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.
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:
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.
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.
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.