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6 Reasons to Use a VPN

6 Reasons to Use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, allows you to browse the Internet without fear of being spied on by neighbors, hackers, or the government, as the case may be. While you might think that only those with something to hide would be interested in using a VPN, that’s definitely not the case. Think of all the information you put out there on a daily basis without even thinking about it: Your Facebook status, your credit card numbers, your passwords…the list goes on. You might think that the websites you’re using are secure, and while that may be the case, it’s the security of your network that you need to worry about.

There are also some ways you can benefit from using a VPN while utilizing WiFi connections other than your own, as well as if you were to travel abroad. Choosing the right VPN allows you to essentially view the Internet as if you’re in your home country, without any restrictions that may affect local ISPs. Bear in mind that you utilize a VPN in this manner at your own risk, as many countries can be extremely strict when enforcing their Internet censorship policies.

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If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to use a VPN, decide for yourself after reading up on the following benefits of a Virtual Private Network:

Access restricted content abroad

So you took a trip to another country, but it’s raining and you’re jet-lagged. You go to load up some Breaking Bad on Netflix, only to realize that Netflix is completely blocked in the country you’re currently staying in. And so are a ton of your favorite websites. With a VPN, you can use your American IP address anywhere in the world, thus tricking Netflix and other websites into thinking your actually in the States. Hey, it’s not like you’re downloading movies illegally.

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Access restricted content at school or work

How many times have you tried to visit a legitimate site for work- or school-related research only to find it’s been blocked by your organization’s “Acceptable Use” policy? I can recall a time when I worked in a high school in which Khan Academy was blocked. I’m not advocating for you to circumvent your school or company’s gateway for illicit or immoral means, but using a VPN can allow you to access important information that is completely necessary to your current task.

Use public WiFi

Public WiFi is about as unsecure as you can get. If you’ve ever logged into the free WiFi at Starbucks, you ran a huge risk of having all of your information stolen by some guy sitting in his car in the parking lot. Not only that, but if you really weren’t careful, you may have logged into a different WiFi network altogether, inadvertently handing your information directly over to a spoofer without him having to do any work at all. With a VPN, your information is encrypted, so it is indecipherable to anyone trying to eavesdrop.

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Private file sharing

Again, I’m not saying you should be downloading and uploading stolen files such as copyrighted music and movies, but a VPN allows you to send and receive files to friends without anyone else seeing what you’re doing. Surely there times you need to share files that you don’t want others seeing. By using a VPN, sending private documents or personal photo albums can be done without the thought crossing your mind of your information being leaked to the world for all to see.

Browsing isn’t logged

Once again, this sounds a little shady, but think about it. Imagine you were accused of a drug-related crime, but weren’t able to prove your innocence. The authorities subpoena your Internet browsing history, and find that you had previously looked up the recipe for crack cocaine. It’s not going to matter that this was for a research project in chemistry class; it’s only going to make you look worse in front of a judge. If you had used a VPN, your browsing history would be completely untraceable, and you’d have a much better chance at convincing the court of your innocence.

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Right to privacy

Above all else, privacy is (or at least, should be) a basic human right. Everything discussed above should be private in the first place. But unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s not. Even those who have nothing to hide should be wary about how their Internet browsing habits may appear when viewed out of context by outsiders. Remember: Nothing you do online is private, but with a VPN you can minimize the chances of your private information becoming public knowledge.

Featured photo credit: Instructablesnternet gratis en el aeropuerto Matecaña, Pereira, gracias a UNE – Mario Carvajal via farm5.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on May 14, 2019

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

  1. Zoho Notebook
    If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
  2. Evernote
    The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
  3. Net Notes
    If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
  4. i-Lighter
    You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
  5. Clipmarks
    For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
  6. UberNote
    If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
  7. iLeonardo
    iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
  8. Zotero
    Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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