November '05 Topics
Individual articles from Past Actrix Newsletters are archived in
November '05 Topics
November '05 Topics
Actrix Contact Info
Actrix Help Desk
Help Desk Hours
You have to remember all the trivia that your
girlfriend tells you, because eventually you'll get tested. She'll go: "What's my
favourite flower?"And you murmur to yourself: "Uh-oh, I wasn't listening
Top 10 Viruses
This newsletter has been produced to help you
get the most out of the Internet,
So here we are at the end of October. It's Halloween today and in less than two months it will be Christmas. It used to be that all you had to do was blink and another month had gone by. Nowadays it seems you don't even get to blink!
There's been good news for ISPs and consumers in the Commerce Commission's draft determination on broadband provision. Surprise surprise it seems they agree that broadband is being supplied to ISPs at a wholesale level at too high a cost, and with too many unreasonable restrictions. If the final determination looks as good as the draft determination is indicating, it is good news indeed. It will mean that ISPs will have a lot more control over and flexibility in what they can offer, and an increased number of innovative plans should emerge in a more competitive environment. Hopefully it will mean that ISPs can find ways of offering plans that are attractive to consumers but still at least a little bit profitable, and consumers can select from a wider range of options to find something that really suits them.
No doubt you will have noticed that a couple of ISPs have pre-empted the outcome of the Commerce Commission's determination in what they've offered, and it looks like it might have been a reasonable gamble... but only time will tell for sure whether the gamble is going to pay off.
Anyway, please read on. I hope we've been able to include something of interest for you this month.
The thing that has made the Internet such a powerful and revolutionary medium for communication is the ease with which any individual, from the humblest to the greatest, can be in touch with the entire world. Get anything online and it has the potential to be read by anybody, anywhere. No wonder then that over the last few years blogs have stopped being just an Internet quirk and have become a global cultural phenomenon.
A blog (shortened from the words web + log) is a web-based publication that is updated regularly by its author or authors. At their simplest blogs are little more than online diaries, but they usually contain opinion as well as personal news. Usually, they are dedicated to a single topic (e.g. politics, information or reviews) and they can be written by individuals, or collaboratively by a group of writers with a common interest.
Many blogs allow visitors to leave public comments, and a successful blog will usually end up having a community of readers centred around it, all reading the daily updates and commenting back to the writers or other readers. As a result, blogs are beginning to replace many of the more traditional methods of Internet discussion such as bulletin boards or newsgroups.
The importance of a cultural phenomenon can often be measured by the amount of new jargon it generates. People who blog are called bloggers. The totality of blogs is known as the blogosphere. When a large amount of activity or debate erupts around a particular subject in the blogosphere, it is called a blogstorm or blogswarm. The tools for publishing blogs are sometimes referred to as blogware. A moblog is one that is updated regularly with photos taken from camera-phones. People who create bogus blogs in support of their spam e-mail campaigns are known as sploggers, and a new blog -related term was probably coined during the time it took you to read this paragraph.
Blogs have been around since the late 90s, but really began to gain prominence in 2001-2002. They grew naturally out of a rising glut of web sites dedicated to political comment after September 11, and Americas reaction on the world political stage. One of the first to develop a large international following was Andrew Sullivans Daily Dish (http://andrewsullivan.com). It contained a wide array of political and social comment that was often controversial, leading to what wed call robust debate in New Zealand. Imitators and rivals multiplied, and the blogosphere was born.
The Iraq War gave rise to still more blogs as those on the left and the right felt the need to bless the world with their opinions. However, it was probably the candid accounts of events in Iraq published by the soldiers themselves (known as milblogs) that led to blogs being seen as an alternative news source; one that was perhaps more trustworthy or valid as it was written by those actually experiencing the war firsthand, and consequently less prone to journalistic bias. Shortly after the recent London terror attacks, personal blogs written by those close to the action were able to enhance and complement mainstream press coverage for anyone with Internet access.
The rise of this sort of citizen journalism is not universally popular, of course. Media traditionalists see it as an erosion of the strict objectivity that should characterise good reporting. However, Yahoo News (the world's most popular Internet media destination) has now stated it will begin featuring blogs side by side with professionally produced news stories, and this is a firm indication that blogs are here to stay.
