Thursday, October 28, 2010

Internet Running Slow? Try OpenDNS

I know that technically oriented readers will probably already know this, but for any readers that don't know, there is a way that you could possibly speed up your Internet connection.

If you have a page that is loading slow (say like Facebook.com or any other page) one of the problems might be a slow DNS server. If you look at the status bar in your browser you will see two messages as a page loads. The first message will say "looking up ...url..." or it will say "waiting for ...url..."  Of course this message will probably vary based on which browser you are using.  But if your waiting for a page and it seems like you are spending a lot of time looking up site names, then switching your DNS server will probably help.

A lot of pages you see on the Internet actually come from multiple servers around the world.  CNN.com, FoxNews.com, and even Facebook.com have you load content from a lot of different servers.  And for each server you visit you need to look up its address.  Every computer on the Internet has a unique address, so that messages can find their way across the Internet to that specific computer.  This address is called an IP address and looks something like this:  128.224.123.25.  DNS, which is short for domain name system, is the phone book of the Internet.  It translates addresses like www.facebook.com into ip address so your page request can reach the web server.

Whenever you connect to the Internet, your computer is usually are told which DNS servers to use by your Internet service provider.  However, these servers are often slow, and many times have to ask several other servers to find the sites that you want.  This is why it might take a while to find all of the different sites that make up the site you are trying to visit.  Well OpenDNS will provide you with a fast DNS server to use.  It is free, and they even have video tutorials to show you how to setup your computer or wireless router to use their DNS servers.  As an added bonus, they can provide web filtering and protect you from phishing scams.

So if you are seeing a lot of "looking up" messages while you wait for pages to load, it might be worth it to give OpenDNS a try.  Google offers a similar service as well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Migrating to a New Host

So you probably have already noticed, I am not updating my blog very often.  Trying to teach 3-4 classes a semester, doing a dissertation, and trying to be a good husband and father keeps me really busy.  Although my previous host has been great, I decided to go with a cheaper hosting option.  That meant that I had to migrate my blog to a new server.  If you visit my site, you should notice a new, cleaner look.  I hope you like it.  (Although I am probably just writing this to myself since I don't really have any followers.)  What follows are some of the features and choices I made to make this blog look the way it does.  If you are interested in the technical details, then read on.

First, I decided to transfer my domain name to godaddy.com.  They had a better price than my old host.  It was fun learning about the domain name transfer process.  I started by just transfering the domain, and I kept using my old host's nameservers so that it would continue to point to my old site.  Once I got my new blog up and running, I parked the domain at godaddy, and pointed it to my new host.  I use openDNS (maybe I will write about that in a future post), and I was surprised at how fast they picked up the change.  It only took them 30 minutes to notice the change and update the entries.  The nameservers at BYU-Hawaii took a couple of days to pick up the change.

Second, I decided to stay with the Wordpress blog engine.  I was a little hesitant to stick with wordpress because it takes a lot of resources and runs slow.  My new host doesn't have as many resources.  This meant that my blog loaded really slow (3 seconds per page).  I explored other options.  I even installed Movabletype.  Movabletype definitely loads much faster, because it saves static html pages on your site after you publish.  However, there are not as many extensions and it seemed much more complicated to setup.

Then I stumbled up the WP Super Cache plugin.  What it does is create static copies of all of my pages.  Most visitor will get the static copy.  When I create a new post, or when someone comments, the cache is automatically regenerated with the new content.  Now, my pages load in less than a second (except for the Facebook like buttons, but that is Facebook's fault not my server's).  This does mean that my twitter feed will be out of date, but I hope to fix that in the future.

I also decided to use the Disqus commenting system.  This lets people log in with their Facebook or Twitter accounts, and then they can post comments.  They also can post their comments to their Facebook wall.  I tried IntenseDebate which does the same thing.  However, they tied my profile to a Wordpress.com account.  Then to get comment notifications, I had to publish my email address in a Wordpress press profile and in Gravatar. IntenseDebate did load faster and that is why I tried it out.  However, after I installed the caching plugin, disqus started to load fast too.  Another good feature of Disqus, is their android app.  Now I can view and moderate my comments on my phone.

I also added the Facebook like buttons so that people with Facebook accounts can like my posts and comment on them in Facebook.  Using an add-to-any button, I also added many ways people can share my posts.

Anyway, I hope you like the new look and features.  Now I just need to get some good content here, and some readers.  Maybe posting more than just once or twice a year will help.  If you are reading this, let me know what you think!