TunnelBear: Secure, Private and Open Internet

Editor’s note: The following article was not up to our standard editorial standards, and we’re very sorry about that. We’re doing everything we can to improve, and hope you continue to read our site.

Couple of months ago, a movie studio obtained a John Doe order and got a bunch of popular video sharing and torrent websites offline. I found this highly repulsive in two significant ways. First, they were retarded enough to leave YouTube from the list and got Vimeo banned instead. Raise your hands if you’ve ever watched a pirated video song or a movie on Vimeo.

And second, as a proud citizen of the largest democracy in the World, I found this a gross violation of my freedom and an extension of the Great Firewall of China. That’s not a proud title to wear around your neck. Such infringements occur time and again even in highly democratic countries.

Not knowing that there are so many ways to sidestep these stumbling blocks is a mistake from our end. One of the most efficient and trustworthy services I have discovered in the last year is TunnelBear. After the break, let us see how you can enter the open Internet by just flicking a switch!

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Bear Awesome!

I’m a paranoid porcupine and I’m always weary about using any VPN or proxy service that I stumble upon. TunnelBear was no exception. I still remember using a dedicated browser with cookies disabled while using the app and not entering any sensitive data when using the VPN session. Gradually, I discovered that the bear is harmless and is actually trusted by tens of hundreds of people.

Pricing

Pricing

The app itself is free to download and comes bundled with some free bandwidth to test the waters. Nicknamed the Little TunnelBear, you get 500MB of free bandwidth each and every month. That’s not much, but if you are a heavy user, opt for the unlimited plan at $4.99 a month. In addition, if you are open to promote the app by tweeting about it, you’ll be rewarded with free 1GB of bandwidth.

Setting the Bear Up

A Gorgeous User Interface

A Gorgeous User Interface

You’ll need a TunnelBear account to login to the app. Once logged in, getting access to the free and open Internet is as simple as flicking a switch. When I mean flicking the switch, you actually have to flick the switch from the user interface that resembles a radio!

Once the service is on, you can connect to the Internet as a user from USA or UK. In my experience, I have found that with IP’s from either of these countries, you won’t have trouble accessing any website in this whole wide universe. By design, VPN services are a bit slow and TunnelBear is no exception.

But the good news is it’s hardly noticeable. I took the occasion as an excuse to stream and watch a full 20 minute video and found that there was no lag at all. I have used similar services in the past and they offer a number of servers for each geography. So, when one server gets blocked by the ISP, they can go on with their business without any hitch using another one from the list. While there are no such options available in the app, I guess the TunnelBear algorithm automatically routes you through the safest servers with lesser number of connections.

TunnelBear at Work!

TunnelBear at Work!

All connections are encrypted end to end and depending on the plan you are subscribed to, the encryption only gets stronger. The bandwidth transfer rate and the amount of bandwidth left in your account can be monitored in real time as well.

Naturally, the argument against using a service like TunnelBear is access to unlicensed content. There is always that negligible number of people who find a shady use case for any great technology. To me, VPN services help securing your connection and to break away the clutches of anarchy. If you are someone whose purpose falls in either of this category, then TunnelBear is the obvious choice!


  • Lion King

    Typo in the heading….

  • Dave Clements

    Hang on … you’re saying you’re disgusted that you can’t watch pirate videos online, so you reviewed this? Or did I miss something? If you’re saying what I think, you’re being hugely douchebagerry….

    • Carrie

      And the use of “retarded” in the third sentence is, well, to quote from the second sentence, “highly repulsive.”

      • gabby

        Couldn’t agree more.

    • Doc

      I think he was actually expanding on the “they took Vimeo down, but not Youtube?” part. YouTube has 1000x the “pirated content”, but, since it’s owned by Google, the hypocrisy in not taking it down over something else was disgusting.

      “Raise you hand…” was referring to Vimeo having a lack of pirated content, not the opposite.

      • http://stravarius.com Justin Stravarius

        Actually, I was referring to the lack of knowledge on the company’s side by blocking a site that has for years been condemned by their peers for fostering the growth by turning a blind eye on pirated content.

        Thanks @Doc for understanding that I asked people to raise their hands if they have ever come across pirated content on Vimeo. That definitely was not a call for cast a stone if you are not guilty. I was merely making fun of the ignorance in banning a site that has hardly had any complaints about video piracy.

