Traveling exposes you to new sounds and sights but some days the only thing you want to do is stay in your hotel and watch the latest episode of Dexter. That’s not always easy though since proxies, international regulations, and Internet censorship can all prevent you from watching your favorite TV shows. There are however multiple ways to get access to your favorite programs, no matter where in the world you may happen to be traveling.
Access Shows The (Mostly) Legal Way
Many TV shows are streamed on legitimate sites like Hulu and Netflix, however due to a complex patchwork of international distribution laws, access to them is generally restricted to inside the United States. (They’re usually available in western European countries as well, albeit with new shows often delayed by months.) Using proxies you can make it seem to such sites that you’re computer is in America (or other country you specify), but keep in mind you may be walking a gray legal boundary by doing so.
- Download Shows Directly From iTunes – Most non-premium networks typically upload new episodes within 24 hours for $0.99-2.99 each.
- Stream From Sites You Already Have Subscriptions To – Watch movies and TV shows from services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus by getting access to US-based websites using Hotspot Shield. In addition to that proxy, here are some Hotspot Shield alternatives to watching Hulu and other US websites abroad.
- Set Your Proxy By Country And Website – The free Firefox plugin FoxyProxy lets you do just that so only specific websites of your choice connect over a regional proxy. Here’s how to use it.
- Watch Music Videos And Official Show Clips By Automatically Unblocking Video Sites – ProxMate (Firefox/Chrome) seamlessly unblocks video that’s behind any regional block on YouTube, MTV, Discovery Channel, Pandora, and others.
Additionally, you can call your friends and family who may be living in the U.S. – and have subscriptions to premium cable channels – for their account passwords for online channels like HBO Go and Showtime Anytime. You’ll still need to fire up a proxy but after that it’s straightforward to Homeland.
Rip DVDs And Share Them With Yourself
Any old desktop you happen to have sitting at home can be used as a personal proxy but even better, your very own video streaming service. That will help you keep hard drive space on your laptop free for all of the travel pictures from Ecuador you’re bound to take. Use the free program Handbrake before your next trip to download DVDs on to your desktop. You can then stream them to yourself (or friends) using Dropbox, a free program you shouldn’t travel without.
Alternatively, while you’ve got good bandwidth, you can download streaming (e.g. Flash, AVI, MOV, etc.) videos using SaveVid; later streaming them to yourself or saving them locally on your hard drive.
Stream From Show Aggregators Or Torrent Them For Future Viewing
These two methods-technologies themselves aren’t illegal but you may be violating a number of laws depending on what exactly you’re downloading. With that caveat out of the way (do the right thing folks) here’s how to use this tech to keep up with your favorite programs.
- Stream With sidereel – This aggregator doesn’t actually host content but leads you to links that host a number of popular TV shows and movies. It’s all streaming and if you refresh your browser or your laptop goes to sleep, you’ll probably lose what you’ve downloaded. Ad-heavy, these sites are a bit cumbersome to use, although typically have brand new shows within 24 hours and don’t require you to do too much else aside from sift through a couple of links.
sidereel is hardly the only media aggregator out there but casts a fairly wide net. If you’re looking for others, a search of “watch [show] for free” should pull up about a million more. Of course the main disadvantage of streaming is requiring a fragile download to occur – one that might be lost when you close your laptop lid or simply stall on a flaky Internet connection. (Here’s how to make the most out of poor wireless.) This is where torrenting comes in.
The Exceptionally Brief Guide To Using BitTorrent
BitTorrent is basically a file downloading technology that distributes a file among all of those sharing it. You download chunks of a given file out of sequence – meaning you get any part of the total file that’s available, rather than having to get each minute of a movie in order, for example. (Uploading files also works this way too – as soon as a file chuck is downloaded, you’re redistributing it to the host of people who’re downloading the same file you are.)
There’s more to it than I’ve got room for here but essentially you’ll need to download a BitTorrent client. uTorrent (Windows/Mac) and Transmission (Mac) are two good, free options. Then head over to a torrent search engine. Although there are several, you likely won’t have to go beyond The Pirate Bay or isoHunt. Search for your TV show, avoid the ad link bait, and open with the BitTorrent client you downloaded. Then, you wait. Torrent download times vary, but if you’re curious, here’s a calculator that can give you an idea how long your show will take, given your bandwidth plus a few other factors.
Watch What You’re Doing And Let Me Know What You’re Watching
Obviously you don’t want to break international laws to keep up with Modern Family and remember that various countries have stiff penalties for downloading and distributing media illegally. How you go about it is at your discretion. Personally, I don’t want much TV (though there’s plenty of Star Trek at my disposal) but Michael C. Hall’s image above should give you a pretty strong clue as to what I’m hooked on at the moment.
So, how about you – what TV shows are you going out of your travel way to keep up with these days?