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Actrix Online Informer – October 2015

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 editor@actrix.co.nz
Other inquiries should be e-mailed to support@actrix.co.nz.

Actrix – best little ISP in New Zealand

Welcome to the October Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for October 2015. This month we've collected a whole bunch of crazy and interesting tech facts from around the world. Some are startling, some are scary, and some are just unbelievable!

We also include an article on internet addiction which was provided by one of our readers. It explores the nature of cyber addiction, and takes a close look at the causes, symptoms and effects.

YouTube feature

This month's YouTube feature is a bit unusual, but also a little heart-warming. Now, when most of us enjoy a drink of Coke or Pepsi we're not moved to tears, but for this young woman drinking Pepsi for the first time, she can't help but break down. Turns out she's allergic to caffeine, which prevents here from drinking most popular soft drinks. So when Pepsi brought out a caffeine-free version, her boyfriend purchased her a bottle.

Maybe it's a bit of an over-reaction (it is only Pepsi), but it's the small things like these that are fun to watch.

Microsoft to take out warning adverts as 'tech support' phone scams get uglier

Originally published on Stuff, 14 September 2015

The phone scam epidemic that plagued New Zealanders in 2011 is back and this time the scammers are greedier and their tactics more ugly.

Cyber-safety organisation NetSafe said it received 162 complaints in the last month about scammers who cold-called people claiming their computers had malware and needed fixing.

"In terms of rate of reporting, that would be as high as it has ever been," Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said.

The scammers usually claimed they were working for Microsoft in tech support, though they had in the past also claimed to work for victims' internet service providers.

Microsoft spokesman Brendan Boughen said it would take out advertisements in newspapers on Wednesday to raise awareness of the frauds, and to reiterate its staff would never phone people asking for remote access to their computers.

The so-called "tech support" scams are believed to have first originated in India among companies that originally provided legitimate phone-based technical support to businesses.

It is believed some of the businesses fell on hard times and decided to turn to the dark side and boost their income by cold-calling consumers, convincing them they had faults with their computers that needed fixing.

Cocker said the original scammers tended to demand a few hundred dollars for their fictitious fixes but did not download malware on to their victims' computers or blackmail them.

But he said the new wave of scammers were more ruthless and were installing "ransomware".

"It seems to have evolved. In the past people were losing sums in the hundreds of dollars, paying $299 or $499 for the 'service'. Now they are losing in the thousands."

A disproportionate number of victims said the scammers had Indian accents, but the frauds could not all be attributed to a particular country, Cocker said.

"There are certainly ones that are from that region but they do seem to crop up from all sorts of places around the world. A lot of these scams are run out of places where law enforcement is non-existent or complicit," he said.

Microsoft had gone "above and beyond" what people could expect of the company by paying for the warning advertisements, given it was not in any way responsible for the scams, Cocker said.

Microsoft said in a statement that people should hang up if they were called by the fraudsters.

"Engaging with or taunting these companies can lead to you receiving many more calls at all times of the day or night."

SEO basics for small businesses

If you're a small business owner, it's very important that you have a basic understanding of SEO, or search engine optimisation, which is the process of improving your website's rank in Google.

Chances are you're very familiar with the term SEO already – as it's likely your inbox and junk mail folders are full of emails from companies overseas offering you cheap SEO work for your website. But unless you've spent a little time doing some reading and research, it's likely you're not too familiar with what it is, what it means, and how important it can be for your business.

SEO is unique in that its not a fad or a passing technique that's going to lose its significance in the near future. It's here to stay and is only going to become even more important as industries rely more and more on the internet to reach their customers.

It's important you understand the basics of SEO to help keep your business up to date, and allow potential clients and customers to be able to find you.

So here are some of the basics of what you need to know:

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym that stands for 'search engine optimisation'. It's the process of increasing your website's rankings in search engines, such as Google or Bing. The benefit of a higher ranking in the search engines is an increase in traffic, as its easier for people who are searching for the services you offer to find you.

Your ranking is determined by how relevant your website is to the search someone has conducted. The relevancy is determined by algorithms that take into account a huge number of factors on your website. Search engines don't release the intricate details of these algorithms, but they are still quite open about most of the factors that the algorithms take into account.

What is SERP?

SERP is an acronym that stands for search engine results page, and goes hand-in-hand with SEO. If your website has good SEO, it'll have a better standing in the search engine results.

