Enable your Chromcast for International Content

Chromecastandflags

 

 

In this article I’ll explain the steps I have taken to get the maximum functionality out of my Chromecast.

The Chromecast is a great device that can have a multitude of content “pushed” to it by your PC, phone or tablet. Personally I got it mainly for use with Netflix and with that in mind I needed to make sure that it was capable of accessing Netflix from all territories that my Unblock-US DNS service had available. I had previously researched the device and wasn’t too surprised to learn that there are no custom DNS settings to tinker with on board. Let’s remember that the Chromecast is a “plug in and forget” device that doesn’t have a native setup screen (you use a web interface or app to does this) and it is primarily used for Google services.

If DNS could not be altered locally then the next step would be to alter it at the router. I had not needed to do this before as all my devices up until now had local DNS settings available to them and my ISP provided router was locked down and not capable of having these settings altered. Luckily my Virgin Media cable modem / router has the ability to be put into “modem mode”, basically acting only as a cable modem and not providing any routing. You could then pick up a standard Cable compatible router to attach to it and most of the modern ones do support custom DNS. I had actually done this and picked up a budget TP-Link router before getting the Chromecast and had already setup my home network to divert all DNS request to Unblock-US DNS servers. So far so good.

After picking up the Chromecast and setting it up I tried to watch a show on Netflix (US) and got an error message. I was sure everything was set up correctly and the same show played fine on my Nexus 7 and my Chromebook. Further research revealed that Google HARD CODES their DNS servers into the Chromecast’s software! Very sneaky! This means that even if your router is set to divert all DNS requests to a custom server the Chromecast just ignores this and goes straight to Google’s servers who can identify your geo-location to Netflix who in turn refuse to serve up content that is not available in your region.

Further research revealed to me that the best solution was to divert the Google DNS servers (8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4) to your desired custom DNS servers on the router. This is achieved differently depending on the type of router you have and what software it is running. I quickly figured out that in my case my router was not capable of doing this with it’s current software! I thought I’d hit an impasse… Luckily more reading led me to a less elegant solution, but a solution none the less: just BLOCK Goggle DNS servers completely. Pretty much all routers can be set to block particular IP addresses. By blocking access to Google’s DNS servers, the Chromecast falls back to using the DNS servers set up on the router and thus plays my content!

The procedure is similar on routers that don’t have the functionality to divert DNS requests directly. You need to set up some “static routes” (consult your specific router documentation for details on where to enter the information):

Add the following to the Route List:

  • Network/Host IP: 8.8.8.8
  • Netmask: 255.255.255.255
  • Gateway: your router IP

 

Click on ‘Save’

Repeat for the following routes:

  • Network/Host IP: 8.8.4.4
  • Netmask: 255.255.255.255
  • Gateway: your router IP

 

  • Network/Host IP: 208.67.222.222
  • Netmask: 255.255.255.255
  • Gateway: your router IP

 

  • Network/Host IP: 209.244.0.3
  • Netmask: 255.255.255.255
  • Gateway: your router IP

 

The first two DNS addresses are Google’s as I’ve previously mentioned and the second two are public DNS servers that can sometimes be defaulted to so these need to be blocked also. What these settings do is reroute the DNS requests from these servers back to your router, in effect blocking them which then forces the request through the DNS servers you have made available. To test that everything is working as expected you can “ping” these addresses in a terminal window and you should receive an ” network unreachable” as your response.

I should also mention that blocking Google DNS servers should have no detrimental affect on anything else. You may experience a practically unnoticeable delay when serving up webpages (Google’s servers are some of the best) but this is unlikely.

This solution worked for me without issue but being a tinkerer I decided that I wanted more functionality out of my router so I later replaced my router’s firmware with open source custom software which I will discuss in a later post.

 

Enjoy your Chromecasts!

Totally Googled | TeknoCratik Episode 014

teknocratik_14_cover

 

 

Tim and I are back after a short hiatus with some new tech!

We review the HTC M8 Android phone, more Chromebook updates and where we are in our Linux adventure.

Other topics:
YouTube to acquire Twitch.TV?
Ubuntu 14,04 LTS
Microsoft – what’s the strategy? Surface 3 and Kinetic being quietly sidelined?
Apple WWDC announcements
Witcher 2 – the embarrassing Linux “release”.
GOG.com to launcher a Steam “competitior”?

