Sunday, September 16, 2012

Watching BBC TV in America - Part 2


Quick Update - we just watched the third episode of Doctor Who Series 7, and are looking forward to the new Series 3 of Downton Abbey. We learned the below steps the hard way, so I've posted instructions here so you don't have to figure it out yourself. Tor made a few less than intuitive changes. For one, you now cannot edit the "torrc" file while Tor is running, which is a pain until you figure out why it won't let you save your changes. For another, the Tor Button is no longer available, which makes the proxy changes a manual step. Finally, Tor seems to be running a lot faster, so it balances out the first two issues I suppose. 

Now I'll work in my keywords, so Google likes me...

How to watch Doctor Who in America. How to watch Downton Abbey in America. How to use Tor to watch BBC TV. How to use Tor with Internet Explorer. How to watch Doctor Who in the United States.

1) Download Tor from here: https://www.torproject.org/
You will get the Tor Browser Bundle. It will ask you where to unzip the folder so put it wherever you like. 

2) Look inside the new folder. Find the "Start Tor Browser" executable. I created a shortcut to this file on my desktop. Now find the file "torrc". It will be located under the "Tor Browser\Data\Tor" directory. On my computer, that is "C:\Program Files\TOR\Tor Browser\Data\Tor"

3) Double click the file, "torrc" and open it with Notepad. You will be adding these two lines to the end. 

ExitNodes {gb}
StrictNodes 1

This tells Tor to only connect you to Great Britain based proxy hosts. 


4) Set the socks proxy for your browser. 

  • Firefox: Tools - Options - Click the Advanced tab, then the Settings button. Check Manual proxy configuration, in the SOCKS host put "127.0.0.1" and enter Port: "9050". Leave everything else blank and click "OK". Click OK twice and you will be back to the browser. 
  • Internet Explorer: Tools - Internet Options - Connections. Click LAN Settings at the bottom. Check the box under Proxy Server, click the Advanced button. Under Servers, for SOCKS put "127.0.0.1" and enter Port: "9050".  Leave everything else blank and click "OK".  Click OK three more times and you will be back to the browser.
  • Chrome: Click the Wrench, then select Settings. At the bottom, click "Show Advanced Settings". Internet Properties will pop up, Click "Connections". Now this is the same as IE.  Click LAN Settings at the bottom. Check the box under Proxy Server, click the Advanced button. Under Servers, for SOCKS put "127.0.0.1" and enter Port: "9050".  Leave everything else blank and click "OK". Click OK three more times and you will be back to the browser.


Because this is now a manual step (instead of the old TorButton plugin described in my original post) we have decided to use Internet Explorer for Tor, and Firefox for regular Internet. The reason is we can start up Tor, launch IE (with the proxy already set), and surf to the BBC without having to change anything. If we wanted to use IE for regular browsing, we'd have to undo the proxy changes, which is a bit of a pain.

5) Launch the Tor Browser from the shortcut. It will open the Tor control panel and will quickly connect you to a Great Britain based host. It will also launch a Firefox Portable window. This lets you know you are connected to Tor. You can minimize both of these, but don't close them unless you want to stop Tor. 

6) Launch your browser of choice, with your preset SOCKS proxy to connect to Tor (step 4 above).  

  • Doctor Who on the BBC at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006q2x0 (Series 7 is currently airing, Series 1-6 are on Netflix) Airs at 9 pm on Saturday night in Great Britain, which means that by 5 pm Eastern time or so, the current episode should be available online. 
  • Downton Abbey on ITV at http://www.itv.com/itvplayer/video/?Filter=325024 (Series 3 started tonight, Series 1 and 2 are on Netflix).  Airs at 9 pm on Sunday night in Great Britain, which means that by 5 pm Eastern time or so, the current episode should be available online.   

NOTE: Both the BBC and ITV only leave current episodes online for a limited time. 

For the new Doctor Who series, we have only 20 days from the Saturday it airs until it is pulled offline. That means that as of today you have only 5 or 6 days left to watch "Asylum of the Daleks" for example.

For the new series of Downton, we have 30 days from the Sunday it airs until it is pulled offline. 


Q: Is it legal?
A: Yes. Some nice person in Great Britain has set up their computer so you can connect to it and see how the Internet looks from their side of the pond. As far as the BBC is concerned, you are a local visiting their website. On ITV, you may even get to see some commercials. See my original post here: http://uncommonranting.blogspot.com/2011/07/watching-bbc-tv-in-america.html for a longer discussion of legality.


P.S. Roseanne Cash (Johnny's daughter) watches Downton when it airs, just like we do. Come to the dark side, we have cookies....



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