Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Boing Boing's Guide To Defeating Censorware

Boing Boing is taking a brave stand, but unfortunately they've put the instructions of how to access their site from behind a filtering service such as Secure Computing's SmartFilter on their site :) I'm just replicating them here, So people on the net can find the suggestions on a possibly non-blocked domain.

(For more information, see story here or the article here )

"The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." -- John Gilmore

If your employer or corrupt, undemocratic, dictator-based government uses a filtering service such as Secure Computing's SmartFilter to block access to BoingBoing.net, you can try the following workarounds:

  • Use the TOR network. The more people who run Tor servers, the faster and more anonymous the network becomes.

  • Using an SSH tunnel, VPN, or anonymous overlay to an unfiltered network is widely considered to be the best way to protect yourself while accessing "prohibited" content. (Thanks, chris)
  • Use Google as a proxy to access forbidden sites. Link

  • A group called Peacefire created proxy software called Circumventor to bypass censorware. Install this software on your home computer and allow others to use your proxy to access the web, or use your proxy from work or school to access any web site. (Thanks, Sean!)
  • Breaking out of a Proxy Jail. Link (Thanks, Mutz!)
  • Try Daveproxy, and other services listed on the proxy list at samair.ru/proxy together with AntiFirewall (a small app that tests proxies). (Thanks, Joao Barata!)
  • Try Java Anonymous Proxy. JAP uses the TOR network, and installation is pretty easy for non-nerds. (Thanks, Jonas)
  • The Bitty browser, while not initially designed as an anonymizing tool, has helped some of our readers work around corporate internet filters. (Thanks, Scott Matthews!)
  • Some of our readers have found the Coral Content Distribution Network (CCDN) helpful for evading internet blocks.
    Just add ".nyud.net:8080" at the end of boingboing.net -- for example, instead of typing
    http://www.boingboing.net to your browser's address line, instead type http://www.boingboing.net.nyud.net:8080. (Thanks, Tian!)
  • Check out the regularly updated list of public proxy servers
    at publicproxyservers.com.
  • For BoingBoing readers in the UAE or Qatar, or other countries where BoingBoing is blocked, one anonymous reader tells us: "There is an internet via satellite called OPENSKY sold through www.broadsat.com which goes around these problems. Using VPN with normal dialup, the signal gets sent back from Europe, so, uncensored. Works really well and is cheap!"
  • Andy Armstrong says, "I've also set up a proxy for boingboing at boingboing.hexten.net."
  • Abdul Aziz
    says, "It's a pain to know that countries and companies alike are blocking and censoring sites like Boing Boing. I face this at my office everyday. I've mentioned two ways on my site by which you can bypass these proxies and filters safely and securely without breaking any rules or arousing the network admin's suspicions." Link


  • If possible, ask your system administrator to whitelist BoingBoing.net. Sometimes network admins leave all the defaults on when they install enterprise filtering software. If they're using SmartFilter, for example, the admin can selectively allow the BoingBoing.net domain, while keeping the rest of the entries for the "blocked" category in which BoingBoing is listed. Bribing your sysadmin with cartons of Skittles and Red Bull may expedite this option. (Thanks, mcsey!)

If you know of any good ways to defeat censorware, please send us your suggestion.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Web Analytics & more Web 2.0 logos

Did you think that WebTrends and HBX didn't really have any competition because of their domination of web analytics services over the years? I did.

Until, because of a new found interest in web analytics, I did a little reading up and was amazed at the sheer number of choices available out there right now.

ConversionRater's guide makes good reading on the subject, but unfortunately is a little too brief for my liking. But take a look at the article anyway, it'll give you an overview of what's available out there.

One analytics solution that completely fascinated me was the one from VisitorVille. I mean really, its a visual treat to watch your site traffic in 3D, with little buses and people traveling to various sections on your site.

Take a look at some of the screenshots here:

Amazing, isn't it? A tad useless, maybe, but quite the thing to show off to your manager while trying to convince him/her to purchase their services. :)

There's a wealth of information on the new guys on the block, and while they all have their own quirks and issues, its good to see the competition hotting up with Google in the fray as well. I've signed up for Google Analytics, but they don't seem to regard puny blogs as worthy for the beta program :-P

While there are a lot of cool free analytics tools out there, a note of caution: Most web analytics tools give you the statistics you'd usually want to see, but only highly customized (and costly) analytics tools will give you detailed stats, IP address-to-company matching and a whole lot of statistic views created specifically for your organization. Also, if you have a really popular website, then going for a log-file based solution takes some serious computing power - someone in the business recently told me that WebTrends can take upto 8 hours to spew out results of a single query on a large database!

Another interesting read I came across recently is this one, by John Marshall. Titled "Seven Deadly Web Analytics Sins", he points out the most common mistakes people and some analytics engines make while looking at statistics. A must read for your clients in you're in the analytics business :)

Lastly, here are a few more Web 2.0 company logos:
(No, I haven't made this, someone else did)

In case you've gone to some of these sites and said "Hey this is cool, but I'm probably never going to come back here again", I completely agree with you. Here's hoping these companies have rational business plans this time around :)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Design Patterns and Web 2.0

The new age of the Internet is dawning, after the colossal waste of money seen 5 years ago when it crashed all around us. Not only do we have a whole bunch of new companies trying to do some intersting stuff on the web, we also have the old regime of junk - dot com companies with meaningless names and funky logos, doing very niche and quite often useless things with cool interfaces.

For instance, take a look at these:


It quite amazing how all these companies have succeeded in resurrecting the "Internet economy" of the past, but with a lot more caution and this time around, solid business plans for revenue generation :)

Some of these logos most of us will be familiar with, as for the rest, lets just hope their angel investors cash out soon before the next bubble burts. With that logo list growing bigger and bigger every month, I won't be surprised to see a few Indian companies getting into the game as well. In fact, thanks to Neeta, I just read an article thats talks about how overseas investors are looking at some Indian companies, and that the race to buy or invest in a few indian companies is hotting up.

So what's the big deal, you ask? Well, quite a lot actually.

For one, web designers are moving to cleaner, more usable and much better looking designs. Most the the new sites out there seem to despise clutter, think CSS is the coolest invention since the wheel and treat typography as an art, and not just "Lest use Arial man, its the best!". This is the best overview of this design evolution I've come across so far, please go read it, it's good stuff.

The hiring game has gotten quite heated - all the big boys are offering quite a few perks to bring in and keep the best talent available.
Here's hoping they start a perk race amongst HR departments:)

Not only has usability become very important, people are sharing their insights and *gasp!* sometimes even their code to ensure these good practices live on. The big boys are also playing nice, as one can make out from Yahoo's example.

Personally, I'm happy to see all this. There's a nagging feeling at the back of my head that says very few of these new Web 2.0/AJAX spewing/funkiness enhanced applications will actually live for more than 2 years. But hey, if they're going to be helping make the Internet a better place, then I'm all for it.