Wow what a geeky title, well hopefully this post isn’t too dull but it’s inspired by a few emails I’ve been having. Now a lot of us, are living a pretty region free life online, with the use of certain programs and services we are not blocked and redirected based on our location. So I don’t have to watch the vastly inferior version of Netflix just because I’m currently in the United Kingdom, I can watch the US Version instead! It’s all pretty straight forward on a computer, laptop or smartphone – load up the program, switch servers or use a Smart DNS service and you can choose your own virtual location with a false IP address.
But of course the world is not that simple, and many of us have different devices that are getting blocked. Media streamers, Smart TVs and there are even NAS disks which can download stuff from sites for you automatically. These just like our computers can get blocked based on their location too, and there’s no obvious way to install programs like Identity Cloaker or mess around with network settings. Now obviously installing a sophisticated security program written for a PC or MAC isn’t going to work but how about the smart DNS services that a couple of the leading VPN/Proxy providers have developed.
Just in case you don’t know smart dns is a sort of halfway house to unblocking blocked media content online. It basically routes part of your connection through a specific server using your DNS settings. So you’ll establish initial connections through a US proxy server for instance and then stream directly through your own connection. It works great for unblocking restricted media sites like the BBC for example. All you need to do is enable your IP address with a Smart DNS service and then change your DNS settings on the device you need.
So I Can Change the Location of a Device like a Roku, Boxee or a Smart TV?
Yes you can but this isn’t always obvious, because many devices don’t let you alter or change network settings like DNS servers.
How Can I Change Roku Network Settings
So let’s take for example this device, the amazing Roku which really is that big! This device allows you to stream content directly to a TV via a HDMI cable. Most people use it to access Netflix, Youtube, BBC Iplayer and channels like that. But it is a network enabled device and is therefore affected by the location of your IP address – so stick a Roku on a TV in the USA and it won’t get BBC Iplayer for example.
Smart DNS should be ideal for this sort of situation, it’s not a full blown VPN connection but should be enough just to fool the media site into the location you specify. Except the Roku has no network configuration settings, you can’t directly modify it’s IP address or specifically it’s DNS server. Perhaps these are blocked for a reason, I suspect companies like Netflix wouldn’t want people to be able to access these settings – but who knows?
However you can modify the settings in most cases either on your router directly or by using DHCP which is the protocol that sits on your routers, Wifi access points and modems which dishes out IP addresses for all the devices on your network.
Here’s the settings on my Netgear router which allows the device to allocate IP addresses on my internal network – you allocate a range – 192.168.1.1-192.168.1.254 in this case and each device will be assigned it’s own address when connected to this network.
On a full proper DHCP service, alas not on this particular router, you can also specific other details including which DNS server to use. You could also set up your own DHCP server on a computer to allocate, their are loads of free versions you can use. For Smart DNS to work you need only assign the specific Smart DNS server to the device you wanted to work. So I could assign a specific DNS server to my Roku remotely, which could either be a US, UK or any country enabled by the service you use.
In my situation with this router, I would just assign the Smart DNS setting to the router itself in the DNS settings. All this does is enable everything in my network to use the Smart DNS setting which in many cases is more suitable for people.
These are normally in internet or LAN settings on your router, instead of getting them assigned from your ISP specify the Smart DNS ones you’ve got from your provider like Overplay.
If you’re lucky the DHCP service on your router will allow you to specify the DNS settings like this TPlink one.
So you would simply assign your Smart DNS settings to your devices by assigning them in the DHCP scope. So everything on your network would get assigned this DNS servers including your Roku, Boxee, Ipad or whatever. If you want some devices to have different DNS settings then simply assign them locally on the device, they won’t be overwritten by DHCP.
I should however urge a word of caution particularly due to my tests. The above works fine for most devices for assigning network and DNS settings to devices on your network. However it doesn’t always fool the media site on some devices for some reason.
I can use Smart DNS from Overplay on any number of devices like computers and phones to access the US version of Netflix when in the UK for example, but it just makes my Roku stall when connecting. The server works fine and is assigned but there’s something telling Netflix that my Roku is not in the US – so please bear that in mind before buying big subscriptions for these services before checking.