(Topic ID: 236041)

CUTTING THE CORD. Tips and tricks to do it right?

By Chitownpinball

11 months ago

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  • 459 posts
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  • Latest reply 8 days ago by Who-Dey
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#266 9 months ago
Quoted from mcluvin:

I know you can hide behind a VPN, but how do you pay anonymously?

Since I know nothing about bitcoin and it seemed intimidating to learn how, I decided to sleuth out how to pay completely anonymously in some other way. Here's how I did it. I'm going to belabor the details with you to convince you.

First, I decided I wanted NordVPN as my vpn. To communicate with them anonymously, I opened a protonmail email account which itself requires no identifying information from me. Using protonmail, I communicated to NordVPN what I wanted to accomplish but without using bitcoin and I said that I was not in their same country.

They have a number of payment methods, most were unique to Europe and I did not recognize them, but one that was available in the USA was something called Openbucks. I learned that Openbucks is a system devised by an American who wanted to help people who do not have bank accounts to be able pay for things over the internet, using gift cards. From the Openbucks website:

"The magic of the Openbucks online payment platform is that there are no 'Openbucks' gift cards. Openbucks leverages existing prepaid and gift cards of top trusted brands such as SUBWAY, CVS/Pharmacy, Dollar General and more. Any of the cards offered as a payment method through the Openbucks platform will work for your online payment if it is listed as an option from the merchant site you are purchasing from."

A Subway gift card was listed among the Openbucks cards accepted by NordVPN and since these stores are everywhere it was the one I would use.

To further pave the way for my plan, I contacted Openbucks (using protonmail) to confirm that a (Subway) gift card bought in the United States could be used to pay a company that resides outside of the United States. Somewhere in my research I read about others running into this obstacle and I didn't want to buy the card then find at the last minute I got refused on NordVPN' website. Openbucks gave me this reply:

"So long as you see Openbucks, or any of Openbucks' supported gift cards, as an option on the merchant page you are trying to purchase from, then you are good to use those cards which are bought on stores from the United States. Conversely speaking, Openbucks supported gift cards gift card purchased in the United States does not restrict you to buy only from companies based in the United States. A tip also: you may find that for some websites, the option may not be instantly presented. On this case, you may have to change the currency or “country” of payment. If you would do that, then you may be able to see options for Openbucks supported gift cards. "

The trick is, according to others who have tried and failed, do NOT buy the gift card at a grocery store like Safeway where you often see a whole rack full of gift cards for all sorts of companies. Those gift cards will not work for this. You MUST buy the card at the actual store itself. So I called ahead to the Subway nearest me to make sure they had some gift cards available, went there, paid them in cash to load a Subway gift card with the exact amount that NordVPN wanted from me.

Ok, the last part of the plan is, whose computer do I use to make this online payment anonymously? I don't want to use my own computer. I can't use the computer at the public library because they require that I log in with my library card. Well, it just so happens that our city has several Senior Citizen Centers and they have computer terminals for senior citizens and, as you might know, senior citizens are well-known for not putting up with surrendering any personal information, meaning there are no login codes at their terminals. I went down to one of the centers (after calling first to ask to use one of their terminals), pulled up the NordVPN website payment portal (I rehearsed as much as I could on my home computer beforehand) and entered the number off of my Subway gift card.

Voila. I opened an account with NordVPN using a gift card from cash, all done anonymously. No name, no personal information given to anyone. No bitcoin involved. I saved the Subway gift card so I can do it again when it come times to renew with NordVPN.

#272 9 months ago
Quoted from mcluvin:

Thanks! This is good info. Looks like Openbucks is about to stop accepting Subway gift cards though. I suspect that might be a trend.

You're welcome, and thanks for the heads up on Subway. I'll use a different card when renewing. Be sure the card you select is on NordVPN's list.

#273 9 months ago
Quoted from mbwalker:

How are you implementing NordVPN? At the router level? I have Google Home, and it works great...but no official VPN support, and I don't want to use a PC to route what now seems like 30ish devices (a lot of Smart Home stuff) to the net. So I need to start looking at router that supports it, ideally a mesh network.
I did some reading up on VPN's, and Nord seems like the way to go, given no 5 Eyes, etc issues as w/some VPN's
Interesting reading about 5 Eyes (and the other 'Eye's) here: https://www.vpnmentor.com/blog/understanding-five-eyes-concept/
Don't do anything like torrents, downloading movies, stealing cable, etc...but if I'm going thru the effort of a VPN, I want it to be a secure VPN. Wife's computer got hacked once.

