Thursday, January 17, 2008

BBC iPlayer Overseas

There has been alot of justified criticism of the BBC iPlayer which since earlier in 2007 has allowed you to download BBC domestic programming over the Internet for later viewing on your own computer without the need for an Internet connection. Just before Christmas they introduced a streaming version whereby you can view programmes over the Internet.

The criticisms are manifold and I list some below:

1. The iPlayer has, so far, only been provided for the Windows XP and Vista platforms. Linux and Macintosh forget it.

2. The programmes for download on the website are only available for 7 days (for either streaming or download).

3. Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been applied to downloaded files - after 30 days they become unplayable.

4. The iPlayer uses Microsoft´s ActiveX coding so in theory, and the BBC tells you so, you are limited to using Microsoft´s Internet Explorer browser. No Opera, Mozilla Firefox etc.

5. Users overseas are prohibited from either streaming or downloading content. The BBC´s reasoning is that UK TV (obligatory) licence payers finance BBC programming. They forget that I am paying a UK TV Licence now, that the huge UK expat community live six months abroad (missing Eastenders)and six months in the UK, or that you want to catch up with EastEnders whilst on holiday..

I have heard that criticism no. 1 can be overcome for Linux and iPlayer streaming using Wine and associated lbraries (but not for downloads). I have also heard that criticism no. 3 has been hacked.

But here I will address nos. 4 and 5 (in reverse order).

When you access a website server, your computer sends your IP address so that the website server can look up where to send its data. The BBC looks up your IP address, and as IP addresses are allocated on a geographical basis, can decide if you are a UK resident or not and make a decision whether to allow you to access their programming.

So we have to fool the BBC into thinking you are connecting from the UK.

Issue #5

The following tools and explanation are in debt to the Electronic Freedom Foundation who have done pioneering work on Internet censorship and how to get round it. And apply to Windows XP and FireFox only.

1. Download the Tor programme from http://www.torproject.org. The core programme, Tor, is an anonymiser, i.e. it hides your IP address, sending your web requests through a series of servers with their own IP addresses. The Tor programme comes with a GUI frontend called Vitalia and a locally installed firewall called Privoxy.

2. Windows installation is easy - just accept the defaults.

3. But Tor, by default randomises its default servers and exit points to the the web through its network of servers so we need to specify where the Tor network exits to the web i.e. somewhere in the UK.

4. To do this, you need to edit the Tor configuration file, named torrc, in Notepad. Find and open it. By default it is empty. Add the following lines:

StrictExitNodes 1

exitnodes figue,tor2uk4iravedahs,cbadhjkssdhjbc,ephemer,miller,onnium,Doormouse,yeti,Abby,tck90874dhfoyt304,colinwillsdorkyyahoo,clayman,gigatux

Save and Exit.

The StrictExitCodes command specifies only to use the Tor servers listed as exit nodes in the next line, which happen to be in the UK. You can get a list of current Tor servers by country from the Vitalia Network Map option.

Both Vitalia (Tor) and Privoxy icons should be in your toolbar but you might have to reboot. If they are not, manually start them from the Windows Programs menu.

5. Next edit the Privoxy configuration file using Notepad and unremark (delete the #) before ¨forward-socks4a¨. Save.

6. Then you need to change some settings in your browser and I will dscribe these for Mozilla FireFox. Go to Tools/Options/Advanced/Network/Connection/Settings. Tick Manual Proxy Configuration, for http enter ¨localhost¨ and port ¨8118¨. Tick the Socks v5 box.

7. In the bottom right corner of your FireFox screen you will see a button. If it says Tor Disabled, click on it to enable Tor.

7. Go to the site http://torcheck.xenobite.eu/eindex.php? and it will tell you if your Tor exit node server IP address is in the UK.

Issue #4

I hate to be tied to the Internet Explorer browser and much prefer the open-source Mozilla family of browser/email applications - SeaMonkey, FireFox, Thunderbird etc. BBC iPlayer states it will only work with Internet Explorer because it only works with Microsoft´s ActiveX controls. Bullshit!

