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Curse you, foul Charter!!

Started by Nathan, 2007-02-14T16:00:44-06:00 (Wednesday)

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I don't know if anyone else has Charter Internet or has noticed this problem, but it popped up on me all of a sudden.

I use Firefox, and, being a very lazy man, I often make use of the automatic Google "I'm Feeling Lucky" search given
when you put something in the address bar. For instance, if I want to go to gMail, I need only type 'g' and hit enter.
What time I save!

Anyway, I loaded up Ubuntu and suddenly noticed that my address bar searches were bringing up a horrible, Charter
based search, the first several results of which are invariably commercial based. I checked about:config keword.url,
no problem.

That's all I knew to check, so I investigated and found this.   I hate about.com, by the way. Anyway, it turns out that
Charter suddenly decided to hijack all of its customer's browsers so that such searches get forwarded to their search
engine instead of whatever default you might have. There is an option to turn it off, but that's where it gets hairy.
It has to drop a cookie on your computer in order to turn it off, and even when I turned it off, it stopped going to the
Charter search but starts going to MSN instead.

What's weird is that I'm using Firefox and Ubuntu! What little information I've found on this thing seems to say that
only the Windows Live Search is affected. What's more, the fact that when the cookie is dropped, it uses MSN instead
of going back to my Google default seems to me to indicate that the cookie is simply redirecting it again.

So, any ideas. Put aside for a moment that this is very evil, very anti-Net-Neutrality, and quite possibly illegal, does
anyone have any ideas as to why this would so affect Ubuntu or Firefox. The only thing I can think of (and this I fear)
is that it is in no way a local thing (explaining the cookie thing). If that were the case, how might I fix it, I wonder?

Thoughts, comments, I give you the floor.
"May the lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!"

Ross Mead

That's  :censored:  up!

Have you called Charter?  I'd be interested to hear them try and justify it.  Let us know if you find anything else out about this.


Wow that sounds Digg worthy. Maybe you should post it.

Talk about the end of Net neutrality.  :tinfoil:  :tinfoil:
SIUe Computer Science Graduate

William Grim

Hmm, I don't seem to be having that problem.  Then again I'm using Safari in OS X, and you said you were using Firefox.

Also, I don't think this has anything to do with net neutrality.  Net neutrality deals with double-charging for bandwidth and allowing those who pay more to get preferred service, even if two people are paying for a line with the same supposed bandwidth.

However, a definition given by Google seems to support your viewpoint.  A discussion is here.  Though, most people usually talk about impediment of physical services when they talk about net neutrality.
William Grim
IT Associate, Morgan Stanley


It sounds like you got ad-wared.  You might want to check your hosts file as that would be an easy way to hijack sites being visited from all browsers.  Your static hosts file should not have places like 'google.com' in it, so any lines like that can be safely deleted.

I'm sure Mike can tell you where to find your hosts file on any OS.

On a related note, Charter kept charging me after I moved to CA (in fact they raised my rates).  I called them and they were very straight-forward about it.  But they still want me to wait 1-2 months for them to mail a check.  I guess, this is a hazard you take on with the convenience of auto-billpay (they just kept charging my CC again and again), but it seems like something they should take care of.

Steve Bory

It's not adware.  I'm getting it also from Windows XP with Firefox and on a seperate Fedora machine with Firefox.

William Grim

This recent Slashdot article discusses the problem you're having.  Charter's DNS is resolving all unknown DNS lookups to its own error pages.

That's probably really annoying, but I don't see it as necessarily evil.  However, that being said, I don't know why they really feel the need to do this.  I think they probably have good intentions with this, but I agree that it should be changed.

Also, I haven't yet experienced this.  I haven't recently gone to any sites using an invalid FQDN, but I will try to remember to try that when I get home tonight.
William Grim
IT Associate, Morgan Stanley

William Grim

If this is indeed a problem when I get home, I'll be adding this information to my BIND9's /etc/namedb/named.conf: Delegation-only rules and then calling Charter to express my thoughts.  Anyone know how to get in contact directly with higher people there other than their craptacular level-1 techs that continuously say stupid crap like "Yes, sir.  Thank you." or "Yes, we understand, sir." before every freaking thing they say?  Over-politeness is just overly verbose and annoys the hell out of me; I'd like to get to the point when talking.  Time is money.

Further, if Charter is doing that, they are breaking the purpose of DNS.  Applications often rely on the DNS servers returning errors when a domain has no IP.

I might cancel my service with them if they do not agree to disable it if it's indeed enabled when I get home.  Though, I'll give them some time to resolve the problem first.  Speakin' with cash!
William Grim
IT Associate, Morgan Stanley


I noticed this problem just today.

I misssstypped a domain and came up with some weird charter / ask.com look alike search.

Not really a big deal to me, personally, but I don't like the fact that they're trying to profit off of someone spelling a domain wrong.
Retired CAOS Officer/Overachiever
SIUE Alumni Class of 2005

Peter Motyka

If this bugs you so much, why not ditch their name servers.  From what I've heard, cable ISP name servers are the pits due to ignoring TTL settings and caching.  Use OpenDNS instead, http://www.opendns.com/.
SIUE CS Alumni 2002
Grad Student, Regis University
Senior Engineer, Ping Identity

Steve Bory

Too bad opendns uses an organic search page as well.  It looks like if you register an account you can turn it off, but then you are right back at Charter's search again.  LOL!