Streaming US media

Having been prompted by the wife to investigate how to access the American version of Netflix and by Child 2’s usage of the same, I did a little digging.

There are many options out there. Unblockus is popular and convenient and it costs $5 a month. The advantage of Unblockus for me is the ability to install its DNS addresses right on the router, thus allowing every device on our network – including the PS3 – to access geo-blocked American media. When you access one of the chosen services, your browser would ask you which geographic location you would like to use. I’m not sure we would get that choice with Netflix on the PS3.

Child 2 was using Hola, which comes in ad-supported free and pay versions. Hola is actually peer-to-peer software and I suspect it of driving up our bandwidth using Child 2’s laptop. Regardless, it is browser-based software and as such may not always work with browser updates or even your browser of choice, like my preference to use Safari.

I settled on a free alternative, Media Hint. There’s another hobby-project called Tunlr that works with DNS redirection, the same approach that Unblockus uses.

Media Hint works in the browser, but also at the system level in OS X, which is how I have set mine up. Here’s how:

  1. Open System Preferences. Open the Network settings pane.
  2. Click on the connection you are using, which will almost certainly be either Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
  3. Click on the Location drop-down menu and choose Edit Locations…
  4. Select your default location (Automatic, unless you’ve renamed it). Click on the gear icon and choose “Duplicate Location”.
  5. Rename the location you just created to something more obvious, like “US TV”. Choose it to activate it and click the Done button.
  6. Click the Advanced button. Click on Proxies in the header.
  7. Activate the checkbox for Automatic Proxy Configuration. In the URL field for Automatic Proxy Configuration and paste this URL:
  8. Click the OK button. Exit System Preferences, saving changes if it asks you to.

Now, to switch between being local and appearing to be in the US, click on the Apple menu and then click on the Location menu. Switch between them whenever you want this way.

I haven’t checked, but there should be a way to use Media Hint this way in Windows, too. Or you could opt for Tunlr.

Bonus whine:

Who at WordPress decided that Goth was a good look for version 3.8? Blecch.

Magical pants

When once upon a time I was a DM for the game we then called AD&D, I invented in my campaign a magic item called the pants of sloth (and I italicize according to Wizards of the Coast style). These magical pants were a tartan pair of what are now commonly called pyjama pants and they increased the natural healing rate of a character as long as this person did nothing but veg out.

Because I was (am?) an anal-retentive DM, I kept track of things like long-term healing and these pants came in handy in my campaign, even though when I submitted them for inclusion in Dungeon magazine, the editor I was working with (Dave Gross) replied with “Oh, I don’t think so….” It may have been the name.

They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and I would have loved to see Dave’s comment were I to submit for consideration a real pair of magical pants I just learned about.

The Icelandic nábrók, or necropants, will grant you everlasting wealth as long as you don’t mind digging around in a(nother) man’s scrotum for coins. Here’s the transliteration of the audio track available at the Strandagaldur Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft.

One of the most difficult feats mentioned in Icelandic grimoires and folk tales is undoubtedly the nábrók, literally “necropants”. This is another tool to gather wealth by supernatural means.

To begin with, the sorcerer has to make a pact with a living man and get his permission to dig up his dead body and skin it from the waist down. The skin must be completely intact with no holes or scratches. The sorcerer then steps into the skin, which will immediately become one with his own.

A coin must be stolen from a poor widow either at Christmas, Easter, or Whitsun and kept in the scrotum. It will then draw money from living persons and the scrotum will never be empty when the sorcerer checks.

However, his spiritual well-being is at risk unless he gets rid of the necropants before he dies. If he dies with the pants on, his body will become infested with lice as soon as he passes away. The sorcerer must therefore find somebody that is willing to take the pants, and put his leg into the right leg before the sorcerer steps out of the left one.

The pants will keep on drawing money for generations of owners.

The audio does not mention that in addition to the coin, the sorcerer must place the nábrókarstafur sigil in the scrotum.

The museum has a pair of the pants on display and the Web site has the sigil.


Symbols of faith

I found this display in a local Michael’s.


Hopefully, when the “Charte des valeurs québécoises” become law (ha!), the store will post a guide to tell us which of these symbols is too ostentatious for government work so we can know which will keep us (university professors count!) out of jail.


Bonus iOS 7 bug:

Apparently, if you alter a playlist in iTunes, the changes will not propagate to your synced iPhone/iPad in iOS 7. You have to create a new playlist in iTunes, copy everything from the old into the new, then make your changes.

I had to rename my Top Tunes playlist to Favourites because Siri kept insisting I was asking to shuffle my non-existent Pop Tunes playlist.