Hotspot Shield is the popular method for getting access to US-only websites but is ad-heavy, and since Hulu and other providers are on to it, isn’t as reliable as it once was. Those of you outside of the US can still access Hulu, Netflix instant streaming, and other US-only websites using these good alternatives.
In addition to watching TV, using these proxies can be a good way to get lower airfare if you’re in Europe by booking on Kayak, or some other site that thinks you’re in the US.
(Be careful what information you send across a proxy you didn’t set up yourself. It’s best to use a one-time credit card if your bank offers it.)
Reader Andrew sent me a great list of alternative programs, all of which I’ve downloaded and tested (on Windows, Mac, and Linux). These are the easiest alternatives to use because they don’t require you to set much up and are free.
- FreeVPN (Windows only) – Out of all the virtual private network (VPN) software I tested, FreeVPN was the easiest to use, set up, and the least intrusive. Once you download and install the program, it sits in your taskbar and does it’s magic as you turn it on or off.
- UltraVPN (Windows, Mac) – Similar in setup to FreeVPN and available for Mac, except that UltraVPN requires you to set up a username and password. Make sure to use a password you don’t use for your email or any other accounts.
- FoxyProxy (Windows, Mac, Linux) – FoxyProxy is an application that you install but requires you to change some settings on your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox) to get the proxy to work. It’s not much work and is a one time setup. A good proxy that also works on Ubuntu Linux.
There are some paid alternatives out there which I didn’t try. They run anywhere from $30-100 annually and the quality and service varies. The free methods listed above should be enough to meet your needs in most cases.
Set Up Your Own VPN
There are two ways to set up your own VPN. One is to have a computer that running somewhere in the US (i.e. in your parent’s house) and the other is to purchase some cheap hosting or use an existing Web server you may have. Basically the computer just needs to be in the US, running, and connected to the Internet.
- Hamachi (Windows, Mac, Linux) – Makers of the popular remote desktop solution LogMeIn also have a free VPN service you can sign up for called Hamachi.
For many of you watching your favorite sitcoms abroad makes VPN software like these essential tools for digital nomads. Remember though that all the data you send through a VPN that you didn’t set up yourself might not be absolutely private. Avoid sending across passwords, credit card numbers, and anything else you wouldn’t want someone else to read.