VPN achieved!

OK, this felt really good: we finally got Tati on a VPN. Warning: what follows is a long and nerdy story, with a small payoff.

As mentioned previously, she didn’t have one fully set up before we left, which left her in a catch 22: she needed VPN access to set up a VPN (like NordVPN or her company VPN). (reminder: a VPN is the thing that lets you get around the Great Firewall and see sites like Google and Facebook.)

My VPN was working, so I figured I would just set up a portable wifi hotspot and Tati could connect to that. Nope, for some unknown reason. Well, ok, I can connect to her phone and share my network via Bluetooth. Nope, for some unknown reason. Well, maybe she can just download PrivateInternetAccess (my VPN provider) and set up her own account. Nope, for some mostly-unknown reason (maybe the Great Firewall blocks privateinternetaccess.com?) Well, she can just sign in with my login/password? Nope, FSUR.

At this point we figured we were pretty SOL, but a friend offered to share some OpenVPN config files. Worth a try - all the setup is in those files, so we don’t have to create an account with anyone etc. that might be Great Firewall-blocked. So… I can download the .ovpn files and send them to Tati via… what? Bluetooth? Again, NFSUR. Ok, I’ll WeChat them to her. Nope, can’t send files on WeChat, just pictures and stuff. Uh, I’ll WhatsApp them to her. Nope again - WhatsApp even lets you send “documents” but that seems to be pdf only. Why pdfs and not .txt (or .ovpn or whatever)? Beats me.

Skype (Skype!) to the rescue. Send file with Skype. Download it on her iPhone. Uh, where the hell did it go? Let me just get into the file system – ha, hahahahaha, sorry, nevermind. Frickin iPhones. Ok, here’s what finally worked: “Save to Notes” then open the Notes app which has the text file as an attachment, then click the attachment, “open with OpenVPN.”

Except it didn’t work: line length too long. Oh gourd - when I got it from Dropbox, I couldn’t save-as from mobile Chrome, so I just copy-pasted it into a new text file. I mean, of course that bungled something - in this case, I think it just mangled the line endings. Wait, you can’t save-as in mobile? If you visit a foo.txt file, you can’t save foo.txt to your computer? Well, nope. I realized, I just need wget. So, phones being what they are, I went to the Google Play store and searched for “wget”, and got “webget”, which is some app written by some dude that hopefully doesn’t steal my bank account info. This is so much better than just giving people access to the underlying linux, right? UGH.

Ok. Copy paste URL into webget, download text file, skype it to Tati, save it into Notes on her phone, open Notes app, open attachment in OpenVPN, connect to VPN. It worked! It goddamn worked! She can communicate with the world normally again!

… long story for a short payoff. Sorry, warned ya.

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