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 October Actrix Online Informer
Welcome everyone to the October 2010 Actrix Online Informer. Welcome to tax cuts, 2.5 percent more GST, and perhaps a little more sunshine. I hope there's something of interest here for you this time around.
This month's featured YouTube video: a bunch of guys singing Lady Gaga's Bad Romance a capella. Good on ya boys. Bust them moves!
Online goods and services that are just a tad nutty
by Rob Zorn
There is no doubt that the internet has changed the way we live, and one of the biggest changes is how we spend our money. Trips to the mall have been replaced by visits to TradeMe, the music shop has been swapped for the iTunes store, and Amazon has rendered book stores obsolete. But while many of us choose to spend our hard-earned pay cheques at such sites, there exists a market that goes above and beyond what most would call normal. Here is a list of online places that offer consumers the weirdest, craziest, and often strangely useful products and services around. Enjoy.
Invisible Donkey Removal
Have you been hearing noises in the night? Are your phone and power bills unusually high? Chances are your house is infested by invisible donkeys. Fortunately, there is a solution. For the small price of $300, the IDRS (Invisible Donkey Removal Services) will come to your apartment and remove up to 15 invisible donkeys. Then, for a further $25, they’ll give you a certificate which verifies that your place is now invisible donkey free. But don’t worry, the invisible donkeys are tranquilized and relocated to an Invisible farm.
Ever wondered what you really look like? Meet Erial Ali, a man with a laptop and the latest version of Photoshop. Send Erial a photo of yourself (with $250), and he’ll meditate over your picture to “tune into you and get your unique essence” until he can see what you really look like. Then he’ll convert your picture into a celestial portrait that truly represents you. Check out the website for some amusing before and after shots.
Linestanding.com has come up with a way for you to get your hands on those elusive U2 tickets without having to spend the night curled up on the footpath in front of a ticket booth: they provide someone to stand in line for you. Linestanding.com allows you to pay someone an hourly rate to go to a location and stand in line for you until you show up to switch places. Interestingly, they claim to be the leaders in line-standing since 1985, which leads us to wonder who, precisely, is competing with them.
Aluminium Foil Deflector Beanies
Aluminium Foil Deflector Beanies, or AFDBs, are an effective, low-cost solution to combating mind control. Not only do these tin-foil hats reflect incoming signals that could control your brain, they block most forms of brain scanning and mind reading, and they look great. In short, the AFDB is a fantastic way to protect your inner-most thoughts without compromising on style.
We’ve all heard of origami, the Japanese art of folding paper, but chances are you’ve never heard of origami boulders before. Basically, an origami boulder is a piece of paper scrunched up into a ball, and that’s it. But in case you can’t be bothered doing it yourself, some kind soul is offering to do it for you. He’ll even send you a personal haiku with your origami boulder. And if you can’t afford to pay the shipping costs, he’ll turn your origami boulder into an artistic performance by throwing it in his rubbish bin. Such great lengths of service!
A Japanese company has put a price on world domination by developing a commercial battle-mech called the Land Walker, a 10-foot, 2-ton, $350,000 vehicle that’s sure to impress your friends. The Land Walker has two guns mounted on either side of the cockpit that shoot squishy pink balls, and there’s even a smaller model for the kids. Unfortunately, it can only move about a mile an hour, so don’t take the Land Walker if you need to get where you’re going in less than two weeks. Also, it can only operate on a completely flat surface, so try not to wage any battles unless they take place on an indoor basketball court.
The wing suit came about when a couple of Norwegians decided that jumping off cliffs with parachutes just wasn’t cool enough anymore. They developed a suit that allowed the user to glide at tremendous speed after jumping off a cliff, before deploying the parachute. There can only be two responses to the video of these guys showing off their wing suits. The first comes from their mothers, who cross themselves every time their sons jump. The second comes from everybody else, who all watch and think “I want one!”
Sick of not being the centre of attention at parties? The Millionaire’s Concierge (a big boys' club in the USA) can solve all your social problems by renting you a celebrity! That’s right, you can take Paris Hilton as your date to your cousin’s wedding, or Leonardo diCaprio to a bachelor party. And for $300,000 an hour (plus air-fares), Donald Trump will even pretend to be your friend.
This is an unusual site that sells glass bottles and jars with things inside that seem too big to fit. These include a wine bottle with a pack of cards, and a crystal decanter with a bar of soap. You can even make special requests about what impossible things you'd like to buy in a bottle. They may not be all that practical or affordable, but they will make a great addition next time you play the “How did that get in there?” game.
