Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Sunday, November 18, 2007

I was up in Miami for the week of September 25th. My boss wanted me to go earlier, but I stalled and planned for that week. Why? because Sept 25th was the date that Halo 3 was released. I sold my old Xbox last Christmas in preparation for buying a 360 when Halo 3 came out. I wrote about standing in line and going to the midnight launch at Circuit City that week while I was up there, and took flack for paying good money to get teabagged by racist 13 year olds from Texas on Xbox Live. :)

One of the other reasons I wanted the 360 was it's built-in Media Center Extender capabilities. Watch your videos you've downloaded on your TV rather than on your computer screen, stream your Mp3s through your home stereo rather than your computer speakers, that sort of thing. It's a bit pointless at the moment, since I don't have a TV (I have the 360 connected to my Acer 22" widescreen via the 360 VGA cable) and I don't have a home stereo (I have the 360 connected to my SB Audigy+ via optical cable and playing out to a Logitech X-540 5.1 speaker system connected to said computer).

One of the cool things with Xbox Live is the Xbox Live Arcade and the Xbox Live Marketplace. If you don't already know what they are, the XBL Arcade allows you to download "mini games" for a few bucks (Microsoft Points) instead of packaging it as a disc and distributing it through brick & mortars and having to charge $19.99 or more. You can download trials of new games and pre-release trials of one or two levels and decide if you want to spend the money and download the full game or go buy it when it comes out. Some of them are even Xbox Live Multiplayer capable, too.

The other side of that coin is the Xbox Live Marketplace. This is where (for a fee, of course) download TV  shows and movies, trailers and other extra bits and pieces, as well as outright buy (via download) expansion packs for existing games you already own. The only rub is that EVERYTHING I tried to download failed. I couldn't understand how EVERYTHING could fail. Game demos and trailers were OK to download, but no movie trailers, no TV shows, no videos-on-demand, nothing.

After doing some searching around online, I found out that I'm not the only one who had this problem. It turns out that I'm being actively blocked from downloading any content from XBL Marketplace because my IP address identifies me as residing outside of the US and A. That's right, region coding. "This content is intended for US residents only". Never mind that I bought my Xbox 360 in Miami, my credit card is a Bank of America credit card with a branch address in Miami, and my billing and shipping address in Miami, my IP address is assigned to Cayman Islands, and as such, NO VIDEO FOR YOU. Showtime is the same way. If you go to sho.com it won't even let you into the website unless your IP address is a US-assigned IP address. Pandora radio has started doing that now, too.

So that's it, I guess? Game over? Not by a long shot. Enter DD-WRT. DD-WRT is a third-party firmware replacement for Linksys routers (among others). It lets you do all kinds of nifty things that Linksys isn't allowed to let you do because of FCC regulations, among other things. DD-WRT is an offshoot of the Sveasoft firmware which I also used to use. The new kid on the block goes by the name of Tomato and my friend Bob swears by it, but I've yet to try it out.

While I was poking around in the DD-WRT administration pages one night I noticed that it has a PPTP server built-in to it, as well as a PPTP client that's compatible with Microsoft's RRAS server natively. That means that instead of having to create a VPN connection from a particular computer back to the home office, you can have the router make the connection once and then all the computers behind it can access the remote network without any changes to their configuration. Pretty slick, huh? I thought of a few applications for this at work, where we have satellite offices AND Linksys wireless routers, but I was more focused on that particular night.

Just for grins, I put in my work domain credentials into the PPTP client and pointed it at our RRAS server in Miami. Nothing seemed to be happening, so I opened a command prompt and tried pinging the firewall in Miami on it's internal/private 192.168.x.x address... and got a response! I fired up VNC viewer and opened the console on the servers in Miami Wicked. It works. I looked at my outgoing traffic and saw that all my Internet-bound traffic was still going out via my DSL modem to C&W's servers, but when I specifically went to the address of the remote network, my traffic was routed from the Linksys directly to Miami.

That's as far as I went that night... I removed my credentials from the control panel just in case and called my counterpart at work and told him of the success. I also told him that if he sees any firewall rules on the ISA box relating to xbox.live.com that I put them there :) What I need to do now is figure out how to configure a static route in the DD-WRT to route all traffic bound for Microsoft's IP ranges (live.xbox.com, hotmail, xbox.live.com etc) to go out over the tunnel and all other traffic to go to the DSL modem. The connection in Miami is 6mbps each direction, so it's not like I can flood it and disrupt business, but I also don't want any torrent traffic leaking out onto the net from a US-based IP address. :)

After that, as far as Microsoft is concerned, my Miami-bought, Miami-credit-card-paid-for-Xbox-Live-Subscription traffic will be coming from Miami and not Grand Cayman.

Sunday, November 18, 2007 12:43:21 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets | Gaming | Microsoft | Wireless#
Friday, November 23, 2007 10:01:54 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
So, yet again, you forked out big dollars for a Microsoft product that will only get you teebaged. And you want to give them more business/money by way of their Xbox Live Marketplace. But they have thrown up a roadblock(1) to prevent you from downloading certain content that you want and are willing to pay for. So you will go out of your way and exert all this extra effort to tunnel your traffic through foreign servers so that you can give them more of your money.

After all of this, you actually think that they are your bitch? LOL! That's why I like reading this blog, you crack me up!



(1) I realize that the roadblock is not entirely Microsoft but is in fact due to the DRM requirements of the content providers. But, Microsoft goes out of their way to enable these providers and further the mess that is DRM.
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