 

Uncut Video version here on YouTube:

 

 

Play the edited audio version here below:

Netflix: How to watch content from ANY Netflix region easily

Netflix

 

 

Netflix is one of the best value for money streaming content services we have. There is no disputing this fact but many people are unaware that subscribers can increase the value of the service tremendously without incurring much (if any) extra cost.

 

Netflix in different countries and licensing issues

 

For a while now Netflix has been an international service providing content to subscribers in multiple countries. As with mainstream television, Netflix is bound by many existing licensing deals in these various countries. This means that content that is available in one country may not be (and often isn’t) available in another. Despite this, Netflix allows subscribers who may be “travelling” to sign into the service in any country that has it and have access to the content available in that country. This is a fantastic bonus feature to paying subscribers in itself which they didn’t have to provide.

 

“Spoofing” your location to access another Netflix region

 

The fact that the service is available internationally to subscribers from any participating nation means that it isn’t too difficult to fool it into thinking you are in another country and therefore take advantage of having access to content not normally available to you. I want to stress that this is not illegal, as the way I will describe the process you are using totally legitimate services. It may possibly be against the “spirit” of Netflix’s terms of service but as far as I can tell they make no attempt to prevent it.

There are various ways to “spoof’ your location online to take advantage of geographically “locked” services. Different methods have different success rates and different costs ranging from free to expensive. The general rule is ‘you get what you pay for’, at least in my experience. The method we are looking at is one of the simplest and can be done for free, although I personally use a paid service which has certain extra benefits which I will explain.

 

 

Unblock-US.com

 

Screenshot from 2014-04-28 10:20:53

 

Unblock-US is the service I use and for full disclosure I have included an affiliate link in the article if anybody wishes to sign up. I have tried other services (paid and free) and each has various features. The way these services work is by altering the DNS (Domain Name Server) that your computer or device uses to translate domain names you are trying to access (such as google.com) into IP addresses the system understands. Without DNS you could only access sites via the direct IP addresses. Certain sites will use these DNS servers to figure out where in the world the requests are coming from so if you are using a DNS that doesn’t originate in your home country you may be identified on certain sites as being in the country that your DNS service originates from. Netflix is one of those sites that use DNS to identify where there subscribers are, which is why this service works.

As I have indicated there are many services that can do this, including free services, and a quick google search will provide you with alternate methods. Most of these other services provide a “fixed” access to United States DNS servers which is ideal if that is the only thing you need access to. The same was true with Unblock-US (as the name suggests) but they have evolved into providing access to multiple countries via DNS, countries where Netflix provide a service. The service isn’t free but costs only $4.99 a month which I think is great value because it is so easy to use.

 

Changing your “location” with Unblock-US

 

Screenshot from 2014-04-28 10:20:24

Once you sign up to the service and register your email address, your home IP address is connected to your account. You then need to make a small change to your network configuration on the device or computer you wish to use with the service. Many different devices are compatible, from routers, smart phones, PCs to media boxes and Blu-Ray players.

 

Screenshot from 2014-04-28 11:19:02

 

The site has full instructions on what you need to do, which if done manually only involves changing two lines in your network configuration. Windows users can download an app that automates the process making it even easier. Once you are set up it is just a matter of choosing your preferred region whilst logged in to the Unblock-US website:

 

Screenshot from 2014-04-28 11:14:58

 

Finding something to watch: Moreflicks.com

 

Screenshot from 2014-04-28 11:31:27

 

So, you’re all set up and now are ready to watch something on Netflix. How do you find content? You could pick a region and explore the content directly on Netflix but it would work a lot better if you had something in mind and just needed to find out where you could watch it. This is where Moreflicks.com comes in. There are other similar sites and even apps but this is the one I use. I have no affiliation with them but I think they have a fantastic looking and easy to navigate layout. What this site does is list streaming services that carry a particular movie or TV show that you are looking for. You simply search for the content you want and if it is available it will indicate to you where to watch it, including for such services as Netflix, which country has the content. The following services are supported but for the purposes of this article we are only discussing Netflix:

 

Screenshot from 2014-04-28 11:34:54

 

So, for example, I want to watch the Disney movie The Princess And The Frog. Just perform a search on Moreflicks.com and you get:

 

Screenshot from 2014-04-28 10:22:33

 

USA Netflix subscribers miss out on a lot of Disney content but you don’t have if you use these recommended services. Just by changing you region to UK on the Unblock-US website you would be watching this great movie in seconds!

