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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 December Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for December 2012.

Actrix enjoys the festive season as much as anyone else, so this month we feature an article on how to make this Christmas one to truly remember by doing something a little different. We also discuss our move to a new premises and a new network.

Feedback

Last month we talked about passwords, what makes a good one, and how to choose one you'll remember. One reader told us about their solution... changing their password to "incorrect". That way, if they ever can't remember their password, they type some random gobbledeegook and are told "Your password is incorrect", reminding them what their real password is!

While a clever idea, we certainly don't encourage taking this approach!

YouTube feature

"Extremely cute, droolingly adorable, amazingly talented, slightly intimidating..." These are all ways this month's YouTube feature has been described. This poor baby is minding his own business when an evil dragon storms onto the scene and creates some playground mayhem. But when baby fights back, it appears the dragon has bitten off more than he can chew.

Enjoy!

Rob Zorn

Have yourself a very different Christmas

Every year, without fail, we seem to go bonkers for Christmas. By mid-October your favourite TV shows are already interrupted with annoying ads for Christmas specials on just about everything. Then all the shops start playing the same songs and some old popstar desperate for another dollar puts out a Christmas album.

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas just as much as everyone else, but it's always the same. It's the same songs, the same colours and the same food on the same day every year.

So this year why not mix it up a little and do something different. We've put together a few ideas for how you can make this Christmas truly one to remember (with a little help from the Internet and Wikipedia).

Adopt a foreign tradition

Come December, Christmas festivities start happening all over the globe, and every country has its own quirky Christmas traditions. For instance, in Estonia it's traditional to spend Christmas Eve in a sauna. In Wales there's the ritual of Mari Lwyd, where a man parades through the streets carrying a horse's head on the end of a pole, chased by the general public singing traditional songs.

During Consoda, the traditional Christmas feast in Portugal, families will set extra places at the dining table for deceased relatives, in the belief it will ensure good fortunes for the household. In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, it is customary to travel to early-morning church services on Christmas Day on roller skates. Don't ask me why!

Perhaps one tradition the whole family can adopt is the bizarre Catalonian tradition of caga tió (or "defecating log" in English), which involves creating a character out of a small log – often complete with a grinning face and hat – which sits on the dining room table during the fortnight leading up to Christmas. It has to be fed every day with fruit, nuts and sweets, and then on Christmas Eve the entire family beats the log with sticks, while singing traditional songs, forcing the log to "hand over" its treats. Yum.

Eat some different food

A traditional Christmas meal might consist of a ham or chicken with baked potatoes, yams, carrots and other roast vegetables. For dessert there's strawberries and cream, Christmas Cake and fruit-mince pies. In other countries, it's a little different.

In Greenland there are a few Christmas delicacies, including mattak – raw whale meat with blubber – or kiviak, which is made by wrapping an auk (a small arctic bird) in seal skin, burying it for several months and eating its decomposed flesh.

In Norway they enjoy eating lamb on Christmas Day. While there's nothing odd with that, they do enjoy eating the entire lamb, including the head which is boiled and salted. Apparently the tongue and eye muscles are the best bits.

In Japan some take a different approach. Rather than slaving over a hot stove for hours, they head down to KFC. This tradition is so popular that restaurants take bookings up to two months in advance. It's also the only day of the year they'll let you book a table at KFC.

Buy a different gift

Here are just a few suggestions for quirky gift ideas this Christmas. Click each item to find out more.

  • Odor-eliminating pants
    Everyone knows someone who needs a pair of these!
  • Space-flight
    Join Richard Branson and other celebrities as they boldly go where few men have gone before.
  • Knitted frog dissection
    What you always wished your Grandmother would knit you instead of just another pair of socks.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds Barbie Doll
    A real collector’s item featuring the spellbinding Tippi Hendren, as beautiful socialite Melanie Daniels, in cinematic detail with the unpredictable birds. Blood not included.
  • Beethoven iPod speakers
    A combination of classic artistic aesthetics with modern technology… because this is how good music deserves to be played.
  • Bacon-scented tuxedo
    Every man’s dream. You can fry it, you can eat it, and now you can wear it!
  • Radio controlled tarantula
    Scare your wife, grandmother, sister, daughter, girlfriend and great-aunt once removed with this life-like radio-controlled arachnid.
  • Self stirring mug
    Some people just don’t have the time to stir their coffee in the morning.
  • Play-doh cologne spray
    Those fresh-from-the-can, full-of-potential, childhood memories now come in a convenient spray!
  • Nothing
    The perfect gift for that person who has everything, or who says they want "nothing" for Christmas.

