2011 10 20
Almerimar Artificial Urbanity, 20 km outside Almeria, Spain
Serendipity: The ability to make accidental and beneficial discoveries while searching for something unrelated.
For the first time since leaving North America we are enjoying respectable internet service, courtesy of Sonimar Telecom, a local ISP.
Naturally as soon as you have internet you have issues that need working around. This time I found a few North American websites would not let me log on because I was in Europe. Sites like (and I will not identify the sites I was visiting) Hulu only provide service to US Americans. Europeans and Canadians are not permitted to use the service.
When you log onto the WWW you are assigned a unique address called an IP address. This address contains enough information that people who know how can trace you back to the country, city, street and building you are sitting in. By now they can probably figure out what table at Starbucks you are sitting while you sip latte and catch up your emails.
It is possible to mislead these WWW snoopers using a service called a VPN. If you do not already know what that stands for you don't worry, you don't need to know. (VIrtual Private Network)
Using a VPN service provider you trick people into thinking you are in a different place than you really are. When you access the WWW through a VPN service the VPN makes the other users on the WWW think you are in the country where the VPN service provider is. This is way cool.
Here is how it made me money:
The BC and I want to rent a car to tour Spain from our post in Almerimar. The best deal we could find on the internet was a two week rental for €320 plus insurance and VAT plus €3 a day if we wanted a second driver plus all sorts of other financial ugliness. Speaking of ugly you should have seen the car that was on offer.
This was a bit pricey and we were disappointed.
However it turns out that the price was only that high because the car rental company thought we were in Spain. Friends on Waterhobo, another Toronto boat, had friends who got a much better price with the same company when they booked their car in Canada.
Enter the VPN. I was already using a VPN to make the WWW think I was in Canada so I could access certain sites backhome. I logged onto the WWW through my VPN service provider and arranged an address that made everyone on the WWW think I was physically in the USA, land of competition. Oh My God.
When it was bidding for my business believing me to be in the USA the same car rental that wanted to rent me the tiny ugly but super car for €350 plus plus plus now would rent me a car for $150 (note dollars not euros) with all insurance included and second driver free. This was a 60 per cent discount.
Now that my friends was serendipitous.
VPN: give it a good hard look. It is an easy service to use. Try out a few service providers before you commit. I am using OpenVPN and recommend it. I am not receiving payment from OpenVPN it just works for me.
If I were Spanish I might be less than sanguine about the fact my local car rental company charges me double what it charges an American.
And I am not even American, the WWW just thinks I am.
ps Using a VPN gives you a host of other special benefits - like greatly enhanced privacy.