AmpliFi Announces Teleport, a Zero-Config VPN For Travelers

Subject: Networking | November 7, 2017 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: wi-fi, vpn, ubiquiti, networking, mesh, Amplifi HD, amplifi

Earlier this year we took a look at the AmpliFi HD Home Wi-Fi System as part of our review of mesh wireless network devices. AmpliFi is the consumer-targeted brand of enterprise-focused Ubiquiti Networks, and while we preferred the eero Mesh Wi-Fi System in our initial look, the AmpliFi HD still offered great performance and some unique features. Today, AmpliFi is introducing a new member of its networking family called AmpliFi Teleport, a "plug-and-play" device that provides a secure connection to users' home networks from anywhere.

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Essentially a zero-configuration hardware-based VPN, the Teleport is linked with a user's AmpliFi account, which automatically creates a secure connection to the user's AmpliFi HD Wi-Fi System at home. Users take the small (75.85mm x 43mm x 39mm) Teleport device with them on the road, plug it in and connect it to the public Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and then connect their personal devices to the Teleport.

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This provides a secure connection for private Internet traffic, but also allows access to local resources on the home network, including NAS devices, file shares, and home automation products. AmpliFi also touts that this would allow users to view their local streaming content even in locations where it would otherwise be unavailable -- e.g., watching U.S. Netflix shows while overseas, or streaming your favorite sports team while in a city where the game is blacked out.

In addition to traveling, AmpliFi notes that those with multiple homes or a vacation cottage could also benefit from Teleport, as it would allow you to share the same network resources and media streaming access regardless of location. In any case, a device like Teleport is still reliant on the speed and quality of your home and remote Internet connections, so there may be cases where network speeds are so low that it makes the device useless. That, of course, is a factor that would plague any network-dependent service or device, so while it's not a mark against the Teleport, it's something to keep in mind.

Teleport's features, while incredibly useful, are of course familiar to those experienced with VPNs and other secure remote connection methods. In terms of overall functionality, the AmpliFi Teleport isn't offering anything new here. The benefit, therefore, is its simple setup and configuration. Users don't need to setup and run a VPN on their home hardware, subscribe to a third party VPN service, or know anything about encryption protocols, firewall configuration, or network tunneling. They simply need to plug the Teleport into power, follow the connection guide, and that's it -- they're up and running with a secure connection to their home network.

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You'll pay for this convenience, however, as the Teleport isn't cheap. It's launching today on Kickstarter with "early bird" pricing of $199, which will get you the Teleport device and the required AmpliFi HD router. A second round of early purchasers will see that price increase to $229, while final pricing is $269. Again, that's just for the Teleport and the router. A kit including two AmpliFi mesh access points is $399. There's no word on standalone pricing for the Teleport device only for those who already have an AmpliFi mesh network at home.

Regardless of the package, once you have the hardware there's no extra cost or subscription fee to use the Teleport, so frequent travelers might find the system worth it when compared to some other subscription-based VPN services.

The AmpliFi Teleport is expected to ship to early purchasers in December. We don't have the hardware in hand yet for performance testing, but AmpliFi has promised to loan us review samples as the product gets closer to shipping. Check out the Teleport Kickstarter page and AmpliFi's website for more information.

Source: Kickstarter

Opera Adds Built In VPN and Ad Blocking To Web Browser

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | October 28, 2016 - 12:46 AM |
Tagged: editorial, web browser, vpn, Privacy, Opera, Blink

It has been some time since I last looked at Opera, and while I used to be a big fan of the alternative web browser my interest waned around the time that they abandoned their own engine to become (what I felt) yet another Chrome (Webkit) clone. Specifically, it looks like the last version I tested out was 12.10. Well, last month Opera released version 40 with just enough of a twist to pique my interest once again: the inclusion of a free built-in VPN.

