Although there are plenty of airports offering straightforward complimentary wireless, there’s a growing minority that tease your bits with an introductory period of minutes, only to cut the connection for an alternate paid option. (I’m looking at you Germany.) Many times this paid wifi requires you to have a local mobile number or is simply too expensive to justify watching another video of a pug dancing in a tutu.
Whatever the case may be, turning most time-based Internet restrictions in airports, hotels, or elsewhere into unlimited access generally requires nothing more than a few clicks with the right software.
How Time Restricted Wireless Connections Work
Condensing down the technical details into a small byte, when you log on to a given network, it makes note of your device’s MAC address, a set of letters and numbers that uniquely identify your network card. The MAC address from your phone, tablet, or laptop can then be used for authentication and how the airport network tracks your time online.
Think of the MAC address as your face and the restricted wireless connection like a limited all-you-can-eat buffet. You can consume all the calories you want for 30 minutes a day. But if you try to leave lunch and come back for dinner without paying, the hipster hostess recalling your face reminds you there’s no such thing as a free lunch (and dinner).
In the digital world however appearances are easily morphed, without going to the extremes of John Travola, Nicholas Cage, or Joan Rivers.
Will Spoof For Internetz
MAC addresses are hard-coded into network interfaces but the free programs Mac Makeup (Windows) and LinkLiar (Mac OS X) use software magic to make them variable. This is akin to putting on a convincing rubber face mask for the buffet example above.
While you can’t change your face, it’s possible to alter your appearance just well enough to fool the host or hostess.
Step-By-Step MAC Spoofing Using LinkLiar
To demonstrate how straightforward spoofing your MAC address is, here’s exactly how to do it using LinkLiar for OS X. (Windows users, the process is basically the same using Mac Makeup.)
2. Install LinkLiar – As you would any standard Mac app but keep in mind once done, it will be hanging out in your System Preferences, not Applications folder.
3. Open System Preferences – Click the purple LinkLiar icon. You’ll be prompted that System Preferences must be closed, then reopened. Click OK. Once System Preferences comes back up, click the LinkLiar icon again.
4. Spoof Your Wireless Connection – When LinkLiar fires up, it shows your network interfaces with their current MAC addresses shaded in gray. Click your wifi adapter (this would work for Ethernet connections as well), then toggle the fake MAC address by clicking the little wheel. Hit Apply at which point you’ll be prompted to type in your administrator password.
5. Stay In System Preferences For A Moment – Otherwise you may have to restart this process. In the main System Preferences pane, click Network, which will open up the Networking Preferences window. In this new window, in the left sidebar click in this order: Wi-Fi > Assist Me > Diagnostics > Continue > Continue > Allow > Quit
This entire process will take you less than a minute after you get the hang of it and once completed, will give your laptop a new lease on wifi life. You can repeat the steps above as needed pretty much without limit – just be sure to make your next connection – but if you don’t here’s how to miss flights for free.
Expand The Airwaves
In case you’re wondering if there are any negative side effects to MAC address spoofing, in travel situations there aren’t any notable ones. You should however remember to make note of your true MAC address on OS X and Windows if your home or office network implements any kind of MAC filtering. For places that don’t offer even limited free wireless you can try these airport wireless passwords from around the world, get passwords at airports that don’t offer free wifi, or uncover hidden networks using NetStumbler.
Although friends and family may think you’re crazy to keep travel plans to Ukraine, you’ll find the blanket of depressing news from that country doesn’t quite cover its capital, Kiev. Any trip to Ukraine is as complex as the political situation on the ground but understanding the conflict’s landscape reveals a number of places left to safely explore.
Expect A Cool Welcome
When I first landed in Kiev two months ago, the passport control officer asked me behind a cold eastern European expression, “Kiev, are you sure?” Twice. Admittedly her reluctance to accept my sanity made me apprehensive, a feeling amplified by some trouble I had with the first thing an unprepared traveler should prepare for. Dodging sidewalk caverns while getting lost in a city that’s not the prettiest (it’s no Porto) made it initially hard to tell whether the wear was a reflection of revolution or symptomatic of a country Transparency International rates as more corrupt than Pakistan.
Though you’ll quickly realize as Maserati’s race past Lada’s along Saksaganskogo Street that life hasn’t visibly changed much despite the national turmoil.
A visit to Kiev shouldn’t be on any nervous traveler’s itinerary but those of you beyond jitters considering a trip must visit Maidan Nezalezhnosti (“Independence Square”). The one square kilometer city center is where Ukraine’s revolutionary demonstrations began and is one of the most powerful, overwhelming places I have ever seen. All most locals can talk about is the chaos that surrounds them so with war on their minds, many recommend you as a foreigner not to visit. I mentioned in my recent live chat from Kiev, Maidan has essentially turned into a somber park for the average traveler passing through with your biggest concern being the indigenous pickpocket.
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) considers the overall crime rate in Kiev to be similar to that of other large eastern European cities. Common threats are petty theft, ATM skimming, and that criminal meme where you pick up a “dropped” wallet, then are accused of stealing the money inside.
As you can see in my photos and video from Kiev’s Maidan, the intimidating entrances enclose most of the visual evidence that a revolution began here.
