BreakthePaywall tested in Windows 10

BreakthePaywall tested in Windows 10 – you must use Internet Explorer rather than the new Edge browser but otherwise it works ok.

The Edge browser does not at this stage allow add-ons to be installed – we believe they will be allowing add-ons by the Autumn and BreakthePaywall will endeavour to have one available asap.

http://www.breakthepaywall.com

 

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New Firefox release 39 rocks!

Like many I gave up on Internet Explorer some time ago – just too slow and cumbersome.

We still support BreakthePaywall! add-on for IE and we will be looking into any development work required to support new IE versions in Windows 10 and the new Edge browser that Microsoft are developing.

But I changed to using Chrome – which I never liked (because it’s from Google), it was out of necessity.

I did try Firefox for some time but also found it cumbersome and annoying – updates almost every week.

Well that’s all changed now – the latest version of Firefox I’m running at time of writing, release 39, is superb. Fast, clean, concerned with my privacy – it just makes me feel all cosy 🙂 And automatic updating.

Check it out, I promise you will not be disappointed.

And, yes, we will be developing a version of BreakthePaywall! For Firefox – I know we said we would do so in the past but this latest version has made me realise how great Mozilla and Firefox is.

Download at: https://www.firefox.com

Breakthepaywall website move to Azure

Since its inception the Breakthepaywall website has been hosted by Fast2Host in the UK.

Yesterday I noticed that the Breakthepaywall download link was not working – a IIS 404 error page not found was being displayed.

After frantically trying to work out why, without success, I suspected Fast2Host had changed something their end. I called support, which answered swiftly as usual – they have always been very responsive and helpful, and was informed that they had indeed blocked .exe files from being downloaded from their IIS servers.

I was asked to email the specifics of my site, which I did, but have not received a response and upon checking today the .exe files were still being blocked.

As mentioned Fast2host have always been very responsive and helpful but they have always had problems with keeping things up and running – the shared web server the site resides on usually goes down once a night for one reason or another and on many occasions during the day. There have been numerous occasions that the site has been down for 10s of minutes rather than a few due to a reboot or restart.

So, this was the final nail in the coffin, particularly as they had not informed me of this change! I decided to move hosting providers – not a task taken lightly as it has proved very difficult in the past.

I needed a free/cheap website hoster that supported classic ASP (the greatest scripting language of all time 🙂 and allowed .exe files to reside and be downloaded from the web server.

I have always been an MSDN subscriber (Microsoft developer network) and heard recently about their free credits to the Azure cloud network for MSDN subscribers.

It turns out they give you £95 per month of credits to use Azure resources as you please on a pay as you go basis.

Intrigued, I decided to give it a go. As an MSDN subscriber I already have a Microsoft username so I simply logged onto the Azure portal at:

http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/member-offers/msdn-benefits/

The portal interface is superbly designed and very intuitive. And it supports older technologies like Classic ASP. Within 30 minutes I had a fully functioning website with custom domain and all my files uploaded via FTP. You also get a custom IP which I then punched into my DNS A record entry and voila! my new host was serving the Breakthepaywall website and the .exe setup files could once again be downloaded.

All this for just £6.16 per month – shared plan which is required if you want a custom domain name, otherwise it’s free if you’re ok to have an Azure domain name. For me it was free because of my MSDN free credits – fantastic, i’m sold. Microsoft are definitely going in the right direction with Azure.

BreakthePaywall now available in Google Chrome

BreakthePaywall is now available as a Google Chrome Extension.

Visit the Breakthepaywall home page: http://www.breakthepaywall.com

Or search in the Chrome store for ‘BreakthePaywall’

Or click this direct link: 

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/breakthepaywall/ddlcmnkkbojfnfclfhbdfkcmhfaebhgc

The Chrome version utilises referer and agent hacks but does not perform any cookie deletion or other storage manipulation. However, this should be enough for most paywall websites.

The Extension adds a simple BTPW button to the Chrome toolbar which you can use to toggle BreakthePaywall on and off. When it’s coloured blue it’s on and grey is off.

Search Engines – what are they good for?

Absolutely nothing in some cases!

One increasingly well known fact is that paywalls – those barriers that some websites put in the way to try and get you to hand over money or register to gain access – are these days, very porous.

They’re designed that way so that they can charge for access, either by charging or selling your details, but do not close themselves off to the rest of the internet i.e. search engines.

They still want search engines to scan their site and therefore have to open themselves up to them whilst blocking anyone else. Google’s T&C’s even state that websites must not block access when referred from Google search results if they want to appear in those results.

That’s the loophole that apps like BreakthePaywall! (http://www.breakthepaywall.com) use to circumvent the paywalls – they impersonate a search engine.

For example: if you go to a site and notice an article that, when you click on it, displays a paywall blocking page or popup then if you copy that same article heading and paste it into a search engine then, more often than not, the link in the search result list to the same article, when clicked, will result in the article being displayed without any problems.

That’s because the website is seeing that you have come from a search engines results page – using the ‘Referer’ header that is sent by the linking website.

