Monday, October 26, 2009

An Eee PC in Every Room? Twenty Uses for Netbooks in Your Home

These Linux Eee PCs are so cool. They are getting cheap enough that you could practically have one in every room of your house. If you could, what would you do with them all?

Here's what I'd do (most of these things require you to disable the Eee PC's screensaver, which you can do quite easily):

1. Watch TV. The main purpose of our Eee PC right now is to use it as a very portable television. We watch Hulu mostly, as well as South Park when a new episode comes out. We originally bought the Eee PC because we lost our DirecTV (neighbor's trees in the way) and we didn't want to have to run a cable to the far room, so we just set up the Eee PC in that room and streamed content from Hulu. We love it. But you need a set of cheap speakers plugged into the Eee PC to really get sound. Otherwise it works great. My wife isn't a very confident computer user so I built her an easy menu of the sources of entertainment. (Yes, Flash for Hulu and YouTube runs fine on the Eee PC out-of-the-box.) Plus, the Eee PC has a port to connect to a larger monitor or TV (VGA).
2. Listen to streaming music.Pandora works on the Eee PC. If you haven't used Pandora, you should really give it a try. It is a free streaming music service where you can construct your own radio station of cool songs. You can pick a number of your favorite artists and then it will play music that is similar to those artists (as well as the artists themselves). It can go for hours with enjoyable tunes, and if you don't like something, you can vote it down and it will jump to the next song.
3. Listen to the radio. If you have a favorite radio station locally (or around the world), the Eee PC has a function built-in that will take you straight to the MediaU Website.
4. Tape recorder. My wife has a lot of cool ideas throughout the day and she likes to have a tape recorder to record them on the spot before she forgets. The Eee PC has a great microphone and simple sound recorder application built-in that works nicely.
5. Play video games. Okay, you're limited to games that work on Linux, but still. The Eee PC has a cute little penguin bodysurfing game that is quite fun.
6. Alarm clock. When traveling, you don't have to pack an alarm clock, just use your Eee PC. Here are instructions (look further down on the page after the business about the potato).
7. Digital picture frame. This works pretty well. Go into Flickr and use the slideshow feature. If you want just certain files to repeat over and over (like a standalone picture frame) you can use OpenOffice Impress (called Presentations on Eee PC) which works similarly to PowerPoint.
8. E-mail station. Like to look at your e-mail while you're eating breakfast? Why lug your laptop from your home office to the dining table? Just use your Eee PC (dining room edition)! Eee PC uses Thunderbird, plus has desktop links to Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL. Of course, you can get to any POP server through Thunderbird and any Web-based e-mail through the browser (Firefox).
9. Listen to podcasts and music. The Eee PC does not have a podcast catcher built-in, but you can download a Linux-compatible application like Songbird (sorry no iTunes on Linux but Songbird is really nice). Installation is a bit tricky, follow the instructions in this thread. Most Eee PCs do not have much storage space, so once you've listened to a podcast, delete it immediately. You won't be able to store your whole music collection on the Eee PC drive either, but you could use a flash drive (Eee PC has a USB port).
10. Watch tutorials. There are so many awesome video tutorials on technology tools (like this set on GIMP) but who has time to sit still and watch them? Take your Eee PC with you from room to room and have the tutorials playing while you make dinner or cut your toenails.
11. Read your own personalized newspaper (RSS).Google Reader is an incredible time-saving (time-wasting) tool. I've used it to create a personalized newspaper for myself. I don't care about 90% of the stories in my local newspaper, I care about other stuff, like stories about Agile development, business travel, Canadian news, systems thinking, holistic health, open source software, renewable energy, software productivity tools, Web 2.0, etc. So I was able to construct a constant stream of these types of stories using an RSS Reader like Google Reader. The only trouble with doing this on the Eee PC is that the screen is a bit small to see enough of the stories, but you can fix that. Hit F11 on the Eee PC and then click on the border in the middle and you should have lots of reading room.
12. Read your recipes. There are so many good recipe sites on the Web, but AllRecipes is my favorite. Use your Eee PC as a recipe station, eliminating the need to print them out.
13. Read PDFs easily. The Eee PC cannot be called an e-book reader, but it does a good job of reading PDF files. With my job (computer consulting), I often have to get through a massive PDF file and I don't like sitting in my office reading it on the screen. It is sometimes nicer to use the Eee PC to pull it up and read it anywhere, even in my La-Z-Boy chair in the loft. The Eee PC comes loaded with Adobe Acrobat Reader.
14. Mirror. Umm, you can use the built-in Webcam on the Eee PC as a mirror to see if you have something in your teeth. (Gettin' lame, I know.)
15. Social network status. If you are totally into a particular social network (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed,, etc.) you can keep that page loaded on your Eee PC and see what's going on realtime with your friends.
16. Encyclopedia. Nice to have an on-demand encyclopedia in every room, eh? Wikipedia is the obvious choice here.
17. IM station. The Eee PC comes with an instant messaging client, but you'd have to have it running only in one room, otherwise you get logged out elsewhere. Still, nice to be able to IM anybody anywhere in your house (maybe??).
18. Phone. Skype is loaded on the Eee PC, you can use your Eee PC as a phone, but you will definitely need the speakers (as mentioned previously). Although it has a Webcam, you have to go through some additional steps to get video Skype working. Maybe the newer Eee PC don't require this, I don't know.
19. To do list. Nice to have your favorite to do list right in the room with you. My favorite is Remember the Milk, but any Web-based system or Linux-compatible download will work.
20. Real-time information feeds. Things like weather or election results can be nice to have on-demand in the room you're in.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Connect PC with your TV