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I (finally) got around to testing out the new browser today, and it works fairly well. While setting the default to share usage data is not ideal, offering to enable the ad blocker after installation is a good touch. The VPN feature is a bit more tucked away than I would like but still accessible enough from the settings menu. Further, once it is enabled, it is easy to turn it off and on using the icon in the search/address bar.

According to Opera, the built-in VPN (virtual private network) comes courtesy of SurfEasy – a company that Opera acquired last year. SurfEasy uses OpenVPN and 256-bit encryption and also lauds itself on being a no-log VPN (they do not maintain logs tracking users' usage). Opera is not currently imposing any restrictions on the free VPN built into Opera with bandwith and data usage not being capped. Not bad for a free offering! For comparison, I've used the free version of ProXPN on occasion (public Wi-Fi mostly), and while the VPN is for the entire PC (not just the browser like in Opera's case) they heavily throttle the download speeds to entice you to pay (heh).

In a quick test, I got the following results:

  Ping (ms) Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps)
No VPN 13 90.26 12.14
Opera VPN 108 89.72 12.06
ProXPN Basic 38 1.74 11.19

Considering the exit point was much further away (SpeedTest chose a Kansas test server, and it looks like the VPN server may have been in Houston, TX), the performance was not bad. Download and Upload speeds were only slightly slower, but (as expected) the ping was much higher.

Opera offers five locations for its free VPN: Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, and the United States.

Users can enable the VPN by browsing to opera://settings and clicking on Privacy & Security in the left hand list then checking the box next to "Enable VPN."

On another note, the included ad blocker seemed to work well (it apparently has already blocked 86 ads even though I only hit up a couple sites!). My only complaint here is that it does not make it as easy as AdBlock Plus to block/unblock specific elements (or if there is a way it's not intuitive). It is only a minor complaint though, and not really relevant for the majority of users.

I am by no means a browser benchmarker, but it feels fast enough when switching between tabs and loading websites. Fortunately, Michael Muchmore and Max Eddy put Opera through its paces and compiled the benchmark results from several synthetic tests if you are into the nitty-gritty numbers. From their data it appears that Opera is not the fastest, but by no means a slouch. The one test it fell hard on was the Unity WebGL benchmark, though it was not the only browser to do so (Opera, Chrome, and Vivaldi were all close with FireFox and Edge getting the top scores).

Other features of Opera 40 (41 in my case) include a personalized newsfeed that can be fed with any user-supplied RSS feeds, a new battery saver mode, hardware accelerated pop-out videos, Chromecast support, and a number of under the hood performance and memory optimizations (especially with more than 10 tabs open).

I am going to keep it installed and may switch back to using Opera as my daily browser. It looks like it has come a long way since Opera 12 and while it is similar to Chrome under the hood, Opera is doing enough to set itself apart that it may be worth looking into further.

What are your thoughts on Opera 41? 

Source: Opera

Hold the phones there Hola, you are making a profit off of my bandwidth?

Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2015 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: security, vpn, hola, fud

If you are using the free VPN service from Hola you really need to find a different solution.  Not only has it been plagued with security vulnerabilities, some of which they have addressed and some of which even they admit still exist, you will also unwittingly be providing exit nodes and bandwidth for anonymous surfers.  To add insult to injury, those users pay $20/GB to Hola for use of your bandwidth and you will never see a penny of that.  Hola's ILuminati service allows you to surf the net anonymously by directing their traffic over anyone using the free VPN, or as they refer to it an unblocking service, so not only is your bandwidth being used, you have no idea what traffic is actually exiting through your VPN. 

That is pretty much the exact opposite of a private network and depending on what is being done and how well the traffic is monitored you could well find yourself embroiled in an investigation you had no idea you were opening yourself up to.  Check out  more on this story at The Register.

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"Embattled "free" VPN provider Hola is facing criticism over its practice of turning its users into exit nodes in a paid-for anonymisation service which can easily be used for nefarious activities. Hola's software is also claimed to include "unpatchable" vulnerabilities allowing takeover of user machines."

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Source: The Register