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Windows Vista hints and tips

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Better, faster, more reliable internet

Whenever we want to visit a website we enter an address like www.google.com and the web browser displays it in a second or two. The address is actually just a convenience for people because they are easy to remember and computers don't use them. Instead, they use IP addresses and every computer on the internet is given a unique IP address - a series of numbers to identify it. (Actually, your router might hold the IP address rather than your computer, but that's not important.) An IP address consists of four numbers like this: 209.123.220.67

When you enter an address like www.google.com the web browser must find out the IP address of the computer you want to access. Once it knows the IP address it can establish communications with it and request the web page. The web browser accesses a domain name server (DNS), which is a special computer on the internet that contains a list of all the website names like www.google.com, and their corresponding IP addresses. The browser sends the address to the domain name server and then receives the IP address that it sends back.

Your ISP will run a domain name server for its users and your computer will autmatically use it. Unfortunately, some ISPs can get very busy at peak times and the response can be slow, and this means that web browsing is slow because each address you enter must first be looked up at the domain name server. Your ISP's domain name server might even be unavailable occasionally, and then you won't be able to access any websites because the IP addresses cannot be found

You don't have to use your ISP's domain name server and you can in fact use another one - if you know it's address. OpenDNS is a domain name server that anyone can use. It aims to be faster and more reliable than your ISP's domain name server, and what's more, it has some cool features too. When your computer uses OpenDNS to convert text addresses into IP numbers it will do it slightly more quickly and this makes using the web more responsive, especially when your ISP is overloaded with DNS requests.

OpenDNS

To set Windows Vista to use OpenDNS domain name servers go to the Control Panel and double click Network and Sharing Center. Under your network it will show your connection (mine says Local Area Connection since I'm connected to my router using an ethernet cable), and a View Status link. Click the link and then click the Properties button. Double click Internet Protocol Version 4 in the list and select the option labelled Use the following DNS server addresses. Click in the boxes and enter 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220. Click OK, OK and Close to close the dialogs and the job's done.

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