Your Internet experience may feel faster than what it was a couple of days ago, and if so, that's by design. How so? If you're wearing a tin foil hat, it's probably because the government needs to stack up more evidence against you and decided to boost your connection speed. Bummer. For everyone else noticing a speed gain, it could be the result of the Global Internet Speedup initiative.
It was just recently that the US Justice Department stepped in and shut down over 80 domains suspected in the distribution of counterfeit goods, or copyrighted content. Now the US intellectual property czar Victoria Espinel is saying we can "expect more of that". This announcement predictably won the praise of the entertainment industry, and will likely reignite debate on the COICA bill in congress that would expand federal authority to seize domains.
This effort is being framed as an effort to protect consumers and jobs, but we feel that more accurately describes the sites trafficking in counterfeit goods. Sites suspected of copyright infringement tend to be harder to pin down. For instance, one site taken down in the last round was only an indexer of existing torrent sites. It did not host any torrents, content, or run a tracker.
It's hard to see where the line is on the tubes these days. The administration is also talking up efforts to take down online pharmacies that are selling illegally copied drugs. We just find it odd that pirated content is being limped in here. How do you feel about these domain name seizures?
Whistleblower website Wikileaks.org ruffled more than a few feathers when it published classified U.S. documents and sensitive diplomatic cables sent between U.S. embassies, while also promising to publish thousands more. A series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks would follow, and by Friday, both Amazon.com and EveryDNS.net decided to drop Wikileaks.org from their servers.
"Wikileaks is under heavy attack," the organization announced on its website. "In order to make it impossible to ever fully remove Wikileaks from the Internet, we need your help. If you have a Unix-based server which is hosting a website on the Internet and you want to give Wikileaks some of your hosting resources, you can help!"
In other words, Wikileaks is relying on mirror sites -- exact replicas of the original site hosted at a remote location -- to stay afloat. All told, Wikileaks claims its entire repository "should not take more than a couple of GB at the moment (with base website and cablegate data)."
Pirate Bay co-founder has other things on his mind than jail time and multi-million dollar fines. Rather than worry about such trivial matters, Sunde has taken to championing a new, uncensored Internet, one that takes the general concept of BitTorrent and applys it to Domain Name System (DNS) lookups.
"By using existing technology for de-centralization together with already having a crew with skilled programmers, communicators, and network specialists, an alternative system is not far away," Sunde wrote in a blog. "We're not going to re-invent the wheel, we're going to build an existing technology as much as possible."
The way it works now, DNS is tasked with translating a site name, like maximumpc.com, with a string of numbers that represent the domain's actual address on the Web, one that computers can read. You can think of it as a telephone number, and ICANN holds the phone book via over a dozen PCs called "Root Servers." These servers contain the IP addresses of all the Top Level Domains (TLDs).
What Sunde wants to do is set up a P2P DNS system to take the place of these centralized root servers, the upshot being it would then be impossible for government agencies to block sites from being looked up.
OpenDNS, which offers a free, ad-supported DNS (Domain Name System) resolution service to your ISP's DNS servers, announced it experienced record growth last week, which the company partially attributes to a "rave New York Times review."
"OpenDNS is firing on all cylinders, and while we're enjoying our momentum and growth, we're certainly not resting on our laurels. All departments within the company are focused on both growing our user base and making OpenDNS an even better solution than it is today," said David Ulevitch, OpenDSN CEO.
According to OpenDNS, its week-over-week account creation was up 150 percent. Thursday, August 18th, ranked as the biggest account creation day ever for OpenDNS, which the company claims was up 370 percent.
Google and Neustar UltraDNS have teamed up in an effort to make global DNS resolution a much speedier and accurate process than it is today.
DNS resolution, the process of looking up a common name, such as maximumpc.com, to find an IP address of a server associated with that name, does not take into account the geo-location of the computer making the request. Without this information, a DNS server may deliver the address to a server across the country (or the globe) resulting in a much slower internet experience.
However, Google and Neustar UltraDNS made a proposition called “Client IP Information in DNS requests.” Obviously from its name, the client IP making the DNS request sends along the first three quarters of their IP address to the DNS server, along with the query. With the first parts of the IP, the DNS server can geographically guess which servers to send back more accurately.