Get some Christmas help online

The Internet provides an almost unlimited selection of ways to enhance your Christmas experience. Try these helpful Yuletide sites.

  • Christmas traditions around the world
    Lots of information about how different nations traditionally celebrate Christmas, plus how they say. "Merry Christmas".
  • AllRecipe's Christmas
    Here you'll find recipes for chocolate chip pumpkin bread, baked ham and other meats, gingerbread, biscuits, chocolate, and more.
  • Blackdog Christmas
    Here are Christmas jokes and riddles, word searches, games, and stories. The site also features a really annoying vari-speed Santa that flies across the screen to test your Christmas patience.
  • A very Victorian Christmas
    Lots of stories and information about how the Victorians celebrated Christmas, including decorations, entertainment, cards, gifts, and crafts. Loads of information here for the historically minded.
  • The Christmas Truce
    Read all about the First World War's legendary Christmas Day truce.
  • Christmas carol lyrics and guitar tab
    Now that you can play all the Christmas carols on your guitar, there's no longer any excuse for you not to be the life of the Christmas party.
  • Best Christmas shopping websites
    You didn't like any of our gift suggestions above? Well, try Pocket-lint's 101 lifesaving Christmas websites.

Now there can be no reason to have a boring Christmas this year!

Property and Network update 

Earlier in the year we signalled to our customers that we had made the decision to invest heavily in new technology infrastructure to allow us to deliver improved service and internet packages. This was coupled with another major decision around moving to new premises, still based in the CBD Wellington, in order to link our planned network upgrade with the property move.

Actrix has made a significant investment in the latest Cisco network infrastructure, and has initiated a deployment plan from the existing Cisco network infrastructure to the world leading technology platform for ISPs – the Cisco ASR9000 series.

These changes not only provide significantly greater reliability and redundancy for the services we deliver, but also provide Actrix with significantly more capacity, allowing us to take advantage of the growth opportunities that exist.

As you will be aware, Actrix has been a key player in delivering optical fibre and wireless services for some years. With this long standing experience and knowledge, we are also positioning Actrix as a key Retail Service Provider (RSP) under the Government Ultra Fast Broadband initiative, in parallel to existing services.

The new Actrix offices are at Level 3 of Technology One House, located at 86 Victoria St, Wellington. Our existing post office box number remains the same as does our 0800 ACTRIX (0800-228-749) number. Our standard phone line (04 801 5225) has not changed, but the fax number has changed to 04 473 5196.

Read more about our recent changes.

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!

Free the gnomes
www.freethegnomes.com/ – Have you seen a Gnome in captivity? Thousands of Gnomes are enslaved in gardens around the world. For too long we have let our neighbours usurp the rights of these gentle woodland creatures. Join our boycott. Organise a picket demonstration. Write to the Government. Free a gnome!
Sheepish reactions
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody... – How fast are your reactions? Click the tranquiliser button whenever you see a sheep leaving the flock and running for freedom. There are five sheep to stop. But be warned, there's a three second penalty if you shoot a dart when no sheep are running. No sheep were harmed in the making of this game.
Backmasking
http://jeffmilner.com/backmasking/index.html – Inspired by the apparent hidden message in Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, this guy has poured through thousands of songs, playing them backwards to find other subliminal messages. Interestingly, he seems to have found some in songs by artists such as John Lennon, Queen, the Eagles and Lady Gaga.
Facts about poop
http://www.smellypoop.com/facts_about_poop.php – It's completely natural, it's something you do every day, but how much do you really know about poop? This site is here to educate you, and answers those important questions such as what is poop made of, why is it brown, and why does it stink? It also has an informative page on gaseous emissions.
Carrot museum
http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/ – Here is an excerpt from the Carrot Museum's History of Carrots...
"Morphological characteristics lead to a division of the cultivated carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) into two botanical varieties: var. atrorubens and var. sativus."
Whoever thought the carrot, such a humble vegetable, could be so fascinating?
What if?
www.flipflopflyin.com/whatif/ – Ever wondered what your life would be like now if you'd made a different decision in the past? This guy has documented his more monumental choices and speculates what his life would be like had he chosen differently. It's all collated nicely in an easy to use info-graphic too.
Staring competition
http://www.stairwell.com/stare/play.html – Have a little spare time on your hands? This site challenges you to stare down Sally, with her piercing green eyes. At some stage those eyes will blink... just make sure you don't blink first.
The image quiz
http://www.gamesforthebrain.com/game/imagequiz/ – This game presents you with ten random images from a Google image search, and it's up to you to figure out what was searched. Sounds simple, but it can be really hard, especially when none of the images appear to have anything in common.

