The web is a generally free place, but some sites and services want to make it annoying to navigate and enjoy. Stream any video you'd like, see the sites you need, and get at services you thought were down with these tips.
Photo by chidorian.
10. Skip Past Annoying User/Pass Requests
Closed betas, deleted cookies, and over-eager marketing firms want you to log into just about every site on the net. If you're just stopping by to read a story or browse around, the time-tested site BugMeNot often has a quickie user/pass combo you can use to log in, along with a Firefox add-on that can do the checking and logging in for you. BugMeNot has gotten a little soft-hearted since its early days, and will sometimes block posting of login details for sites that request it, but is often a handy resource for those who need to wipe their browser or last logged in a long time ago.
9. Read Articles That Rupert Murdoch Wants You Paying For
Many news sites have a curious relationship with web traffic, including the Wall Street Journal. They don't want you stopping by and browsing what's available, but when they've got a scoop to share, they'll go ahead and open a side door for the masses. You can jump in through that side door at most any time using Google News, which most news sites offer at least one click-through to. The simple way, as Digital Inspiration explains, is to simply copy the URL of any article you're looking to read at the Journal or elsewhere, and then paste it into Google. The first result should usually get you right where you're trying to go. Otherwise, head to Google News and enter either a site-specific (site:wsj.com) or source-specific (source:wall_street_journal) operator, then type in your search terms. It's an oldie, but a goodie. (Original post)
8. Change User Agents To Get Around Browser Blocks
Want a peek at what Gmail on the iPad looks like, or get around sites that pretend Internet Explorer is the only browser that works? You should switch up your user agent, the string of text that a browser identifies itself to sites with. Firefox users can install User Agent Switcher for the easy fix, while Safari has a user agent changer built in. Chrome can change its user agent string, too, and other browsers usually have some kind of work-around available.
7. Get To Gmail When It's Down
When bloggers, Twitter addicts, and Gmail fans go nuts over "Gmail being down", they often mean that the standard web interface isn't loading in their browser. The Gmail team itself has recommended using an IMAP client when Gmail isn't loading, and the How-To Geek has quite a few other work-arounds to recommend, including keeping a link to Gmail's HTML-only and mobile versions handy.
6. Get Actually Usable BitTorrent Speeds
The distributed nature of BitTorrent makes it reliable means to downloading files—unless your broadband internet provider, or your router, doesn't want to play ball. If it seems like your corporate net provider is the issue, Wired has a guide to outwitting your torrent-stifling ISP. You might not get top-notch speeds with such work-arounds, but you will get downloads that work.
5. Get To Sites Taken Down By Traffic
You've just found the coolest new site—unfortunately, so has everybody else on the net. When a site goes down, you can try seeing if Google has a recent cache of that page (by searching for something like cache:lifehacker.com.au, or try the Coral Content Distribution Network, which has proxies and nameservers and all kinds of geeky network stuff all over the globe, grabbing images of sites on a regular basis. To see what Coral has available, just add .nyud.net to the end of any URL—so lifehacker.com.au/nyud.net shows what Coral can grab from Lifehacker. It's a fairly solid bet, especially if a site or page has been around for any length of time, and it beats hitting refresh every five minutes for two hours. But for the full spectrum of page-saving options, the Resurrect Pages Firefox add-on offers both Google and Coral's cache, along with a handful of other page-saving services, so you can likely get lucky with one of them. (Original post: Coral Cache)
4. Control Computers At Home
Your DSL or cable company does not want you serving up a web site or running a game server from your house. That doesn't mean you can't get occasionally jump into your home computer to grab some choice music, shut it down, or stream some great video to a hotel room without much on. The basics involve setting up your router for port forwarding, using DynDNS to give your home network a domain name, and, if you want total control, using VNC to remote control your computers. It's not exactly a plug-and-play job, but once you're done, you'll feel like you've got one of those secret tunnels back to your home, the kind you turn over a rock and type a code into an embedded keypad to access.
3. Download YouTube And Other Flash Videos
Every company wants to stream video on the web, but few want their viewers to download it—even if the server hit is about the same, and it's already in the cache, anyways. To get at YouTube and other streaming video sites' goods, the How-To Geek wrote up a complete guide to ripping and converting Flash videos. Among the recommendations: YouTube Downloader or the Get YouTube Video bookmarklet, along with the old Vixy.net webapp standby. For conversion to nearly any format once the download's done, try the Format Factory.
2. Access Country-Blocked Streaming TV
Want to watch Top Gear from Tucson? Hulu from Halifax? Find a good proxy in the country that's intended to watch the content, set up your browser to use it, and you're on your way. Commenter hengehog laid out the process of setting up either Firefox or Chrome with proxy add-ons in a step-by-step gallery, though as ever results often vary depending when you try. For a more streamlined solution that might not last the test of time, or laywers, try TVGorge. (Original post: TVGorge).
1. Roll Your Own Proxy To Access Blocked Sites
More professionally maintained proxies (covered elsewhere here) get you your favourite shows. For a lighter, home-rolled solution that gives you occasional access to a more reading-based blog or site, consider making your own proxy. You can set one up on the same space you maintain for a personal site with PHProxy. Lacking for server space? No problem—set up a proxy on Google Apps Engine, or run a proxy server from your home computer. Either way, you'll get good-enough access to sites that work may have blocked, but you occasionally need access to. (Original posts: PHProxy, Google App Engine).
What's the go-between, work-around tool you use every day, at work or home? What little tricks or software have helped you work past artificial walls? We want to hear all about your clever means in the comments.