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    Quote of the month  

"I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why ? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially... They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material."

- Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) explaining how the Internet works (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 - New Zealand's first Internet Service Provider

Welcome to the April Actrix Online Informer!

Welcome to the April Actrix Online Informer.

Well, better late than never! As I indicated last month, a few weeks overseas during March has meant this Actrix Online Informer is a little later and a little shorter than usual. My partner and I travelled through Egypt, Jordan and Israel, and it sure was amazing being in such a different environment and culture. My life back in New Zealand seemed like it was a million miles away. I think it is the first time in my life since 1992 that I've gone three weeks without the Internet. Most everyday people in the Middle East, especially in poorer countries like Egypt, have only a vague notion of what the Internet even is! They may have The Pyramids and Abu Simbal, but at least we have DSL!

Anyway, it's good to be back, and I hope there's something in this month's edition for you.

Rob Zorn

Blogging all over the world 

In the February 2008 Actrix Online Informer we took a look at some Kiwi blogs. Blogs, you'll recall, usually contain opinion as well as personal news. This time I thought we could have a look at some overseas blogs, and I've tried to select a good variety.

Keep in mind, though, that blogs typify the very nature of the Internet. Free exchange of information is both a strength and a weakness. Many blogs allow people to comment and the amount of comment moderation can really vary. It's great that people can say anything they like online, but unfortunately, a lot of people can be crass or impolite when adding comments on a blog site, so please keep that in mind, and step carefully if you're easily offended. I'll try to stick to good, clean, healthy blogs in what's covered below, but there's never any guarantee that you won't come across an offensive comment or point of view.

Boing Boing is like a kidult's grab bag of links to cool, odd and interesting things happening online. There are lots of videos and pictures included as well as simple links to web pages with content of interest  - such as one about oddly named toy sets, or an engineering student who cobbled together an air conditioner using a fan and a bucket of ice water. Digital art and disturbing consumer trends are all fair game for the Boing Boing team, which encourages suggestions from its readers. You could spend hours at Boing Boing, so don't forget to check out the archives.

www.boingboing.net/

Lifehacker has won many accolades in the computing world from the likes of Time, CNet, Wired and PC Magazine. According to Wikipedia it's an advertising-supported blog about life hacks and software. The site covers Microsoft Windows, Mac and Linux programs as well as time-saving tips and tricks. The staff updates the site about 18 times each weekday. The Lifehacker motto is: Computers make us more productive. Yeah, right. Lifehacker recommends the software downloads and web sites that actually save time. Don't live to geek; geek to live. The term 'life hack', by the way, refers to productivity tricks help you cut through information overload and simply get the job done. It's certainly not just for geeks!

http://lifehacker.com/

The Drudge Report is a US-based news site run by Matt Drudge. It consists mainly of links to stories from the mainstream media about politics, entertainment, and current events as well as links to many popular columnists. Occasionally Mr Drudge writes news stories himself. The Drudge Report is most famous for being the first news source to break the Monica Lewinsky scandal to the public after Newsweek decided not to publish it. It's always interesting.

www.drudgereport.com/

Craigslist is a centralised network featuring free classified advertisements (with jobs, internships, housing, personals, for sale/barter/wanted, services, community, gigs, resume, and pets categories) as well as forums on various topics. It operates with a staff of 24 people and serves over nine billion page views per month, putting it in 56th place overall among web sites world wide. The classified advertisements range from traditional buy/sell ads and community announcements, to personal ads. Simply click the country or city you're interested in and see what's on offer! New Zealand features.

www.craigslist.org/about/sites.html

"Humanclock shows a photograph of the current time, with the photo changing every minute of the day (all 1,440 occurring minutes on Earth!) Thus you end up with a rotating picture clock sort of deal. How the time is actually displayed is a whole different matter. A lot of photos have the time written on a crummy cardboard sign, while other photos might have the current time in a more edible format, such as olives. There are photos below sea level and ones over two miles above sea level. There are even clock pictures with people who played at Woodstock." What a great idea!

