How To: Use TunnelBear

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Living in the US, I have access to pretty much any TV program that I want to get. At least, those that are aired here. There are lots of programs that air overseas and never make it to the USA (for example, The Killing Season, an ABC series talking about Kevin Rudd’s time as Prime Minister), or if the come over here, get changed around (take The Slap, a fantastic ABC series which was re-made by NBC)

Naturally, there are ways that you can get these shows from slightly less legitimate sources, but that has risks of its own like viruses and potential legal issues. If you know what you’re doing, it’s a solution to get a copy to keep for all time if you so desire. You can also use these files on other devices, but it’s not as easy as some other solutions.

Enter TunnelBear. I first heard about it during the 2012 Olympics when it’s very easy to get frustrated with the host broadcaster here in the US – NBC – when they can’t even figure out how to show the ceremonies live. I used it in order to access the BBC broadcast of the closing ceremonies, as shown here, NBC with volleyball and the BBC with the closing ceremonies –

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How does it work?

To save a whole long technical explanation, what TunnelBear does is tells a server that you’re located in another country, like I did above in the example of watching BBC One’s Olympics live while NBC is showing replays

A TunnelBear comes with initial access to up to 13 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. You’ll note that my initial example of the ABC, from Australia, is not included.

That’s because in order to access Australia, you do need to pay for your TunnelBear. It’s not very much to pay – US$5 per month, or $50 per year. By paying, you actually get unlimited data for that time period, and access to all 14 countries (which grew from just 2 back in 2012!)

So, how do you get started?

Go to the TunnelBear website, and click Download –

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On the download page, select your flavour of operating system. TunnelBear is compatible with Windows Vista through 8.1; Mac OSX Snow Leopard v. 10.6.8 and higher; iOS 7 and higher; Android 4.01 Ice Cream Sandwich and higher; and, more recently, Google Chrome via Extension.

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After downloading, you’ll go through the installer for Windows. For Mac, it’s a normal install of dragging into the Applications Folder. While installing in Windows, watch for the messages. They’re not your usual install messages 🙂

The first time you launch TunnelBear, you’ll be asked if you have an account or not.

tb3If you have an account, all you have to do is enter your username and password and go. For a New account, here is all you’re asked for –

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Your first name, email, a password and your Twitter Username. You’ll need to verify your email address to use TunnelBear.c I’ll get back to the Twitter name in a moment. First, let’s take the quick tour:

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Step 1; Select a country and turn on the TunnelBear

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Step 2: Use your browser as normal. The only difference is that you’re privately browsing from the country you chose in step 1!

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Step 3: If you wish, turn on Privacy and block trackers like Facebook Like plugins, etc. You’ll also be asked to give them a like on Facebook and a follow on Twitter. Do that if you wish to do so 🙂

This is what TunnelBear looks like when you have a basic account. Remember them asking for your Twitter username? Here’s why –

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With a basic account, you only get 500MB of data which resets each month. You can go through that quickly. Very quickly, like maybe an hour of TV programs. If you send a tweet to the TunnelBear team, you get a free 1GB of data for the month. It’s a great solution for someone who is a light user – for example, only using TunnelBear to listen to BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra – whose programmes are mostly geoblocked due to rights restrictions.

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Once you send your tweet, you will get an email confirming that they have received the tweet, and you’ll see the extra GB in your allowance.

What’s Next?

Well, now that you’ve got your bear up and running, with your 1.5GB of data after tweeting the worker bears, it’s time to get browsing. Watch the latest episode of Dragon’s Den on the BBC iPlayer. Maybe you want to El Hormiguero on Antena 3 from Spain, or The Mentalist on the French Netflix (don’t worry, it’s in English, just any text on-screen is in French).

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Really, it’s all up to you now!

There is one other feature to mention. It’s something that you get when you upgrade to a paid bear. It’s the IntelliBear.

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What the IntelliBear does is lets you set either a whitelist or a blacklist of sites – you can tunnel all sites (default), set up a list of sites which will be forced through TunnelBear (which is useful if your only purpose for TunnelBear is for one country, or for a work purpose, or set up a list to exclude from the bear.

As you can see I’ve excluded my site, Snoskred and Lumosity (a bit of a legacy from when I was having issues connecting). For the most part, the only reason I lock sites out of the bear is because if I change IPs, the site will boot me out sometimes. Otherwise, everything else goes through the bear. 🙂

Over to you…

Do you use TunnelBear or any other VPN-style service (Hola extension, VyprVPN, or DNS changes like UnblockUS)? to access content from other countries? Leave a comment to let everyone know what you’re using! 🙂