If you are using Mozilla Firefox for Windows, download and install the plug-in from http://ietab.mozdev.org. This plug-in allows you to open IE pages in Firefox tabs. And with a right-click you can change from FF to IE renditions within FF.

My experiments showed you didn´t need to open an ¨IE Tab¨ for the streaming view but did for the Download.

I tried this with the Channel 4 progamme viewer 4oD as well. No success. It uses the Kontiki Distributed Management System which uses the http port 8080 by default, without any option to change the port.

Enjoy EastEnders!

Update: I downloaded the iPlayer Download Manger today and find it is also based on Kontiki - but it works in a somewhat different way in that when you hit the download button, it opens up the iPlayer download page in Internet Explorer - I haven't got enough bandwidth to download a file so I can't test whether you can download through port 8118.




31 comments:

Nik said...

Thanks for posting this - got it working on my Imac (running XP under 'Parallels'). Tor REALLY slows down normal browsing if not diabled. IPlayer works okay though once streaming. Another option is www.liveuktv.com - you get all UK channels but its $45 per month

Nik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

I also got this working on a MacBook - the streaming video worked or a while then I got an error. When I downloaded the file all went well (although slowly) until I went to view and was told the licence was denied because I was overseas and the downloaded file instantly deleted itself!

Anonymous said...

The iPlayer really works very slowly. You can download the files three times faster using a download manager: (for example)http://www.orbitdownloader.com. In order to get the download link you can also use URL Snooper http://downloads.cnet.co.uk/0,39101206,39133077s,00.htm. First click the download button in the iPlayer. When the download starts look up the link in url snooper and drop it in orbit. Once the orbit download has started you can delete the download in iplayer. The downloads don't need Tor!! You only need Tor for viewing the web page! 4od works the same way.
Greetings from Germany! Hillbilly

Angus said...

Once you start streaming, you can turn Tor off - it seems the Beeb doesn't recheck your IP address.

MarkyMark_cy said...

Hi, I tried your solution and although it "worked" - all other functionality (email / browsing ) ground to a near halt.

I found this solution that allows me to use BBC's iplayer / 4od, ITV.com, etc, with MS IE and use Firefox/ Opera / email as normal.

www.uktvabroad.com

It's not free, but the great thing is that once you log on - as if in the UK, another pc on the lan that has downloaded the content "shares" it and it zooms across at LAN transfer speed !!

Angus said...

Mark - I'm surprised at the problems you have come up against, although I admit Tor slows things down

However, I have since discovered that once the iPlayer streams starts playing you can disable Tor in the browser and it continues playing!

Richard said...

I've been using this happily since about two weeks ago. But now it's stopped working. It seems that there are no working UK exit nodes? Is this possible?

Thanks,

Rick

Richard said...

First of all, many, many thanks for this and secondly, actually, I've just updates the list of UK Exit nodes:

ExitNodes tor2uk4iravedahs, rauxon, oinniun, ephemer, gigatux, colinwillsdorkyahoo, freeflow, hattor, muckelbude, greenspragg, radicalabacus, couchpotato, Dragon, MrNiceGuy, anonion, otherator2, ThatShallot, LemonTorte, ukdirector, taklamakan, Unnamed98, Unnamed, privacymatters, dementia, elsie, Doormouse

Ben said...

First: THANK YOU SOOO MUCH!
Really, ever so ta! From me and the missus. Now we can finally watch all our favorite shows! Thanks thanks thanks thanks!

Further: You might want to look into the firefox plugin 'FoxyProxy', as it allows you to set which sites to load with (or without) which proxy. http://foxyproxy.mozdev.org/

Finally for the sake of completion: http://torcheck.xenobite.eu/eindex.php gives a 404, just go to http://torcheck.xenobite.eu/

Monty Savage said...

This is fantastic. Thanks for the article and also for everyone's helpful comments. IT all works perfectly, although I don't seem to be able to download things. Not the end of the world, but I'd be interested to know if anyone else has the same issue. (I'm using Firefox on XP)

Anonymous said...

