Speed up your Internet experience by using the right DNS server

Last week I saw this LifeHacker article (via AppleInsider) about NameBench, a window utility that tests the speed of your system’s DNS servers.

And I was wondering if my DNS was as fast as it could be…

Previously, I’d switched my DNS services over to OpenDNS, a free alternate DNS Provider that adds value as:

  • Ultra-reliable, globally-distributed network
  • Industry-leading Web content filtering
  • Easy to use for families, schools, and businesses of all sizes

Google also has free public DNS services available, which NameBench scans and includes in the results.

But recently I’d noticed that often videos and other streaming media just wouldn’t play back smoothly, so after reading this bit in the life hacker article I thought I’d give NameBench a try.

“When millions of users all tap into the same DNS server addresses to resolve domain names, as Google DNS does by design, Akamai and other CDNs route content to those users along the same path, preventing the network from working optimally. This causes problems not only for Apple’s iTunes, but also any other media streaming or download service that uses a similar CDN strategy to distribute downloads.”

As an added benefit, NameBench checks to see if your DNS servers are vulnurable up to security standards, and if your DNS requests are being censored or redirected (WikiLeaks, for example).

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WOW.
According to NameBench, By switching back to my ISP, I’d get an amazing DNS speed improvement of over 100%!! Remember, this doesn’t speed up my internet connection, just the speed that the Internet translates domain names into those cryptic Internet IP addresses.

So, by making the recommended changes to my systems DNS settings, NameBench was happy with my settings. Now to see if I actually notice any improvement…

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In Real Life.
Well, I’m not too sure if I am noticing any difference yet or not. There’s so many different factors that can contribute to network speed that one change rarely makes a huge difference.

But still, every small improvement you make adds up, and contributes to a more efficient online experience.
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Checking out library books on your eReader?

sonylib.jpgGot a Sony eReader and use the Sony Reader store? Well check out the little blue & white box in the right-hand sidebar on the page.

Yep, you read correctly — you can check out books from the library and read them on your eReader.

In early December, Sony (and technology providers Overdrive) will have hundreds of Canadian libraries hooked up and ready to lend books; many libraries are already set up and running. As I understand it, only libraries in Atlantic Canada will be missing…for now.

This Library search page will help you find a participating library in your region. For example, entering Alberta in the search field turned up a large number of participating libraries in my province.

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The system requires you have an Adobe account to manage the DRM and ‘return’ of the eBook you ‘borrowed’. Actually the DRM just expires and you can’t read it after the lending period runs out. Which is another way of saying you don’t have to remember to return borrowed eBooks back to the library.

Not every book at your library will be available for loan, but as libraries start to convert their catalogues to digital, you’ll find more and more of the popular reads on your library’s virtual shelves. Welcome to the 21st century :smileyhappy:

My device isn’t what it was yesterday.

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One of the neatest things about computers, and now portable computing devices (like my iPad) is that with a quick download, the unit’s function changes. If the promise of portable tablet computing plays out, mobile technology will be the next big wave in the tech biz. And why not, we’re only limited by the imagination of the application
developers.

I was reminded of this most recently when I noticed and explored variety of music synthesizers and ‘instruments’ for the iPad.

Some of these synth apps replicate oldschool electronic sound engines of the ‘80s, and other incorporate new thinking and technology.

Continue reading “My device isn’t what it was yesterday.”

How social media tools can enhance and extend the reach of an event

screens_300.jpgThis past Friday I went to a fundraiser Celebrity Chef event hosted by a friend and local Edmonton social media personality (and Bacon Guy) Jerry Aulenbach.

Held at a local premier burger restaurant, the evening was one of good food, good conversation, and a lot of glowing screens.

The restaurant had set aside a section for the fundraiser crew, complete with a laptop and projector.

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Continue reading “How social media tools can enhance and extend the reach of an event”

The Decline and Fall of the Physical Media Empire

When’s the last time you bought a CD – the actual physical media? Do you remember the artist or album name?

I can’t remember either. It’s just not a media format that has relevance to me now, in the age of wifi and online media stores.

When once upon a time I used to have my discs proudly shelved near my CD player, today they are gathering dust in my closet — long since having been ripped to my digital media centre. Especially since the DRM wars are mostly over. Mostly.

Continue reading “The Decline and Fall of the Physical Media Empire”

Tablets will be the story this holiday season

The iPad has been out for a bit now, and it’s the tablet that all the others will be compared against as they jockey for position going into the holiday season.

But overall, I think this is the year that tablets finally start to make some headway into the marketplace; a marketplace already crowded with Desktops, Laptops, Netbooks and Data Phones.

So, why consider a tablet? Here’s a few things to think about.

Middleground
Tablets won’t replace your main computer, nor will they replace your laptop. They’re not powerful enough to do a lot of the work those computers do. But, they will fill in the middleground between your smartphone and your computer, simply because they are smaller, yet not too small, and offer a great interactive experience.