Connect PC with TV - The funniest videos are a click away

How to Switch from Cable/Satellite TV to 100% Internet TV

Summary: When it came time to abandon our much loved satellite TV service (DirecTV) we made the big decision to go completely IPTV – all our television entertainment from Internet sources. It took some research and some fiddling with gadgets and TVs, but it was worth it. Now, almost a year later, we couldn't be happier. We went from paying $110/month with DirecTV down to only $17/month. Read to find out how you can do the same with just a normal broadband Internet connection. FAQ at the end of the article.

We Like TV

We were pretty happy. We had a good TV life. My wife, who is a seamstress, really likes to have the TV on while she does her cutting and sewing. Background noise, but also giving her the ability to look up and see the show whenever she wants.

I like to watch a movie almost every night, plus I love watching Jon Stewart's Daily Show. On the weekends, we usually watch one or two movies on Saturday night and something on Sunday night as well.

So we are not TV-o-phobes. We like our TV.

We have three main places where we watch TV in the house: my wife's cutting room (used to be a dining room), her sewing room (kind of a den) and the loft (living room).

The Trees, The Trees

What happened was our neighbor's trees grew too high and blocked our satellite reception. It also happened last year. At that time, we asked our neighbors if they would mind if we trimmed the tops of their trees, they said it was no problem. But this time, we realized it was going to keep happening every year, and we'd have to ask them to chop the trees down, which they wouldn't agree to. So we needed another solution.

From Satellite to Cable?

Should we go to cable? My wife and I had both used cable services before moving in together, and we hated them. Bad quality reception, bad customer service. No thanks. But what was the alternative?

Finally we decided to make the move to 100% Internet television. But this was going to take some research.

Our questions were:

* Could we get television in all the rooms we needed (cutting room, sewing room, loft)?
* Did the Internet have the particular TV shows that we liked?
* Was the bandwidth of our connection fast enough to provide full screen video?
* Was the equipment to get us set up going to cost too much for the savings per month?

The answers were Yes, Yes, Yes and No.

