6.1 Internet Speed Tricks
If you're like most folks, when you log on to the Internet, you're only interested in three speeds: fast, faster, and fastest . This section explains how to rev up even the slowest connection.
6.1.1 Faster Surfing I
Pictures are often worth a thousand seconds ‚ or more. Many Web sites are full of logos, obnoxious banner ads, and other annoying graphics. You can surf faster by turning off the picture display ‚ a particular boon to dial-uppers.
To tell Internet Explorer not to display graphics, choose Tools Internet Options Advanced. Scroll down to the Multimedia section, and turn off "Show pictures." An X now appears in place of each graphic you encounter while surfing. If you change your mind and want to display graphics again, simply return to this dialog box, and turn on "Show pictures."
| ADD-IN ALERT |
Managing Dial-Up Internet Access
If you have no plans to upgrade to cable or DSL, try letting DUN Manager brighten your dial-up existence. This program manages dial-up network connections by scheduling automated dial-up times, performing diagnostics on your connection, displaying a graph of your connection speed, or blocking connections at certain times--say, when your kids are supposed to be doing their homework. (\302\24325 shareware [$45 based on the exchange rate at this writing]; http://www.magsys.co.uk.
6.1.2 Faster Surfing II
Here's another easy-bake recipe for speedier surfing: set your browser to launch with a blank page rather than loading your home page each time you open up a new window.
To start Internet Explorer with a blank home page, choose Tools Internet Options General. The Internet Options dialog box, shown in Figure 6-1, appears. Click Use Blank and then OK. From now on, Internet Explorer starts with a blank slate.
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Figure 6-1. When you start Internet Explorer, it goes immediately to the page listed in the Address box, which is called your home page. If you haven't chosen a home page yourself, Explorer may use a Microsoft site or the home page of the company that made your computer. To speed up your browsing, start with a blank page instead.
6.1.3 Caching Up
As you move around the Web, your browser caches the pages you visit, which means it saves them to a folder on your PC. Then, when you visit those Web pages again, your browser grabs the text and pictures from your PC's cache rather than the Web, so it doesn't have to repeatedly download the same information ‚ the happy result of which is more efficient browsing.
Note: How can your browser tell what's new? It examines each element on the page, compares them to what's in your cache, and downloads only the ones that have changed.
The size of your cache is important. If your cache is too small, your browser can't save very many Web pages, and you lose the benefit of the system. But a big cache eats up a lot of disk space.
To optimize your cache setting for faster browsing in Internet Explorer, select Tools Internet Options General Settings. The dialog box in Figure 6-2 appears, which lets you change the amount of disk space allocated to your Temporary Internet files folder (another name for your cache). If the amount is less than 2 MB, it's probably too small. Consider making it at least 5 MB, and possibly more if you have space to spare. To increase the cache, drag the slider to the right (drag it to the left if you want to decrease the file's size). Click OK twice.
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Figure 6-2. You can speed up your Web browsing by allocating more space to your Temporary Internet files folder, also known as your cache. Depending on the size of your hard drive, you might want to let it save many tens of megabytes of data.
Note: For more tips on managing your cache, turn to Section 7.4.1.
| POWER USERS' CLINIC |
Reach Your Favorite Sites on the Double
A second may not sound like a long time, but it feels like a life sentence when you're waiting to reach a Web page. Here's how you can shave off a sliver of time.
Each time you visit a Web site, a complicated electronic transaction takes place between your computer and the site you're visiting. After you type in an address, such as http://www.oreilly.com (called a host name), the Internet translates those letters into corresponding numbers it can understand (for example, 22.214.171.124). This set of numbers is known as an IP address (for Internet protocol).
The Internet translates the words into numbers by using the Domain Name System (DNS), a network of servers that matches URLs (http://www.oreilly.com) to the corresponding IP address. In other words, when you type an address in your browser, your computer contacts a DNS server, and that server sends your browser the IP address ‚ which your browser then uses to visit the site you're trying to get to. (The term geeks use for the process of matching a host name to its proper IP address is resolution or name resolution ).
It takes time to send your request to a DNS server, wait for the server to look up the proper IP address, and then wait for it to send the IP address back to your PC. You can eliminate this delay and accelerate your browsing a bit by editing the HOSTS file on your PC (or creating one if you don't have one already). The HOSTS file contains host names and their corresponding IP addresses. When you're surfing, XP first looks at this file to see if it has an entry for the Web site you're trying to visit. If XP finds an entry, it resolves the address itself and passes it along to your browser, bypassing the DNS server and letting you reach your destination a split second faster. Which can feel significant.
Before you dive into your HOSTS file, you need the IP address of any site you want to jump to on the double. The simplest way to learn them is with XP's built-in ping utility, which sends a stream of data to a Web site. To use the ping utility, go to a command prompt and type http://www.oreilly.com ‚ to get a response saying something like Pinging oreilly.com [126.96.36.199] with 32 bytes of data. The number in brackets is the IP address.
Now you're ready for the HOSTS file, which is a plain text file you can create or edit with a text editor like Notepad. In most cases you can find an existing HOSTS file in My Computer C: WIndows Systerm32 Drivers Etc HOSTS. (The file has no extension at the end of its name--its just called HOSTS.) If your Etc folder appears to be empty, in Notepad's Open file dialog box, try selecting "All Files" from the "Files of type" pop-up menu. If it's still not there, simply create a new file in the Etc folder and call it HOSTS.
Open HOSTS in Notepad and enter the IP addresses and host names of the Web sites you frequently visit, as shown here. You can have as few or as many entries in your HOSTS file as you like.
Put each Web site on its own line, with the IP address in the first column and the corresponding host name in the next column. At least one space should separate the two columns . When you're finished editing the file, save it to the same location.
If you later find you can't reach a Web site on your list, make sure the IP address is up to date. If it has changed, and your HOSTS file still has the old address, your browser won't be able to find the site.
6.1.4 Speeding Up Downloads
The Internet is full of tremendously useful files ‚ like many of the programs recommended throughout this book. But even if you have a fast Internet connection, downloads can take a sputteringly long time to transfer to your PC.
You can speed things up with a free program called Download Accelerator Plus, available at http://www.speedbit.com. (Of course, you have to download it before you can use it.) The program, which works with most of the leading browsers, including Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Mozilla, takes over the duties of your browser's download manager (the utility that manages the files you download from the Internet).
When you download a file using Download Accelerator Plus, the program automatically connects to multiple sites and downloads pieces of the file simultaneously , significantly accelerating the process. (Because the program has been designed to work alongside your browser, you still download files the same way: by clicking links on Web pages.) You can also schedule Download Accelerator Plus to download files at specific times by right-clicking the file and choosing a download schedule (handy when you want a whopper of a file to transfer in the middle of the night).
| UP TO SPEED |
Understanding IP Addresses
Every location on the Internet, including your computer, has an IP address, a series of four numbers separated by dots, like this: 188.8.131.52. Web sites you visit, such as Yahoo! or http://www.oreilly.com, rarely change their IP addresses. The same doesn't hold true for personal computers, though.
Unless you request otherwise , most Internet service providers (ISPs) assign you a new IP address each time you connect, known as a dynamic address. That's because ISPs don't have enough IP addresses to assign one to every customer. Instead, ISPs have a pool of IP addresses they can assign customers whenever you connect ‚ assuming that not all their customers try to hop online at the same time.
If you want to run a Web site from your own computer, you need a static IP address (i.e., one that doesn't change), so other computers can reliably find you. Many ISPs offer this service, though they may charge more for it.