Tuning into UK catchup TV while travelling abroad isn’t an easy task since sites like BBC iPlayer and Channel 4’s 4OD block non-UK IP addresses. An simple fix is using a VPN provider, which could cost you upwards of £50 a year. Not an fortune, however I’ve discovered another method which is absolutely free and will raise your geek kudos to another level.
I’m using Tor, a software client designed to guard your on-line anonymity, then tweaking the configuration file to use only UK “nodes”. Tor recommend not to use any plugins such as Flash, since they can be manipulated into revealing your IP address, so we will not get the full benefit of anonymity as most catchup TV sites use Flash. If you want to know more about protecting your on-line identity, start with the Tor website at www.torproject.org.
You’ll first need to download the Tor Browser Bundle which is much easier than downloading the individual components of Tor, Vidalia then configuring Firefox to work. Tor is a cross-platform, open source project released on many platforms including Windows or Mac. I’m an Ubuntu user, and though the Linux download from the Tor site works a treat, I prefer to add the PPA as detailed at this upubuntu post since it integrates better with the Unity launcher.
Please note upubuntu’s instructions worked a treat for me, except for
” sudo chown $USER -R ~/tor-browser/ ” should probably be
” sudo chown $USER -R ~/.tor-browser/ ” since the tor-browser folder is hidden in your home directory.
If you are new to Linux, you need to change $USER to your user name. Windows and Mac users will not need to worry about any of this
After downloading then unpacking your Tor Browser bundle, you’re nearly ready to start watching iPlayer. If you are on-line when you launch Tor-browser, the Vidalia Control Panel will spring into action and start connecting to the Tor Network. On successful connection, The Tor Browser will launch, which is a version of Firefox modified for tighter security. You are now ready to surf the web with protected privacy which the following steps will mess up a bit, but our goal was merely a UK IP address, not an on-line existence free from all surveillance. If this is something you need, check out tails, a live-USB Operating System which run’s Tor on any PC compatible computers without leaving a trace on the host machine when you’re done.
On with the tweaks for BBC iPlayer. Find your Vidalia Control Panel and click on Settings then on Advanced. We need to “Edit current torrc” to edit the Tor Configuration file. Add the two following lines to the top of the file:
Then save and exit, and stop and restart Tor so you should start to use only UK nodes. In the mean time, find your Tor Browser Window. Though installed, the Flash browser is not enabled. Go to the Tools menu, then click on “Add-Ons” to open the Add-Ons Manager. Find the Shockwave Flash Plugin and enable it.
Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/tv and find something to watch. The Tor browser will ask you to activate a plugin. This is to let Flash work. You will need to do the last two steps every time you use Tor. You should now be watching iPlayer.
I’d appreciate any feedback on these instructions, and if any part did not work for you. I’d really like to find away of enabling Flash by default so I don’t have to manually enable it every time. Any ideas?