The Equipment

After looking on the Web for articles (one like this one would have been good!) on people's experiences (not vendor success stories), I decided to get the following equipment:

Eee PC (Linux)

Roku Player

A GigaWare PC-to-TV Converter (Radio Shack)

and a DVD player (no photo)

The Eee PC cost about $400 (then, now it's below $300). The Roku Player was $99. The DVD player was about $50. The GigaWare converter was around $100 once you got all the cables with it. It seems like GigaWare doesn't sell that box anymore, so maybe this would work instead.

$650 Invested in Equipment

Total investment = $650. Equal to about 6 months of DirecTV.

The purpose of the Eee PC is to act as a television for my wife's cutting room. It is super-portable, so she can carry it around if she wants to watch TV elsewhere, like our screened-in porch. She does that a lot after she finishes her work.

The Roku Player we set up in our loft / living room. It connects easily to a television with composite video connectors (there are a bunch of options). We have a 55” rear-projection TV (about 12 years old) and this combination works great.

By the way, we have wireless Internet all through our house. This is a NECESSITY for this plan. Roku depends on it, as does the Eee PC.

The reason for the GigaWare PC-to-TV converter is to be able to connect one of our laptops to a TV. To explain that a little more, we will have to get into the next topic: Content.

Can We Still Get the Movies, TV Series and Specials We Want (Need?)

We knew that we had a diverse set of content that we really wanted to get with our new setup. Here was a sampling of our regular watching (just to get this list took some analysis!):

* Movies, movies, movies – from the latest releases on DVD to foreign films to back catalog
* The Riches
* The Daily Show
* The Colbert Report
* South Park
* The Simpsons
* King of the Hill
* Nip/Tuck
* Weeds
* Sledge Hammer
* Married with Children
* Desperate Housewives
* Dancing with the Stars
* Family Guy
* American Dad

Neither of us watch a lick of sports, nor do we pay attention to the local or national newscasts. No soap operas, daytime talk shows or kids' programming (unless you count South Park).

This was our target list. As it turned out, we were able to use to get most of the TV shows (Riches, Daily Show, Colbert, Simpsons, King of the Hill, Nip/Tuck, Married). For others, we were able to use (Desperate, Dancing). South Park actually has its own Website, where their content is available a few weeks after it airs on Comedy Central ( Cost so far? Nothing.

Now for movies. Hulu definitely has some movies, but not much. Especially when we were doing this experiment (early 2008). We needed a bigger variety. So we decided to get started with NetFlix. We knew that NetFlix had a dual service, where you could get DVDs in the mail and also have simultaneous access to another set of movies through an Internet download service. This sounded like the ticket. The price was nice: $17/month for three DVDs at a time. (Now it's gone up a bit - $17/month for only 2 at a time, including access to Blu-Ray).

And NetFlix had another advantage. Now we had access to the HBO and Showtime series we were missing on Hulu and elsewhere. We have always liked watching the pay-TV series throughout the years, like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Weeds, Huff – you name it. Now, through NetFlix, we had access to these series either through instant download or as a mailed DVD.

Now we had it! For $17/month, we had as much content available to us as before, but most of it was on-demand - even better!! We could pick from a few hundred movies on or over 10,000 on NetFlix download. On mailed DVD, we had over 120,000 to choose from. And for TV series and specials, it was all there.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, I'll try to ask some of the questions I've heard from friends as I've described our set-up (my friends are bored hearing about this already).

Q. Isn't the picture jerky on movie downloads?

A. Depends. Hulu had lots of problems with jerky pictures early on, but they seem to have fixed this. All you have to do is bring up the show initially, let it cache for a minute or two, and you can proceed with no jerkiness. NetFlix download through Roku is never, NEVER, I mean NEVER jerky. I don't know how they do it.

Q. How is the picture quality?

A. On Hulu, the picture quality is excellent. They even have some of the shows available in HD. On NetFlix download, the picture is okay to good, depending on the day. No complaints, unless you are a very picky TV watcher.