This is how paywalled websites keep themselves at the top of search results but also block people that have gone to the website directly and/or click on subsequent articles. This is usaully referred to as opening themselves up a little bit in order to gain search engine traction but still make money out of the ignorant. It must be rather galling for loyal customers who stump up annual subscription fees to discover that others can get it for free – hey, that’s the mad world of the internet!

Another technical aspect is that websites need to allow the search engine robots unfettered access. These robots go out onto the internet and scan websites and report back to the databases that collate the results. They have their own special names that websites can pick up and therefore allow access.

So, search engines are useful after all, but interestingly, not all of them…

Here’s a list of the top search engines in the world according to Wikipedia:

Search engine Market share in June 2014
Google 68.69%

 

Baidu 17.17%

 

Yahoo! 6.74%

 

Bing 6.22%

 

Excite 0.22%

 

Ask 0.13%

 

AOL 0.13%

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_search_engine

As you would expect Google is way out in front. Experimenting with the method of copying a header, paste into search engine and see if the resulting link to the paywalled website works it’s not surprising that using Google as the search engine always works. Most websites want to be on Google’s search results so they allow full access from Google. But what about the other search engines:

Baidu – is of course the Chinese based search engine – try a paywalled western based news organisation  website on there and you don’t get anywhere. Consequently they don’t appear anywhere near the top of the search results (you have to put in the website domain to get anywhere near). Yes, it seems like some websites are not interested in a few billion chinese customers.

Yahoo next – again, no joy at all. It turns out that Yahoo doesn’t actually do its own search results. They currently use Microsoft Bing’s search results – they used to use Google up until 2004. So, it seems some sites have excluded Yahoo from their allow lists, which seems strange as it is the 3rd largest search provider.

Microsoft Bing – works!

Excite, Ask, AOL and any other smaller search engine – DuckDuckGo uses Bing as well as other sources for its search results – do not work, or rather, are ignored by paywalled websites.

So paywalled websites want to expose themselves and effectively give free access but don’t want to do it for everybody – maybe they are just as ignorant of what they are doing as their customers.

But it also highlights the fact that for non-Chinese internet users at least there is really only two search engines – Google and Bing. What a stitch up!

BreakthePaywall – new version 2.0.0

Finally it’s here!

The new version of BreakthePaywall was finally released today.

Version 2.0.0 has the following new features:

BreakthePaywall is now compatible with all versions of windows from XP onwards including Windows 8.0 and 8.1 (only in desktop IE – Metro interface IE does not allow plugins).

There are now 2 ways to use BreakthePaywall:

1. The Original Right Click Method – right click on a link and select BreakthePaywall from the context menu. This method utilises all circumventing functions.

2. The new One-click method – simply left click links as you normally would. This method is enabled by default and only utilises the basic circumventing functions.

Method 2 will work in most cases but if not, use method 1 instead.
(Note: You must disable Internet Explorer’s Enhanced Protected Mode for Method 1 to work. You will be prompted with instructions if this mode is enabled).

You can also toggle One-click method 2 on and off: use the new BreakthePaywall sub-menu under the Tools menu or the command button on the command toolbar.

We have also added Google search screening – Google does not link directly to search results, all links go via a special google link which then redirects to the website you want to go to. BreakthePaywall now intercepts this intermediary link and redirects you directly thus circumventing any restrictions. This occurs when using both methods.

To install the new release:

If you have BreakthePaywall already installed then right click a link and choose BreakthePaywall as normal – you will then be prompted to update the package.

Otherwise, go to the website and select download: http://www.breakthepaywall.com

Enjoy the new release.

Desktop version of IE broken after upgrading to Windows 8.1

Just upgraded my Surface Pro to Windows 8.1 at the weekend and had problems with desktop version of IE.
 
The 8.1. upgrade updates IE to version 11 from version 10 and by default Enhanced Protected Mode is switched on – even if you had it off in IE10 (default for IE10 was off).
 
After upgrading when I first started IE I got messages about add-ons being incompatible with Enhanced Protected Mode and I couldn’t do anything, browse the web or get options up.

Managed to get into Internet Options via Control Panel and noticed in Manage Add-ons that various add-ons including Lastpass, Evernote and even MS add-ons were listed as incompatible.
 
MS confirmed that this is switched on by default in IE11 but that not all add-ons including their own will be compatible.

I uninstalled any addons programmes I knew about, reset the settings for IE, unticked Enhanced Protected Mode (Internet Options, Advanced tab, Security section). Everything was then ok so I re-installed my add-on programmes.

I did a bit of additional testing – latest version of Lastpass was ok with enhanced protected mode switched on but latest Evernote (V5.0.2) was not.

So looks like best thing to do for now is switch Enhanced Protected Mode option off.

My test version of BreakThePaywall for Windows 8 was listed as disabled in Enhanced Protected Mode – this was almost ready for release but looks like I will have to make it compatible with Enhanced Protected Mode first. (http://www.breakthepaywall.com). Will try and get this rolled out before they release IE11 on Windows 7 as well.