Want to Speed Up Your Surfing?  Check out namebench!

| Monday's Mac Gadget

Product Link : Namebench 1.3.1 (Open Source)

When you try to connect to another computer on the Internet, you may take the simple act of entering a server name, such as www.macobserver.com, for granted, but there’s a lot happening behind the scenes to connect your computer to another computer. As you may know, the networking equipment that handles Internet traffic prefers to deal with numbers, not names. For example, www.macobserver.com maps actually 207.58.150.216, but of course nobody wants to remember that.

Fortunately, there’s a system called Domain Name System (DNS) whose job it is to translate easy-to-remember names to the numbers that routers and other networking equipment like to use. In the old days, you may have had to configure this value manually, but this value is typically assigned automatically, especially if you use DHCP. However, this DNS server may not be the best or fastest one you can use. namebench can help.

namebench is a utility for Mac and Windows (there’s also source available if you’d like to compile it for another platform) that will help you find the fastest DNS server in your area. This can be beneficial for activities such as browsing the web, which typically involves opening many network connections and resolving many different addresses.

When you start namebench, the IP address of currently configured name server is filled in. If you’d like to include other name servers in the test, you can enter them here. You are also given the option to include global DNS providers, such as OpenDNS and UltraDNS, as well as the best available regional DNS servers. You can also make sure DNS lookups are not being censored, and share the results of your test to help speed up the Internet for everyone. You will also be asked for your location, the relative performance for a health check (Fast or Slow) the source of the upcoming DNS queries, and the number of queries. The source of queries is important, if you choose a browser you are using, it will tune the results to your surfing habits. You can also use another source, such as top Alexa sites, but the results will be less personalized.

Results of namebench Tests Reported in Your Web Browser

Once the test is complete, you will be presented with the results. The most obvious will show the fastest DNS server available, and how much faster it is than the one your currently using. If the one you are using is the fastest, this will also be reported. namebench will reports the minimum, maximum and average amount of time a lookup took, as well as if any timeouts (TO) occured. Some additional notes about each server, such as NXDOMAIN hijacking, will be noted. NXDOMAIN hijacking means that an ISP, rather than report an error if a name can’t be found, will show their own search page and/or advertising instead. Many nice graphs showing the performance of the tested DNS servers are also shown.

So get the best web surfing experience, and optimize your DNS with namebench today! Have any other gadgets that can help speed up your surfing experience? Send an email to John and he’ll check it out.

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6 Comments Leave Your Own

nytesky

So now that I have the recommended DNS servers - how do I put that into my network configuration?

John F. Braun

If a faster DNS server is recommended, you can enter it on your Mac by going to System Preferences | Network | Advanced… | DNS, then click on the plus sign and enter the new address.  If you have multiple machines you may prefer to enter the new DNS address on your router instead.  For an AirPort, run AirPort Utility, then select Internet | TCP/IP, and enter the new address in the DNS field.  In general, the first DNS server listed is the first one your system will try to use, so you may want to enter the new value as the first entry, and leave the old value as a backup in case the first one fails.

iJack

For an AirPort, run AirPort Utility, then select Internet | TCP/IP, and enter the new address in the DNS field.

Actually, the steps for adding DNS Servers for Aiport are exactly the same as you stated in your first two sentences - no need to run Airport Utility, or to get involved with TCP/IP.  The one advantage is that you can call up the Network Preferences directly from the Airport menu in the menu bar.

John F. Braun

Actually, the steps for adding DNS Servers for Aiport are exactly the same as you stated in your first two sentences - no need to run Airport Utility, or to get involved with TCP/IP.? The one advantage is that you can call up the Network Preferences directly from the Airport menu in the menu bar.

What I was suggesting is that, if your have multiple machines connected to a single router (such as an AirPort) and the address of the router is already entered as the IP address of your DNS server, you can avoid entering the new DNS IP address on each machine by entering it on the router instead, and leaving the DNS IP address on the machines alone.

iJack

Ah, yes I see now.  You meant an Airport base station, rather than an Airport network.

Having said that, I have noticed that every time I run Namebench, the DNS address of my router (Westell) is included in the results as a server, and most often shown as the fastest, so I never tinker with it.

nytesky

Thanks John!

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