Q. Do you have to have Windows for this all to work?

A. We do not allow the Windows operating system in our house. Everything runs either Mac OSX or Linux. Hulu runs everywhere, even Linux on the Eee PC. It just requires Flash or an open-source Flash player equivalent. The NetFlix player works on the Roku, but you can also watch any download on your computer. The NetFlix player is very picky. It works on Windows, of course, as well as Mac OSX (Intel only). It does not work on Linux nor on the older Mac PowerPC boxes (we have a Mac Mini like that). Has something to do with DRM (digital rights management).

Q. Why didn't you go with Apple TV or Cinema Now?

A. I've heard the Apple TV is very nice. Easy to use, fast to set up, lots of content choices. The reason we didn't go that route is that my wife is a penny pincher. If we sign up for a monthly “all you can watch” system, she will watch shows freely. But if we had a per-download cost (like on Apple TV or Cinema Now) she would penny pinch and end up postponing watching her TV show for days and days to save money. So, to save us both that headache, we stuck with everything being all-you-can-watch.

Q. Why still use the NetFlix mailed DVDs if you have so much online?

A. I can't give a logical answer to that logical question. The only logical reason could be that there is a much larger library on DVD than from NetFlix download. The real reason is an emotional thing. We like the excitement of getting a DVD in the mail. Even though I know what it's going to be. I can't explain it.

Q. What about other basic cable channels like Discovery, SciFi, Food Network, HGTV, PBS, etc.?

A. At the time last year, most of these networks were not online yet. But now they are. You can find at least some content for all these networks these days. Just check their “full episode” line up to make sure they have your favorites online.

Q. Don't these Websites force you to identify yourself as a cable or satellite subscriber? How can they give this away for free?

A. None of this content is truly free. On, and, all shows are supported by commercials. And you cannot really skip the commercials (without some additional effort and hacking). The good thing, though, is that the commercial breaks are very short. Usually only one 30 second ad per break – that's it. I'm sure that will change. With NetFlix, the downloads are part of your paid service, so no commercials there. As a result, we tend to watch NetFlix downloads a lot more than Hulu (except when it's my wife by herself, then Hulu is usually her choice). We are certainly concerned that the cable companies will see all this revenue escaping from them and put demands on services like Hulu to make sure that every Hulu viewer is also a subscriber of a cable TV service. But so far, that has not happened. (Please, please, don't let it happen!)

Q. What about sports?

A. Sorry, I don't have a clue. Do some research on ESPN, etc. maybe they have some options. I think the NHL has an online viewing package for all the local games.

Q. How long do you have to wait before a show begins on download?

A. On NetFlix, it is usually about one minute. Then it starts, and never skips, jerks or has to reload. Hardly ever. With Hulu, you put it on pause at the beginning, wait for about two minutes to let it load, and away you go.

Q. Does this work on slow DSL connections?

A. Yep. That's what we have. We probably have the slowest broadband you can get. (If you still have dial-up, stop reading now.) However, if you have the slowest cable connection, you might have trouble. I think most cable Internet providers have higher bandwidth choices, so definitely factor that additional cost into your calculations before switching.

Q. Do you watch other content besides the professionally produced TV content?

A. Oh yes. We watch video podcasts and other TV series that are only available on the Web, like the excellent “Something To Be Desired” (now in its sixth season). Most YouTube videos we watch are on our computers, not through the TVs. It's funny to find old, dead networks like The WB on the Web as well. This was their opportunity to recycle all that old content, some of it is pretty good. You can also use directories to find new independent video.

Q. What do you do about high-definition (HD) content?

A. It costs $3/month extra at NetFlix to get Blu-Ray DVDs, which we gladly pay. We have an HD projector and a Blu-Ray DVD player, so we use these on special occasions (most weekends) to play some big epic movie or whatever. It projects out to about a 6 ft by 5 ft image – really impressive. It's so nice to have a big white wall. NetFlix has HD downloads on some movies (very few) and the Roku can easily connect to our HD projector. Hulu also has HD content, for that we connect our Eee PC or other laptop to the HD projector. I would say we watch less than 10% of our content on HD. Even the HD movies seem to download in a reasonable amount of time and do not have jerkiness thereafter. Amazing - I don't know how that's possible with just a normal DSL connection.

