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.
Welcome to the August 2009 Actrix Online Informer!
Welcome to the August Actrix Online Informer. It's been another month of scam emails. Though our filters are catching most of them, I've still received notifications of bogus lottery winnings, and lots of fake requests to send away my user name and passwords. Very few customers have felt the need to ask me about these this month which is a good sign that we're all pretty much now catching on to the nonsense.
Anyway, I hope this Actrix Online Informer finds you well and that there's something here of interest for you.
A bit about BitTorrent
This next in our series of articles looking at popular web applications and activities covers BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing.
"Peer-to-peer file sharing" simply means two or more computers connecting directly to each other and passing files back and forth. On a popular level BitTorrent is used mainly to download music files, movies and computer games, which is why it upsets production companies so much. But it also has lots of legal uses, and there are plenty of music, movie and game files that can be downloaded legally. Any type of file can be transferred, so some companies use BitTorrent to distribute large files like software updates etc.
BitTorrent is very popular because it's so easy to use, there's lots of stuff out there to download, and it's pretty fast.
Here's how it works.
First, a user makes a file (or group of files) available to the network. This first user's file is called a seed and it gets registered as being available by a server called a tracker. We won't deal with how to make and register seeds in this article, however.
People wanting the file can search for it on various websites that keep track of what's available on the various tracker servers. All you need to do to begin downloading (or "leeching") the seed is have some BitTorrent software installed on your computer. Click the link to the file on the website, and your download commences. See below for more on BitTorrent software.
Once you connect and begin to leech the seed file you become known as a peer. The tracker connects you to various other computers (other peers) who also have the file and you start downloading bits of it from each of them, which is what makes it all so fast. It's a good system because it means you take a little bit of the file from everybody, rather than put a drain on just one source. Collectively, all the peers connected together sharing the up and download of a file are known as a "swarm".
Once a peer has successfully and completely downloaded the file, the peer then shifts roles and becomes an additional seed, helping the remaining peers to receive the entire file. All this is done automatically by your BitTorrent software.
In the animation to the right, courtesy of Wikipedia, the coloured bars beneath all of the seven clients in the upper region represent individual pieces of the file. After the initial pieces transfer from the seed (large system at the bottom), the pieces are individually transferred from client to client. The original seeder only needs to send out one copy of the file for all the clients to receive a copy.
The thing to remember however, is that using BitTorrent does eat up your bandwidth. A typical hour long movie file, for example, is around 350 megabytes. Once you have downloaded it, you may well find that you have been uploading it to others at the same time, and that is all traffic that will eat into your allocation if you're on broadband. Dialup users can also use BitTorrent, but the file transfer will still only be as fast as their connection allows, no matter how many peers they are connected to.
There are lots of free BitTorrent programs (sometimes called clients) available. One that is currently very popular is µTorrent. It's easy to use and quick to install. You can download it at www.utorrent.com. As stated above, you don't need to do much once it's installed other than click on a BitTorrent link. Programs like µTorrent will then automatically kick in and do the rest of the work for you.
Is using BitTorrent safe?
This is the Internet we're talking about, so nothing's necessarily safe. On the other hand, it's not inherently dangerous as long as your computer is up-to-date with the latest operating system updates, and you have a firewall and anti-virus system in place. These days these come standard with Windows.
If your computer's healthy, other peers can't access any of your other files when you are connected to the swarm. One danger is that they could disguise some malicious software, such as a virus as a movie or sound file that will spring to life and do nasty things once you open it. Another common practice is the seeding of fakes. These look like movie files, for example, but when you try to play them you get a message saying the file is encrypted and if you want to be sent the unlocking code you need first to sign up for a special offer at a link provided. Generally the link will take you to an adult site, or possibly even to a site where malicious software is installed. Bottom line is, if you open up a fake, don't follow the link. Just delete the file.
Because of these problems, websites providing BitTorrent links usually allow members to post comments about the file. If you find something you want, look at what comments have been left. If the file has been around for a while and there are some good comments about it, that's a good sign. BitTorrent users who have downloaded fakes will quickly put comments in to warn other peers.
The legal side of things
Using BitTorrent is not illegal, and neither are the tracking servers, technically, because they only hold information about where a file is, not the file itself. Many tracking sites have been shut down over the years due to legal pressure, but many resolutely carry on despite receiving legal threats by the bucket load.
The actual act of downloading copyrighted files may or may not be illegal depending on where you are, but providing them for others to download is definitely illegal just about anywhere. If you download something copyrighted using BitTorrent you are also making it available to others, so it's hard to avoid being a provider. Be warned, music and movie companies are taking this more and more seriously. See, for example, the story in our Cyberspace News Snippets section this month where a woman was fined NZ$3m just for sharing 24 songs!
