I recently purchased Google's miniature wireless content streaming device, called the "Chromecast", after seeing one in action at a friends house and realising its potential as a cheap yet powerful replacement for an ageing media server.
However, despite the incredibly easy setup of my new Chromecast device and having it streaming content in HD onto my TV in just a few minutes, I soon hit a snag. And a big one at that. See, the problem that I faced was that it failed to let me watch all the US based Netflix content which I had previously been able to do via my old media server.
If you're looking to watch overseas video content for services like Netflix and Hulu then forget about trying to use Chromecast out of the box with a VPN. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person in this boat, so here's one of the workarounds I've found after reading up online as to why this happened and what the possible solutions are.
WAIT A SEC, HOW DOES IT WORK THOUGH?
If anyone reading this is unaware of exactly what Google's Chromecast is, then let me briefly explain. For the rest of you, just skip over to the next section.
Essentially what it let's you do is wirelessly stream (or "cast") any content played on your phone/tablet/laptop/computer directly to your TV by wirelessly connecting to your home router. With dimensions no bigger than an average USB modem dongle and retailing for only $49, Google have carved out a very price-competitive niche for themselves as far as media streaming goes (compared to the likes of Apple TV and Roku). It plugs directly into the HDMI port of your TV and has a USB cable attached which powers the device. There's an attachment so that it can be plugged directly into a wall socket or simply plug it into a free USB port on your TV.
In my experience, the initial setup is idiot-proof and only takes a few clicks. In order to stream video using your tablet's/phone's/laptop's web browser, you'll also need to install a free plugin called called Google Cast. After doing so you'll see an icon shortcut appear in your browser which when clicked on gives you the option to stream content onto which ever device/TV you have your Chromecast dongle plugged into. Simple as that.
RIGHT, GOT IT! SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH ACCESSING US NETFLIX CONTENT?
So, where I hit a brick wall was assuming that I could simply connect my tablet to a VPN service in order to access my regular selection of US based Netflix video content. Problems was, as soon I did this then Chromecast could no longer detect that my tablet was on the wireless network in my home. Technically speaking, the reason for this is due to my tablet moving onto a different subnet once connected to the VPN service.
Chromecast is hard wired with Google's own DNS servers (18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124) in its configuration. The way to get around this is to force Chromecast to use your router as its DNS server, therefore ignoring its own DNS settings.
Important: At this point I must make it clear that this solution is heavily dependent on both the brand of router as well as your abilities to change these settings.
YEP, I UNDERSTAND. NOW TELL ME WHAT TO DO!
First, the easy bit. If you're not already using a VPN service, then the first thing you're going to want to do is get yourself setup with one so that you can access Netflix from Australia. Two good VPN options include the following:
Whichever you decide to go for, you'll find instructions telling you how to set up your router with their relevant DNS settings, which is the key bit of this entire exercise. You will need to make sure that it’s your router which gets configured, and not your PC, otherwise you won’t be able to watch Netflix via Chromecast.
From the home pages of these two service providers, you'll be able to run a test to confirm that your DNS is working with either Getflix or Unblock-US’ servers. Your next step is to then go to Netflix's website and setup an account. It doesn't really matter what email address and credit card info you specify, but to get past the US address section you will need to make one up. If you're not sure of the format, then just Google a couple of well known US companies and check out what their physical addresses look like to get an idea.
The good thing so far is that this process hasn't cost you a dime yet.
SO WHAT'S THE DIFFICULT BIT?
What you need to do now is log into your router’s admin interface. Normally this involves typing the following address into your browser: http://192.168.0.1. If this doesn't work, then check your routers instructions which should explain how to get into the admin area.
Next, you want to stop Chromecast from accessing Google’s DNS servers. The way you do this is to add a static route to an invalid destination. What this does is ensure that any queries sent to Google’s DNS servers from your network will be dropped, which in turn forces Chromecast to try something else.
For example, on a D-Link router, after signing in, go to the Advanced Tab (on the top), then Routing Setup (on the side menu) and add static routes as follows:
- Destination: 126.96.36.199
- Subnet mask: 255.255.255.255
- Gateway: 192.168.0.1 (or whatever your router IP address is)
- Repeat as above for the destination 188.8.131.52.
Completing the above steps means that Chromecast will ultimately give up trying Google’s DNS servers, instead falling back to your router’s own built-in DNS which, having followed the earlier instructions, will redirect to Getflix or Unlblock-US.