        While I don’t mind harsh comments when being wrong, this accusation of me promoting or carrying a flag for pirating content is unfounded. Please read the article once again and I’m sure you’ll come to know my true intentions. Hope you understand.

        I’ll address @Carrie’s comment on the use of the “retarded” word in a comment down below.

  • concerned

    I can’t believe that you got paid to write this article. In addition to the ridiculousness of using a VPN only to pirate copyrighted material, you had the gall to use the word “retarded”. What terrible journalism. Shame on you, and shame on Mac.Appstorm. You should be fired.

  • Hawk

    Typo in heading, broken link, as usual AppStorm…

  • GV

    So the writer is upset that his options for downloading pirated files has been limited by recent government enforcement of copyright laws. And he considers this an infringement of his constitutional right to steal.

    Yeah, right…

    As if this dubious premise for an article isn’t enough, I would peg the quality of the writing at around 8th grade level. Anyone who uses the grade school playground put-down “retarded” in a sentence relinquishes any credibility they might have had. And I assume that the writer meant to use “leery” rather than “weary” when describing how he feels about checking out yet another VPN service…

    If AppStorm wants to be taken seriously, it should hire a competent editor who can come up with topics that will be taken seriously and who has the expertise to edit submissions before publishing them for all the world to see.

    • Carrie

      My previous comment about the “retarded” statement is still awaiting moderation, but I completely agree with all of GV’s statements.

    • Hawk

      I agree with you. I only look at the screenshots and skip through the paragraphs whenever I come here anymore.

      • Ansatz

        I feel the same way. I usually read through the first few sentences of an article just to get a general feel for the content, look at the pretty pictures and then I’m off.

        • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

          Oh my. I’m very sorry about that. Here’s my pledge as editor to step up the game. This shouldn’t be how our articles make you feel about AppStorm, and I’m personally sorry we’ve let you down.

  • dev

    Moreover, unless the author lives in India (pop. 1.2 billion), I’m pretty sure he means the world’s second-largest democracy.

    • GV

      Stravarius lives in Chennai (also known as Madras) which is located on the southeastern coast of India.

  • Alexander

    nice

  • Jason

    Thanks for bringing this app to my attention! I’ve been looking for something like this for a long time. I live in Canada and I’ve always wanted to watch shows on Hulu and on BBC but never could. I would always get a black screen with a message like “This content is only available within The United States / United Kingdom” or something similar. Now I can watch what I want when I want! We don’t have anything similar to a lot of the sites you have in The States / England. I’m so happy I stumbled across this review! :) The app works great and it’s so easy to use I would really recommend getting it. I bought the $4.99/month unlimited plan though because the free option just doesn’t give enough data. 500mb gets gobbled up fast.

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      Actually, there’s a much better way to do it than with this app. Just use Tunlr. It’s free and works with everything. http://tunlr.net/ There’s no reason to pay $4.99 per month, or anything for that matter.

      • Jason

        See that tunlr has 13 steps to set it up and I suspect it doesn’t end there. I just like the tunnlebear because it’s one step. flick it on to use it, flick it off when you’re done. Thanks though. I’ll keep it in mind if I get tired of paying the $4.99.

      • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

        There’s actually a switcher app that takes one click.

      • GV

        Tunlr is not a VPN service. Here is some info from the Tunlr FAQ (http://tunlr.net/faq/):

        “How does it work?

        Tunlr does not provide a virtual private network (VPN). Tunlr is a DNS (domain name system) unblocking service. We’re using sophisticated technologies (a.k.a. the Tunlr Secret Sauce ©) to re-adress certain data envelopes, tricking the receiver into thinking the envelope originated from within the U.S. For these data envelopes, Tunlr is transparently creating a network tunnel from your location to our U.S.-based servers. Any data that’s not directly related to the video or music content providers which Tunlr supports is not only left untouched, it’s also not even routed through Tunlr. In order to use Tunlr, you will have to change the DNS address. See Get started for more information.

        Where’s the catch?

        So you’ve read all the fantastic stuff about Tunlr being free, allowing you to stream in the best quality available, easy to setup blah blah blah. This simply sounds too good to be true. Where’s the catch?
        We’re not aiming to provide a professional 24/7 service. Tunlr is up when it’s up, and is down when it’s down. We only have limited support for non-PC players. Support is limited to the on-site forum where your questions may or may not get answered.

