Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Streaming Abroad

Consistently, the most important thing for incoming officers is immediate access to the internet. They say it's to check in with their family, so their spouse can keep up with her online-grad-school work, or any number of legitimate reasons, but let's face it. We all know it's because they want Facebook and Netflix. That's not an accusation, I was totally the same way.

Facebook works everyhwere, so that's not a problem, but Netflix has regional content blocking. Most of the people I talk to in the Foreign Service use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bounce all of their internet traffic off a US based host to get around this (we are Americans afterall, it makes sense that we have access to American content, right?). However, I've slowly been converting people from VPNs to a much more appropriate "Smart DNS" service provided by Unblock-Us. VPNs are difficult to configure and use, can only be used by one device at a time (or require expensive network gear), generally cost more, and in most cases, are scarily unsecure. Unblock-Us works by changing who your computer, phone, whatever asks when it attempts to find the actual IP address of the website you've requested. So when you type in a web address, such as, it points you to servers in the US, rather than the regional servers for your location. For Netflix, this allows you to watch as if you were in the US, but is much faster than a VPN, since the data only has to travel from Netflix to you, rather than taking a stop at your intermediate VPN host first. In addition, Smart DNS service can be set up with literally any device or network gear, so you can use as many devices to watch Netflix on your home wireless connection as your bandwidth will allow.

Disclaimer: I've used Unblock-Us ever since moving overseas, and recommend it to pretty much everyone. After 11 months of suggesting it to people, I figured I might as well sign up as their affiliate, so everyone that signs up using my link above gives me a free month of service.

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