Missing The Usual Travel Trouble Benefits
When any place transitions from relative stability to disorder (or simply seems to in media reports) prices for travelers usually drop as suffering business look to maintain or recover tourism revenue. In countries like Egypt, a rare travel window of opportunity opened up 4 months after Hosni Mubarek was ousted, when the Pyramids of Giza were devoid of anyone else except lonely touts in 2011.
Unfortunately for your wallet, prices are relatively unaffected in Ukraine. It’s not a bargain but it was never too expensive to begin with. Budget accommodations at the bizarre Why Not? Hostel run about $5 for a dorm and $30 for a private room. You can get a better idea of overall costs for things like food at Expatistan and obviously, the sky is the limit.
What About The Rest Of The Country?
There is a major east-west split in terms of stability and security in Ukraine. Having spent several weeks in eastern cities like Donetsk near the Russian border right before separatists held votes for autonomy, I can tell you a trip there now wouldn’t be without a healthy dose of risk. For the rest of the country, I asked friend and expert Oksana Arkhypchuk from Active Ukraine about the situation elsewhere:
“In the west it is completely safe to travel and get around everywhere. During ‘high-pressure’ holidays like May 9th – Victory Day, seen as a tragic moment in the history of Western Ukraine, we had extra block posts, police check along the road right outside of Lviv. But that’s only true for major stressful events like controversial holidays or the upcoming Presidential elections. Other than that, you can feel free to go anywhere, within Lviv and outside to the countryside. You won’t feel any politics at all.“
There are a few critical criteria to evaluate before canceling any travel plans due to safety concerns but ultimately, it’s a personal decision you should be comfortable with either way, based on the latest reliable information.
Kiev, Ukraine’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti is visually intimidating yet conversely welcoming for a city center that resembles a war zone. Translated into Independence Square, locals simply refer to it as Maidan, a word that has grown to carry with it deep connotations in Ukraine. This is where on November 21, 2013, a wave of revolutionary demonstrations were sparked by the government of President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to back out of signing Association and Free Trade Agreements with the European Union.
Core elements of the Association Agreement were signed by the new Ukrainian government earlier this month, less than 4 weeks after “Euromaidan” protestors ousted Yanukovych but for those camped out in Maidan, there is still a long way to go.
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about Independence Square is that it is dangerous to walk around.
Maidan is the downtown area of Kiev and people still visit the shops around with coffees from McDonald’s in their hands.
Other elements of the square have their own capitalist interests.
That is not to say there aren’t millions of reminders of the struggle waged and lives lost.
Most of the people I spoke with camped out in Maidan say they will wait until the upcoming presidential elections on May 25, 2014.
Passersby look at the remains of an armored police vehicle destroy during the riots. The asphalt still smelled of gas, which continues to slowly leak out of rusted fuel tanks.
Free soup and bread are available throughout the day, something many of the local poor have come to rely on.
A piano that has been in Maidan since the early days of the revolution, which musicians played during the worst of the fighting.
I was fortunate to capture this talented artist one afternoon. In the video right, people relive tension with the tick tap of ping pong balls on saturated wood.
Flowers in front of a makeshift memorial.
Archangel Mikhail, Kiev’s patron saint, looks over Independence Square.
From somber to festive, the mood here varies.
I was surprised at how large Maidan Nezalezhnosti actually is, about one square kilometer.
The Kiev City Hall has become the de facto headquarters for the Euromaidan demonstrators.
Inside Kiev’s City Hall.
Prayers play outside, several times a day to larger weekend crowds.
Uncertainty is the predominant feeling uniting and flowing out of Independence Square.
Tatars, a Turkic ethnic group numbering close to 245,000 in Crimea, protests its annexation by Russia.
On the left comparisons, on the right, foggy commemorations.
In front of tires, you see people leaving flowers, often with tears in their eyes.
Now, as the waiting game drags on, the movement shifts to the left, center, and increasingly far-right. For now, people wait…
…into the nights.
Flowers are laid by people in Maidan almost constantly throughout the morning and afternoon hours.
A tunnel of tires outline the recent front lines of Maidan.
A Few Of The Pictures I’ve Posted On My Instagram Feed
A service I’m using more often these days where I hope to find you as well.
Everyone in Maidan seems to be snapping a photo.
As you leave Maidan back into the rest of Kiev, life is strangely normal. There is almost no indication to be seen that just a few blocks away, cobblestones, flowers, and garbage form a defensive barrier for a movement which hasn’t ended. Over 100 demonstrators plus 16 police officers have been killed since the begining of Euromaidan in a situation that reminds me of traveling before and behind the protests in Bahrain.
I’ll have a lot more to write about Maidan, eastern Ukraine, and traveling in the country in the coming weeks but for some more insight, you can check out a recap of my live chat answering your questions on traveling in Kiev as Euromaidan continues.
Live From Kiev: Ask Me Anything You Want To Know About Traveling In Ukraine As Euromaidan And Turmoil Continue
I hope you don’t mind the impromptu live chat but a few of you expressed interest in learning more about the situation in Ukraine on my Facebook page recently, as I’m in Kiev at the moment. I’ve spent the last week in the city, visiting the heart of the protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (“Independence Square”), interviewing protestors, doctors who stitched up the wounded, and many others with very interesting stories to tell.
The chat now closed, thank you everyone for participating!
Next week I’ll be heading to Crimea but am happy that I’ve got a good Internet connection today to take your questions. I have photos plus video as well and if you ask nicely, I’ll be happy to share. Let’s do it, ask away!