Getting Māori Language Programming Outside of Aotearoa

Since I began study of te reo Māori a bit over a year ago, I’ve enjoyed watching Māori language TV programming. But it hasn’t always been enjoyable. I first used a VPN connection from my phone, but, well, it’s my phone. I was able to accomplish the same thing on my computer, and also used chromecast to stream the programming from my phone to our TV, but that neither satisifying nor elegant. I also experienced buffering and less-than-optimum video quality on our TV.

The Easy Ways

There are three relatively easy ways to accomplish this. I’ll only provide a brief overview of each and not many details as there are too many variable that depend on what devices you want to use too receive the programming and watch them on.

  1. If you want to watch on an Android or iOS device, or on a computer, you can simply subcribe to a VPN (virtual private network service like HotSpot Shield. HSS is the first and only VPN service I tried, and I’m quite happy with them. First you need to establish and account on their system. Second, you download their app on to your device, login, select which country from which you want to appear being logging in. Then launch the streaming application for the servicess that you want to watch. Easy-peasy.
  2. If you are watching the programming on your Android or iOS device and you want to have it play on your TV, you need to use either Airplay or Chromecast to accomplish this. I cannot explain all of the ways this could be accomplished as there are too many variables, and there are plenty of instructions for doing this on the web.
  3. If you have multiple devices that you would like to watch this programming from, you can get a wi-fi hub. I bought a GL-AR750S-Ext which worked very well for that purpose. It is a bit more difficult to get set up and you have to log in via your computer or phone to activate or turn of the VPN service, but worked very well for me otherwise. I have another wi-fi hub that services most of our home’s devices, and this was the secondary one so that I could access Aotearoa programming from any device connected to it.

Be aware that anything connected through to the internet will appear (to anything you connect to) to be coming from an IP based in Aotearoa, which could affect your ability to watch services based in the US. Once I forgot I was connected the GL-inet hub, and could not find a movie on Netflix that my wife had been watching on our other TV. It took me a bit to realize that I was still connected to the Aotearoa VPN, and apparently that movie was not available in Aotearoa.

The Failures

Walmart Onn Android TV streaming devide

I received Walmart’s new and inexpensive Onn Android TV device as a birthday present (since returned) and shortly thereafter received a free Google Chromecast stick for being YouTube TV subscribers. Both run Android TV. But Android TV does not allow you to install many Android phone apps, and among those omissions were Māori TV and other streaming services I wanted to access. I learned how to root these devices and sideload the apps using their .APK files, but Māori TV crashed on both of them whenever I launched them.

The big issue here is this: Android OS and Android TV are two different operating systems. Android OS was designed to work with phones, and Android TV within TVs or devices specifically designed to work with TVs. So some apps that work on Android OS (for phones) don’t work on Android TV. It makes no sense to me that they can’t but I’m sure that the developers have their reasons (and that they are pretty lame).

With all of these devices, I was using HotSpotShield as a VPN (virtual private network). Many online streaming services have their services restricted geographically, so in my case I could not view some of the Māori language programming I was wanting to watch. There are over a hundred countries that you can select, and servers will think that you are physically located in those places, and fortunately Aotearoa is one of them.

The Hard Way (But I Like It)

CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 Kit

I next began to look for a device that could run Android OS (not Android TV). There are a number of systems that can do this but after some research I opted for a Raspberry Pi 4 kit from CanaKit. You cannot install and run Android OS apps using Raspberry Pi’s native OS, so you need to install and run KonstaKANG‘s build of Lineage OS in order to do this. It was modified by to run on Raspberry Pi devices. This is not for the faint of heart. I’m not a command-line expert, but felt confident enough after reading the instructions to give it a try.

Rather than use the Mini SD card that came with my kit, I used a spare 64G card I had lying around (in case I needed to return the kit). There are some pretty comprehensive instructions for installing KonstaKANG’s build of Android for Raspberry Pi 4 on their site, but I did have some issues with it (more due my misunderstanding and not because of faulty instructions). I had better luck following this YouTube video by leepspvideo:

I was able to get KonstaKANG’s build of Lineage OS and Google Play Store installed. Māori TV and other Android apps have also installed well from within the Play Store. The biggest issue I have encountered so far is that YouTube TV crashes on launch.

There is a HotSpotShield Android app for Android OS, so I am able to go in and enable my VPN whenever I want to access whatever streaming service on Rasperry Pi 4. Previously I was using a VPN ready wifi hub. Now I can just activate the VPN connection through the Android device, fire up my app and stream away. Geekly lesson learned the hard way: when you go into the HotSpotShield in the Android app, you cannot select the country by clicking on the name. You have to use the arrow buttons, move into the country column by using the right arrow button, scrolling down the list with the down arrow button, and then return to select the country you want.

This whole process is not as elegant as I would like it to be – yet. I have to go into the command line to shut down, but I’m sure there is an app for that. I also have to unplug the Raspberry Pi power cable and plug it back in, but am looking for an elegant solution for that as well.

Update 7/15/2021: I didn’t enjoy getting up and using my mouse and keyboard to change channels or video, so I picked up this little gem for $20 – a Rii wireless USB keyboard with trackpad. It took a while to figure out what did what, but it’s been working great!

Kia kaha te reo Māori!

PS: Pae Rāhipere is Māori for Raspberry Pi.

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