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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 2010 Actrix Online Informer.

It's interesting that this year, the Internet has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for helping advance "dialogue, debate and consensus" – and it doesn't appear to be an April Fool's Day hoax. Normally these prizes go to human beings rather than objects, but it could hardly be said the Internet is not a living thing. According to a BBC web page, which we feature in Interesting sites this month, there are more then 1.7 billion Internet users worldwide. 150 billion emails are sent each day (I'm sure I get about half of these) and six new connections are made to the Internet every second. Whether or not the Internet deserves a Nobel prize or not is up for discussion, but at least it's good to see acknowledgement that all this communication and activity isn't just about porn and pictures of cute kittens.

Rob Zorn

 

April Fool's Day on the web

by Rob Zorn

The web is a wonderful place to fool and be fooled on April Fool's Day.

Google

And nobody does it better than Google. Google's massive audience and budget have meant it could produce some pretty elaborate and clever hoaxes on its millions of followers, including web pages for bizarre new fictitious products or technology.

In 2000, for example, they announced a new "MentalPlex" search technology that reads your mind to determine what you want to search for, so you don't have to type anything into the search field box. Instead, you remove your hat and glasses, peer into MentalPlex circle and project a mental image of what you want to find. Click (or visualise clicking) within the MentalPlex circle and guess where you were taken – to a page of April Fool's Day search links. MentalPlex came with a page of usage instructions and a very amusing Frequently Asked Questions page.

In 2002 Google explained the benefits of its pigeon technology – a cost-effective and efficient means of ranking pages. It reassured readers that there is no animal cruelty involved in the process.

2004 saw situations vacant announcements for jobs at a Google research centre on the moon, and in 2005 it announced the launch of Google Gulp, a drink that optimises one's use of the Google search engine by increasing the drinker's intelligence. In 2006 we had Google Romance, and in 2007 the Gmail Paper service which would print your emails on "96% post-consumer organic soybean sputum" and mail them via traditional post.

A personal favourite on mine was 2007's Google TiSP (short for Toilet Internet Service Provider) even though it was pushing the boundaries of taste and believability just  a tad. TiSP was a fictitious free broadband service that used a standard toilet and sewage lines to provide free Internet. To make it work you had to flush a weighted end of fibre-optic cable down the toilet. An hour later the end would be connected to the Internet by a "Plumbing Hardware Dispatcher (PHD)". The free service was to be supported by "discreet DNA sequencing" of "personal bodily output" to display online ads that relate to culinary preferences and personal health.

In 2008 Google released a flurry of gags including Scratch and sniff (Google Book Search now smells better!); Gday - a new beta search technology that would search web pages 24 hours before they are created; and a Wake-up kit that included annoying SMS messages, a bucket connected to your water supply and new bed-flipping technology. 

In 2008 Google also announced Project Virgle a joint endeavour with Virgin to start a human colony on Mars. The announcement included videos of Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Group) as well as Larry Page and Sergey Brin (founders of Google) on YouTube talking about Virgle. An application form to join the settlement includes questions such as:

I am a world-class expert in:

  1. Physics
  2. First Aid
  3. Engineering
  4. Guitar Hero II

In 2009 there was a similar array of April Fool's Day hoaxes including "Gmail Autopilot" which can analyse an email you're writing and adjust its tone, typo propensity, and preferred punctuation from the Autopilot tab under Settings. It was also able to respond to relationship related messages with a special "terminate relationship" function.

Google Mobile also launched Brain Search in 2009. The instructions: "Put phone to forehead for brain indexing" and "think your query". When you click "Try Now", a page loads with fake search results for the query you were thinking including:

  • What's the name of that woman by the window? She's my boss's boss, but, oh man, is it Suzanne? Susan? Blanche?
  • Should I order the pizza? I don't remember if it makes me gassy.
  • Why is everyone looking at me so strangely?

YouTube

YouTube has also played jokes on its users on April Fool's Day. In 2008 it "rickrolled" everybody visiting its site. RickRolling is when someone puts a link on website that appears to be to something, but it actually takes you to a music video of Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up. On that day every video link in the user's featured or suggested videos section were rickrolls. I wonder how Astley feels about rickrolling.

