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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to Watch Al Jazeera English In the US - Step by Step Instructions



Al Jazeera English (AJE) has decided to cut off online streaming to the US rather gracelessly. This is an attempt to direct current US viewership to their new offering, Al Jazeera America (AJAM). But, like many people, I don't watch Al Jazeera on a television (if I do, I happily stream it from my netbook to TV) and I am not very excited about what is being blasted as "watered down" US coverage. I want to finish watching The French African Connection and I require the Empire episodes. I want the cautious political analysis of Marwan Bishara, not whatever CNN-inspired line the new advertiser elite who put together AJAM.

Ahead of the August 20th launch date for AJAM, AJE cut off all streaming to the US market. This was by no means a popular action - see Glenn Greenwald's excellent write-up on the issue (and while you're there, wish him luck with his recent battles with the UK/US over media free speech). Either way, here is how to access the AJE content from within the US:

 

1. Download & Install Tor Browser Bundle.

Tor is a powerful tool for hiding your identity online. It is especially useful for accessing restricted information and web pages, as well as being a primary hub for black markets. The Tor system uses "onion routing" to hide the terminus of connections among layers of other connections.

If you are currently using Tor for security purposes, you need to create a separate installation or alternate profile if possible. For this tutorial, we are going to be disabling many of the security features because those features deactivate video streaming and other javascript-based services which we need. We are only trying to make a web page think that we have an ip address from another country.



The archive will ask you to choose a location to extract to. I chose "C:\Program Files\" to fit the widows folder archetype - an additional folder ("Tor Browser") will be created so don't worry about including it here. It's also a good idea to make a shortcut on your desktop: use your right mouse button to drag & drop "Start Tor Browser.exe" on the desktop. It will look like this, probably with less snow:

 

2. Install the Latest Flash Player for Firefox.

But first, install Firefox if you don't yet have it.
Be sure to uncheck "McAfee Security Scan Plus" adware before you click the download button. Download the file, go to tools > downloads, and double-clock on “install_flashplayer…”


3. Copy Flash files to the Tor Browser

Create a new folder:  C:\Program Files\Tor Browser\FirefoxPortable\App\Firefox\plugins\
In a new window, navigate to “C:\Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash” or “C:\Windows\System64\Macromed\Flash”. Copy these files from this folder to the folder you just created:



Copy these files: "NPSWF32_11_8_800_94.dll" & "flashplayer.xpt"

NOTE: If you have issues with virus protection or plugin container, copying all of these files instead of just 2 my resolve that issue.


4. Configure Tor

Now we’re done playing with files. There are a few more steps to take before Tor can show videos not regularly accessible in your country. When you open Tor, two windows appear – a browser and a “Vidalia Control Panel” window. Open Tor and click on the green onion that appears next to the address bar. Choose “Preferences.” Click on the “Security” tab. Unselect options as follows:


Then click “OK

Go to Tools > Add-Ons then choose “Plugins.” Enable “Shockwave Flash…” Close the “Add-ons Manager” tab.

Go to the “Vidalia Control Panel.” Click on “Settings” button, “Advanced” tab and then “Edit current torrc” under “Tor Configuration file” section.

A basic text editor will appear. Add the following lines to this file:

ExitNodes {DE},{FR},{AT},{BE},{DK},{ES},{GB},{GR},{GI},{IM},{IS},{IE},{LI},{LU},{NO},{SE}
StrictExitNodes 1

Select the text you just pasted. Choose “Apply Selection Only.” You should see something like this:



Click “OK
Switch to the Tor browser. Go to English.Aljazeera.Net and enjoy content just like before!

5. Other Stuff

When you first try to connect, the web page will probably take some time to load. However, once you are streaming video, it should not stutter. If it does, close & reopen Tor from the "Vidalia Control Panel" to establish a fresh connection.

When starting a stream, you may need to click on the plugin ("Activate Plugin") and then press "play" once the AJE content appears.

Your anti-virus software may interfere. Do not turn it off. AVG did not cause me problems on my 64 bit Windows7 system, but Avast on my 32 bit XP system stopped the plugin and, after changing Avast settings (follow the Avast pop-up and uncheck the option it specified as a trip for the plugin) I had to restart, as the pesky "plugin container" program was now frozen. You may need to copy ALL files from "...\Macromed\Flash\" to "...\Plugins\" in step 3 to make this process run more smoothly, which is what I did on my Windows7 system.

Please let me know if you have problems so that I can update this tutorial. Any feedback is appreciated.

5 comments:

  1. Hi. First off thank you for this tutorial. I found your page while searching for a way to get around The US blackout. I'm using a Mac, and was able to work out the Mac analogs to your instructions. The one thing I didn't do was to copy the Flash files into another folder. I had the addon when I launched the Tor Browser. I'm now able to watch stored videos on the site with no problem, but I am unable to watch the live stream. The first time, I got maybe 10 seconds or so, then it froze. Subsequent tries only gives me a frozen picture, that will update by pausing and starting again. After a short time, a window appears saying Content not available. Please try again later. Or it returns to the Al Jazeera logo. I did receive a warning when launching Tor that said plugins such as Flash... can bypass Tor to reveal your current location and IP address. But I don't think that's it, because of the other videos that load and play. It could be because a lot of folks are trying to watch the stream at the same time, now that it's no longer on US cable. So, I tried youtube's Al Jazeera page and voila! It worked! So thank you once again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here is an alternative link for the live stream:
      http://www.baqiworld.com/2011/10/watch-al-jazeera-english-live/

      I didn't have a problem with the live stream using the above method (for Windows) but I guess it could be a connection issue. Have you tried turning Tor off & then back on?

      Delete
  2. How were you able to do it for a Mac. Can you briefly explain the differences in the process. I know nothing about this stuff and am afraid I won't be able to work out the Mac analogs to the instructions as you did, whatever the hell that even means. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should be able to Install Tor on a Macintosh by following the Tor link in the first step, and clicking on "Download for Mac":
      https://www.torproject.org/download/download-easy.html.en#mac

      For flash, you will have to follow this link and choose "Macintosh OS X":
      http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/otherversions/

      As far as copying the files, I believe that the file structure for the Tor folder will be similar to the above. To find the files you need to copy, you could try "/Library/Internet Plug-ins/" If its not there, you may find the asnwer by searching Google for "internet plugin locations on mac osx".

      Unfortunately, I don't have a mac to test any of this on. But the rest of the instructions (for configuring Tor) should be the same.

      Either way, try this link for just the live stream: http://www.baqiworld.com/2011/10/watch-al-jazeera-english-live/

      Delete
  3. May I ask After a short time, a window appears saying Content not available. Please try again later. Or it returns to the Al Jazeera logo. I did receive a warning when launching Tor that said plugins such as Flash... can bypass Tor to reveal your current location and IP address. But I don't think that's it, because of the other videos that load and play. It could be because a lot of folks are trying to watch the stream at the same time, now that it's no longer on US cable. So, I tried youtube's Al Jazeera page and voila! It worked! So thank you once again.

    ReplyDelete

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