May 112010
 

Surprise! If you are using either Zune or Pandora, you might be surprised at the extra information you are sharing 0n the internet.

For example, the account that you create to use Microsoft Zune by default displays your name,  your location, your bio, the names of your friends, any comments left for you or by you, and your recent music played to everyone.  If you have an XBox Live account, Zune Social will import all of your XBox friends. Imagine your prospective employer googling your name to find out you have a friend named “PooBurgler.”  That said, you may want to share all of this information – I personally don’t mind sharing it with the world – but you may also want to set this to Friends Only. To get to your profile, click on your name in the upper right corner of your Zune window, then select “zune.net Profile”. You can probably also login at social.zune.net.

Pandora by default will allow your Facebook friends to be able to see (and listen to) your playlist titles. Again, maybe not a big deal, but I was surprised to be able to see this information and even more surprised to find out that one of my dear friends has a Vanilla Ice station.  You can disable the sharing of your information by clicking here and then Disconnect from Facebook. If the prior link does not work, click on Account on the Pandora page, then click Sharing, and finally Disconnect from Facebook.

iTunes does not yet have any privacy issues that I’m aware of, but the much anticipated social media functions iTunes are coming soon.

Jan 022010
 

Namebench, written by google engineer Thomas Stromberg (his twitter), will allow you to locate the fastest domain name servers from your PC by benchmarking their response times. Namebench supports Windows, Mac OSX and Unix/Linux with both graphical and command-line interfaces.

Why does this matter?

Each time you browse to any address on the internet, your computer queries a server within the domain name system (DNS) to translate that address from human readable form (for example, www.facebook.com) into an IP address (for example, 66.220.146.21).  This query must complete before your computer can access facebook, youtube, cnn.com,  or any other website, online videogame, or internet service.

Speed up all of your internet use

Since a DNS query is a required first step in connecting to any website or internet service, the speed of the DNS server will directly impact the speed in which you can access content on the internet. If your current DNS server takes an average of 4 seconds to resolve addresses, you can count on an additional 4 seconds added onto every new internet access throughout the day. With perhaps 100’s of queries per day and 100’s of thousands of queries per year, you may be devoting dozens of hours per year to waiting on your DNS servers resolve.  Shaving a few seconds off of the average query translates into a nice payback of hours saved per year.

When your computer connects to the internet, you automatically get assigned to default DNS servers provided by your cable or telephone company.  These servers might be great, but they might also be a little slower than other free DNS servers that are available on the internet, such as those provided by Google Public DNS or OpenDNS.

Namebench will include your current DNS servers in its benchmarking to see how it stacks up against other alternatives, and it will recommend the fastest servers based on your browser history, location, and benchmark tests run right from your computer.

Redundancy

Your computer probably has a primary and a secondary DNS server defined in its network configuration.  This gives some redundancy for when the primary name server is unavailable due to server or network failure – your computer will eventually query the secondary DNS server. If both DNS servers are unavailable, which is more likely when both DNS servers are provided by the same company, your computer will not be able to translate any addresses and your entire internet service may appear “down.”

Specifying a primary or secondary name server from a different company than your internet provider will give you better redundancy. If your local DNS servers are unavailable, your computer could then query a DNS server that is completely independent, and therefore more likely to be accessible.

Get it

Download Namebench, install it, and run it with default options.

Leave your computer alone while the benchmark is executing so that you get results that are not compromised by any other activity. It is a good idea to shut down all running applications on your computer before running the benchmark as your open browser or email program might be busily updating facebook statuses or checking email in the background.

After about 5 minutes, the benchmark will complete. The results of the benchmark will appear in your default web browser. You’ll be able to see the fastest DNS servers based on your own browsing history and the location of your computer on the internet.

Note than even though this software is written by a Google Engineer, it does not give any special preference to Google’s DNS service in the results produced. If you have any problems or questions, here are additional instructions and information from the author of Namebench.

An additional recommendation is to run the Namebench at several different times during the day, for example once during prime-time work hours and again during prime-time evening hours as you may get slightly different recommendations depending on time of day. Since changing your DNS settings are enough of a hassle that you won’t want to be changing them frequently, it might be worth using the top result from each test, with preference given to the best server you found during the time when your internet use is heaviest.

Update your settings

Now that Namebench has identified the best DNS servers for you, let’s add them to your network configuration so that you can take advantage of increased performance.

Your current DNS settings are defined in one of two places: either they are defined on your PC or they are defined on your router (which in turn tells your PC which DNS servers to use each time your PC connects.) For brevity, I’ve only included instructions to change settings on a Windows Vista PC. If you need help configuring another version of Windows, or a totally different operating system, please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to get you specific instructions.

Change DNS settings in Windows Vista

  • Click on your Start Menu (small windows logo in the lower left corner of your screen), and select Control Panel,
  • In the Control Panel, select Network and Sharing Center,
  • In the Network and Sharing Center, select Manage Network Connections (this option appears on the left side of Sharing Center window),
  • Double-click your active network connection. It may either be marked as “Local Area Connection” or perhaps “Wireless Connection”, depending on whether you are using WiFi to connect to your network,
  • In your network connection status window, click Properties. You may have to now give Windows “permission” to continue,
  • Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4), and then select Properties,
  • In the General tab, click Use the following DNS server addresses and enter your preferred DNS servers from your Namebench benchmark,
    • If you currently have DNS server addresses defined in this window, make sure to jot them down in case you need to go back to them!
  • Click OK to close the TCP/IPv4 properties window, and click Close your network connection status window,
  • You may have to reboot your computer for the DNS new settings to take affect.

Change DNS settings in your router

Note: Changing the DNS settings in your router will override the DNS settings on all of the computers, WiFi telephones, and videogame consoles that connect to your router. It is better to change the DNS settings on a single device (for example, by following the Windows Vista instructions above) to test out the new settings first.

The steps to change the DNS settings that are provided by DHCP on your router depend on the manufacturer and version of your router. Consult your vendor documentation for the proper steps. Please remember to write down the original settings before you change them as you may want to return to your old settings later. If you run into trouble, please don’t hesitate to post a comment below and I might be able to point you in the right direction.

Resources at a glance

QR barcode to Namebench website(for supported mobile devices)

 Posted by at 3:23 pm