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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 March Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the March 2010, and 124th Actrix Online Informer.

We're now entering the third month of the first year of the second decade of the third millennium AD. And Actrix has turned 20. That's right, we've been around for a long time. We've seen many Internet service providers (ISPs) come and go, or change almost completely over the years, but we're still here doing our best to be the best ISP in the country. Thank you to our loyal customers, many of whom have been with us from the outset. And if you're new to Actrix, welcome aboard!

Rob Zorn

 

Speeding up your browser

by Rob Zorn and Evan Skibin

Even though most Internet users are enjoying speeds hardly dreamt of ten years ago, there are still times when browsing can be slow. There are lots of reasons for this including the number of servers your traffic is going through, the state of your phone line and more. It can be a little frustrating, especially if you're among the 5-10 percent of New Zealanders still connecting through dial-up modems.

There a couple of ways you can speed up your browser, especially if you're using Firefox or Opera. When these two browsers hit the market one of their most compelling competitive edges was that they were much faster than Microsoft's Internet Explorer due to their "stripped down" technology. Even though Internet Explorer has come along way in recent versions, users of alternative browsers will still probably tell you, rightly or wrongly, that speed is one of the reasons they prefer them.

With Firefox (www.getfirefox.com),  one of the ways you can gain a little speed is by installing some add-ons that will stop your browser wasting resources downloading things you don't want or need.

Add-ons (and there are literally thousands of them) are like extra features that don't come as standard with your browser but they can be installed. They're not always created by the browser maker.

Installing add-ons with Firefox is pretty easy. Just click Tools, and then click Add-ons in the menu that drops down. In the Add-ons box that comes up, type the name of the add-on you're looking for and click the little magnifying glass to search. Firefox will return a list of add-ons that match your search. Click the one you want and follow the installation instructions.

You can also browse and search add-ons at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/

The first add-on that may help your browser speed is Adblock Plus (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1865).  It's advertising states: "Ever been annoyed by all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page? Install Adblock Plus now and get rid of them." And that's exactly what it does. Adblock Plus uses an automatically maintained list of the most obnoxious banner adverts on the net will auto-update itself regularly to block out the worst offenders. You can also right-click on a banner and choose "Adblock" from the context menu and that banner will never be downloaded again.

Another useful Firefox add-on is Flashblock: (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/433).  Flash is a type of animation you often see in interactive and animated advertising and online videos. It can help make a web page nice and funky, but if you just want information and you don't care about how it looks, then you're better off without it. It can slow you down because your browser wastes time downloading the video content when it could be doing something else.

The frame of the Flash content remains in the page layout so you know it's there. However it is replaced with a "Play" button, so if you decide you would like to see the animation, it can be enabled with a single click.

The latest version of the Opera browser (version 10 available at www.opera.com) has another solution to the low speed problem. It comes with Turbo mode, which was designed primarily for people to use when they're out and about, connecting to the Internet on busy public wireless systems or on their mobile phone, but anyone can use it to speed things up.

Turbo mode functions in a very similar manner to the two Firefox methods mentioned above. Flash content is blocked and replaced with a button to enable it.

The really neat thing, though, is that when you're in Turbo mode, Opera's servers will compress the images and other graphic elements from a webpage as your browser downloads them. The images come through at a lower quality but much quicker. If required, right-click on the image and select "Reload image in full quality". As an example, Turbo mode shrunk a Facebook photo four fold (19Kb instead of 79Kb).

There are ways you can speed up Internet Explorer (IE) too, but they're not as sophisticated. It is possible, for example, to change IE's settings so that sounds, animation and even pictures on websites are never downloaded. To do this, click Tools, then Internet options, and then choose the Advanced tab. Scroll down the list until you come to Multimedia and untick the boxes that say Show animation, Play sound and Show pictures. The next time you visit a web page you'll just see boxes where the images are supposed to be. You can right-click on a picture box and choose "Show picture" but this only works for images that are in the foreground. Most websites also use background images as part of their design, and with images turned off you won't know they're there and you can't click to turn them on, even if you know they are there.

