Saturday, December 28, 2013

For those in the UK - How to view the sites the BBC won't let you see

Did you know the BBC has a number of websites which they don't make available to those of us in the UK?

Launched in February 2012 BBC Future was heralded as the new international technology, science, environment and health site from the British Broadcasting Corporation. If you try to access it in the UK (Link ) you'll get this message:

It's not the only BBC site like this, you can't visit or either.

Since the BBC is mostly funded by licence fees paid in the UK many people in the UK feel there's something not right about a BBC site which can't be viewed in the UK. As  the Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said, "Those in Britain unable to access these services available to the rest of the world have every right to feel cheated."

The BBC are caught between a rock and a hard place though. It's a commercial website which earns money for the BBC through advertising; something the BBC is not allowed to do in the UK.
"Under the BBC’s Fair Trading rules commercial websites are not allowed to receive unfair promotion from the BBC’s public services.  This prevents us from being able to provide Future content on," they say.

So how do we in the UK view these BBC websites? 

I'm going to show you two methods. I'll use BBC Future as an example.

Method 1 - using the Internet Wayback Archive

There's a very useful site on Internet which keeps a a record of web pages. It's called the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and is available at . The Wayback Machine archives all BBC pages and you can view their latest 'BBC Future' pages at*/ This page lists all the days an archive has been made and you can usually click the latest one and interact with it just as someone outside the UK would. It's an easy method where you won't be bothered by adverts - they are not archived, but does have disadvantages. You seldom get today's pages; if you are lucky you will see yesterday's pages. Not all pages are archived and it's poor at viewing the multimedia.

Method 2 - using a proxy server plugin

I use the ZenMate Chrome plugin. It's free and available from Instructions on the site will tell you how to install and use it. To view the BBC Future site Click the plugin icon and set your location to New York. Then turn ZenMate on and go to the BBC Future website ( It's as simple as that. Everything, including multimedia and adverts will work. Just remember to turn ZenMate off when you are finished. Zenmate can cause some problems with some websites which detect proxy servers, so to get round that I also use another plugin for Chrome - One Click Extensions Manager . Using that you can instantly disable and enable ZenMate as required. A word of warning though - be careful to decline the other items offered with it.

Enjoy those 'hidden' BBC websites but before you leave - let me tell you about two offers (OK - two shameless plugs):
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2. Download a free copy of the book I co-author 'Immortality Gene'. It's a technothriller, romance, medical thriller, science fiction... a bit of everything. Even if you don't read it, it will help our ratings. Available at Amazon, iTunes, B&N and others FREE!

Monday, December 02, 2013

'Sideloading' apps not available from Amazon on a Kindle Fire HDX

If you get a Kindle Fire HDX then by now you'll probably have found its limitation - you are tied to those apps which Amazon has decided you need. DON'T PANIC! There is a way round this - sideloading.

The Problem

The Nook reader on a Kindle Fire HD!
Amazon's Appstore for Android contained 50,000 apps back in early September 2012 but that was nowhere near the 700,000 offered by Google Play and Apple App Store then. The obvious solution would be for Kindle Fire owners to download Android apps from Google Play - except you can't. The Kindle Fire HDX simply won't allow you to connect to the Google Play store and download the app you want - you have to get it from Amazon. That's very understandable. Amazon tell us they are not making a lot of profit from sales of their Kindle Fire. Instead they expect to make their profit from sales of books, video, music and apps. To do that they make it easy to obtain these from the Amazon site and difficult, but not impossible, to get apps from elsewhere.

The Solution

Android is an open source operating system and the Kindle Fire HDX has version 4.2 of it. So most of the apps in the Google Play store should work just fine. In fact most of them do work, you just have to get them on your Kindle. Here's how to do that using a technique known as sideloading.

You are going to need some equipment, most of which you probably already have:

  • An Android device (we'll call this 'device 2') such as a mobile phone or tablet which you can connect to the Google Store
  • A USB to micro USB lead which fits your computer and Kindle Fire/device 2
  • A computer 
  • Your Kindle Fire
  • An app - ES File Explorer installed on the Kindle Fire HD/HDX and device 2. (yes this is available from the Amazon Appstore and on Google Play. It's free!)
Now you need to know what to do. As an example I'm going to show you how I installed the Nook ebook reading app on my Kindle Fire HD and my Kindle Fire HDX. Naturally this competitor app is not an app available on the Amazon Appstore for Android but it's very useful to have if you earlier purchased a Nook ereader and want to read your Nook books or epub books on your Kindle Fire.

How to sideload an Android app to a Kindle Fire HD / HDX

The Kindle Fire HDX is even better. Ours took just one day
to arrive from Amazon at

This method also works for the Kindle Fire HD with some minor modifications. I used it to install the Firefox android browser (Sorry Amazon but your browser Silk is rubbish), the Nook e-reader software and some games not available in Amazon's store. Here's the method for the Kindle Fire HDX. I've used the Nook app as an example:
  1. Install ES file explorer on your Kindle HDX. It's available free in the Amazon store.
  2. Install ES file explorer on your other Android device. It's a free app available at Google Play
  3. Install the Nook reader software on your other Android device from the Google Store. Again it's a free app from Google Store.
  4. On the Kindle HDX use go to  Settings > Applications and set 'Applications from unknown sources' to 'On'. Accept the warning.
  5. On the other Android device use ES File Explorer. Choose Tools >'app manager' from settings. Long press on 'Nook' and choose backup.
  6. Connect the other Android device to your computer using the USB cable. You should see it appears in an explorer window as an extra drive under 'Computer'. 
  7. Navigate to the Nook.apk file you just backed up. In my case, since I was using a Nexus 7 as my 'other Android device' it appeared as Computer\Nexus 7\Internal storage\backups\apps\NOOK_3.3.0.26.apk Copy this file to your PC. On a Samsung Galaxy S4 the files appeared in Computer\Galaxy S4\Phone\backups\apps
  8. Connect the Kindle fire to your PC and transfer the Nook.apk file to it. The root folder will do.
  9. Load ES File Explorer on the Kindle Fire and find the file you just placed there. Once you select it you'll get the option to install it. Do that and try it out.
  10. On the Kindle use Settings > Applications and set 'Applications from unknown sources' to 'Off' again. 

It's a little involved but really quite simple.

Of course the same technique can be used to install almost any Android application which isn't available on the Amazon Appstore. There are a few which don't work, Sky Go for one. It installs and you can see what programs are available but it won't let you play them.

You can also download apps to your PC from other sources and install them BUT - a word of caution. Although the apps available from Amazon and Google are generally safe, the same can't be said for all app sources. It's unwise to download and install apps you are not certain of. You might install a rogue app which could cause a lot of problems.

If my blog has helped you - can you do me a favour?

Download a free copy of the book I co-author 'Immortality Gene'. It's a technothriller, romance, medical thriller, science fiction... a bit of everything. Even if you don't read it, it will help our ratings. Available at Amazon, iTunes, B&N and others FREE!