Category Archives: VPN

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/

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.

Top VPN-Ready Routers for your Home Network

Once the domain of networking specialists in a business setting, routers with VPN capabilities built-in are now accessible to everyone.

There are other options for enabling a VPN at the router level. However none are as elegant for the average home user or small business.

You can buy a router from FlashRouters with business-class DD-WRT firmware installed for you or install it yourself. However going this direction isn’t recommended unless you are comfortable with the added complexity it will add to running a home network.

For most people it makes more sense to choose a hardware solution with simple, intuitive firmware that is VPN-ready out of the box.

VPN-Friendly Brands

Many of the top router brands are lagging behind by failing to add VPN features to their products aimed at consumers. Asus and Synology are the exception. Both are consistently releasing feature-rich routers that allow you to easily connect to a VPN service.

This guide focuses on the brands that offer VPN features across their product line. This empowers you to choose a specific router based on your needs. And to make things easier a “top pick” was chosen from both Asus and Synology camps.

Router You Need vs. One You Want

Accessing the Internet through a VPN uses up more of the router’s resources than a regular connection. Consequently, pay special attention to the CPU specs. A dual core processor running at 800 MHz or greater is recommended. This is to ensure the router CPU doesn’t bottleneck the performance of web-browsing, torrents, and downloads.

You need a capable router if you plan to use a VPN, but if taken too far you’ll overpay for a router with horsepower you’ll never tap into. If you live in a very large house, have a big family and/or ISP offering a bleeding-edge connection speed, going high-end may be worth it. However, you don’t need one of the beefiest models just to connect to a VPN.

Asus Wi-Fi Routers

With competitive prices, a wide selection of routers, and deep VPN capabilities across the board, Asus is a good place to start your search.

AsusWRT is the stock firmware preinstalled on Asus routers. It supports OpenVPN, L2TP, and PPTP encryption protocols.

Although not as cutting-edge on the software side as Synology, Asus knows hardware. They’ve been a major player in computer hardware since 1989.

Asus RT-AC68U (AC1900) (800 MHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Asus RT-AC3200 (1.0 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Asus RT-AC3100 (1.4 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Asus RT-AC5300 (1.4 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Asus RT-AC86U (AC2900) (1.8 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Asus GT-AC5300 (1.8 GHz – quad core with AES-NI) [Amazon]

Top Pick: Asus RT-AC86U

Despite its playful exterior meant to appeal to gamers, this is a serious router. It’s powerful enough to cover very large homes and brings cutting-edge tech to the masses.

Asus boasts blistering data transfer speeds up to 2900 Mbps. The Wi-Fi signal is transmitted dual-band (2.4 + 5 GHz) via the latest 802.11ac MU-MIMO technology. That’s an impressive feat considering the reasonable price point.

Inside there’s a 1.8 GHz dual core processor, 512 MB of RAM, plus 256 MB of flash storage.

Synology Wi-Fi Routers

Synology is primarily known for their excellent NAS solutions. Nevertheless the company managed to impress tech enthusiasts with their first router, the RT1900AC, and they’ve built upon that foundation by adding the powerhouse RT2600AC and then mesh-friendly MR2200AC.

The easy-to-navigate Synology Control Panel allows you to painlessly setup and connect to a VPN service. There is comprehensive protocol support, which includes OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec.

This interface is like a sleek mini-OS dedicated to your router. And it’s a fresh yet familiar approach.

Synology RT1900AC (1.0 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Synology MR2200AC (717 MHz – quad core) [Amazon]

Synology RT2600AC (1.7 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Top Pick: Synology RT2600AC

The RT2600AC is Synology’s flagship. It improves on their first router the RT1900AC in every way. A formidable unit and with four antennas, the gargantuan appearance is matched by good performance.

MU-MIMO and the latest 802.11ac Wave 2 standard is supported, giving the router a top speed of 800Mbps and 1733Mbps on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios respectively.

