Monday, March 16, 2009

How to access the BBC Iplayer feed from another country

How to access the BBC Iplayer feed from another country

This post is designed specifically for the formula 1 feeds from Iplayer however since it has been written before these are even publiclly availible, I have tested this method in recent weeks primarillary on Top Gear and it has worked with about a 90% hit rate.

This method is not a simple or quick and easy fix. It takes some decent technical knowledge to implement and it is now at this point that I suggest that if you are not overly technical you should not really proceed.

Approach

This method uses TOR an anonimity network designed to route packets securly through multiple nodes throughout the internet


That pic describes the basic principles behind the routing of TOR it will bounce all your communications through 3 different nodes before getting to the end destination. All traffic between the nodes is completely encrypted and the whole point behind TOR is that it is near on impossible to determine where a packet originated.

You can read more on it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tor_(anonymity_network)

The important part for BBC’s Iplayer is the exit node(that is the last node before being routed again onto the public network) we will need to force this to be in the UK. Once that is completed it will appear that we are just residing in the UK like all legimate users of Iplayer.

Tools needed

Vidalia - http://vidalia-project.net/dist/vidalia-bundle-0.2.0.34-0.1.10.exe

This file contains all the software you need to use TOR, it has a graphical control panel, a privacy proxy, and a firefox plugin.

Install proceedure

I am running a beta of Windows 7 so I can not confirm that this will work on every other platform however I see no reason why it won’t.

Download the file above

Run the installation for Vidalia selecting all the default options.

Go to Start -> Run
C:\Windows\system32\Notepad.exe C:\Users\matt\AppData\Roaming\Vidalia\torrc

This will then open a window with the TOR configuartion file

Later I will describe exactly how to source the information to put into here as it does change over time

All that needs to be done now is the following 2 lines added to the bottom of the file

ExitNodes 0000000000Marauder, anonion, anotherlink, colinwillsdorkyahoo, gigatux, znodetor, humph

StrictExitNodes 1

The first line for exitnodes describes 7 known exit nodes in the UK that I have tested to work with the BBC Iplayer

The second line forces TOR to always use these even if a better path is availble (A better path for TOR will most likley not use a exit node in the UK). Save the file.

Open up the Vidalia control panel (It is an onion icon in the taskbar) by right clicking on it in the taskbar and selecting control panel. Click Stop TOR and then once that has completed click Start TOR by this stage it should have read in the new configuration file and will now use the UK exit nodes.

We now need to configure TOR button within Firefox to make sure it works correctly. The TOR button will be loctaed in the bottom right hand coner of the firefox window with red text TOR Disabled right click on this then click on preferences. The settings chosen here are NOT the most secure settings for TOR and I would recommend not using these for if anonimity is your only goal on the internet. However for the purposes of using Iplayer these are the settings that I have found work best.









Once this is setup all you need to do to turn TOR on is left click on the TOR Disabled button this will change it to TOR Enabled.

You should leave TOR disabled at all times except when starting up the Iplayer as web browsing through TOR is very slow and it should only be used as needed.

Watching the content

With TOR disabled go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/ find the show that you want to watch and click the play button. You will then be presented with a screen like this

At this point you need to enable TOR and refresh the page, TOR will disable the refresh button so you need to click on the URL and push enter.

You need to be patient at this point as it may take 4 – 5 minutes for the next screen to appear


At this point Click the big Click to play button in the middle of the screen it will take quite a while to buffer up and begin playing the content. Make sure you are patient.

Once the content starts playing pause it and left click once on the TOR Enabled button. After about 10 seconds you will see it change back to TOR disabled. At this point I normally let it buffer the feed for about 1 minute before clicking play. You are now able to watch the feed using your native internet connection. Normally this works pretty smoothly from here in Australia even though I have a pretty slow internet connection.

Problems

This setup is using only a very limited amount of exit nodes in the UK that may come and go or be blocked by the BBC over time. I will try and post regular updates if I find any issues with new working exit nodes. This method is generally a lot harder for the BBC to dectect that just a simple proxy so should be mostly ok.