Weird foods
http://www.weird-food.com/index.html – The world is full of culinary wonders just waiting to be tasted. However, this site showcases all the things you probably don't want to be tasting, from fresh sea slugs to seagull wine. But never fear, most things just taste like chicken!

Windmap
http://hint.fm/wind/ – An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future. This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US. You can go back to specific days too, including the day Hurricane Sandy hit.

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Google gaffe turns harbour into lake: A Google map error has transformed Manukau Harbour into New Zealand's second largest lake. Click here for more.

School removes offensive site: A Taranaki high school was quick to get a racist Facebook page made by students removed yesterday. Click here for more.

Kiwis still behind in adopting new tech: New Zealanders's adoption of smartphones has risen dramatically, from 13 percent to 44 percent of the country's households in just a year, a consumer study claims. Click here for more.

Online passport renewals confirmed: The cost of most adult passports will fall on Friday, when it will also become possible to renew adult passports online and get an extra $10 discount. Click here for more.

GPs hail email, phone sessions: Increasing numbers of Hamilton patients are chatting to their doctor via email as technology slashes the number of people left waiting hours to see their GP. Click here for more.

PM: Dotcom can invest in fibre if he wants: Millionaire Kim Dotcom would be putting his money where other investors wouldn't if he goes ahead with plans to relaunch Pacific Fibre, Prime Minister John Key says. Click here for more.

Kim Dotcom burning through PR capital: Despite his larrikin reputation, Kim Dotcom appears to be smart and hard-working and the criminal prosecution against him and Megaupload appears very weak. Click here for more.

Dotcom seeks Kiwi domain for site relaunch: Mega.co.nz will be the address of Kim Dotcom's proposed new cyber-locker service, the embattled entrepreneur has tweeted. Click here for more.

General

US company files lawsuit over Windows 8: A small technology company based in Portland, Maine, has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft over elements included in Windows 8. Click here for more.

Obama and Romney outline technology policies: The US Presidential election took a brief tech twist after Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, outlined their technology policies to a New York City industry association. Click here for more.

Installation process to start Windows 8: Windows 8 is available on DVD in New Zealand for a limited time. Microsoft New Zealand executives said, at last Friday's launch of the new operating system, once the DVDs that went on shelves on Friday have sold out they won't be replenished. Click here for more.

Google search results defamed Australian man: A Melbourne man has won a defamation case against search engine giant Google over images of him alongside a well-known underworld figure that appeared in its search results. Click here for more.

Google denies €1 billion French tax claim: Google denied a newspaper report on Wednesday that it had received a €1 billion (NZ$1.5 billion) tax claim from the French authorities. Click here for more.

PayPal cutting jobs as part of reorganisation: PayPal is cutting about 325 jobs as part of a major reorganization by its new president, David Marcus, designed to regain an innovative edge and head off rising competition. Click here for more.

US company files lawsuit over Windows 8: A small technology company based in Portland, Maine, has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft over elements included in Windows 8. Click here for more.

How does wi-fi localisation work?: It's easy to take GPS for granted. The global positioning system now powers not only satellite navigation systems but also a plethora of innovative apps on mobile devices. Click here for more.