Yeah, the 5 Eyes and 7 Eyes thing. I really researched the various vpns and decided on NordVPN. Plus they claim to be out of Panama which has no disclosure agreement with anybody. I've implemented NordVPN at the device level. I thought about doing it at the router level but my current router does not support it and I didn't want to buy a replacement router nor did I want to piggyback routers to keep my ISP happy with their router yet also have a router VPN. The NordVPN folks helped me with installing the app on my cellphone as I am not adept when it comes to cellphone apps yet really it was easy, as it was for my desktop and laptop where downloading programs is old hat. I have only a PC, a laptop, a cellphone, and a kodi box. Some online articles made it sound like router-level vpn was so much better and cooler and that device level vpn was such a pain, but really it's not at all. In fact, I believe device level is more flexible because I can have some devices on the vpn while other devices are not, whereas with a router vpn it's all devices on the vpn at the same time or all devices off the vpn at the same time. No selectivity.

This whole vpn thing started when I had 7 MB internet and an old friend who is also a distributor for Bluebox (kodi) finally talked me into getting one which he sold to me at his cost. You can stream a world of stuff on it and it's only illegal in the USA if you download but it has no internal storage and since you will never install an SD card in its slot you will never download. Streaming is legal in the USA (last I read the UK finally made streaming kodi illegal there) and they call it a "gray area" in the USA but I sense that is because no website wants to say anything on its own except to replicate the verbiage that's already out there. Cowards. But I digress.

Bluebox only works if your internet will download at minimum 10MB so I had to upgrade and I went with 100MB knowing that the kodi, like my laptop, will wi-fi at much lower than 100MB but still come in above 10MB. I downloaded NordVPN to my kodi and it's there for my emotional security that my ISP cannot see when I am streaming to my kodi in case they send a fake and unenforceable C&D which I have read has happened to others. Ha, last week I got a free upgrade from my ISP from 100MB to 1G (actually 930 down / 930 up) and I'm not even a gamer. I just visit websites like pinside, I don't stream music or TV, just youtube. Heck, I turn on my kodi maybe once a month. I'm way over my head on internet speed. The fun was in the challenge of getting the vpn anonymously and copping high speed internet at best prices. Other than what kodi might represent, I do not live on the edge of the law and am harmless, but I do like my privacy and thus the vpn.

#275 9 months ago
Quoted from mbwalker:

How's Nord's servers speeds? Any issues w/ping times?

Nord apparently leases servers or space on servers from individual companies around the country. In my city, there are several companies. In the NordVPN software, you can select a server by city or let them choose the "fastest" one (whatever that means) and then, once connected, I lookup the IP I got to see what company it is and I do a speedtest. I recorded the test results on a spreadsheet. From this, I could mark in NordVPN my "favorite" servers which would be the consistently fastest ones. It's also based on how occupied a given server is at a given time of day that affects speed. They list them by lowest percentage of occupancy. Their little pop-up window for this shrunk after their last update and now it's kinda small for the clicking and scrolling there that one needs to do. I hope they fix that next update. You'll get the hang of it. My test results of 53 local servers when I was at 100MB service gave me a download range of 63 to 106 and upload of 42 to 50. I favorited the ones that gave me 98MB (or more) download consistently, of which there were many. I also found that not all servers allowed me to send email! So, I excluded those from my list of favorites. Occasionally, some of your favorites may inexplicably disappear from the list of choices and that may be due to expiring contracts or unknown reasons. I've seen them soon reappear in a few days so I don't know what's going on there.

Just now, I tried my NordVPN with my new 1G service and on one of my favorite servers I got a measly 150 download and 164 upload. That's a far cry from 1G but more than when I had 100Mb service.

I hope I am answering your questions to any extent.

#283 9 months ago
Quoted from VacFink:

I'm convinced...this is some shady business and knowledge. For all of the effort presumably to protect your privacy and from prying eyes from illicit activities? Isn't this a family friendly website? I imagine all of that searching to find that detail left its own trail, and like ants following a path to food, came from a lot of other users along that process deigned to support a much wider and more sinister intent, making the Subway card perhaps unintended but never-the-less ironic touch. If I had to guess it's source is as much a codeword as it is an example for others to use. If you didn't consider it at the time, maybe one should consider it now. Super creepy and out of place here IMO.
Paying to steal content is wrong enough you sought an insanely elaborate plan to protect yourself from its liabilities treading in a path worn smooth by some very dark and ill intended predecessors. Wow.
I won't go into detail about what parts of your plan did little to actually hide your activity from prying eyes because it only helps others who do the same. If your innocent and naive to this, consider that what your doing is only marginally different and to what effect?

Don't let my attention to detail in my elaborating what I explained to the other fellow confuse you to think that it's an elaborate plan, let alone insanely elaborate. I bought a software program online. People do that everyday and what I did, by your own statements, did not protect my anonymity. Someone had to figure out http protocol when it was invented, now THAT'S insanely elaborate to me. Making an online purchase by figuring out their EXISTING rules, not elaborate. And definitely not shady. My friend helped others understand the process of adopting a baby from China. Lot of detail. Shady?

