Internet related articles talk about how to safely connect your computer to the Internet and keep you, your information, and your privacy safe from others.

Another Reason to Choose A2Hosting: Opposition to SOPA

I’ve recommended A2Hosting for your shared and dedicated hosting needs for years.  You might have heard about two pieces of legislation current before the Senate and Congress–SOPA and PIPA— which threaten the openness of the Internet.  A few companies (such as GoDaddy) initially supported these measures, but the Internet at-large vehemently opposes them.

As a professional who makes his living off of the Internet I believe I have a responsibility to do what I can to protect this open ecosystem that has provided me with so much opportunity.  It’s my own policy that I will not be doing any new business with companies whom at any point supported SOPA.  To that end I contacted A2Hosting to hear what they had to say about the matter:

Question 1: Does A2Hosting Support SOPA?

Answer:  We are strongly against SOPA!

Question 2: Does A2Hosting use GoDaddy for Domain Registration?

Answer: We do not use GoDaddy on the backend. We are currently using eNom on the backend, however we may soon decide to go direct because we have enough domains to make it worthwhile. It’s just a rather large project to do so.

Conclusion

In addition to their reliability and excellent technical support, A2Hosting‘s opposition to SOPA is yet another reason I highly recommend them and will be using them directly for my domain registrations and renewals in the future.

What To Do When Firefox Forgets It’s Own Age

Yesterday I dealt with some issues that were plaguing my cousin’s computer, among which was the odd fact that both MySpace and Yahoo Mail would not allow him to use their sites because his version of Mozilla Firefox was too far out-of-date.  The problem was, he was using the most recent version of the program, Firefox 3.5.5, which I confirmed by checking the “About” window under the Help menu in his browser.

Firefox and all other web browsers tell the web pages you visit what browser and version number you are using by sending something called a User Agent string. My suspicion was that Firefox was reporting the wrong User Agent string, and this suspicion turned out to be correct.

First attempt to resolve the issue by turning off or uninstalling your Firefox plug-ins, one-by-one.  Chances are, one of your plug-ins corrupting the User Agent string.

If removing plug-ins doesn’t fix the problem you can try to manually check and modify the User Agent settings by typing the address “about:config” into the Firefox address bar and checking the settings under “general.useragent” for an incorrect browser version.

Beware of the Thrasher

Anyone who has worked in the tech support field can tell you: all computers are not created equal.  Even the most popular PC manufacturers happily sell hopelessly under-powered computers to cost-conscious consumers who incorrectly assume that a new computer is a fast computer. Today I’d like to focus on what I call a Thrasher: a computer so poorly configured that it can’t perform the simplest of tasks.

How to Identify a Thrasher

It’s not hard to identify a Thrasher simply by observing a computer’s behavior:

  1. Can you solve world hunger in the time it takes to progress from the login screen to the point where you can actually interact with your desktop?
  2. Does switching between programs seem to take forever?
  3. Does it take minutes, rather than mere milliseconds, for your mouse clicks to register and make anything happen?
  4. Do windows disappear slowly, or a single line of pixels at a time rather all at once as they should?
  5. Do you get Out or Memory or Low Virtual Memory errors?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then chances are you’ve got a Thrasher. I’ve coined these types of machines Thrashers after thrashing, a unique problem that arises when a computer is low on memory. Thrashing occurs when your computer has severely limited physical memory and has to rely on virtual memory (a special segment of hard drive space that works like physical memory) to run multiple programs.

Put simply, when your computer has to depend on virtual memory, it often works itself into a state in which it spends all of it’s time and resources shuffling data between physical RAM and virtual memory and has nothing left to actually perform the tasks you want it to perform.

Here’s a fun little exercise to try when you encounter such a computer.  When the machine seems to be thrashing, press CTRL+ALT+DEL to bring up Task Manager. There’s a good chance that it will take several minutes for Task Manager to appear, but after it does click the Performance tab and look at your memory utilization.  Is your computer reporting that it is consistently using more RAM that is physically installed?  This means that it is depending on Virtual Memory 100% of the time, which means you’ve got a Thrasher.

How to Deal With a Thrasher

If you just want the Low Virtual Memory errors to go away, you could simply increase the amount of virtual memory made available to the operating system.  But this masks a symptom and really doesn’t fix the underlying problem. To truly fix thrashing the amount of physical memory available for programs to utilize must be increased.  Here are a few different methods for increasing your virtual memory:

  1. Install more memory. This is by far the easiest and most effective way to increase available physical memory. Besides: memory is cheap these days, so why not find out exactly how much physical RAM your computer can handle and max it out?
  2. Uninstall unused software. Many programs have components that load when windows starts and always consume a chunk of physical memory.  Eliminate programs that you no longer have any use for.
  3. Disable Startup Programs. Using a utility like MSCONFIG or Windows Defender, disable or completely remove unneccessary startup programs. This is often useful if you want to keep a particular program installed, but don’t want it to load when Windows starts.
  4. Run anti-virus. It’s not very likely that a virus is consuming all of your physical memory, but it’s good to eliminate the possibility.  If your computer is so slow that you can’t even open anti-virus, consider rebooting into Safe Mode to run a virus scan.
  5. Run anti-spyware. Spyware can consume a lot of RAM, so it’s always wise to eliminate that possibility.
  6. Update your operating system and other software. Your software may have memory leaks that updates could potentially fix.

Video: Finding Your Network Settings in Windows Vista

A YouTube member who watched my video about Finding Your Network Settings on Windows XP requested that someone make a similar video for Windows Vista. This video is quick and dirty, but it walks users through each step of finding their network connection settings both through the Windows user interface as well as through the command prompt.

Speed Up Your Internet Connection Using Open DNS

Have you ever noticed that large downloads go quickly on your broadband Internet connection but websites still seem to load at dial-up speeds?  I have a 10Mb/s DSL connection which–in theory anyway–is about 182 times more bandwidth than a 56k modem. Yet loading my Facebook profile took can take up a minute, which by todays standards feels like a lifetime.  The problem was caused by slow DNS servers at my ISP and I solved the problem using Open DNS.

The Difference Between Downloading a Large File and Viewing a Website

When you download a single large file from the Internet like a music album or an episode of your favorite show, the download is a single continuous stream of information, all originating from the same location.  But have you ever noticed that when you view a website, all of the sudden your web browser’s status bar starts going a little crazy?  That’s because when you view a website, it needs to download not just the “web page” but all of the supporting images, videos, and other external resources. Each resource is downloaded individually, and they may or may not be downloaded from the same central location.
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Why DNS May Become a Bottleneck

When a webpage is requested the domain name (like google.com) must be translated to a numerical address (called an IP Address) which can be understood by the computers and devices that make up the Internet.  This translation is done by a special service called DNS which your Internet Provider automatically assigns to your Internet connection. DNS must be consulted each time a resource is requested, hence if a web page contains 20 supporting resources DNS could possibly be called 21 times to translate names to numerical addresses.  If your Provider’s DNS servers become bogged down this can increase the time it takes for resources needed by a web page to be located.

OpenDNS to the Rescue

I discovered a service tonight called OpenDNS that hosts free DNS servers that you can easily configure on your own Internet Connection.  If you find that your web surfing seems sluggish, visit OpenDNS and follow their instructions for using their service on your computer. If you find that it doesn’t help, it’s easy to switch back to your ISP’s DNS servers.