View this article on its own... 

Actrix has turned 20, and you get the presents!

To celebrate our 20th year all existing Actrix customers (as of 1 February) were placed into the draw to win one of three prizes of free broadband for a year, each worth over $1,700.

Plus if you sign up for any of the following products between 1 February an 21 March you'll also go in the draw for a 10-day holiday for two at Aggie Grey's Lagoon, Beach Resort and Spa in Samoa, valued at over $4,500!

  • CyberJet broadband
  • Home plan bundle
  • Actrix tolls
  • Homeline

For more details click here and, remember, each product added is another chance to win!

Both competitions will be drawn on Monday 22 March and winners will be notified by phone or email within one week.

If you have any questions please feel free to E-mail info@actrix.co.nz,  or give us a call on 0800 ACTRIX (228-749) between 8am and 11pm seven days.

Free broadband prize includes a full speed connection with 50GB monthly traffic allowance valued at $149.95 per month.

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).

--

Richard writes: Dear Ed, Received this e-mail recently, any comments?. Richard.

"Computer repairman says this is like having gold. This is a good thing. I learned a computer trick today that's really ingenious in its simplicity.

"As you may know, when/if a worm virus gets into your computer it heads straight for your email address book, and sends itself to everyone in there, thus infecting all your friends and associates.

"This trick won't keep the virus from getting into your computer, but it will stop it from using your address book to spread further, and it will alert you to the fact that the worm has gotten into your system.

"Here's what you do: First, open your address book and click on 'new contact,' just as you would do if you were adding a new friend to your list of email addresses. In the window where you would type your friend's first name, type in ' A'. For the screen name or email address, type AAAAAAA@AAA.AAA...

Hi Richard, Sounds plausible, but following these instructions would make little difference. Viruses don’t behave like humans, working their way systematically through lists to find email addresses. They’ll trawl your entire hard drive. They also don’t use your email program to send themselves on. They have their own built-in emailing abilities that certainly aren't subject to your address book rules. And of course, these days viruses can attack you through lots of ways other than email.

This often well-intentioned hoax has been around since 2001 and is covered pretty well at the Urban Legends website: http://www.snopes.com/computer/virus/quickfix.asp. As the site says, you’re best protection against viruses is to use good anti-virus software, and to be really careful about opening attachments.

--

Terry writes: Firstly, I must say that we are pleased with the efficiency of the Actrix Spam filter - we receive very little spam into our inbox. However, I sometimes need to check our email via Webmail when away from home, and when checking contents of the spam folder have found mail which is definitely NON-spam. I have double-checked that the sender is in our Contacts, and not sure what else we can do to avoid losing mail. I suspect we have on occasion lost mail which we have not realised has gone to the spam folder as this is only checked when using Webmail.

Hi Terry, Thanks for your kind words. Yes, this can be a bit of an occupational hazard with spam filters. Our technicians work very hard towards striking the right balance between tight rules on the filters, and rules that are too tight so that legitimate emails are marked as spam. Unfortunately, the nature of spam can be so variable and complex that they don’t always get it 100% right. If the rules were relaxed just a little, they may allow a flurry of unwanted and offensive spam. The good news is that, considering the massive volumes of spam received and very few false positives, the rules are about as effective as we could hope for.

It's always advisable to check your spam folder once a week, especially if you’re waiting for something important that hasn’t shown up. Actrix users can do that by logging into My Actrix on the home page and clicking the ‘Webmail and Spam Folder’ link. Click ‘Spam’ over on the left to see what’s in your spam folder.

I hope that's helpful. Seeing as our spam filters operate independently of your email program, your contacts list will make no difference, by the way.

--

Steve writes: I have just seen your 20th birthday competition. Happy Birthday to you... A wee small gripe. We have been with Actrix for at least 10 years and have already signed up to a number of your services. At this stage we don't need any more but we would like to be included in your competition – is there any chance that existing members, or at least long term members can be entered? It doesn’t seem fair that a new member might win the prize – after all doesn’t the old sales mantra tell us that we should "look after our existing customers as the cost of getting new ones is very high."

