Setting up a free VPN connection with the native OSX client

On Sunday, I learned — via TorrentFreak — about a new, free, anonymous VPN network that’s part of a graduate studies program in Japan. The idea is that if you’re locked behind the Great Firewall of China or some other, similar internet censorship situation, or if you just want to browse from another geographic location either for privacy issues, or because you’re doing something slightly (or not-so-slightly) naughty and you want to make your browsing anonymous from your ISP, this service — called VPNGate may work for you. For example, you might be able to use it to get around local blackout restrictions for internet streaming of sports events (*cough* not that I would know anything about that personally).

This isn’t a discussion on internet hacking, however, this is how to get this to work for you if you are on OSX Mountain Lion. It’s actually pretty darn nifty and blows what I was doing before — using the ProxySwitchy Google Chrome extension — completely out of the water. Windows users will need to go somewhere else (though my understanding is you can do this on Windows boxes without a third-party VPN client, as well). Yes, there are instructions in the VPNGate site, but you have to look for them and you have to know what you’re looking for.

System Preferences

First, go to System Preferences. I have a shortcut in my dock, but you can also get there from the apple menu in the top left corner. Once you’re there, go to Network.

New Connection

Click the “+” button to create a new connection and select “VPN” from the dropdown. The default should be “L2TP over IPSec” and that’s fine. Name your connection (if you want) and then click Create.

Connection settings

Now you need to enter in some settings. First, pick a server. If location doesn’t matter to you, the Japanese servers are probably fastest, but there are use cases where you may want to connect from a specific country (one I can think of off the top of my head was last summer’s London Olympics where you could watch the games online if you were in the UK). Enter the IP or servername into the Server Address box. The username and password for everything is “vpn”, so the first place you put that is in the Account Name.

Now you need to go into the Authentication Settings.

Authentication Settings

Remember, the password to everything is “vpn”, so put this into “Password” and “Shared Secret”. Hit OK and then go into Advanced.

Advanced

Put a check in “Send all traffic over VPN connection”. Leave the other two boxes checked. Click OK.

Now you’re all set and you can connect over your VPN connection. To test this, go to Google.com. If you are connecting from a Japanese VPN server, you will be sent to google.jp. The VPNGate site will also tell you what your IP is and where you’re connecting from, so you can also test that way.

VPN ConnectionBonus! The “Show VPN status in menu bar” option is awesome. This adds a little icon in your menu bar when you’re disconnected which provided easy access to connect to the VPN. When it’s connecting, it shows you the status of the connection and then how long you’ve been connected.

Now I can uninstall ProxySwitchy and forget about those free public proxy server lists.

Note: Knowledge is power and with great power comes great responsibility. And that responsibility is yours, not mine, if you use VPN servers to, for example, steal stuff. So, don’t be a dick and have respect for people who produce content and deserve to get paid. Don’t blame me if the FBI cracks your encryption, finds out you’ve been hosting a video streaming service of in-the-theatre movies off your Windows XP box through this service. Also, have respect for those individuals contributing to this amazing service and don’t clog their bandwidth with your crappy pr0n downloads, dude. You can also give back and hook your own machine up to the network to be used as a VPN server for others.

Brought to you by Sublpress

This post is being written in Sublime Text thanks to a new package by Nicolas Dienstbier — who has a much cooler way of shortening his name than I do (what could I do? rnlds? Actually…) — called Sublpress. The premise of Sublpress is simple — use Sublime to manage your WordPress site(s). You can do just about anything you could do logging into your site and you can manage multiple sites. But, of course, the most obvious thing you’d want to use it for is posts, right? I mean, that and never having to leave your IDE which is pretty cool, too.

Sublpress uses the command palette for everything. Thanks to a recent update, once I’m connected, I can go straight to new post. And so it is that I am typing this in Sublime and not the WordPress dashboard.

Since working with Dropplets, I like using a simple text editor (okay, maybe not a simple text editor — but rather one that has extra capabilities to handle formatting and displaying text) to write posts. And while I’d probably prefer composing this post in markdown, and uploading someplace automagically (via drag and drop or some kind of autonomous synchronization), using Sublime is pretty nifty, too, and it may turn out to be my preferred method of posting.

I will say that I have a couple pet peeves about Sublpress. One is inherent in the framework and that’s the lag for connecting to your site to do certain actions. Originally (before I raised the issue on GitHub), you had to go into the Manage Posts screen before you could create a new post. I have thousands of posts, and this made Sublpress just crap out before it ever got to that screen, so I asked for it to be moved to a higher-level screen so you wouldn’t need to go in there. But there are similar issues with selecting categories or tags — it has to load all of the categories or tags before you can assign them to the post. And as of this writing, I have to go to Manage Taxonomies → post_tag to create a new tag and then go into Post Actions → Modify Terms and Taxes → post_tag to assign that new tag to the post, rather than just being able to add a list of comma-separated tags the way I can in the WordPress Edit Post screen, creating new tags on the fly if they don’t already exist, all the while waiting for Sublpress to connect to the site and query for that information (on the flipside, though, I don’t need to wait once I’ve told it to do something, e.g. I’m typing this now as I’m waiting for my tags to pop up). You can’t set a featured image for a post and — considering you need to connect to the server (and wait for it to respond) just to pull up a list of the available post statuses — it’s not very reasonable for actually publishing posts. But it’s still under development and there’s lots of room for improvement and growth.