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Getting Round the anti Ex-pat Firewall
Svieta Reznik

Thanks to technology, expats are not as isolated as we used to be. Skype, electronic book readers and PDAs help us stay connected and within summoning range of the boss at work, for good or for bad. As well as these well-known solutions, there are lesser known but valuable software tools that help manage and use digital media and content.

A common question ex-pats have is “How do I watch my favorite sports match or TV show?” Hulu is one of the web’s most popular sites. It works as a free online service that streams popular TV shows and movies. Try accessing its content from outside the U.S. however, and you’re met with a black screen that reads: “We’re sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States”.

ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, SciFi, Comedy Central, BBC, ITV, Ch4, Ch5 and others broadcasters put their shows online but filter their content to restrict users outside the U.S. and U.K. Online newspaper sites like Wall Street Journal and Pandora (a popular music streaming service) also filter or block their content to visitors from outside their home countries. Free applications, like Hotspot Shield, allowed users to get around this restriction by creating anonymous proxies to shield the origin of an IP address but many sites like Hulu are onto them and are blocking anonymous IPs.

Many expats resort to Torrents downloads to get their TV fix out of frustration, but there’s a better alternative than illegal peer-to-peer downloads and risking the viruses. A tool called Identity Cloaker creates a virtual private network (encrypted data tunnel) that not only allows you to access these sites but protects your data from identity theft and allows you to bypass firewalls. While this may sound techie, the software is easy to download and the tech support, if you run into a problem, is responsive. Once you have the software running, you simply select your country proxy from a dropdown box and you will appear as if you are in that country to the sites you are visiting on the web. When I switched my server to the U.S. and opened my browser, I was directed to the U.S. landing page of the Wall Street Journal rather than the European one, bypassing the content filter. The only drawback to Identity Cloaker is that sites take longer load.

The Identity Cloaker software runs on Windows XP, Vista, or 7 and they currently have a MAC OS beta version available. A 10 day trial version is available for 4.97 Euro. 12 month subscription 79.97 Euro. 14 day money back guarantee. The 6.66 Euro a month seems steep but compared to the cost of missing an episode of 24 or True Blood, it becomes reasonable.

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