Operations Manager Peter Cranston responds: Hi Steve, Thanks for taking the time to send feedback, it's always good to know what our customers are thinking!

In regards to the current promotions we're giving all existing customers the chance to win one of three prizes of free broadband for a year (each worth over $1,700), and also offering the trip to Samoa as a prize for any new or existing customers that apply for one of the featured products. We are trying to reward our existing customers, and encourage both them and new customers to apply for new products and services. There will likely be further promotions and pressies as the year progresses, some aimed towards existing customers and some designed more to attract new customers to Actrix.

However, I can assure you we definitely have not forgotten our customers, and we think that's one reason we're still around after 20 years! I hope this answers your query.

View this article on its own...

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 straight dope
www.straightdope.com/ – The straight dope is based on a popular question-and-answer newspaper column written by Cecil Adams. It runs under the tagline "Fighting ignorance since 1973 (it's taking longer than we thought)" and seeks to answer reader questions honestly. Topics can range from the interesting and useful, such as, Are earlobe creases a sign of heart disease? to the ridiculous, such as, Can I die from picking my nose?
Album art search
http://www.album-art-search.com – I am sure this website is really useful. I just haven't figured out what for yet. Type in anything you like (works best on nouns) to get a group of images of album covers featuring your chosen object. Click individual images to expand.
The top 10 worst attempts at cutting down a tree
www.urlesque.com/2010/01/13/tree-removal-fails/ – The great thing about the Internet is that you can always rely on it to cheer you up by showing you people doing even sillier things than you've just done. Here are videos of a few unfortunates cutting down trees who, "for some reason, didn't remember to expect the worst."

Browser pong
http://stewdio.org/pong/ – And you thought browser windows were just for surfing the interweb. Complete with clumsy, seventies-style computer game music, this site actually makes bats and a ball out of browser windows to bring you endless hours of Pong fun. At the start, tick the box (either left or right) for which bat will be human controlled. Tick both boxes if you're with a close friend or you're incredibly ambidextrous.
Friends of irony pictorial
http://friendsofirony.com/ – Here's a great set of pictures each capturing poignant moments of irony, from the burning fire engine to the hosts of contradictory signs that can be found side by side around the world.
Weird book room
http://www.abebooks.co.uk/books/weird/index.shtml – AbeBooks' Weird Book Room claims to be the finest source of everything that's bizarre, odd and downright weird in books. There are at least 101 crazy and strange titles about every oddball aspect of life and one book is featured each week. Titles include: Somebody Else Is On The Moon; How to Teach Physics to Your Dog; and The English: Are They Human? It appears books can be ordered, and you can even make suggestions about books you've seen for inclusion.
Please rob me
http://pleaserobme.com/ – In the words of Stuff: "As more people reveal their whereabouts on social networks, a new site has sprung up to remind you that letting everyone know where you are – and, by extension, where you're not – could leave you vulnerable to those with less-than-friendly intentions. The site's name says it all: Please rob me."
Movie mistakes
www.moviemistakes.com/ – I'm not sure why it's such fun to spot mistakes in movies, but it just is. It's not as if we need reminding that movies aren't real, is it?. If you want more, here's another site showing the Top 15 movie mistakes in pictures.
A celebration of duct tape
http://lifehacker.com/5478624/a-celebration-of-duct-tape-our-favorite-duct-tape-diys – "Inexpensive, abundant, strong, and ready to stick to nearly anything, this versatile DIY companion is a must in your DIY toolkit." Or, as one of the site's commenters says, "Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together."
What the Internet knows about you
www.whattheinternetknowsaboutyou.com/ – Most of us know that websites we visit can access various types of information about our computers. This includes the screen resolution, operating system, IP address and web browser among other things. But those are not the only information that can be gathered when users visit a website. What some of us may not realise is that virtually any website you visit has the ability to look inside your browser's history and determine which websites you visited, allowing it not only to figure out your browsing habits, but also discover your personal preferences. Visit the site to get a list of sites you've visited according to a top 500 list. Click more specific site categories in the menu to the left.

