Saturday, July 11, 2009

Inconvenience and absurdity

As almost everyone in China knows (at least everyone who would care, anyway), Blogger, YouTube and, most recently for the second time, Twitter, have been blocked in this country in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of the PRC's founding (National Day is October 1, coinciding with China's longest national holiday, also called Golden Week). Related reasons for censorship include Xinjiang riots, unfounded paranoia, et al., but we won't get into that here.

There are several ways around the Great Firewall of China, of course, as most people also know. The simplest is a proxy server, a list of which can be found here. (A compendious history of my proxy usage: I arrived in China last year just after Anonymouse was blocked, so I started using Youhide but soon switched to Outlaw Proxy, which was great until it too went out of commission. This past year I've used YouTube Proxy and Proxy Box Online, both of which recently got shut down, and now MySpace Window and Proxy Own are the two on my bookmark bar.)

A better, less utilized option, however, is the VPN, or virtual proxy network, which acts like a security blanket for your entire computer instead of just one website. If you search online, you can find a couple that are downloadable and totally free to use, as long as you don't mind popup ads. And if I may say, for the chance to surf any website from any window, any browser, to watch any YouTube video or access all the decadence of the World Wide Web, I am more than willing to put up with the occasional commercial brought to me by Blinkx.

There's only one problem in all this, as far as I can tell: video uploads. Anyone who's tried to upload large files onto YouTube knows how frustrating it can be to see your Internet connection get interrupted and your upload go kaput. Now imagine this: not only do you have to worry about faulty Internet connections (and I have a very faulty one here) but also potentially faulty VPN connections. Not only are uploads slow, they're totally unreliable. Entire days can be wasted or ruined due to, say, an ill-timed screen-saver.

For me, this has led to lots of balked video uploads in the past week, so many, in fact, that I threw my mouse against the wall last night in apoplectic anger. Lucky for me, the video that stalled while I was away was successfully uploaded, and it's the video from earlier today. But just now I had a five-hour upload stall in its last five minutes because my VPN gave out. Seriously, five minutes, after five hours. You have no idea how aggravating this can be, though I've begun to learn how to deal with it. Click RETRY, minimize browser. Sigh.

Here's an image documenting something even more ridiculous. I don't know if you see it, but click on the pic for a close-up...

...0:03 is what's showing on the progress bar. THREE SECONDS. And in this case, I received no error message telling me my upload failed. I had to assume as much, because the bar would no longer move. And so, reluctantly, I clicked CANCEL and, dutifully like a neutered dog, RETRY. I may have said something like, FUCK THIS GODDAMN SHIT, but I'll never remember.

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