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Past newsletters may be viewed at http://editor.actrix.gen.nz/newsletters/
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Other inquiries should be emailed to email@example.com
|What Happens When I Click Connect?
With this brief article I hope to provide you with some idea of the processes that occur that enable your computer to surf the web or send and receive email. For the network nitpickers, I know that I have oversimplified and left a few things out, but my purpose is to help the layperson understand what some of the little messages mean that they receive whilst dialling in to Actrix or migrating around the Internet.
When you've entered your username and password and clicked Connect your modem takes over and dials out using your phone line just the way that your phone would. The Actrix modems wait to answer your call, and when they do, the fax-like noises that you hear are your modem and our modem "talking" to each other. Each modem squirts information at the other so that they can agree and understand one another in terms of speed/compression compatibility and so forth.
As soon as the two modems have agreed that they understand each other, they will connect and that is what has occurred when you hear the fax-like noises go silent. Once that has occurred, our modem hands you over to our primary authentication server, whose name is Shiva. We also have a secondary authentication server named Satva. Shiva will negotiate with your computer's network settings in order to determine that you are who you say you are (a valid Actrix customer who is entitled to Actrix network access). She'll negotiate an acceptable set of network protocols (usually TCP/IP protocols) which, in simple terms, means that a common language is agreed upon.
There are a number of other things Shiva has to establish with your computer before you will be allowed to proceed.
She'll assign you an i.p. address which is a set of four numbers separated by full stops such as 220.127.116.11. The i.p. address you are given will be unique to you on the Internet for that session. Records are kept as to exactly who has whatever i.p. address at any given time, and this is one way that people who misbehave on the Internet can be traced.
Four Lovely Ladies:
|Shiva will also
assign you the names of our DNS servers (more on these below), the gateways you are to use
and so forth. Most of that sort of information is carried with you as you travel the net.
It takes a few seconds for all that to be accomplished, and then you are free to go.
So you call up your browser such as Netscape or Internet Explorer and you type an address into your address bar, such as www.yahoo.com. Your browser then shoots that request at our DNS (Domain Name) server who replies with the i.p. address of the requested site. This is because computers don't really understand words very well. They work much better with numbers. So if your browser asks for www.yahoo.com, our DNS server would reply with "18.104.22.168" and this is the "address" your browser would then seek to connect to. This process occurs every single time you move from one site to another on the Internet.
two chief techies,
|If your browser requests an address that has not been seen
before, our Primary DNS server whose name is Tamas will ask you to wait while it connects
to other DNS servers around the world to find out how to resolve your request to an i.p.
address that your browser's resolver software can use. Once it has done so, our DNS server
caches that information, remembering it for the next person who requests it.
You might be interested to know the general route of your internet surfing. No matter where you are in New Zealand you connect to the internet across the Actrix network. You come down (or up if you're a mainlander) to Wellington where the main gateway out is. From here your internet travel goes through to San Jose in California across the Trans-Pacific cable. From San Jose it goes out to the rest of the world.
Email travels in a similar fashion. When you finish typing your email and click the Send button, your email software sends it to the Actrix smtp server (mail.actrix.co.nz). Our smtp server uses the email address of your recipient to determine which server around the world your email is destined for. It finds the i.p. address of that server and asks to be allowed to make a TCP connection to it. The recipient mail server checks a number of things, including whether the intended recipient does exist, whether that person is allowed to accept mail, and so forth. When all this has been done, it grants our mail server the permission to squirt the email through. When our mail server receives confirmation that the destination server has accepted the email, the mail is deleted at this end and it is up to the destination server to correctly store and deliver the email to the intended recipient. It can be staggering to think of how many times each day our mail servers make TCP connections to other mail servers around the world!
|Of course the reverse is true
for email that comes into Actrix for you. When it has been accepted by our mail server,
your email gets stored in a secure file called your "mailbox" until you connect
to request it. Your email is given to you by the Daemon program that lives on the mail
server. When you connect to it, Daemon talks to the pop (post office protocol) software in
your email program. Your pop software tells Daemon who you are and what your password is.
Daemon checks that you're not pulling his leg and then delivers your email to your email
program. It is then deleted from our server unless your mail program specifically asks for
it to remain.
Of course computers don't read words very well. You're probably aware that your email does not travel as words. It travels as numbers (ultimately only as 1s and 0s). Your email program is responsible for turning those numbers back into something that a human could relate to.
The Actrix POP3 server
|When you click the
Disconnect button, your computer sends a stop request to Shiva telling her that you would
like to end the session. When she receives that request, Shiva hangs up, effectively
terminating your particular session. That's why it's important to disconnect correctly
from the Internet.
