Vidalia, a close match to JonDo in that it is quite a bit lighter in memory use and generally feels faster, but may not have the same level of anonymizing as JonDo. Vidalia is another integrated package using a combination of Privoxy and a Tor engine to connect to the Tor network, but it offers many new features.
As with JonDo, Vidalia behaves as a local proxy for use by any browser, but it also provides configurations allowing it to run either as a simple standalone process or as a Windows service (for security and performance reasons, among others). Vidalia allows the user to participate in the anonymizing process by becoming a Tor Relay to help censored users in a similar way to becoming a BitTorrent relay, and a live realtime facility is available showing a map of the earth with lines representing connections to the Tor server participants. Vidalia uses 24 – 32Mb of memory, with an additional 4Mb used for Privoxy and another 16.5Mb for the Tor engine. One initially confusing aspect of Vidalia is that it provides a configuration access through port 9051, but it is not immediately obvious that Privoxy is listening on port 8118. Browsers using the Vidalia bundle must be configured to use the Privoxy port 8118 as the proxy server, not port 9051. Like JonDo, the Vidalia/Privoxy combination constantly changes proxy servers to mask the trail to provide greater anonymity.
Whatever your preference, both JAP and Tor networks offer a level of secrecy that is better than many commercial systems, though they are not watertight. Expect your surfing to slow down, in some case substantially, because you’ll be relayed through a chain of servers, all heavily impacted by BitTorrent users seeking to hide from the RIAA. Note: the latest V5 release of JAP now allows Tor users to use JAP as a software access point to the Tor network.
Here are some notes on this program:
- Installation: the full Vidalia setup will also install Tor, Privoxy, and TorButton, which are all the tools that you will need.
- Setup: if you are using Firefox you will simply be able to turn Tor off and on using TorButton (click or right-click the bottom right corner in Firefox to access). You will have to configure Internet Explorer and other applications manually (say, a P2P app, Torrent client, or download manager). See here for how to do this (jump to step two: “To torrify other applications that support HTTP proxies ….”).
- Vidalia network map screenshotThe Tor Network map: a cool feature of Vidalia where you can observe the geographic location of servers on the Tor network on a world map, including where your own traffic is going.
- Will Tor/Vidalia provide anonymous and secure surfing: anonymous yes, but not secure. While Tor can provide a degree of anonymity, it is not encrypted and therefore not 100% safe. Tor is best used to withhold/disguise your IP address (for example, to work around cases where access from your country is blocked). However, your transmitted data can in theory be intercepted. If you are trying to use Tor to, say, download copyrighted material it is apparently not a 100% foolproof disguise of your identiry. See here for a list of how people use Tor. More info on Tor vulnerabilities here.
- Surfing speed: once you activate Tor and surf anonymously you are likely to experience slower surfing speeds than normal. This is largely inevitable, although depending on which servers your traffic is going through can be variable.
- Portability: Vidalia can be run portably; see here.
- Memory use: 40 megs total: 20 megs for Vidalia, 15 for Tor, and 5 megs for Privoxy. On the other hand, you only need run it when you need it.