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Actrix Online Informer – September 2014

The Actrix Online Informer is published each month to help keep Actrix customers up-to-date with what's happening on the Internet, and to help ensure they have every opportunity to benefit from it.

Questions and comments about the Actrix Online Informer can be e-mailed to
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Actrix – best little ISP in New Zealand

Welcome to the September Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to spring and to the Actrix Online Informer for September 2014. This month we look at a few different ways to deal with annoying status updates from "friends" in your Facebook news-feed without having to de-friend people. We've also included an article from the New Zealand Herald on how to choose better passwords, and we finish off with a few definitions of broadband-related terms you probably didn't know.

YouTube feature

This month's YouTube video features an American farmer calling his cows home by playing Lorde's Royals on the trombone. Turns out even bovines know a good song (played pretty badly) when they hear it!


Rob Zorn

Five alternatives to un-friending annoying people on Facebook

It's no secret that Facebook is full of annoying people. From uninformed political rants and continual gaming updates to an unending stream of selfies and photos of food. We've all been tempted to do some ruthless un-friending to make our personal social experience just a little bit better.

However, it could be the guilty party is a close friend, a family member, or that annoying aunt you feel obligated to be friends with. What do you do then? Un-friending them on Facebook might be seen as rude or insensitive, so do you just have to put up with their annoying social habits?

Thankfully the answer is no – and here are five ways you can limit the amount of irritating material that appears on your newsfeed without having to un-friend a single person.

Un-follow them

If you have a particular person in mind you'd like to completely remove from your newsfeed without having to un-friend them, the easiest option is to un-follow them. The benefit of this is there's no way for them to know you've un-followed them, and you won't receive a single update from them in your newsfeed.

To do this, go to this particular person's page, and click the "Follow" button near the bottom-right corner of their cover photo. If there's a tick in the "Follow" box, it means you'll be receiving their updates. Click it once, and the tick should disappear, meaning you won't see anything more from them again. Put the tick back if you get 'the guilts' and decide you want to hear about the minutiae of their daily lives after all.  

Hide stories or mute posts

If you see a particularly annoying post (a "just had a great workout" status, a photo of someone's new belly button ring etc.) that you'd like to delete from your newsfeed, it's easy to "hide" it. All you have to do is click the arrow at the top-right of the post and select "I don't want to see this". You can also report the story (if that belly button piercing is particularly offensive) or mark it as spam, if need be.

Facebook will prompt you to change what kind of updates you'd like to see from your friend, or to organise your newsfeed – two options we look at next.

Organise your news feed

If you choose "organise who you see in news feed", Facebook puts you through a short and fairly simple process of customising your feed experience. It will tell you which friends and networks you haven't interacted with lately, and you have the options to see less from them or move them into lists.

Tailor updates from friends

If you're seeing just a little too much of a particular friend in your newsfeed, click "Hide" again. From there, you can change what you'd like to see in the future – fewer updates in general, photos and status updates only, or other options.

Add to limited lists

Facebook has implemented lists labelled "Restricted" and "Acquaintances," so you don't have to un-friend someone for the littlest thing. Putting someone in the "Restricted" list ensures that he or she will only see your public updates, while "Acquaintances" limits how much of that friend you see in your newsfeed.

To view your lists or create a new one altogether, find and click the Friends tab in the homepage's left-hand menu. To add friends, click a specific list and type in the desired names on the right-hand side (under "On This List").

Seven ways to fortify your passwords

Published by the New Zealand Herald, 6 August 2014.

1. Make your password long – The recommended minimum is eight characters, but 14 is better and 25 is even better than that. Some services have character limits on passwords, though.

2. Use combinations – Use combinations of letters and numbers, upper and lower case and symbols such as the exclamation mark. Some services won't let you do all of that, but try to vary it as much as you can. "PaSsWoRd!43" is far better than "password43."

3. Avoid words that are in dictionaries – Avoid words that are in dictionaries, even if you add numbers and symbols. There are programs that can crack passwords by going through databases of known words. One trick is to add numbers in the middle of a word – as in "pas123swor456d" instead of "password123456." Another is to think of a sentence and use just the first letter of each word – as in "tqbfjotld" for "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

4. Substitute characters – For instance, use the number zero instead of the letter O, or replace the S with a dollar sign.

