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    Quote of the month  

"There's a lot of weirdos on the Internet."

Miss Texas Teen USA (during 1998 pageant)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 December 2008 Actrix Online Informer!

Welcome to the December Actrix Online Informer. I hope you'll find something of interest this time round and that your plans for the Christmas madness are going well.

A few customers have written in asking about spam and I've certainly noticed some flurries lately myself. Rest assured that spam is as big a worry for ISPs as it is for customers and an incredible amount of tech staff time is devoted to combating it. It's a delicate process getting the filters right so that they channel off the spam without blocking legitimate emails. Spammer know this and will change something about their emails every few days in the hopes that the change will fool the spam filter and the result is a never ending game of catch up.

You may notice that you'll get a burst of the same type of spam for a day or maybe even for a few hours. The filters are adjusted for this and the spam stops, but then a few days later it all starts all over again. Keep in mind, too, that the techs have to err on the side of caution. It is better to have a few spam emails get through than to make the filtering criteria so rigid that legitimate emails get stopped.

It's therefore a sad reality that spam will probably never go away. This month there's a news story included below about how a major spam ring has been busted. Spam volumes were expected to go down as a result, but that doesn't appear to have been the case. I guess spam barons are a little like drug lords. Get rid of a few and there are always others willing and able to take their place.

Rob Zorn

Christmas shopping online

One of the biggest challenges at Christmas is trying to find just the right gifts for everybody. It's something we rarely manage and most of us don't feel completely happy with the presents we give. It's not that the products aren't out there. It's more that it's hard to find the time to get to all the stores.

That's why the Internet is such a great tool. So much stuff is available online now and you can browse hundreds of catalogues at the click of a mouse and without having to negotiate your way through jostling crowds of competing shoppers. And it's pretty safe these days if you're sensible.

The other good thing about buying online is that you can have your purchase sent directly to the recipient, and most sites will offer some sort of gift-wrapping service. Don't hesitate to use the Contact details of the site to ask for what you want.

Below I've listed a few sites that are offering a good range of products or services for the silly season. There are actually hundreds of them so if you don't find any joy with these, just Google "Christmas gifts in New Zealand" or something and you may have more luck. I've also included a couple of sites giving advice or extra help. Most of the online stores are New Zealand based, with a couple included from overseas that may also help you secure that special something for that special someone. You still have time to use these sites if you're quick.

None have been featured for commercial reasons. In other words, they're included because I either know or have used them, or they looked pretty safe and useful.

Click the pictures to go to the sites.

NEW ZEALAND: Anything for you is a great New Zealand site that attempts to do a lot more than provide just an online shopping service. You can contact them to arrange just about anything, but at this time of year their Christmas gift selection may be just the ticket. They have plenty of baskets and combinations of goodies they can send overseas to homesick kiwis for you, and feature a reminder service to help you remember those important dates wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Have a look through their online catalogues, and get in touch with them if they don't appear to have quite what you're looking for. 
NEW ZEALAND: Snapfish is an online photo service with more than 60 million members worldwide and a billion unique photos stored online. They offer a wide variety of image-based services but their personalised photo products – ranging from calendars, mugs and mouse pads, to books, puzzles and teddy bears – might be one way you can come up with something a bit different as a gift. You can upload your own photo and have it printed on any of the product items, and they even have a section of such gift ideas for under $20. You have to create an account, of course, but membership is free.
NEW ZEALAND: This online shopping site has lots of blokey stuff that men will like arranged into categories such as Automotive, Work, Fun and Games, Leisure, Sport, Style, Books and Experiences. Stuff is also arranged in price sections: Under $50, Under $100, Over $100 and Over $500. G4M was the first store of its kind in the country when it opened in November 2001, and now has 'brick and mortar' stores in both Wellington and Christchurch, which means their gift vouchers might also be a good option. Anyone anywhere can use the online service, of course.
NEW ZEALAND: Here's a helpful word of advice from The Ministry of Consumer Affairs: "Children under three put everything in their mouths, up their noses and in their ears." Oh yes, they do. So, no matter how rushed you get, if you’re buying toys for the kids, take some time out to remember these 'buy wise' tips to help you and your children have a safe and happy Christmas. There are actually quite a few things to think about.
NEW ZEALAND: Neat Gadgets specialises in gadgets and gizmos for both ladies and men. They used to sell stuff that mainly went with your iPod or that plugged into your USB port, but have increased their product range considerably in recent years. There's a good range of whacky fun stuff such as the solar-powered cap light, but plenty of more practical items as well. I quite like the re-chargeable, portable wine chiller, and the compact first aid kit could come in handy.
NEW ZEALAND: Fishpond is an online book seller providing an excellent alternative to the international book selling giant Amazon.  I use Fishpond frequently as the range of books is extensive. If I can find a book at Amazon, I can usually find it there. Postage is reasonable and delivery usually occurs within a few days. Based on your previous purchases, Fishpond will greet you when you return to the site with a selection of books that suit your interests, and they also carry music CDs and movie DVDs.
INTERNATIONAL: Products from New Zealand seems to be a site geared at Kiwis living overseas, mainly in the United States and the UK. if you have an ex-pat in your family or circle of friends this may be a neat way to get them a taste of home at Christmas time. All sorts of products are available ranging from packets of Burger Rings to Maori carvings. It doesn't matter which side of the yeast-spread debate you adhere to either. Both Marmite and Vegemite are available. You can also buy gift vouchers if you're not sure what your friend is missing most.
UNITED KINGDOM: If you're looking for weird and whacky stuff in particular, then you can't go past I Want One of Those. In fact they pride themselves on providing fun presents of a 'deeply silly' nature. I am particularly intrigued by the pen that converts into a fishing rod ("never again will you be caught short when you spot a fish rise") and Henry the Desktop Hoover would be very useful for cleaning crumbs out of my keyboard. However, I don't think I want to know what the foul little love duck does. Lots of neat stuff here, but "Kitsch and Daft" is the 'funnest' section. As the site is based in the UK, you will need to be quick if you want to order for Christmas.
UNITED KINGDOM: The Present Finder offers high quality gifts and presents with worldwide delivery, gift wrapping and a reliable "Next Day" service. However, their latest posting day for our part of the world is 5 December, so you will have to be quick. The good thing about this site is that there are just so many categories to browse through, arranged according to your target (e.g. teenage boys) so suitable presents are easy to find. And yes, they do have a Whacky presents section.

