Switching between Netflix libraries

After an eight-hour drive to Perth, followed by unpacking and transferring everything we own from the Ute into our friend’s house, all I wanted to zone out in front of the tube. I plugged in my Apple TV, connected it to the network and scrolled to the Netflix app. Alas! My viewing options had been reduced to the Australian content library.

Schwarzenegger’s 1987 action classic The Running Man1 I had been part way through watching: gone. De Niro’s seminal 1976 film Taxi Driver: wiped. Parks and Recreation: nope. Upcoming release of The Walking Dead season five: not showing down under. Malcolm in the Middle: relegated to an expensive Foxtel subscription.

My Netflix queue had dwindled from 50 titles to 11!

Netflix-USvAU

I searched the US Netflix TV and movie databases to compare Stateside and Lucky Country offerings. The results skewed severely towards not available. When I carve out time for TV the last place I want to be is on the short end of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

However, the Australian library offers a lot of titles not available in other countries. Hilarious shows like Housos and Chris Lilley’s numerous series are exclusive to Aussie viewers.

Switching between content libraries

Why lock yourself into a single library? Why relegate your downtime to a service that includes either Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Summer Heights High – but not both!

Geoblocking
This screen look familiar? It doesn’t have to.

Netflix-region-pickerSay goodbye to “sorry, this content is not available in your country” messages. Netflix won’t mind, while they abide with the licensing restrictions in each country they are happy for you to switch between libraries at whim. You don’t need an extra account and you can switch back and forwards as often as you like. If there are multiple profiles within a single Netflix account2 each user can watch the library of their choice with effecting the other people.

I use a Canadian service Unblock-Us. It is C$4.99 / month, with a free one week trial if you want to check out the service before committing. It provides a new DNS address so that Netflix (and other streaming media providers) think your computer is in another country.

Every computer or other Internet-enabled device has an address. It’s made up of numbers, like a street address. Our solution is brilliantly simple. We give you an address where the content you want is available. It’s like moving your computer or other device without actually moving it. (Unblock-US)

Assuming you already have a Netflix account allocate yourself ten minutes to update your DNS settings.

DNS… what? (Configuring your router)

There are two type of people in this world: those that routinely update their router settings and those that don’t. This post is tailored for the later group.

If you are less technically inclined you might be tempted to setup each device manually instead of delving into the router settings. Be warned, although this might save time upfront there are some downsides, namely:

  • you have to manually setup each device
  • you may run into problems when you connect your device to another wi-fi network (eg when working from a cafe or library)
  • if something changes on your network you’ll have to start all over again

Personally, I spread my Netflix viewership between my Apple TV, MacMini, MacBook Air, iPhone and occasionally my iPhone (Apple ecosystem: check). Updating these five devices would be painful and never ending so I configure my router instead.

Unblockus-setup

If you’ve never accessed your router before it’s likely in its default state: accessible as long as you are connected to the wi-fi network (or have an ADSL cable plugged into the router).

First, check if your router is listed on the Unblock-Us setup page. If so follow those instructions.

My router is a Belkin, a brand which isn’t listed on the setup page. First I needed to access the router homepage, where all the settings live. To find the homepage web address I typed ‘belkin router default ip’ into Google. This gave the default web address of 192.168.2.1. I pasted this string into my browser and arrived at the router start page.

Belkin-router

 

There was no password set so I clicked through to settings.

Belkin-DNS

Next I navigated to the DNS section on the left hand menu, pasted in the Unblock-Us DNS numbers and hit save.

That’s it, done! Now I can switch between Netflix libraries to my heart’s content.


1 – Describing this movie as a ‘classic’ might hurt my credibility
2 – Full disclaimer, I am a grown woman and instead of paying for my own Netflix I have a profile in my dad’s account. Thanks for subsidising my Netflix addiction dad!

Back to parkrunning: weekly, free, 5km, for everyone, forever

One of the best things about being back in the city is parkrun – a network of weekly, timed, free 5km runs with locations all over the world. I started ‘parkrunning’ two years ago at Australia’s original chapter – Main Beach (northern Gold Coast). A picturesque course that weaves in and out of native bush, and runs alongside the ocean.

To begin with we collated all results on paper and the finish tokens were washers from the local hardware store! But eventually we ramped up the technology, and so the parkrun registration and barcode result system was born.

