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How to Unblock Spotify at School or Work

Music makes time spent at school, work, or traveling so much more enjoyable. It lifts your mood. It reduces stress when a middle-manager is micromanaging you again, and it lessens the risk of burnout.

And while playlists or iTunes Radio are decent for music listening while you’re preoccupied, Spotify is the ultimate solution.

It’s a bummer to give up Spotify and when it’s blocked. Luckily, with a little tech wizardry, you’ll never have to do without it again! More about that soon.

No Spotify? Why Not?!

Here are the three main reasons why you can’t use Spotify:

  1. Country you’re located at is blocked (China, Russia, India, UAE, Saudi Arabia, etc.)
  2. Network administrator at your school or place of work has restricted access to it
  3. Your favorite songs are blocked outside the USA due to rules specified by the record company

None of these are deal-killers. You can work around any roadblock above with a VPN.

Of course, keep in mind there are certain risks associated with doing this. If your workplace has draconian rules about software use for example, it might not be worth it. That being said, onward to the tech!

How VPNs Unblock Spotify

A VPN (virtual private network) in essence allows you to swap your real IP address with another IP provided by the service.

So, if you’re visiting China on business for example, you can choose to use an IP associated with the US. This way Spotify will work just like it does in America, since the software assumes that is your physical location.

Additionally, if Spotify is blocked via the local network, a VPN allows you to bypass the restrictions set by the administrator.

Regaining Spotify Step-by-Step

In this mini tutorial we’ll look at how you can use one of the most popular services, NordVPN, to unblock Spotify. The process isn’t much different with other VPNs, but it’s easier to get across with a specific example.

Let’s get started:

  1. Sign up with NordVPN
  2. Download NordVPN software: whether you’re on a Mac, PC, iOS device, Android or other, reputable VPNs like this one have you covered.
  3. Both the app and desktop software display a map with locations to choose from. To connect to the VPN server and change your IP location, tap or click on a country, then a city if desired. Most people will want to choose a US-based IP address as Spotify offers this audience the most content.
  4. Launch Spotify on the device: now that VPN software is configured Spotify should be unblocked!

Other Good VPNs

VPNs that are often recommended here are listed below. If you’ve a got a bit more time you can also read full reviews of the top 3 VPN services.

Note that prices for even the best options are very reasonable and start at around $3 per month.

Goodbye to Prying Eyes

There’s another key privacy benefit you’ll gain by using a VPN. It encrypts all web traffic on your machine or device. So, if Spotify is banned on the network the admin won’t be able to figure out you are connecting to their music streaming server through the app.

So, VPNs not only help you break through to blocked content and applications, but also prevent you from getting busted. After all, limitations like this are pretty arbitrary, and contrary to the vision of a free, open internet.

Go Forth Grasshopper

Got it working? Congrats! Unlocking awesome tunes on Spotify should make your life a little sweeter in public places. And that path has led to top-notch overall privacy too.

Should You Use a VPN When Downloading Torrents?

Have you ever wondered if someone is watching when you download a torrent?

The answer is categorically yes, even if you haven’t noticed any evidence of it. The snooping is indeed as undercover as it comes.

What you likely have noticed is irritating popup ads for VPNs on torrent sites. Then there are the flashing warnings that your IP address is exposed.

Sure, it’s an attempt to put the fear of god into you so you sign up with a VPN provider.

Nonetheless, is there some validity to covering your behind with a VPN when downloading torrents? Let’s explore that.

BitTorrent: Not Always Unethical

Before proceeding it should be said that LetMeBy.com doesn’t condone piracy. Moreover, it’s assumed the motives of the reader are pure.

Despite its reputation, BitTorrent distributes free content belonging to the public domain. Plus, it’s a protocol much like e-mail or www. So, don’t believe those who broadly label it as “bad.”

And then there are those many gray areas. Perhaps you want to download a video game ROM when you already own a physical copy. Or maybe you’d rather download MP3 files rather than ripping the music CD yourself.

