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VPN - Explain to a dummy

VPN - Explain to a dummy

Old Jan 26, 11, 4:24 pm
  #1  
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VPN - Explain to a dummy

I have read the threads here, as about creating a VPN so you can watch Hulu, Comcast Fanfest/Xfinity, etc. in Europe and I just don't get it. I have googled how to set it up and still confused.

I go to Europe about once a year (slingbox is not cost effective for me) for about 2-3 weeks and sick of CNN and BBC. I'm going to Rome with my 2 grandchildren this August and would like to at least have an alternative viewing for their downtime. I will have a bunch of videos on my laptop but sometimes you just want something else!

I have a mac pro laptop (travel with) and 2 other Macs (iMac and a Powerbook) at home. I use a Netgear router and the iMac is wired and Powerbook can be either wired or wireless. Can I do this with my home computers or do I need something else - server? Can someone please direct me to a site for dummies on how to do it or give directions here?

TIA
Lydia
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Old Jan 26, 11, 4:40 pm
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I use 12vpn.com to setup my VPN while I'm abroad. I think they make the setup easy. You can think of a VPN as a computer in the United States that you can connect to while you're abroad so you can use all of the services that is available to you at home. Safe travels.
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Old Jan 26, 11, 4:55 pm
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Expanding on the basic concept of a VPN: A VPN does 2 things, 1) it gives you a secure tunnel through the internet, and 2) it provides a connection to another network that is as if you are inside their local area network.

For a remote worker, the security plus the ability to browse/map drives/access programs as if you are inside the office is very useful. Absent a VPN, you typically need to control an computer inside the office, not always an option.

For the purposes specified in the OP, once you are connected to another network via the VPN, websites and media services can only see that you are coming from that host VPN site, and they have no knowledge of your real location.
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Old Jan 26, 11, 5:03 pm
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Originally Posted by windowseatapp View Post
I use 12vpn.com to setup my VPN while I'm abroad. I think they make the setup easy. You can think of a VPN as a computer in the United States that you can connect to while you're abroad so you can use all of the services that is available to you at home. Safe travels.
There you have it! VPN For Dummies in 4 sentences!
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Old Jan 26, 11, 5:06 pm
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Originally Posted by deubster View Post
Expanding on the basic concept of a VPN: A VPN does 2 things, 1) it gives you a secure tunnel through the internet, and 2) it provides a connection to another network that is as if you are inside their local area network.
1) So when I securely log into a website (I think that's https://...) am I going through tunnel? Is it like a tunnel in the real sense, or an analogy?

2) So if it thinks I'm inside their local area network, that means it thinks I'm in the office? You just kind of trick it to think that way? Isn't that dangerous?
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Old Jan 26, 11, 5:11 pm
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Originally Posted by windowseatapp View Post
I use 12vpn.com to setup my VPN while I'm abroad. I think they make the setup easy. You can think of a VPN as a computer in the United States that you can connect to while you're abroad so you can use all of the services that is available to you at home. Safe travels.
Well, that's not exactly correct.

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. As another poster explained, it's a secure tunnel through the internet that connects you to a remote network as if you were actually physically present and connected to it. This means that you can access network resources, such as printers and file servers (assuming the appropriate network permissions). It can also connect to and control other computers IF the client software is installed on the remote computer and the computer on the LAN that you want to control is properly configured to accept remote access.

VPN, in and of itself, is not like having a computer in the US that you can connect to while you're abroad. It is like having your computer connected directly to the LAN in the US while you're abroad.

Finally, note that there are various approaches to VPNs. Some require hardware installed at the U.S. LAN, some work through websites, some channel all network requests through the LAN to which you're requesting, some don't, etc.
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Old Jan 26, 11, 5:19 pm
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Originally Posted by nerd View Post
1) So when I securely log into a website (I think that's https://...) am I going through tunnel? Is it like a tunnel in the real sense, or an analogy?
Not exactly. Both offer secured connections, but https is strictly an internet communications protocol. VPN (which actually uses the term, "tunnel," to describe the connection) can support any protocol that the LAN you're connecting to can support.

2) So if it thinks I'm inside their local area network, that means it thinks I'm in the office?
Who is "it"? If you mean your computer, yes. If you mean your boss, no. When you're connected via VPN, your computer will (usually) be assigned an IP address local to the LAN with which you're connecting. However, it's simply a matter of looking at the VPN router's status page to determine whether that IP address is supporting an internal or VPN-connected computer.

You just kind of trick it to think that way?
It's not a trick. It's a computer communications protocol that provides a simple way to access internal network resources when you're outside of the office (or for two separate offices to be linked together)

Isn't that dangerous?
Uh . . .no, why would it be dangerous? VPN servers have several layers of security that prevent unauthorized clients from communicating with them. There's always a certain amount of risk when allowing outside access to a LAN, whether through the Internet, email or whatever. However, VPN is a proven technology and quite safe.
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Old Jan 26, 11, 5:20 pm
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I emailed my questions to 12vpn and got all my questions (for now) answered.

Thanks windowseatapp!

