Readers suggest ways to improve OpenDNS

Dennis o'reilly By Dennis O’Reilly

Becky Waring’s July 9 Top Story provided tips for avoiding problems when using the free OpenDNS service to browse more securely.

Several people responded to Becky’s story by suggesting ways that the service could be made even better.

There’s plenty to like about the free OpenDNS service, which passes all your incoming and outgoing Web traffic through the service’s secure servers. In addition to blocking known malware-bearing sites, OpenDNS can filter out all sorts of undesirable content and perform other browser-enhancing feats of derring-do.

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But there are few good things in this world that couldn’t be made a little better. Among the readers suggesting ways to improve OpenDNS was Charles M. Brown III:
  • “One of the features that is lacking in OpenDNS, which has had over 1,000 requests, is a blocking schedule. Even though I let my kids play Runescape, I don’t want them to play all the time. I would really like a scheduler added to this product and it would then be a great product, not just a good product.”
For those who are considering using the OpenDNS service, Becky’s article described how to compare the speed of OpenDNS to your ISP’s DNS servers.

Reader Bryan Doviack found a free tool that makes it easy to do side-by-side performance comparisons of OpenDNS and your ISP. The utility, by Charles Putney, is called DNS Tester and is available from

To download the tool, you must first create an account with CodeProject, which entails providing your name and a valid e-mail address.

After you register, you run DNS Tester by unzipping the downloaded file and double-clicking the dnstester.exe file — no installation is required. You then enter the IP addresses of your ISP’s DNS server and OpenDNS, and click Test. The results are shown in an easy-to-read table.

You can download DNS Tester via its product page on the CodeProject site. Depending on your location and other factors, you may or may not find a throughput difference between OpenDNS and your ISP’s usual DNS servers. If OpenDNS does score a bit lower (which isn’t the case for everyone I’ve heard from), you might find that the protection provided by OpenDNS is worth the slightly slower surfing.

Microsoft’s Win7 upgrade promo shut down early

In his July 2 column, WS contributing editor Woody Leonhard described a limited-time promotion Microsoft was offering on Windows 7 upgrades. Little did we know that the time was more limited than anyone thought. Kurt Kincel Sr. discovered this when he attempted to purchase an upgrade just before the promotion was scheduled to end on the evening of July 11:
  • “If you haven’t heard from other disappointed users, I am writing to call attention to the fact that Microsoft pulled the Windows 7 Pre-Order Special from the Microsoft Store site at approximately 11:15 p.m. EDT on 7/11/2009. Until the switch, the site plainly stated that the 50%-off pricing was available until 11:59 p.m. EDT.

    “A conversation with a Microsoft Store representative on 7/12/2009 revealed that a lot of potential upgraders called to voice their frustration over this issue. Of course, the Microsoft employee denied any shortcoming and offered to place an order for the full price. When I disclosed that I would tell as many people who would listen about the Microsoft blunder, the individual hinted that Microsoft may offer this promotional deal again before the general release of Windows 7 in October.”
If Microsoft does reinstate the Win7 upgrade discount — and I certainly hope the company brings it back soon — you can bet I won’t be waiting until the last hour to make my purchase, thanks to Kurt’s warning!

New York takes action against contact scrapers

Windows Secrets readers were recently warned about “viral inviters” in Becky Waring’s March 19 Top Story. These services request that you enter the password to your e-mail contact list so you can “share information” with your acquaintances.

Many companies allow you to upload a contact list, and they do a reasonably good job of disclosing their policies on protecting the information they collect. Other Web sites, however, take advantage of people’s tendency to click first and think later.

Now, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has sued one social-networking company,, alleging “deceptive e-mail marketing practices and invasion of privacy,” according to a New York Times article. In Tagged’s case, Cuomo’s office claims the company disguised its e-mails as invitations from friends to view personal photos.

Tagged founder Greg Tseng counters in a company blog post that the e-mails were merely the result of “confusing” language in a new registration process the company was testing.

Regardless of the outcome of this specific case, it’s clear that companies, legitimate and otherwise, are after your contact info.

Think twice — or maybe even three or four times — before sharing your contact lists with anyone. (And that goes double if my name happens to be in your online Rolodex!)

Readers Charles, Bryan, and Kurt will each receive a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of their choice for sending tips we printed. Send us your tips via the Windows Secrets contact page.

The Known Issues column brings you readers’ comments on our recent articles. Dennis O’Reilly is technical editor of
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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2009-07-16: