There's loads of great content on the web, but unfortunately the best stuff is often restricted to viewers in the US. If your computer doesn't reside in the land of the free and the home of the brave, then you're locked out of sites such as Hulu.
If you're outside the US of A, the easiest way to access restricted content is to mask your location using a US-based Virtual Private Network.
A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel from your computer to the VPN provider, who then connects you to the internet. One advantage of a VPN is that it stops other users on your local network snooping on your traffic, which is handy if you're using an unsecure free wifi hotspot.
Another advantage is that not even your ISP can see what you're doing online, which means you'll bypass any kind of mandatory content filtering applied in Australia.
The third advantage of using a VPN is that, as far as other websites are concerned, your computer now appears to be located in the same country as the VPN provider. You might be sitting in Wollongong but, once you engage your VPN, Hulu is convinced you're sitting in Washington DC.
Hulu is starting to block free VPN services, such as Hotspot Shield, but paid services such as WiTopia have so far managed to avoid such a fate.
Running a VPN on your computer is simple, but it gets more complicated if you want to access US-only content from devices such as a PlayStation 3, web-enabled DVD/Blu-ray player or hacked Apple TV running Boxee.
One workaround is to stream content to the player from a computer running a VPN and DLNA media server software such as PlayOn. Netgear's new Digital Entertainer Live (EVA2000) set top box is DLNA-compatible and comes with a free trial version of PlayOn, which lets you "enjoy hit TV shows and movies from popular Internet video services such as Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, BBC iPlayer, CBS, NFL, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and more, wherever the service is normally available via the Internet".
That's a big disclaimer. Most of those services won't work in Australia by default, but if you run a VPN on the same computer that's running PlayOn then you should be able to access foreign content. The WiTopia VPN service offers access to US and UK points, making it a great option for people who want to watch the BBC's iPlayer as well as Hulu.
At $250, the Digital Entertainer Live is probably a more economical and flexible option for getting Hulu onto your television than a hacked Apple TV.
Of course that's assuming that it comes with a full version of PlayOn and doesn't contain some kind of hardware or software restriction limiting your access to foreign services. That's a pretty big assumption, which is why I've requested a review unit to check it out for myself.
Meanwhile WiTopia's CloakBox looks like the perfect lounge room companion if you're looking to access US-only or UK-only services. The CloakBox is a four port router with an 801.11b/g wireless access point. Simply connect it to your existing home network and any device which connects to the Cloakbox, whether via Ethernet or wifi, will automatically appear as if it's in the US or UK.
This is perfect if you're using devices such as a PlayStation 3, Apple TV or an imported DVD/Blu-ray player with the ability to access services such as Vudu, Netflix and CinemaNow. Meanwhile the other devices in the house are still in Australia, although you can cloak them by simply switching to the CloakBox's wifi network.
The great thing about CloakBox is that it doesn't rely on the end device to have any special feature or service. It simply tricks the devices into thinking they're in another country. The CloakBox costs US$199, which includes a 12 month VPN subscription (after which it's US$99 per year).
Factor in a few extra dollars to get the CloakBox to Australia, as WiTopia will only deliver within the US. The CloakBox is a modified Linksys WRT54GL router, which you could pick up locally for under AU$100, but remember that you're paying for the convenience of a pre-configured device with custom firmware.
If you want to easily cloak all the devices in your lounge room for a spot of Hulu watching, WiTopia's CloakBox is certainly worth investigating.