The evaluation of the proposal is underway, and undoubtedly will take a bit of time. Also expect the privacy advocates to pipe up to make sure client information isn’t compromised by this new process.
I'm sure many readers of Maximum PC--this one included--have jumped onboard the Google DNS ship, lured either by promises of increased speed versus one's own DNS server or a simple fascination at anything Google does. Fair, at least with the latter. Because it would be erroneous to just switch over to an alternate DNS server without any kind of assessment that what you're doing is actually the best-case scenario for your home or office setup.
That said, it's important to first give props to Google for delivering a DNS service that appears to be free of any kind of takeovers or unexpected redirects. Just try hand-pounding your keyboard after clicking on your browser's address board, then hit enter. If the resulting "fasdfljsajdf.com" isn't actually a Web site, you'll notice how... nothing happens, save for the standard "what are you doing?" error page (depending on your browser of choice). That's a bit different than OpenDNS, which routes you over to one of its own landing pages--oddly, a rebranded version of Yahoo! search--that's stacked with advertising related to whatever it is you mistyped. Weak.
Redirects aside, it's important to know exactly what you're getting into when you start fussing around with going a step beyond your ISP's default DNS servers. Like a tangible product review, you should really assess what you're gaining and losing through the use of either OpenDNS or Google DNS from both a performance and features standpoint.
After the jump, I'll share my own personal results with using both Google DNS and OpenDNS, and show you exactly how you can figure out the best-case scenario for your own browsing needs!
The fears of Microsoft taking over the world can be put safely to rest. It seems that Google is the one to worry about. Google provides us with a search engine, email, web apps, phone service, and whatever the heck Wave is. (You can even spy on people from space.) Now, to further envelope you in the Google Internet experience, Google is making available a public DNS resolution service.
The Domain Name System (DNS), are the street addresses of the Internet. You type in a URL, often containing a name, that gets translated into a series of dot-separated numbers. The look-up takes time, and can pose some security/privacy risks. As Google notes, if you spend time browsing the net you probably do a whole lot of DNS look-ups.
Rather than use your default DNS look-up system, the one your Internet service provider offers, you can configure your browser to go through Google’s system instead. Google promises greater speed in look-ups, as well as better security.
You are reading Maximum PC because you love to build, and tweak your rig. We will gladly spend hours trying to nudge a few extra clock cycles out of our CPU’s, but why do so many of us refuse to touch our network settings? The vast majority of users simply plug in their network cables, cross their fingers, and sacrifice an AOL CD to the gods who keep Conficker at bay. Truth be told, without going into too much depth up front, there is a really easy way to boost your surfing speed and it requires very little effort at all. This same tool gives you the ability to customize your internet experience further by creating URL shortcuts, or even filtering content, all without extra software.
The tool we are referring to is Domain Name System, or DNS for short. In a nutshell, DNS is your phone book for the internet. It helps translate a friendly internet domain like www.maximumpc.com, into IP address that our computer needs to find servers on the internet. Each time you visit a new website, a DNS query is issued in the background, and you’re none the wiser. Internet service providers supply DNS to all their customers, but these servers tend to be overpopulated, and certainly aren’t a priority to them because it’s difficult for the average user to measure performance. Power users are intimately familiar with how to benchmark raw connection speeds, but before that even becomes a factor, your machine needs IP address which is supplied by your DNS. Even if your smoking fast Fiber Optic connection can handle 18 Mbps, if your ISP’s DNS server wastes several seconds looking up your favorite website, you connection may be sitting in limbo when you could be surfing instead.
Interested in finding out how to improve the responsiveness of your connection and learning more about your DNS options? Hit the jump to find out more.
Bad news for ZoneAlarm users running Windows XP: the MS08-037 security update for DNS (aka 951748) released Tuesday breaks ZoneAlarm and knocks XP users off the Internet. If you're running recent versions of ZoneAlarm on Windows XP, you should avoid the KB951748 update for now. Grab a list of workarounds (and now, solutions)here.
For what went wrong, and how to fix it if you've already been bitten, catch us after the break.