Lydia

Originally Posted by windowseatapp View Post
I use 12vpn.com to setup my VPN while I'm abroad. I think they make the setup easy. You can think of a VPN as a computer in the United States that you can connect to while you're abroad so you can use all of the services that is available to you at home. Safe travels.
Thanks! I went to their site and found this:

IMPORTANT: This service is intended to enhance privacy, provide security and remove restrictions. It is specifically NOT intended to help you break the law in any way. If you're looking to share copyrighted material using Bittorrent or circumvent Hulu's location detection, don't sign up. It will not work.

So I guess either this particular site won't work for me or perhaps VPN is not what I need.

Last edited by lydia; Jan 26, 11 at 7:08 pm
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Old Jan 26, 11, 5:25 pm
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To dumb it down even a bit more...

A VPN is simply an encrypted connection between you on the road and a trusted connection to the internet (say your DSL connection at home.) You have a client program on your laptop which connects to a server sitting at home, work, or a commercial service.

VPNs address 4 major problems: 1) Security, 2) Port blocking, 3) IP geographic restrictions and 4) Access to your local network.

To use a VPN you just run the client program and it will share a secure certificate with the VPN server. It uses what are known as public/private keys which are very safe. After the client connects with the server all internet traffic is encrypted between your laptop to the server.


SECURITY

When you connect to the internet at a Holiday Inn or Starbucks most of your web browsing can be intercepted by: a) other users close enough to hear your wireless connection and b) nefarious folks between the hotel router and the final www address you're linking up to. Sites starting with https:// (as opposed to http://) are relatively secure but not 100%. Since your traffic is encrypted all anyone in the middle will see will be unintelligible.

PORT BLOCKING
Ever notice that from some wireless hotspots you can't send/receive e-mail through Outlook? It's probably because the hotspot specifically blocks the ports used by e-mail (generally ports 25 & 110). They do this so their guests can't send out SPAM coming from their IP address. With the VPN connected it's like you are directly connected from home and mail should work normally.

GEOGRAPHIC RESTRICTIONS
When you're in another country your IP address (which is actually the hotspot's IP address) gives that away, so if you're in Australia and you go to www.google.com, it will actually take you to www.google.com.au bleh. Some COUNTRIES actually block traffic in/out to specific sites -- we since you're clever enough to be using a VPN, the country block is blind to where you're going and the IP address will be the one of the VPN server. Useful for watching Netflix in China....

ACCESS TO YOUR LOCAL NETWORK
If you have a network attached file system or shared printer at home you can access it when on the road.

Anyway just an oversimplified overview of why you might want a VPN.
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Old Jan 26, 11, 7:23 pm
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I emailed my questions to 12vpn and got all my questions (for now) answered.

Thanks windowseatapp!

Lydia
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Old Jan 26, 11, 9:41 pm
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Don't know much about VPNs, but I did go through the effort to use one so that I could use Spotify here in the US.
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Old Jan 26, 11, 10:57 pm
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The basic idea of a VPN is that your computer creates an encrypted connection, over the internet, to a computer network that you trust. This could be, say, the network at your office, your home, or a third party VPN service provider.

After creating the connection, all your network traffic - web browsing, email, IM, everything - is routed through your encrypted VPN connection. It's like your computer is plugged into your office network or your home network, but you can be across the street or across the world.

The "tunnel" mentioned is simply the idea that any outsider trying to snoop on you would only see an encrypted connection between you and your trusted computer network. Within that encrypted connection, you are sending all kinds of information.
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Old Jan 27, 11, 8:50 am
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Originally Posted by Zarf4 View Post

VPNs address 4 major problems: 1) Security, 2) Port blocking, 3) IP geographic restrictions and 4) Access to your local network.

PORT BLOCKING
Ever notice that from some wireless hotspots you can't send/receive e-mail through Outlook? It's probably because the hotspot specifically blocks the ports used by e-mail (generally ports 25 & 110). They do this so their guests can't send out SPAM coming from their IP address. With the VPN connected it's like you are directly connected from home and mail should work normally.

GEOGRAPHIC RESTRICTIONS
When you're in another country your IP address (which is actually the hotspot's IP address) gives that away, so if you're in Australia and you go to www.google.com, it will actually take you to www.google.com.au bleh. Some COUNTRIES actually block traffic in/out to specific sites -- we since you're clever enough to be using a VPN, the country block is blind to where you're going and the IP address will be the one of the VPN server. Useful for watching Netflix in China....
This is a very thorough explanation.

A couple of caveats:

1. When sending out emails while VPN is on, some recipient email networks will not accept it and/or consider it spam. So, while you'll be able to send out, the recipient might not be able to receive it. I use witopia.net, they are excellent. But at least two networks, mindspring and bellsouth.net bounce them back.

2. Many websites can detect you using vpn and will block access. Hulu is one example.
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Old Jan 27, 11, 8:53 am
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Originally Posted by dtsm View Post
Many websites can detect you using vpn and will block access. Hulu is one example.
Google Voice too?
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Old Jan 27, 11, 8:56 am
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Originally Posted by sonofzeus View Post
Google Voice too?
When I turn on my witopia.net VPN stateside, google voice is not affected. Never tried when overseas....will do so next visit.

Witopia.net offers 30 day trial so check it out...others here also recommend these guys. I have a package for pc [MacBook] and iPhone.
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