Monday, October 12, 2009

How-To Automate UT-Dallas Proxy Server

UPDATE: This does not work in Chrome, my current browser of choice. There is a great plugin, though, called Library EZProxy that is even easier. As far as I know, the below is still one of the easiest methods for Firefox.

So, among many of the things that is difficult to navigate about the library at the University of Texas at Dallas is the library proxy. They provide no way of configuring a proxy for your browser or any kind of PAC script, nor is there any all-purpose link on their website, or even a VPN, so far as I can determine. You have to go through the library website to get the link to the journal. As a result, if, say, someone links to a journal on their webpage, or a friend links to a Chronicle article on facebook, it's basically not worth your time to actually try and get there through the obvious channels. Hacking around it even proved fairly difficult, due to the fact that UTD uses a suffix proxy system. Here's how I finally figured out my way around the problem for Firefox.

First, I looked at some links from the library website to outside journals and databases. I noticed that they tend to look like this:

Noting the similarity, I decided to navigated on over to . This gives a big old list of electronic journals and databases, with several links that are out of date. But I noticed a common pattern here. All the links were to:

This was the key to my problem. I finally found this MozillaZine article on creating keyword searches.

What you need to do is go to Bookmarks->Organize Bookmarks. Add a bookmark with the location as [the capital S is crucial]

And add the keyword as "utd" (or whatever you like). Then, when you have a webpage that you need the library proxy for, click in front of the URL and add "utd " in front, like so:

Then hit return, and you'll be taken to the login for the UTD library proxy, and then you'll be taken to:

Ta-da! Full access, much less hassle.

Anyone else found an easier way?


diomedea exulans said...

Hey, try using the FF plugin called "QuietURL", it allows you to detect and alter url strings automatically via regular expressions. Basically, it will automate that final step and make it as though you are just clicking on a link!


Matthew J. Brown said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Andy! I've installed QuietURL, but I'm not sure how to configure it to meet my needs. Do I have to create new patterns on a case-by-case basis, as I discover new links that need the proxy?

diomedea exulans said...

Ah, well, I suppose it's time for you to delve into more complex regular expressions, which is something I'm not all that familiar with. However, it should be powerful enough to detect the pattern you want in any url (provided there is a reasonably unique pattern) and then systematically alter it in any way that you choose. The trouble is, regexp aren't the easiest thing in the world to work with. (But they are a declarative programming language, which is pretty cool.)
We can chat about this in person, because I'm not sure where you're at on this wonderful technology.