Now many thousands of runners are processed, websites updated and emails sent each week. The parkrun community is growing all the time – but it’s all still based on the simple, basic principles formed from the start: weekly, free, 5km, for everyone, forever. (parkrun.com)

Like the cane toad and the camel, parkrun is an introduced species thriving in a new environment.  Australians, particularly West Australians have embraced the concept. There are currently 10 runs within the Perth metro area and a total 126 locations throughout Australia (including an offshoot in Singapore). The parkrun format is fine tuned and inherently scalable. New events are popping up weekly; three new Australian events are launching this July!

parkrun aims to have an event in every community that wants one. (parkrun.com.au)

parkrun - free weekly timed runs all over the world
parkrun – free weekly timed runs all over the world

With a system that includes barcodes, finish tokens and a designated stopwatch holder, accurate results are emailed to each registered participant. This is my favourite part of parkrun. The email contains your overall time and your placing broken down by gender and age. Any previous times you’ve logged at that event are included, along with whether you’ve run a personal best.

The genesis of parkrun isn’t about racing, it’s about running. Including age and gender comparisons help level the playing field. The results email pits me against myself. I might not be the fastest person on the course, but I might be able to win my age category, or at least run faster than the week before.

The real competition, in my mind, isn’t against other people – it’s against myself. In 2013, with dedication and constant attendance I trimmed my parkrun time down to 25 minutes. I followed this with a string of sub-25s, and eventually a personal best of 22:53.

Living in Meekatharra our nearest parkrun was 800km away, a distance that put a serious dent in my attendance. I did manage to sneak in a few parkruns during holidays or family visits – including a memorable run in Singapore. After catching a redeye from Perth, I checked my luggage into airport storage, took a taxi to East Coast Park and ran with a crowd of expats along the coastline at sunrise (afterwards we ate mini bananas and chatted over Starbucks coffees).

Even though attending parkrun was impossible in the outback I continued running, seemingly the sole person who pounded the town’s empty streets. I improvised 5km routes and tracked my times using my GPS watch. The isolation took its toll, without people to pace against my split times took a beating. Right now I’m focusing on regaining speed and aiming to rejoin the sub 25 club. With parkrun a short drive away I know I can make that happen. Wish me luck!

Commissioning an illustration on Fiverr

Thanks to the great team at AppSumo I had a free chance to try out Fiverr. I used marketplaces like this before to hire coders to write php syntax that I don’t (yet) understand, or to buy music licences for video backgrounds. I haven’t commissioned anything solely for fun – something this freebie was perfect for.

Fiverr.com is the leading marketplace for hiring online professionals for only $5 and in this AppSumo Exclusive, we managed to get your first gig 100% free!

I found an Indonesian based seller @logominator and selected his “I will create mascot or character for your business for $5″ option. The basic gig was $5 for a black and white drawing, with commercial licensing, colours and editable artwork files available for an additional fee.

I appreciate that Fiverr gives sellers the chance to make extra income through an à la carte menu. To support myself with $5 gigs I’d need to take on at least 100 gigs a week – and that would only just cover rent, utilities, insurance and other basic living expenses (not to mention Fiverr’s commission). If enough clients opted for additional $10 – $20 add-ons I could possibly scrap by.

For someone living in Indonesia (like my seller), the Philippines, or other countries with low(er) living costs, Fiverr could be a lucrative way to earn a living. At this stage I simply wanted to try out the service so I stuck with the basic $5 option1.

I sent @logominator two Instagram pictures of my dog2  and a brief description “Please transform my cute tricolor border collie into a mascot.” Then I sat back, relaxed and pondered what my dog would look like as a cartoon character (possibly a 2015 take on Dog from Footrot Flats)

Breaking hearts wherever we go 💕 #bordercollie #tricolor @jaffleshack

A photo posted by Outback Life (@katielifestyle) on

Mr Suave /Doggie GQ model #VSCOcam #bordercollie #paynesfind #outback #outbackaustralia A photo posted by Outback Life (@katielifestyle) on

Three days later a cute cartoon character popped into my inbox. He is as good looking in vector form as he is in real life. For $5 (or in this case: free!) I couldn’t be happier.

My dog in cartoon form
My dog in cartoon form

I’m also happy I got to try out Fiverr. I’m not an illustrator and it is great to know a place where I can commission low-cost and timely graphics. There is a slew of other services available – I might try out some online marketing options in the future.