I think the ethics issue lies in here: There are online a plethora of URLs placed on the WWW by people who have somehow, somewhere, made movies available for anyone to pull up any one of those URLs to stream whatever comes at ya. It may be a movie. It may be spam. It may be a movie of a different title than what the URL had you think it was going to be. It may be anything. We don't get to know who these people are or how these URLs got there but the URLs are there and you could access them. Right now. For free. Just do it. Like how one pulls up a URL on youtube then streams what is presented by that URL. You or anyone could do it today, pull one up on your browser right now, if you knew what URLs they were. It would take a bit of searching but these URLs of which I speak can be found by anyone with lots of time on their hands, I am told. These URLs are obviously there or else no one could pull them up. Some come, some go, many remain. You could, if you wanted, search for them and write them all down on a spreadsheet for future reference. You could, if you wanted, click on your spreadsheet any of the URLs that you had painstakingly researched and had placed on it such that your computer would recognize your mouse click and recognize the URL format on your spreadsheet and open a browser window and search and bring up that URL, then to your screen comes whatever comes. If it's spam or otherwise not what you expected, you cross it off of your spreadsheet.

But that would be a lot of research to gather up and maintain a constantly changing list of URLs and few people have the time for that. So, what Bluebox did, as a company, is make a search menu. That's what I bought. A search menu. They have organized the URLs that exist out there into a convenient searchable menu. By buying Bluebox, I've paid someone to do the labor of assembling a searchable spreadsheet, if you will, so that I didn't have to. This searchable list may pull up dead URLs, may pull up something that does not match what I thought I was getting, mostly this does not happen, but often does. It can be quite sloppy and frustrating actually, but there you are.

Youtube organizes URLs for your searching convenience. Bluebox, a legal company, does this as well. Is it stealing to stream what is there on the web? (Not in the USA.) Do we look the other way when something on youtube presents itself for easy viewing but a week later youtube pulls it down? Do we tell ourselves that we stole by watching what youtube later pulled down? Did we actually steal, or are we absolved because the duty falls upon youtube to police their search engine? Does it fall upon me to police the web or can I type in any URL that my keyboard allows? Can I use software to organize my typing for me? Can I make a legal purchase of this software? Yes, and that is what I did.

Does it sound unseemly? Shifting slightly, do people buy cigarettes and fireworks on the reservations and is that stealing money from the USG? Some people drive a ways to go to the reservations for these purchases. Would you consider that effort as elaborate? Do you buy imported items when you know Americans invented these same items and make them but at a higher price? Are we stealing to go around these Americans? How do we justify these things? Is our morality decided by who profits for one thing but not the other thing? Or who got to us first and brainwashed us in their favor?

These are the issues, methinks.

#285 9 months ago
Quoted from VacFink:

Yep. That guy in the mirror, that's you. I don't have to justify or hide my actions.
We're not going to agree. If other's want to wade in that swamp, they'll find your post helpful. I stand by my opinion of its appropriateness. I'm less interested in convincing you, than I am of preventing some other poor soul from walking into those fetid waters thinking its OK and without risks.
Maybe if your ever robbed, you'll use that logic to justify the new owner of your things as legit and in their right. I mean it was on this planet and they're on it too.

You dodged my entire last paragraph. Hide? My God, I've been explaining with transparency, yet you flee.

#290 9 months ago
Quoted from VacFink:

No, I ignored it. I already said we're not going to agree, why spend effort on your justification or warped concepts of right and wrong. If it begins or ends with something wrong, what's in the middle doesn't really matter. I think its ironic that you can't seem to see the line and the fireworks example is a literal crossing of the line. Its the LINE that matters. How some people don't see that is beyond me.
The point is simple. Your stealing content. You didn't pay the people who made it, you paid people who stole it and made it easy to steal. You paying the wrong people to what end? None of that is right. Your obviously ok with it, but want to pretend it doesn't have consequences. You don't want those people to have your credit card because you know that it can tie to an illegal action as defined by the law and possibly because you know those types can't be trusted with your information.

You should spend the effort because you are here talking to me, that's why. Don't act superior then run away. If you read what I wrote at the end there, you should see that I asked probing questions about these ethics and not intransigent declarative statements! Are you unwilling to approach the muddiness I mention? Most people are unwilling as it takes them out of their comfort zone. That doesn't make you bad. Nor does it make me illegal. I bought a vpn using Openbucks, all explained to me by each company. All legal! The fact that I met a personal challenge to do it anonymously somehow makes it bad in your eyes. Remember, buying a vpn is a legal act. By the way, my purchase of the kodi box was very public: I wrote a check! I think you are combining the fun I had figuring out how to buy a vpn anonymously with the fact I bought a kodi box. The anonymous purchase has nothing to do with the kodi. It was a challenge to myself to see if I could do it, for all of the folks who only insisted it had to be done via bitcoin.