On the other hand, some artists such as The Libertines have released demos and movies for free over BitTorrent networks, and The Nine Inch Nails frequently release whole albums that way for a fee. So it's not all bad or wrong, and it could be argued this is a smarter approach than taking legal action. File sharing is so popular that it's never going to be stamped out.
You can use Google to find legal BitTorrent downloads that are either free or that you can pay for using your credit card online.
In an interesting development, one of the biggest BitTorrent tracking sites, The Pirate Bay, is moving to a legal model where licensing fees are paid to production companies, and these will somehow be recouped from some users. The details are still a little vague, but you can read more about The Pirate Bay's move in this New Zealand Herald article.
So that's BitTorrent in a nutshell. It's important enough to warrant coverage, but we are certainly not encouraging the downloading or sharing of copyrighted material. Any downloading you do is entirely at your own risk.
Have you checked out the Actrix hardware website lately? Did you know Actrix customers can choose to purchase from a wide range of hardware products and pay for them through their monthly account? Check out http://hardware.actrix.co.nz!
We have recently expanded our range of products to include desktop computers, notebooks and accessories. Pricing is very competitive and our products are from known and trusted brands, such as Sony, Hewlett Packard and Acer. So if you are looking for a new computer or need any hardware at all, Actrix Hardware is worth a visit. Lots of items are available, but if you're looking for something we don't stock you can or you see a better price elsewhere, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see what we can do!
We're good like that.
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).
Howard writes: Hi, I have recently bought a new cell phone with wi-fi connectivity so I can check email if away from home. To make the settings requires some info about the email account. Can you advise where this is found? Thanks. Howard.
Hi Howard, what you need to do is set up the incoming and outgoing mail server settings on your new phone. Your incoming (POP) server setting needs to be pop3.actrix.co.nz. That will allow you to connect to your mailbox via our mail server. However, you will need to use your phone provider's outgoing (SMTP) server settings as you can generally only send emails via the provider you are connected with at the time.
The SMTP server setting is likely to be smtp.yourphoneprovider.co.nz, but you will need to check this with whoever your provider is. You will also need to enter your mailbox user name and password into your phone's email settings. It's hard to tell where this information is found as we're not sure what email software is on your phone. Here is a link to how to do this in Outlook. Hopefully you'll be able to adapt these instructions for your phone. If not, give us a call on 0800 228749, but you may also need to check the documentation that came with your phone about where those settings are located.
In a similar vein, David and Sue write: We need to know how do we get our emails diverted to our new laptop. We have now installed wireless in our home and will only use the old PC to find old files. Your help will be great.
Hi David and Sue, It's not so much a matter of getting your emails diverted to your new laptop. What you actually need to do is set up your new laptop so that it connects to your mailbox which is here at Actrix. You need to set up the incoming mail server setting as pop3.actrix.co.nz and the outgoing mail server setting as smtp.actrix.co.nz. You will also need to set up your user name (usually the first part of your email address) and password in the settings of whatever email program you are using on the laptop.
Our website has tutorials on how to do this in various email programs. See: www.actrix.co.nz/page.php?id=125. If you get stuck, however, give us a call on 0800 228749 and we’ll talk you through it.
Koskwa writes: Dear Rob... I rather look forward to your updates! I was particularly taken with the YouTube addition. So much so, I forwarded it to mates all over the planet.
But here's the thing: how did the contributor of this little nugget come across this in the first place? Were they thinking to themselves: let's see if I can find some random acapella eastern european jazz band that's done a Toto cover? This may be rhetorical... Keep up the amusing comments and tidbits! Regards, Koskwa
Hi Koskwa, Now that's a question! I think however, you've answered it in a roundabout way. It only takes one person to forward it to ten people who then forward it to more and something will really bloom if it's any good. Glad you're enjoying the Informers.
Please note: Actrix supplies links to these sites for your interest and possible use. We cannot endorse or take any responsibility for their contents.
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My life is average
http://mylifeisaverage.com/ – "Breaking news: Like most people, your life is probably not that glamorous or melodramatic. Thankfully, someone has finally created a website for average people to commiserate about their average-ness. For a taste, here is a recent posting: "Today, I was ironing one of my shirts. Then I noticed that if you iron it up it becomes darker than when you iron it down. I ended up drawing pictures on my shirt."