        Some content providers (i.e. Netflix, HuluPlus) require a paid subscription in order to use them. Tunlr does not enable free access to paid content.”

        Tunlr does not work with everything. It works with certain U.S. based video and audio and four non-U.S. streaming services. (Netflix support is being dropped because of the severe strain placed on the Tunlr servers.)

        Tunlr requires users to switch between Tunlr’s DNS addresses and their normal DNS addresses. If you attempt to use Tunlr DNS addresses all the time, Tunlr’s artificial delaying of responses to DNS queries will cause a dramatic decrease in surfing speed. (Streamed content is not affected.)

        Tunlr is basically a one-trick pony. It doesn’t provide the same features to every kind of device. Alternatives such as Witopia’s personalVPN service are compatible with a variety of devices and operating systems.

        VPN services provide a number of advantages to Internet users. And in some cases a VPN service can actually be faster than an ISP. For example, I have tested the download/upload speeds of Witopia vs. Charter Communications. It isn’t unusual for Witopia to be faster than Charter. Sometimes it is quite a bit faster, particularly uploading speed. At times it can also be slower, but I have never experienced a dramatic reduction in speed. The difference is imperceptible during normal use.

      • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

        I didn’t say it was a VPN. I know how it works.

      • GV

        Jacob, you say that you know how Tunlr works. But you claimed that it works “with everything.” And yet Tunlr doesn’t work with every website and it is dropping its support for one of the most popular streaming websites. Support posts on the Tunlr website indicate that it can be unreliable when used with certain streaming services.

        I suppose that Tunly is OK for what it does for free but it is not a replacement for a VPN service with reliable servers that offers other security features.

  • http://stravarius.com Justin Stravarius

    First things first. I apologize without any reservations for using the word “retarded” in the article. It wasn’t meant to be a slur or slight of any kind. I just wanted to use a harsher word to either “dumb” or “idiotic” and nothing else. Still, I’m so sorry if I have hurt any of you with that word. Again, it wasn’t intentional.

    I’ve been writing for AppStorm for well over two years now and I have never used harsh or insensitive words. The nature of John Doe order is meant to choke the freedom of speech without due cause. How is it even possible for someone to ask for a ban on grounds that pirated content might be uploaded sometime in the future?

    Is it alright to arrest the kids of a gangster just to be safe that they don’t grow up to be one in the future? We aren’t living in the “Minority Report” world and these John Doe orders are the first steps in that direction.

    Besides, if you are someone planning to rule with an iron fist, shouldn’t you be well informed and resourceful? The banned list had the following names – The Pirate Bay, Kick***torrents, Vimeo, Torrentz etc. Now, how does Vimeo fit in this picture? What’s going to stop people from asking to ban Twitter in the guise of protecting copyright next time around?

    We have relinquished a lot of our freedoms thanks to our jobs and careers. I don’t see myself rallying in front of a Government building to protest anytime soon. That’s not going to be possible for millions of others as well. But, that shouldn’t stop any of us to leverage the Internet to kick up a storm when something is horribly wrong. Internet is the last frontier for freedom of speech and senseless legal requests like this are only trying to shut us up in the virtual world too.

    I just wanted to condemn this outrage as much as possible. Still, that didn’t justify the usage of the R word and I should have looked harder for a better word. Personally, I am a bit saddened that there weren’t enough voices to actually denounce these acts of blatant violation of freedom of speech, instead of just focusing on typos.

    I have addressed the claims that I’m promoting and justifying the use of pirated content online in response to an earlier comment. Here goes:

    “Actually, I was referring to the lack of knowledge on the company’s side by blocking a site that has for years been condemned by their peers for fostering the growth by turning a blind eye on pirated content.

    Thanks @Doc for understanding that I asked people to raise their hands if they have ever come across pirated content on Vimeo. That definitely was not a call for “cast a stone if you are not guilty”. I was merely making fun of the ignorance in banning a site that has hardly had any complaints about video piracy.

    While I don’t mind harsh comments when being wrong, this accusation of me promoting or carrying a flag for pirating content is unfounded. Please read the article once again and I’m sure you’ll come to know my true intentions. Hope you understand.”

