March Newsletter Logo

This document is best viewed using 800 x 600 resolution.
Past newsletters may be viewed at http://editor.actrix.gen.nz/
This newsletter has been produced to help you get the most out of the Internet and to keep you,
as an Actrix customer, informed of developments and services within the company.
Questions and comments about the newsletter can be emailed to editor@actrix.co.nz
Other inquiries should be emailed to support@actrix.co.nz

Anyone for a Cookie?

Are you aware that each time you visit a web site the site's operator, as well as others, can collect information about you? This isn't as sneaky and nasty as it may sound, as mostly information about you is gathered solely for the purpose of enhancing the experiences of visitors to the site. Usually....

The most common way web site operators keep tabs on their visitors is by giving them cookies. In Internet terms a cookie is simply a string of letters or numbers stored on your hard drive as a text file. Cookies assign a unique identifier to each computer that visits a web site enabling operators to distinguish each visiting machine individually. Cookies can also contain site user identification information such as passwords (to individual sites, not to your internet account or Windows profile) to eliminate the need to re-type it each time you return to the site.

Sites that rely heavily on advertising also make extensive use of cookies to find out which sites you have recently visited, which pages of the site you viewed, which advertisements you have been shown, and whether or not you clicked on any of them. Each time you return to one of the sites within their advertising network they use past cookies to find out when you were last there, which advertisements you've seen, and which attracted your attention, effectively creating a small profile of your online movements.

While that sort of advertisement targeting may not appeal to you, cookies do have their useful functions. Sites can use them to enhance your visit by ensuring you see something different next time you come, making subsequent visits less repetitive. They are also useful in that they allow your browser to remember specific information that may be useful to the web server later.

For example, when you browse through an online bookstore or shopping mall adding things to your "shopping cart," a list of the items you've grabbed is temporarily stored on your hard drive in cookie form so that you can pay for all the items once you've arrived at the "checkout."

A cookie is NOT a secret way for a web server to find out everything about you or to steal all your passwords. Cookies contain only text and cannot damage your computer, cause programs to run or sneak a Trojan horse or virus in. Your browser is designed to work with cookies and could only ever let text in. The only way that any private information could be found within a cookie would be  from you personally giving that information in the first place. Also, each cookie is marked with what web server it is for and your browser will not give cookie information back except to the relevant server(s).

We not scared of cookies!

We not scared of cookies!

It is possible to configure your web browser to prompt you before accepting cookies, or to bar them from being saved on your hard drive altogether.

In Microsoft Explorer the setting is to be found under Control Panel/Internet Options. Select the Security tab and click on the Custom Level button. Scroll down to the Cookies section where the disable or prompt options are to be found.

In Netscape Navigator, open Edit/Preferences. The cookies switches are found within the Advanced category.

The downside of doing this is that some sites will attempt to push cookies onto you a dozen times or so before they load, and some won't function for you at all unless you accept their cookie first. Believe me, this can really cramp your browsing style!

So, do the cookies always win? Well, yes and no. You're not entirely powerless. Because cookies are always only text files, they can be regularly deleted without harm. Internet Explorer saves cookies individually in a folder called Cookies, usually within the Windows folder. Opening your Cookies folder and deleting its entire contents is quite safe. Navigator stores all cookies in a single file. In the windows platform this file is called cookies.txt. On a MacIntosh this file is called MagicCookie. Deleting these files will not disable or otherwise harm a computer or web browser. I do not recommend deleting the Windows Cookies folder, however, only its contents.

Keep in mind, too, that cookies are often stored in your computer's memory until you close your browser, so deleting all cookies while your browser is open or while you are still surfing may have only partial results.

Aside from cookies, you might also be interested to know that your browser does share technical information about you when you visit Internet web sites, and there is little you can do to stop it.

When you click to request a web page, for example, your browser sends information to the requested site including your i.p. address (numbers that identify your computer on the internet), the kind of hardware and software you are using, your internet service provider, the site you visited previously, and in some cases even your email address.

Click here to see just how much information about you your browser is willing to share as you surf.

