PuTTY 0.61 released today with a handful of performance enhancements for OpenSSH. This makes the following trick even more attractive, as can it effectively double the performance in some cases.
What trick? Create an encrypted tunnel for browsing the Internet in public. Otherwise people who are sharing that cafe Wi-Fi can see your traffic. Depending on where you are going, these people can even see your usernames and passwords. You start out drinking a latte and end up with some random posts on your Twitter feed and your email box sending out spam. Not good. Not good at all.
To prevent this, setup a remote computer that you can connect to when you are on the go. Then when you find yourself relying on free Wi-Fi -- like at a hotel, at a airport, or where ever -- you can connect back to this safe computer. All your traffic in public is secured between your notebook and that remote computer. Just for fun, I like to use the cloud (e.g., Amazon EC2) for my remote end.
At a high-level, the procedure is:
1) Sign up for Amazon Web Services and provision a free server instance
2) Download and configure PuTTY 0.61 to proxy SOCKS over SSH
3) Download and configure Mozilla Firefox 5.0 to use the SOCKS proxy for Web traffic (HTTP, HTTPS, DNS, and IRC chat)
Instructions with screenshots are available on my Papers page.