[LinkBlog] The Voters Decide – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Trump in US and AAP in India – both have made a rapid rise thanks to the way the internet has changed the political game.
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Troubleshooting site loading times on BSNL broadband

My parents got a BSNL fibre connection in Bangalore recently and promised speeds were in the double digit Mbps range. However, the connection was very erratic with many sites like facebook loading ok once and then just refusing to load properly. The speed tests were all ok giving results in the 10+ Mbps range and ping and traceroute from the router also didn’t indicate any issues. Even changing the DNS servers to Google didn’t make any difference.

The problem was persistent across all our devices ranging from laptops to phones & tablets, and faced both on wifi and wired connections. Finally came across this old post recommending an update to the MTU size settings to 1460 (it was set to 1480 for me) and sure enough, things speeded up and seem to be working fine. It seems to have been caused by some changes in the BSNL server setup.

MTU size setting under the PPPoE advanced options on a TP-Link router
MTU size setting under the PPPoE advanced options on a TP-Link router

So, if you have a BSNL connection and are facing a similar issue, just go to your router connection settings and update the MTU settings to 1460. In case you would like to do some more granular troubleshooting, check out this post that lays down the steps to figure out the ideal MTU settings by trial & error.

Getting rid of those pesky MTNL Ads

In the NDTV app on Android
In the NDTV app on Android

That’s the article view that greeted me when I tried to read one of the news articles on the Android NDTV app. MTNL has been doing this for the last few weeks in Mumbai, and I’d noticed it earlier while browsing sites on my iPad, laptop and phones as well. I finally gave up and decided to block the IP serving these ads – 203.94.227.140 – at the router level itself so that I wouldn’t be bothered on any device.

In fact this doesn’t seem to be the first time MTNL has done this given Yogesh’s similar post from over a year ago which also contains instructions to block the ads in greater detail (maybe first time in Mumbai though). If you want detailed instructions, check out his post, and use the IP- 203.94.227.140, as his IP seems to be for MTNL Delhi. It is also possible that they start using other servers, so if you come across any MTNL ad, right click and check out the source server IP, and then add it to your router blocklist. In my case, I found the IP this way, and then enabled the firewall on my TP Link router and added a rule to block this IP (use add WAN host to add the IP).

TP Link router firewall
TP Link router firewall

If you check out the user posts on the MTNL Mumbai facebook page, you’ll find similar complains from other customers as well. Airtel drew its share of flak sometime ago for similar behaviour, but the MTNL shenanigans have gone almost unnoticed with hardly any mainstream coverage.

This is a very poor way to treat customers and it really gets in the way on mobile devices. Of course, this kind of injection only works on non secure sites only, so HTTPS sites like Google, facebook etc should be problem free. Here’s to hoping that MTNL stops being user hostile.

Outraging over the outraged

  • anger is the emotion that spreads the most easily over social media. Joy came in a distant second.
  • although we tend to share the happiness only of people we are close to, we are willing to join in the rage of strangers
  • As the study suggests, outrage is lavishly rewarded on social media, whether through supportive comments, retweets or Facebook likes.
  • People who rant online in any way tend to get into more physical and verbal altercations.”
  • previous research on catharsis shows that people who vent end up being angrier down the road
  • outrage carries a different flavor from pure anger; it suggests an affront to one’s value system as opposed to seething, Hulk-like fury
  • The emotion plays well on social media because of its brevity and conviction, too. A 700-word Facebook post accounting for all sides of a contentious issue is unlikely to garner as many readers and endorsements as a one-sentence quip blaring heightened feelings.
  • One type of outrage is particularly appealing on social media: comedic anger. A bitingly clever takedown is sure to be circulated, though it is usually the same brand of hostility veiled in amusement. (hopefully my posts are along these lines rather than outright outrage)
  • we get upset only when our own privacy is compromised, not that of others
  • outraged comments are sometimes more offensive than the originating misconduct
  • Mobs breed a sense of anonymity
  • Though we are quick to condemn callousness and prejudice as a form of bullying, we less readily interrogate our own participation, even as bystanders, in the widespread attack of a single person, which is a classic example of bullying. We may justify our reaction as appropriate remediation for whatever crime has been perpetrated, but fighting fire with fire rarely elevates the discourse.
  • It is a noble endeavor to become incensed about a cause and risk arrest or toil without acclamation for one’s deeply held beliefs. Less honorable is joining a digital pile-on as a means of propping up one’s ego, even if it comes in the form of entertaining zings.
  • Perhaps the real problem, Professor Martin suggested, isn’t our rage but our rashness, and its relationship to our easily accessible devices.

