There are a few US-centric websites that I want to use while traveling, which work suboptimally from outside the US.
Obvious examples are Netflix (watch instantly) and Rhapsody, which probably have license agreements restricting their use to inside the US. If you try to browse these sites from a non-US IP address, they’ll just tell you to go away.
A less obvious example is PayPal; they work from outside the US but tend to paranoia about dirty foreign hackers stealing access to your account. At least, when I logged into my own account from Turkey, I found it locked into “limited” mode, and after I jumped through the hoops to prove I was the real owner and get the limitations removed, then went to Argentina, I immediately found the account limited again the first time I logged in. All in all, it seems easiest to let PayPal think I’m always in the US.
I understand why these sites have these behaviors based on location, but it’s not what I want for me — I’m paying the same fees for the use of these sites regardless of where I am; it seems silly to enforce artificial geographic boundaries on the Internet.
So, I run an http proxy (tinyproxy) on a computer I control in the US, and when I’m out of the US, I proxy use of these sites through that computer.
In practice there are a couple steps to this:
1) install tinyproxy somewhere
2) lock it down so only you can use it; you don’t want random people using it (you might be paying for bandwidth, it might slow down your connection, and if Netflix/Rhapsody/PayPal see too much traffic from it they might figure out what you’re up to and block it). You could try to lock it down by IP but if you’re traveling your IP address will change all the time; you could try to set up authentication but I haven’t bothered to look what authentication mechanisms are available to both tinyproxy and the browsers I care about and whether they’re secure. Instead, I already have an all-purpose authentication mechanism I like, openssh — so I set up an ssh tunnel with a local port forwarded to the proxy port, and I just set tinyproxy to accept connections only from localhost.
3) set your browser to use the proxy. Since proxied browsing relies on me starting the ssh tunnel, might be slightly slower, and in some cases I do want sites to be able to correctly geolocate me, I don’t want this to be the default. I could turn the proxy on and off depending on what I’m browsing, but that’s a pain. Instead, since I have multiple browsers installed, I just leave one set without a proxy for normal use, and another one configured with the proxy for the sites that need it. (I wonder if there are extensions for Chrome or Firefox that allow you to configure per-site proxies?)