Regardless, you have the ability and right to protect your privacy.

How BitTorrent Works

Downloading torrents isn’t as anonymous as it might seem. To understand why, we need to take a look at the basic mechanics of it.

The BitTorrent protocol is a peer-to-peer method of file sharing. It’s decentralized so there is no single point of failure.

So, when you start downloading a torrent you become an active participant in that system. Right from the top you help to serve the file. Thus, others can get the data you have so far. Then when the download is complete the file starts to seed, making you both an uploader and host of the content.

Who Can See Your IP Address?

During the process described above your IP address is accessible to others connected to the same torrent. So, it’s indeed plausible that an entity could monitor and record the IPs that connected to a torrent. Also, with apps like uTorrent you can view the IP of users quite casually by clicking on the Peers tab.

Savvy companies with big budgets use automated software to spy on users downloading their digital products without paying.

Another potential risk to your privacy is your internet service provider. This is the entity that can find out exactly who you are based on your IP. Although these companies rely on their users to maintain their business, they’ve clearly sided with other big business when it comes to copyright violations.

An online survey of 1,000 conducted by PCMag found that 25 percent of respondents named ISPs as the biggest threat to their online privacy.1

Those in the Crosshairs

Copyright holders are most concerned about stopping the original uploader of a torrent, followed by subsequent uploaders. Furthermore, since all downloaders are also uploaders by design, there is no way to shirk responsibly for proliferating copyrighted material.

The film and TV industries in particular have been vigilant about preventing unofficial distribution of their video.

Torrents and the Movie Industry

Napster first pulled the genie out of the bottle in the music industry. And it hasn’t been the same since.

The film industry was similarly slow to adapt to technological change. Initially, increased demand for digital downloads and streaming were often met by unofficial channels.

But in this case, studios have done better in terms of enforcing copyright. Along the way film studios managed to utilize incredible technology to defend their turf.

Trackers are now embedded into popular movies which automatically find users who download their material unlawfully. Copyright infringement notices are sent via e-email thanks to cooperation with the user’s ISP.

Thus, downloading movies from torrent sites carries greater risks than many imagine.

Recently 3,400 Canadians faced the legal consequences of illegally downloading movies in Federal Court. The crackdown was launched by a Toronto law firm on behalf of U.S. movie production houses hoping to enforce their copyright claims.

Defendants have paid anywhere from $100 to $5000 to settle these claims.2

How VPNs Protect Users

When you use a VPN (virtual private network), your traffic is encrypted and secured to ensure that no one can spy on your activity—even when you’re torrenting.

Your actual IP address is replaced with an IP provided by the service. This provides anonymity since the IP in use is not associated with any one person.

Recommended VPNs

As there has been a surge in demand for VPNs, there is no shortage of services to choose from. Luckily even the best VPNs are affordable, so there is no reason to go for anything less than top-notch.

Read full reviews of the best VPN providers here. Or if you’re short on time, click on one of the links below. These are currently among the top choices out there:

Wrapping it Up

Don’t kid yourself. ISPs and corporations with copyrights to protect have a very dim view of torrent use. Downloaders are treated with the same suspicion whether their activity is legitimate or not.

This is yet another reason to consider employing a VPN for all your internet use. You may have fared well so far, but there is no telling who is watching your activity waiting for an opportune time to take action.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/354396/the-best-vpns-for-bittorrent
  2. https://globalnews.ca/news/4933339/lawsuits-movie-downloading-uploading/

Brave Browser: Like Chrome with Great Privacy (No Trackers)

After its release in 2008, just 3 percent of people used Chrome for those first few months. It’s been a steady move upwards ever since. Fast-forwarding to today, Chrome browser has obliterated the competition with 80 percent dominance in the market.

The people have voted with their mouse clicks and taps. Chrome is indeed an amazing browser backed by great tech.

So why all this talk about Chrome? Well Brave is a close relative to Chrome. To be more precise it’s built on top of Chromium, which is Google’s open-source web browser project. Most of the code that makes up Chrome can be found in Chromium.