Garfield minus Garfield
http://remindd.com/ – Someone thinks he's made the Garfield comic strip funnier by editing out Garfield. He recently released a book of these comic strips with the annoying cat digitally edited out. The result is a less-than-flattering portrayal of Garfield's owner, Jon. Without the lasagne-loving feline, he looks like a lonely man who talks to himself. If you are having a bad day, it could be worse – you could be Jon. And here's a guy who edited every member of the Simpsons family out of the opening to the show (1337 frames)!
http://graphjam.com/ – The task of illustrating a depressing point, like a company's plunging profits, always lands on the poor graph. But no one said the lowly graph always has to be bleak or boring. This site displays the best user-submitted graphs on a variety of oddball topics, from the likelihood of a song starting on the radio that you actually want to hear to things people want to do in New Jersey (No 1 option: Leave).
Thirty household products vinegar can replace|
www.wisebread.com/30-household-products-vinegar-can-replace – "Who knew that vinegar could do so much? It serves a purpose in just about every room of the house, and there are dozens of household (and personal) products that vinegar can replace, as you will see below. It’s cheaper, better for the environment, and better for your health and home (in eliminating unnecessary chemicals)."
Send your name to Mars|
http://mars9.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/participate/sendyourname/index.cfm – NASA is giving anyone the opportunity to send their name to Mars. Just enter your name, country and zip code into the form, and your name – along with many others – will be included in a microchip on the Mars Science Laboratory rover which will be heading to Mars in 2011. You can even print out your own certificate of participation. Who's coming with me? Click here if you need to find your postcode.
Write better English|
www.write-better-english.com/ – Write Better English is a fast-growing community of learners and teachers of written English. You can sign up to become a member, but even if you don't there's lots of fun and free stuff you can use. You can download an e-book of writing tips, use the plain English converter, read and share funny stories about English usage and much more.
The top 15 web hoaxes of all time
http://mashable.com/2009/07/15/internet-hoaxes/ – "For hundreds of years, humans have been playing elaborate tricks on each other, but the advent of social tools – from Usenet and email right on up to YouTube and Twitter – means that hoaxes are much more easily spread, and it can be difficult to separate the misinformation from the truth. Here's a collection of the top 15 most unforgettable web hoaxes."
http://historicaltweets.com/ – What would famous historical figures like Abraham Lincoln, Einstein, Napoleon and Hitler have tweeted on Twitter had the technology been around in their day? This is a collection of humorous suggestions, and some are very witty indeed. Click the Previous entries link at the foot of each page to see more.
List of New Zealand disasters by death toll|
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_Zealand_disasters_by_death_toll – This is Wikipedia's list of New Zealand disasters by death toll, listing major disasters (excluding epidemics and acts of war) which occurred in New Zealand and its territories or involved a significant number of New Zealand citizens, in a specific incident, where the loss of life was 10 or more. Disasters are listed in order. For more lists of disasters by death toll click here (includes mass murderers and spree killers by number of victims).
Rock, paper, scissors|
www.dmoz.org/Games/Hand_Games/Rock,_Paper,_Scissors/ – If you're a rock,paper,scissors fan, boy have I got a site for you! Here you'll find a strategy guide, research into the game's origin, variations around the world, rules for adding Bomb, Bird, Water and Chopper, and much much more.
What's been happening in the online world?
Internet hoax draws threats: Police are investigating a nasty cyber-hoax in which the victim has become the unwitting target of gang threats. A man's photo and cellphone number were published on anti-Mongrel Mob and anti-Black Power profiles on social networking site Bebo Click here for more.
Mum flogs daughter's clothes: A Manukau mum battling to get her teenage daughter to clean up her room has bundled up the clothes she refused to put away and is selling them on TradeMe. Click here for more.
Two more sacked over internet use: Two more former Safe Air employees fired over their internet use at work are challenging their dismissal through the Employment Relations Authority. The news comes after the authority last week ruled Safe Air must re-instate a staff member sacked for sending vulgar emails. Click here for more.
Internet fraud case NZ's first majority verdict : In what is believed to be New Zealand's first majority verdict, a jury has found Dieter Rudolf Bedenknecht guilty of being an online auction cheat. Click here for more.
Women big users of online TV: TVNZ says a study shows its OnDemand online television service is mainly being watched by women to catch up on episodes of programmes they missed on television. Click here for more.
Labour floats copyright levy: Labour communications spokeswoman Clare Curran says a charge on internet accounts should be considered to recompense copyright holders for downloaded material. Click here for more.
Fighting copyright pirates hand to hand: Section 92a is back and the Government is again threatening to cut off copyright pirates' access to the internet, so why isn't the hawkish Recording Industry Association celebrating? Click here for more.