 

SAFE SHOPPING ONLINE: Buying things on the Internet is very common these days and is pretty safe providing you stick to some common sense rules. Here's a short guide to safe shopping online provided by Nzs.com. It covers topics such as: finding secure websites and paying safely by credit card.
CURRENCY CONVERSION: If you're buying overseas, you may want to check what your purchase will cost you in New Zealand dollars. There are lots of currency converters online, but here's one that's very popular and easy to use. The Universal Currency Converter contains the top 85 currencies sorted by country name – listing the ten most popular currencies first.

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Actrix according to Consumer

Consumer subscribers have once again voted Actrix New Zealand's No.1 nationwide ISP for service and support in the annual Consumer ISP review!

Actrix came second overall, with a customer satisfaction rating just one percent behind the winner, and our customer satisfaction has improved once more since last year. However, we had the highest satisfaction levels in three important categories: Service/Support, Broadband and Network Problems.  We were a very close second in terms of dialup performance.

This is the fifth consecutive year we have been rated as one of New Zealand's top ISPs and we believe this proves our dedication to excellent service and support sets us apart from the competition and is appreciated by our customers. In comparison, more than 40 percent of Kiwis are still with the country's largest ISP which yet again received the worst ratings in all categories.

Other large ISPs didn't fare much better with the general consensus being that smaller ISPs consistently provide the best products and service. When interviewed on TV One's Breakfast programme Consumer NZ Chief Executive Sue Chetwin said large ISPs "are frequently offering too much and under delivering" and that "the big ISPs have to be more honest about what they can deliver."

The Consumer survey asked whether it is simply easier to please customers when there aren't so many to begin with. But Actrix Managing Director, George Reedy, says, "If anything it is harder because you don't have the scale to always make it work. I put it down to having a business culture of treating people how you would want to be treated; or how you would want your mum to be treated."

Actrix staff put a lot of time and effort into making sure the products and services we provide are the best they can be, and we're very pleased the hard work we put in has again been recognised. We aim to provide the best quality at the right price and it appears we're getting it right!

However, if you're not completely satisfied with the service you receive from Actrix please let us know. We always appreciate knowing what we are doing well (or not so well if that's the case), so feel free to give us a call on 0800 228-749 or e-mail support@actrix.co.nz.

 

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 turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz).

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Norman writes: Hi, I have my bank's web address saved in my favourites. I have been told this is not secure. Do you have any comments? Regards, Norman

Hi Norman, Having your bank’s address saved as a favourite is actually a good idea as long as you’re sure it’s the correct address. It means you can always be sure of going to the right site. Always be sure to use it rather than any link that might get sent to you in a spam or phishing email that looks like it might have come from your bank.

