Home for the holidays

Home for the holidays

With the year-end party season kicking into full-gear tonight, here are a few tech tips and tricks to keep your friends and family entertained during home gatherings.

WATCHING SHOWS FROM THE US

With glasses of bubbly in hand, your friends are lounging in your living room after that massive holiday spread you prepared and everyone is looking at your big-screen TV, hoping for some entertainment as the evening winds down.

But if you are hoping to watch Marco Polo, the US$90 million (S$118 million) TV production from Netflix, the United States content streaming service, it is time to switch channels.

Although several Singaporean actors, including Oon Shu An and Chin Han, have roles in this 10-episode TV series, Netflix itself is not officially available here.

But you can take a few steps to subscribe to the service. Here is how.

VPN or DNS service

First, you need a VPN or DNS service to access Netflix, or other similar content streaming services such as Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Both are basically workarounds that let you access US services.

If you are signed up for fibre services with MyRepublic or ViewQwest, both offer add-on services that give you access to Netflix, Hulu Plus and other content services.

If you are signed up with the other three service providers, opt for a DNS service, such as UnoTelly, instead.

Once you have either a VPN or DNS service up and running, you should be able to visit the homepage of each streaming service and sign up for it.

Of course, you can skip the VPN or DNS registration and setup by watching streaming services on your browser.

The free Hola extension on the Chrome browser works well, but this means you cannot watch any of the shows on your big-screen TV.

Credit cards

The next hoop you have to jump through is signing up for the streaming service. Not all Singapore-issued credit cards can be used to pay for Netflix. The word from my friends is that cards from POSB and Citibank are out, but OCBC and DBS ones are accepted.

Still, there is no way to test every card in this market to establish a definitive list.

Watching it on your TV

To enjoy US streaming content on your TV, you need to buy additional equipment to connect to your TV.

  • Apple TV

To access Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime Instant Video on this device, you need a US iTunes account.

Sign in to the services via the app to enjoy your shows.

  • Android set-top box

There are many brands in the market, but as long as it is running Android, any of the streaming apps should work.

The catch? None of these apps are available on the local Google Play Store.

First, go to www.amazon.com and download the Amazon App Store. Sign up for a free Amazon account and download the streaming apps from that app store.

Sign in via the app to enjoy your shows.

  • Android Smartphone + Miracast dongle

Miracast is a feature that allows you to mirror your Android phone or tablet display on to your TV, with the use of a dongle.

There are several brands available; choose one and connect the dongle to the HDMI port of the

TV. Pair your phone with the dongle and everything on your phone will be "thrown" onto the TV screen.

The downside is that this connection is dependent on your Wi-Fi network, so a spotty connection can leave you with video and audio lag.

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