Nov 16, 2017

The Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) does not use encryption on its emails

Today I am in shock. In great shock. So get ready for some reading.

Google is making a bit deal about online encryption these days. Chrome is blasting warnings all over the web, websites without encryption are being penalized in Google search, and SSL companies must be making a shitload of money.

Having worked on a number of projects involving SSL myself, I was checking out some of the major websites in Mauritius to verify which ones have made the switch to SSL. It turns out a lot, and this is very good news indeed.

At around the same time I was basically stalking Mauritian websites, I received my credit card statement from the MCB in my Gmail account. To clarify, I use only Gmail anyway. I am however focusing on this solely because Gmail belongs to our Lord and Saviour Google and Google is treating encryption and SSL as the Holy Grail of the internet. (Grail and Gmail. Got it? No? The hell is wrong with you?)

Upon checking my credit card statement, my attention was almost instantly attracted to the no-encryption padlock warning Gmail shows whenever a domain is not encrypting its emails. A single click then confirmed that the MCB does not bother encrypting its email. The website is fully encrypted, which is critical for a banking website, but funnily enough, they did not bother extending this to their emails.

Encryption is overrated

Dat guy is encrypted

Imagine being the leading bank in Mauritius and being too cheap to encrypt emails. Well done, MCB, well done.

Apr 19, 2017

Analysis of Orange's 10M La Fibre package

I have the 10M fibre optics package with 75GB data plan. I usually only use half that amount mainly through PS4 updates/downloads, YouTube, Twitter and good old regular browsing.

Below are some tests I have been running on

Friday 24 March 2017 - 20.30

Wednesday 29 March 2017 - 11:40 (Ugadi - public holiday)

Tuesday 4 April 2017 - 20:15

Monday 10 April 2017 - 18:23

This last one is what I'm getting most of the time these last days. I just cannot connect to the servers to run the test. Mauritius Telecom claim they were doing repair work on their lines for a couple of weeks, however the speeds are still really bad.

Feb 7, 2017

The two most read online newspapers in Mauritius don't bother redirecting their URLs

I stumbled upon this shocking discovery while cleaning up this blog as it contains links to specific articles on Défi Media and L' Express.

What is a URL redirection?
URL redirections basically allow a specific web page to be available under more than one address. They are convenient because as a web site grows, it is very likely (but not inevitable) that some links on our website will change. With a URL redirection, we can thus make a page exist under its old URL but also the new one.

Imagine if your web page had 1,000 links from great websites such as BBC, BuzzFeed and Huffington Post. If we had no other choice but to change the URL at one point, we would basically have to contact these 1,000 different webmasters and ask them to update the link on their respective websites. Obviously, this does not work because:

1) if you have time to reach out to 1,000 different webmasters to update one link, your online strategy is a mess
2) there is no guarantee that these guys will do it
3) it is your duty to ensure everything works on your website, not theirs

With the URL redirection, you can thus use a completely different link for the updated page but people who click on the old link will still be accessing the content, often while being unaware of the redirection. It's really amazing what you can do on the web!

I normally use Xenu's Link Sleuth to check if all this blog's links are working. It's free and is an outstanding tool any e-marketer should use. I have personally been using it for more than 10 years and have never had any reason to complain about it. It's that good.

As I was saying at the start of this article, it turns out some links I had to the L'Express and Le Défi websites are no longer working. You can verify this by opening the articles below and clicking on the links in each article.

Of course, there is a very simple reason for that. Both newspaper websites have changed over the years which makes sense as a website typically has a three-year lifespan and the emergence of web responsiveness means every website out there had to go through an update. It is normal that with the launch of a new website, URLs will change, especially if they are changing platforms. However, what is not normal is that there is no redirection for the older articles.

Yes, you could argue that it's not important for an online news site to redirect the links of its all articles, especially those are fairly "outdated". And I will counter-argue that a news website should ALWAYS redirect its URL for two main reasons:

  1. A news website is bound to have many incoming links, and I'm sure even those in Mauritius are no exception
  2. News websites are an important source for research and people will thus bookmark them offline and include them in report. If you then change these URLs without any redirection, you are basically screwing all your readers.
To conclude this article, here's a picture that has absolutely nothing to do with my rant:

You had one job.

Feb 3, 2017

Engen Extravaganza results - 2017

I know a lot of people are still looking for the Engen Extravaganza results 2017, so I did some sleuthing.