There is nothing insecure about this. What would be insecure is if you also set your browser to remember your banking user name and password. If you did that anyone using your PC could log in and get their hands on your well-earned money. I understand the scripting behind log ins at bank sites usually disables the remember password feature which is a good thing.

If your browser ever asks whether you want to save your user name and password at a banking site, you should click the "Never for this site" option. I hope that helps.

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Gilbert writes: Hi Rob, We are plagued by update demands, on our new Vista home basic computer. Can you tell us, are they really necessary as they seem to insist, The latest is 49.3 megabytes and that takes time to download. We are on dial up and only use the computer for home use they really annoy us, popping up all the time. Yours, Gilbert.

Hi Gilbert, If these are Windows Updates, then yes, they are very necessary. One of the ways hackers and malicious websites can exploit you is if your software is out of date and doesn’t have the latest security patches installed. It is an ongoing cycle. Internet crims work out new ways to get in, Microsoft releases an update to fix the vulnerability, and the crims work on finding the next way... So it's important always to accept Windows Updates.

The problem will probably improve. If you've just got the new machine, it's probably been sitting around for sometime in the store since leaving the factory and its software may be out of date as a result. Once it catches up, you should see the need for updates decrease. It may be advisable to leave your computer on and connected overnight.

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Gordon writes: Hi. I recently deleted my old Adobe Reader program and installed Adobe Reader 9. At the same time the following were also installed - Acrobat.com, Adobe AIR and Adobe Flash Player ActiveX. The Adobe Reader 9 seems to be OK and so does the Flash Reader which I require for the new Meridian Energy website. However when I am in the website www.UNICEF.co.nz and run the videos the voices or music come out in short jerks, i.e. a few words or bars of music then the picture and music freeze for about 15 seconds followed by a few more words or bars of music and so on. Any clues how to cure this please?

Brian Dennehy from Actrix Support replies: Hi Gordon, Thanks for your email. Has this problem only been happening since you upgraded Adobe Reader/Adobe Flash Player, or has it been happening before that as well? If it wasn't happening before you upgraded, one option would be to try installing a previous version of Adobe's products to see if that helps. Although older versions don't seem to be available on the Adobe website, I have had a quick look around and you should be able to download Adobe Reader version 8 from this link: http://www.fileratings.com/Review/Adobe_Reader_8 (Note: Because this link is not a website affiliated with Actrix in any way, it is advised to scan any files you download from this site for viruses using anti virus software on your computer).

If the problem has been happening for awhile, or if it continues to happen even after downgrading as above, it could simply be the speed of your connection that is causing the problem. Unfortunately, one of the down sides of the dial up technology is that a lot of websites are now optimised for high-speed connections. The videos that you are watching are downloading as you view them, and with a dial up connection you may have problems watching videos online simply because the video is trying to play faster than your connection can download the content. One way around this is to start the video, pause it early on in the clip, and then wait 30 seconds before hitting play again. This will allow your connection some time to download part of the video, and should help reduce the amount of times the video freezes while you are watching it.

If watching videos online is something you are wanting to do quite frequently, then another option might be to consider Actrix CyberJet broadband. As mentioned before, these websites are generally optimised for high-speed connections now days, and Actrix broadband should cope with watching videos online a lot better than your current dial up connection. If you are interested in what we have to offer, more information about our broadband plans can be found here: http://www.actrix.co.nz/page.php?id=144.

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Interesting sites 

Please note: Actrix supplies links to these sites for your interest and possible use. We cannot endorse or take any responsibility for their contents.

Got a site you think would be neat to share with other readers? Click here to e-mail and let me know!

The World Fact Book 2008
www.bartleby.com/151/ – This is the US government's complete geographical handbook, featuring full-colour maps and flags of all nations along with all sorts demographics such as population, ethnicity and literacy rates, as well as political, geographical and economic data.
150 Funniest resume mistakes, bloopers and blunders ever
http://jobmob.co.il/blog/funniest-resume-mistakes/ – There are lots of sites out there listing funny and silly things people have put in their CVs. Sometimes you can see that they're just trying to be good-humoured (and failing) and sometimes you just wonder. This site has gathered the best 150 found online. As it says in its introduction, "Why should only recruiting managers get to laugh at these?"
How to think like Leonardo Da Vinci
www.wikihow.com/Think-Like-Leonardo-Da-Vinci – "Leonardo da Vinci was the ultimate multi-tasker: an accomplished scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician, and writer. If you want to be a Renaissance Man (or Renaissance Woman), you can learn a lot from how Leonardo da Vinci lived and thought. Based on studying the life and work of this famous polymath, anyone can emulate da Vinci with the following steps."