Opposing Views About Trackers

The key difference between Chrome and Brave is philosophy. The founders of Brave believe trackers have overstepped reasonable boundaries.

In short, everything we do online is tracked and saved by corporations. Sometimes that data is sold to other companies too. And no, it isn’t done because they want to get to know us. They want to sell us stuff, and to do so more efficiently than their competitors.

David vs Goliath

Brendan Eich, co-founder and CEO of Brave Software invented the JavaScript programming language and co-founded Mozilla. Eich and company brought us the excellent Firefox browser, and has done it again with Brave.

With established leadership like that, Brave Software has a real shot at converting users to its browser. In fact, it’s already going swimmingly. A website called BATGROWTH is tracking the growth of Brave publishers. This is proving to be a huge year for the browser with no signs of slowing down.

How Brave Gives Back to its Users

Tech companies like Google and Facebook make most of their profit from ads. Traditionally users endure a barrage of advertising messages and in return gain free use of superb web software.

The issue with this model is that we all avoid ads like the plague regardless of the fact that ads are necessary when the service is free. Banner ads were once widely used and are seen less and less due to an effect called “banner blindness.” People learned how to divert their attention away from the noise and focus on the content they came for.

And as advertisers tried harder to grab our attention with videos, texts ads that don’t look like ads, etc., we found new ways to push it all away. Now users have ad blockers to deal with these unwelcome commercial messages.

It’s become an arms race between the user and the publisher.

With no incentive to view and interact with ads, so it’s no wonder the traditional approach is a struggle.

Thus, Brave rewards people with Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) when they opt-in and accept unobtrusive advertising. BAT is a cryptocurrency that can be exchanged for dollars or held if you believe its value will go up. Additionally, Brave has a built-in wallet to store these tokens.

According to Eich, the current internet’s current monetization system is “mature, but troubled,” suggesting that the human attention economy through the Basic Attention Token will eventually replace the need for fund-raising through sites like Patreon or through traditional programmatic digital advertising exchanges.

[NEWSBTC]

Once ads are turned on, by default every two hours a notification item appears at the top right of the browser window. You can choose to view the content or close this notification.

It’s not perfect since people can still tune out the advertiser’s messages. However, since the user is being compensated, the ads are no longer unwelcome. As with Brave’s model, it’s a choice.

Trackers and Ads Get the Heave-Ho

The ads publishers place on their sites are blocked by Brave right out of the gate. So are third-party cookies and trackers used to collect data on your browsing.

It’s pretty amazing to have this built-in to the browser. It works great. Plus, with much less bloat than extensions like Adblock Plus for Chrome. Third-party adblockers are notorious for hogging system resources. It’s good to see Brave addressed this inefficiency as well.

Making the Switch

If privacy is important to you, what are you waiting for?

Download Brave and give it a test run today.

If you’re a Chrome user, you’ll feel right at home. Also, if you like Firefox, it makes sense to check it out as well. Brave carries a lot of the vision over from Mozilla as both were founded by Brendan Eich.

This is a really exciting time for the web. Inspiring new projects that utilize blockchain are reinventing existing tools: in this case the browser. By using Brave you’ll be among the first wave of people to experience the new, improved internet, free of trackers and annoying ads.

Viva la revolución!

Substratum to Disrupt VPNs or Is the Dream Over?

It’s among the loftiest ideas in blockchain.

Substratum is building the foundation for a new decentralized internet. This is to be an open internet that cannot be censored by restrictive governments.

So, for those using a VPN or Tor to achieve anonymity online and to view blocked content, Substratum brings new hope for the future. Or If you’re a realist, it’s a new alternative to get around the frustrating deficiencies inherent to the web.

Of course, it takes more than great tech to make such a profound change in the internet. And while Substratum has talented people with the software chops, it’s their business ethics that may sink the ship. More on that later.

First let’s get a feel how Substratum works. After all, this project is backed by some game changing vision.

