Due to a change in our network security policy, I lost access to Twitter. To be accurate, I lost access to a lot of websites and services, but what really cost me was Twitter. I don’t mind not being able to watch Youtube, I don’t mind losing access to services like Yousendit or Wetransfer (although I got to admit this can make my life a bit more difficult at times), but Twitter was too much. So, I decided to find a way to be able to use Twitter while at work.
Disclaimer: What I did could be considered a violation of company policy. Although it’s good for educational purposes, please consider talking to whoever is responsible for your network.
Before I go any further, let me describe the situation a little bit better. What we use is a type of DNS Blacklisting. I am fairly sure that except from blocking and redirecting DNS requests, there’s also IP blacklisting, since I was not able to access blocked sites even when I tried using the IP in a browser. Besides that, port #53 is also blocked, so the standard “ok use another dns server like 188.8.131.52 (Google’s main dns server)” tip, forum members and internet gurus tend to give you, does not work.
Fortunately, DynDNS domains were not blocked. My good old VIA EPIA would do the rest. This time, I decided to take an extra step to making it silent and decided not to use an HDD. Instead I used an 1GB Compact Flash where I mounted /boot and swap space and an 8GB usb flash drive for the rest of the installation. I chose to go with Xubuntu after trying Damn Small Linux and Nimblex, just because I feel more comfortable with Ubuntu. I have to warn you that what I did was probably not a very bright idea. Both CF and the usb are very slow, but for my purpose it is just fine.
After I finished installing, I set up SSH (check to see if it’s legal where you live), SAMBA and then, the most brilliant program ever written: TTYtter. A console Twitter client!
So, the only thing I have to do, is fire up puTTY, connect to the VIA and enjoy a nice Twitter session. It really took my some time to getting used to it, but I assure you despite the fact that it’s command line only, it is more than usable. Yeah I know, my award for the most ridiculous solution will soon be delivered, but in my defense, what I did is a lot faster than using remote desktop or vnc.
If you cannot live without a proper Twitter client (or another piece of software with a gui for that matter), consider running a remote X-Server. If you are on a Windows machine try messing around with cygwin, but expect no help from me. If you have access to a Linux box however, the only thing you need to do is run ssh with the -X (ssh -X username@server)parameter. Sweet, huh? Combine that with a sweet little program called screen and you will be able to run as many programs as you want.