It’s the end of the olympics as we know it… and I feel fine

How did you find out that Ryan Lochte took gold in the 400 meter IM over Michael Phelps yesterday?  Did you read about in your paper this morning?  Did you watch it on NBC’s evening broadcast?  Or did you find out via some sort of online media (hopefully not my blog… 🙂 )?

Hopefully, this will be the last olympics ever that subscribes to a traditional broadcast pattern of waiting until prime-time to deliver the highlights for the day.  Obviously, there are time-zone issues at play, but it appears that NBC is actively blocking streaming online unless one is a cable television subscriber (in the U.S.).  I don’t subscribe to cable TV and I don’t see the point of cable TV anymore.  For TV shows, I watch Hulu, for movies: Netflix and Redbox, for news, I read the Philadelphia Inquirer via my Kindle and read Hacker News.  The only thing I’m missing is sports and I was o.k. with a YouTube style ad at the beginning of an olympics bite, but no.

The model is broken. Instead of trying to cram the day’s events into a commercial infested prime time package, stream the events online so that all those dressage fans can watch their horse prance away to hip-hop.  Oh, wait, you’re living in the U.K., that service is available via the BBC.  The olympics are one of the last truly equalizing events around, so why are they closed-source?  Lets have an open olympics!

So here’s how to get around it 🙂  Instead of subscribing to cable, subscribe to a VPN.  See, the website is filtering the live streams based on your IP address, which is mapped to a geographical region and more specifically to an ISP.  With a VPN, your IP address appears to the world as the IP address at the end of the “VPN-tunnel,” so if you pick a VPN in the U.K., guess what, the website can’t tell the difference between a physical computer in the U.K. and your virtual one!  Game on!  This trick is equally useful when trying to buy books from Amazon.de (for a German based VPN host).

Of course there are other good reasons to have a VPN anyway, the main one being protection on open wifi hotspots.  The VPN will protect all traffic over the open (read public readable) hotspot and the ISP.  Of course, so will SSL, but even with SSL, it’s still possible to discover to whom you’re talking.  For extra protection, add Tor to the mix and check out this awesome interactive chart from the EFF on Tor and HTTPS benefits.

So, here’s to the future of watching the olympics!  Thanks to these other great posts on spreading the word.

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