Wednesday, July 16, 2008

BBC iPlayer revisited

(Note: I've had to revise this post since I wrote it on Monday - as today I've dismally failed to get the BBC iPlayer to work under Ubuntu Linux. Details under Update at the end of the post - I do have to admit and post my failure as well).

I predict this will be less popular than my previous posts on accessing the BBC iPlayer from overseas (they stop you by identifying the country from which your IP address originaates) as I am sure, regrettably, that most of my readers are Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer users.

Anyway, to summarise our previous BBC iPlayer hacks (here and here):

a) One can anonymise your network IP address by using the Tor Onion router that basically sends out your network location through a Tor relay router in another location with a different IP address/location. One can configure Tor to be geographically specific as to where your request exits on to the web. So in this case you need a Tor relay in the UK in the torrc file.

b) One needs to tell your browser not to broadcast your IP address. For this you need to route your web requests through a proxy server. This will set the IP address of your machine as the internal IP address of every machine in the world ( and send out your web requests through a non-standard http port (8118 as opposed to the standard http port of 8008/8088). Initially I used the extenal proxy server, Privoxy and then discovered a Firefox proxyserver add-on named Foxyproxy.

c) The BBC iPlayer only works with Microsoft's (Windows) Internet Explorer (what is it with this MS and UK public institutions?). An enterprising soul wrote an an add-on for Windows Firefox that allows you to open an IE tab within Mozilla Firefox. And BBC iPlayer (streaming) worked a dream.Unfortunately, the Foxyproxy add-on does not work with Linux Firefox.

So I've been looking for at a way of getting BBC iPlayer to work under Linux.

There are Linux versions of Tor. There are Linux versions of Privoxy.

And today I discovered IEs 4 Linux.

A (non-Microsoft) version of Internet Explorer for Linux. Installtion was easy, as were Tor and Privoxy. Configuring all of them was easy. Worked first time.

I have one last task to do - Linux Tor GUI (Vidalia) does not show the geographicaal locations of the relays - so I need to discover the UK ones and rewrite my Tor configuration file.

Then I'll see if I can get BBC iPlayer working in Linux.


1. I started by copying the currrent Tor UK relay ExitNodes from my Vidalia torrc on my work Windows machine to Vidalia's torrc file on my Linux machine. Seemingly starting Tor through the Vidalia GUI wouldn't force the ExitNodes to be in the UK.. So I had to start edit the torrc file in Tor's native folder and start Tor from a Terminal (/etc/init.d/tor start).

2. The Internet and web appeared to recognise my anonymity through Tor and Privoxy.

3. Although IEs 4 Linux claims to install Adobe Flash Player, necessary to stream video from the BBC iPlayer site, the BBC iPlayer site tells me I need to download Adobe Flash Player which IEs 4 Linux claims to have already installed.

4. IEs 4 Linux requires Wine (that allows Linux to run Windows products - tho' I haven't worked out how to use it yet).

Any help would be appreciated.

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