In some parts of the world, blogs have already become mainstream with many people now consulting them, not just for alternative news sources, but also for a wide range of more mundane purposes. A recent survey in the United Kingdom found that three quarters of those surveyed consulted blogs before making major purchases. Again, blogs were seen as more honest and reliable because they were not subject to the same marketing agenda as corporate or commercial websites.
The blogosphere is continuing to grow. Purportedly, a new blog is created every second and the number of blogs available is doubling every five months. It seems inevitable, then, that blogs will become a bigger part of our lives, even if some of us havent been giving them much attention so far.
There are probably two main places you should start looking if you want to find out
whats available and of interest to you in the blogosphere. These would be Technorati
Visit a few blogs, bookmark those you like, and feel free to add your comments to what others have written. Bloggers love feedback, and the whole point of them is to engender discussion. Just like with search engines, though, the results can be a little mixed, and it may take a little time for you to find just what youre after.
And if it turns out that nobody is really covering your topic of interest as competently or knowledgeably as you could, dont despair. Setting up your own flash-looking blog and maintaining it regularly is as easy as writing an e-mail. There are a number of online sites dedicated to providing cost free easy-peasy blogging capability, with all the hard stuff is taken care of for you. Its possible to know virtually nothing about blogs, and still have one up and running in less than five minutes.
One of the most popular of these sites is Blogger (www.blogger.com). Theres a quick and easy to follow introductory tour you can take, but if you havent got time for that, you can just jump right in and set up a blog in three easy steps. Open a free account, choose a name for your blog, and select a template from a wide range of good-looking examples. Once youve done that you can compose your first blog
Blogger will provide you with your own web address (such as http://mygreatblog.blogspot.com). Youll be able to receive and respond to comments, and your posts will automatically be archived according to the date you wrote them.
If you do have a little knowledge of Internet code (and you certainly dont need it), your chosen template can be modified to any extent you want and a large number of settings can be modified or switched on or off. If you want to publish your blog to an existing web site, you can load your FTP details into Blogger, and it will even do that for you with a minimum of hassle.
Blogger is just one of many that offer this sort of no-fuss blogging capability. Other similar sites include livejournal.com and myspace.com. There are also a number of sites where you can download your own blogware for independent use. Two of the more popular of these include movabletype.org and Greymatter (www.noahgrey.com/greysoft/).
If youve got something to say, why not share your thoughts with the world? A shared blog can also be a great way for a family to keep I touch. If a new blog is added to the Internet every second of every day, theres no reason why the next one cant be yours.
TEN BLOGGING TIPS
A successful blog is one that gets read and theres a lot of competition out there. Here are a few ways you can increase the hit-rate on yours.
Some Interesting New Zealand Blogs
Last month I mentioned that we'd received some preliminary indications from Consumer about the results of their customer survey regarding ISP service levels. We could tell that we'd done pretty well, but now that the actual figures are out, we're very happy to see how we're ranked - not surprised, mind you, just really happy. I had hoped we could link to the survey, but the online version is restricted to Consumer subscribers only.
There were a lot of responses, it seems; 8,377 in total, so the results are probably reasonably representative. We'd have to concede that there are a couple of ISPs out there giving us a run for our money in terms of quality of service and reliability of network, but we were consistently in the top two or three of each category, and sometimes we were easily seen as the best out of the 17 ISPs that were featured. It wouldn't be manners to mention which one came consistently last, but let's just say that the biggest ain't always the best.
Actrix came third in the over-all satisfaction category with 92% of our customers indicating they were satisfied or very satisfied. The leading result was only three points ahead at 95%. In the broadband category, network reliability was reasonably even, though Actrix was specifically mentioned as having fewer disconnection and dropouts than average. This is a great result for our tech team who have put a lot of work into network reliability, particularly with regard to broadband where the future of Internet connectivity lies for now.
We were also among the best rated for telephone waiting times and helpdesk support, and I am really proud of the help desk team. We've chosen them carefully, and they've not been a disappointment. It's a tough job dealing with bad news and problems all day, and how cheerful and helpful these guys remain is hard to believe sometimes. I used to do the job, and I know how hard it can be; so well done guys.