'Naked mum pics' a student stunt: A man who claimed to be a teenager selling naked photos of his mother on TradeMe is the son of a former MP - and she is not the subject of the photos. Click here for more.
Net filtering scheme to block child porn websites: Internet service providers will soon be able to block customers from accessing child pornography websites using "filtering" software bought by Internal Affairs. Click here for more.
Artists say internet account termination too far: A trust of New Zealand artists says a proposal to terminate the internet accounts of those who repeatedly breach copyright is a step too far. Click here for more.
Google unveils NZ real estate site: Global tech giant Google has unveiled its latest weapon to take over all aspects of the internet, with today's launch of a New Zealand real estate mapping service. Click here for more.
Kiwi town's free internet plan: GStratford has launched a daring plan to become the first New Zealand town with free broadband internet for everyone. Click here for more.
Facebook to simplify privacy: Facebook is overhauling its privacy controls over the next several weeks in an attempt to simplify its users' ability to control who sees the information they share on the site. Click here for more.
Recording industry tries to ban woman from downloading music: Jammie Thomas-Rasset has been fined NZ$3m for file-sharing 24 songs. Click here for more.
US woman cleared of MySpace bullying: A US federal judge has tentatively overturned the conviction of a suburban mother accused of driving a love-lorn 13-year-old girl to suicide by tormenting her with a fake MySpace persona. Click here for more.
Broadband slowest in the deep south: Broadband is slower the further away customers are from Auckland, with Dunedin at the bottom of the heap among the major centres, according to a report released by the Commerce Commission. Click here for more.
Dead wrong: slaughter of the celebrities: It's been a busy week for celebrity deaths, with Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus and P Diddy all shuffling off the mortal coil - if you believe their Twitter pages. Click here for more.
News voice for internet users: A year-old website, inspired by the use of Twitter and Internet media reporting out of Iran, hopes to become the go-to forum for citizen journalists everywhere as traditional media pulls back. Click here for more.
What is the biggest email mistake you have made?: If you're the kind of person who types tipsy and regrets it in the morning, Google's 'Mail Goggles', a new test-phase feature in the free Gmail service, might save you some angst. Click here for more.
Is Twitter the news outlet for the 21st century?: The extraordinary amount of news coverage the mainstream media has recently devoted to Twitter has led some to think the press is in love with the 3-year-old microblogging service. Click here for more.
Twitter followers 'can be bought': Twitter users who lack an audience for their messages can now buy followers. Australian social media marketing company uSocial is offering a paid service that finds followers for users of the micro-blogging service. Click here for more.
Billions stolen in online robbery: Details emerge of why billions in virtual cash disappeared from a virtual bank in Eve Online Click here for more.
Police told to use Wikipedia for court preparation: The [UK] Crown Prosecution Service is telling police officers to use Wikipedia to prepare for court cases. Click here for more.
Is the 'Baby' Web Growing up?: With sensors driving applications, Tim O'Reilly says the Web is growing up fast as a more sentient platform. Click here for more.
Kazaa to rise from the dead: The notorious Kazaa peer-to-peer file sharing service is back from the dead three years after it was shut down by the music industry in a $150 million lawsuit. But the software looks entirely different this time around, with users forced to pay for their music instead of trading tracks illegally. Click here for more.
Google offers 'guided tour' of the moon : To commemorate Monday's anniversary of the Apollo 11 crew's first steps on the lunar surface, Google Earth is adding a guided moon tour with astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jack Schmitt, who was a pilot on the later Apollo 17 mission. Click here for more.
Firefox now keeps your web trail secret: Last week there came to light an improved private browsing feature in Mozilla's Firefox 3.5, the latest, substantially upgraded version of the popular web browser. Click here for more.
New Pirate Bay to be based on give-and-take models: One of the world's largest filesharing websites, The Pirate Bay, is going legal through a series of give-and-take payment models that in some cases may even earn its users a bundle of cash, the new owners said. Click here for more.
Pirate Bay faces new legal threat: The world's most high-profile file-sharing website the Pirate Bay faces a new volley of legal action. Thirteen Hollywood production companies have filed a new lawsuit to try to get the website shut down. Click here for more.
Battle of the browsers - which is master of the web?: Like cars and football teams, debates around which web browser is best are usually passionate, frequent and usually intense. Click here for more.
Wikipedia painting row escalates: The battle over Wikipedia's use of images from a British art gallery's website has intensified. Click here for more.
Tweleted: Making Mischief on Twitter: Get past the cheesy name – honestly, this Twitterizing of words needs to stop – and you'll find that Tweleted is an occasionally useful service. Set against clouds on a bright blue background, Tweleted promises to recover any Twitter posts you may have accidentally deleted. A nice feature, but one hardly worth, well, Twittering about. Click here for more.