5. Avoid easy-to-guess words – Avoid easy-to-guess words, even if they aren't in the dictionary. You shouldn't use your name, company name or hometown, for instance. Avoid pets and relatives' names, too. Likewise, avoid things that can be looked up, such as your birthday or ZIP code. But you might use that as part of a complex password. Try reversing your ZIP code or phone number and insert that into a string of letters. As a reminder, you should also avoid "password" as the password, or consecutive keys on the keyboard, such as "1234" or "qwerty."

6. Never reuse passwords on other accounts – with two exceptions – Over the years, I've managed to create hundreds of accounts. Many are for one-time use, such as when a newspaper website requires me to register to read the full story. It's OK to use simple passwords and repeat them in those types of situations, as long as the password isn't unlocking features that involve credit cards or posting on a message board. That will let you focus on keeping passwords to the more essential accounts strong.

The other exception is to log in using a centralised sign-on service such as Facebook Connect. Hulu, for instance, gives you the option of using your Facebook username and password instead of creating a separate one for the video site. This technically isn't reusing your password, but a matter of Hulu borrowing the log-in system Facebook already has in place. The account information isn't stored with Hulu. Facebook merely tells Hulu's computers that it's you. Of course, if you do this, it's even more important to keep your Facebook password secure.

7. Use two passwords – Some services such as Gmail even give you the option of using two passwords when you use a particular computer or device for the first time. If you have that feature turned on, the service will send a text message with a six-digit code to your phone when you try to use Gmail from an unrecognized device. You'll need to enter that for access, and then the code expires. It's optional, and it's a pain - but it could save you from grief later on. Hackers won't be able to access the account without possessing your phone. Turn it on by going to the account's security settings.

Seven broadband terms defined

ADSL: This is "normal" broadband and stands for asynchronous digital subscriber line. It's delivered along copper phone lines and can reach speeds of up to 24 megabits per second (Mbs).

VDSL: A faster version of ADSL and it stands for very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line. It's also delivered along copper phone lines and can reach speeds of up to 50Mbs.

UFB: Ultrafast broadband delivered along fibre-optic cable. Also known as fibre optic or just fibre. UFB will go up to 30Mbps or 100Mbps depending on the plan.

Data: The measure of electronic information you upload and download. These days the most common unit is gigabytes.

Data cap: Your monthly allowance of data that you can use, for example 60GB.

Mb/s: Megabits per second which is the speed at which data is transferred.

Naked broadband: A broadband connection over a standard phone line that does not have a phone service with it.

Interesting sites 

Please note: Actrix supplies links to these sites for your interest and possible use. We cannot endorse or take any responsibility for their contents.

Got a site you think would be neat to share with other readers? Click here to e-mail and let me know!

33 photos taken at the right moment – There's a common mantra among photographers that goes "blink and you'll miss it". It means if you're not ready at exactly the right moment, you'll miss that perfect shot. The great thing about this web page is the photos here were taken by photographers who were ready at just the right moment. Some of these are weird, funny and truly incredible.

Sporcle: mentally stimulating diversions – Feeling a bit bored? Or maybe your brain needs a bit of warming up before starting a new day at the office? Sporcle is a great site full of quizzes and trivia questions to get your brain-juices flowing. You can also join the site using your Facebook log in to be entered on the leaderboard. Do you have what it takes to be the Sporcle champion?

