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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 November Actrix Online Informer

What a month it's been! After 24 years the All Blacks finally won the Rugby World Cup and brought the William Webb Ellis Cup home. Well done boys!

 

YouTube feature

This month we feature two videos. The first is of a cephalopod that will blow your mind. Cephalopods are a group of sea creatures that include octopi, squid, and cuttlefish. These tentacled creatures are the underwater masters of camouflage and can change their colour, texture and pattern to match their surroundings. They are able to do this by sight alone, not touch, which scientists today still don't understand. And did I mention they're colour-blind?

There are no points for guessing our second video.

Enjoy!

Rob Zorn

 

Online product review sites

by Rob Zorn

How time flies! It seems as if 2011 has zipped past without stopping to say hello. As the year speedily draws to a close, our minds begin to shift into Christmas mode. We start planning our holidays, decorating the front lawn and planning the Christmas day menu. But perhaps the biggest thing on our minds is the prezzies.

The Christmas shopping is usually one of the biggest dramas of the season, so we're going to give you a leg-up. We've compiled a list of some of the best sites that review and compare products. These sites will help you make informed decisions on the best products and prices on the market so you don't get stuck with a lemon! And if you're not into gift giving, these sites are great for finding out about an item you might just be buying for yourself – you don't even have to purchase the product from the site.

There is a danger in relying on reviews on the internet. Product reviews are generally very subjective and it can be hard to gauge the authenticity of a review. A bad review could have been written by a competitor who is trying to make their own product look better, or a positive review could be from the company that makes the product, trying to increase sales. This is why product reviews are better when they are grouped together, as this gives you the big picture and a better indication of a product's value.

So here are our top review sites for your perusal:

Epinions.com

This site not only offers reviews but lists all the online retailers that stock the searched item and does an automatic price comparison for you. A search for an iPad and was initially off-putting when it came up with over 15,000 different products, all somehow related to the iPad. But the search bar on the left lets you narrow down your search, allowing you to target your search by price, size, operating system, and model. It also has an impressive range of products, from electronics to travel and food. Not every product has its own review, but the online price comparison is reason enough to use this site.

Amazon.com

Not only is Amazon the world's largest online retailer, it is also a useful source of information on all sorts of products. It was started as an online book store but quickly branched out to music, DVDs, electronics and toys. Under each searched item is a detailed list of product specifications and then reviews. It's hard to find a product on Amazon that hasn't been reviewed, and the site also lets users rate other people's reviews, so you can quickly see whether a review is genuine or not. For example, a search of the recently released Kindle showed a lengthy review that a customer had written, and 2,564 people out of 2,602 found the review helpful. There are generally no price comparisons as Amazon won't want you to know if another retailer stocks the same item for cheaper, but the reviews give you a generous grasp of any product's worth.

Reviews.CNet.com

This site not only offers professional reviews and product comparisons on all things technology, it also has a nifty search feature that lets you find the product you want. Say you wanted a smart-phone within a certain price range that has certain functions and is made by a particular brand. Enter these criteria and you'll be given a list of available products with a nifty price comparison and reviews. It also boasts a "best buy" feature which immediately tells you where to go for the cheapest option.

Omgili.com

This site is a little different… Rather than hosting reviews or product information, Omgili is more of a search engine that links the user to social networking discussions on any topic or product. For example, if you were to type iPad 2 into the Omgili search bar, you would be given a list of links to all the social networking sites that have discussed the iPad 2. One negative is that you still have to search through the results to find something that's useful, but that's also the beauty of Omgilio. It's a great way of getting a big picture of a product's worth without having to worry about planted or non-genuine reviews.

Google Product Search

In true Google fashion, this is perhaps the simplest, most stripped down product review site. Like Omgili it's basically a search engine that lists products, prices and reviews. It also has a useful toolbox on the left to help you narrow down your search and specify specific criteria.

Especially cool about this product search is that it gives a list of reviews from numerous different sites and collates them for you. A search for an iPad 2 gave hundreds of options, so I clicked into the first option to see what it would do. It gave a detailed list of all the online retailers that stocked that product, and also gave me a summary of the reviews for each site. It told me how many reviews for that product had been posted on each site, and also gave me the overall gist of the reviews. A handy 5-star rating system also gives you the big picture and lets you know what other customers thought of the product.

So there you go… a list of product review sites to help you make informed decisions for those all-important Christmas purchases. This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are hundreds of sites out there that will share other people's opinions on any given products.