Facebook valued at over $10 billion: How much is Facebook worth? A Russian investment firm appears to put it at $6.5 billion (NZ$10.2bn) to $10 billion ($NZ15.7bn). Click here for more.
Facebook Rules in Time Spent Online: Facebook may be ranked sixth in unique visitors, but it reigns supreme in the amount of time users spend there -- topping Google, Yahoo, AOL and eBay. Click here for more.
Most Spam Comes From US: Where does spam come from? If you guessed the US, you'd be right, according to new data from Microsoft's Hotmail team and online security player Sophos. Click here for more.
Spam Not So Profitable?: Despite sending millions of messages each day, botnet operators and spam marketers rake in less than one might think. Click here for more.
Spam Learns a New Language: While spam levels are at their highest levels in years, much of it is the same – just translated for different countries. Click here for more.
The risks of online communication: The shift to digital communication mediums allows us to connect to each other across great distances at a blistering pace. Click here for more.
Clever e-mail scam: Someone bought this in your name: I've been getting e-mail phishing scams for several years and thought I'd seen it all. But this week I received an e-mail that wasn't the usual "We're doing a security check and need your password" scam. Click here for more.
Most Users Can't Spot a Phishing Site: VeriSign is out with a new report stating that 88 percent of Web users in the US can't identify phishing sites. Phishing sites are spoofed sites of legitimate sites that aim to trick users into giving up information. Click here for more.
Teens warned over sharing intimate images: Teenagers are being warned to be careful about what they post online, or face the consequences. NetSafe operations manager Lee Chisholm said the cyber safety organisation had received calls from throughout New Zealand regarding explicit images online. Click here for more.
Passwords 101: a simple way to make it hard for hackers: Passwords are literally the stuff of life. Without them online banking, dealing with IRD, work email and countless other everyday but vital activities simply wouldn't be possible. Keeping these secure is isn't terribly difficult, yet the consequences of forgetting to do so can be pretty dire. Click here for more.
How does a denial-of-service attack work?: Investigators are piecing together details about one of the most aggressive computer attacks in recent memory - a powerful "denial-of-service" assault that overwhelmed computers at US and South Korean government agencies, companies and institutions, in some cases for days. Click here for more.
Whatever happened to the Conficker worm?: The hugely talked-about computer worm seemed poised to wreak havoc on the world's machines on April Fool's Day. And then... nothing much happened. Click here for more.
Google declares war on Windows with new OS: Google has set the technology world alight with the announcement that it is working on a new operating system for personal computers to rival Microsoft's ubiquitous Windows and which promises to "make computers better". Click here for more.
Microsoft warns of serious Internet Explorer security hole: Microsoft has taken the rare step of warning about a serious computer security vulnerability it hasn't fixed yet. Click here for more.
Office 2010 tech preview: Expect the expected: Microsoft has released a technical preview of Office 2010. At the same time, the company is looking perhaps nervously at web-based Office suites from Google, Zoho, Adobe, and others and responding with Office web applications of its own, while carefully avoiding any suggestion that they might replace the desk-bound versions. Click here for more.
Windows – now with the browser you actually want: Microsoft will offer computer users a choice of rival web browsers to ward off new European Union antitrust fines, EU regulators and Microsoft said. Click here for more.
Guitar-breaking song an online hit: A Canadian musician has become an internet sensation after posting a song on YouTube about United Airlines breaking his guitar. Click here for more.
Same name couple to wed: A couple who are to marry after meeting through social networking site Facebook already have a lot in common – they share the same name. Click here for more.
Doggie dating online: Leo is affectionate, likes stuffed toys, eats fish and is a hit with ladies looking for love on online. Not bad, for a 3-year-old Golden Retriever. Click here for more.
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.
Turning the tables on Nigeria's e-mail conmen: "I tried to turn it round by saying I worked for a church and we couldn't do any business with people who are not of our faith." Mike sent a response in the name of Father Hector Barnett of the Church of the Painted Breast. Click here for more.
Women lead rural India's internet rush: The internet is beginning to have a revolutionary effect on the 700 million people who live in villages in India - and the charge is being led by women. Click here for more.
Parents 'under-estimate' net risks: Parents are still largely unaware of the risks their children take on the net, even though 75% of teenagers use the net at home, says a report. Click here for more.
Beckham penalty outrage ball lands on eBay: The Official Match Ball used on the game against Portugal, that left UK out of the Europe Cup, the same ball of the penalty, that David Beckham miss, will be auctioned on eBay. Click here for more.
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