Your website's SERP location or ranking should be treated very seriously by business owners, and you should always aim to be as high as possible, because most of the clicks and business will go to the websites that sit at the top on the first page. And here's why…

Say one of the kids puts a cricket ball through the lounge window, and you need to get in touch with a glazier to get it fixed. Your immediate reaction is to go to your phone or computer and search for a glazier. If you're like 93 percent of the population, you'll use Google and click one of the top 5 results for a glazier. That glazier gets your business because they're at the top of Google. Every other glazier that's in your area and is likely to do just as good a job as the glazier you chose is missing out, simply because they haven't invested in SEO.

What role do 'keywords' play in SEO?

Keywords are a vital part of your SEO, and it's important to choose keywords that are going to get you the most return, in the form of traffic and clicks. When writing the text for your website content, make sure you use words and phrases that are related to your industry, and are likely to be used by people searching for your services. If you're a glazier, talk about fixing broken windows. If you're a plumber, talk about fixing leaking pipes or replacing spouting. Those are the things people are going to be searching for in Google to find glaziers and plumbers.

That said, don't just stuff your site with keywords at the expense of well-written content and expect the clicks to just start coming in. Search engines are becoming increasingly intelligent, and know when you've just stuffed a paragraph with keywords in the hope it'll increase your ranking.

The key is to making sure your text is well written, is enticing to readers, and that you use those keywords where appropriate.

How does social media impact SEO?

Search engines are starting to rely more on social media profiles to determine the rankings on their results pages. They visit your business profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and can see how many likes and followers you have. The more you have, the more relevant they assume your business is, and so are more likely to give you a higher ranking.

However, just because you have lots of likes doesn't mean you'll appear above your competitors. Search engines also analyse the level of interaction on your page, so it pays to engage your audiences with meaningful content.

A few more things…

SEO takes time. You can't make a few quick changes on your website and expect to go from page ten to the top of page one. It's something that needs to be worked at and continually analysed. But the benefits are obvious. Your website needs to be contributing to your businesses and bringing in customers. You can have the most expensive and stylish website on the internet, but if people can't find you, what's the point!

Learn more about SEO.

32 brilliant iOS 9 tips

If you're an iPhone user, you've probably been getting notifications about iOS 9 being available as an update – if you haven't updated already.

Like any good update, iOS9 brings some fantastic new features including a lower-power mode and Transit directions in Maps. MacWorld has created a guide to iOS 9's 32 most interesting and useful new functions to help you master the new OS, and shows some of the ways iOS 9 will change the way you experience your iPad or iPhone. They start with a little something called 'Proactive'.

Yes, it's pretty much copied from Android's Google Now. But Proactive remains one of the more pleasing new features in iOS 9, and the one with the greatest potential to be gently life-altering.

Proactive tries to stay one step ahead, always doing its best to work out what you'll want to do next and then offer a shortcut to that behaviour.

Ring your mum at a certain time each week? iOS will start placing her contact icon in your Search screen when the appointed hour approaches, so you can make the call with a single swipe (left from the first Home screen/pane, or downwards from any Home screen) and tap. Like to hit the tunes at the gym? You'll get a Now Playing in the lock screen at the usual time, or when you plug in the headphones.

How do you get these conveniences? Just use iOS as much as you can: it'll soon learn. And look out for the shortcuts. Remember to browse the Search screen to see how much iOS has picked up about your habits.

Read more.

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!

Not Always Right
http://notalwaysright.com/ – The saying goes, "the customer is always right," which is obviously not true, as anyone who's ever worked retail (or watched anyone else go shopping) will tell you. This site is filled with the best anecdotes of those on the shopping front lines. Prepare to be shocked (or maybe not) by the craven acts and utter stupidity of your fellow human. And check out the sister sites about family, romance, school, and the workplace.

http://donate.ly/ – Got an online charity you'd like to collect donations for? Donate.ly is a fundraising platform that makes it a simple affair. Create an account, embed some code, and soon you'll be taking credit-card donations online. What's more, donors can share what they've done via social media, spreading the word about your good works.