When you consider all of the above, and I have really, really simplified things, you should have some understanding of just how complicated and sometimes tenuous internet connections are. It is mind-boggling and truly wonderful technology. When you think about it, the speed at which you can connect to a computer on some Barcelona backstreet is amazing. All in all, too, it's surprising that things don't go wrong more often.
|Managing your Connection:
By Jeremy Fairbrass
many times have you begun to download a large file from the internet, and had to wait
around at the computer for the download to complete so that you could disconnect?
Unfortunately Windows doesn't have any method of automatically disconnecting after a
download has finished, and this can be a nuisance when you're on a time-based internet
account where every minute counts!
|When such a file is being downloaded, the downloading
status usually is displayed in a small window on your screen, separate from the main
Internet Explorer or Netscape window. And once the download has finished, this small
window usually disappears. So you can tell Connection Manager to watch a particular
window, and the moment it disappears, Connection Manager will hang up the modem for you!
You can also set both features at once - in which case Connection Manager will disconnect the modem either when the countdown timer reaches 0, or when the pre-selected window disappears - whichever occurs first. So now you can download a large file and not have to wait around for it to finish!
Connection Manager's web site can be found at http://loginov.com/cmanager/ and the program can be downloaded at http://loginov.com/cmanager/ConnectionManager.zip
Sadly this will be Joseph's last Jargon contribution. Joseph left Actrix on Friday 12 May in order to pursue new and exciting challenges in Perth. In particular his Macintosh skills will be missed.
Binary: Files that contain data in 1's and
0's that is not formatted as ascii. Mostly this term is used to distinguish between ascii
file and everything else (because, really, everything stored on a computer is stored as
1's and 0's)
Domain Name System: (abbreviation: DNS) A database system which looks up host IP addresses based upon domain names. For example if you ask for "www.thisismyhost.com" it will return "22.214.171.124". Copies of the Domain Name System are distributed through the Internet.
Instructions for Microsoft's New TV Dinner Product:
|Norrie's Free Nerd
As usual despite the "please no
circulars" signs on my e-mail account, I am still finding my letterbox jammed with
soggy unsolicited mail which is advertising a really good deal on something I don't need
or want. They all say the same thing, "..spend now and save.".
|What really really amazes me is the amount of
expense some people will go to in order to give something away FREE. Oh really? FREE? Why
give it away and why spend a fortune (yes! Real $$$), on the telly and posters and radio
and press .
I know somebody who's doing that now! Wow FREE internet. I wonder how they afford it. Is there really such a thing as a free lunch ... then again why would they do it ... gee, I just dunno ... they are so nice offering all the good citizens of NZ something for FREE ... such nice people .. but why .. I wonder ........Hmmmmm
Okay, now that I have the rant out of my system, shall we just look at the issue using common sense?
Obviously there is no such thing as a free lunch. These "free Internet companies" will be seeking to make money out of the service they supply, and there are a number of ways that they will seek to do this.
Firstly, many companies (not necessarily ISPs) sell the information provided by customers to direct marketing companies. You then end up with unsolicited email, mail and possibly even phone calls. If you're considering signing up with a free ISP, try to get a guarantee from them that they won't be doing this.
|Secondly The "free" ISP
may well force advertising onto your browser so that part of your computer screen is
always taken up with "messages". This advertising will also slow down your
browsing and download speeds.
Thirdly, you have to consider the cost of support. None of the "free" ISPs give free support. Instead they have 0900 numbers and charge up to $2.00 per minute for help desk calls, even when the issue you may be trying to sort out was their doing.
Fourthly, most do not have access to the 0867 network. This means the number you dial in on is subject to line charges of 2c per minute ($1.20 per hour) after 10 hours use per month.
Fifthly, there's the issue of the "free" provider using kick backs from a telephone interconnect agreement to fund their business, thereby keeping your line charges higher than they need to be.
Keep in mind too that there are no ISPs using the advertising funding model that are successful anywhere in the world so far.
Please be assured:
on the I Love you Virus
A week or so ago I sent out a general letter to all Actrix customers about the new ILOVEYOU virus. An hour after I had researched the latest information and sent the letter, television news reports informed the world that there were already nine new incarnations of the virus as kids and hackers modified it and unleashed again with new names including: Joke, joke, Fw Joke, kavos puodukui, Very Funny and Mothers Day Order Confirmation. By the time this newsletter is released, there will no doubt be a number of other names.
Rather than simply reproduce the whole letter here, I wanted to highlight one aspect of it - the last paragraph.