Finally, remember to take care while shopping online. Online scammers are getting smarter and many retailers are getting better at making you part with your hard-earned cash. Check out www.nzs.com/new-zealand-articles/business/safe-shopping-online for more information on safely shopping online.

View this article on its own...

Broadband, phone and tolls services

We've recently updated our My Services Control Panel making it easier than ever to change your broadband, phone and tolls services.

Just log in to My Actrix, select My Services from the top menu, and click on the 'Broadband and Calling' option. From there you can:

  • change your broadband plan
  • switch between rate limiting or excess usage
  • add Actrix Tolls
  • add 1000 National Calling Minutes
  • bundle your home line
  • add and remove SmartPhone services

The form checks your current services then displays your current price, the expected new price, and the monthly change in cost so it's clear what the difference will be.

All changes receive a confirmation e-mail and we'll send another message update once your request has been processed to confirm when the change will take place.

If you want to see what's on offer or make a change now just click here.

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

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!

Noooooooooooooo!
www.nooooooooooooooo.com/ – "Press in dire situations!" Upon learning that Padme is dead, Darth Vader ended the Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith with a heartbreaking "Nooooooooo!" With this site you can call on Darth Vader to sum it all up for you when you're in your own dire situation.
Is it Tuesday?
www.studentology.net/tuesday/ –It may not be a particularly hard question to answer, but if you ever feel yourself wondering if it might be Tuesday, this site will let you know. Please don't email me asking why there aren't similar sites for the other days of the week.
Internet Explorer 6 funeral
http://ie6funeral.com/ – Internet Explorer Six, resident of the interwebs for over 8 years, died the morning of March 1, 2010 in Mountain View, California. Internet Explorer Six, known to friends and family as "IE6", is survived by son Internet Explorer Seven, and grand-daughter Internet Explorer Eight. Microsoft sent flowers...
Virtual Keyboard
www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/ks2/music/piano/ – Enjoy playing the piano but can't afford one of your own? With Virtual Keyboard all you need is a computer and an internet connection. There are options to change sound and even some sweet drum beats to accompany that symphony.
Cleverbot
http://cleverbot.com/ – Ever feel the like no one wants to talk to you? Well now those days are over! Cleverbot will answer your questions and even ask some of his/her/its own. Just type in a question or statement and get the conversation started.
Obsolete Computer Museum
www.obsoletecomputermuseum.org/ – Anyone who likes telling friends how their first computer only had 1K of RAM will love this archive of old computer memorabilia.
Listverse
listverse.com/ – This site presents a new and unique Top–10 list every day that covers topics from crime and mystery to the bizarre and history. With a number of different categories, there's bound to be lots of interesting things to read!
Which is worse?
www.whichisworse.com/– This site gives you two related (though very different) scenarios and you vote as to which is the worse option. Which is worse, dropping your cellphone or your ipod in the toilet?
SongTapper
www.bored.com/songtapper/ – Have a song in your head but can't remember what it's called or who it's by? SongTapper lets you use your keyboard to tap out the beat of the song and will do its best to help you out. A quick test with the theme tune from The Simpsons worked!

SoYouWanna
www.soyouwanna.com/ – SoYouWanna teaches you how to do all the things nobody taught you in school. This site will teach you how to deal with your husbands hair loss and correct a baritone sax in just a few clicks.

 

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Slow internet explained?: Victoria University hopes it will be able to give internet users a better insight into why websites might be taking an age to load after getting three computer servers from Google-backed non-profit organisation Measurement Lab that will run a series of tests. Click here for more.

Minority Report technology getting real: Tom Cruise famously showcased motion-capture technology on the silver screen in the blockbuster film Minority Report, but Wellington firm Lumen Digital wants to bring it into the real world. Click here for more.

Social workers to trial tablets out in the field: Social workers in Christchurch will be test driving tablet computers, using them to record client information while out in the field. If the trial is a success the tablets could be used by the Social Development Ministry's more than 1300 social workers around the country. Click here for more.

Thousands of NZ computers infected by malware: Statistics New Zealand's recent survey of internet service providers (ISPs) found 55,000 computers had been compromised by malicious software - as many infected computers as there are households in Hamilton. Click here for more.

Kiwi music helps hook US clients: There is no doubting the excellence of New Zealand popular music. But even the most ardent fans acknowledge that the industry has failed to make much impact on that vital corporate measure: the bottom line. How pleasing, then, to report that the music industry can take a small but important credit for the success of a Wellington-based, award-winning international company called Resn. Click here for more.