A Decentralized Web Hosting Solution

The established way to deliver web content across the globe is via a hosting service. Small businesses, corporations, and content creators alike rent rack-mounted servers stored in huge facilities, or in the case of many tech companies, operate their own facility.

It’s an effective system run by professionals. However, it’s centralized. This means a website can be blocked by targeting the IP address associated with the site. This is how ISPs, institutions and governments can potentially censor content.

Decentralized hosting has no single point of failure. Thus, specific sites cannot be blocked by simply targeting an IP. So, if one machine contributing to hosting the Substratum network (aka a node) goes down, the role is simply filled by another node. This is an internet hosted “by the people” with their home computers.

How the System Works

To keep their site on the Substratum network, an individual or business pays with Substrate (SUB) tokens. This is obtained by trading another cryptocurrency for SUB, or by exchanging one’s native currency for it.

Users are incentivized to run nodes. SUB tokens are earned relative to computing power and duration that computing power is used to support the network.

A Threat to VPN Services?

Using a VPN service is currently the best way to hide your identity online in terms of speed, effectiveness and user experience.

But free is tough to beat. And the Substratum economy directs all costs to site owners, not users of the network.

So, users seeking to attain greater privacy may gravitate towards the decentralized web over time. And this could put VPN providers in tough spot if Substratum is fast. VPN services are so affordable that many won’t bother to change their habits. However, if SUB succeeds it will take a bite out of their customer base.

Web Hosting Disruption

Substratum creates an interesting opportunity for techies that operate independently from a corporation. Anyone with computing power and an internet connection can contribute to the decentralized network. With the release of Substratum Node v0.5 software, everyone running it will be paid in SUB tokens.

However, it remains to be seen if this system will be profitable enough for hosting companies to participate in any capacity. It’s probable that home users will be undercutting professional web hosts, as new participants in the space will push the value of hosting down.

Thus, if SUB takes off, site owners will now need to think about hosting for both the centralized and decentralized web. Big players using cloud hosting services like AWS or Rackspace may be able to scale back on that and invest some hosting muscle into the decentralized web.

Uncertain Times for Blockchain and Substratum

The cryptocurrency bear market that occurred after the sharp highs of late 2017 to early 2018 took its toll on the psyche of many past zealots. A rain cloud formed over the collective sentiment of blockchain investors. Lower valuations of coins and tokens associated with blockchain projects led to greater scrutiny of the teams involved, and the projects as a whole.

In short, the notion that this would be the team to bring us the decentralized internet was more believable during the boom period. Many were riding high on euphoria when Bitcoin and Ethereum prices went parabolic.

Redditors expressed their disillusionment as the Substratum project couldn’t live up to the stratospheric hype. Substratum leadership has been criticized for promising their community the moon then failing to deliver.

Deceptive Marketing (aka Shilling) on YouTube

Ethereum holders particularly, emboldened by their seemingly perfect investment, were drawn to ICOs and new blockchain projects in late 2017. Substratum took advantage of this by ramping up their marketing activity. Allegedly getting various crypto YouTubers to shill SUB tokens was an especially questionable move. The shadiness was amplified when these YouTubers later became inactive or deleted their videos.

Substratum Delisted on Exchanges

Substratum was delisted on Kucoin in January 2019, and a month later it was also delisted from the world’s most popular exchange, Binance. This was nearly the death blow to SUB trading as almost 97 percent of the trading volume was on Binance.

Members of the Substratum team were accused of engaging in pump and dump schemes with their own coin. This activity would be illegal if it was a public company manipulating their stock price. But since we’re still in the wild west stage in crypto, the most that can be done is to delist tokens associated with unscrupulous projects.

It’s Not Over Yet

Although the hype and enthusiasm surrounding the project has dwindled, Substratum is still an active project with talented team members. And unlike many projects that appeared during the ICO boom, they have a working product.