 

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Charges likely after Christchurch Facebook threats : People who joined in a vicious online attack against a new Christchurch principal will be prosecuted, police say. Click here for more.

Bank or NZ Post likely partner for iGovt: Internet users are likely to have to visit either a bank or a post office to get a credential that would allow them to prove their identity online and access more services over the web. Click here for more.

Ex-florist sentenced for altering rivals' Google maps: A former Napier florist who changed her competitors' details on Google maps to direct clients to her business was today sentenced to 100 hours community service. Click here for more.

Thinking small internet's next big thing: The founders of a new website that dishes up city-specific New Zealand news and information say they are tapping into a growing international demand for "hyper-local" web content. Click here for more.

Surge in Kiwis looking for love online: A flurry of single New Zealanders looking for love in cyberspace has resulted in a spike in the use of online dating through January. Click here for more.

$15,000 penalty for web downloads: Anyone caught breaching copyright by downloading films and music from the internet will face large penalties and could even be disconnected by their internet service under new legislation. Click here for more.

More Kiwis overseas tuning in to Māori Television's revamped website: A revamp of Māori Television's website has boosted its visitor numbers by 60 percent in the past year as more New Zealanders living overseas tune in to its archive of local video content. Click here for more.

Government gets tough on spam: The government is stepping up its war on spammers, as it loses patience with New Zealand businesses flooding email and cellphone inboxes with unwanted messages. Click here for more.

Stressed in your job? Upload your down load: An online therapy programme, called Beating the Blues, is being trialled here by behavioural healthcare company Instep, whose clients include Air New Zealand and the police. Click here for more.

General

Why the internet has gone sour: It was when his "inner troll" started getting out of hand that Jaron Lanier felt the first stirrings of unease. Click here for more.

Sorry Iran, you can't own the internet : With surprisingly little shock, I read an article which said Iran is to permanently block Gmail for everyone in the country, and launch its own email service. Click here for more.

Operation Titstorm hackers strike Australia: Hackers connected with the anti-Scientology group Anonymous have launched a broad attack on Australian government websites. Click here for more.

Facebook users 'easy prey': Facebook users have become easy prey for criminals as more and more people share personal information on the social networking site, says a computer anti-virus company. Click here for more.

World turns to social media for real-time death: People flooded social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube after the fatal crash of an Olympic luger yesterday, eager to read the latest, and quickest, details of the horrific accident. Click here for more.

MySpace - how did it go so wrong?: Don't you feel just a pang of sympathy for MySpace? It has even become the butt of cruel jokes. Click here for more.

Internet imposters have celebrities in a twitter: Kiwi celebrities are being targeted by social networking frauds, who are forging Twitter and Facebook accounts in their names. Click here for more.

Jaron Lanier: Web 2.0 is utterly pathetic: Jaron Lanier's book, You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto, has ruffled feathers in the US. The book takes a swipe at Web 2.0, accusing it of destroying individuality, destroying creativity and destroying middle-class professions. Click here for more.

ISP not liable for downloads: Judge: An Australian judge has ruled an internet service provider cannot be held accountable for illegal movie downloads by its customers, in a test case of a key strategy by entertainment companies to combat online piracy. Click here for more.

Prisoner Facebook pages removed after victim taunts: Thirty Facebook pages have been taken down because prisoners were using them to taunt their victims, UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw has said. Click here for more.

Paying the price for a free web: As part of a major series on the BBC about the impact of the web, producer Jo Wade has been looking at the price we pay for free information. Click here for more.

Criminal hacker 'Iceman' gets 13 years: A former security researcher turned criminal hacker has been sentenced to 13 years in federal prison for hacking into financial institutions and stealing credit card account numbers. Click here for more.

How to reject Facebook requests: A colleague I just met at work has invited me to be their friend on Facebook. I don't want to offend them, but nor do I want to share my candid photos and lousy Scrabble scores with someone I hardly know. Can I ignore their invite? Click here for more.

