Tuesday, January 09, 2007

On the road

I'm away for a week and thought I had it all setup, so I could login and check on the markets in the evening at least. The hotel in the Bavarian alps had advertised to have free WLAN access. Everything should work as I'm used to.

Switching on my computer the first thing that happened after WIN XP booted was that my notebook told me "No network found"


So much for WLAN access. But I remembered a nice program I had installed some time ago called Network Stumbler. I started it and suddenly I was presented with 4 free WLAN's. Knowing the channel the WLAN operated on was enough to setup the wireless Network connection and I was finally really connected with the Internet.

I got my Mail, I could connect to any Internet site, but IB TWS refused to load. I tried everything I knew, I looked at the logfiles and saw that a connection timeout was happening. I googled for the error message and got a hint, that the port IB was using to connect IB TWS with its servers might be blocked by the hotel ISP. The person giving this hint was suggesting contacting the ISP administrator.

Great. Try explaining to the nice lady at the frontdesk in your hotel, that she should please open ports 4000-4010 on the hotel WLAN, so you could connect to your trading account. If I have not already lost you, I'm sure this lovely young lady will be lost, when I ask her to do that for me.

But fortunately there is a way. You might know what an Internet proxy is. They connect you to an Internet site through their servers, instead of your request going the direct way. Living in a country where the Internet traffic is monitored and access to certain sites is blocked, such a proxy allows you to reach a blocked site as long as the proxy is not blocked. But the regular proxy will not open a blocked port. So something more advanced is needed.

Findnot provides such a service for a modest price ($29.95 for 3 months). They connect you through a Virtual Private Network with their servers, secure all the traffic coming from your computer to theirs, so no one can monitor your Internet connection, and open any blocked ports as all requests requiring a certain port to be open are routed through standard webports.

And, oh what a great wonder, I was able to start my IB TWS successfully.

But why am I writing about this? You might not want to log into your IB account when traveling, so why bother? Still the service Findnot provides has some advantages, which I like, so I will from now on use at home as well.

If a major Internet carrier between my office and IB's servers is down, I'm unable to connect to IB. But using Findnot's serverfarm of more than 20 servers physically located in different towns and states across the world, there might be a bypass available. Like going from Florida to New York not the direct way but using a line from Florida to Denver to New York. Longer yes, but so what, you are still connected. Usually the Internet can handle it alone, but there were times when that wasn't possible and having answer for that is worth 10$/month, if I have an open position. 

And there is this aspect of using an encrypted internet connection. No one can trace what I'm doing on the internet, no one can trace my computer and if they try, all they get is Findnot's Internet address. That's where it ends. If your connection itself is monitored for any reason at all, all you get is an encrypted datastream. I might be paranoid, but here in Germany there is a discussion, under which conditions the police should be allowed to break into any computer connected to the internet to search the harddisks without you knowing about it. There is no discussion whether that's possible, no, that it is possible is taken as granted. The question is only what the prerequisites are to allow such an intrusion. I don't like it. If the police wants to search my computer they should present me with a warrant and do it openly, not behind my back hacking into my computer.

So the Findnot Service gives me multiple routes to IB, allows me to connect on the road, even when the ISP has blocked the ports and gives me a secure connection to the Internet. I think it's worth the 10$ / month.