Andy Kelk

Digital Technology Leader


If you’re going to put in a proxy, at least make sure it works

(Apologies. This is going to be a bit of a rant and won’t mean much to anyone outside of Malaysia, but I need to get it off my chest).

I’ve now been in Malaysia for three years. I’ve been a subscriber to Maxis for voice and data for about as long. For most of that period, the service has worked pretty well. However, in the last three months I’ve started to notice things which worry me. First there was the silent redirect that Maxis implemented to tack on a new URL query string, the cryptically named ?OpAdShown. While adding a query parameter which doesn’t affect functionality may seem innocuous, the parameter’s name would suggest that it’s linked to some kind of user tracking and possibly ad serving.

2013-07-15 14.16.18

 

As I’d not seen any ads I was puzzled but not too worried. Then, in May of this year, I started getting problems when I loaded certain pages. Sometimes turning off data and reactivating it seemed to help but it was a pretty persistent error. And, of course, browsing on WiFi led to no problems.

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A few weeks ago I got served a pop-up ad on a page where I wasn’t expecting it. Annoyingly enough, I didn’t get a screenshot of that – in my haste to refresh and see if it was a persistent issue I forgot to snap and I’ve never seen it since. I’m willing to concede I may have been hallucinating.

And now today I get another error from Maxis when trying to load a page. A very handy “Could not uncompress this page” message. Some kind of gzip problem? Who knows. But browsing the same page on the same device using the same browser over WiFi presents no problem.

2013-07-15 12.53.26

 

In addition to the various errors I’ve seen from Maxis proxy servers, the OpAdShown redirect also breaks some apps which expect a 200 response. Arguably this app should handle a redirect more gracefully if it gets OK content out of the other end, but if I enter the URL correctly it shouldn’t have to deal with that. Again, using the same app on WiFi presents no such challenges.

2013-07-15 14.36.40

 

Generally speaking, I don’t mind a transparent proxy – after all, it usually speeds up browsing and is pretty common practice within ISPs. But once you start tinkering with my traffic and it affects my user experience, that’s not acceptable. It looks like I’m not the only one who’s had problems with Maxis proxies, here’s a post from back in 2010 from someone suffering from proxy errors.

As it stands, it seems that removing the proxy (currently 202.75.133.49) from the APN does solve the issues above – at least in my limited testing. However that’s going to be beyond most users. If you want to try it out yourself and you have an Android phone, you need to go to Settings -> Mobile Data -> Access point names and edit the active APN (remove the Proxy/Port settings). Mine looks like this:

2013-07-15 15.49.16

 

EDIT (2013-07-15 19:30)

I finally managed to get a trace of the redirect happening on my phone:

--Request--
Host: m.theage.com.au
Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 4.1.1; HTC One X Build/JRO03C) AppleWebKit/537.36
(KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/28.0.1500.64 Mobile Safari/537.36
Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate,sdch
Accept-Language: en-GB,en-US;q=>0.8,en;q=0.6
Cookie: cX_P=<redacted>; fma_third_party=true; 506530=capped; __utma=<redacted>;
__utmc=<redacted>; __utmz=<redacted>; cX_S=<redacted>
--Response--
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2013 11:17:53 GMT
Server: Apache/2.2.11 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.2.11 OpenSSL/0.9.8x PHP/5.3.8 DAV/2
X-Powered-By: PHP/5.3.8
Location: http://m.theage.com.au:80/?OpAdShown
Content-Length: 2
Content-Type: text/html;charset=UTF-8
Via: 1.1 ckpgintfe07.mymaxis.com.my


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