me, my vps and the beeb

Sometime ago, I decided to get a VPS as a web hosting solution. upon discovering an interest for formula one, I then begin on an epic quest to discover methods of watching it without getting a cable subscription. as it turns out, using a VPS as a proxy works as a solution for most UK media. namely the BBC’s iPlayer. however, there was one primary problem, i could not access live sports feeds and live video feeds.

My initial methods of getting a proxy going revolved around ssh-ing to the VPS as demonstrated here. However, to my chagrin, I could not watch live F1 – while the audio and radio broadcasts remained fine, iPlayer refused to load, with the ambiguous error message “The content could not be loaded. Please try again later.”. Try again later I did, and fail again later I experienced.

This sent me on a quest to attempt to discover what may be the underlying cause of this oddity. It clearly cannot be a result of the browser settings, given that to other sites and the beeb itself, my browser plays media fine (apart from live content). So this issue must be unique to the live media – which implies that there must be another method of discovering that my browser is using a proxy.

Some googling brought further light on the situation. It turned out that people trying to watch Hulu in the US experienced the same issues, and the main thing in common is that both of them use Flash player. It turns out that one of the idiosyncrasy of Flash is that the RTMP protocol uses stateful TCP connections and the resulting “bug” is that RTMP videos may not be available to computers behind proxy servers. In this case, this is used as a clever method of detecting if a client is using a proxy server as since RTMP uses direct TCP, it bypasses the proxy server settings of the browser and thus attempts to connect to the media directly through the current connection as stated here.

Some proposed solutions involve using foxyproxy, but I’ve decided to use Proxifier. Proxifier can be used on an 31 day evaluation basis. More details can be found here and here (it’s for mac but it works on a similar principle). Upon getting Proxifier, I quickly had a go at trying to configure my proxy – and it worked! I got BBC1 going on live broadcast, and if nothing really changes, I should theoretically get to watch the Turkish GP on the Beeb this weekend! Win!

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