Q. Is the Eee PC powerful enough to watch full-screen video?

A. We've never had a problem. The only problem is with the bandwidth coming in, and that is solved by pausing the show for a minute or two to let the content cache, then it's fine.

Q. What about when you travel?

A. I'm a computer consultant, so I travel a lot. No problem. My NetFlix downloads and Hulu come with me on my laptop. Hotel Internet connections are always too slow, however, so I always use my wireless modem from Verizon Wireless.

Q. How does this work for people outside the U.S.?

A. Not worth a crap. Sorry.

Q. Do you use Boxee, Square Connect or another service as an content directory?

A. We don't. I just set up a Web page for my wife and we left it at that. These services are very intriguing, and once they have Hulu and the NetFlix content all integrated into one service, we will probably switch.

Q. Are you happy with Internet TV?

A. Yes, extremely. It's been almost a year post-satellite and we don't miss it one bit. It is scary to think if our Internet connection would ever go down, we'd have no e-mail, Web surfing or TV. But, luckily, that hasn't happened yet.

Labels: IPTV, satellite television

posted by Daryl Kulak @ 1:56:00 PM 2 comments links to this post

At 6:42 PM EDT, Blogger Rizwan said...

Here is a video tutorial on how to connect PC with a TV..
Hope u will watch this video tutorial

At 8:41 PM EDT, Blogger Daryl Kulak said...

Hi Riswan,

Thanks for the comment and the video tutorial. I'm sure people will find it useful.

The tutorial is good, but the music is kind of annoying.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The pros and cons of switching to Windows 7

By Woody Leonhard

If you're still sitting on the fence about upgrading to Windows 7 — after all, it's been widely available for all of a few hours now — I'd like to regale you with my top eight reasons to jump in with both feet.

I'll also tell you three possible reasons for keeping the new OS on the shelf — for a while, at least.

After you wade through the Win7 marketing hype, you'll find a solid core of real improvements in the new release. There are many aspects of Windows 7 that cry out for adopting it and just a few that suggest sticking with Vista or XP.

• 8. Windows 7 is easier on the eyes

No doubt you're way beyond the stage where fancy wallpaper and cute icons curl your toes, but any way you look at it, Windows 7's a stunner. From wallpaper that changes itself to the tightly controlled group of icons in the area near the clock, Win7 puts the things you need most where you need them. The OS also moves the flotsam out of the way.

Since there's no Sidebar in Windows 7 — good riddance, I say — Win7's gadgets move to the high-rent district of the desktop, where you can move, resize, and snap them together neatly.

• 7. The Action Center puts all the nags in one place

Windows XP and Vista are notorious for scattering important information all over creation. At the same time — and quite perversely — every two-bit application you install on an XP or Vista PC can pop up annoying messages, distracting your attention while you're trying to get some work done.

Win7 reduces the shrill impositions to a minimum by funneling almost all interactions through the Action Center. Yes, the Action Center has its roots in the old Security Center, but it's all grown up now.

The Action Center serves as traffic cop for announcements that inform, warn, and often annoy. But rather than a pop-up window, the only alert you'll see is a flag in the notification area (near the clock) that turns yellow or red as needs dictate.

• 6. Win7's security is stronger and less intrusive

Security stuff gets complicated very quickly. Suffice it to say that Windows 7 is significantly more difficult to crack than Vista, which in turn was an order or magnitude tougher to break into than XP. (Internet Explorer and the .NET Framework are noteworthy exceptions.)

Compared to Vista's in-your-face User Account Control (UAC), the equivalent in Windows 7 is clipped and reined in. You can get to the settings easily. For most people, security won't be nearly so difficult in Win7 as it was in Vista — and it won't be as, uh, permeable as it was in XP.