Web makes us smarter, say web 'experts': An online survey of 895 web users and experts found more than three-quarters believe the internet will make people smarter in the next 10 years. Click here for more.

Websites for parents: Parenting can be a challenge at any stage of kids' lives. Here are five websites that help. Click here for more.

Digital dumping on the rise: More people are using email, Facebook and Twitter to break up with their partners, a survey reveals. Click here for more.

How Facebook can ruin your life: An American insurance company, in defending its refusal to pay out a claim, is seeking to call in evidence personal online postings, including the contents of any MySpace or Facebook pages the litigants may have, to see if their eating disorders might have "emotional causes". Click here for more.

The story behind Google's doodles: Think back to those doodles you've inked in the margins of your notepad in school, at work or while listening on the phone. Now imagine more than a billion people looking at your doodles in a given day. Better yet, imagine getting paid for them. Click here for more.

Students bully teacher on Facebook: Twenty students from a Brisbane high school have been suspended for bullying a staff member on Facebook. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Facebook users 'easy prey': Facebook users have become easy prey for criminals as more and more people share personal information on the social networking site, says a computer anti-virus company. Click here for more.

FBI’s Most Wanted: Your Browsing Activity: FBI Director Robert Mueller wants ISPs to track “origin and destination information” about their customers’ browsing habits and store them for authorities’ use for two years, according to a CNET report. Click here for more.

Mozilla Finds Malware in Firefox Add-Ons: Thousands of Windows users could be affected by a Trojan embedded in a pair of add-ons for the popular—and mostly bug-free—open source browser application. Click here for more.

Reusing online banking IDs common, risky: Seventy-three percent of more than 4 million people surveyed by security firm Trusteer admit they use the same password on social networking sites like Facebook that they use for their online banks. Click here for more.

Scam spreads through Twitter: Twitter users are being warned of a new phishing scam that has emerged in the last 24 hours. The official Twitter Trust and Safety account issued the warning yesterday that read "If you receive a DM asking "LOL is this you," it's not. It's phishing. Don't enter your password!" Click here for more.

Computer jargon baffles people: Computer jargon, a "tick box" culture and unimaginative advertising are discouraging internet users from learning how to protect themselves online. Click here for more.

Warning over net meds: Pharmacy academics have given warning about the dangers of buying imported prescription drugs on the internet following a study of some seized at the border. Click here for more.

Rude Twitter scam snares politicians: British politicians were among those caught up in the latest Twitter-based scam which hijacks users' accounts to send out sexually explicit messages to friends and followers. Click here for more.

Mainly Microsoft

Microsoft shuts down global spam network: Microsoft has won court approval to shut down a global network of computers which it says is responsible for more than 1.5bn spam messages every day. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Farmville addicts anonymous: Hello, my name is Luke and I'm a recovering Farmville addict. Click here for more.

Nickelback in a pickle on Facebook: Does a pickle or the Canadian band Nickelback have more fans? It may be a joke but the answer might not have the band laughing – a pickle. 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.

Underdog Firefox blazes a trail while Internet Explorer just browses: Although Firefox offers some features not found in IE... many users say they are switching because of IE's security holes and malicious software targeting such flaws. Click here for more.

Cheated wife on spyware wiretap rap: A Florida wife who installed spyware on her husband's PC in order to catch him in flagrante while he indulged in Yahoo! Dominoes with his online lover has been found guilty of violating state law. Click here for more.

New malware insults users with mp3 audio file: PandaLabs has detected the appearance of Cisum.A, a worm whose most distinguishing characteristic is that it insults the user by displaying "YOU ARE AN IDIOT" on screen, while playing an MP3 audio file that repeats the same phrase. Click here for more.

Perth couple selling naming rights for unborn daughter: In an advertisement on eBay Australia... the unnamed Perth couple invite individuals and companies to make bids on the right to name the baby girl... Click here for more.

 

Bringing it all back home

Thanks 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 March!

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

 

Copyright © 2010 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: editor@actrix.co.nz