2008 was the first time YouTube played an April Fool's Day prank, but it did it again in 2009 by promising a new "viewing experience" when users selected a video within certain areas such as the "Recommended for you" section. The new interface caused the whole layout, including the selected video to display upside down.  A page on "tips for viewing the new layout" suggested users hang their monitors upside down from the ceiling.

In 2008 the BBC released a very impressive documentary trailer on YouTube about a breed of flying penguins who migrate to the rain forests of South America in the winter to bask in the sun with toucans. Watch the video here.

Miscellaneous

There have been a fair few other good net-related April Fool's Day hoaxes. In 2009 The Guardian (UK) newspaper announced it was foregoing its print and online versions and, henceforward, would only be published on Twitter. After all, it quoted experts as saying, any story can be told in 140 characters. A massive project was also started "to rewrite the whole of the newspaper's archive, stretching back to 1821, in the form of tweets. Major stories already completed include "1832 Reform Act gives voting rights to one in five adult males yay!!!"; "OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see tinyurl.com/b5x6e for more"; and "JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll." Read the story.

Last year Sitepoint announced that the Internet would be rebooted and would be down for about one minute. They said a global consortium of ISPs and technology companies had called for the action following several periods of instability over the past few years. Internet users were advised to back up their data and shut all their programs down. One technician involved reportedly said, "Anyone surfing the net or sending a large email attachment at 11.59 could easily electrocute one of my team." Read the story.

Also in 2009 Yahoo Research announced the release of Ideological Search, which would let users control the ideology of their search results for the first time in search technology history. "Until now, many Web search users were offended by the facts, pages, articles, and blogs in their search results that contradicted their own personal beliefs and values," the announcement said. It also said that the new technology meant search engines could no longer be accused of being politically biased. Read the story.

In 2008, in what can only be described as a global corporate merger that made sickening sense, McDonalds and Microsoft announced they were to merge into a new company called McSoft Inc. The core values the companies said they had in common were:

  • having a massive legal department so nobody can argue with us
  • always being right so nobody can argue with us
  • making obscene amounts of money so even if people do argue we can just laugh at them. Read the story.

In 1994 an article by John Dvorak in PC Computing magazine described a bill going through Congress that would make it illegal to use the internet while drunk. The bill was supposedly numbered 040194 (i.e. 04/01/94), and the contact person was listed as Lirpa Sloof (April Fools backwards). The article said that the FBI was going to use the bill to tap the phone line of anyone who "uses or abuses alcohol" while accessing the internet. The article generated so many outraged phone calls to Congress that Senator Edward Kennedy's office had to release an official denial of the rumour that he was a sponsor of the bill.

In 1997 message spread across the internet announcing the web would be shut down for cleaning for 24 hours from 31 March until 2 April. This cleaning would clear out the "electronic flotsam and jetsam" that had accumulated in the network. Dead e-mail and inactive ftp, www, and gopher sites would be purged. The cleaning would be done by "five very powerful Japanese-built multi-lingual Internet-crawling robots (Toshiba ML-2274) situated around the world."

In this article I've concentrated on April Fools stories that were Internet related, but, of course, there are lots of other great pranks you can read about at sites dedicated to April Fool's Day. Try The Museum of Hoaxes' Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time, for example. Another good one is April Fool's Day on the Web which categorises pranks by year. Click the 2010 link if you want to submit something you see on April Fool's Day this year for inclusion.

View this article on its own... 

Actrix has turned 20 and look who got the presents!

As we announced in recent Actrix Online Informers, 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. It was part of our 10th birthday celebration.

Also, anyone who signed up for our broadband and phone products before 21 March also went into 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!

The draw was made on 22 March and all winners have now been notified. The10-day holiday for two at Aggie Grey's Lagoon, Beach Resort & Spa in Samoa was B Watson from Tauranga. Congratulations to you and to our three winners of free broadband for a year: C Crispe from Lower Hutt, J Little from Dunedin and Helen from Christchurch.

Now more broadband for your money!

We're pleased to announce that we've revamped our broadband plans so customers now get even better value for money. And remember, Actrix was voted New Zealand's best broadband provider by Consumer Magazine in 2009.

Full speed/128Kb plans now start from $29.95 per month and ADSL2+ Ready Full Speed plans are available from $39.95.

Click here to view our new CyberJet plans or here for our range of broadband and homeline bundles.

Existing customers' accounts have already been automatically adjusted to the new, increased speed or traffic limits and an e-mail sent advising about their improved plan.

