Sunday, January 14, 2007

Charter DNS sucks

For the most part, I've been happy with my Charter cable service, with two glaring exceptions:
  • They won't provide the NFL Network
  • Their DNS servers are unreliable, often down, and slow when they're up
I can't do much about the first issue -- other than relocate -- because the cable industry is rife with un-American anti-competition policies, but I stumbled across a VERY EASY, i.e. lazy, solution to the second: install a "caching forwarding nameserver". The performance improvement is ridiculous.

It so happens that Debian's default configuration of DNS (bind9) is to behave just that way: cache-ily and foward-ily. I realize there are other lighter-weight solutions, e.g. nscd, dnsmasq, or pdnsd, but it was just so bone-stupid-simple to install Debian on a spare PC (or VM, of course) and check the "DNS Server" option on the installation's package selection screen. And what better use for the $33 PC I just bought off ebay, right? Incidentally, the shipping cost was only 15 cents less than the bid price, which technically makes it a $65.85 PC, but hey, whenever server TCO is less than $100, I'm happy.

Of course, I now must configure the other computers in my home network to use my new nameserver. For my Ubuntu laptop, I edit /etc/dhcp3/dhclient.conf, and add (uncomment) this line:

prepend domain-name-servers THE_IP_ADDRESS

Of course, you'll substitute THE_IP_ADDRESS with the real IP address of your $65.85 PC. This results in THE_IP_ADDRESS of my nameserver showing up ahead of Charter's nameservers in /etc/resolv.conf when the laptop obtains its DHCP address at boot. Alternatively, I could use my $65.85 PC as my DHCP server so that no per-client config is necessary at all. If only I wasn't so lazy...

Did I mention how ridiculously fast "the Internet" seems now? All the perceived slowness was due to Charter's name servers, which suck, btw. I mentioned that, right?

1 comment:

danielle.royster said...

Believe me when I say, I know exactly what you are going through. I've never had Charter but I've had Comcast and Cox Cable and I don't even want to list the problems I had. I moved to Denver and began working at DISH Network and decided to give satellite a try and I can tell you that I won't be going back. With Charter, you can only watch your NFL games on CBS, ABC, NBC and ESPN and on the other hand, DISH offers a multi-sports package which gives you a variety of options. DISH Network has ranked #1 in Customer Satisfaction amongst all TV and satellite providers and there is a reason for that. DISH also provides 100% digital programming everyday, nationwide. I always recommend that people try out DISH Network and I am inviting anyone who comes across this post to explore the endless possibilities with DISH Network and experience a value unheard of by any other TV company!