Behold (click on the image for a larger version):

Source: Engen Bagatelle
A few notes:
  1. Yes, the ticket numbers are really small on the artwork. I can't do anything about that.
  2. Engen seem to be experts at doing a huge marketing campaign around their extravaganza and being quiet about the lucky draws.
  3. The guys at Engen Bagatelle have nothing to do with the marketing and the lucky draw, so don't be dicks. If you have something to complain about, direct your comments to the Engen head office.

Jan 6, 2017

Amazing authors I have discovered thanks to the Alliance Française library

I previously wrote about the Alliance Française library in Bell Village and the benefits of buying a membership there. For those who missed it and have a few minutes to spare, you can read my post here.

I am a huge fan of detective novels and frequently complained about how the selection of goodauthors in the genre is very limited as far as English books are concerned. Except for Agatha Christie and Sir Authur Conan Doyle, I always found that others authors could not manage to construct a coherent and interest plot and their characters were uninteresting.

Originally, I became a member of the Alliance Française library in Mauritius mainly because I did not find any other interesting library (note: I keep hearing the municipality libraries are however very good and will try them later this year). When I became a member, I did not actually check out the book selection because I was so happy that I actually had a huge collection of books to rent from. I'm even more pleased to have taken this membership now as this has allowed me to "accidentally" discover something I would have never imagined before: France actually has some absolutely brilliant authors when it comes to detective novels.

So, I decided to make a list of the authors I've discovered at Alliance Française.

1) Maurice Leblanc
When I was a kid, I often thought that Arsène Lupin, Maurice Leblanc's popular character, was meant for youngsters. Turns out I was completely wrong. Maurice Leblanc's books are actually meant for adults as his stories are quite complex and often deal with mature themes. The first time I borrowed one of the Lupin books was mainly out of curiosity as I did not know much about the character and the book cover looked pretty. Since then, Lupin has grown on to become my favourite fictional character, surpassing even Hercule Poirot, something I'd never have thought possible. Maurice Leblanc is an absolutely brilliant author and his stories have the perfect combination of mystery, action and humour. And it's not just about Lupin. His other characters are also great, from Ganimard, one of Lupin's greatest rivals to Béchoux, a policeman who finally recognizes Lupin as the greatest detective he'd ever encountered in one of Leblanc's funniest books.
2) Borniche

Roger Borniche, who signs his books as Borniche, was a French policeman and detective who then decided to become an author when he retired as he already sort of had the experience to come up with good plots. And experience he does have as Borniche has been heralded as one of the outstanding detectives in France, including bringing down Emile Buisson who was France's public enemy No. 1 at the time and performing a staggering number of arrestations (although this has been disputed numerous times). It is no surprise that his books are great as he was a true detective and can thus draw on his real life experience in his books, and some of his novels are actually based on real life eents. Even more surprising however is that Borniche is also an outstanding writer. His French is simple and entertaining, and I once completed one of his books in only 3 days. Basically, once I start reading one of his books, I can't put it down.

3) San-Antonio

San-Antonio is an alias for Frédéric Dard who still remains one of the most prolific authors France has had and follows the adventures of a police commissioner by the same name. If you're thinking it is strange that an author would decide to sign his books using the protagonist's name, think again. Frédéric Dard was also notable for his excessive use of aliases which exceeded the dozen and included names such as Colonel Milk, Kaput and Kill Him. It is my understanding that he wanted to create a new Guinness World Records entry for "most author aliases ever". Either that or he was simply messing with his publishers.

The San-Antonio novels were ground-breaking when they first came out as they were the first to successfully appeal to a broader audience thanks to a very light-hearted approach to the genre, comical moments throughout the novels, and unique characters. For example, San-Antonio, who is also the narrator, has a never-ending habit of creating new and elaborate nonsensical words as he investigates and is always sharing his thoughts with the reader. He is assisted by two almost useless detectives who nevertheless sometimes manage to point him in the right direction.

The books are quite short and a breeze to read. Even if you are not a fan of the genre, the San-Antonio books are a must-read simply because of the humour and the unique way San narrates his adventures.

4) Gaston Leroux

Gaston Leroux is revered as the author who created one of the best (and in my opinion, the absolute best) locked-room mysteries ever in Le Mystère de la Chambre Jaune (The Mystery of the Locked Room) but also the ever-famous Phantom of the Opera. His detective novels are always brilliant and he has created one of the strangest detectives in Joseph Rouletabille who is only 18 years old when he solves the attempted murder in The Mystery of the Locked Room. Rouletabille then goes on to solve several other mysteries and some of the plot explanations are fantastic. Leroux additionally writes his novels in such a way as to encourage readers to also figure out what happened (and even includes maps to help readers) in his books but I have never been able to figure out the whole story on my own.