Slug solos – Guitarists are known to pull some pretty silly faces while they shred their solos. The photoshopping genius behind this website has removed the guitars from these photos, and replaced them with slugs. Now the strange faces the guitarists are pulling seem appropriate, as they look down and realise they're playing slugs instead of guitars.
The Nostalgia Machine – When it comes to pop music, do you have a favourite decade? What about a favourite year? Noticing a gap in the market for annual playlists, this site lets you pick a year between 1960 and 2013, and will then give you a whole collection of the most popular songs from that year in a playlist. Once click, and the whole playlist is there and ready for you to sit back and enjoy.
On the fence – In case you hadn't noticed all the roadside billboards, there's an election happening in New Zealand this month. With so many parties and members vying for your tick of approval, it can be hard to know who to vote for. This site asks you a series of questions about your thoughts on important issues New Zealand is currently facing. Depending on your answers, it'll tell you which political party most closely matches your own views.
Message in a bottle – Sending or receiving messages in bottles is something we only hear about in pirate-fantasy stories, and is certainly not a common form of communication these days. However, it still has a romantic notion to it, so this site will help you by putting you in touch with someone who will write your message, put it in a bottle and throw it in the sea (or a river). They have a list of people around the world currently providing the service, so let us know if you ever use their services, and how you get on.
PriceJump –There aren't many online stores that have the same wide range of products and prices as Amazon. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find something on another store that's not also on Amazon. But while they may have the best range, they often don't have the best prices. This site lets you enter the URL of a product page on Amazon, and it'll tell you if there's another site that has the same item for a better price..
Tiny animals on fingers – There's really not that much we can say about this site, apart from it features photos of very small animals (lizards, frogs, snakes mice etc.) and a range of insects sitting on people's fingers. It's only when you see these creatures like this that you realise just how small they really are!
Eel slap – Has there ever been a time where you've been sitting behind your desk and thought "I'd really like to slap someone with an eel today"? If so, today's your lucky day, because now you can go through all the motions of slapping someone with an eel, without having to touch an eel, and without risking an assault charge. Just move your mouse over the photo (from right to left) to get that slapping action going.
25 of the most creative sculptures and statues from around the world – Sculpture can be an unusual art form. Sometimes sculptures are beautiful, great to look at, and easy-enough to understand what they represent. Other times they're weird, inappropriate and very confusing. The sculptures listed on this page are some of the most creative sculptures around the world, and are all great to look at. Some are mesmerising, some are beautiful, but they're all pretty cool.

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

1000 schools to have fast internet: Pupils at up to 1000 schools will be connected to a free high-speed internet service by the end of the year. Click here for more.

Online voting by 2016 'possible': A Government working party investigating the logistics of online voting has found it could be feasible by 2016. Click here for more.

Kiwi app takes top prize in Microsoft comp: An app developed by a group of Auckland students has won a top prize in a worldwide competition run by Microsoft. Click here for more.

Key denies spyware claims: Prime Minister John Key is flatly denying suggestions New Zealand installed controversial spyware to collect data from the Southern Cross cable. Click here for more.

Music site serves up blasts from the past: If Lorde, Pharrell, Iggy Azalea and Ed Sheeran aren't your musical cup of tea - or names you've ever heard before - then a Victoria University student has just the thing for you. Click here for more.

School suspends microchip plan: A North Canterbury primary school has put a hold on its controversial microchip bracelet programme. Click here for more.

Kiwi test for vintage video app Veeemotion: Capturing footage on your phone and sharing it is very popular but there are fewer video apps than photo apps. Veeemotion is one of the latest and is calling itself the "video-Instagram". Click here for more.

Government won't pay for rural UFB: Rural communities would not be able to use a $150 million top-up of the Rural Broadband Initiative to upgrade to ultrafast broadband, Communications Minister Amy Adams says. Click here for more.

Website woes haunt business owners: Tangled websites have left dozens of businesses fuming that they can't catch customers online. Click here for more.

Student's spelling app proves a winner: Some teenagers dream of being All Blacks, others of recording a hit album. Benjamin McIntyre, 13, wants to be the chief executive of Apple. Click here for more.

Beervana app serves up the best brews: Beer and computer programming are often seen as male-dominated industries, but two young women are breaking the stereotype by creating the official app for this week's Beervana. Click here for more.


Writing in the air closer to reality: The days of reaching for a notepad, phone or tablet in the middle of the night to scrawl down a note to yourself might soon be over thanks to a system that translates what you write in the air into editable text. Click here for more.

Nursing facilities pin hopes on robots: Robots for nursing care and other medical purposes are being developed around Japan, as the country's greying society has fueled hope regarding robots' ability to ease the burdens of nursing care and support physical activity. Click here for more.

Experts warn over use of health apps: The explosion of medical apps available to download for iPhones and Android has doubled to 100,000 since 2011 and in the next three years it's predicted half of the world's 3.5 billion smartphone users will have one. Click here for more.

Hubble discovers magnifying glass galaxy: "Lensing" galaxies are so huge that they act like magnifying glasses for the space behind them. Their gravity can bend and distort light from smaller galaxies further beyond. Click here for more.