If you'd like a little more information about moving broadband with Actrix so you can also benefit from these great plans, but you're not sure where to start see Broadband in questions and answers. Our friendly helpdesk folk will be happy to answer any questions you have and can help you choose the plan that best suits your needs and budget. Give them a call on 0800 228749.

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).

--

Dave writes: I know nothing about this message. Should I be concerned?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mail Delivery System" Mailer-Daemon@m1.dnsix.com
To:
Sent: Sunday, March 07, 2010 4:45 AM
Subject: Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender
> This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.
> A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its
> recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:

Hi Dave, No, you don't need to be especially concerned. Your email address is on a spam list (along with everybody else's) and spammers use other people's email addresses as the from address for their spam. This means they don't get all the bounces and it makes them harder to find. At the moment it's your turn, so you might get a few bounces for spam emails you haven't sent. This will come and go and happens to most email addresses at some stage.

--

Michael writes: We downloaded this message this odd message this morning – which appears to be addressed to Actrix – and came through without any "invoice" attachment.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Manager Thanh Lane"
To:
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 11:37 AM
Subject: UPS Delivery Problem NR.6195527

> Dear customer!
> Unfortunately we were not able to deliver your postal package you have
> sent on the 17th of December in time >/parcel@ups.com< ...

Hi Michael, Yes, it would have come to you because you're one of a group to which it was sent. It would appear to be addressed to someone else because your email address would have been in the BCC field with someone else's address is in the to field. It's probably just a phishing attempt designed to confuse you into thinking there's a problem you need to sort out, or to lure you with the possibility of getting this package that you didn't send.

They will tell you any old rubbish to get you to click the link they provide which might take you to a nasty site with viruses. This one often has an attachment for you to click that is also a virus. If there was no attachment it was probably removed by your anti-virus software.

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!

SuperPower: visualising the internet
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8562801.stm – This is an interesting set of pages from the BBC. The first is a "treemap" showing the top 100 websites in proportion to the number of unique visits they received in January 2010. The second is a list of the 100 richest people who made their money through Internet technology. The third shows how the world has come online. It starts at 1998, but you can move the slider to see how countries switched on over the years. The last one is a set of slides showing how the Internet actually works.
State of rugby
www.nzherald.co.nz/state-of-rugby/news/article.cfm?c_id=1502903&objectid=10629879New Zealand Herald video Producer Steven Orsbourn spent three months speaking to some of the biggest names in the game for this series of 12 State of Rugby videos. Topics are: 1. Criticising rugby, 2. Why we love rugby, 3. The Rugby World Cup, 4. The All Blacks, 5. Māori rugby, 6. Club and amateur rugby, 7. Sky and rugby, 8. All Blacks coaches, 9. Keeping boys playing rugby, 10. The Air NZ Cup, 11. Rucking, 12. Dreams for the future of rugby. Excellent preparation for the World Cup!
Five must-see Google Easter eggs
http://mashable.com/2010/03/13/google-easter-eggs/ – "There's no doubt Google has a sense of humor – its excellent April Fools jokes are a testament to that. But there's a wealth of funnies that can found any time of the year too. Here we pull together a handy list of Google “Easter eggs” that you can uncover right now."