1. My Adobe Illustrator skills extend to converting between file formats and adding a splash of colour – although it’s hardly worth my time when someone else can do this for me for an extra $5 – $10.
2. The Spanish translation for “pet” and “mascot” is the a single word: mascota. Having my dog drawn as a cartoon mascot was the logical conclusion.

Goodbye Great Northern Highway

We left Meekatharra on Friday morning. One last coffee from the roadhouse and we were on our way. The destination: Perth. A full day’s drive, almost 800 kilometres south. It is a journey we’ve made multiple times over the last 21 months. This time it was special, our final journey, our goodbye to outback life. Time to leave the simplicity of remote living behind and rejoin city life.

Sunrise in Meekatharra
One last glance and we were on the road

There is something hypnotic about long straight roads, especially in the early morning. Occasional corners and slight undulations break up the monotony. We stared alert for cattle, emus, kangaroos and wedge-tailed eagles.

We drove south, the highway stretching out in front of us. The landscape harsh and unforgiving. Inhospitable to all but the most foolhardy settlers. During the early 1900s Meekatharra was a boom town. Part of a gold rush that spread east to Wiluna and south to the goldfields of Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. Relatives of mine spent years eking out their living in nearby Mount Magnet and Cue. A family history I knew nothing about until we moved to this part of the world. I think about them sometimes, what their life would have been like. Living in tin shacks with hessian lined walls, conserving every ounce of potable water they could scrounge.

The road unfolds in front of you
The road unfolds in front of you

The first time I saw the outback it all looked the same. My city eyes were unable to differentiate one patch of land from another. Nearly two years later I see it differently. My perspective has changed. I love the open skies and the subtle way the landscape changes as you head south (or north, east, or west). Swathe of sunburnt country, punctuated with low ridges and granite outcrops. Where I used to see hundreds of kilometres of dirt and mulga scrub I now see an intricate patchwork quilt. Each square a little different from its neighbour and crisscrossed with hidden roads. Instead of a singular outback I see a series of interwoven environments. Each one with its own unique characteristics.

This is a land of extremes. Scorching months of hot weather, interspersed with cyclonic storms that bring enough rain to flood the main highways. After surviving summer,* you brace yourself for chilly winter nights. Autumn is condensed into a single week, one where you pack your summer clothes away and start dressing in warm layers. Winter nights can dip to near zero as icy winds blow across the desert.

Summer temperature in the outback
Another 40+°C day in the shade

The climate and the remoteness breeds a certain toughness. An inner resilience. Even with 2015’s creature comforts of reverse cycle air conditioning and running water the climate is unwelcoming. Barren. Raw. Desolate. Unforgiving. And full of beauty once you recognise what to look for. I miss it already. Suburbia all looks the same to my outback eyes.

Our dog surveying the landscape
He said he feels like he’s always on the way to somewhere

*On one memorable 40°C+ day the linesman mistakenly cutting power to our house – the intended target was the house next door. The mistake was uncovered after talking to the power company, but by this time the linesman was 120 km down the road. We sheltered in the pub waiting for him to return.

Modular packing

In lieu of packing (surprise we’re moving!) I made some graphics about packingWhen I travel I tend to pack the same items over and over again. I pack the same toiletries, the same winter clothes if I’m heading somewhere cold and the same summer clothes if I’m heading somewhere warm. Essentially I have packing modules* that I mix and match depending on the holiday

Modular programming is a software design technique that emphasizes separating the functionality of a program into independent, interchangeable modules, such that each contains everything necessary to execute only one aspect of the desired functionality. (Wikipedia)

Taking a modular approach to packing
Taking a modular approach to packing

My initial list is broken into five modules: electronics, basics, beach, snow and special. I’ve been to a few destination weddings and they help hone my carry on packing skills. It’s a struggle to pack a nice dress, shoes and everything else into a single bag but trust me it can be done.

A modular approach means less thinking. Once you’ve determined what climate you’re heading to the hard work is over. Diving into winter – pack warm, spending the days lounging at a Seminyak day club – pack beach.

Planning your holiday to match the ambient temperature
Planning your holiday to match the ambient temperature
Seminyak day club - pack your beach module
Seminyak day club – pack your beach module

*My introduction was a brief foray into Javascript, a year later and all I remember is the description of modular programming

Level up: gaming dog ownership

After a long day burning the creative candle at both ends there’s nothing better than kicking back and… doing a little more design. I put these gamification style badges together with the theme dog ownership. I don’t have a fully formed post today, more musings on things I’ve bought for our dog over the last six months.