This is a rather clever online service that offers you the opportunity to escape from any date or function. If you’re meeting someone for the first time and they tell you something like their nose starts bleeding from excitement whenever they think about Justin Bieber, you simply send a text to this website. The site then contacts designated friends and lets them know where you are and that you need rescuing. If none of your friends reply within five minutes, the site will call you itself so you can fake a drastic emergency and flee the scene.
Checking your usage
You are able to check various usage information and statistics for most of the services Actrix provides, such as CyberJet Broadband, Dial-up, Mailbox, or Tolls. These can all be checked through My Actrix on our home page.
CyberJet Broadband Usage
The CyberJet Usage page shows what your traffic allowance is, how much you have currently used, and when your allowance next resets. It also has graphs showing your average speed over the past 24 hours and seven days. The 'Last 30 Days', graph displays your total traffic (both upload & download) used for each of the past 30 days along with the total and daily average.
This page allows you to see your Dial-up usage for your current billing period. It includes a summary for each day and of total usage. Each date also has a 'View' button which allows you to see the details of every call made that day or you can select 'View Previous Usage' to view your usage from any of the past three months.
This page displays the current space usage and totals allowed for each mailboxes on your account. If a mailbox is full it won't accept new messages (they'll be returned to the sender) so if you're frequently running out of space it would be a good idea to log in via web mail and delete some stuff. Or you could consider a mailbox upgrade. For upgrade info click here. Have a look here for more information on your mailbox allowance.
This page shows a list of all the calls you have made using Actrix Tolls since your last invoice. We aim to keep this information as up to date as possible and at the moment the page is updated daily with call information available within 48 hours.
Checking your usage
To check your usage for any of these services just log in to My Actrix on our home page. You will need your user name and password. Select the appropriate option from the My Actrix menu on the left (or My Info menu at the top).
If you have any questions or suggestions about these usage pages please feel free to get in touch via email@example.com or give us a call on 0800 ACTRIX (228-749).
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, feel free to contribute. Please also note that questions and answers may turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz).
Malcolm writes: Rob, I am not sure if I signed up for this [emailed newsletter from a company called Reimage] but it appeared recently and looks on the surface to be quite authoritative. What is your opinion of this outfit?
Hi Malcolm, If you don’t remember signing up to hear from Reimage, then you probably didn’t. That it sends you unsolicited email as if you had signed up is a worrying sign. The product Reimage does not seem to be malicious software. I couldn’t finds anything to indicate it was dangerous, but I’m not impressed by a few things.
A little Googling and I was able to find various reviews of the software, which apparently fixes problems with Windows by “using spare parts to replace corrupted files”, but most of them were pretty obvious set-ups by the company providing reviews of its own product. However, one independent review was found in PC Mag magazine, and it did not recommend the product as working very well.
Bottom line, they appear to have spammed you and their marketing approach is dodgy. Even if they are squeaky clean in every other way, the Internet needs less of this sort of thing and I’d unsubscribe or ignore them, until they prove themselves a little better.
Joanne writes, we are presently in Britain and can not send emails from our email program, only from web mail. Our SMTP is set at mail.actrix.co.nz. What do we need to do?
Hi Elizabeth, What you need to do is configure your email program to use secure SMTP. That way your user name and password are involved, so our sending server knows you're not a spammer and will send your emails for you. It's very easy to change your settings but it will be different depending on what email program you are using. Instructions on how to do this for various programs are available here: http://actrix.co.nz/page.php?id=128.
Kirsten writes: If the Actrix invoice spans both September and October months, does this in effect mean that the September portion of the invoice will be billed out at 15% because the invoice is dated after 1 October?
Hi Kirsten, The two important points to note here are that Actrix bills in advance, so we are unlikely to be billing you in October for services you used in September. The second is that the GST rise to 15% applies from the date of the invoice, not from the date the service was used. So, if we billed you on 15 September, 12.5% GST would apply for an entire month and you would not start paying 15% until 15 October when we issued the next invoice. I hope that clears things up a little. Find out more about GST at Actrix here.
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?
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Cyberspace news snippets
What's been happening in the online world?
Online, or over the line: For a banking advert, it reads like a Tui billboard. "1969: We're the first bank to introduce real-time online banking," an ASB Bank campaign claims. Yeah, right, some say. Click here for more.