It should be apparent by now that the browsing you do in the privacy of your own home is not quite so private as many of you might have thought. In the end though, I don't recommend disabling your cookie function. It seems to be a fact of internet life that we can do little about. I regularly delete my cookies just to spite them, but when all is said and done, I doubt that my doing that has any significant effect upon anything..

Top Ten Signs Your Cat Has Learned Your Internet Password

By Dave Fore
  • E-Mail flames from some guy named "Fluffy."
  • Traces of kitty litter in your keyboard.
  • You find you've been subscribed to strange newsgroups like alt.recreational.catnip.
  • Your web browser has a new home page: http://www.feline.com/
  • Your mouse has teeth marks in it ... and a strange aroma of tuna.
  • Hate-mail messages to Apple Computer Corp. about their release of "CyberDog."
  • Your new ergonomic keyboard has a strange territorial scent to it.
  • You keep finding new software around your house like CatinTax and WarCat II.
  • On IRC you're known as the IronMouser.
  • There are little kitty carpal-tunnel braces near the scratching post.
The latest Actrix promotion is our biggest and most generous yet! We have offered every school in New Zealand free internet access. On top of that we have offered every school student's family in New Zealand a One Cent Per Minute Plan already loaded with a $10 credit. On top of that, we promise to give back to the student's school, 10% of all the future money they spend using the Internet with Actrix Networks Ltd. On top of that, we are giving away $1000s worth of computer equipment to the schools with the highest ratios per student of Actrix sign-ups.

Recognising that it is imperative that our children meet the future armed with technological knowledge, we have made our promotional dollar count. The Internet is still largely untapped as an information resource and as an educational tool. As more and more teachers and schools are beginning to incorporate the web into their teaching programs, Actrix wants to be right there, doing what we can to make the Internet as affordable as possible. Judging by the rate at which schools are taking us up on our offer, we think it's going to be a winner. Keep your eye out for notices if you have children at school, because we are also extending the offer to existing Actrix families.

The Actrix Schools Promotion is fully endorsed and encouraged by Edcom Network (www.edcom.co.nz) an independent consultancy bringing professional development services to schools throughout New Zealand. Edcom describes the initiative as exciting because it will bring affordable internet access and free web site hosting to New Zealand schools. In fact, Edcom will extend the chance to win a further $1000 worth of computer equipment through the Actrix promotion to new and existing Edcom members.

If you'd like to know more about this promotion, click the animated Norrie link above. If you'd like to know more about the benefits of subscribing to the Edcom Network, click the Edcom logo here, or email info@edcom.co.nz. Edcom
What's All This Html Stuff?

Strange as it may seem, just about everybody these days has heard about html. Just what is it and what does it have to do with web pages? If I want my own web page, do I need to know about it?

Html stands for hypertext markup language. That sounds complicated and html sort of is, and sort of isn't. At its most basic, html is simple to understand and use, but it is also capable of some pretty complex and incredible stuff.

One of the things that makes html so wonderful is the hypertext aspect of it. All this really means is that it is capable of more than just displaying information in interesting ways. Hypertext means that you can click on something (either text or an image) and your browser will take you to some other document or image. It is all these hypertext links together that make up what is called the world wide web. The markup language aspect of it just refers to the fact that it is a written computer language.

However, it is surely one of the least complicated computer languages in that it is written in plain text using symbols that are reasonably easy to understand and work with, even for the layperson. Basically, an html document is just a text file that your browser (e.g. Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer) comes along and reads. As it reads the html document, it displays a page the way the html code tags tell it to.

Html generally uses start and end tags that look like this: <bold>Hey, I'm bold!</bold>.

The browser sees this and knows that everything after <bold> and before </bold> should be displayed in bold text. If it comes across something like this...

<font face="Arial" color="#FF0000">Hey, I'm red Arial text</font>

...it knows that everything between the two tags should be displayed using the Arial font and the colour red.

If it comes across something like this...

<img src="norriepic.jpg" height="50" width="60">

...it knows it needs to find a picture of Norrie called norriepic.jpg and display it as being 50 screen pixels high and 60 screen pixels wide.