Bad designs
www.baddesigns.com/examples.html – If you're one of those people frequently frustrated by stuff that doesn't work that you think you could have designed better then you'll find this chap a kindred spirit. He's created an online "scrapbook of illustrated examples of things that are hard to use because they do not follow human factors principles."
Atlas Obscura
http://atlasobscura.com/ – The Atlas Obscura is a collaborative project with the goal of cataloguing all of the singular, eccentric, bizarre, fantastical, and strange out-of-the-way places that get left out of traditional travel guidebooks and are ignored by the average tourist.
Pro con lists
www.proconlists.com/ – This website provides a great tool to help you make those hard decisions. You get two lists into which you can type the pros and the cons for any decision you're making. You can then assign each item with an emotional and a rational weight. Click Calculate to see whether the pros outweigh the cons. You will have to sign up for a free account to make it work, however.
Meet an inmate
www.meet-an-inmate.com – Here's something a little different. It's an online penpal/dating service for people wanting a friendship or relationship with an American prison inmate. A little bit if information is provided for each inmate via a searchable database organised by age/gender, but if you want to correspond with them you have to do it by postal mail, and you have to fill out an application form and pay a fee first.
Origins of 13 common superstitions
www.womansday.com/Articles/Family-Lifestyle/Origins-of-13-Common-Superstitions.html – The next Friday 13 isn't until August, but it's important to be prepared. Here's a brief description of the origin of 13 common superstitions. I agree with Groucho Marx. It's unlucky to have 13 people seated around your dinner table. Especially if you only have 12 chops.
20 Medical mysteries and miracles
http://living.health.com/2009/09/21/20-medical-mysteries-and-miracles/ – "The man who survived a 500-foot fall. The twin who lived inside his brother’s belly for three decades. The toddler who doesn’t age. Medical history, recent and otherwise, is filled with jaw-dropping oddities, miraculous recoveries, and unsolved mysteries. There is more to these cases than shock value, however. What headlines call “miracles” are a testament to human resilience, and so-called medical mysteries remind us just how much we have to learn about the body and mind."
Common misconceptions
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_misconceptions – Good old Wikipedia. Here's a long list of things most of us think we know, but we don't. Napoleon wasn't particularly short, you can't see the Great Wall of China from the moon, Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet and Benito Mussolini did not make the trains run on time. Most disappointing of all, a duck's quack does echo.

 

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

New Zealand's internet filter goes live: The Department of Internal Affairs' (DIA) internet filter is now operational and is being used by internet providers (ISPs) Maxnet and Watchdog. Thomas Beagle, spokesperson for online freedom lobby Tech Liberty says he's "very disappointed that the filter is now running, it's a sad day for the New Zealand internet". Click here for more.

Critics pick holes in child porn filter: A government filtering system, centrally operated, is not the answer. It risks leaving parents feeling that the Government is providing a safe environment, but it cannot deliver on that promise, says internetNZ Policy Director Jordan Carter. Click here for more.

Warning over bogus IRD emails: Inland Revenue is warning customers not to respond to a hoax email claiming to offer the recipient a tax refund. Click here for more.

How to talk to your computer helpdesk: Support is something that we all either want - or need - at some time or other. The mother in labour expects the support of her partner at the birth (or at least at conception) and the swimmer caught in a rip relies on the support of surf lifesavers. Click here for more.

$900m plan to open NZ internet tap: Lower internet prices and unlimited downloads for home connections are predicted to be the result of a new high-speed link planned between New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Click here for more.

Unlikely cyberspace sensation: A Kiwi mum has become an unlikely internet star, with more than 25,000 followers worldwide. Click here for more.

Finally, internet users are leaving dialup in the dust: Kiwis are ditching dial-up internet connections for broadband internet, according to a study. The World Internet Project survey also reveals Asian New Zealanders have the highest level of internet usage in New Zealand. Click here for more.

Net porn not for us, thanks: Kiwis almost never look for pornography on the web, a survey partly conducted by AUT University has found. Click here for more.

Tweet-ups big in Wellington: Wellington is a small town getting smaller through social media tools such as Twitter. Click here for more.

1000 sign up to carpool commuting website: More than 1000 Wellington region commuters have signed up to a carpooling website to save money and avoid rail delays. Click here for more.

General

Internet access is 'a fundamental right': Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests. Click here for more.

The internet is not a right: At the risk of sounding like some old-fashioned headmaster, I don't think access to the internet is a fundamental right, but a privilege. Click here for more.

Another chance for .xxx porn domain: A global internet oversight agency is reopening discussions about whether to create a ".xxx" domain name as an online red-light district where porn sites can set up shop away from the wandering eyes of children and teenagers. Click here for more.

Why all the fuss about Facebook?: Facebook, Windows Live, MySpace, LinkedIn. Whether it's for keeping in contact with friends, networking with associates or blatant voyeurism all users have their own reasons for social networking. Click here for more.

Archive of dead websites started by British Library: The British Library is creating an archive of the country's defunct websites to preserve snapshots of the ever-changing internet for posterity. Click here for more.

Tweeting 'fundamental' in life: Social networks will become a fundamental way we communicate with our governments, businesses and loved ones, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams has told the BBC. Click here for more.

China's stern warning to Google: China's top internet official warns that Google will "pay the consequences" if it does not comply with censorship laws. Click here for more.

Internet 'in running' for Nobel Peace Prize: The internet is among a record 237 individuals and organisations nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Click here for more.

