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Speed up your browsing

WITH a broadband connection, it seems inconceivable that you can still stare at a blank browser screen while waiting for a page to load. Yet there are times when your browser seems to bog down and you wonder just how fast your broadband connection really is.

Many factors can affect browsing speed. A website that is mostly text, for example, should load faster than a graphics-intensive one. Lately, however, I found that my browser was taking much longer than it should to load Google, which is probably one of the least graphic-heavy pages you can imagine.

When I saw that the browser seemed to be taking an inordinately amount of time at “Looking up www.google.com,” I suspected it might be the DNS server of my Internet service provider (ISP) that was tripping me up.

DNS, short for Domain Name Service, is like a phone book for the Internet that translates the Web addresses you type into the browser (like www.google.com) into a “phone number” that computers can use (74.125.225.39). By default, your router and computers connected to it are set up to use the DNS servers of your ISP, but sometimes, these might not be performing up to snuff.

Fortunately, there is an easy fix: simply use somebody else’s DNS server.

There are quite a number of free and public DNS servers but it’s advisable to stick to trusted services such as OpenDNS (http://www.opendns.com/) and Google Public DNS (https://developers.google.com/speed/public-dns/).

Whichever you choose, you’re likely to experience a dramatic improvement in your browsing speed. That’s because both OpenDNS and Google have the robust infrastructure and the technology to reduce latency in the address lookups and make the results more reliable.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can change the DNS servers on your router, thus enabling all computers and devices that connect to it use the new DNS servers. While this can be quite efficient (you need to make only one change), there are several disadvantages to this approach. First, you will need to find instructions for doing this that are specific to the brand of router you’re using. Second, if something goes wrong, it will go wrong for everybody connected to that router.

A less complicated approach is to simply change the DNS servers used by your computer or device.

Whichever way you decide to go, it’s a good idea to write down the previous settings before making changes so you can revert to the old setup if need be.

Here are the numbers you need to remember:

Free and Public DNS Servers
OpenDNS 208.67.222.222
208.67.220.220

Google Public DNS 8.8.8.8
8.8.4.4
To change the DNS server on an Ubuntu Linux (14.04) PC, go to Settings and go to Network Connections. In the window that opens, choose the connection for which you want to change DNS servers, then click on the Edit button. In the next window, click on the IPV4 Settings tab. In the drop-down menu next to “Method,” choose “Automatic (DHP) addresses only.” Then, in the space next to DNS servers, type in the appropriate addresses from the table above, separated by a comma (for example, 8.8.8.8, 8.8.4.4 – if you want to use Google Public DNS). Click on the Save button and reboot.

To change the DNS server on a Mac (Mavericks), click System Preferences from the Apple menu. Choose Network. Select the connection for which you want to change DNS servers. Click Advanced and select the DNS tab. Click on the “+” to add the appropriate addresses, then click Apply and OK.

You can also change the DNS server on your Windows machine. Just follow the detailed instructions in the OpenDNS and Google Public DNS websites.

How do you choose between OpenDNS and Google? You can try both and try to figure out which seems faster, or you can use a utility like Namebench (https://code.google.com/p/namebench/), which will hunt down the fastest DNS servers available for your computer to use. Versions are available for Windows and the Mac. I also found instructions for installing the utility in Ubuntu at the Ubuntu Geek website (www.ubuntugeek.com).

The disadvantage of using public DNS servers is that most of them log information, including your IP address, the domain name you looked up, the name of your ISP and your approximate location. Because of this, it’s a good idea to read the privacy policies of these companies, and find out beforehand what they do with the information they gather. Chin Wong

Column archives and blog at: http://www.chinwong.com

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