Please help answer my computer question
September 28, 2008 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I am living in a pretty shitty dorm without any wireless connection. They are also especially fearful of any downloading going on. Since I have to rely on their ethernet ports and they have all the pertinent information about my MAC address and my i.p. address is there a way for me to "anonymize" myself on their system if I should choose to partake in downloading a file (not an illegal one, of course) from bittorrent or even limewire. In particular I am looking for some opera records should be in the public domain and are probably located on bittorrent or bearshare.
posted by leybman to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could look into Tor.
posted by tepidmonkey at 5:25 PM on September 28, 2008

posted by limon at 5:30 PM on September 28, 2008

I could be wrong, I'm not an expert, but not sure Tor is the answer here.

As I understand it, Tor is a proxy server. So you go out to a Tor server, and it makes the request to the site you want to visit, thus anonymizing you to the site you are visiting. So, a record label watching a certain torrent wouldn't know it was you downloading it.

But in this case, you're on the school's network, I assume they can see a bunch of traffic from a torrent coming IN and landing on your computer. Again, I'm no expert, someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Honestly, your school sounds incredibly draconian. Is there a nearby non-school library or coffee shop where you can use free wireless?
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:42 PM on September 28, 2008

limon; it may not be practical in these scenarios to change the MAC address, since it's often the case that you need to register that MAC with the IT department to be given access.

The best you could do would be do set your MAC to spoof someone else in the same building, which leads to a whole host of other problems.
posted by odinsdream at 5:45 PM on September 28, 2008

No, you can't get around it. Even if you change your mac address, the admins will be able to see it immediately (and if your school is anything more than a weenie community college, there will be people there at least 9-5 if not 24/7). Get a 3g cell phone, or move off campus.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 5:49 PM on September 28, 2008

If you're looking for public domain opera, you might just want to try your university library. My school's library wasn't super fancy or anything, but they had an amazing CD/record collection of opera, classical, blues and jazz.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:50 PM on September 28, 2008

I'm no expert with usenet, but sounds like it could be useful here.
posted by acro at 6:19 PM on September 28, 2008

ssh tunnel - you'll need a shell account somewhere.

A link with more details:
posted by Bokononist at 6:28 PM on September 28, 2008

If what they're objecting to is specifically bittorrent traffic, you could run the BT client on a remote computer (one back a home, maybe, or something like a nice cheap slicehost virtual server at $20 / mo) and once the file is downloaded to the remote system just pull it down through a normal FTP or HTTP file transfer.
posted by XMLicious at 6:31 PM on September 28, 2008

Dont use tor for bulk downloads. Not only will it be very, verl slow you will be wasting a valuable resource.

Google for web proxies or bittorrent proxies.

FWIW, competent administrators can detect all of this, short of a VPN/ssh to a remote system.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:09 PM on September 28, 2008

Also, I worked in a university IT department. No one cared about your downloads, but when you start downloading copyrighted items then we get a letter from the RIAA or MPAA. Then it was our problem and we would shut off your ethernet port. So, unless this is music or movies I woudlnt worry about it.

Public domain operas? Just download them.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:12 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

OK, let's take a look at this from the perspective of the administration - the internet is a big scary place and the school either doesn't want to open itself up to liability for allowing illegal downloads over their network or they're taking money/endowments from an organization that stipulated that they need to certify that they're doing their best to prevent illegal downloads.

So take a practical solution to your problem rather than one that is likely to be construed as illegal. Nearly every school worth it's salt has a library that within it has people whose job it is to help students find obscure pieces of information and any decent library is also connected to other, quite possibly, better libraries. Talk to a librarian. Order the records and study them when they arrive. Ta-da.
posted by plinth at 7:18 PM on September 28, 2008

I'm still a big uni network admin/bad guy. Configure your bittorrent client. Use non-default port ranges for everything in and out. Throttle your up and down rates to say DSL speed. Restrict the number of incoming and outgoing connections to 5 and 20 or so. Turn on encryption. Stick to something RIAA or MPAA wouldn't care about.

I know scores of big uni networking people. Nobody has the manpower to track down and handle such things, we're all too busy fixing things and having to deal with those **AA notices. (I wrote our uni's software to do such). Notices and bandwidth hogs that degrade your dorms network performance enough so that others complain... that's attention grabbing. We used to have a ban on any inbound connections to the dorms, but games and skype and the like sorta made that moot.

Remember, you pay our salaries so the school wants to keep you there and take your money. And actually we want you to use bandwith so we can go "see, we're oversubcribed and need more funds to upgrade our network". Unless your uni is so lacking in funds that it would never happen.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:34 PM on September 28, 2008

I too work in university IT. I don't work in networking but I am pretty familiar with how we do it. We deny inbound connections to dorm addresses. We require students register their computers before connecting to the outside world. That's actually more about virus/exploit checking than anything else. But, more to the point, we throttle P2P down to a small fraction of overall bandwidth.

Look, if you're truly interested in opera recordings, go to the school library. If they don't have what you want in their collection, chances are real good they can get it for you via Interlibrary Loan. I used to work in a college library doing ILL and got my hands on all sorts of great/obscure stuff through ILL.

ILL offices use Worldcat to find available materials. You might want to search ahead of time and print out those items you're interested in.
posted by jdfan at 8:10 AM on September 29, 2008

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