Monday, April 14, 2008

More Internet blues

For the past couple of weeks, I have been experimenting with the FoxyProxy add-on for the Firefox browser, which has been recommended to me by a number of friends here as a convenient and reliable way to beat the Internet blocking we've been suffering.

I found it a little tricky to download and install, and then it wouldn't work at all for the first couple of days.

Then it started working just fine. Then it started getting more and more cranky, frequently requiring me to 'Retry' 3 or 4 times before I could beat a 'time out' in navigating to the next page. Then, over this last weekend, it stopped working at all for Blogspot (which is the main thing I was using it for). And today, it also stopped working for Wikipedia (gggrrrrrr).

Up to now, I've only been using it with the 'Default Proxy' setting - and I imagine the earlier problems I'd been having might have been evidence of partial blocking or attempted blocking of that proxy address (or addresses) by the censors here (and perhaps of counter-attempts to keep the service running by introducing new mirror sites?). Will the FoxyProxy guys set up a new 'default' for us to beat this block? And will that automatically come into effect to restore the service, or will I have to install some sort of patch or update??

FoxyProxy does offer a formidable array of set-up options, including letting you use TOR as the default proxy. Unfortunately, for some reason I still haven't been able to fathom, TOR either doesn't work at all or is unusably slow (2-minute page downloads!!) on my computer. There's also the facility of designating particular proxy addresses for use with particular websites (I may have to look into this further, though it is a bit of a chore to scour the Internet trying to find lists of reliable proxies), and for defining websites or types of website to use proxies with (handy, because if, as I originally did, you just tick 'Default proxy for all URLs', it gets pretty darned SLOW once you have more than 8 or 10 windows or tabs open). There's more information on all of this here.

Anyway, for the past 48 hours or so I have been back in the position I was in for most of last month - relying on two web-based proxies. This is tremendously cumbersome for dealing with Blogspot, because one of them is kind of slow and doesn't allow you to visit 'secure' sites (so you can't access the 'comments' form), while the other is fast and reliable but - hugely gallingly - gets 'stuck' on a single proxified website page (i.e., it doesn't proxify any further pages you may want to navigate to, so you can't even move to other parts of the same site, if - like my poor little blogs - it is being blocked; and then there's the added vexation that you can't even go back to the original proxy page [which now only displays your target proxified webpage], so you have to open a new window for every single webpage you want to visit via it!); although this one does at least allow you to leave blog comments easily (thanks to the curious anomaly that the Blogspot comments pages are actually run off its sister site, Blogger..... which isn't blocked!). Having to constantly alternate between these two proxy services is A HUGE PAIN IN THE ARSE.

But..... AHA, salvation may be at hand. I deferred posting this earlier because I found there was an update to download for FoxyProxy, and I was hoping this might solve my problem. It didn't. However, that disappointment goaded me into investigating the other FoxyProxy options again. I have re-installed the TOR bundle (which includes the Privoxy and Vidalia applications, and automatically configures for use with Firefox)....... and this time it seems to work. So, I've switched FoxyProxy over from 'Default Proxy' to 'Tor Proxy', and I seem to be back in business! It's a bit slow, but I've got easy access to Blogspot and Wikipedia again. Whoop-de-doo!

I am wary of getting too excited. The dratted censors will no doubt soon be on my case again, contriving some new way to spoil my Internet fun. But for now.......

Well, for now..... I'll probably be spending the next day or two reading up on all the TOR bumf and trying to work out what the heck all these new buttons and icons on my browser mean and........

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