www.pandora.com – The trailblazer in personalized Internet radio stations, Pandora creates custom music stations based on your favourite bands or songs with help from the Music Genome Project. The intermittent ads hardly disrupt the robust stream of music and the killer smartphone app lets you listen on the go. It's the best streaming music service for the laid back listener, as it offers a minimalist interface and a very hands-off experience.
http://daily.songza.com – We've got a Songza in our hearts. The service leads as listeners choose the mood of the tunes they want to hear. Wednesday afternoon? Songza wants to know if you need an energy boost, are working, playing DJ for the office, or just want to hear something new. Friday late night, it suggests you may be going to bed, hosting a house party, or coming down from a crazy night. You can sign in socially or, if you don't want to own up to any of the above, listen anonymously.
Khan Academy
www.khanacademy.org – This online learning site is all about teaching you real-world knowledge using videos and other interactive modules. Topics range from test prep to microeconomics to modern art. It's a perfect example of content created by experts conquering all. What's really amazing is that the impressive educational site is free and open to anyone.
www.quora.com – You've got questions, Quora (and its million+ users) has answers. The goal of the site, founded by former Facebook staff, is to build a source of knowledge, a veritable trove of research already performed. It works because the people answering questions tend to be high-profile experts in their fields... or at least very knowledgeable amateurs.
www.snopes.com – For the love of all the Chupacabras in the world, please, trust nothing on the Internet, especially if it's circulated in email or posted without attribution on Facebook. If you still have doubts, look it up at Snopes to be sure. The site has the best rundown of urban legends and online scams you will ever find. I'd bet all the money that Nigerian prince owes me on it.
The Consumerist
http://consumerist.com – This snarky blog provides insight into the most pertinent consumer issues of the day. Readers and editors alike come together on The Consumerist to inform others about excessive charges, unseasonably early sales, bad discounts, funny product reviews, and recommend free mobile apps, among other topics.
www.thinkgeek.com – A true geek has bookmarked online store ThinkGeek and has likely purchased almost an entire wardrobe from here. From bubble-gum smartphone stands and LEGO flash drives to the latest official Doctor Who merchandise, digital dweebs can spend hours perusing pages of cheeky, geeky products.
www.babycenter.com – New moms who need a lifeline to figure out all this parenting stuff should turn to the 36 million moms that make up the BabyCenter community. From pregnancy on through to post-preschool big kids, you'll find information, advice, and even product recommendations you need to get through the toughest job you'll ever love.

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Ultrafast Fibre build six months ahead of schedule: Ultrafast Fibre will finish building an 3000 km ultra fast fibre optic broadband network in the North Island six months ahead of schedule. Click here for more.

Complaint about cheap rugby TV site touches on battle over internet anonymity: Sky Television and World Rugby face a problem trying to chase down a company that is offering Kiwis a cheap way to watch Rugby World Cup matches online. Click here for more.

Netflix shows when viewers get hooked on a show: Kiwis take longer to get hooked on Netflix shows than other nationalities, data from the company shows. Click here for more.

The digital divides persist in New Zealand: Digital technologies have become critical for people to participate in education, work, health provision, social services, tax services and commercial activities. Click here for more.

A double funeral, live-streamed: Ross Buckland lost both parents within six days of each other and was able to live-stream their funeral to family and friends overseas. Click here for more.

iPhone 6S bought by Kiwis first, despite an All Blacks game: New Zealand was the first country in the world to get the new iPhone, but bad weather and a rugby game kept the launch from really bubbling over. Click here for more.

How to follow the Rugby World Cup online: While a few hardcore fans may clear their schedules to watch them all on television, most people will need to rely on other sources to keep up with the results. Click here for more.


Computers 'don't help' pupils' learning: Information technology is great, but it may not be making kids smarter, according to a new report showing that increased computer use in classrooms leads to lower test scores. Click here for more.

Google does not intend to become a carmaker: Google does not intend to become a vehicle manufacturer, the company's managing director for Germany, Austria and Switzerland has revealed at the Frankfurt auto show. Click here for more.

The end of ads on the internet: Millions of people see and click on ads each day while browsing online, providing money for publishers to create the content everyone enjoys. Click here for more.

Why artificial intelligence could be the ultimate prize: The five biggest technology companies in the Western world are each competing to create their own virtual assistants; your personal guides to help navigate the digital world. Click here for more.

Siobhan Reddy turns video games into high art: High art and video games might seem like strange bedfellows, but not to Australian Siobhan Reddy. Click here for more.

Social Media

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg offers live tour of Facebook HQ video: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has offered Facebook users a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the company's new headquarters. Click here for more.