Um, stealing things from my house, the example you gave, is illegal while streaming online in the USA is not. Big difference. You dislike that I ride the margins here, I get that. But I've spent too long being a sucker for businesses who lie to me about what my rights are so that they can take my money. I bet that is an immorality that you support! When they outlaw streaming in the USA like they did in the UK, of course I will stop. That's how unimportant this margin is to me. I haven't turned on my kodi box in a month.

I have OTA TV, too. Is that stealing to you because I am not paying a cable company?

#293 9 months ago
Quoted from VacFink:

Like I said, we won't agree. To you muddy includes some aspect of right. To me, its clear water or dirty.

You know, VacFink, what you wrote in Post #291 is well said and quite potent. Too bad you didn't say it to me but instead gave up on me. Somewhere in this you decided I was not worth those words.

Please know, however, that you are factually incorrect about why I bought the vpn anonymously.

#296 9 months ago

Many years ago, in my youth, I went to Shakey's Pizza and stood in line at their inside counter. The guy ahead of me ordered a pizza based on the price menu taped to the counter in front of him. When his pizza was ready, the cashier quoted him a price much higher than what was on the printed menu, even considering tax. When the man complained, he was shown a hidden price menu in view of only the cashier, which had higher prices on it. He summoned the manager who said he could do nothing about it, that the higher price prevailed. The man walked out and I walked out behind him. That same year, the Shakey's in a neighboring town pulled the same thing on me with the hidden price menu. I walked out. Within a year, I was at the DQ and I order a hamburger. The cashier pressed the pre-programmed buttons and the price came up ten cents higher than what the price showed on the huge menu board behind the cashier. When I pointed this out, the teenage cashier got annoyed with me as if I was the bad guy. I asked to see the manager but he was not there. I knew they had to have a way to reach him so they called him on their payphone and I spoke to him. This was a matter of principle and I had Shakey's in mind. He instructed them to give me my dime, which they did with enmity. I was as exasperated as they were. Another time, I went to DQ and ordered a banana split but what they gave me was a sorry excuse for one, no pineapple or strawberry chunks, just syrup. I nicely told them I want one that looks like the poster on their wall because that's what got me out of my house to drive down there. They couldn't believe my "nerve" and begrudgingly remade it. You'd think I was the only one who ever expected a well-made banana spit.

What's wrong with all of these people, I wondered. I called up the State Government, got the right department, and asked the man why is this ok, the bait and switch pricing. He explained that the world is still on the barter system in spite of appearances. If I see a price marked on the shelf in a store and bring that product to the register, the store is allowed to renegotiate right there at the register what price they want for it. They get to ask for a higher price and it is up to me to barter right then and there, or not. And that is what Shakey's and DQ had done. They were within the law to seek a higher price at Point of Sale. I was within my rights to seek a lower price or walk out if we could not come to terms. The morality that I had brought with me to each instance was a misplaced one. This is business. However, the govt man said, if a store EXTERNALLY advertises a price, like on TV or on their sign out front, and that advertised price makes you pull over and go inside the store to buy it, then they cannot legally adjust the price upwards. Only if the price advertised was in-store and not externally advertised can they barter at the register.

Equipped with this new knowledge, within the year I visited a hardware store in the same town and grabbed a ladder advertised on the shelf at $34.99. The cashier rang it up at $25.99 and spoke that lower price. Now, my misplaced morality would have had me ask her if she made a mistake. But now that I was educated in the laws of business, I knew that the price was subject to barter at the register and if the store wants to charge me less it is their legal prerogative. Bartering works in my favor as well. I agreed with their Point of Sale price and I paid it. Did it feel wrong? Why yes it did, but I was under the influence of a morality taught me by someone who did not understand the rules of business in our state. Have I adapted in the years since then, to no longer always make a morality tale out of business transactions? You bet I have. In the mean time, I am sure I look dirty and tainted to anyone who assumes that a personal interpretation of morality is appropriate everywhere. Nope, it's not, otherwise imagine how disillusioned and bitter I might be by now after running into a lifetime of business transactions if I had insisted the world conform to my pure-as-the-driven-snow worldview of younger days.

You see me as having unclean hands. I see it as certain businesses need to attend to the laws and quit playing me to a youthful ignorance I no longer have. I will not climb up on that cross and suffer so others can appear virtuous. They can get off their duff and fix it. Somewhere in this endless game that the business world plays on people, I have to also contend with spectators having the beautiful sweetness of you whose POV benefits the businesses and they know it, and so do I.

Thank you.

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