 

The Linux Challenge | TeknoCratik Episode 011

linux-penguin1

 

 

 

A Linux filled episode! Can anybody use it?

Tim starts a tech support business and Dan does it for free. We share some stories.

Tim tries a couple of Linux distributions on his spare hardware and talks about his experiences.

We discuss privacy concerns about the direction that Canonical is taking the Ubuntu desktop.

We now have Amazon Affiliate Chrome and Firefox extensions!

 

Enjoy!

 

Update: TeknoCratik Firefox and Chrome Extensions Now Available!

TeknoCratik

Hello all, I hope you’ve been well. I know you’re waiting for the next episode of TeknoCratik to come out soon and fear not, it’s coming. We’ll be recording a guest interview this weekend (unless something happens). :). So stay tuned for that episode coming out. I’ll also be working on moving my podcast recording setup to my Linux Mint setup so that I’m recording (and editing/publishing if needed) podcasts entirely on Open Source Software from now. This is part of my plan to be on open source software within the next couple of years and I’m really excited about doing TeknoCratik podcasts this way.

As I was coming home from my weekend trip, I was listening to some shows from the Jupiter Broadcasting network. More specifically, the Linux Action Show and Linux Unplugged. While the hosts were talking about the latest version of Ubuntu that had been released, I was thinking on how we could generate more support for TeknoCratik. The show isn’t super popular, but I was wondering if we could come up with an easy way for people to support it. That’s when my ears perked up to the hosts talking about their Firefox and Chrome extensions being open sourced. I knew that I just had to see if I could create versions of those for our show.

So, when I got home, I looked up Github and their Firefox and Chrome extensions. And created our own:

Firefox Extension. Click the picture above.

Firefox Extension. Click the picture above to download it from addons.mozilla.org.

Chrome Extension

Chrome Extension. Click the picture above to download it from the Chrome Web Store.

These extensions are open source and free for you to modify and use as you please. Please see the license contained in the source code over on github for more information. You can find the source code for each here: Chrome Extension Source Code & Firefox Extension Source Code.

This is something new for me. I have never had the chance to create extensions before mostly because I had never tried. This is really exciting! I didn’t think I could code again after the year I’ve had. But, this little project reminded me how much fun I had coding in Javascript and HTML so I might do it again in the near future. Once I’ve moved and settled in. My plan for the Firefox extension is to have some sort of indicator telling people that the extension is working and to thank them for using it. That’s currently available in the Chrome version but not the FF version. So, I’m going to have to look into how to do that. Plus, the Firefox extension needs to be built in the Firefox Add-On web app so that you don’t have to restart the browser in order to install it. When that’ll happen…I have no clue. But it’ll be fun to try and make it work.

I spent most of last night working on these two extensions. A lot of the work involved figuring out how each extension was built and what the requirements were for each browser. Then debugging the Firefox version as I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working properly. (I accidentally added code that I shouldn’t have >_<). I would say that Chrome is the easier browser to build for and publish to but Firefox isn’t too bad. Once I had each figured out, I tweaked the code so that it applied to TeknoCratik’s codes. What the extensions essentially do is that when you visit any of our affiliate websites such as Amazon.com, they automatically apply our TeknoCratik tag. So that way, when you make purchases on Amazon, we get a reference reward from Amazon and you don’t get charged extra. It’s a win-win really. This extension makes it so that you don’t have to visit TeknoCratik and click on one of our affiliate links just to help support the show.

Will these extensions be built for Internet Explorer or Safari? No. One: I don’t want to support either of those browser. Two: they are proprietary browsers and dealing with their rules will probably be more trouble than it’s worth. Simply put, I’d rather people were using either Firefox or Chrome to browse the web.

Anyway, so go and install these browser extensions and support the TeknoCratik podcast today! The websites we are currently affiliated with are:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon DE

Amazon FR

See you guys on the next TeknoCratik podcast!