Dog-badges_Howler
Level 1: sitting pretty, nothing to see here
Dog-badges_Sulking
Level 2: your dog is sulking.. you should probably step up your game
Dog-badges_Special-Food
Level 3: time to splash out on premium food
Dog-badges_Fetch
Level 4: next it’s toys specially imported from the USA
Dog-badges_Credit-Card-burn
Level 5: you’re broke.. but your dog’s happy

Dog-badges_Hind-legs

Overcoming malaise

Our town received a deluge of rain in March, a torrent that flooded creeks and closed highways. Long grass and wildflowers sprung from the dry earth. It was a picturesque makeover packaged with a plague of mosquitoes.

At the height of the outbreak we spent an evening stargazing. We setup camp at the race course, cooked a bbq and searched the sky for constellations. Invariably mosquitos descended and I was bitten. Multiple times. The next two months unfolded as a three act play; denial, malaise and recovery.

I was bitten soon after taking this photo
I was bitten soon after taking this photo

Act one: denial

Two of the mosquito bites turned into large rashes. One on my right calf, the other on my left arm. I wrote the skin rash off as ‘dirty mosquitos’. With regular applications of Savlon Antiseptic Cream and doses of antihistamines the swelling disappeared.

Rashes are a symptom of Ross River and Barmah Forest, two mosquito borne viruses that cause fatigue, malaise and joint pain. I can’t remember if anyone recommended I get a blood test or see the doctor. If they had I wouldn’t have gone – I’m reluctant to enter hospitals.

I find pictures of mosquitos are too graphic // Wikimedia
I find pictures of mosquitos too graphic, only illustrations allowed on my site // Wikimedia

After the rash subsided my legs and arms ached continuously.  I was running regularly at the time and assumed lack of proper stretching was the cause. I incorporated small amounts of stretching into my day and kept exercising. I had committed to clocking 80 kilometres a month and powered through March and April.

The weather in the outback changes dramatically in autumn. The sweltering 40°C highs of summer give way to mild sunny days.  I noticed it was harder to get up in the morning, something I attributed to the drop in temperature.

I hypothesised different theories on why I was constantly tired and achey:

  • Residual fatigue from juggling multiple jobs over summer
  • Acclimation to extreme heat that left me powerless when the season changed
  • Two years of constant running had burnt my muscles

My theory was that I’d bet better in time. I prescribed myself a cocktail of vitamins and iron pills and started going to bed earlier.

Act two: malaise

In May I stopped running. I stopped taking the dog out. An air of malaise cloaked itself around me. Unfolded laundry piled up in the lounge. Dishes stacked in the sink. I struggled to get out of bed in the morning and started taking short naps in the afternoon. Emails and obligations started falling through the cracks. I started driving everywhere. Life suddenly felt so much harder, and I couldn’t pinpoint why. It was difficult to remember what ‘normal’ felt like.

The month rolled on. I still felt tired. I still felt achy, especially in the morning. A friend recommended I get tested for Ross River, telling me I had all the symptoms.  With encouragement a stern push from my family I ordered blood tests.

Symptoms of Ross River infection vary from person to person, but commonly include painful and swollen joints, sore muscles, aching tendons, skin rash, fever, fatigue, headache and swollen lymph nodes. (the mosquito slayer)

Act three: recovery

I spent time recuperating and resting. Cutting out on alcohol helped. Eating half a punnet of Peanut Butter ice cream seemed to help. Going to bed early and sleeping with a hot water bottle was a boon. Aside from ice cream I ate as healthy as I could.

Working from home meant I could take short breaks (and naps) when I felt tired. I was glad I didn’t have to commute to an office each day.

I went for tests and my blood was sent to Perth for analysis. The antibodies came back negative for Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus. There was a trace amount of Q fever – possibly a false positive. The doctor read the results to me and dolled out some generic, albeit strange advice:

You have heathy cholesterol and low blood pressure, try adding more salt to your food.

Perhaps you are not sleeping right. Are you sure you are sleeping properly?

You work from home? What type of work? You need to get out more.

There isn’t a clear explanation for my tired state. A viral infection caused by a mosquito bite? Low blood pressure? Fatigue? I don’t know. Right now I’m concentrating on looking after myself and getting back on track after two months of tiredness and nagging aches.

Mosquito cyanide jar // Wikimedia
Mosquito cyanide jar – not a bad idea // Wikimedia