The issue is, shady trading activities and overpromising have diminished their credibility. It will be a challenge to regain the public’s trust, especially due to the severity of the bear market that multiplied the negative effects. There’s still plenty of time for the tide to turn as the crypto market recovers. However, burned investors don’t easily forget and this turn of events has created many bitter critics.

While many failed projects pulled an exit scam and completely pulled the rug from underneath ICO investors, Substratum did not. So, this is a signal that Substratum is in this for the long haul despite errors in judgement by management.

Substratum tokens were a horrible investment for the many that jumped in during all-time-highs. Nevertheless, if the team manages to deliver a decentralized internet in the future, perhaps this sacrifice was in some ways worth it.

5 Hacks to Speed up Streaming

A lot more people are streaming movies today than a year or even a few months ago.

The mass migration from traditional formats to services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video has brought us the gift of convenience but also technical hurdles.

As much as streaming is becoming the way to go, one can only enjoy the experience when they stream without pausing, re-buffering, and other interruptions. Thus, there are two major categories of persons that stream movies: those that enjoy the best speeds and those that struggle with getting decent speed when they stream. This article highlights hacks one can implement to move from the latter category to the former category.

Fix plugins: Current browsers are equipped with plugins for a wide array of different purposes. As much as certain plugins can guarantee a higher streaming speed, other plugins can be a drag when one streams. Here’s how to balance the good and bad effects of plugins.

Plugins still have a cost to performance when not in use. When a plugin is inactive but installed, it could affect the user’s streaming speed. Thus, it is important to uninstall all plugins that are not in use as they can negatively affect streaming speed.

Plugins are best when updated. Thus, to achieve high-speed streaming, it is essential to update plugins. Different bugs are typically fixed with the updated versions of plugins, and this ensures smooth streaming as well as less crashes and time-outs.

Clear caches and temporary files: When a person visits a web page, a lot of activities occur behind the scenes to enable the user to view that page. Such activities include the downloading of temporary files. These files are typically deleted by the browser when the web pages are closed before one exits the browser or shuts down the device in the case of a computer.

However, in some cases, one does not close the web pages properly before exiting the browser, and the files which would have been automatically deleted by the browser are stored. The buildup of these files reduces browser performance, which includes streaming tasks. Thus, to ensure the best streaming speed, one must delete temporary files and clear the browser history. That way, the browser activity is not unnecessarily reduced.

Switch from Wi-Fi to Ethernet: As much as Wi-Fi is the go-to Internet connection for streaming movies, slow or spotty Wi-Fi can cause streaming issues. With Wi-Fi, one makes wireless connections to their router, and this wireless connection does not offer as much speed as is available on the router to the user. When the wireless connection is swapped for a wired connection such as with Ethernet cable, a user gets the best speeds possible. Let’s say one uses a 10Mb/s router. With a wireless connection to that router, they may receive about 50% of that speed. A wired connection such as with Ethernet cables gives the user at least 70% of the speed of the router. So, all you may need to do is to switch Wi-Fi for Ethernet cables. Your device will get better speeds when you make that switch.

Turn off auto-update features: The different operating systems on devices, from Android to Windows, offer auto-update options. With this option enabled, newer versions of applications are downloaded as soon as they are available with special consent from the user. Thus, when the auto-update feature is turned on, apps could check for updates or update in the background when one engages in other activities such as streaming. This background activity can impair streaming performance.

To stream high-quality videos, it is thus advisable to turn off the auto-update feature. Alternatively, one can check for updates regularly and download updated versions of the apps at the most convenient time.

Reduce device load: This hack is somewhat applicable to other settings. The more individuals that share a resource, the lesser the quantity and quality of the resource each participant will get. Here’s how this “principle” is related to the quality of movies one streams. When many devices are connected to a router, the streaming speed reduces because of the device load. For faster streaming, it is advisable to reduce the device load on a router. So if you’re experiencing issues with streaming, make sure others in the home aren’t using the internet heavily at the same time.

Finally, everyone deserves to stream high-quality videos, and with these hacks, you’re sure to enjoy a better movie-watching experience.

Photo: PresidenciaRD