Kobo readers using the internet

So I have this situation, where I couldn’t get my kobo reader to connect to the internet and fetch updates and/or use kobo+ for example.

I started debugging with Ubiquiti ages ago to see where the problem lies. In the meantime I was unable to continue with this, but I had an interesting thought yesterday. I sniffed the traffic from the hardware (mac) address of the ereader and noticed that it tried to resolve: www.msftncsi.com and fetch /ncsi.txt. The site is a microsoft network connection information page that informs microsoft systems whether or not an active internet connection is seen.

Somehow it seems that Kobo is also using that for it’s android based readers as well. Without it, the network connection just disconnects and does nothing. That is somewhat upsetting because the device is just perfectly able to connect to the network(s) and has relative free internet access. One thing is that I filter on DNS responses and exclude known malware/spam hosts and analytics sites like google. This reduces the amount of advertorials on the internet and bogus trackers. It seems that msftncsi.com is also on that list and thus gets an NXDOMAIN when querying for it.

I do not entirely understand why an ereader would need this kind of information before being able to connect to the internet. The device should associate with a WiFi access point and get an address and the like. Whether or not that gives continued access to the internet is something that is a next step. So instead of giving up, it could just mark the WiFi symbol with an exclamation mark (!) to report that something might not work and/or just try to connect to the kobo internet environment. That would be more common use of the internet then depending on an internet file which might be blocked (such as in my case).

For now I changed my caching mikrotik’s to include msftncsi.com as a static entry and point that to my webserver and service the file instead. That makes sure the Kobo can connect to the environment and gives me full access over that file instead of some bogus remote site that might do nasty things (without me knowing).

Ofcourse I asked (nice and polite) Kobo to change this interesting behaviour.

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