These are just some of the simpler html tags. If you'd like to see a little more html, get familiar with the view/source feature of your browser. In both Explorer and Navigator, View Source or View Page Source can be found under the View menu. We could move on to JavaScript and other active elements here, but they are more complicated, and you certainly don't need them to create your own attractive and functional web pages.

If this all seems too daunting, you can probably relax. Most web developers who write daily in html do so using one of the many, many html editors available. These allow you to create the page just the way you would like it much as you would using a word processor. The html editing program creates all the html for him or her behind the scenes.

One of the more readily available (read "free") html editors is FrontPage Express which allows you to create the page using basic drop and drag techniques and also look at what you've done in html. Using programs like this can really teach you a lot. FrontPage Express is freely available (you may already have it installed if you have Internet Explorer) from the Windows Update page. Norrie the Nerd will give you more specific instructions about getting yourself a copy below. Later versions of Netscape Communicator also come with Composer built in, the Netscape equivalent of Microsoft's FrontPage Express.

Getting your webpages up onto the web is also pretty easy. Each and every Actrix customer is allocated free web space when they join with Actrix - two and a half megabytes (ample!) for Dialup 1 and 3 customers, and five megabytes for Dialup 2 customers (double ample!). Once you have designed your pages you can upload them to your personal web space by going to our Customer Services section and using our page upload feature. This will give you a website at the address:

http://www.actrix.gen.nz/users/yourusername.

This guy's the limit!

If you'd like to go further than that and have your own domain (www.whateveryoulike.co.nz) that can be arranged too, but it is, of course, more costly. Please see the article below that outlines Actrix domain and hosting options.

This article has been intentionally cursory. It is designed to provide you with a very basic introduction to the sorts of things involved in creating your own web pages. Norrie the Nerd has been busy this month writing and publishing his own guide to basic html and creating Actrix user homepages, but he is going to tell you all about that below.

It has been a pleasure to have helped so many Actrix customers come to grips with html recently from the help desk. I would encourage you all to give it a go. It can be done cheaply and easily, and you certainly don't need to be any sort of computer guru. A very very basic knowledge is enough to start with, and with html continually growing and developing, there is always more to learn. By the same token, it is easy to learn enough in one night to be creative and productive. Go for it! As Norrie always says, "The sky's the limit!"
Useful Downloads

This month I thought it would be appropriate to focus on sites that provide html resources. There are two main sites that I would like to draw your attention to, though entering "html" into any search engine would likely provide you with more links to html resources than you could shake a stick at. With the internet as your tool, there is little reason or excuse to be ignorant about anything! All that's needed is a spirit of adventure and a little persistence.

Need background images for example? Simply enter the word "backgrounds" into any search engine to get a list of hundreds of sites where backgrounds are freely available for private use. Read the terms of usage before you take them though. Most of these sorts of sites will also provide clear instructions on just how to acquire what they offer. But on to the resources....

www.webmonkey.com
This is your primo html resource site! It is absolutely loaded with categorised and sub-categorised links. When you arrive at the site, you will find a list of resources: e.g. Authoring, Design, Multimedia, E-business and so forth. Clicking each of these categories gives you a list of sub-categorised links to articles and tutorials on such things as html basics, tables, frames, site-building, graphics and on it goes. If Norrie's guide to html is too basic for you, this is the place to go!
www.html.com
This site offers a variety of services including web-hosting, but of interest to us this month is their section on html resources. Here you can find links to articles on such subjects as the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), the outfit that co-ordinates and recommends world-wide html developments. This is the group who decides what's good and what's not in html, and wrestles with both Netscape and Microsoft to control the direction html is heading. Other links of interest are to "Web Home Improvement," "the Webmaster's Library" and "the Web Developer's Virtual Library."  
www.napster.com
Okay, this one has nothing to do with html, but I am so chuffed with it that I thought it deserved a mention here. Basically Napster is a program that you may download and use freely to find and exchange mp3 music files. You're allocated a username and password and you can then log on to their server. They scan your hard drive for a list of the mp3 files that you have and present you with their own search engine into which you can enter any artist or song. They then present you with a list that matches your query, and if you request a song it is copied from some other user's hard drive onto yours. As I write this I am downloading one, and someone with a funny nickname is uploading one of mine. The transfer speeds are reasonably good too.