This really is something you need to be careful about. There are millions of little .exe programs that float around the Internet, many of them very funny, and some not, but these are the ones in particular to watch for (as well as any that end with a .vbs extension). Opening any attachment with an .exe extension is risky. You are allowing your computer to run the program which may be a disguised virus, or which may have a virus or Trojan hidden within it. You may also want to think about watching what your kids are doing unsupervised on the Net. Considering what they have access to, this is a good idea anyway, but kids often don't have the restraint or caution needed to say, "No" to running an interesting attachment.
At Actrix we do have a cleaner for the ILOVEYOU virus. Please phone us for assistance on 0800-228749 if necessary.
Further Virus Matters to consider:
To keep an eye on developments with the ILOVEYOU virus I recommend:
Force Technology are currently running
specials for Actrix customers on Viewsonic LCD display panels.
All of the VE and VP series have removable bases and are wall mountable! They offer the maximum in flexibility and customisability and are available from Forcetch in 14, 15 and 18 inch sizes.
The page height in Portrait mode makes these monitors the best choice for legal, government and medical organisations, or for anyone else who desires or requires the ability to display entire pages crisply and cleanly.
Forcetech prices for these products are as follows:
Model VP140 $2,249 plus GST
And this includes delivery to your site.
You can find out more about these monitors at
http://www.viewsonic.com/ by clicking the LCD ViewPanel button.
Actrix help Desk Position Filled!
Though we are sorry to see Joseph Bartlett leave, we are pleased to welcome Shannon Jacob to our full time support team. Previously Shannon only worked our help desk on the weekends. We are also pleased to welcome Catherine Doran to the team. Catherine will take over from Shannon on the the Saturday and Sunday shifts.
Thanks to all those from our customer base who sent in applications for the position. It was good to meet some of you in person.
As most of you are aware, the Actrix help desk is no longer open 24 hours. It now closes at 1:30 a.m. and opens again at 6:30 a.m.
|Snippets of Important Information:
Norrie the Nerd's "How to Homepage" Page! Norrie has produced a homepage mostly dedicated to introducing html and the web-page creation/upload process to interested Actrix users. You can access Norrie's page at http://www.actrix.gen.nz/users/norrie.
Hacking attempts are a no no! Actrix will not tolerate hacking attempts by its users. If we can be sure you are port scanning, attempting unauthorised or unwelcome telnet connections, or whatever else you do for jollies in this area, you will receive one warning. A second attempt will result in your account with Actrix being terminated. End of story. There is just too much of this nasty nonsense going on. I don't care how much fun it is or what personal feelings of inadequacy your power quest is compensating for.
Include your details with payments, please! If you make a payment to Actrix Networks, by cheque, telephone banking, or auto-payment, please remember to include your account number and username with it. Let us know if you are unsure of your account number. There have been a number of payments made recently that we are unable to credit due to lack of this information. if you've made such a payment and it hasn't been credited, it might be time for you to check with Support.
Editor Out to Lunch! Norrie and I will be taking a two week vacation from 17-31 May. That's why the newsletter is a little early this month, and may be a little late next month. We'll see. If you want to contact me during those two weeks I cannot guarantee a timely response. You may be better off emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schools.Promo! The Actrix Schools Promotion continues to go really well. One thing we notice is that some schools are hesitant because they fear there must be a hidden catch. Truly there isn't. We really do give the school an unlimited dialup account or we really will match their existing setup with another IP, and we'll do it free! We really will give participating parents/families a $10 credit on startup, and we really do give 10% of all incoming money under the scheme back to the respective school. If you have children at school and they haven't brought home a notice about the promotion (existing Actrix customers are entitled to participate) then you may want to contact the school and ask why not?
Help Desk Tips! When contacting the Actrix help Desk, either by phone or by email, please be ready to provide as much information as you can so that we can help you more quickly. Try to determine before you call exactly where things go wrong, and exactly what error messages your computer is throwing back at you. Write them down if necessary. It's a good idea, too, to remember the name of the person you were dealing with so that all the old ground won't have to be gone over a second time if you have to call back.
The Actrix News and Links Page is now being updated on a more regular basis. Next time you're at our home page (www.actrix.co.nz) why not have a look.
Things to Remember!
| My Back Pages
And so another newsletter comes to a close. Once again I hope you have found it enjoyable and informative. You can contact me at email@example.com if you have any feedback, comments or suggestions though I will be on holiday from 17-31 May catching a bit of R and R.. Please forgive if I do not respond immediately.
Support enquiries should not be directed to me at this address. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org. instead. That way you will receive more prompt attention.
See you in a month or so,