How Google search trends could predict the next stock market crash: The next financial crisis could be preceded by a spike in people searching for politics or business topics on Google, a new study has revealed. Click here for more.

Social Media

Facebook 'colour change' malware returns: One of the oldest Facebook scams is back - again. The colour change scam tricks users into downloading malware via a site that claims to let users change the colours of their Facebook profile. Click here for more.

Twitter's hashtag guide for dummies: Don't know what #tbt or #oitnb mean on Twitter? The online social media service is now trying to help explain through a new trial feature. Click here for more.

Twitter report shows rise in govt requests: Twitter has released its biannual transparency report, revealin a 46 per cent increase in government requests for user information. Click here for more.

Facebook to offer free internet in Zambia: Facebook's project is taking another step toward its goal of bringing the internet to people who are not yet online, launching an app in Zambia. Click here for more.

Copyright vs Piracy

Sue mum and dad pirates, Turnbull says: Film studios and other content creators should sue "mums and dads and students" who download pirated content, Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says. Click here for more.

Security and Privacy

How tech companies are catching wrongdoers: Google's controversial email scanning practices netted a child abuser last month, but the internet giant is not the only technology company proactively combating the sharing of child abuse images. Click here for more.

Google catches sex offender with Gmail scan: It's common knowledge that Google scans your Gmail content to better target you with ads. But when the company recently turned over a Gmail user to authorities for possessing indecent images of children, it also shined a spotlight on the question of how much privacy you can have on the service. Click here for more.

Secure your phone without pesky passcodes: Passcodes are a pain to use, and they aren't secure when they are based on easy-to-guess digits, such as a birth date or street address. Many people don't bother using them on phones, even though that means any thief can get instant access to email, banking apps and more. Fortunately, phone makers have started to come up with alternatives to passcodes. Click here for more.

Hacktivists are waging war on Kenya: Cyber criminals on the prowl are wreaking havoc in Kenya, threatening to turn the East African country's dream of launching an e-government into a nightmare. Click here for more.

Microsoft must turn over emails to US: Microsoft must turn over a customer's emails and other account information stored in a data center in Ireland to the US government, a judge has ruled, in a case that has drawn concern from privacy groups and major technology companies. Click here for more.

Canadian hack bears signs of Chinese army: The recent hacking attempt on a sensitive Canadian government computer network is similar to attacks mounted by an elite unit of the Chinese army based in Shanghai, according to a cybersecurity expert. Click here for more.

CIA sorry for spying on CIA probe: The CIA has conceded it improperly monitored computers used by the US Senate Intelligence Committee in an investigation of CIA interrogation tactics and secret prisons for terrorism suspects after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

YouTube's dumbest, most dangerous trendsvideo: YouTube has known its fair share of dangerous, destructive and ill-advised trends, but even by those standards, the "fire challenge" hits new lows. Click here for more.

It was five years ago today

Each month we dredge through our archives to pull out stories from the Actrix Newsletter of exactly five years ago. Sometimes these stories will show just how much the net has changed in such a short time, and sometimes they'll be included just because they're interesting.

Illegal downloads rife, says survey: Kiwi internet users have a love affair with illegal downloading and any changes to copyright law will fail to deter many, a survey has revealed. Click here for more.

Closing accounts won't solve illegal downloads: A survey of 1048 internet users aged between 18 and 70 found the time lapse between the release of content, such as music and movies, in the United States then in New Zealand was a key reason illegal downloading and copying took place. Click here for more.

US website alerts police to suicidal NZ man: A suicidal man in Canterbury may have been saved by an American internet forum moderator. The man posted on the forum, saying he was feeling down and asking what might happen if he took a quantity of pills, police magazine Ten One reported. Click here for more.

New Zealanders choose internet over doctor : More New Zealanders are diagnosing their illnesses online instead of going to their GP, according to a new survey. Click here for more.

Fairfax to discuss charging for online news: Fairfax Media is open to forming an agreement with rival News Ltd in an effort to get readers to pay for online content, Fairfax chief Brian McCarthy said. Click here for more.


Bringing it all back home

Thanks again for reading the Actrix Online Informer. Feedback can be sent to me via the e-mail address listed below. Please limit this to comments/suggestions regarding the newsletter. The best place to send requests for support is the Actrix Help Desk ( or to the Accounts Department (

Take care through September!

Rob Zorn 


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