Tablets are  great to bring to meetings, light-weight and yet functional enough that looking up calendar conflicts or taking simple notes is a very simple process — and the tablet is much less obvious than a laptop when sitting around the boardroom table.

Oh, and you smartphone jockey’s out there, yes, you can do all that stuff on your handheld Android/BlackBerry/iPhone, but the screen size is kinda limiting when you want/need to share the view.

Cloudbusting
Using some cloud computing applications such as DropBox, any notes you create on your tablet are instantly stored in the cloud account and accessible to your other computers.

And, if you’re in that meeting and need to reference something stored on your desktop, you can use desktop control software such as LogMeIn Ignition (on the iPad / iPhone / Touch) or a VNC client written for your tablet. A couple of quick touchpad strokes and you’re working on your desktop computer as if you were sitting in front of it.

Ok, those are the big reasons that a tablet wins for me. And here’s a few more that are really just icing on the cake:

  • Inherently portable – smaller form factor makes it easier to take everywhere. My iPad is with me daily, whereas my laptop or netbook only came out when I thought I might need it
  • Casual usage – since it’s with me I use it more to jot down notes, surf, etc during otherwise dead time
  • Tactile, friendly, engaging – a tablet seems less imposing than a full-up laptop. People like to share work on a tablet, it’s easy to hand around a meeting and solicit feedback.
  • Portable media – tablets are great for watching movies or videos on the bus or wherever because they’re smaller and sleeker — no huge keyboard to haul around in addition to the screen.

So, in my humble opinion, yes, the tablet will make some serious inroads this holiday season, especially if the price can stay low, the hardware delivers, and the software is developed to live in this new middleground.

So that’s why a tablet appeals to me, how ‘bout you? Are you in or out when it comes to considering a tablet in the near future?



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.


If it’s everywhere, is it special?

4553i114AB80206EE34C5Once upon a time, not too long ago, in the latter part of the last century – say the 60’s and 70’s, consuming media was clumsy and cumbersome. It seemed that you had to make a special appointment with your hardware to listen to the latest band or show some friends your latest photos. You had one device for each media, and sharing and consuming media was not something you did every day, on a whim, or easily. You had to have a special place to consume your media. And you had to set aside special time for it.

Radio was ‘the’ medium that gave you instant gratification back in the day. Everyone had one, or two, and had a favourite station or music program. The catch was, a station could only broadcast one thing at a time. So if you weren’t into old-time polka music, you had to find another station to listen to, from a handful, perhaps. We all had favourite stations and programs.

Portable music was your little transistor radio. AM. The Sony Walkman wouldn’t be developed for a few years yet. Apple was a record label that the Beatles recorded with. The computer company didn’t exist yet either. There really wasn’t a concept of a personal music player.

In most homes, the ‘living room’ had all the majority of media devices; a hi-fi (record player), a TV, and that was it. Perhaps the hi-fi had an 8-track player or cassette. Home movies and photos were presented theatre-style – projected on a big screen (after reconfiguring the room and setting up said projector and screen). Eventually consumer-grade videotape systems were introduced, but still the problem of scheduling your media consumption existed.

Many of you likely remember such things, maybe even you’ve used them or owned them, but I’m guessing that a fair number of readers here wouldn’t know how to change the stylus in a turntable, nor the difference between Chromium Dioxide and Ferric Oxide audio tape. Such were (competitor) of technology, back in the day.

Fast-forwarding to today you easily see the how lifestyle technology has changed the way we share and consume media:

  • Movies on demand can be ordered instantly and delivered to any room in the house with today’s high bandwidth HD PVRs and routers
  • Photos are rarely stored in physical books. Rather they’re on computer hard drives, or better yet, on commercial photo sharing services (like flickr and Picassa) where they’re easily available, secure and regularly backed up.
  • The same for music, though today you really don’t need to store it. Rather than playback from a physical media device (LP, 45, CD etc) you can simply grab your computer and surf to one of the many online music stores. Or if you simply want to sample, it’s easy to use one of the streaming services like GrooveShark or Blip.fm.

Once some big-brained hackers somewhere realized that our media can be converted into bits and bytes, things changed. Those bits and bytes can be stored, moved, shared, delivered over this series of tubes called the Internet. That music, movie, whatever is now portable, and it doesn’t really care about format. I can play an mp3 on my computer, network-enabled blu-ray player, iPod, iPad, eBook reader, Phone, etc… you get the picture.

So now, we’re much more efficient at consuming and sharing our media when and where we want. There are many inexpensive technology tools that enable this, but are we better off?

Some days, I miss the excitement of bringing home a new album of music, putting it on the turntable and sharing the music with anyone in the house. That used to be something special. There was a little ritual associated with opening the album, cleaning the disc, and dropping the needle in the groove.

Somehow, opening a CD and sliding it into a player, or pressing ‘buy’ on an online music store just doesn’t have that same special sense of ritual, that sense that ‘we’re going to listen to music now, this is important, so sit down and pay attention’. Some days, consuming media just doesn’t seem as special as it once was.

I wonder what’s replaced it….I’ve not found it yet.



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.