• 5. You can make a movie of what ails your PC

If you haven't seen Windows 7's new Problem Steps Recorder (PSR), you owe it to yourself to try it. Click Start, type psr, and hit Enter. This little utility lets you record everything on the screen — except the stuff you type — as it happens. When you're done, PSR spits out an MHTML file that can be opened and played back in Internet Explorer.

Like the Snipping Tool in Vista (also available in Win7), once you try PSR, you won't know how you ever lived without it.

• 4. Search works — finally!

Windows XP's built-in search feature is a slow, painful, buggy joke. In Vista, search is a little less labored, occasionally usable, but still unreliable.

In Windows 7, Microsoft has, at long last, woven search into the operating system itself. There's no noticeable system overhead, searches proceed fairly quickly, and — most important of all — the results are accurate.

You can initiate a search from just about any location in Windows 7: on the Start menu, inside Control Panel, and in Windows Explorer. Although there are a few idiosyncrasies — such as no true wildcard searches and text searches that match only the beginnings of words — searches in Win7 usually find what you're looking for.

• 3. You get better control of your devices

Windows 7 centralizes control of all devices: printers, MP3 players, phones, keyboards, mice, fax machines, and anything else you plug into your computer. The controls all appear in a place called Device Stage.

The revolutionary part of Device Stage isn't its omniscience. Windows has had various Devices and Printers–type capabilities for years. Device Stage differs in that manufacturers have started writing their drivers to hook into Device Stage directly.

If you're tired of having 10 different programs in 10 different places to control your attached hardware, those days are rapidly drawing to a close. The junky little programs that go with the devices will disappear, too. At least I hope they will. So long, commercial driver-update utilities!

• 2. Win7 Libraries beat out My Documents any day

I first described Windows 7's Libraries feature in my May 14 Top Story. While Libraries don't do away with the need to organize your files, they make it much, much simpler to track files and put them in the right locations.

"A place for everything, and everything in its place," as Mom used to say. With Windows 7 Libraries, file management is easier than ever.

• 1. HomeGroup makes sharing safe, fast, and fun

A stroke of pure design genius, Windows 7 HomeGroup bundles all the sharing options you'd likely want in order to make files, printers, and media accessible to any other Windows 7 PC on your network.

As described in my May 14 Top Story and my Oct. 1 Woody's Windows column (paid content), homegroups work only among Windows 7 PCs — there's nothing analogous in XP or Vista. Still, sharing among Win7 PCs couldn't be simpler.

Three reasons why Windows 7 isn't for everybody

Despite these and other Win7 positives, there are at least three good reasons for Windows XP and Vista users to stick with their current OS:

• 3. If your PC isn't up to snuff, fuhgeddaboutit!

While Windows 7's hardware demands are less stringent than Vista's, there are zillions of PCs that simply can't handle Win7.

In my March 5 Woody's Windows column (paid content), I described how to convert any three- or four-year-old desktop PC into a Windows 7 wonder by bumping it up to 2GB of memory and sticking in a sufficiently powerful video card. I've retrofitted dozens of Windows XP desktops in this way, and the results are hard to believe. With a little bit of goosing and a couple of hundred bucks, those old PCs run Win7 much faster than they used to run XP.

However, if you have a desktop machine or laptop that's more than a few years old, upgrading its hardware to support Windows 7 is likely more trouble than it's worth. Don't bother.

• 2. If your hardware or software demands XP, stick with that OS

The XP Mode built into Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate is a Virtual PC–based implementation of XP. XP Mode makes sense for large companies that want to get the benefits of Windows 7 but have to put up with hardware or software that runs only under Windows XP.

For the typical home or small-business user, however, XP Mode is a pain in the neck. My advice? If the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor (which you can download from the Microsoft Windows 7 site) indicates that your XP setup isn't compatible with Windows 7, either upgrade the machine's software and hardware or give up on running Win7 on the system. Life's too short.

• 1. Don't try to fix what ain't broke

By far the most-compelling argument for staying with Windows XP or Vista is this: The Windows you have now does everything you need, and you aren't overly concerned about rootkits or other nearly invisible malware hosing your machine. In this case, there's no compelling reason to go out on a limb with Win7.