www.humanclock.com/  

The Dilbert Blog is written by Scott Adams, the creator of one of the most popular cartoon characters ever. However, you will not often find a reference to the comics. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining blog revealing a lot about this great creative mind. One point of a blog, of course, is to provide some insight to the mind of the writer, and you certainly get that via Adams' musings about the everyday events in his life.

http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/

Salt and Pepper is part of a thriving community of online food bloggers. Giniann, who writes this blog, offers clear descriptions of delicious meals. She's been blogging for quite some time and her site has a wealth of recipes. She's also a really fine photographer and often blogs about herbs and flowers. It's a beautifully done site, indeed – mouth-wateringly so!

http://giniann.wordpress.com/

Okay, so now you've seen a few blogs and you think you might like to try one of your own? Its actually a lot easier to do than you might think – after all, so many people do it. Michael Hyatt writes a pretty good introductory guide, but if you don't like this one, just Google "starting a blog" or something, and you'll be inundated with material. Oh, and in most cases, it won't cost you a cent.

http://michaelhyatt.blogs.com/workingsmart/2005/04/how_to_start_a_.html

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How to stop checking email on the evenings and weekends 

Investment bankers aren't known for their impulse control. Several global firms in Zurich don't allow their bankers to check email more than twice per day. The reason is simple: the more they check email, the more compelled they feel to send email. You know how it is, you're so busy answering email that you don't actually get anything done.

Here best-selling author Tim Ferriss offers digital minimalism tips to reduce the amount of time you spend in your email inbox. Please click here for the full article. A summary of the main points is below.

Here are eight concrete tips and services for digital minimalism that can help eliminate – as a start – compulsive inboxing during the evenings and weekends. Treat all of them as short experiments and customise.

  1. "Batch" email at set times.
    Have an email-checking schedule and do not deviate.
  2. Send and read email at different times.
    Go offline and respond to all email from a local program such as Outlook or Mail to avoid having the outgoing flow interrupted by immediate responses.
  3. Don't scan email if you can't immediately fix problems encountered.
    One simple example: don't scan the inbox on Friday evening or over the weekend if you might encounter work problems that can't be addressed until Monday.
  4. Don't BIF people during off-hours.
    "BIF" stands for "before I forget" and refers to emails sent on evenings or weekends out of fear of forgetting a to-do or follow-up. This sets a mutual expectation of 24/7 work hours and causes a plethora of problems.
  5. Don't use the inbox for reminders or as a to-do list.
    Related to 4 above. Don't mark items as "unread," star them, or otherwise leave them in the inbox as a constant reminder of required actions. This just creates visual distraction while leading you to evaluate the same items over and over.
  6. Set rules for email-to-phone escalation.
    Once a decision generates more than four emails total in a thread, someone needs to pick up the phone to resolve the issue.
  7. Before writing an email, ask yourself: "what problem am I trying to solve?" or "what is my ideal outcome?"
    Be clear in desired results or don't hit that Send button
  8. Learn to make suggestions instead of asking questions.
    Stop asking for suggestions or solutions and start proposing them. Begin with the small things.

Remember: in email, the small things are the big things. If you can cut an exchange from six to three email messages, that's a 50 percent reduction in your inbox volume over time. This can make the difference between working all the time and leaving the office (both physically and mentally) at 5pm.

Less is more.

Timothy Ferriss is author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek.

Readers' forum 

If you'd like to ask a question or request some help on any Actrix or Internet-related matter. Simply send us 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).

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Gerard writes: I would like some information about increasing power for the internet. We have children in the Netherlands and Australia. Lately we installed "Skype" and you understand the disappointment. Not enough power for the internet! The sound quality and the picture quality was not very good! My question to you is do we need "broadband" or something else to improve the quality and what is all going to cost?