70pc of NZ adults hit by online crime: Seventy per cent of New Zealand adults have been the victim of online crimes ranging from identity theft to having their computer infected with a virus, a survey has revealed. Click here for more.
Christchurch earthquake: Warning over dodgy 'charity' spam: As Christchurch readies itself for what will be a lengthy clean up after Saturday morning's earthquake, Kiwis are being warned that cyber criminals are readying for a spam assault cashing in on the disaster. Click here for more.
Couple loses $15,000 in car scam: A Greymouth couple is $15,000 poorer after falling victim to an internet scam involving Trade Me. Click here for more.
Suicide study to examine online community: A study aiming to learn whether suicidal and self-harming young people can find support and a sense of community on the internet is being launched by a New Zealand researcher. Click here for more.
New website slow starter: Almost half the candidates for the new Auckland Council have listed their top five issues for the election on a new website aiming to become a one-stop shop for confused voters. Click here for more.
What's the point of faster broadband? Here's what: Will ultra-fast broadband be a game-changer or a costly toy? Anthony Doesburg found five companies already showing what better internet connections can mean. Click here for more.
Voters to be able to correct enrolment details online: Voters will be able to correct their enrolment details online before next year's general election. Justice Minister Simon Power says that if the service proves a success, the Government would introduce legislation after the election that would also enable new voters to enrol over the internet. Click here for more.
Regulator warning to online sellers: Price fixing on TradeMe by two tyre sellers has been stopped by the Commerce Commission. Click here for more.
Koran-burning pastor's websites shut down: The obscure Christian pastor who planned to mark the ninth anniversary of September 11 attacks by burning copies of the Koran has had his website pulled from the internet, the hosting company said. Click here for more.
More hours clocked up on Facebook than Google: US web surfers are spending more time socialising on Facebook than searching with Google, according to new data from researchers at comScore Inc. Click here for more.
Man tricked captors into using Twitter: A Japanese journalist held hostage in Afghanistan for five months managed to send out a message via Twitter that he was alive when his captors asked him how to use a cell phone. Click here for more.
Tweeting comedians - being funny in 140 characters or less: Comics have a different relationship to the social networking website. It is, after all, their job to make brief, pithy observations and craft precisely worded one-liners. Like news outlets, comedians have to question how much "content" they want to tweet away. Click here for more.
One in four gives fake net names: A survey shows a majority of web users have suffered cybercrime, but many respondents were themselves less than honest. Click here for more.
Google Instant search feeds our real-time addiction: Google has released its Instant Search feature, which displays live search results as soon as you begin typing. By providing results before a query is complete and removing the need to hit the "enter" key, Google claims users will save two to five seconds per search. Click here for more.
Social media secrets for winning new business: Ditching the sales pitch doesn't sound like the smartest way to win new customers and boost the bottom line. But in 2011 more small businesses will focus on this counter-intuitive strategy to drive a welcome upturn in profits. Click here for more.
eBay reunites man and guitar: The owner of a vintage Gibson Les Paul Special stolen eight years ago has found the guitar after it finally resurfaced on eBay. Click here for more.
How to cope with email overload: Imagine if hundreds of people were talking to you simultaneously about dozens of different topics and each was expecting an immediate response. You'd go crazy, or at least turn up the volume on your iPod. Click here for more.
See the Northern Lights – from the comfort of NZ: Skywatchers can turn their gaze to a computer for a glimpse of the northern lights: the Canadian Space Agency has launched an online observatory streaming the aurora borealis live over the internet. Click here for more.
The future of the internet – clouds, mobiles and socialising: The internet is the fastest growing communications medium in history. It took radio 37 years to reach the milestone of 50 million users; TV took less than half that, at 15 years. And the web? It took only three years to reach 50 million regular users. Click here for more.
Moral search engines squeeze out sin on Internet: A number of new Internet search engines created by Christian, Jewish or Muslim entities aim to filter out queries from Web users in a way that is more relevant to those users and keeps them from temptation, alcohol and pornography. Click here for more.
The rise and rise of the 'mummy bloggers': They come in their thousands, and command dedicated followings who trust in their every word. They are the so-called mummy bloggers. Click here for more.
Website ranks most influential tweeters: Actor Ashton Kutcher has more than 5 million devotees but having a huge following on Twitter is no guarantee of being influential. Click here for more.