Bizarre traffic signs
www.divinecaroline.com/article/22323/59850-bizarre-traffic-signs-world – There are also lots of sites on the Internet featuring crazy road and warning signs around the world, but this collection of four pages features many I've never seen before. Some of these would make you laugh so much that you'd have an accident.
Sleeping Chinese
www.sleepingchinese.com/ – I've worked in and around the Internet for many years, and have learned to stop asking questions such as why someone would be so interested in photographing sleeping Chinese people. I just accept that Bernd is fascinated by China and expresses that by travelling through the country taking these sorts of snap shots. He says at every corner you can discover people that either are napping in the strangest positions and situations, or are even snoring, while in a deep sleep.
The short term memory checker
http://neutralx0.net/home/mini04.html – First you are shown some items. You then memorise them and push the OK button. The next step is to pick them out from a whole collection of items that comes up on the next page. Each level gets harder and harder, and you can only advance when you successfully remember all the items. See if it helps to make up stories connecting the items. Then try hard to remember your story!
Cheese racing
http://cheeseracing.atspace.com/ – What do you think happens when you throw a slice of processed cheese (without removing the plastic wrapping) onto a lit barbeque? The plastic melts giving off highly toxic fumes and you are left with a pretty grim cheese/plastic mess welded on to your BBQ, right? WRONG! *Warning: Do not try this indoors.*
Totally absurd inventions
www.totallyabsurd.com/toiletlandinglight.htm – This site features the most ridiculous but real American patented inventions and is updated weekly. Some are old, some are recent, but all are pretty insane. I like the jet propelled golf club and can see a use for the toilet landing lights, but I don't think I'd wear the gerbil shirt more than once or twice.
Top 10 famous con men
http://listverse.com/crime/top-10-famous-con-men/ – A con man is a person who intentionally misleads another person, usually for personal financial gain. In recent history there have been a number of con men who have really stood out for either the wealth they amassed, or the ease with which they tricked people. This is a list of 10 of the most famous con men in recent history.
Christmas urban legends
www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/christmas.asp – A celebration so venerated, so long-lasting, and so ubiquitous as Christmas, with traditions of both religious and secular origins, could scarcely avoid creating a rich legacy of folklore and legends. The good folks at Snopes, famous for their online mythbusting, bring you a sampling of the many tales we associate with Christmas. Each is rated according to truth or falsity value.

 

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Drugs and Driving Survey: Would you get behind the wheel after taking drugs? And what do you think about people who do? The Drug Foundation has launched an online survey to find out about New Zealanders' behaviour and attitudes around driving and drugs. Complete the survey yourself here.

Lightspeed or low-speed into the future?: The push for speedier internet pits Labour's approach - detailed, sensible, but low-key - against National's visionary but undeveloped proposal for an expensive taxpayer-backed rollout of fibre optic cable. Click here for more.

NZ internet drug peddlers targeted in global raids: New Zealand is one of nine countries involved in global raids targeting businesses suspected of supplying medicines illegally over the internet. Click here for more.

Big ISPs score poorly: Telecom and Vodafone are among the worst-performing Internet service providers, according to a Consumer New Zealand survey. Click here for more.

General

How Google knows everything about you: Google knows just about everything about you – even if, in the unlikely event, you've never used their search engine. Google's strongest international critic, in Auckland yesterday, warned it is the "biggest detective agency that ever existed". Click here for more.

China sacks drunk official outed on internet: China's ministry of transport has fired an official in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen after photos and video clips of his drunken misbehaviour in a seafood restaurant appeared online. Click here for more.

Web helps Obama with transition: Barack Obama is turning to the web as he prepares to become US president. Via a website called Change.gov, the Obama campaign plans to provide a guide to the transition process. Click here for more.

Google abandons deal with Yahoo: Google has decided to abandon its advertising partnership with Yahoo to avoid having a "protracted legal battle" with regulators. Click here for more.

Most IT staff would steal, says survey: Most ICT staff would steal valuable and company sensitive information if they were laid off, says an international survey. Click here for more.

Spam drops 75pc as major host shut down: Global spam levels have dropped by as much as 75 per cent following the shutdown of a US web host that provided the backbone for most of the world's spam. Click here for more.

Study shows how spammers cash in: Spammers are turning a profit despite only getting one response for every 12.5m e-mails they send, finds a study. Click here for more.