Hi Gerard, Yes, things like Skype don't work too well over a dialup modem, especially when you're using them to contact people overseas. You should probably look at upgrading to broadband. It is more expensive, and there are some set-up costs, but it really brings the Internet alive, and most people are glad they moved to something faster. In years to come, dialup modems will be a museum-based curiosity, I think.

Keep in mind, too, that using Skype is a lot cheaper than making toll calls, so if you're phoning overseas a lot, that could be a monetary saving to factor into the equation.

It's not so much about increasing power, as increasing bandwidth. Think of your connection as being like a pipe. The bigger the pipe, the more data you can send through it at once. Unfortunately, the technology around dialup modems can't really be improved on all that much, and the "pipe" it offers is very narrow.

We did a feature on moving to broadband in the January Actrix Online Informer, and you can access that article at http://editor.actrix.co.nz/byarticle/0801broadband.html. Have a read of that, and then maybe give the help desk a call to talk over some options (0800-228749).

--

Maureen writes: The amount of spam coming through seems to have risen. What is Actrix doing to stop this?

Hi Maureen, The short answer is, "Everything we can!" Spam volumes alway ebbs and flow as spammers try new tricks in the code behind the emails to sneak them past the filters. Depending on how clever they're being, it can take some time to figure out a way to stop them. Eventually we do, and spam volumes decline until they try the next trick. It will also vary from user to use depending on how many spam lists your email address is on. We realise it's a nuisance, but trust you'll see an improvement soon.

--

Tony writes: Hi Rob, I like to play around with my computer and I keep losing stuff. When I first had it and logged onto outlook express to check my e-mails, down the left hand side I had a list of Inbox, Outbox, Drafts etc. Now I can only get Inbox. Also I have lost the programme that shows how much ink I have left in my cartridges. Please help. Tony

Hi Tony,
I can't really help you with the printer question. Every printer is different  and it's not really an internet-related question. However, the Outlook Express one is pretty easy. Along the top you should have a menu that says File, Edit, View, Tools etc. Click View, and then Layout, and you will have all sorts of tickboxes you can check and uncheck to add or take away things Outlook Express will display - including your folder list. There are probably things under there you haven't seen before!

Feel free to experiment by checking and unchecking. You can't do any harm and if you don't like something, Just go in and turn it back off or on.

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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!

The best and worst of April Fools' Day hoaxes
Best - www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=070329054603.f2i8t0mu&show_article=1&catnum=9
Worst - http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/worstaprilfools.html
It's that time of year again, so let's have a quick look at some of the best and worst April Fools' Day hoaxes of the past. A short summary of the ten best hoaxes can be found at the first link and the ten worst at the second. This second lot isn't very funny. It includes fake disaster warnings, and some pretty cruel hoaxes perpetrated by the likes of Saddam Hussein and sons.
Unclaimed money
www.ird.govt.nz/unclaimed-money/ - This site was sent in by Vanessa. Many thanks! You may think it an April Fools' joke, but it seems to be genuine. "Inland Revenue provides a service for the true owners of unclaimed money. Unclaimed Money is not tax money or unpaid tax refunds, it is funds left untouched for six years or more in financial institutions such as insurance companies and also includes unclaimed funds such as unpresented cheques and wages."
The odd music gallery
www.oddmusic.com/ - This is a site dedicated to the most alternative of musical instruments. Click on the Gallery link over on the left to get photos and sound clips for each one. Oddities include bamboo saxophones (which actually sound pretty good) to a harpsichord made of Lego (which sounds plain awful). I also quite liked the look of the Pikasso which has four necks, two sound holes, 42 strings and two access doors.