Replacing your operating system is slightly simpler than performing a self-administered brain transplant, but it's still no walk in the park. In the vast majority of cases, upgrades to Windows 7 go in smoothly, with a few minor irritations — maybe you can't find the install CD for an old program, for example, or you forgot to write down a password.

But in a small percentage of cases, the Windows 7 installation doesn't go well at all. As they say, stuff happens. Any upgrade could potentially become calamitous, and Windows 7 isn't immune.

If the thought of upgrading your system makes you lose sleep, hey — don't worry. Better the devil ye ken, eh?

Monday, October 12, 2009

On The Internet, Nobody Knows You’re Not In The USA

On The Internet, Nobody Knows You’re Not In The USA

by Nik Cubrilovic on October 5, 2009

A large number of web services are geographically restricted, such as Hulu, Pandora and Spotify. The reasons are usually to do with content licensing restrictions, or because US visitors (or visitors from other advanced economies) are of a higher value from a monetization perspective. A web application can only guess at the location of a visitor based on an IP address and other information, such as browser language and regional settings.

IP addresses are mapped to countries (and in some instances, further to states and cities) using large commercial datasets such as GeoIP from Maxmind, which is a ‘best guess’ database based on data it has collected (how, I would rather not know). The system is accurate enough to enable services to block on a country level, but often fail at a more local level.

But the nature of the web means that geographically restricting web services is next to impossible, because those who are technically adept have known how to find and use proxy servers (both open and private) and VPN services to masquerade as being from another country.

The demand for such services has become so popular that more apps are being released that make this process almost as easy as installing any other application – one-click VPN/Proxy install and then pick a country you want to be surfing from (default USA). Even better, there are now VPN solutions available for free – some of which are outright free, others which are ad supported.

If you find yourself outside of the USA and wanting to watch Hulu, outside of the UK and wanting to checkout the BBC, or wanting to rig a web poll, here are some tips:
Proxy Servers

Easy to find, easy to setup. Some sites have become smart enough now to check if the IP address you are coming in from is an open proxy server and will attempt to deny it – but this is most often the easiest solution. The key is to find an open proxy server that everybody else, or even worse, Eastern European crime syndicates, are also not using.

The best source if you are a blogger is to check your spam comments. Most of those IP addresses will not only be open proxy servers (you just have to work out the port – or if you host your own blog, start logging the port), but will be virgin proxy servers.

Otherwise there are a ton of lists available online, often updated each minute, as well as services where you can test your proxy.

FoxyProxy is a Firefox plugin that allows you to easily switch between proxy servers (many Chinese web users are very familiar with having to juggle proxy servers and use such plugins, or browsers that have similar features built-in)

VPN Servers

Similar to a proxy, except that a VPN is an encrypted link to a server that will route all of your network traffic (your computer, in effect, becomes part of the network).

FreeVPN – – A completely free VPN client and service for Windows machines. No ads, and a fast service. Not sure what the business model is, which is why I wouldn’t trust it with any personal or private information and restrict it to just movie watching or poll rigging. Best free VPN service and super easy to install (see review here)

Feeedur - – A commercial VPN/anonymizing service that works well.

HotSpotShield – – Another free VPN service, but forces you to click on an ad. Working with Hulu again.

UltraVPN – – cross platform (OS X support). Both free and anonymous.
The Web Is Flat

Using a proxy or a VPN to bypass geographic restrictions or to preserve anonymity online has been known and used by more advanced users for years. More modern services and tools are making it easier for the average internet user to take advantage of the same techniques.

There are entire business models that depend on geographic targeting, so there is a constant cat-and-mouse game between providers of these services and those seeking to bypass the set restrictions. Those who are seeking to access content are winning though, and they will continue to win, as the very nature of the Internet and web make it near impossible to detect where somebody actually is if they refuse to let you know.