It’s powered by a dual core 1.7 GHz CPU and has 512 MB of DDR3 memory.

Wrapping It Up

Home users are ready for routers with VPN features, but open-source firmware solutions like DD-WRT may not be ready for them. That’s because technical know-how is still needed to gain the rich feature set.

Asus and Synology have managed to balance ease-of-use with advanced features. So while many are focused on router hardware specs, the importance of superior firmware can’t be ignored.

How to Hide your IP on Nintendo Switch (with a VPN)

Switch is packed with great online features.

Challenge a buddy at Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with online play. Then use the Smartphone app to send him a playful message after running him off the road.

You can also download classic NES titles, or take advantage of cloud storage to protect your save data.

Not bad for $35 USD a year and light-years ahead of the online features included with Nintendo’s previous consoles: Wii and Wii U.

Top Two Ways to Hide your Identity

Sony’s PS4 and Xbox One allow users to hide their IP by adding a VPN in the console’s OS. Nintendo has no built-in features like this.

Luckily there are other methods to cloak your identity when connecting to Nintendo Switch Online. Simply use the VPN features built into your router or a Windows 10 machine.

First, Choose a VPN Service

A VPN (virtual private network) is needed to connect to the Internet anonymously with Nintendo Switch.

This means you’ll need to sign up to a VPN service to complement your Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Luckily VPNs that are both inexpensive and fast are easy to come by these days.

The top VPNs are reviewed here. Don’t pull the trigger until you compare them all to choose the best one for your needs.

Enabling a Switch VPN with Windows 10

Many will find they’re more comfortable with turning on the VPN for Switch via a PC rather than risking configuration woes by doing it with a router.

Note that your Windows box needs to be able to connect to the Internet wirelessly for this approach to work.

  1. Right click on the Start button. A contextual menu will appear. Select ‘Network Connections’ from this menu.
  2. On the left of the new window you’ll notice list of options below ‘Network & Internet.’ Click on VPN.
  3. Make sure you have signed up with a VPN service and have the login credentials needed to connect to it.
  4. Click on the option to ‘Add a VPN connection’ with a large plus sign next to it.
  5. Complete the form with the info provided to you by your VPN service provider. Click the ‘Save’ button.
  6. If your PC has wireless capability you’ll see a ‘Mobile Hotspot’ option at the left of the window. Change the login info and turn it on. If you’re experiencing any issues, try restarting your machine then opening and closing it until it functions correctly.
  7. Click on ‘Ethernet’ then click ‘Change adapter options’ listed under ‘Related settings.
  8. Right click on the VPN connection you created earlier, then click on ‘Properties.’
  9. Click on the ‘Sharing’ tab. Check the box that states “Allow Other Network Users to Connect…” In the dropdown box for network connections select the desired Wi-Fi hotspot (It might be Local Area Connection* #).

Congrats! You’re ready to use your Nintendo Switch online with your IP address hidden.

Users have also successfully connected their Switch to a VPN via a PC with a wired connection, as well as an Android phone. The instructions are cloudy but you can read more in the replies to this post on Reddit.

Enabling a Switch VPN with your Router

Turning on a VPN service with your router is also a great option, especially if you’re a technically adept user.

The precise steps in configuring the router’s software vary depending on the manufacturer. In essence you need to find the correct place to enter your VPN address, username and password so your hardware can route the Internet connection through the VPN.

Every good VPN provider has a knowledge base on their website that steps you through the process of configuring a wide variety of routers to use their service. It’s recommended that you check this first for the most up-to-date instructions.

Here are links to the support pages associated with some of the best VPN services:

Majora’s Mask

Although Nintendo doesn’t officially provide an interface to utilize a VPN, it’s fairly easy to set up anyhow. It’s basically the same process as hiding the IP on a PC.

This guide should provide everything you need to anonymously dominate at Splatoon 2, ARMS, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and other multiplayer titles.