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How can you get better performance with your Internet connection?

You’ve seen the scam artist advertisements for software programs that do nothing more than install junk-ware on your system.

TV Ad for software that did little to help novice PC users

The thing to remember is that many times your PCs Internt connection is slow becausee of your DNS provider.

Now you might be thinking “what is DNS John?” and I would tell you that this is a good question .

DNS means Domain Name Service. It operates on your computer’s port 53 and acts as the phonebook for the Internet. Here’s how…when you want to order a pizza for dinner, you may have to look up the number to the pizza place online or from an ad that they placed on your doorknob. You do not instinctively know the phone number to the pizza place and that’s okay. It’s normal.

Well in the same way you do not have every phone number that you may need in a day memorized, computers do not keep a track of every possible web site you might want to go to in a day stored in them either. Sure, some days you may bounce from a cable news site to a cable weather outlet to an Internet storefront and finally finish up at an Internet movie house like Youtube.

All of these have an IP address and yes, the sites you visit the most often you might want to save their IP addresses in your hosts file. This can be found in a Windows system in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts (and note that this file DOES NOT have a file extension).

You can save them in this format:

tech.jchampion.com            50.87.150.160

Now for you to have a better list of sites that are available worldwide on a DNS server. You are no doubt using one of the ones that your Internet service provider told you to use. These DNS servers may use tricks so that in the event you mistype a domain name, you are redirected to a relatively safe site that is hosted by the ISP or the DNS service provider. Any link that appears on these pages that you click on, make money for the service provider and likely put some sort of tracking cookie on to your computer to follow your movements to similar sponsored sites across the vast internet.

One way to speed up your experience and maybe avoid the whole tracking thing, is to use a new DNS provider. I’ll bet you did not think that you could do that but you can?

Simply go your Internet settings on your computer (Control Panel\Network and Internet\Network Connections and choose whichever icon matches your Internet connection). Right click on this icon and select properties. Now select Internet Connection version 4 from the window that pops up and then click on the properties button that highlights directly below that selection box.

Another window will pop up that will give you some options on things to fill out. Leave the top of this window alone if your Internet/network connection is working fine. What you want to fill out is the section that says “Use the following DNS server addresses” — and now you get to fill in any of a series of numbers you like. It looks like this:

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you'll want to fill out.

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you’ll want to fill out.

The IP addresses to populate those boxes are 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220

Google also has a DNS service that is available for the public to use and you can certainly use their IP addresses, 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 . With these addresses you get away from your ISP’s control but at the same time Google does not provide any level of service to help control or customize your own experience.

A list of other IP addresses for publicly accessible DNS services are listed here — just be sure to check the companies providing the IP addresses that you can use before you use them. You never know what information they could be pushing you to. There is such a thing as DNS poisoning and it is bad.

By bad..I mean that you could think that you are paying for an Amazon or Bank payment service and instead your traffic is directed through JimBob and Bubba-Sue’s scam site that culls your credit card or payment information before passing it along to Amazon or your bank so your purchase goes through and you are unaware anything went wrong, until you see your credit card bill or get that dreaded call from credit card security services.

It’s something to be aware of but do not be afraid. Forge ahead.

My goal in giving you this information is to teach you how to improve things for yourself without needing to spend money on software that does nothing but further bog down your system and worse, entices you to remove files your computer needs to run.

Have fun, be smart, and be independent. There will be more tips coming soon!

 

 

Windows 8: What It Is and Why You May Not Want It

I’ve been away from this blog for a while. Mostly because things have been in turmoil here at Casa de Campeogni. So today we are going to unravel Windows 8; what it is, how it works, where the experts say it is going to lead us to, and more importantly…do you need to run out and get a copy or if it comes on your new computer, do you need to wipe it out and downgrade back to Windows 7.

Hardware to firmware to EFI to the OS loads

Block diagram of the Intel and Microsoft UEFI firmware interface. This is stopping people from installing Linux on brand new computers the user has purchased.