Updated list of exit nodes

figue, ephemer, oinniun, PartTimeAnonymizer, gigatux, freeflow, Freaky, Unnamed, hattor, collinwillsdorkyahoo, ROT18XZ, MrNIceGuy, docTor, otherator2, shortname, ukdirector, Fudgepacker, Dragon, taklamakan, Robotistan, Corisons, NoExit, bobbythebuilder, Elnoizijuan, muckelbude,

Anonymous said...

do use e latest exit nodes posted yest. only they will work, and work they did very well!!!

Anonymous said...

I tried lots of free UK proxies and although some of them work with BBC iplayer some do not and those that do often don't stay available for long or are very slow. I guess you get what you pay for so now I have signed up to a paid for proxy which works well, is easy to use, reliable and fast. It is only US$7 a month so much cheaper than UKTVabroad and has other benefits as well. See http://www.sendhere.info/BBCiPlayer.html

MarkyMark_cy said...

Hello "Anonymous".. Mark, here ... I was interested to try this service http://www.sendhere.info/BBCiPlayer.html as our sixmonths on UKtvabroad will end in just over a month and it doesn't let us use the connection in more than one place at a time... we got warned that if we did it "terminated" :-o

I wanted to find an alternative and cheaper service... but have bought some "hide your IP software first ", then paid for an IP address in the UK, we found it much slower, and when used with 4od or Zattoo - it slower to download with the former - or timed out and zattoo live stuff was unwatchable.. "bandwidth issues"
Some proxy services allow authentication only, and some authenticate and allow traffic to keep flowing through the proxy - the latter ones cost - but they KEEP you looking like you're in the UK..

Isn't THIS is what you pay for.. ?

Services charging money for a quick "your're IP is in the UK" can and do cuase issues with drop outs and give a poor live viewing experience.

I've become an "expert" because I just wanted a service that was easy to configure and worked - everytime.


I don't have to worry about configuring things... as I share the pc with my wife and kids.. and the browsing experience isn't affected - other than by the bandwidth used.

Gezza said...

Hi Richard, My torrc (less comments) reads:

ControlPort 9051
HashedControlPassword 16:7073...
Log notice stdout
SocksListenAddress 127.0.0.1

StrictExitNodes 1
ExitNodes tor2uk4iravedahs, ...

My privoxy config.txt reads:

forward-socks4a / 127.0.0.1:9050 .

But still torcheck gives an ip address that's not in the UK.

Please help

Anonymous said...

I am having the same problem as gezza. Is there a shortage of uk exit nodes? I don't see any uk relays in the TOR network map. Does that matter? I am very confused but if someone can explain why I'm not getting a UK exit node, that would be a good start.
Thanks.
David.

Angus said...

David - in Windows Tor, open the Network Map and sort the Exit Nodes by country. Then it's easy to find the UK ones. Make sure your StrictExitNodes setting is correct.

mrenglish said...

A very informative post:) I managed to set up tor so that it displays a uk host in torcheck url you provided, and I also setup the IE tab in mozilla. However the bbc iPlayer is still seeing me as outside the uk, and won't play. Anything else i can try?

Thanks,
Steve.

Anonymous said...

i haven't followed your instructions exactly (i am on linux), but have got tor running and can confirm a uk exit node. unfortunately i am still being blocked.

if the bbc really are only using the initial connection to validate (ie the http connection) then i am pretty sure that the tor work-around no longer works - perhaps the bbc are identifying and blacklisting tor exit nodes?

alternatively, perhaps they are now validating a later connection. i am only using tor for the initial handshake, not the data transfer.

(note that some streams (eg radio 6) seem to spend the majority of time unprotected. i don't know if this is strange behaviour or not.)

stu said...

I'm trying this in Australia and I have Tor configured and showing as an UK exit.
If I use the IE tab turned ON (IE mode), The iPlayer site still rejects me as not in UK. If I turn the IE tab OFF, the iPlayer page tells me that I need to install Flash player. Needless to say I have done this and verified that it is installed ok.

So, I'm no further forward. Australia is great EXCEPT for the truly awful tv!

Angus said...

Stu

On the BBC iPlayer troubleshooting page it mentions this problem saying you should uninstall any older version of Flash before installing a new version.

Angus

Anonymous said...