Bigamist caught out on Facebook: She had been married for less than a month when a shock discovery – that her husband already had a wife – brought their honeymoon phase to an abrupt end. Click here for more.
Teen triggers global Twitter scare: An Australian teen has caused havoc on Twitter by discovering an "exploit" that hit thousands of users, including Barack Obama's press secretary, and linked the tweets of a former British PM's wife to hardcore porn. Click here for more.
Porn titans join forces to expose Torrent pirates: The porn industry is using embarrassment as a tool to discourage file-sharing of its adults-only content Click here for more.
Buy yourself celebrity Twitter friends: If you've ever wished celebrities like actress Demi Moore or skateboarder Tony Hawk would follow you on short-messaging site Twitter, now's your chance - but you'll have to cough up some cash for the privilege. Click here for more.
Attacks target recording industry: Piracy activists carry out coordinated attacks on websites owned by the music and film industry in protest against anti-piracy efforts Click here for more.
Security and Safety
57,000 booby-trapped sites go live every week, says Panda: About 57,000 seemingly legitimate websites booby-trapped by hackers spring up on the internet each week, computer security researchers at PandaLabs said. Click here for more.
Nasty virus disables security software, sends itself to your contacts: Computer security firms have issued warnings over a computer virus that arrives by email offering downloads of "free sex movies" or documents. Click here for more.
Twitter exploit causes havoc: Twitter has fixed a security flaw on its popular social media website after a cyber attack earlier on Tuesday sent some users to Japanese porn websites. Click here for more.
Billions lost as online criminals target young: Online scams targeting young people are proliferating faster than you can say, "free trial offer, send money today". Industry research out of Australia says about 10 per cent of all internet users lost a combined A$1.2 billion ($1.55 billion) to various scams last year Click here for more.
Tax refund scam: The Inland Revenue Department is warning taxpayers not to respond to persistent hoax emails claiming to offer a tax refund. Click here for more.
Fake website 'takes seconds' to set up: Setting up a copycat website to sell fake goods only takes a few seconds, according to a computer expert. Click here for more.
Nothing said online is really private: Online tools and services such as Twitter and Facebook create a social space that encourages informality, rapid responses and the sort of conversation that typically takes place between friends in contexts that are either private or public-private, like the street, pub or cafe. Click here for more.
Stuxnet: Malware more complex, targeted and dangerous than ever: Stuxnet is viewed as potentially the most dangerous piece of computer malware discovered. It's been developed on an unprecedented scale and has the ability to target and control specified industrial machinery. Click here for more.
Kids won't cash in: Gates to give money away : He is one of the world's wealthiest men with an estimated fortune of more than US$44 billion ($60 billion). But the children of Bill Gates should not expect a lifetime of luxury, with the Microsoft founder planning to give most of his money away. Click here for more.
Microsoft's new IE9 promises zippier performance : Microsoft unveiled the "beta" test version of Internet Explorer 9 on Wednesday, the first of a new generation of Web browser programs that tap into the powerful processors on board newer computers to make websites load and run faster. Click here for more.
Clicking the blue 'e': Bill Thompson remembers the launch of Microsoft's web browser but struggles to forgive some of its faults. Click here for more.
The Weird, Wide Web
Google milks mystery logo: For a dozen years, Google has been occasionally swapping its everyday logo for a "doodle," a sketch celebrating holidays, inventions, artists and sporting events, and showcasing designs from contest-winning students. But Google has so far left Tuesday's doodle a mystery... Click here for more.
Teen Invites 15 Friends to Birthday Party, Ends up With 21K Facebook RSVPs: Rebecca Javeleau's 15th birthday party was supposed to be a relatively intimate affair with just 15 friends on the guest list. As it turns out, though, a full 21,000 people ended up adding their names to the list, all because of a casual Facebook faux pas. 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.
Maturing net growing more slowly: After years of huge increases, the rate at which net traffic is growing is slowing down, say analysts. Click here for more.
Web inventor: Online life will produce more creative children: Since he invented it more than 15 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee has watched the Web change the way the world communicates, works and learns. Click here for more.
New Trojan swaps porn for Koran: A new Trojan horse program circulating around the internet this week appears to be on a moral mission to stamp out adult websites, according to security research firm Sophos. Click here for more.
Whining American eBays 'devil doll': Yup, you've guessed it: devil doll appears from nowhere, resists all attempts at disposal and gradually subjects target family to a spine-tingling litany of terror. Click here for more.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to the Accounts Department (email@example.com).
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