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Watching Downton Abbey On-Line

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SettingGeolocation

At some times of the year, teasers and even full episodes of Downton Abbey are available through on-line outlets including ITV, PBS, Youtube and others. Often they are restricted by region. This article discusses means of legally viewing this content from other regions. This article does not discuss means which are generally illegal, such as file sharing.

GeolocationEdit

The general technique used by content providers to restrict content to specified regions is called geolocation. There are two primary means of determining the originating location of the client (visitor) by the server (host).

Address Look-upEdit

The server is provided with the IP Address of the client. IP addresses are issued by region, therefore it is possible to get a reasonably accurate estimate of the client location by looking up the geographic area associated with any specific address. For an example of this in action, see What is my IP Address.

Browser Geolocation InformationEdit

The second technique by which a server can determine the location of the client is through geolocation information provided by the client's browser. This technique can be even more precise than address look-up because many devices, particularly smart phones and tablets, have built-in GPS which can provide position data with an accuracy of less than a couple feet (1/2 meter). Triangulating on cell towers is another means by which these devices can accurately calculate their locations.

Circumventing GeolocationEdit

Both the IP address and geolocation information are data voluntarily provided to any server. While it may be frowned upon, there is no legal requirement to either provide this information or to provide accurate information. A couple of means of altering this information are as follows:

Proxy ServerEdit

ProxyServer
Simplistically speaking, a proxy server is a device that sits between the client and the server, relaying the communications of both. Thus when the server wants to look at the originating IP address, it is going to see the address of the proxy, not the original client. If the proxy is located in the desired region it will satisfy the geolocation restriction regardless of the location of the client. The trick is to find a proxy in the desired region.

A new tool that does this very well is Hola. It is a type of proxy called a VPN, which allows easily selecting the country in which the proxy resides. As a bonus, it also encrypts all traffic between the client and the proxy. It can be run as a plug-in to many popular browsers, or stand alone for use with all network traffic regardless of originating program. It even works with paid for services like Netflix.

Altering Geolocation DataEdit

Some browsers have a "development mode" which can be used by developers to test their geolocation aware applications. The same settings can be used to set a desired geolocation to be reported by the browser.

SettingGeolocation
In the Chrome browser these settings are well hidden but can be found by first selecting F12 to bring up developer mode. Then select Settings (the gear box in the lower right), then select Overrides and check the box next to Show 'Emulation' view in console drawer. Finally close that out and go to the Emulation tab (next to 'console' and 'search'), select Sensors if necessary, then fill in the desired latitude and longitude. Google Maps can be useful in providing this information.

SummaryEdit

It may take more than one of the above techniques to satisfy the geolocation requirements of a specific server. There are also other means of detecting location information or whether one is routing through a proxy which could still be used to block delivery of content. These are however, some options open to the dedicated Downton Abbey fan.

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