Several ways of overcoming problems of watching BBC Iplayer abroad can be found here.

www.consult-here.com/BBC.html

I have found they all work - at least for now!

Anonymous said...

Someone's already said it, but I'll emphasise: you only need a UK IP address to *initiate* a download, not to complete it. TOR may be slow but you only need to use it for the first few bytes.

There are similar methods: right now I'm in Jamaica with a UK 3G datacard - expensive to use overseas but it gives me a UK IP address when I need it. I use that only briefly to line up a stack of downloads on iplayer then exit and reconnect with my local (free) wifi with non-UK IP. The iplayer downloads continue just as before, not to mention faster.

Can anyone answer my question: back in the UK I have a typical ASDL connection. Is there a way of using my home router so that all my overseas-originating traffic gets piped through my home IP to make it look like a UK origin? I have a choice of Apple or Netgear routers and prefer a method that requires little or no modding. Having said that, I'll buy a new router if there's a model that supports this out of the box.

Best,
N

Anonymous said...

Hi all. I'm overseas and can get iPlayer to stream using the vidalia/privoxy method described above. Great stuff! But when I click to download a programme (ie not stream) the download manager (rightly) tells me I'm not in the UK and won't download anything (error 104). I note users above are downloading okay. Does anyone have any suggestions?

I downloaded the Download Manager without using Tor, in case that makes a difference. Also, the download manager starts when my machine starts - before Tor is running - so perhaps it checks my IP then?

Any help would be appreciated very much. Thanks

Finally, I've download foxyproxy which very cleverly can be set to only use Tor when I go to iPlayer using rules. It is correctly switching to Tor when I visit iPlayer but the page doesn't load, returning a 'check proxy settings' error message. Can anyone offer advice on how to configure foxy proxy? It's using 127.0.0.1 and port 9050, whatever that means.

Cheers

Anonymous said...

hi all brits abroad, these "newer" methods of viewing uk tv abroad (hacking iplayer etc)is all good as keeping upwith the times and technology is great, but i find that the "older" is better, the "older" i dont mean sitting in your uk sitting room watching the tv, by this i mean downloading the programs you want to watch from many available torrent sites, which in the last couple of years ive been using (UKnova-Mininova) is very fast and the programs are very recent, using uknova, even tough you need to be a memeber(Free) and membership is very selective as a limited amount of members are allowed, the programs are placed for download the same day or next. the iplayer hack is very slow if it works and gives too many problems for now!

Anonymous said...

Thanks i have tried this but found it to be a slow way of getting pogramming. There is a site i have been looking at uktvabroad.info that have posted details of a firefox plugin that allows you to watch itv with no proxy connection at all. They also tell you about other ways of getting British TV too!

Welshgadgets said...

Good post, as mentioned the most reliabel free method is TOR although very slow unless you disconnect after (doesn't always work for me though)

There are a couple of other options though - especially if you want channel 4 and ITV you need a VPN. Or you can check out the Slingbox if you have a sky subscription or sky box connected in UK. It works really well - anyway have posted some other options here if anyone is interested.

http://www.anonymous-proxies.org/2009/07/can-i-watch-uk-tv-abroad.html

TG101 said...

ok, thanks but i get the following message;
------------------------------------
Proxy Server Refused Connection

The connection was refused when attempting to contact the proxy server you have configured. Please check your proxy settings and try again.
------------------------------------

i'm using windows xp, firefox 3.0

to be honest the instructions didn't make much sense as the 'torrc' fle had a load of text in there, all commented out with # - is this correct? i copied the text as in the article ut to no avail. Also, in the configuration file when unommenting 'forward-socks4a' there a few instances of this but not sure which to uncomment and which to keep

- has anyone else experienced this message??

Anonymous said...

There's now a free alternative that comes with everything in one small package available on http://hackedcabletv.com , it gives you access to all BBC and ITV channels abroad also to all the "on demand" stuff on both the iPlayer site and the ITV site. It comes with UK proxy and autosetups everything in most common browsers

Anonymous said...

Been trying some of the free proxy solutions and decided to give www.uk-iplayer.com a try. Much better performance and reasonable price plus they do respond to your e-mails if you have any questions.