Updated: June 17, 2013
When testing Fuduntu Linux, I came across an interesting thingie. This was the first distro to feature the Netflix desktop application in its repository, albeit usable only through the WINE framework. After a bit of tweaking, I got it running, but only to a point. Since my IP address was originating outside of the US, I was unable to use the service. Well, not a biggie, as I have a business VPN that lets me circumvent that and all, but what about normal people, who want this, and can't have it?
This tutorial will show you how you can start using this service, even if you do not like in United States of America or Japan. Best yet, this tutorial will show you how you can achieve this by using Linux. And the Tunlr free service.
There are several things to take into consideration here. I am not 100% sure if all the small print in the Netflix service agreement does not lay claims to your soul and unborn children. So if you happen to use VPN, proxying or whatnot to get to their content, you might end up with a free colonoscopy. Not my problem.
Two, this tutorial will show you how to change the network configurations in your system, namely the DNS settings, which will route requests for sites like Netflix, Hulu and others to the Tunlr servers. This means you will be using third-party servers for name resolution, and you should only do this if you trust them. While your ISP is ultimately responsible and somewhat accountable for what happens when you use their DNS, there's no such guarantee if you decide to use an external service.
Three, Netflix will ask you for your private information and credit card. I honestly do not know what they expect to do with your data, what kind of stuff you need to provide and what happens later on. OK, if you carefully read these three paragraphs, your virgin blood should now be safe from vampires, probably, maybe. Now that we know where we stand, let's proceed.
Now we can introduce the fellows who make the foreign access possible. Tunlr is a service that will stream Netflix - and other - content to your machine, provided you make the necessary changes to your DNS. Do not expect 24/7 high-speed support, because there won't be any. Tunlr offers no claims on performance, stability or availability, it's meant to be fun, and you still need to pay your monthly subscription to Netflix and other companies.
How to enable Tunlr
There are several ways you can enable Tunlr. The easiest one is to manually adjust your name resolution in /etc/resolv.conf file. Replace the DNS provided by your ISP with the two DNS provided by Tunlr. Do note that restarting the network, obtaining a new IP address from your router using DHCP, restarting the DNS service, as well as several other changes might restore the DNS to their default configuration.
The caveat of this method is that ALL your name queries will be forwarded to the Tunlr servers, and you might not want this, for performance, security and privacy reasons. So you want a selective name resolution.
Use Tunlr only for Netflix and alike
The alternative way requires the use of dnsmasq, a lightweight DHCP and DNS caching service. It is already used by default in the likes of Ubuntu or Mint, so there's nothing you need to do to set it up. Fuduntu uses this utility, too. What you need is a change in the configuration.
Dnsmasq supports selective --server directives, which allow it to forward only specific queries to certain domains to specific DNS servers. The directive can be provided on the command line when starting the server or inside its configuration file.
In the configuration file, /etc/dnsmasq.conf, the format is thusly:
Once you make the changes and add all the relevant addresses, the changing list of which can be found in the official Tunlr forum, restart the dnsmasq service, as well as all your Web browsers.
The other option is to start dnsmasq with the --server= option, like below. If you want more than just Netflix, you can specify additional server directives one after another. Do make sure the DNS service is not already running, because you cannot fire up two dnsmasq processes at the same time. Here's a sample line:
If all is well, the Tunlr connectivity test should return positive!
Start using service!
Now, you can start using Netflix normally. This means registering for a free month, although you do need to provide your credit card, and if you do not wish to be billed after the free month expires, you will then have to cancel your service within the first 30 days. So this is kind of opt-out sneaky, but that's how it works.
Worth the bother?
Finally, some gospel. Is this really worth your time? Well, most people probably think it is, but when I browsed the contents and checked what's there, I was not really impressed. Most of the content is very new, very current, very contemporary, and almost exclusively American. If you're a connoisseur of stuff like 'Allo 'Allo, Only Fools and Horses, the French Cinema, Lars von Trier, and other merry fellows, this service is not your best choice.
Not here to preach. You want this, there you go, doors unlocked. Perhaps one day, all the legal details between various countries will be sorted out, and then, you will be given free and unlimited access to various content providers like Netflix, Hulu, MTV, Pandora, and others.
This tutorial is more than just a guide to how you can easily circumvent the Netflix service provisioning. It's mostly a network tweaking article, with some pretty useful tips on the dnsmasq utility. We learned about the name resolution, various configuration files, and how to fire up the service from the command line with some handy options.
If you ask me, I would not bother with Netflix, but I'm not here to judge you. This tutorial should help you, if you decide you want to watch the exclusive American content outside the American borders. Of course, you can always purchase any VPN or proxying service, but Tunlr does the same work, for free, and it's extremely simple and flexible to setup and use, which is one of its advantages. Finally, remember that your streaming will eventually cost you money, including the monthly subscription fees, so you should consider carefully if this whole thing is worth your time, or if perhaps you do not have better alternatives.Philosophy aside, there you go, an article full of goodies. All Linux.