How to access Youtube in Pakistan

Ever since Youtube was blocked in Pakistan a couple years ago, it’s become commonplace to hear people ask each other what they use to bypass the ban. The most common option seems to be to install proprietary commercial VPN software, like HotSpot Shield or Spotflux. The problem with these is that they either make you pay for it, or you have to deal with annoying ads – or worse, they install malicous junk on your computer. In addition, when you use the VPN, it slows down your Internet connection – not just while watching Youtube, but for all Internet use – because it routs all your communication through the proxy server.

In my opinion a better option is to use Tor, a Free and open source circumvention tool that you neither have to pay for, nor does it bother with annoying ads.

The easiest way to use Tor is to just download and run the Tor Browser Bundle. This will give you a new Tor-secured browser that you can use to start watching Youtube videos out-of-the box without doing anything else. In this setup, the browser also gives you a very high level of anonymity and privacy while browsing. (Read more about how Tor works here).

This is great, but the problem is that download speeds will be slightly slower in the Tor Browser. And it is annoying to have to switch back and forth between the Tor Browser when you want to watch Youtube videos, and your regular browser for all of your other browsing.

There is a solution. You can access the Tor network from within your regular Firefox browser and set it up such that your browser will only to use Tor when accessing Youtube, but not for other browsing. This way it won’t slow down your entire Internet connection while browsing.

Several people have asked how to set this up in Windows, so below are step-by-step instructions. It works best with the Firefox browser (you can do it in Chrome also, but it won’t be as seamless):

[Note: Using this method is not recommended if you want to use Tor for its privacy and anonymity features, as there may be leaks. For private and anonymous browsing, use the regular Tor Browser Bundle.]

Part I: Install the Tor Expert Bundle

1. Go to the Tor downloads page and click on the “Microsoft Windows” bar to expand it:

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2. Then scroll down until you see the Expert Bundle section and download the file to your desktop (or wherever you will remember it):

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3. The file name should be something like “tor-0.2.4.22-win32-1.exe”

4. Right-click on the file you downloaded and choose “Run as administrator“. (This is important. If you just double-click and run the file as normal, it may not install Tor properly).

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5. Follow the instruction to install Tor with the default settings. When you reach the “Choose components” section, select the “Run at startup” option also, so that you won’t have to manually start Tor every time you start your computer.

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6. Finish the installation with the default settings, and at the end of the installation it should automatically start Tor in a terminal window:

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Don’t close this window. You can minimise it, but don’t close it.

Part II: Install FoxyProxy add-on in Firefox

7. Start your Firefox browser. Once it has opened, press [CTRL + Shift + A] to show the Add-ons manager.

8. In the search box, type “foxyproxy” and hit enter. Then install the FoxyProxy Standard add-on:

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After it has installed, Firefox will ask you to restart the browser. Restart it.

9. After the restart, once again press [CTRL + Shift + A] to open the Add-ons manager. This time, click on the “Extension” tab on the left, then click on the “Options” button for FoxyProxy standard:

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10. This will open a new window. In the “File” menu of that window, click on the “Tor Wizard” item:

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11. When asked, choose “without privoxy”, and “OK” with the default port.

12. You should then see the window below. Here we will set the rules for when to use Tor. Double-click on the entry that says Google Mail to edit it:

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13: This will open a new window. Change the URL pattern to *.youtube.com/* as shown below and click on OK:

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14. Click on the “Add New Pattern” button to add a new rule, but this time set the URL pattern to *.googlevideo.com/* and click OK:

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15. Your FoxyProxy proxies setting page should now look something like this, with one entry for ‘Tor’ and one for ‘Default’. In the ‘Select mode’ bar at the top change it to: “Use proxies based on their pre-defined patterns and priorities”:

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16. Close the FoxyProxy settings window and start watching again! Note that going to the Youtube homepage at http://www.youtube.com/ doesn’t always work, but direct links to youtube videos should open up just fine.

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Water Kit

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By now, most readers in Pakistan will have heard about ridiculous water-fuelled engine “invention” by a man named Agha Waqar. If you haven’t, the basic gist of it is that the man is claiming to have invented an engine that uses water as fuel (called a “water kit”), which the local media (and govemment) briefly went crazy about, hailing it as an amazing discovery. Read more in this New York Times article.

After the idea was thankfully trashed by one of the country’s most eminent physicists, one would have thought that would be the end of the story. Yet somehow, the story persists.

Yesterday, Agha Waqar was back again as a guest on Geo TV‘s Capital Talk, one of Pakistan’s most watched political talk shows. This time he faced his biggest critic, nucelar physicist Professor Pervez Hoodhboy.

The pseudo-scientific gibberish that came out of Waqar’s mouth was more ridiculous than on any previous encounter with the media, as he attempted to defend the theoretical basis of his imaginary invention. In particluar, he cites Max Plank’s research into black-body radiation which proves that resonance and free enegy can be applied to give motion to hydrogen, or any other force.

It was so ridiculous that I just had to translate some of it so that non-Urdu speakers can enjoy it also.

I can’t embed the video in this post so you will have to click on this link, and then select “English” from the “Select Language” tab below the video get the subtitles.

The video is too long to translate entirely, so I’ve just translated the five minutes of it that are the most ridiculous.

It is so silly, that I want to believe that it is part of an amazing prank to demonstrate the extreme gullibility of the Pakistani media, along the lines of the 1996 Sokal Hoax. It’s unlikely, but clearly it would not be difficult to pull it off if one wanted to.

Enjoy.

Lyari and the House of Bilawal, in verse

Following on from my previous post about the security operation in Lyari and the People’s Aman Committee, I was back in Lyari yesterday. The PAC, for the meanwhile at least, feels completely betrayed by the PPP leadership. Asides from the politics, the PAC leaders kept on bringing up the issue of how the people of Lyari are treated like feudal peasants, even though there are no farmlands in the neighbourhood. How despite decades of support for the PPP, they only get jobs as ‘peons’ or drivers or security guards in the party.

This renewed feeling of bitterness was to some degree represented on the streets also — though to be fair, I didn’t get a chance to investigate whether this was universally felt in Lyari beyond the areas in the direct vicinity of PAC controlled buildings.

But representative of this feeling was a man on a street square who was writing a satirical poem about this betrayal by the PPP, post-operation. The poem is incomplete, but you can listen to what he had written so far, and read my very crude translation below. Written by Shahjahan Baloch.

From the House of Bilawal, some people will come
Dressed as saviours, some torturers will come

Disrespectful ministers, low-pedigree lords will come
In the appearance of friends, enemies will come

Some healers, some doctors will come
In the name of medicine, they will bring poison

They will bring greetings from a killer
They will bring a message in Benazir’s name

They will come bearing a handful of gifts
And leave with a sack full for themselves.

They will celebrate, smile
When they go back to the House of Bilawal.

They will bring Bija Teer to the streets
And then decorate the darkness of the night

They will make their money and eat it themselves
While they make us dance to Bija Teer Dila
[Incomplete]