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!

 

Why you should own a Chromecast

chromecast

 

In case you have been under a rock for the last 2 years, Google’s Chromecast dongle is a little HDMI dongle that plugs in directly to your television or AV amplifier. It’s main function is to act as a “dumb receiver” for many internet streaming services. It has no user interface to speak of and you can only configure it via it’s web portal or mobile apps.

Why would you want one of these? It’s actually a question I asked myself. Many would say it can be an impulse purchase due to it’s low entry point (the device is about $35 US / £30 UK) but even being a tech geek I didn’t rush out to buy one myself. I have a very robust media entertainment system at home based around the wonderful XBMC so what would the Chromecast do for me?

I finally picked one up for one main reason: Netflix. Yes, Netflix is on almost everything these days, everything except XBMC (yes, it can be done with a lot of caveats!). I have had Netflix since it launched in the UK and watched it via an app on my Blu-Ray player downstairs and a WDTV media player upstairs but I have become increasingly frustrated with the performance of these apps. As these devices are pretty much no longer supported, app updates are few and far between and sometimes it can be a struggle to get Netflix to even run.

Enter the Chromecast, a device that I can push media to pretty much like I can do with XBMC. I already use an Android app called Yatse which is an XBMC remote with some fantastic features that gives it the ability to “push” media to XBMC such as Youtube and other media streams. The android Netflix app is great and very easy to navigate and search for content. Linking it to Chromecast gives me the ability to push the tv show or movie to my TV just as easily as Yatse does with XBMC. The side effect of this I am watching a lot more Netflix these days!

If you don’t have a robust entertainment system already then the Chromecast will be even more useful to you. You can also push Youtube, photos, video from your device and there are plenty of 3rd party apps with Chromecast support. My favourite podcatcher app, Pocket Casts, pushes my podcasts to the device seamlessly, BBC iPlayer in the UK is much quicker than the built in apps in a lot of appliances and my American friends get Hulu Plus and HBO Go.

No matter which tech ecosystem you prefer, your Chromecast works with it. There are iOS apps, Android, Windows, Linux, Mac and of course the Chromebook. Performance is great and I’ve had no issues streaming from Netflix, BBC, Youtube etc. The only issue I ran into was when I tried to watch a live hangouts stream via Youtube, the video would hang and go unresponsive. I’m guessing this is because the video was uncompressed and not optimised cointaining a high bitrate and the Chromecast couldn’t cope with it.

In future posts I will catalogue tweaks and tips I have used to make the device even more useful.

Chromecast info

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!

 

Faces For Radio | TeknoCratik Episode 013

faces_for_radio

We have taken the podcast to video!

As well as the usual audio show we will now be making available our (usually) uncut Google Hangout as a video podcast on the TeknoCratik Youtube Channel. We decided to do this so that we would be able to review apps and hardware visually on the show and add extra value to the content.

Please bare with us as we are pretty new to video podcasts (although Tim has had a lot of experience in uploading video to Youtube) and we are still figuring out a few things.

 

This time around we discuss:

Dan’s catastrophic New Year USB Armageddon!

Tim reviews his new Acer C720 Chromebook and his Chromecast.

Steam Streaming Beta: revolutionary or overated?

Tim’s continuing Linux adventure.

Screen casting apps such as VokoScreen and Simple Screen Recorder.

And much more!

 

Video version:

Chromebooks and Penguins | TeknoCratik Episode 012

teknocratik 0012

 

We are back with another jam packed episode!

 

Dan learns The Gimp for some projects he is doing.

Tim moves house and works on his tech support business.

 

We talk about our thoughts on:

The Humble Store

Linux Mint 16 release

Canonical / Asus Partnership in the US

New Chromebooks

Tim reccomends: F-Droid

Dan reccomends: SuperTuxKart

 

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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!

 

TeknoCratik

Update: TeknoCratik Firefox and Chrome Extensions Now Available!

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

Continue reading

TeknoCratik Episode 10 – What next for mobile?

Phonebloks-400x400

 

In this episode we take a look at mobile. We discuss what we would like to see and what may be coming to rock the industry in the future. As well as reviewing what direction we think the big players will take we also take a look at:

 

The Ubuntu Phone Project

Firefox OS

The Tizen project and Samsung

Phone Bloks

 

Enjoy!