Tor, another way to get around the Great Firewall of China

Living in China is a pain in the a** since many internet sites have been blocked by the 5th greatest invention by Chinese, namely the Great Firewall of China. Having been using SSH tunnelling to establish a private channel to my own server hosted somewhere else, browsing websites becomes possible again. But this method doesn’t help those who don’t have the technical know-how to set it up or are not as fortunate as us to own a server overseas, Tor comes to rescue. On my Debian system, it requires near-zero effort to install and configure. I just apt-get (or aptitude) install tor privoxy, adds forward-socks4a / localhost:9050 . (don’t forget the dot at the end of the line) to /etc/privoxy/config, and then restart privoxy by /etc/init.d/privoxy restart. Then I set the HTTP and HTTPS proxy of my Firefox to 127.0.0.1 and port 8118, and poof! I can now go to any websites that have been filtered, such as www.mingpaonews.com, www.appledaily.com and even the Google cache!

Actually using Tor alone without Privoxy can already let you visit most of the blocked sites. But due to the “DNS hijack” done by the authority, you will get incorrect IP addresses for some sites, such as www.rthk.org.hk and www.881903.com, the two radio stations in Hong Kong. The DNS will return random IP addresses to you when you’re querying for these site’s IP. As a result, you’ll be brought to a website that’s not what you want. Privoxy resolves this problem since your web browser is now passing the hostname to Tor instead of the incorrect IP resolved by the “viral DNS”.

We will wait and see when the government start to implement technologies to prevent people from using Tor, like blocking the directory servers or filtering traffic that looks like the Tor protocol in the Great Firewall. But until then, I hope Tor can help those who are still under the fascist rule of their government but are eager to explore the outside world.

Nanjing Metro

Nanjing’s metro will be officially opened soon, and it has already been opened for “sightseeing” – you can buy an expensive ticket for a one-time trip. Look at the photos below, does it look like Hong Kong’s MTR station? But I can’t find any relationship between MTRC of Hong Kong and Nanjing’s metro company. Copycat of metro station design, maybe?
Nanjing metro station roadsign   map at Nanjing metro station