Mp3 music files are non-executable which means it is impossible to sneak a virus or trojan in with them, so the process is quite safe. You do need to be aware, though, that there are copyright issues involved with mp3 files. Many are sanctioned by the artist in question, and many are not. The responsibility in this regard is all yours.

Ze Good News undt Ze Bad News! ...with Norrie the Nerd

Let's start with the good news. I have indeed been busy this month preparing my homepage for the world to see. As every Actrix customer is entitled to a certain amount of their own free web space in the Actrix users section, I thought that it might be a good idea to study up on some html myself so that I could pass a little of the knowledge along. I've built my own Actrix user homepage, and you're all invited to stop on by.

There are three main sections to my site, two of which are pretty much finished. Firstly there is (or is going to be) a short biography section, but this is not yet complete. (Hey if you'd lived as full a life as I have, you'd understand that quality takes time!) But what I have done is put up a few photos of myself with some famous friends - a little sneak preview, if you like, of the wonderful life of Norrie the Nerd.

Important for this month's newsletter, though, is my section on how to make your own Actrix user homepage. I've tried to write the guide from scratch, assuming that my readers know nothing about html, and my aim was that by the end of the guide, any reader should know enough to make a start on a homepage of their own.

In a handful of separate sections I have tried to explain some of the concepts behind html and web design. But I have also gone further and explained how to get a copy of FrontPage Express for yourself, and more importantly, I have written a guide to using it. FrontPage Express is free program from Microsoft that allows you to write web documents without having to know all that much about html.

You can visit my homepage at www.actrix.gen.nz/users/norrie. Please do, especially if you're interested in making a homepage, but you're not really sure how to make a start. I would appreciate feedback too. Let me know if the guides are useful or how you think they could be improved.

Undt now for ze bad news...

Once again I have had to concede some chocolate fish. Congratulations to George Sadlier. Your fish are winging their way to London right now.

I'll quote you a paragraph from his answer to his own challenge just so you know that I do not give out chocolate fish without good reason.

Exactly as you handle regular delegations.  If you're delegating multiples of Class Cs, then you use a whack load of NS records in the "parent" domain, treating them as subdomains (which they are).  If  you're delegating sub-Class-C blocks, then you end up with an NS record  on *each specific IP* you delegate.  Ugly, but that's the way it works.

Now that was just *one* of the paragraphs. I chose to quote that one because it had the most recognisably English words in it!

The choccy may be eaten, but the Nerd's not beaten! You can't keep a good geek down. If you can stump me on an internet-related technical matter you get a six-pack of chocolate fish courtesy of Actrix and a $10 credit on your account, but you must know the answer to your challenge yourself. Send your challenges to me (if you're game) at norrie@actrix.co.nz.

"Computers in the future may weigh no
more than 1.5 tons."
---- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

What About Getting My Own Domain?

If you have your own business, or perhaps if you've become a real html enthusiast, then you may want more than an Actrix user homepage. If you would like, Actrix can help you with your own domain name.

A domain name gives you your unique identity on the internet. It establishes your presence and provides that corporate and professional look for your company. With your own domain your business or personal site will be accessed on the internet via your own URL such as www.mybusiness.co.nz.

So what's involved with getting your own domain and having it hosted by Actrix?

In New Zealand, domains have to be registered with the New Zealand Internet Registry which operates under the name "Domainz." Registration can be done yourself online at at www.domainz.co.nz where you can also check for a domain name's availability. Secondly a domain has to be associated with an ISP such as Actrix who will provide the services for the site that you require. These services include site hosting, holding your domain name and email.