Māori Party launches ICT policy: The Maori Party has released its policy on digital technology, which includes digital hubs in rural marae and Maori cadetships in the digital creative sector. Click here for more.

Sparks fly at InternetNZ election debate: Opposition MPs attempted with partial success last night to divert ICT Minister Steven Joyce from his focus on fibre deployment and get him to acknowledge the need to talk about what practical benefits will accrue for the population as a result of the UFB and RBI fibre development. Click here for more.

Police neither confirm nor deny using electronic hacking methods: Remote gathering of evidence by covert access to a suspect's computer is not in the same legally ambiguous territory as currently controversial covert video surveillance, say police — it is currently illegal; but nonetheless they decline to confirm or deny that they are doing it. Click here for more.

Conman duped women looking for love: A conman dubbed the "modern Artful Dodger" has been duping New Zealand women looking for love online. Click here for more.

General

Advice to keep older people safe on line: The Privacy Commissioner has launched a new resource to help older people stay safe online. Grandmother Pat Reesby, who was recently caught out by a scammer on TradeMe, said the resource would help others avoid the situation she found herself in. Click here for more.

The perils of online shopping: Just as you shouldn't do the supermarket shopping when you're hungry, you shouldn't shop online when you're tired. You need your wits about you to make sure you understand exactly what you're buying and how much you're paying - and how to get out of trouble if you need to. Click here for more.

The brewing browser brouhaha: The browser wars are heating up again, with Microsoft's Internet Explorer fighting challengers such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera to be your window to the web. The world's two most popular web browsers, Internet Explorer and Firefox, were revamped significantly earlier this year to keep up with the times - each borrowing ideas from the other, as well as their competitors. Click here for more.

Tougher rules for UK broadband advertising: From April next year, internet providers in the UK will no longer be able to advertise maximum speeds for net packages unless 10 percent of customers can actually get them. The new rules come from the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), the body responsible for writing advertising codes. Click here for more.

Super Mario jumps on domain squatter: Nintendo has take control of the domain name SuperMario.com – fifteen years after it was first registered by a third party. The games company recently filed a cybersquatting complaint with the US National Arbitration Forum over the address, but the case was resolved before a formal hearing could be held as the previous owner agreed to transfer the domain to Nintendo. Click here for more.

Hotmail wants to be hip again: Dick Craddock, who manages the group responsible for Microsoft's Web-based e-mail service, can still recall the day of celebration in 2004 when the Hotmail division had just posted a stunning financial quarter. Click here for more.

Texting just got cheaper via message apps: Text messaging is a cheap and convenient way to quickly share information – and teenagers appear unable to live without it. But now the rise of free internet messaging applications offers an even cheaper alternative. These applications are basically instant messaging services for your phone that let you message people over an internet connection. Click here for more.

Social Media

Twitter tells scientists how the world feels: Twitter shows people are more cheerful in the morning, get gloomier as the day wears on and rebound in the evening, with a peak right before bedtime. They're also happier from December to late June, when days gradually lengthen in the Northern Hemisphere. Click here for more.

Enrique Iglesias spices up CityVille: Pop stars are lining up to make their debut in Facebook games from online game maker Zynga. First came Dr Dre and Lady Gaga. Now, an avatar of singer Enrique Iglesias has joined CityVille, Zynga's most popular title. Click here for more.

Click, and Facebook revises privacy: The world's dominant social network has prompted privacy worries ever since its inception in 2004, but has recently deepened them. It is now much easier for people to tell others what they are doing online - and more difficult for them not to. Click here for more.

Facebook 'helps mental health': Interaction on social networking sites can improve the mental health of those suffering anxiety, depression and other illnesses, a conference was told recently. Although social networking could be anonymous or faceless, users benefited from interacting. Click here for more.

Facebook works with Websense to add phishing safety net: Facebook have stepped up their battle against phishing and malware scammers by partnering with security firm Websense. Now users will be warned if they are about to be taken to a malicious website. Click here for more.

Social Media News Site Gains Clout: Only a few years ago Pete Cashmore was living with his parents in a small town in northeast Scotland, trying to start a technology blog. Now, at 26, he was about to interview Elie Wiesel, the 82-year-old Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, about the future of ethics in a digitally connected world Click here for more.