Could Facebook's new 'dislike' button lead to more cyber-bullying?: Facebook has confirmed it is looking at a "dislike" button – raising fears that more users could find themselves unwittingly exposed to peer disapproval or cyber-bullying. Click here for more.

Most teen girls enhance their own Facebook photos: The vast majority of teenage girls routinely doctor photographs of themselves before posting them on sites such as Facebook because of body image fears, a leading psychiatrist has warned. Click here for more.

Vertical video pays off for Snapchat: Watching video vertically is so popular on mobile phones that one production company here just built a new vertical kitchen. Click here for more.

Apple's ad-blocking software could cost Facebook and Google: Last week Apple released the IOS 9 operating system – the black magic that powers its mobile devices. While it features a bunch of geeky stuff, the interesting bit is the inclusion of ad-blocking software. Click here for more.

Apple vs. Android vs. Amazon vs. Microsoft

Apple Music, Netflix, Steam gain ground in cyberspace: Apple Music has overhauled Spotify as the most popular streaming music service in New Zealand and Australia, according to a report by Canadian company Sandvine. Click here for more.

Is Apple Music worth paying for? Depends: Apple knew they were a little late to the game when they launched their music streaming service at the end of June, so they offered a three-month free trial to suck us in. Click here for more.

Copyright and piracy

Copyright trial over dancing baby on YouTube: A court has cleared the way for a trial in a copyright lawsuit over a YouTube video showing a baby dancing to the Prince song, Let's Go Crazy. Click here for more.

Digital song downloads slip further: Digital downloads of songs continued to fall out of favour in the first half of the year, while free and paid music-streaming revenue kept growing, even without much of a bump from the launch of Apple Music. Click here for more.

Is sharing streaming video passwords OK?: The sharing of streaming video subscription passwords became a laughing matter during the Emmy Awards, but the funny business could eventually become a problem for video providers. Click here for more.

Security and Privacy

Phone scammers get taste of their own medicine: On Monday, Microsoft and NetSafe said there had been a significant increase in reports of scammers trying to defraud people. The fraudsters claim they are from Microsoft and say there is a problem with their computers. Click here for more.

Tracking app puts children at risk: Security researchers say they found critical weaknesses in a South Korean government-mandated child surveillance app - vulnerabilities that left the private lives of the country's youngest citizens open to hackers. Click here for more.

AVG anti-virus is selling your web browsing history: As the saying goes, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Anti-virus software company AVG has revamped its privacy policy into an easy-to-read document, and in doing so has revealed just how extensively it is tracking users and selling their data in order to keep its products "free". Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Pizza Rat: Diary of a viral meme : Pizza Rat is, per internet consensus, many lofty things: a spirit animal, "all of us", a parable of life in New York City. Click here for more.

Gold.co.uk domain name sold for $1.45m: A British businessman has paid £600,000 (NZ$1.45m) for the gold.co.uk domain name. Click here for more.

Software allows you to text waiters: Where's our waiter? Patrons won't ever have to ask that again if a tech startup has its way. Click here for more.

Selfie lawsuit filed on behalf of monkey: A rare crested macaque monkey who snapped a well-known, grinning "selfie" should be declared the photo's owner and receive damages for copyright infringement after it was used in a wildlife book, animal rights activists argued in a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday. 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.

Online, or over the line: For a banking advert, it reads like a Tui billboard. "1969: We're the first bank to introduce real-time online banking," an ASB Bank campaign claims. Yeah, right, some say. Click here for more.

70pc of NZ adults hit by online crime: Seventy per cent of New Zealand adults have been the victim of online crimes ranging from identity theft to having their computer infected with a virus, a survey has revealed. Click here for more.

Christchurch earthquake: Warning over dodgy 'charity' spam: As Christchurch readies itself for what will be a lengthy clean up after Saturday morning's earthquake, Kiwis are being warned that cyber criminals are readying for a spam assault cashing in on the disaster. Click here for more.

Couple loses $15,000 in car scam: A Greymouth couple is $15,000 poorer after falling victim to an internet scam involving Trade Me. Click here for more.

Suicide study to examine online community: A study aiming to learn whether suicidal and self-harming young people can find support and a sense of community on the internet is being launched by a New Zealand researcher. 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 (support@actrix.co.nz) or to the Accounts Department (accounts@actrix.co.nz).

Take care through October!

Rob Zorn


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