There are many uses for this, but the one I’m most familiar with is the need to watch the BBC and ITV from outside the UK. The BBC derives a significant portion of its operating budget from a tax on all british households with a TV (I think it’s something like 11 pounds per month). The British would be bloody well narked if us non-paying colonists could just nip into their website and watch the Beeb whenever we wanted. At the same time, if the BBC put up any sort of serious security on their site (such as a registration wall that asked you to prove you paid the tax), the British people would probably burn down their building. So the BBC digital media team long ago settled on the idea of waving through anyone coming in through a UK server, and keeping out everyone else. It’s a pretty good system: no one has burned down the building yet, and it keeps the foreign wankers out…mostly.
If you find yourself far from the sepulchred isle, and you’re a non-wanker who really loves Downton Abbey (is that possible?), you might try circumventing the IP sniffer by routing your browser through a proxy server.
1. First, you need the ip address of a proxy server in the UK. There are lots of listings on the web, but I like: http://hidemyass.com/proxy-list/ Just select United Kingdom from the drop down (you may also want to filter for speed). Pick one of the listed servers and copy the IP address. Also note the port (you’ll need this).
2. Go into System Preferences -> Network. Click the ‘Locations’ drop-down and select ‘Edit locations’ and click the + sign to add a new location. Call it something like ‘UK’ or ‘Stamp Act Retribution’ if you’re feeling cheeky.
3. In the lower right corner, hit the ‘advanced’ button and select Proxies from the top menu.
4. Click ‘Web Proxy (HTTP)’, paste the IP address you just copied, and type in the port, and click ok. Now click ‘Apply’. Congrats! You’re jammy buggered!
Using your new proxy server:
1. Surfing through a proxy server can be slow, so I’d recommend reverting to your default location whenever you don’t need to use it (this is also a good security precaution, since the proxy server can view all the internet traffic that passes through).
2. Once you find the webpage of the episode you want to watch, copy the url, quit your browser, switch to the UK proxy server you set up earlier (don’t forget to hit ‘apply’), open the browser, paste the url, and watch your show. It will take a few seconds (maybe even a minute or two) to load, but once it loads it should play exactly as if you were sitting in an East End pub, minus the shouting and piss-warm beer.