Category: Anonymous proxy server software
Seller: Rayner Software
System requiments: OS X 10.5, internet connection
Price: $29 for one year of access
A proxy server is a remote computer, usually in another country, that you access remotely to make it look like your computer is also in that location. Finding, accessing, and setting up your computer to use a proxy can be a royal pain, but Netshade, a program for OS X, makes it as simple as a double-click.
To use Netshade, you just open the program, and provided you’ve purchased a 12 month subscription to its private servers, it automatically connects you to one of its proxies in the US, UK, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, or France. Using a simple drop-down menu, you can select a particular country, or a particular server in the country (they have several in the US and the UK). You also have the option of connecting to public proxies for free (if you want to try the software out), or adding your own proxies to the list.
The Netshade window shows you how strong the anonymity of the server is (based on what identification your computer is required to send to the server), how fast the connection is (which you can also test by sending a ping round-trip) and check the IP address to make sure that the internet thinks you’re coming from the remote location. It’s that astonishingly simple.
So why would you use this software? Well, accessing location-restricted web content is the most obvious answer: if you’re an English citizen who wants to check out the latest episode of Doctor Who while you’re in America, simply set your location to the UK and the iPlayer software works flawlessly. Hey, come to think of it, I suppose Americans could do that, too.
A one-year subscription to the Netshade servers costs $29, and in the months I’ve been using the software I’ve never had a problem connecting to any of them (though the software will occasionally switch me to another server without notifying me). The free public proxies, however, were notoriously unreliable, presumably because they get overwhelmed or shut down. Rayner Software, the makers of Netshade, offers unlimited access to their servers once you’ve bought a subscription, so you don’t have to worry about running out of bandwidth.
One drawback is that the proxy service only routes your web-based traffic (that is, HTTP and HTTPS) through their servers, so email and messaging programs that you use outside of the browser won’t use the proxy address. Netshade offers a VPN service for an additional fee, which will tunnel all your Internet access through a more secure service, but that is beyond the scope of this review.
Netshade makes a geeky process very simple. You open the app, and it works. Once you’ve bought the license, you’ll have year-long access to reliable proxy access.