That wasn't the question until this past week.
Then, Google announced its own DNS server product (Free, with strings, of course) and suddenly I started wondering whether I should make a switch. Really, it wasn't a long discussion. Fact is, that the DNS server at rogers.com has been ... well, lousy for awhile. For the unaware, the DNS thingy I'm talking about is called a Domain Name Server. It's the telephone-book like service that lets you put a name, such as http://mugfordmugshots.blogspot.com/ and get back the numerical address equivalent. I can't remember what that is, but it looks like four sets of numbers separated by periods. This directory searching service is a necessity and your internet service provider provides you with one by default.
Until about three weeks ago, rogers' DNS was performing adequately. Every morning (well, sometimes afternoons) I wake up and schlep into the office and middle click on a few folders in Firefox. Together, the four tabs I click on load about 142 tabs (it goes up and down periodically). I then finish the ritual of waking up and come back, expecting to spend the next 90-120 minutes perusing the sites I have bookmarked. By clicking on various links, I probably hit 200-250 page views in all. Having gone through all the trouble of pre-loading those tabs, I expect to get through each site with a minimum amount of effort. That effort should NOT include re-loading the tab because it timed out nor should I have to re-load the tab to have the page finish fully loading, rather than a bit here and a bit there showing.
Lately, I haven't been getting what I wanted. Where I could be happy with, say five pages timing out and five others not finishing, say seven percent unhappy, the failures have risen dramatically of late. Regularly, I was hitting failure rates of SIXTY percent when loading the tabs en masse. Even loading just a section, say the computer programming folder, resulted in more than half of the 14 tabs in that group not loading correctly. And what did, did slowly.
Then I lost the internet completely from Thursday late afternoon to mid Friday afternoon. A reset of the modem got back intermittent support, but for only one connection at a time. No web-browsing while checking email. Forget newsgroups and other stuff. Time to call rogers tech. A technician came out on Saturday and found some rusted out connectors on the outside box (I have two lines coming into the house). He fixed it all and suggested, upon finishing, that I would once again have happiness. I would be getting a big increase in performance, maybe close to what I pay for, the ULTIMATE package. What I DO get is a little less than 10Mbps download and between a half-meg and 1Mbps of upload speed. Rogers rates a 3.1 out of 5 for actual performance, according to speedtest.net.
So, imagine my utter disappointment to discover the hardware fix, didn't fix Firefox. I tried upping the disk cache to twice what I had before and boosted the memory cache by 50 percent. No big improvement. The Toronto Sun Sunshine Girl page was still taking 49 seconds to load. Well, mostly load. A second re-load page was required to finish the job, meaning it actually took 54 seconds. I called Patrick to palaver over options.
I had read about GoogleDNS and knew about OpenDNS, two publicly-available DNS replacements for your ISP's version. I had tried OpenDNS, but was unfamiliar with the product and gave up on it. It allows for more filtering of sites and I obviously ran afoul of a few filters I didn't know I could turn off. So, I ditched OpenDNS back then and went back to the local product. A series of columns these past few days in ComputerWorld touted both of the DNS alternatives. OpenDNS has a greater attraction amongst parents and corporations, for the ability to pre-filter spots. Google had the charm of being totally agnostic. It didn't do anything but serve up the sites you ask for, as quickly as Google can manage it. And Google equals fast in most things internet these days.
And GoogleDNS is not going to ruin that operation. With some hesitation, I changed my DNS settings in my router to 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199. I flushed all my caches with Crap Cleaner. And then I put Firefox through the whole load test. All 143. And all 143 loaded in 81 seconds. ALL of them. Completely. No timed out errors. No mishmash of pages with some elements loaded and some not. The 40 Comic Strips I visit daily were all there, even the ones from the Toronto Star, which hates loading correctly at the best of times. I shut down Firefox, ran Crap Cleaner and then went back and loaded just the Toronto Sun Sunshine Girl page. Less than three seconds.
Now, anytime you do something that gets you an 18-fold increase in performance, you have to try to look behind the curtain. Somebody HAS to be yanking your chain, don't you think? My caveat is that this happened on a Sunday night when, as Patrick put it, everybody was watching Desperate Housewives on TV. Not me, I have taste. But most folks. The Internet bandwidth probably looked like the Autobahn to my computer that time of the night. But I do check a LOT of European sites, as well as ones in China, Australia and Russia (Delphi programmers can be found all over the world). Those came up lickety-split quick too.
So, I'll await the sun's rising here in Brampton on the morrow and see if the speed increase holds. Heck, if even half of it holds and the completeness remains true, then I become a whole-hearted Google evangelist for this product.
In case you want YOUR internet to perform like greased lightning, check out GoogleDNS!
NOTE: The strings. You were wondering about the strings. When you type in a non-existent site, you frequently get a message saying your site can't be found. When you use GoogleDNS, you end up at a site saying so ... WITH ads Google has sold companies. PLUS, potentially Google gets a track record of every place you go on the internet, which it currently doesn't keep. Some of the more paranoid (Yes, Irwin, there are people even more paranoid than me) of you out there will balk at that. On the other hand SOMEBODY gets that data. Do you trust rogers more than Google?