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.