First things first, if you are putting Windows 8 on an older system with an older motherboard and know how to properly configure your firewall, you’ll be in good enough shape to use it. I’ve been playing with it now since Beta 2 and I’m okay with the way it looks and feels. If you really want (or like me need) a “Start Menu” there are a couple of excellent utilities. The first is Start8 by Windows Blinds manufacturer, Stardock. It’s a $5 investment and in my humble estimation, worth it.

Option #2 a free version of a tool called Classic Shell created by a group of developers at MIT. It’s available at Sourceforge.net (links to both will be at the bottom of this article).

Functionality aside, let’s take a look at what is in it for Microsoft if you have a newer system and choose to stay with Windows 8. The crux of this argument is a replacement for your 30+ year old basic input output system (aka your BIOS). It’s old and it’s well passed its time in the sun. In the beginning it was never meant to be upgraded or flashed. Over the years, we just figured out ways to upgrade (flash) it and with that came a whole host of users who broke their computers (that is what happened to my last Sony laptop).

UEFI, uniform extensible firmware interface, is an upgradeable, programmable piece of software that runs before anything else does. With its current design and its current schema, when Microsoft and Intel (the only two companies planning the UEFI future currently), decide to ramp up the security and close off the Windows garden, and get updates on software signatures and approved license keys you’ll hear talk about using this to stop viruses, malware, spam, botnets, and other bad things we all loathe. When that happens, and it’s not a matter of if it will happen as much as it is a matter of when it will happen), many pirated copies of software will also cease running. Many bootleg copies of music, movies, or images will no longer be accessible. The possibilities for this technology is endless.

Sure..it’ll be Microsoft and Intel who will be doing the lion’s share of the work initially but with AMD, HP, Dell, Apple, and many many others onboard and the list growing, it is simply a matter of time before all major software manfacturer’s start paying the WinTel ransom to block their pirated software from running.

So…that’s part one of my theory on UEFI. If you have one, please let me know and I’ll post your 2¢ on its own separate post. I’ll write more about this issue next week…and I promise…no more long outages.

The Epsilon Breach Just Keeps Getting Worse

When it first happened, media from CNN, Fox, Time, NY Times, Washington Times, and other popularity driven news organizations did the lazy thing and reported the press release that Epsilon and those companies who turned over your personal information to Epsilon wrote to give the information they wanted you to think was true.

Epsilon Breach Press release

But the information contained in that release, like most press releases, is misleading at best and downright false at worst.

Here’s why…spam and spear phishing are the least of your worries in a breach of this kind. Coupled with other information email addresses, usernames, and companies you deal with can tell a lot about you and give identity thieves and identity sellers, loads of personal information to gain access into your life.

Not to mention that the folks who stole this information want you to turn over your computer to them. While they don’t want the electric bill from running it, they do want to use its CPU cycles, ram, and hard drive space to rent out to spammers, malware providers, adware servers, adult oriented material, child pornography, and let’s not forget about general mischief.

So how do you protect your from all of this sad activity?

1) Never click on links in incoming emails.
2) Use a good anti-virus/anti-malware/firewall.
3) Use common sense. Do not load photos/images just because a friend, an acquaintance, or someone else you may know sent them to you. Using steganography, a user can load javascript loaders, into the cutesie images that are sent to you and those can be used to begin delivery of malware, spyware, or other stuff you just don’t want on your system.
4) Stop sending emails that are meant to be forwarded. These give hackers an idea about which users are more susceptible to attack than others.

Finally–the reason why spam and malware continue to spread is because people are allowing the tools that come with their PC’s to expire, or just think a sofware firewall is sufficient. And let’s not forget the profit margin. Sending spam is quite profitable and people keep opening it, reading it, and responding to it.

It’s so profitable in fact, that many of the original spam factories of the 90’s are now legitimate email marketing companies.

So please…take responsibility for your computing actions. If you cannot afford to pay for the Symantec/McAfee software subscription that comes with your new computer…have a tech remove it and install Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG, Avast, Avira, or some other free anti-virus option.