BBC Radio and Hulu update

I have released a new version of TunerFreeMCE. This release contains support for BBC radio programs, both live and catch-up. You can choose from any of the 17 national or regional BBC Radio programs. When you go in to the program it will start playing, and you can pause and play using the stop button. You can also fast forward or rewind 30 seconds at a time using the remote.

I still have a bit of testing to do on the radio content. I released this version a little but earlier than I might otherwise have done because I wanted to release an update to the Hulu support too. Hulu updated their site and everything stopped working, so I needed to update my code. Version 2.4.0 therefore contains support for the latest Hulu content, and beta support for BBC Radio.

How much does VPN cost

A number of people have asked me how much it costs to get VPN to watch content abroad. It's not a simple question to answer, but here's an example;

Hulu low res streams use 480Kbps or 700Kbps depending on your bandwidth, or 1000Kbps if you choose the high-res button. That's between 216 MB an hour and 450MB an hour.

You can get a number of different VPN packages, some monthly and some Pay as you Go. It's impossible to calculate an hourly price for monthly packages – that simply a fixed fee and doesn't depend on how much TV you watch a month. With the pay as you go packages, if we take Always VPN as an example, in AlwaysVPN's current prices, that's between 9p an hour for the lowest resolution/cheapest bundle (480Kbps on the 80GB for $47 package), and 54p an hour on the highest resolution/most expensive bundle (1000Kbps on the $8.50 for 5GB bundle). In reality, it's going to use a bit more bandwidth than that, because there will also be the natural background level of network that your computer uses (e.g. checking for updates and so on), but as long as you aren't running P2P on the same machine at the same time or anything like that, that should be negligible.

Five gets fixed

Channel Five have been changing their streaming from WMV to Flash. That has meant that some Five programs don't work in TunerFreeMCE any more. I have made changes in version 2.3.0 to add in support for the Five Flash based programs too. It does that by going to the Five page and then clicking on the full screen button.

Hulu getting tough with Boxee

For those of you who don't know, Boxee is a content agregator that brings online TV together in to one desktop interface. It is is invite-only beta mode at the moment. Boxee was very popular because it pulled rather a lot of content all in to one place, such as Hulu, Netflix, ABC, CBS, Comedy Central,, and flickr. Pretty impressive. Unfortunatly, last night Boxee got a notification from Hulu asking them to remove all Hulu content. Both sides admit it makes no sense since Boxee preserves Hulu's adverts, but apparently the content providers are demanding it.

Hulu in full screen

I have made changes to TunerFreeMCE to automatically go full screen in Hulu, BBC, and for the BBC streams it will also now auto play and auto full screen. Download version 2.2.7 now to get all of these great features.

It does that by simulating a mouse click in the right place. It only works when running full screen, and there is a slight possibility that on some screen resolutions it missed. If that happens to you, send me a full screen screenshot, and I'll use that to improve the reliability.

TunerFreeMCE with Hulu out of Beta

I have taken the latest version of TunerFreeMCE out of Beta. That means it is stable and has all of the basic features I think it needs for the latest enhancement, which is adding Hulu support. This download is not just for US users though. Even if you are a UK viewer, there is a fantastic new UI to take advantage of, so download now for all of these great new features.

Setting up VPN

Step by step guide to integrating OpenVPN with TunerFreeMCE for UK users

Instructions here refer to AlwaysVPN as an example, but that should not be seen as an endorsement. It worked for me OK though.

1) You will need to download and install a version of OpenVPN which allows the password to be entered in a plain text file, e.g.;

2) Buy a proxy server package, e.g. AlwaysVPN. Download and install the config file from them (just the config file – you already have the OpenVPN client downloaded in step 1).

3) Go to  C:\Program Files (x86)\OpenVPN\config and create a text file with your username for the VPN service on the first line, and your password on the second. Save it as “user_auth.txt“, e.g.


3) Edit your config file to add the full name of the password text file after the text auth-user-pass. Also change any certificate references to be full paths, e.g.;

ca “C:\\Program Files (x86)\\OpenVPN\\config\\alwaysvpn2_ca.crt”
tls-auth “C:\\Program Files (x86)\\OpenVPN\\config\\alwaysvpn-ta.key” 1
auth-user-pass “C:\\Program Files (x86)\\OpenVPN\\config\\user_auth.txt”

4) Create a text file with the following command in it, and save it as “openUSVPN.bat“;

“C:\Program Files (x86)\OpenVPN\bin\openvpn.exe” –config “C:\Program Files (x86)\OpenVPN\config\AlwaysVPN-Compatible.ovpn”

5)  Create a text file with the following command in it, and save it as “closeUSVPN.bat“;

taskkill /f /im openvpn.exe

6) Edit your preferences to enter these scripts in the UK and US VPN command boxes;

7) Right click on Media Center, and select Run as administrator.This is important, because the openVPN command needs to run as administrator to configure the network settings.

