS licenses will cover the Cloud Hosting for a specific Windows version that you want ( ex. XP, 7, 8, 8.1, 10, Home, Pro, Starter and many others and Servers. ), or consulting your Microsoft commercial agent.
My recommendation to start to learn about Microsoft License and EULA, is here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Licensing/product-licensing/products.aspx
If you like this HOWTO, you can DONATE any value to me: DONATE HERE or to my paypal mail: email@example.com , thank you.
3.1 - Starting your Cloud Desktop on Digital Ocean:
Dont want to wait ? Send me a e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
3.2 - Starting your Cloud Desktop on Vultr :
Dont want to wait ? Send me a e-mail email@example.com..
Know Limitations and Know issues:
- Depend of your Android TV Box Model you can have resolution problems and limitations with your RDP Client ( Microsoft or JumpDesktop , jumpdesktop is a another 'rdp client' alternative, very good );
- Keyboard keys like Windows Key, ALT + TAB will not work on the Windows remote Session;
- Not good to play games or watching videos at full frame rates, you will need to test by yourself to feel and see how a specific model of Android TV Box works good acting as a ThinClient for your objectives. In my tests, this solution doesnt applies to everything, but for some type of Windows applications can works fine, for example corporative software like ERP, MS Outlook, MS Office, internet browsing, chat...
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MGD Tecnologia - Porto Alegre - Brasil