ChatRoulette takes the world by storm: ChatRoulette, created by 17-year-old Russian programmer Andrey Ternovskiy, is similar to having a video chat on Skype except users are connected with random people. If you don't like who you're talking to, just hit next to move on to a new chat partner. Click here for more.

Web piracy may kill 1.2 million jobs: Plenty of people download music from the internet every day, but illegal downloading has a huge economic impact and could put more than one million people out of work by 2015, experts say. Click here for more.

Facebook linked to rise in syphilis: A British public health expert has blamed Facebook for a resurgence of the sexually-transmitted disease syphilis, but Australian researchers have called the claim "far fetched". Click here for more.

Change email font, save money: The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has switched the default font on its email system from Arial to Century Gothic. It says that while the change sounds minor, it will save money on ink when students print emails in the new font. Click here for more.

Aussie web filter sparks assassination threats: Members of the same community responsible for recent attacks on Australian government websites are now discussing a violent uprising, trading bomb recipes and calling for the assassination of Australia's Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. Click here for more.

Baiting celebrities on Twitter: I knew Twitter was a winner the day Lindsay Lohan told me she wanted me to die. Click here for more.

Schoolgirl fired on Facebook: A 16-year-old schoolgirl in England was shocked to discover she had been sacked from her part-time job in a cafe after her boss sent her a message on Facebook. Click here for more.

Web now an extension of ourselves, survey finds: For some of us, it has become easier to talk online than face-to-face. And for many New Zealanders, an international survey shows, the internet has changed from a source of information into an extension of ourselves. Click here for more.

Baiting the cyber-scammers: To Internet fraudsters promising vast riches in exchange for advance fees: meet the scambaiters. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Facebook pressured to add 'panic button': British officials say they're pressuring Facebook to make a "panic button" available on its web pages following the death of a teenager at the hands of a man she met on the popular social networking site. Click here for more.

Botnet slain, but crims reconnect: The sudden takedown of an internet provider thought to be helping spread one of the most promiscuous pieces of malicious software out there appeared to have cut off criminals from potentially millions of personal computers under their control. Click here for more.

Facebook stalking becomes even easier: Facebook users will from next month be able to track where their friends are at any given time, while a new Twitter feature will plot tweets on a Google Map, according to reports. Click here for more.

How dangerous is Facebook?: While websites such as Facebook usually play a passive, benign role in crimes that headlines might suggest are entirely attributable to them, this is one case where the death of a young woman was indeed caused by the ease of constructing a false Facebook identity, coupled with a tragic ignorance of the signs we should all look for, and the rules we should all follow. Click here for more.

Law enforcement push for stricter domain name rules: Law enforcement officials in the UK and US are pushing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to put in place measures that would help reduce abuse of the domain name system. Click here for more.

Mainly Microsoft

Opera downloads double after Microsoft deal: Norway's Opera said that downloads of its browser more than doubled after Microsoft was forced to give European users a choice of web software to settle European Union antitrust charges. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

William Shatner starts Facebook rival: William Shatner has started his own social media website, tinged with a healthy dose of science fiction. On Shatner's MyOuterSpace.com, new users register for the "planet" that best suits them. Click here for more.

Internet-addict couple starve baby to death: A South Korean couple who were addicted to the internet let their three-month-old baby starve to death while raising a virtual daughter online. Click here for more.

Down on the Farmville: A Bulgarian official has been sacked after being caught milking a virtual cow on the hugely popular online farming game, Farmville. So what is it about it that's made it so popular? 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.

Next big step for the Web--or a detour?: ...the Semantic Web [will] give birth to vastly more powerful ways of gleaning information from the world's computer network. Click here for more.

Virus writers wreak havoc by the hour: Kaspersky Labs recently found itself in a 12-hour battle against the creator of the Bagle worm, as virus writers up their game. Click here for more.

Mytob e-mail worm proliferating quickly: With eight new variants surfacing in the last week alone, and over a dozen reported since the beginning of March, the Mytob mass-mailing worm appears to be evolving rapidly. Click here for more.

Police monitor net for anti-royalty sites: Police officers are monitoring anti-monarchy websites as part of an unprecedented security operation to prevent the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles being disrupted by demonstrators. 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).

Have a great April (and your shoelaces are undone)!

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

 

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