There are costs involved which need to be weighed. Firstly, Domainz charges you around $55 per year (with a $30 or so setup fee in the first year) just for your domain name. You can pay that yourself, or you can arrange to have Actrix pay your Domainz fees for you.

Next you will need either a limited or full domain name service (DNS). Under a Limited DNS, Actrix charges $15 per year incl GST with a one off setup fee of $25. You pay your own Domainz charges and Actrix charges $10 each for such things as mail rules, domain-pointing and so forth.

Under a full DNS, Actrix charges $15.75 per month incl GST with a one off setup fee of $50. We'll give you a 10% discount if you pay for the year in advance. For that money, Actrix will hold and register your domain, pay your Domainz fees, and provide all your mail rules, etc, free of charge.

Next you will need to have a hosting package so that you can actually have some web space on which to put your unique site.

Under a Web One package, Actrix will charge you $12.50 per month and allow you up to five megabytes of web space.

Under a Web Two package, Actrix will charge you $44.95 per month and allow you up to 25 megabytes of web space.

In both cases there are extra charges for extra webspace ($10/meg per month) and extra charges will apply for exorbitant amounts of traffic. Unfortunately, no, you cannot use your free Actrix webspace with a domain.

For your email, you will need to have one of our dialup accounts (Dialup 1, 2 or 3). You can have five email addresses under the Dialup 2 account, but only one under a Dialup 1 or 3.

In summary, then, the most basic package (1 email address,15 hours online time five megabytes of web space and a limited DNS) would cost you around $20 per month, with yearly fees (mainly to Domainz) of $65-95.

Actrix also provides what we call the Dialup Corporate Plan.   By purchasing all the components you need collectively in the one package, huge convenience and sizeable savings are achieved. There is a flat monthly fee of $79.95 and a one off set up cost of $49.95 including GST. The value of all these components combined when taken individually would normally cost you $87.40.

The Dialup Corporate Plan includes:

  • Monthly connection, unlimited time
  • Registration of one domain name (Actrix pays Domainz fees)
  • 10 E-mail addresses
  • 25 megs of disk space
  • Help desk available
  • Web browsing
  • Usenet groups
  • Clarinet World News
  • Free set up software if not already connected to the net

What is provided here amounts only to a basic summary of Actrix DNS and web-hosting services. For a more complete description, please consult the Products and Services section of the Actrix web site.

Joseph's Jargon

by Joseph Bartlett

Business
Solutions with
This month it has to be html related terms:

Html - Hypertext Markup Language, the computer language in which most web pages are written.

DNS - Domain name service. This is needed to associate your web site with an ISP. It doesn't entitle you to any web space.

W3C - The World Wide Web Consortium, an organisation that functions as the web's rule making body (though it has no power to enforce any of its rules). It is composed of representatives from a number of companies including Netscape and Microsoft. Without their co-ordination, web browsers would develop in different directions which would lead to chaos on the internet.Find out more at www.w3c.org

Hex Code - A system of 6 numbers or letters that represent certain colours. the first two characters refer to the amount of red in the colour, the second two refer to how much green, and the third two to how much blue. For example, red = #FF0000 i.e. all red and zero green or blue. "Spicy Pink" = #FF1CAE.

Style Sheets - Separate text documents that can be uploaded to the web. These are not written in html, but html documents can be set so that the browser formats their appearance according to the specifications of the style sheet. It makes creating many pages with a similar look very easy, but may not be for beginners.

Frames - A way of dividing a browser window so that it can hold more than one page. The page you create has its own URL, but so do the pages within it. The end result is that you can get certain parts of your page to remain the same, and other parts to change as new pages are navigated to. Frames are not well-liked by everybody, and older browsers do not support them. The Actrix home page uses frames for example. That's how the side columns stay the same while the content on the right of the page changes as you navigate.

Java - This can mean a number of things, but basically it is a way to build something active on your page. Some people despise it, and it is certainly not necessary to make a decent page.

