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Viewing US only content while traveling abroad

Living in the US there are certain digital comforts we take for granted. Being disconnected from our digital lives can lead to internet withdrawal, mild depression, stomach aches, heart palpitations, headaches, etc etc.. When traveling abroad, I always recommend getting a prepaid sim card for your smart phone and/or tablet. Mobile maps and GPS are amazing when you really have no idea where you are going! Then at your home base, be it a friend’s home, hotel, hostel, rental condo, etc, always make sure you have some type of high speed internet for your digital upkeep on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, _____ (fill in your favorite here).

However, even with all this effort, you may find yourself unable to access certain creature comforts like Netflix, Amazon Video, CrunchyRoll, etc.. Because of the complex world of content licensing, the high availability and affordability of online video we are used to in the USA is very lacking in the rest of the world. Luckily, there are technological ways around this. If you wish to access USA only sites you will need to use a proxy or proxy server. VPN providers like StrongVPN and Astrill, bypass these region limitations by routing all your traffic through a US server. This is the same basic idea typically used in most home internet routers. The website you are looking at will see a computer IP address originating from within the US, and you will be able to enjoy all your video creature comforts from your home away from home!

For the tech savvy, it can be more cost effective to roll your own. I found this easy tutorial on setting up your own personal VPN server on Amazon EC2. Very well laid out tutorial, so there isn’t much for me to add. I run my VPN only when I need it. I then used this tutorial to setup the VPN client correctly on my MacBook Pro. Once setup, its pretty straight forward to use and maintain. I turn mine on when I need it to maximize security and minimize costs. Also, I didn’t use the Dynamic DNS service, and I am connecting from a dynamic IP, so I have to modify my client settings and also the EC2 firewall settings (as well as start/stop the server each time). This is a little more trouble each time, but well within reason.

If rolling your own sounds complicated, sign up for a VPN service. They are only $5-10 (think 3 month min contract). Its great to be in the USA.. Even if its only virtually!

Posted in Mac.

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