Microsoft vs Google trial secrecy concerns: Two weeks before a high-stakes trial pitting Google's Motorola Mobility unit against Microsoft, Google made what has become a common request for a technology company fighting for billions of dollars: A public court proceeding, conducted largely in secret. Click here for more.

Toad Hall gets Wifi in the Willows: Crash Mr. Toad's motor car into a hedge, make those dastardly weasels dance and drive Mole from his hole with a new interactive iPad app based on classic children's novel The Wind in the Willows. Click here for more.

Microsoft releases IE 10 for Windows: The latest version of Microsoft's Web browser is now available to the vast audience using personal computers running on the Windows 7 operating system. Click here for more.

UAE tightens laws on political activism on web: The United Arab Emirates set stricter Internet monitoring and enforcement codes on Tuesday that include giving authorities wider leeway to crack down on Web activists for offences such as mocking the country's rulers or calling for demonstrations. Click here for more.

Game takes aim at 'boat people' strife: Could a video game placing players in the shoes of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia help change opinions about "boat people"? Click here for more.

Zooming in on digital coding: Quick response codes – or QR codes as they are more commonly known – seem to be taking over the world. Click here for more.

Gangnam Style most watched on YouTube: South Korean rapper PSY's Gangnam Style has become YouTube's most viewed video of all time. Click here for more.

US seize 132 domain names to stop knockoff sales: United States Federal law enforcement authorities have announced the seizure of 132 domain names in several countries to stop them from selling counterfeit merchandise online. Click here for more.

Social Media

Lindsay Lohan's Twitter hacked: Lindsay Lohan's Twitter account has been hacked. The Mean Girls star was inundated by angry responses after a post about Adolf Hitler appeared on her timeline this week. Click here for more.

Facebook sneaks in fees to promote posts: Facebook is being accused of an underhanded bait and switch, with brands and even personal users now forced to pay for "promoted posts" to reach all of their "likers" and friends. Click here for more.

You have (1) new diagnosis: Last month Facebook reached an incredible milestone: 1 billion active users. That's one-seventh of the world's population exchanging information with each other. Click here for more.

Site tracks Romney's falling Facebook likes: Whether it's with glee or horror, political observers can now watch Mitt Romney's fall from social-media grace in real-time. Click here for more.

Couple pages poke privacy concerns: Facebook and privacy. Two words which are often found in the same sentence but, much like the relationship that is all but over save for the dreaded "relationship status update", are rarely complimenting of each other. Click here for more.

YouTube's channels not yet must-see TV: When Google announced plans to fund some 100 new channels of original programming on YouTube, many expected a transformation in television. Click here for more.

China embraces Twitter age: During China's last party congress, the cadres in charge of the world's most populous nation didn't know a hashtag from a hyperlink. But five years on, there's a new message from Beijing: The political transition will be microblogged. Click here for more.

EU regulator challenges Facebook changes: Parts of Facebook's proposed new privacy policy conflict with European law, a key regulator says, as he moves to give users in the European Union more power to block the sharing of their data with the company's affiliates such as Instagram. Click here for more.

Facebook not so fun with a click from boss: Posting pictures of yourself plastered at a party and talking trash online with your Facebook friends may be more stress than it's worth now that your boss and mum want to see it all. Click here for more.

Why Facebook romance is fading: "Facebook is driving me nuts," a 21-year-old Sydney student participant complains in one of our recent studies. "So much to keep up with. But you have to be on it," she says with a sigh. Click here for more.

Apple and Android

iPad mini teardown reveals Samsung display: Apple's iPad mini uses a display from South Korea's Samsung, one of Apple's major suppliers and also its fiercest rival in the global mobile-device market that the two companies dominate. Click here for more.

Apple ordered to aplogise again to Samsung: British judges say Apple needs to apologise once more for falsely claiming that South Korea's Samsung copied its iPad, the latest embarrassing episode in the tech rivals' world-spanning patent battle. Click here for more.

Snappy app: Skitch: Apple's iOS has the ability to take screenshots by pressing the home and lock button at the same time, but there is no pre-bundled application to edit and annotate screenshots. Click here for more.

