No ActiveX, No Internet for you

A couple of weeks ago, when I arrived here in Seoul, we had a tech come out to connect broadband. The building is on fiber and the hardware side of the connection just involved patching the existing RJ45 wallplate to the building’s router rather than the phone line.

The software side was a bit of a shock to me; the tech installed 4 ActiveX controls as part of the connection process. After he left, I looked closer at what was going on.

When the building router senses a new ethernet MAC address, it requires you to authenticate. Any URL you enter redirects to a login page. The kicker is that the login requires an ActiveX control to be installed, into which you enter your national ID card # and your phone number. (Not so much authentication as a reminder that everything you do is traceable to YOU).

Had I been running on a Mac or Linux without Windows, it would have been a show stopper. Those OSes simply dont matter here, its Windows or its nothing.

The other controls he installed included an “IP checker” and a speed tester.

I’ve since set up a new computer here and also bought a router. We had to reactivate the link again (for the router’s MAC address) but I made sure we did it in a VM this time so I could Snapshot whatever it installed away.

I notice that the IP address assigned to me hasn’t changed since I got here a few weeks back, even after disconnecting and reauthenticating. The net is working fine, I get 90mbits in and out to sites within Korea; the international link is nowhere near that capable. I usually achieve about 1MB/sec for Gutsy updates from a server in Japan. USsites are about 400KB/second. Australia is about 200KB/second on a good day.

It seems the reason ActiveX is so prevalent here is because the Korean government mandated it for e-commerce years back when trade restrictions prevented the export of strong crypto, so the Koreans developed all their own. Some banks install a half dozen ActiveX controls, sometimes ocnflicting with controls installed by other banks. One even installs its own firewall. Thanks.

We now use VMWare virtual machines to avoid clagging up the host system.