Everyone enjoys freedom. It lets us do whatever we want whenever we want. That is of course in a spare time when we are not bounded by the responsibilities of paying rent/mortgage or making minimum payments on a credit card, all of which makes us choose spend 50% of time on weekdays at some pesky money-making job. The rest of the time you can do whatever you want – like take a vacation and stay at some cheap hostel, for example. When you are under 30 and are unmarried there isn’t really a good reason why you should be spending three times as much for the roof over your head a night at a hotel when you are not really supposed to be spending any time in your room on your vacation anyway – sightseeing during the day, partying by night, and a nap in between – that’s all. You do not need posh, you need simple and cheap, so you can spend the rest for alcohol or souvenirs. Everything else is like a hotel – there is reception, there is a kitchen, there is a bar (well in some nice ones I’ve stayed), there are access cards, private bathrooms and showers, and the Internet. This is almost everything you need to enjoy your freedom on your vacation until you find out that the hostel is blocking some of your favorite websites like YouTube, Hulu and other media streaming sites because they are clogging up the network for all the guests. And there we go – reality check – if you are not computer savvy or did not read this article, your freedom is crushed yet again!
But luckily you are reading this article and I am going to tell you about this awesome workaround. It is called a proxy server. A proxy server creates a tunnel between the server and your computer and channels all the Internet traffic through that tunnel. If the Internet provider did not block a particular proxy server by its unique IP address then you can access anything on the Internet. And the good news is – blocking every single proxy server is impossible – the new ones show up daily, the old ones change their IP addresses and are alive again. There are literally millions of freely available proxy servers and proxy websites that will help you access Google and Facebook in China or in fact any page on the Internet.
So let’s talk proxy. There are two kinds of proxies available to you: paid and free. Proxies channel all of the traffic through their Internet provider, which costs money to those who maintain those servers. The servers’ maintenance cost is also something to consider. After some thinking you will realize that the owners of the free proxies will mine your data to their advantage, so be careful for what you are using proxy for. I am sure you won’t have a problem with someone knowing you’ve watched a particular video on YouTube, however, you might not want to share your Facebook profile’s address or your e-mail address. All of this information can potentially be gathered and used to serve you ads or spam your Facebook or Hotmail account. I wouldn’t suggest you use free proxies to do any tasks that can identify yourself whether by email, name, or a credit card number. Otherwise there is no danger in looking up a video about an adorable kitten pressing a door bell button or watching an episode of ‘Equals 3’. Well that is of course if you have found a proxy that is fast enough to let you do this. Free proxies are notorious for being slow and irresponsive. You can find a whole list of them by just searching free proxies on Google or any other search engine. There are IP addresses and there are websites available to you. The websites is the easiest route for you – just type in the websites you really, really, really want to visit, like CNN.com and check out the American news when you are in some communist country. The proxy IP addresses will require some work on your part. You will have to copy the address, find Internet Properties in Control panel, switch to Connection tab, find LAN settings, check ‘Use a proxy’ and paste the IP address in your buffer to the field provided. If the proxy is alive, all of the traffic will be channeled through it. Please do not forget to uncheck the box when you are done using proxy, otherwise all of your sensitive information might be available to the guys who run those proxies.
Paid proxies are less dangerous as there is a contract on hand and no one wants to be sued. Well that is of course if you did your homework and have found a reliable proxy connection provider. You won’t be able to sue a company that is located in Barbados or Nigeria. Look for a provider from your own country. There is a number of services paid proxies are offering – from secure connections to unlimited bandwidth (free proxies usually come with restricted bandwidth, upload/download speeds) to anonymizing your identity online (a topic for another article). In most cases you can trust your email account and in some cases even a credit card number to the services you’ve fully paid for. Those proxies are fast enough to let you stream videos of your choice from YouTube or Hulu.
There are a couple of great websites and programs available for fresh free proxy retrieval. But ProxySwitcher is one of the best programs I’ve ever worked with. It makes finding and switching between proxies so easy a 5 year old could do.
So in the end, I hope that when you come across a hostel or a hotel that does not wish its guests to browse some certain websites you won’t get upset and get your way anyways. Also note that Android tablets and phones got programs for free proxy browsing since there isn’t really an easy way to set it up for a regular user. The apps are free and they work, tested by me.