Watching US Netflix in Canada, now easier than ever!

Update: I am sorry to report that Tunlr is no longer supporting Netflix. See their blog for more info. If you know of another FREE DNS service please leave a comment.

My friend Ron tipped me off to this free DNS service that allows you to watch Netflix (and other US geo-restricted content) outside of the USA! For free! (Did I mention that it’s free?)

These guys are calling themselves Tunlr.

I love these services. Unlike VPN services, with these DNS redirects your streams don’t get slowed down by being  proxied through a US server.

We set it up on our AppleTV and it works like a charm!

Here are the instructions for setting up ATV:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Open General
  3. Open Network
  4. Open Configure TCP/IP
  5. Select Manually (we assume you already have a fully functional network setup)
  6. Skip IP address by selecting Done (hit the left button on the remote and press OK)
  7. Skip Subnet Mask by selecting Done
  8. Skip Router Address by selecting Done
  9. Use 199.167.30.144 when asked for the DNS address and select Done
  10. Select Restart in the General menu

Instructions for other devices can be found on their site.

Edit: I should mention, that if you have a number of devices on your home network that you wish to use to access US services, you’re probably better off setting your router’s DNS to Tunlr.

Google Chrome Bypasses OpenDNS (and How To Fix It)

I started using OpenDNS again for the first time since Google released Chrome.

When I ran Chrome, I noticed a curious little quirk, Chrome was ignoring OpenDNS’ shortcuts and auto typo correction. I whipped out wireshark and took at what was going on.

By default, every time you enter a character into Chrome’s toolbar it fetches results from google.com/complete/search. Since google knows about every single website, Chrome is able to decide if you’re typing a valid domain without querying DNS. That is, it’s actually redirecting you to a google search results page at the HTTP layer, before your request queries any DNS info.
While it’s not neccessarily a bad way of doing things, it is somewhat annoying. 

Luckily, google actually built a great product!
This feature is totally customizable. 

To turn it off; pull up “options” under the wrench menu, click the “under the hood tab and uncheck “show suggestions for navigation errors.”

OpenDNS For A Week

In case you haven’t heard, OpenDNS (wikipedia) is a free DNS service designed to improve your surfing experience, or as their PR blur puts it:

…is a safer, faster, smarter and more reliable way to navigate the Internet.

I decided to try it out for a week, replacing my ISP’s default DNS servers. All-in-all I got just about what I expected.

Setup
The set up process was probably the most painful part of the experience, but that is more my router’s fault than anything else. For whatever reason my router – the usualy reliable linksys WTR54G – decided to crap out after I changed the DNS setting. I had to do hard reboot before I was good to go.

Faster?
I was a little skeptical about their claim to be faster. I mean, DNS is one of the most lightweight services one the internet, it’s not terribly slow to begin with. Plus my ISP’s DNS servers are only a few hops away, how could a centralized/internet wide service be faster. I don’t know how they do it, but I was pleasantly surprised! Noticed faster DNS resolution immediately!

Safer?
The safer claim refers to the massive blacklists OpenDNS taps into. They give you the ability to block phishing sites and various levels of adult content (from ‘tasteless’ to full on porn sites). I decided to turn on the lowest level of adult blocking (only porn sites) and leave the phishing blocking on. I don’t often find myself on sites these filters would block, I was basically testing for false positives. If the service is able to precisely block the content I ask it to, then it’s a good blocking service. I only came across one false positive over the past week, indietits.com a web comic featuring 2 tits. Since OpenDNS allows you to easily whitelist any domain this was only a minor inconvience. There’s no mechanism to report a false positive directly, so I’m assuming their system learns based on the whitelist data.

Smarter?
OpenDNS is supposedly smarter because it has the ability to fix misspelled domain names. At the end of the day this is a pretty useless feature. The problem is, OpenDNS only kicks in when a) the domain name is common enough that it can figure out the actual address youre trying to get to and b) the domain name you tried to access does not exist. Since almost all misspellings of common domains are taken by squatters you’ll barely ever stumble across a misspelling that isn’t attached to a server. I suppose this feature is designed for people who mangle the top level domain name, blah.cmo will never resolve and it does a good job of redirecting these to the proper TLD. But I always use firefox’s keyboard shortcuts to add the .com or .net. So again, I wasn’t really affected by this feature.

Geeking out.
The OpenDNS control panel has two features that are clearly designed to appeal to the nerds. One more useful than the other.
The control panel gives you the ability to create a “shortcut,” allowing you to assign a short name to any resolvable address. For example, you could link “wiki” to “wikipedia.org” or link something like “wsearch” to wikipedia’s search page.
The second less useful nerd feature are the stats. OpenDNS provides a wide range of charts and graphs about your DNS resolution history. These might actually be somewhat interesting if they weren’t in GMT.
Again, I didn’t find myself using either of these features very much.

What’s the catch?
“How do they make money?” you might ask. Well it’s pretty simple, whenever you stumble across a non-resolving domain, OpenDNS will present you with a (revenue generating) search application and related text ads. This is fairly non-obtrusive. The only thing I find kind of weird is that this is identical to verisign’s site-finder. When that launched in 2003 it caused such a shitstorm that they were only allowed to keep it online for 19 days! (read the wikipedia article linked above) I guess the main difference with OpenDNS is that it’s completely opt-in.

Conclusion
At the end of the day, it’s a pretty neat service. I’ll probably keep it configured, since it doesn’t really negatively affect my internet experience, and I do get a bit of a speed boost.
I can see the service being quite a bit more useful to someone who manages are small network, especially if they need to filter the internet.
For Personal use, it’s usefulness is a little more dubious.

After one week of use, I give OpenDNS a rating of : *shrug*