Why doesn't Apple use Micro-USB?: In 2009, the European Union convinced 10 of the top mobile phone manufacturers to abandon proprietary connections for charging phone batteries. Click here for more.

Android apps collect too much user data: More than 100,000 applications available for download from Google's Play Store may be collecting too much data from users, a research firm says. Click here for more.

Waikato man takes Apple to court over bargain: A Waikato man is taking on technology giant Apple after he says the company backed out on an online deal that seemed too good to be true. Click here for more.

App helps consumers find locally grown food: Wellington social enterprise software company Bucky Box has tapped into the growing "locavore" movement and is going worldwide with its web-based application that innovates food distribution. Click here for more.

Free gambling apps top security risk list: Free casino and racing game apps pose the biggest security risk to smartphone users, according to a new report. Click here for more.

Android finally earns respect with developers: The mobile video game Kingdoms at War is popular with owners of Apple's iPhone and Google's Android smartphones alike. But for the game's maker, there is a very important difference – it earns more than double the money on iPhones and iPads than it does on Android devices. Click here for more.

Keyboard app gives off good vibrations: A prototype app made for the iPhone 4 allows users to type on a keyboard made of paper using vibrations. Click here for more.

Hamilton to host first App School: Hamilton will soon be home to the country's first App School under the guidance of world-renowned app developers. Click here for more.

Copyright vs Piracy

Servers overload for Megabox tease: A teaser page for Kim Dotcom's new file sharing site almost stalled at its launch, but anticipation is high to see the site he's created nearly a year after the highly publicised FBI raids which saw his assets frozen and file sharing behemoth Megaupload shut down. Click here for more.

US use of Vietnam website 'under review': The State Department said Wednesday it is reviewing a US Embassy's use of a wildly popular Vietnamese website laden with suspected pirated music and Hollywood movies to promote American values, including respect for intellectual property rights. Click here for more.

Cyber legislation revisited after election: United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to reintroduce cyber security legislation opposed by business groups once lawmakers return after Tuesday's election, a Senate aide said, adding that a White House executive order might pave the way for a compromise on the bill. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Emails hacked as 'revenge' for education cuts: The hacking of the email account of the NSW director-general of education was not an isolated case in the department and insiders are apparently conducting a cyber campaign as "revenge" for education cuts and management decisions. Click here for more.

Wireless skimming poses new credit card threat: At a conference called Schmoocon in November, a hacker named Kirsten Paget demonstrated a way to "skim" credit cards that uses wireless payment systems, while several metres away from the victim. Click here for more.

Lockheed says cyber attacks up sharply: The Pentagon's No. 1 supplier, Lockheed Martin, on Monday cited dramatic growth in the number and sophistication of international cyber attacks on its networks and said it was contacting suppliers to help them shore up their security. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Star Wars fans use the farce: Darth Vadar sporting Mickey Mouse ears, Princess Leia alongside the likes of Snow White, Jasmine and Belle, and Jar Jar Binks as Goofy are just some of the images to crop up on social media following the news Disney is purchasing Lucasfilm. 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.

ISPs agree to block child porn websites: The Internal Affairs Department has begun working alongside Internet service providers to block access to websites dedicated to child pornography. Click here for more.

New Zealand broadband result encouraging: The Wireless and Broadband Forum are encouraged by the results of the latest OECD survey of Broadband Connectivity. While New Zealand had been languishing in the bottom quarter in recent years, the current position at 20 out of 30 is a vast improvement considering the massive initiatives being implemented in other countries. Click here for more.

Spam scammer locked up: A New Jersey man was sentenced to more than two years in prison for helping send 'spam' e-mails to more than 1.2 million America Online subscribers. Click here for more.

Internet shoppers 'in the dark': Many consumers do not understand their rights or the potential risks when buying goods online, according to the Trading Standards Institute. Click here for more.

But will it survive a dip in the bathtub?: The battle to persuade us all finally to abandon the familiar spine-creased paperback in favour of words on a flickering screen was ratcheted up several degrees yesterday with the launch by Amazon of its long-awaited – and undeniably natty – electronic book-reading device christened Kindle. 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 December, and have a wonderful break!

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

 

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