    “The Internet exacerbates impulse-control problems,” he said. “You get mad, and you can tell the world about it in moments before you’ve had a chance to calm down and think things through.”

 

Mary Meeker’s 2013 Internet Trends Report

Some very interesting insights, particularly focused on USA and China. A fair number of takeaways for India too if you read between the slides – the huge smartphone market potential and the upcoming mobile-enabled services revolution – given that we have a population similar to China’s, and one that is a lot better versed in English.

via Mary Meeker is Back With Her 2013 Internet Trends Report Slides – Jason Del Rey – D11 – AllThingsD.

Being Reddit

The Truth About Reddit And That (Unnecessary) Apology | Commentary and analysis from Simon Dumenco – Advertising Age

Maybe I should start visiting Reddit more often and posting on my blog to drive page views. Then again it’s likely that I’ll pick up the chickpea farming stories:

And then an hour or two — or 12 or 24 — later, there’s a really good chance you’re going to see that popular Reddit post repurposed on Gawker or BuzzFeed. Well, the silly or controversial stuff, at least. (The random nerdy/newsy topical stuff that Redditors upvote — like last Wednesday’s front-pager about chickpea farming — tends to stay in the Redditverse.)

Fixing the Authenticated Proxy Problem

While on campus, most of us have to use some sort of proxy to access the internet. Many a times, the proxy requires authentication and due to this programs that are not able to handle authenticated proxies (giveaway of the day installers, Apple software update, Xtrnormal State to name a few) just fail to connect to the internet even though you have a blazing fast connection. I had earlier proposed a solution of using an HTTP tunneller as a workaround, but the problem was two fold: 1) you were tunnelling through your proxy & this might have been in violation with the terms of use of your proxy, and 2) the connection speeds were terrible as they were now bottlenecked by the tunnelling server.

I then remembered that Privoxy is a local proxy server used to filter ads & web pages in general, & it could be used as a local proxy with the authentication added for the main proxy. However, while looking at the Privoxy page on wikipedia, I came across another program called Proxomitron (the developer has unfortunately passed away, but the program lives on) that does pretty much the same thing & is primarily GUI driven (Privoxy has quite a few config files with a frontend, but not as simple to use).

So, here’s a step by step guide to setup Proxomitron as a local proxy to take care of the proxy authentication problem faced by many programs:

1) Start Proxomitron and uncheck the filters (you could leave them checked if you want to use the filtering capabilities, but that adds an overhead to your system) & check the “Use remote proxy” option

proxomitron default

2) Click the “Proxy” button to configure your internet proxy server (format – <proxyname>:<port>) and right click on the text field to bring up the advanced proxy settings menu

 

proxomitron proxy settings

3) In the advanced proxy settings, enter your username & password for the authenticated proxy & you’re done with the setup

proxomitron proxy

4) Open the “Internet Options” in IE & put in localhost as your proxy & port number as 8080 (unless you’ve changed it)

LAN settings

That’s it and you should now be able to use the programs that make use of the IE proxy settings to connect to the internet. In case any program has its own proxy settings without an option for entering the proxy authentication, just use the same settings as in step 4 & it should work. In fact, you can also use this setup for your iPod Touch/iPhone – you’ll just have to replace the “localhost” address with the IP of your computer, and of course have them both on the same network – to make your net connected Apps work.

Installing Giveaway of the day & Game Giveaway of the day behind authenticated proxy

Giveaway of the day and Game giveaway of the day are pretty interesting sites wherein they give away a commercial software for free for a period of 24 hours, periodically. The software installers are encapsulated within the giveaway of the day software that connects to their servers to check the validity of the giveaway period. One of the limitations of this software is that it does not work behind authenticated proxies, i.e., proxies wherein you need to enter your userid/password to access the internet (quite common in education institutions).

It seems to use the “Internet Option” settings of Internet Explorer to detect the connection settings. So, the simplest way to use the software behind such a proxy is to use a HTTP tunnel client that creates another proxy layer with the userid/password settings already entered. HTTP-Tunnel Client is a useful software in this regard and can be used to serve the purpose (something I had used earlier to make the State software work behind an authenticated proxy). Just follow the instructions to configure the proxy in the software and change the settings in Internet Options.

HTTP-Tunnel

 Internet Options

Once this is done, the installer should run fine and connect to the server without any errors. It may fail the first time, in which case just try once more.

This is a pretty useful workaround and should work for other software that use the Internet Options connection settings, but do not support an authenticated proxy.