Force Technology has a Customer Relationship Management solution for individual or small business use. Introducing Maximizer, from Multiactive Software Inc (www.maximizer.com)

Maximizer has always helped people to manage customer information to their best advantage. Now, Maximizer is the complete customer information manager for single sales people and small workgroups

With Maximizer it’s easier than ever to

  • track every detail about your customers, prospects and vendors
  • stay in contact through mail, telephone, fax, E-mail and the Web
  • manage your time and schedule effectively

Some of the additional features of Maximizer include:

  • E-Commerce - create a professional Web site and start accepting orders and inquiries online! The information is automatically entered into your Maximizer database, so you’ll never miss an order.
  • Custom Report Writer - analyse contact information quickly and easily
  • Enhanced E-mail Centre - manage all of your electronic correspondence
  • Related Entries - link contacts for efficient project management
  • Company Library - store sales and marketing information in a central location
  • Personal Window - store information not related to a specific contact

Maximizer's main features are:

  • Easy Data Access - Search on any piece of data in the database including text, notes, user defined fields, last name, first name and many more.
  • Communication Convenience - The Maximizer Action menu includes “schedule to-do’s”, “make a call”, “write a letter” and   “send an email” features. Most common tasks can be done by dragging and dropping. Prepare and send personalised letters, faxes and emails. Maximizer will even print envelope labels!
  • Built in Word Processor - Create correspondence that can be attached to an Address Book entry, or can be used in a template for mail or fax merges. Spelling and Thesaurus included!
  • Handy Scheduling - View appointments and tasks by day, week, month or two-month option. The schedule information can be printed to many standard organisers such as DayTimer, DayRunner, Franklin, FiloFax and others.
  • Customisation - Personalise Maximizer by having favourite workspaces, column setups. Change fonts and colours in a selected window. Fully searchable User Defined Fields can be added quickly and easily.
  • Personal/Company Journal - Create Journal entries to keep track of personal matters, work related expenses and so forth.
  • Data Reports - Report on information in your customer database or design your own custom report with ReportSmith.

For Actrix customers Tracker Maximizer 5.0 is available from Force Technologies for   $445+GST. Installation and Training (if needed) $250+GST.

To order, phone Force Technology on 0800 536723 (fax: 0800 836723) or email gordon@forcetech.co.nz. You can also order through the Force shop at http://forcetech.safeshopper.com.
PC Requirements - Windows 95 or 98, 16 Mbyte RAM. Windows NT 4.0 32 Mbyte RAM.

Valued Customer Feedback

Your Feb newsletter talked about search engines, webferret, etc...

Someone recently recommended www.google.com to me as a good search engine to use... and it does indeed seem good...

Apparently the idea is that the GoogleScout goes ferreting around the web, and caches pages as it goes...

From using it, I've found that (a) it gives better results than any other engine (more of them, more relevant, better organised) and (b) it's fast, and so is getting the cached pages (who cares if it's 2 months old... if you like it, you can go to the site).

If you haven't checked it out, I'd suggest it'd be worth your while to try a few searches on it (pick the "Cached" link for quick looking), and then you may want to throw it into your newsletter too.

Note that I have no idea who or what is behind it.... Steve Hutton

If you have something like this that you'd like to share with the rest of the Actrix community, then please do drop me a line at editor@actrix.co.nz.

Did You Know?
  • "gen" and "co" are interchangeable in your email address.
  • The Customer Services section of the Actrix web site contains a number of new and interesting features including email filters, a vacation mail system access to your email across the web and more. Why not pay a visit and check it out if you haven't already?
  • All Actrix invoices and statements are emailed to you. This allows us to streamline office procedures by cutting paperwork (probably saving a few trees per year, too) and it cuts transit time to you, the customer.

 

"I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."
---- The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
My Back Pages
So that's it from me for another month.

Once again the preparation and presentation of the newsletter has been a pleasure, and once again I hope that you found something here that was of benefit to you.

Thank you to all those who have provided feedback, whether in the middle of a helpdesk call (Hey, you're the guy that writes the newsletter!) or in email. Let me know if you have a suggestion for future themes or articles. And please, ladies, no more requests for Norrie's phone number!

Yours,

Rob Zorn
editor@actrix.co.nz