It's interesting to note that the ISPs that performed less well weren't necessarily the small ones. Generally, though, they were the ones with the lowest prices (except for that one great big one). As with many things, the Internet isn't all the same. The quality of your servers and technicians (and these guys don't come cheap), the bandwidth allocations, user to port ratios, free tech support and quantity of staff all make a considerable difference.
Occasionally customers ask when we're going to drop our prices to match the lower-end providers, but we're just not going to. We realise that our game is a competitive one, and we work really hard to keep prices down, but the bottom line is that cheap, provision will come with cheap and degraded service, and that's not in anybody's interests. Lower end providers tend to lose customers as quickly as they gain them, and the Consumer survey results help explain why that is. Couple that with the fact that the cheaper providers tend to charge $2-$3 per minute for phone support; they're hardly an economical option. Our prices are fair, our support is free, and our service is excellent, and that's just where we want to be in the market.
If you'd like to ask a question or request some help on any Actrix or Internet-related matter. Simply send me an e-mail with the word "Forum" in the subject line. I'll try and get an answer to you by return e-mail, and will also post the answer here for the benefit of others who may have a similar question or problem. By the same token, if you read something here and think you may have something to suggest, please feel more than free. Please also note that questions and answers may also turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz).
Val writes: Hi There I have been getting a lot of Spam mail lately and now I have started receiving mail inviting me to log onto pornographic sites - some of these are child porn! How do I stop this? - I run my own business from home and have a website - so I have not blocked Spam as some info coming from my website gets blocked by my computer. I have tried replying to the website asking them to stop sending me mail, but my emails get returned. Surely this is illegal - should I report to someone - and if so who?
Pete Cranston from the Actrix Help Desk responds: Hi Val, As you aware Actrix provides free automated spam-filtering for all customers. Our filters will examine a message, and based on internationally developed criteria, assign it a spam score - messages that are 100% known as spam will be deleted immediately. Any message that the system thinks is spam, but is not 100% certain is placed in a spam folder - you can access this by logging into My Actrix on our web-site to view your trapped spam. All other messages will be delivered to your mailbox as normal.
The spam filter we operate is extremely widely used and very effective, however it is not completely foolproof. Spammers constantly change their tactics and some messages will get through to your inbox despite our best efforts. There is also the possibility that a legitimate message may be tagged as spam, so it is important to check your spam folder regularly for any false positives - messages in this folder will be automatically deleted after 30 days. The spam filter can be disabled for each individual mailbox by logging into My Actrix, which it seems you have done.
Unfortunately if you do not want this filter enabled there is little else we can suggest to reduce the amount of Spam you are receiving. The only other options would be to install some sort of self managed Spam software such as Mailwasher so you can filter out what you do not wish to receive yourself, or as a last resort you can change your e-mail address. This effectively allows you to start from scratch with a clean unknown address, and provided you are cautious with who you give the address out to, should rid you of spam problems. If you wish to change your e-mail address, please call the Actrix helpdesk on 0800-228749. Please be at your computer with it turned on when you call.
Some of what you are being sent may be illegal and as such if you wish to make a complaint to Internal Affairs, you can do so via the following page: http://www.dia.govt.nz/web/submitforms.nsf/cencomp?OpenForm
Caroline writes: Hi There, can you tell me how I can change my email address?
Hi Caroline, Changing your e-mail address is reasonably easy. All you need to do is call our help desk on 0800-228749. They'll ask you some questions to verify who you are, and then will change you e-mail address and user name in our database. When this is done, though, you will also need to make sure that you change the settings in your e-mail program (so that your new e-mail address is checked instead of the old one) and in your dialup network settings (so that our authentication servers recognise you when you try to connect). Again, these changes are not difficult, and our help desk crew can talk you though finding and changing the settings. The whole process should take just a few minutes.
It can take up to four hours for your new settings to come into effect, so if you make the change it's best for you to go off and do something else for a while before trying to use e-mail again. If you change your e-mail address, you also need to make sure that your usual correspondents are aware beforehand that you've done it, as mail to your old e-mail address will start to bounce.
James writes: Hi Rob, When I access my mail from someone else's computer and want to write a new email I sometimes lose it because when I hit send (out of habit) I get told to go to the logon page which, when I do deletes my message. How do I get it back? Can I get it back? Why doesn't the webmail programme automatically save unsent messages in the outbox when the window is changed like my Eudora programme does? Cheers, James
Hi James, Web Mail works a little differently to mail on your own computer using a mail program such as Outlook or Outlook Express. It's a lot less automated because it's dependent upon interaction from you.