TeknoCratik Editorial: King’s Reflection on My Entrance, Experience and Eventual Departure from the Apple Ecosystem…

This is a cross-post from my other blog, A Paladin Without A Crusade. I felt that the subject was worth discussing over here on TeknoCratik. But please bear in mind that this post wasn’t written with the “TeknoCratik voice”. So, it may read differently than normal. Thanks for reading! -KingIsaacLinksr

Apple Inc

Apple Inc

Read more

TeknoCratik Episode 08 – Making Music With Rick Moyer

rickmoyer

 

Tim and I are joined once again by good friend, musician, voice over artist, photographer, all round talented guy and fellow podcaster Rick Moyer. Rick tells us how he is getting on with his new Apple Mac studio equipment for his content creation business and even writes a song live on the show!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Commercial Skipping with MediaPortal TV Server and XBMC

wpid-NO-Ads-1024x1024.png

 

My latest HTPC project has been to resurrect a method to skip commercials for recorded TV programmes. This is something I have done in the past when I was a Windows Media Center user using third party tools to both instigate the commercial detection as well as to support the actual function of commercial skipping since WMC didn’t natively support it. Even when Media Center switched to the WTV format commercial skipping was still fairly easy to perform on standard definition content as Windows had the built in ability to convert the file to the more compatible DVRMS format and soon tools such as DVRMS Toolbox came with scripts to automate the procedure. Unfortunately high definition content that was generally .h264 encoded could not be converted in the same way and Microsoft’s WTV format was (and still is) undocumented which led to a delay in the ability to make HD content compatible with commercial skipping software. This led to me abandoning commercial skipping altogether as the hoops you had to jump through to get it working were just not worth the effort. In recent times the WTV format has been ‘reverse engineered’ for want of a better expression, allowing commercial skipping software the ability to scan it, although this is no longer an issue for me as Mediaportal records to a transport stream (TS) file. The more important improvement has been the accuracy of h.264 HD media commercial detection, which is why I have started looking into using it again.

Luckily MediaPortal supports both the initial commercial detection process via a launcher plugin for Comskip as well as giving the ability to skip adverts either manually (as chapter markers) or automatically. See this link. Comskip is free for mpeg2 media scanning but if you donate $10 or more you are given access to a version that works with h.264 media which is essential in my opinion.

As I generally don’t use the MediaPortal client to watch TV I was interested to find out if XBMC supported this feature and it does! For quite a while now XBMC has had built in support for EDL  (Edit Decision List) files that tell it where not to play the media file. What you will see in the scrub bar while playing the file in XBMC is the edited file duration as opposed to the total file length with adverts. This is useful so you can tell the ad skipping is actually working. As long as the edl file (or txt file in MediaPortal clients) filename matches the media  filename you are playing back you have a working commercial skipping system. Whereas in MediaPortal all clients seemlessly will honour the commercial detection in the manner you have set it up in the configuration, it isn’t quite the same with XBMC. Due to the method that the MediaPortal TV server plugin for XBMC plays back recorded TV (it streams the media instead of playing back a file directly) it doesn’t read the EDL file on clients that are not on the same machine as the server. This isn’t a major problem because all you need to do is play back your recorded TV not via the section on the Live TV tab but create a folder link to in “videos” as you would for any other video media. It then will read the EDL file. More detailed information on the XBMC client side process can be found here.

So in summary, commercial skipping via MediaPortal TV server and playback in XBMC is very doable and straight forward. Apart from the issue where the XBMC client that is on a different machine to server needing playback to occur via a media share the only other issue I have encountered is that you must wait for the recording to finish before to commence commercial detection with Comskip. The MediaPortal plugin “Comskip Launcher” does give the option to do it on the fly but it didn’t work for me and I believe this may be an issue with the TV server. You may also need to edit you “comskip.ini” configuration file to change your detection method and other settings depending the source of your TV signal and the country you reside in. I am in the UK recording from Freesat and Freeview sources but so far all I have changed is the basic detection method from “43” to “111” (these settings are explained in the Comskip guides) but more fine tuning can be done if you require it. Changing this has given me very good results and I am really enjoying not having to watch those pesky commercials!

 

 

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