Kids sidestep Facebook bans: Whatever the situation, social networking sites such as Facebook are a source of anxiety for parents, and a new study will only add to their alarm. Children are staying way ahead of attempts by parents and schools to police their online activity, the study suggests. And the latest ruse is a secret, fake-name Facebook account. Click here for more.

Teenager's Facebook site abuse leads to 'assault': A teen is recovering from facial injuiries after an alleged Facebook-fuelled beating. Jamie Allum, 15, was left with a black eye and grazes after the alleged attack in Masterton by a 40-year-old man, who accused the boy of bullying his daughter on Facebook. Click here for more.

Facebook games teach teens bad habits: A Welsh online safety campaigner is warning that popular Facebook social games encourage bad habits among young users, claiming games designed for the younger Facebook users which base rewards on "visits" to strangers is a recipe for online "grooming" by strangers. Click here for more.

Anonymous Twitter alternative developed for rioters: After discovering that BBM and their Twittery playthings fed straight into the hands of the cops, smartphone-toting revolutionaries have taken up a new type of instant messaging – Vibe. Like Twitter in that it is open and lets you mass-message, Vibe is unlike Twitter in that all messages or "vibes" are anonymous. You can set how far you want them to be available too – from 15 metres to global. Click here for more.

Protecting your digital legacy: Many people have pondered their mortality this year. All things morose aside, such thoughts lead us to wonder, "When I die, who takes care of everything?". In the 21st century, it's also necessary to think about what happens to your digital life when you pass. Who gains access to your Facebook page, your email address, and your online banking? Click here for more.

Facebook to help unemployed: The Department of Labour in the United States has teamed up with Facebook to give the unemployed greater opportunity to get "face-time" with potential employers. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Cyber crime hits 431 million adults in 24 countries: According to a recent Norton cybercrime report, 431 million adults in 24 countries experienced some type of cybercrime over the past year, which is up 3 percent from the 2010 study. (The top three cybercrimes, according to the study, are viruses or malware, online credit card fraud and phishing - or email scams.) Click here for more.

Websites 'should carry libel risk for anonymous posts': A joint parliamentary committee says it wants a "cultural shift" so that posts under pseudonyms are not considered "true, reliable or trustworthy". It says websites which identify authors and publish complaints alongside comments should get legal protection. Click here for more.

Student takes on Facebook over privacy: Max Schrems wasn't sure what he would get when he asked Facebook to send him a record of his personal data from three years of using the site. What the 24-year-old Austrian law student didn't expect, though, was 1222 pages of data on a CD. Click here for more.

Cybersecurity mainly male domain: There were no lines for the ladies room. That was unusual for an event attended by thousands but typical in the cybersecurity field where a futuristic image clashes with an old-fashioned gender gap. Click here for more.

Mainly Microsoft

Microsoft Mango smartphones soon: Microsoft Corp, which has been trailing Apple Inc and Google Inc in the fast-growing smartphone market, said it will launch Mango-powered handsets from top makers including Nokia Oyj, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and HTC Corp in coming weeks. Click here for more.

Microsoft tees up multi-billion Yahoo offer: US software giant Microsoft and private investors are assembling a multi-billion-dollar offer to purchase Yahoo, the Wall Street Journal reports. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

MC Hammer unveils Google search rival: MC Hammer has announced WireDoo, a new search engine focused on "deep search" and relational topics. Most search engines are built on links and keywords, explained Hammer at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. Google and other search engines aren't as strong at connecting keywords to related topics - something he called relationship search. 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.

Schools may end up being cyber: Classrooms of the future will have computers in place of books and children logging on from home PCs for interactive lessons with overseas pupils. Click here for more.

Online newspaper readership grows: The average number of monthly visitors to US newspaper websites rose by nearly a third in the first half of 2006, a recently released study said, though print readership at some larger US newspapers fell. Click here for more.

Rise of the web's social network: Since its beginning, the web has often been used as a tool to meet new people, but in recent years the interaction between web-users has grown dramatically, spawning a new generation of networking sites. Click here for more.

US politicians caught on internet candid cameras: Want to catch a senator napping during a congressional hearing? Or letting a possible racial slur slip out at a campaign rally? Click here for more.

Germany menaced by 50m insect: Mutant earwig rampages across Google Earth. 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. The best place to send requests for support is the Actrix Help Desk (support@actrix.co.nz) or to the Accounts Department (accounts@actrix.co.nz).

Take care through November!

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

 

Copyright © 2011 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: editor@actrix.co.nz