Net addiction declared disorder: Do you spend more than six hours a day on the internet, suffer withdrawal symptoms if your server crashes and obsessively check your email? You could have internet addiction disorder. Click here for more.

MySpace cyber-bully suicide trial opens in LA: A housewife who created a phoney MySpace account to send hostile emails to a neighbour's 13-year-old daughter appeared in court yesterday charged with "cyber-bullying" that prompted the girl's suicide. Click here for more.

US teen commits suicide on webcam: An American teenager has committed suicide in front of a live webcam after being encouraged by people online. Click here for more.

First test for interplanetary net: The net has taken a giant leap that has extended cyberspace into outer space. Nasa has successfully transmitted images to and from a spacecraft 20 million miles away with a communications system based on the net. Click here for more.

Online time 'is good for teens': Teenagers' use of digital media shows that time online teaches children important skills, a new study shows. Click here for more.

Google unveils customised search: Google has unveiled a tool that will allow users to customise and refine their search queries. The company's SearchWiki lets users re-order, remove or add specific web search results. Click here for more.

How politics will change the web: Online activism will have an impact far beyond the 2008 US Presidential election, notes regular columnist Bill Thompson. Click here for more.

eBay seller reaches million-point milestone: If you've ever sold something on eBay, you may have been pleased to receive positive feedback from the buyer. Multiply that by a million, and you can imagine how Jack Sheng feels. Click here for more.

Mobile internet usage on the rise: Mobile internet use is growing while the number of people going online via a PC is slowing, analyst firm Nielsen Online has found. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Online miscreants ride Obama wave: Online miscreants are riding the coat-tails of US President-elect Barack Obama, with security companies reporting a flood of new Obama-related malware and spam. Click here for more.

Pop-ups pay day for Russian scammers: Cyber criminals are earning up to $US150,000 a week selling fake anti-virus software to naive internet users, confidential documents obtained by a US security researcher reveal. Click here for more.

Cybercrime as bad as credit crisis – experts: Cybercrime is likely to wreak as much havoc as the credit crisis in the coming years if international regulation is not improved, some of the world's top crime experts say. Click here for more.

What makes a cyber criminal?: Cyber crime – internet banking and credit card fraud – is now the fastest growing sector of global organised crime, increasing at a rate of about 40% per year. Misha Glenny, reporting for the BBC World Service's How Crime Took On The World, went to meet some of those trying to profit from the $100bn industry. Click here for more.

Mainly Microsoft

Microsoft rules out buying Yahoo: Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has ruled out an acquisition of Yahoo Inc but said his company was interested in resuming talks on a Web search partnership. Click here for more.

Internet Explorer 8 planned for 2009: The "standards-compatible" next edition of Internet Explorer has been bumped into 2009 by Microsoft. A third Internet Explorer 8 beta will now be released in the first quarter of next year and be followed by a final release. Click here for more.

Mac the News

Apple sued over tech that helps iPhone surf Web: Apple Inc is the target of a lawsuit that claims a technology the iPhone uses to surf the Web infringes on a patent filed by Los Angeles real estate developer Elliot Gottfurcht and two co-inventors. Click here for more.

Unix, Linux and Open Source

Firefox Fixes New and Older Versions: Mozilla is updating its mainline Firefox 3 browser with a security and stability update that provides at least nine security fixes, four of them "critical." Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

How do avatars have sex?: A couple have divorced after the wife saw the husband having online sex in the virtual world of Second Life. So how do avatars have sex? Click here for more.

'Russian hackers stole my homework' and other great excuses: 'The dog ate my homework' is probably the all-time classic excuse for shiftless schoolkids. But a new British survey by pixmania.com shows that technology is tipping the family hound off the top excuse spot. 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.

Web littered with dead wood: Despite the Internet's ability to deliver information quickly, the Web is littered with abandoned sites that are woefully out of date. Many people enthusiastically start Web sites and Web journals, but then lose interest. The Internet's novelty wears off. Click here for more.

Looked at porn? The boss can't just fire you (if you're Dutch): Employees in the Netherlands can't be sacked for downloading Internet pornography onto office computers unless there is a clear code of conduct, according to the Dutch legal trade magazine People Planet Profit, which conducted research on the subject. Click here for more.

Man Arrested Over 'Spam Rage': A Silicon Valley computer programmer has been arrested for threatening to torture and kill employees of the company he blames for bombarding his computer with Web ads promising to enlarge his penis. 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 December!

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

 

Copyright © 2008 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: editor@actrix.co.nz