We've heard from a few customers who've been frustrated to lose an e-mail they'd been writing because they didn't realise that the system automatically logs them off after 40 minutes of inactivity. This is done to avoid the situation where somebody accidentally leaves themselves connected to the mail server indefinitely. You can imagine the security concerns involved if someone were to do that at an Internet cafe, for example. The next person on the machine would have access to all their mail.
It's important to understand that your typing of the e-mail is actually taking place on your computer, not on the server, and the reason why the server doesn't save your unsent e-mail into the Drafts folder when it logs you off is simply because it doesn't know about it and can't know about it. When you're connected to Web mail, all the server knows is that there's a connection between your computer and itself. It doesn't know anything about the e-mail you are typing until you hit Send, at which point it receives the e-mail from your computer and sends it.. It can't look at what you're doing (and if you think about it, you'll be glad that it can't). So if you've typed away for 40 minutes, there's been plenty of activity on your computer, but none between your computer and the server, so the server will close the connection after 40 minutes. We've now put a warning to this effect on the "Compose E-mail" page.
Customers should keep this in mind when composing e-mails in Web Mail, and if they're worried about a timeout, they should manually save a copy of what they're typing into the Web Mail Drafts folder (just click the Save Draft button). Once something has been saved into the Drafts folder, it can be retrieved even after they've logged in and out again.
Interesting sites (Click the picture links to access the 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 and receive a free Norrie the Nerd chocolate bar courtesy of Actrix!
Moggies online at cattery: Anxious pet owners can log on to the internet while on holiday to keep an eye on cats booked into "boutique" Miramar cattery Club Miramar. Click here for more.
Dolphin-for-sale hoax angers SPCA, DoC: The hoax sale of a dolphin on the Trade Me website has angered the SPCA, which says it has never been inundated with so many complaints. Click here for more.
Car-theft website a hit in Auckland, not elsewhere: An internet website aimed at rewarding members of the public who report car thefts has been successful in Auckland but struggles in the rest of the country. Click here for more.
HIV - now it's our most deadly computer virus: Internet dating has fuelled a surge in HIV cases, raising fears New Zealand is heading for record infection rates. Click here for more.
Spam 'error' costly for NZ website: Internet publisher Jenene Crossan's spam horror story is different from the usual complaint of an inbox full of Viagra offers. Click here for more.
Sitehound toolbar to warn surfers: Christchurch security firm Firetrust has developed a free internet browser toolbar that warns surfers when they are about to enter questionable sites. Click here for more.
Teenagers research drugs on internet: Some teenagers are using the internet to research drugs before perusing medicine cabinets for their chosen high, a counselling centre says. Click here for more.
Auckland church to read whole Bible on internet: Each reader will be asked to do 15 minutes and readers will continue 24 hours a day through Labour weekend for three or four days until they reach the end. Click here for more.
Internet home movie helps nab hoons: Police have nabbed a group of "stupid hoons" after the men posted uncensored footage of their dangerous driving antics on the internet. Click here for more.
New Zealand still way down in rankings for broadband usage: New Zealand continues to wallow in the basement of global broadband uptake thanks to Telecom, internet experts say. Click here for more.
Net gambling a safe bet: New technology paving the way for online gaming will be in place by mid-2006. Click here for more.
Groceries lagging behind in internet buy-up: And while Kiwis are big online buyers of airline tickets, relatively few purchase their groceries over the internet. Click here for more.
Opera tunes up to overtake Firefox: Opera is looking to mobilise its existing community of users in order to overtake Firefox as the number two browser on the desktop. Click here for more.
Where might Google go next?: The theories about Google's next move are all over the map: Is Google cobbling together an Internet-driven computing platform that would challenge Microsoft's stranglehold on the personal computer? Click here for more.
Web enjoys year of biggest growth: The web has grown more in 2005 than it did at the height of the dotcom boom, says a study. Click here for more.
Caught in the Web: Wang Yiming... used to spend hours online each day, often going without food or sleep. His face is drawn and sallow. Click here for more.
