Faster web browsing: Using a public, local and geographically-strategic DNS server

Much as I am annoyed with Globe’s broadband Internet services right now, I have just switched back to using one of its DNS server. For almost four years now, I’ve been using Open DNS in a bid to speed up my web browsing. But why revert back to using my own ISP’s DNS server?

Digital Inspiration has a convincing argument for doing so:

You know about Content Delivery Networks like Amazon, Akamai, etc. that have data centers located across the globe and they serve content from the one that’s closest to you geographically. A site like Adobe hosts its files on Akamai so when you download that 1 GB Photoshop installer from Adobe.com, the file will be served to you from the Akamai data center that’s nearest to you.

A CDN uses your computer’s IP Address to determine your current location and then redirects you to the server that’s nearest to you. However, if you use a public DNS service, the CDN may not get to know your accurate location as your IP address is masked by the public DNS Service. The CDN could therefore serve content from a server that’s not closest to you and hence it will take more time to download files.

Makes sense right? So even if the ISPs in the country are notorious for their slow connections, in today’s reality where most websites are using Content Delivery Networks to serve up content and such CDN are scattered throughout the world, the only way to make sure that your are downloading content from the nearest data center would be to use your own ISPs DNS server.

But I still want to use a public DNS server because they are still better than my own ISP’s. Good thing I found about namebench – a cross-platform, open-source utility that looks for the fastest DNS server over at Lifehacker.

Since I’m using Ubuntu Linux, I first had to install Python to prepare the system.

sudo apt-get install python-tk

Then I downloaded the .tgz file which contained the source for namebench here.

Extracted it to my home folder:

tar xvzf namebench-1.3.1-source.tgz

I then navigated to the namebench directory and double clicked on the namebench.py file to run the program immediately.

After the tests were completed, it gave following recommendation:

Namebench recommended DNS servers

Namebench gives a combination of public, local and geo-strategic DNS server

It found Google Public DNS to be 8.2% faster than Open DNS, and to address the points raised by Digital Inspiration, namebench recommended that I use the Globe’s DNS server as my secondary while another DNS server in Japan to be the third.

For now I couldn’t say for certain if the new DNS settings has indeed increased my web surfing speed because my connection has yet to be returned to normal. I am confident though that it is a good combination of public, local and a geographically-strategic DNS servers.

What do you think about Digital Inspiration’s case for going this route? Do you also use public DNS servers?

Adopting the 30-30 Minute Work Cycle

In my quest to become more productive, I have decided to adopt the 30/30 minute work cycle. It is a lifehack by Chetan Surpur. What this means is quite simple, for every hour I spend on my laptop, 30 minutes of it would be spent on nothing but work. I would write, do research, re-write, do some routine blog maintenance and other things needed to keep this blog growing and accomplishing my other writing tasks. Notifications about new email, twitter updates, chat messages, etc. would be turned off or ignored unless it is extremely important or work-related. During this 30 minutes it will be nothing but work.

When that period is up, the next 30 minutes would then be spent on non-work activities, like having fun, playing with my little daughter, reading a book, getting up and stretching my legs, anything to give me a break.

With this system, time is well-managed and efficiently used. Instead of just sitting in front of my laptop doing all sorts of things which 80% is not really work-related.

To keep track of the time, I’ve downloaded and installed Workrave.

Workrave is a program that assists in the recovery and prevention of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). The program frequently alerts you to take micro-pauses, rest breaks and restricts you to your daily limit.

Workrave - Take a Break

Workrave gives instructions on how to exercise during your break time

It runs on both GNU/Linux and Windows and it’s easy to use and set-up. What’s great about this app is that it gives instructions on rest exercises designed for those who are working on computers – programmers, typists, writers, geeks and bloggers, well anyone who’s on a computer.

It includes wrist exercises to prevent or lessen carpal tunnel syndrome, an eye exercise to relieve eye-strain, some arm-shoulder movements to keep the blood flowing and the muscles some relaxation. Best of all, it tells you to get up and walk away from your computer during your break.

When it does tell you to take a break, it locks your entire desktop. So you cannot use your supposed free time to wander on to Facebook, Google Reader or Twitter, heck even porn sites. Gaming is even a no-no. When Workrave tells you to take a break, it means exactly that. Though you can always click the “skip” or “postpone” button and continue on working it just means the entire system will depend on your self-discipline. My self-discipline in this case.

The 30-30 minute work cycle isn’t suited for everyone. You can even tweak it to suit your working style. The whole point is to have a system that will help you manage your time efficiently, allocating it both to work and having a break.

Go ahead and give it a try. Let me know how it turns out. If you have other similar systems, methods or regimen, share it with for everyone to enjoy and learn from.