Sunday, 1 March 2020

What a curious technological world we live in.


For the moment, I will ignore the pandemic spread of the coronavirus that gains momentum as it mutates into something akin to Anthrax.
     I also wish to ignore the self-induced climate change that look likely to turn low-lying areas of the UK into a series of islands for Kayakers.
     Burying my head in quicksand allows me to focus on mundane matters like using VPN technology on the internet. This seemingly enables someone like me to gain access to TV and films in other countries without my actual location be detected. I have in mind watching UK TV whilst living most of the time in Spain.
     The idea is this: VPN technology hides my true location by masking it via computer servers located in the country I wish to pretend to be my true address. The feedback I am getting, upon deep investigation, is that the likes of the BBC and Netflix are finding ways to detect such servers dedicated to the likes of me. Then, having found them, they are flagged as being VPN servers and their users are barred from accessing broadcast TV contents, which are supposed to be restricted to allocated Geographical locations. Local freelance agents will try and keep on top of such situations by switching to other (as yet) undetected VPN servers. In this way, they justify charging fees that earn them a decent living. I don’t need nor want that type of help. The giveaway for this dodge is the cheap annual costs levied by VPN providers. They tie you into their longer contracts knowing full well that VPN is hard to maintain.
     The reason I got to grips with all of this? I bought myself a Smart TV that is preprogrammed to receive Prime and Netflix, which now have subsidiaries based in Spain. The problem is that the locals here are indigenous Spaniards, who expect their main language to be Spanish! The residual problem is that, having dubbed the original English version of a show or film into what they want, the dedicated Amazon Prime team randomly discards originals without a care in the world. If my experience is anything to go by, the UK version of Amazon Prime has a far broader choice of English shows and films.
     How did I find this out? In my initial naivety, I bought an Amazon Firestick 4K from Amazon Spain that shows programs in ultra-high definition. I intended to return it, in a short period, after I found it was unnecessary, since it duplicated the same features as my Samsung Smart TV, which is preset for Spanish versions of Prime, Netflix etc. What I found out next changed my mind.
     Inadvertently. Using the Firestick, I chose Amazon Prime for my first trial period and selected English as my preferred language. Guess what happened? It automatically selected Amazon UK as my Prime supplier, since that is where I my main account is held. Prime UK is my chosen country and monthly subscriptions are now taken from my UK bank account! It was a glitch that Amazon Spain referred to Amazon USA for a policy decision to be made. The upshot was that, whilst I was informed that Spain is my geo-location, Amazon UK is happy to keep me on its books, since that is where my account is held so, without quibble, I became the beneficiary of Prime UK.
     Whilst I do not have reliable access via VPN to BBC IPlayer, there is a whole range of free UK programs including BBC channels that are still available to me. This means that I can discard my Sky box, if I wish and buy a Humax box to record anything freely shown at inhospitable hours, like after 11pm for me and my better half.
     I’ve decided to dispense with VPN and enjoy using the Firestick, without accessing Catch-up TV. In the process I am saving the 40GBP I was paying each month to Sky UK. I could also join Sky Spain (Sky.es) for a small monthly fee and see a range of USA channels that provide Sky UK with its fair share of source channels, as and when inclined.
     Longer-term, my gut feel is that the world as we know it is changing for the worse anyway. Stock up with survival rations and expect to call on Dignitas remotely before starvation sets in. No one in their right mind will want to travel on airborne cattle trucks as the virus spreads. I predict that collapse in the stock markets will escalate, as airlines find their traffic rapidly diminishing and people choose isolation in preference to socialising or using holiday homes. I pity the kids today far more than my generation, which is doomed anyway to a shortage of breath.

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