Auschwitz through the lens of the SS
www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/ssalbum/ - In 1944, a German SS officer named Karl Höcker was stationed at Auschwitz as an adjutant to the camp's commandant. During the time he was there, he kept a scrapbook. But this isn't like any Auschwitz documentation you've seen before. In these images, Höcker and other camp leadership and staff relax at a wooded retreat, hold sing-alongs, and smoke cigars. Josef Mengele, the camp's monstrous doctor, smiles and socialises. SS auxiliary women lounge on deck chairs, snack on berries, and get caught in a rain storm.
When, where and how you will die
www.day4death.com/ - Calculators telling you how long you'll live have been around for a long time, but this one is a little different, and better than most. You enter your date of birth and answer a few simple questions. The site will then tell you the very day on which you'll die, where you'll be, and what you're most likely to die of.
Climate debate daily
http://www.climatedebatedaily.com/ - Thanks again to Ross Nixon for suggesting this site. Climate Debate Daily (set up by two NZ academics) is intended to deepen our understanding of disputes over climate change and the human contribution to it. The site links to scientific articles, news stories, economic studies, polemics, historical articles, PR releases, editorials, feature commentaries, and blog entries. The main column on the left includes arguments and evidence generally in support of the IPCC position on the reality of global warming. The right-hand column includes material skeptical of the IPCC position.
Great gift ideas?
http://completeall.com/index.php/Informative-general/Smart-Products-Great-Gifts.html - Some people think these are all PhotoShopped, but I'm not so sure. There are some great product ideas here, and if they haven't been tried on the market yet, they should be! Where can I get me a banana handle?
Your chances of surviving a zombie apocalypse
www.justsayhi.com/bb/zombie - The apocalypse has begun, the dead are walking the earth, and you're knee-deep in zombies. What are your chances of survival? A lot depends on how fast you can run, whether you own a baseball bat and what you'd do if your dearest loved one turned into a zombie. Answer the 15 questions and find out whether you're likely to be a survivor or end up as lunch.
3-way Chess
http://meignorant.com/3-way_chess - Is ordinary chess getting too easy for you? Are you already a grand master, at least in your own mind? Well, you're sure to find this a challenge. For the rest of us, the game is at least a curiosity. Moves are mostly standard, though the odd shaped board make them a little strange. The first to achieve a checkmate wins, but imagine how hard it is for one player if the other two team up against her!
History's greatest replies
www.drmardy.com/repartee/historygreatreplies.shtml - "Any attempt to compile history's greatest replies – or history's greatest anything, for that matter – is fraught with difficulty, so it might be more accurate to refer to the replies as simply my all-time favorites. Most of them come from people whose names will be very familiar to you, and I think you will agree that the comebacks and retorts here are very special."

 

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Internet 'revolution' under way: A consumer revolution is taking place in New Zealand and Australia with the vast majority of Internet users now uploading information to the Net as well as downloading it, researcher AC Nielsen says. Click here for more.

Kiwi cyber-fraudster admits charges: A 22-year-old Aucklander busted by the FBI for an internet blackmail scam is in jail after admitting internet fraud worth $300,000. Click here for more.

YahooXtra spam filters disrupt email delivery: Vital business emails are going astray, intercepted and quarantined by YahooXtra’s spam filters without the knowledge of the sender or the receiver. Click here for more.

Niue, Tokelau, 'among worst spam senders': New Zealand territories Niue and Tokelau are among the three worst offenders for relaying spam per head of population, according to security software firm Sophos. Click here for more.

NZ indie music site making headway: New Zealand computer distributor Renaissance, which recently announced a 45 per cent drop in profits, says its Web business Txttunes is hitting all the right notes. Click here for more.

Broadband top telco election issue: Telecommunications lobby group Tuanz is promoting broadband internet and telecoms political policy as an election issue this year, as it was in Australia's November poll. Click here for more.

Govt steps in to form ICT industry group: The Government has agreed to fund the creation of an "independent overarching" body to represent organisations with an interest in information technology, Communications Minister David Cunliffe announced. Click here for more.

General

More Americans turning to Web for news: Nearly 70 per cent of Americans believe traditional journalism is out of touch, and nearly half are turning to the internet to get their news, according to a new survey. Click here for more.