Yahoo puts news, web bloggers side by side: Yahoo Inc. said on Monday it will begin featuring the work of self-published Web bloggers side by side with the work of professional journalists, leveling distinctions between the two. Click here for more.
Spammer's net name scam revealed: An internet spammer is in court following scams which allegedly netted him £1.5m over a number of years. Click here for more.
Child porn ring run from net cafe: A Glasgow student has admitted running an international child porn ring from an city centre internet cafe. Click here for more.
Nigeria considers outlawing spamming: Nigeria - which has global notoriety as a base for criminals exploiting the reach of the Internet - is considering making spamming a criminal offense that could land senders of unsolicited e-mails in jail for three years. Click here for more.
E-mail makes office workers lazy: The explosion in e-mail use risks creating a generation of unfit, overweight office workers, say experts. Click here for more.
Wikipedia founder admits to serious quality problems: Encouraging signs from the Wikipedia project, where co-founder and überpedian Jimmy Wales has acknowledged there are real quality problems with the online work. Click here for more.
Searching for the secret to search engines: Every business wants to be on Google's front page. But how do they get there? Reuben Schwartz reports on the firms that make it happen. Click here for more.
Web site finds new homes for old junk: EBay may be king when it comes to online trading, but another Web site, which has an environmentally friendly ethos, is also making a big impact on the business of auctioning in cyberspace. Click here for more.
Spammers punt 'snake oil' avian flu cure: Spammers are peddling drugs online that claim to combat bird flu. The junk mail campaigns tout offers to sell Tamiflu... Click here for more.
Sober worm comeback poses as schoolfriend pic: Virus writers have created a duo of email worms which pose as pictures of old schoolfriends. The Sober-O and Sober-P worms were bulk mailed to thousands of potential victims overnight in an attempt to seed infection. Click here for more.
Security and Safety
Web helps criminals trap victims: Statistics show that tech-savvy criminals are starting to turn away from e-mailed viruses to webpages to snare their victims. Click here for more.
Phishing attack targets one-time passwords: Recipients were directed to several fake websites, thought to be based in South Korea, and asked not only for their account details, but also for the next password on their list of one-time passwords. Click here for more.
A convicted hacker debunks some myths: However, because of the media reporting, I was treated as "Osama bin Mitnick." Click here for more.
Scammers play games with Sony: A new email hoax has landed on Australian screens offering email users a free Sony portable gaming machine via a chain-mail message, which contains fake contact details and potentially dangerous links. Click here for more.
Group publishes anti-spyware guidelines: According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Internet users have become more cautious online because of worries about spyware and adware, which can bombard users with pop-up ads and drain processing power to the point of rendering computers unusable. Click here for more.
Net users told to get safe online: Widespread ignorance about basic computer security is putting millions of people at risk from net-savvy criminals, a study suggests. Click here for more.
Microsoft expects nine security fixes in October: After a quiet September, Microsoft is planning nine security fixes at least one of them rated as critical as part of October's release of security updates. Click here for more.
Apple launches iTunes Australia store, leaves NZ behind: Apple has launched the Australian version of its iTunes Music Store but there's no sign of a New Zealand version yet. Click here for more.
Unix, Linux and Open Source
Firefox hits 100m downloads: There's reason to crack open the champagne at the Mozilla Foundation today after Firefox browser downloads reached the 100m milestone. Click here for more.
Inland Revenue trials Linux: Inland Revenue is trialling Linux on a handful of its 7000 personal computers and expects to decide next year whether to become the first government department to take a big punt on open source desktop software. Click here for more.
The Weird, Weird Web
Babies for sale, girls half-price: Police are investigating advertisements offering babies for sale on a Chinese website owned by internet auction house eBay. Click here for more.
New Office Slang
404 - Someone who is clueless. From the Web error message, 404 Not Found, which means the document requested couldnt be located. Dont bother asking John. Hes 404.
Adminisphere - The rarified organizational layers above the rank and
file that makes decisions that are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant.
Thanks again for reading the Actrix newsletter. Feedback can be sent to me via the e-mail address listed below. Please limit this to comments/suggestions regarding the newsletter. Non-forum requests for support should go to the Actrix Help Desk (email@example.com) or to the Accounts Department (firstname.lastname@example.org).