8)  When you browse to hulu, it will open your US VPN connection. When you go to UK programs, it will kill the VPN connecton so that you can watch UK programs though your regular UK broadband connection.

Step by step guide to integrating Windows native VPN with TunerFreeMCE for UK users

1) Set up your windows VPN connection as described by your VPN provider. This will create a network connection in the Network and Sharing center. In this example, we will say the connection is called “MYUSVPN”.

2) Create a text file with the following command in it, and save it as “openUSVPN.bat“;

RasDial MYUSVPN username password

where username and password are your username and password

3)  Create a text file with the following command in it, and save it as “closeUSVPN.bat“;

RasDial MYUSVPN /disconnect

4) edit the preferences as described above

Here's a list of different services that have been tested by TunerFreeMCE users. This is not an endorsement of the sites that work, but is just provided to help people.

Name Status
AlwaysVPN Works fine with Vista 32bit and Vista 64bit, but e-mail them to enable hulu support
Anonymizer Does not work with Media Center
HideMyIP Does not work with Media Center
UKiVPN Works fine. RasDial can be used to script the proxy switching

VPN setup for US users

Follow the same instructions as for UK users, but set your default country to US, and create an openUKVPN.bat file that opens the UK VPN, and a closeUKVPN.bat file that closes the VPN. Put the openUKVPN.bat file in the UK VPN Command prefernce, and the closeUKVPN.bat file in the US VPN Command prefernce.

VPN setup for other countries

If you not in either the UK or the US, you will need to open a VPN connection for both countries. To do this, set the default country to your home country (e.g. CA for Canada), and create two command files, openUKVPN.bat and openUSVPN.bat. In the openUKVPN file, put a command to close the US connection and then open the UK one. In the openUSVPN file, put a command to close the UK connection and then open the US one. This will swap between the two connections fine. When you exit media center, just kill any remaining VPN connections.

Step by step guide to integrating Proxy Switching with TunerFreeMCE for UK users

1) Get the details of your proxy server. In the following example, we will assume it has the server name “myproxy”

2) Create a a text file with the following command in it, and save it as “openUSVPN.bat“;

netsh winhttp set proxy myproxy:80

3)  Create a text file with the following command in it, and save it as “closeUSVPN.bat“;

netsh winhttp reset proxy

4) Edit the preferences as described above.

As before, if you are connecting from a different country, simply change the commands to suit.


Administrator privileges

Some VPN connections require you to run as an administrator, which is a pain on Vista in particular. There is a great solution to this documented here. In summary, you create a task in the Task Scheduler to run your VPN command, and select the Run With Highest Privileges option. Don't set any triggers so that it doesn't run on it's own. Then create a bat file which runs the task, e.g. it should have C:\Windows\System32\schtasks.exe /run /tn “Start VPN” where Start VPN is the name of your task. Then add that bat file as your VPN command.

Beta Hulu Support

As noted by Stuart over at The Digital Lifestyle, I have released a version of TunerFree MCE that integrates with Hulu. It's most definitley a beta at the moment because of a number of issues;

1) First and foremost, I am in the UK, and Hulu is US only, so I have difficulty testing!
2) Hulu has a massive amount of content – over 6 thousand TV Episodes and feature films alone (I ignored the clips and trailers). This is 6 times larger than the UK content that I have restricted to up until now. I have enough memory on my 6GB/64 bit development box, but know it may overpower the average living room PC. I have plans for how to fix that though. Done
3) I can't get hulu to automatically play when I launch the full screen flash player. 
I can't get hulu to automatically go full screen when I launch the flash player, but it does automatically play. I figured that was the better of the two options.You need to click with the mouse at the moment for full screen. Sucks, I know, but hoping to find a solution soon.
Now goes full screen too
4) No way is it going to work on extenders, because of the flash player. Yes, transcoding would be great, but that's another level of complexity that I am not tackling just yet
5) Although it has both US and UK content, I haven't implemented a proxy switcher yet. Done
6) Out of the box both UK and US programs are enabled, which is not going to work for many people. US people can't watch the UK content and vice versa. I want to add a choice in the installer to limit to one country out of the box. Done
7) I haven't got a good feel yet for what curve-balls hulu may add in their data, so there is an outside possibility of a crash when collecting the data if they make an unexpected change. Looking stable so far

Here's a few pictures of what it looks like;

Project Kangaroo shut down

For those of you who didn't know, the BBC, ITV and C4 have been working together for some time on “Project Kangaroo“, which was a project to merge the on-demand offerings from those providers, and potentially to expand the back catalogue too. Today the competition commission released a report which forbade them from going ahead with that project on the basis that they were getting too cosy and that the consumer is best served by close competition rather than having one service which does it all.

Opinion on my blog.