Web desktop targets 'cybernomads': A virtual desktop aimed at users who access the web via cybercafes is attracting interest from organisations set up to bridge the digital divide. Click here for more.

Buyback schemes turn gadget trash to cash: Leave it to the gadget industry to turn concern over electronic waste into a sales opportunity. Simply put, they're offering to buy back old devices to recycle or resell, in return for cash or in-store credit. Click here for more.

Crackdown on illegal downloaders in Australia: One Australian internet provider has started to crack down on copyright infringers, as the the music industry's plan to have telcos disconnect the internet services of illegal downloaders gathers steam in Australia. Click here for more.

The high cost of a good reputation: Unlike some of my friends and family I'm not a heavy user of online auctions, and although I have an account on eBay my reputation as a seller or buyer doesn't really matter that much to me. Click here for more.

UN agency ousts record number of "cybersquatters": The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ousted a record number of "cybersquatters" from web sites with domain names referring to trademarked companies, foundations and celebrities in 2007. Click here for more.

In search of a green machine: What use is saving trees if the very technology that made it possible to go paperless is shipped across continents, non-recyclable and so power-hungry it has a carbon footprint the size of a bear? Click here for more.

Bimbo website for girls sparks outrage: An internet game which encourages young girls to mould their own virtual "bimbo" doll using diet pills and plastic surgery has infuriated British parents and health experts. Click here for more.

Google unearths rare meteorite crater in Australia: Arthur Hickman's discovery on Google Earth of what is almost certainly a rare meteorite impact crater in remote Western Australia has earned him both bragging and naming rights. Click here for more.

China's battle to police the web: Web users in China are able to view the BBC News website for the first time in years. So how does the so-called great firewall of China work? Click here for more.

WiMAX has 'failed miserably': Australian wireless carrier Buzz Broadband has shuttered its WiMAX network, describing the technology as a "disaster" that has "failed miserably". Click here for more.

Bell Canada chokes BitTorrent traffic on someone else's ISP: On March 14, Bell Canada began throttling peer-to-peer traffic on pipes it rents to third-party ISPs. And it neglected to tell the third-party ISPs. The mega-Canadian telco has been throttling P2P traffic on its own network since October, but this is different matter. Click here for more.

Still mail bills? Study says go green, go online: Think your family going green won't make a difference? Wrong, says a US study that shows one household ditching paper statements for Web transactions would save 24 square feet of forest a year. Click here for more.

The offline cost of an online life: The technology we use is accounting for more and more of the energy we consume, says Bill Thompson. And we need to know just how much. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Most spam comes from just six botnets: The Srizbi botnet is reckoned to be the largest single source of spam - accounting for 39 per cent of junk mail messages – followed by the Rustock botnet, responsible for 21 per cent of the spam clogging up users' inboxe Click here for more.

NZ players weather Cyber Storm II: Banks, telcos, power companies and government agencies managed to thwart the attacks on their computer systems that were simulated last week during cyber warfare exercise Cyber Storm II. Click here for more.

Cyber attacks target pro-Tibetan groups: Groups sympathetic to anti-Chinese protesters in Tibet are under assault by cyber attackers who are embedding malware in email that appears to come from trusted colleagues. Click here for more.

Cyber crime gets more spooky: As cyber-criminals become increasingly powerful and better organised, those working against them on the "good" side of IT security seem to be responding with a more cloak-and-dagger approach to their work. Click here for more.

Mainly Microsoft

Tit For Tat in 'Vista Capable' Suit: Microsoft fights back following embarrassing disclosures, as new details emerge and plaintiffs charge even more PC buyers felt duped by the software giant. Click here for more.

Vista SP1 downloaders bite back: Windows Vista customers have been complaining about problems with installing Microsoft’s first service pack for the unloved operating system. Click here for more.

