Still a week to watch the Olympics (sort of) from London for under $100: BBC iPlayer and VPNs

Has anyone at NBC ever watched SportsCenter? Sports fans want to see highlights. Many have jobs and would like a tight highlights show in the morning before work. Dan Patrick is sitting right there, let the man do his thing!

Speaking of ESPN, they did not always pretend the Olympics don’t exist, why is it wall to wall Jets training camp?

Easy to bitch about US coverage of the Olympics. Yet not much harder to do something about it.

Travelers need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for security reasons anywhere in public, and in countries that block or filter the internet. Travel hackers find them quite useful at times, too. I lived in China for 8 years and my VPN was indispensable then, yet no less so now living back in the US.

A quality VPN not only creates a secure internet connection, but also provides numerous gateways around the world to which to connect. Connecting to a New York gateway will create a New York IP address so any web pages visited will treat you as in New York, and so on, around the world. This can be critically useful when traveling outside your home country as certain online activity, such as logging into financial accounts, may trip security by logging in from overseas IP addresses.

So an American abroad can use a VPN to a US IP address to get the pap from nbcolympics.com, whereas that site will not work with a direct overseas connection due to regional TV rights.

This American has no interest in watching NBC’s soap operas so he has spent the weekend ‘in’ London with the BBC iPlayer. The excellent Olympics Tonight episode for today has a panel including John McEnroe and Michael Johnson to examine the tennis men’s final and men’s 100m final. Lengthy clips, sports-relevant analysis, and coverage of nearly every gold medal.

It is also possible to watch the entire opening ceremony, with and without commentary, yes entire, meaning no NBC scissors to the most poignant section.

Plus all the events live.

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What VPN to use?

There are free VPNs. Don’t waste your time. Some have tolerable function for very basic web browsing but will not allow or be able to handle streaming video.

(Update: I now use ExpressVPN for access in China and support for mobile devices.) There are many pay ones. I have only ever tried one, WiTopia, on the recommendation of James Fallows from The Atlantic in The Best $39.99 I Have Spent in China. It has served me well for years, this year getting a facelift making the various connection options vastly more simple to use.

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  • Richard

    +1 on witopia. great product, great service…

    nota bene (e molto importante!): ms-chap2 was broken recently (well, it was just publicly announced, it almost certainly has been broken for a while now); so don’t use the pptp flavor – it’s utterly useless.

  • Benny

    Dan Patrick has been long gone from Sportscenter. He doesn’t even call ESPN by name anymore on his radio show.

  • @Benny – I mean that NBC has Dan Patrick on its Olympics broadcasts but is not using him for proper highlights, such a shame.

  • David

    Should I be using VPN in general for internet usage in public settings?

    And is it normal to charge a flat rate, regardless of bandwidth?

  • @David – I am not a tech expert but general best practice is to use a VPN on any public/unsecure connection. Pricing typically seems to be flat rate, and depends on encryption levels/methods required. The higher levels are often needed for countries with internet filtering/blocking. WiTopia maintains a list of these countries and what methods work in them.

    The downside is that slow public connections get slower with VPNs.