OpenDNS has garnered a lot of positive press over the last year. Frustratingly NTL’s use of proxies meant that no matter what I tried, OpenDNS could not be configured on it’s network which meant I couldn’t move to the service.
While I was cleaning up my bookmarks I stumbled again on OpenDNS and now that NTL & Telewest have merged into Virgin Media I thought it was worth trying one last time. Success. So what does OpenDNS do?
DNS requests are made every day from your home connection. E-mails, web surfing, online gaming etc all make use of DNS. DNS turns real addresses (www.apple.com) into an IP address for the physical computer you want to connect to. It makes it easier to surf and also means an address can stay fixed while the computer changes in the background (to a different IP address). Usually you make use of your own ISP’s DNS server which in general works OK but from time to time can have issues. Speed, lack of redundancy and update issues are ones I’ve seen over the years.
OpenDNS provides a free DNS service that promises to resolve addresses quickly and also a few unique services that I certainly don’t get from my current ISP. Firstly there are anti-phisihing features in place so that you will be warned and the phishing site intercepted should you be lead to one. There’s also spelling correction where OpenDNS will look at the URL you’ve typed and if it detects a typo it will redirect you to the correct site. Finally if you look up a site that cannot be resolved OpenDNS will display a page with aletrnatives.
You can turn off these features if you find they get in the way and you can also see stats on domains visited, IP’s requested etc but that isn’t the killer feature for me. It’s the speed.
Since moving to OpenDNS web surfing has taken on an extra zip. Click on a link now and the page is served far quicker than it was using Virgin’s DNS servers. I’m taking 2-4 seconds quicker for me but your mileage may vary. I’m also convinced that I’m using a more redundant service than my ISP’s servers but time will really tell with regards reliability. The added security features are a bonus but I really do recommend swapping to OpenDNS and at least giving it a shot (that for any ISP you use, not just Virgin). There are great guides on the site for most common routers and operating systems that take you through the small changes that you need to make. Have a go and enjoy a faster and more secure web.
So NTL are trialling a new way of shaping. Well, I think it’s new as I haven’t heard of any broadband provider working like this. If you are a heavy downloader, even during the day or at other off peak times then your connection will be limited during peak times. According to Cable Forum the trial affects 10Meg users who are limited to 5Meg during peak times.
Issues so far seem to be users who are out all day are still being downgraded during peak times. There is also ambiguity with the terms and conditions. This trial will only affect users who break the user policy…yet the user policy now states there is unlimited downloading on NTL. When will we get companies to spell out in black and white what exactly a broadband user can and cannot do. I’m on 10 Meg but to be honest there is so much contention on the network at the moment that in peak times I see around 3-4Meg. If this trial does free up bandwidth I’m all for it. Will be interesting to see what happens if NTL do keep their promise of everyone on at least 10Meg by the end of Q1 07 with 10Meg moving to 20Meg. I’ll be downgrading soon methinks.
After singing NTL’s praises there’s an issue stopping the Xbox 360 connecting to Xbox Live which is definetly not my router (which I just updated) or the NTL modem as a friend in Wales has exactly the same problem. Maybe it is best to keep your mouth shut when things are generally OK. Now….where’s that Sky broadband letter.
A few months after buying Easynet Sky have launched their Sky Broadband package. On the surface the offerings are very cheap compared to competitors and also offer a free wireless Netgear router for all customers.
Look a little deeper though and things aren’t so clear. Firstly the max package is subject to a fair usage policy which if going by UK Online’s FUP will be similar to most other providers.
Secondly is that the broadband will be provisioned through Easynets LLU (Local Loop Unbundled) exchanges. This at the moment covers 28% of the UK but by year end will be over 50% and by end of 2007 over 70%. This is an extremely aggresive expansion over the coming months which will test the capacity of the network and also the quality of support staff. If you don’t connect to an LLU exchange you will use Sky’s Connect package which doesn’t offer as good value as the three packages mentioned above.
Third – you need to pay for a BT phone line which for many will add to the cost.
Fourth – you need to be a Sky Digital customer. If these points don’t cause you an issue then the broadband package is an amazing offer. Great value and the prospect of a fast Video on Demand service linked in with your Sky box. Despite this it’s not enough to tempt me into moving and that’s all down to Easynet/BT.
Six months ago I moved to NTL. That’s the last time I had issues with my broadband connection. Previous to NTL I had a short but unhappy experience with Freedom2Surf’s LLU service provisioned by Easynet. Unreliable, prone to disconnects and difficult to resolve due to problem being passed between Freedom2Surf, Easynet and BT forced my hand into switching to NTL. It will take a lot to convince me to move back although Â£10 a month compared to Â£35 with NTL is a strong argument. At the very least the competition from Sky should make NTL offer a more competitive service. More on the Sky offers can be found in the investor presentation.
It had to come in the end – NTL will shortly be introducing traffic shaping between 18:00 and 23:00. It slipped into the user policy on Friday although it has been announced today that this was ‘a mistake‘. I’ve got mixed views on this. Most other broadband comp’s are doing this and they do have to make a profit for the service they provide. I would prefer a strict download cap though rather than shaping during certain hours as I hate leaving the pc switched on when not in use – such a waste. I also want the full fat speed when I use the PC – why not implement harder caps and charge more for those that use/abuse the service rather than hampering everyone’s speed?
On the other hand if users are honest the traffic being shaped is peer to peer and Usenet – when was the last time you used these technologies legitametly on a repeated basis? I’ve not so have I got any reason to complain?
However movie and TV companies are moving onto download services, some using torrent technology (including NTL). How many people will download a DVD sized movie which takes 24 hours rather than 3 due to the shaping that’s been applied. Not me. I guess that NTL won’t traffic shape their own paid for service either.
Weighing up the issues I’m now in the camp that thinks if it guarantees a good service for surfing, e-mailing and gaming then traffic shaping is a good thing to do. While it prevents some things it at least gives me a service for the legal activities that my connection is used for.
Speaking of legal…my downloading via Usenet has almost dropped to zero. DVD downloading is just too much hassle – much rather buy the DVD and watch it. With the 360 I’ve got no urge to download any Xbox titles, I’m back buying music and I’ve got no need for any hacked apps. Sky HD is on the way too – I won’t be downloading TV shows anymore. Is it just me?