    I hope I have cleared many of your concerns. I will stick around if you need any further clarifications. Thanks for your time. Have a fun weekend!

    • GV

      Justin, I have read your article several times and I would still be unclear about your true intentions if I had not read your responses to the negative comments from some MacAppStorm readers.

      In fact, I carefully parsed your article a final time after reading the above response, assuming that I must have missed something, some nuance of meaning that would have allowed me to correctly understand where you are coming from if I had only read the article more carefully the first time around.

      Unfortunately, while I am inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt, my rereading of your article did not lead me to come to different conclusions. Yes, I can fill in some of the blanks now that I know more about what you meant to write. But your lede is confusing and it is not at all clear to me that you were trying to be ironic.

      Just to be clear, I never assumed that you are attempting to justify and promote pirating online content; I merely thought that you were complaining about being personally inconvenienced by recent government measures to restrict access to file sharing websites. The tone set by the three paragraphs that begin your article give the impression that you are recommending TunnelBear and similar services as a way around such “stumbling blocks.”

      If you want to write an article about the importance of maintaining an open Internet, I’m all for it; you are preaching to the choir here. I do not always agree with how the U.S. government handles these matters and I detest the political influence wielded by large corporations with a vested interest in limiting public access for financial gain.

      But the confusing way in which you conflated the open Internet theme with a review of TunnelBear, combined with your unfortunate choice of words, is why you garnered so many negative responses. I did not notice that the article is tagged as opinion because it reads like an app review.

      I wasn’t offended so much by your use of the word “retarded” as I was disappointed, since it is a term that I generally associate with disparaging remarks used by immature people arguing on Internet forums. But you should have realized that using “retarded” as a pejorative term does offend some people, since it was used for many years to describe individuals who suffer from a variety of intellectual disabilities. “Retarded” definitely has a negative connotation for many people or it would not be widely used by people to humiliate others. It is a cheap-shot and it has no place in polite discourse.

      If I understand correctly, you are allowed to post articles on MacAppStorm with minimal oversight because you have a long and positive track record with the website. In this case it would have been better if an editor had taken a look first, because I suspect that Matthew would have asked for some changes to your text. (At the very least I assume that he would have caught the typos and misused words.)

      I have been an editor and a writer for over thirty years and I still appreciate the value of good editing of my own work. Even with all the digital tools at our disposal such as spelling, punctuation and grammar-checking, as well as the less well-known plagiarism scanning websites and apps, a second pair of eyes is always a good idea.

      I’m not perfect and software solutions have their own idiosyncrasies; for example, software isn’t reliable for recognizing and improving unclear syntax. Editors aren’t perfect either but they add another layer to the vetting process. If something does slip by the writer, software and editor then that is what prominently posted corrections are for.

      As far as I am concerned, I see this incident as being an opportunity for you to sharpen your writing skills and a wake-up call to MacAppStorm that a little more oversight of its writers would be a good thing. I believe that you had good intentions and Matthew has made it very clear that he will make some adjustments that will make it less likely that this sort of thing will happen in the future. That’s good enough for me.

      • Jimmy

        “But you should have realized that using “retarded” as a pejorative term does offend some people, since it was used for many years to describe individuals who suffer from a variety of intellectual disabilities.”

        *sigh*.

        Political correctness is killing society. I don’t care if “some people” are offended, and Justin shouldn’t be either. If people can’t handle other people saying what they feel, or “disparaging remarks used by immature people”, then get the @#$%^ off the internet. I’m sick and tired of people being offended by colloquialisms.

        You all know it’s freedom OF speech, not freedom FROM speech, right?

        Deal with it.

        • Jason

          +1.

          Nowadays, there is always somebody “offended” by something. What whiny bleeding-heart delicate flowers. Pull the sand out of your %*&( and shut the $*()$ up.

  • Wolfienuke

    As a free alternative, go to http://www.macheist.com/ and signup (if you haven’t already) and play nanoMission 1. You will be rewarded with a free app called NetShade, a proxy service that allows you to choose between any free, private, or even a user selected proxy server from around the world. There are no bandwidth limitations, and I can now view BBC programs from the US without going through torrents or usenet. It is a great piece of software for free, which no one can complain about! You might as well complete the other missions to have some fun playing puzzle games and get more free software!

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