Mac the News

MacBook Air revisited: Apple's new laptop, the MacBook Air, may not be the true ultraportable that many had hoped for, but it still easily breaks new ground for small laptops. Click here for more.

Gone in 2 minutes: Mac hacked first in contest: It may be the quickest US$10,000 Charlie Miller ever earned. He took the first of three laptop computers — and a US$10,000 cash prize — on Thursday after breaking into a MacBook Air at the CanSecWest security conference's PWN 2 OWN hacking contest. Click here for more.

Apple plus IBM — Microsoft's worst nightmare?: If you Google the phrase "Microsoft's worst nightmare", the range of hits you get is entertaining for its breadth. Various pundits have proclaimed that the software giant's worst nightmare is everything from Linux, Google and Firefox to software as a service, Cisco's digital home business and the Sony PlayStation. Click here for more.

Apple forbids Windows users from installing Safari for Windows: In using Apple Software Update to slip his Safari browser onto millions of Windows PCs, Steve Jobs didn't just undermine "the security of the whole Web". He's made a mockery of end user licensing agreements. Click here for more.

Unix, Linux and Open Source

Ohm sweet Ohm: Linux versus Vista smart homes: Can you take the smart home concept a little too far? Jonathan Oxer, a Melbourne-based web application developer and former president of Linux Australia, has had an RFID chip surgically implanted in his forearm to save him from having to carry a door key around. Click here for more.

Ubuntu does bird beta: The folks at Canonical are asking the faithful to get their bird on with the release of Ubuntu 8.04 – Hardy Heron. Both the desktop and server versions of the LTS (long-term support) operating system have been put up for grabs. In addition, you’ll discover beta versions of the various Ubuntu offshoots such as Kubuntu, Xubuntu, UbuntuStudio, and Mythbuntu. Click here for more.

Yahoo backs Google's push for open social networks: Yahoo said it is backing a program by rival Google to make software work fluidly across different social networks, and will create a joint foundation to promote the effort. Click here for more.

US Navy raises the open standards: The US Navy is bored with manufacturer lock-in and wants to buy IT systems based on open standards.only. Speaking this month at the Navy IT conference in Vienna, VA , Vice Admiral Mark Edwards, the 'CIO' of the Navy, declared: “The days of proprietary technology must come to an end,” he said. “We will no longer accept systems that couple hardware, software and data," Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

US Army funds $10m bat-droid: The University of Michigan (UM) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded $10m by the US Army to carry out research leading to a "six-inch robotic spy plane modelled after a bat", which would "gather data from sights, sounds and" - worryingly - "smells". Click here for more.

Australian man killed by suicide robot: An elderly Australian man apparently shot himself dead Tuesday, using an elaborate suicide robot of his own construction, according to media reports. Click here for more.

Cyber vigilantes track down Xbox thief: A group of tech-savvy internet users solved a home robbery and seized back stolen goods as police sat stumped looking for clues. 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.

Spam Trend Could Kill E-Mail: Spam is increasing at such an alarming rate that people may simply stop relying on e-mail to communicate, said e-mail security firm Postini, which says spam volume jumped some 150 percent in 2002. Click here for more.

10 years ago, who knew what his code would do?: Almost 10 years ago, college student Marc Andreessen posted the first Web browser. That led him to co-found Netscape Communications, which set off the Internet boom. Click here for more.

Who's Googling you right now?: Savvy Web users are using Google.com and other powerful Web search tools to track down or keep tabs on long-lost acquaintances -- be they former lovers, classmates, friends or enemies. Click here for more.

Bringing it all back home

Rob ZornThanks 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. Non-forum requests for support should go to the Actrix Help Desk (support@actrix.co.nz) or to the Accounts Department (accounts@actrix.co.nz).

Take care through April!

Rob Zorn
editor@actrix.co.nz
http://editor.actrix.co.nz 

 

Copyright © 2007 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: editor@actrix.co.nz