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The Actrix Online Informer is published each month to help keep Actrix customers up-to-date with what's happening on the Internet, and to help ensure they have every opportunity to benefit from it.


Questions and comments about the Actrix Online Informer can be e-mailed to editor@actrix.co.nz
Other inquiries should be e-mailed to support@actrix.co.nz.

Actrix – New Zealand's first Internet Service Provider

Welcome to the March Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for March 2012.

This month we have a look at web design. No we're not going to teach you how to actually build one, as that's probably of limited interest. Instead we're going to focus on what not to do in terms of design, and we're going to enjoy examining some pretty ghastly stuff along the way.

These days building your own website is getting easier thanks to a range of great online tools. But just because people have the means to make a site, that doesn't make them great web designers. So let's go on a visual journey through some of the internet's worst-designed sites to have a look at what you absolutely should not do.

We also explain why you may have been receiving more spam than usual lately, and give you the low-down on a couple of telephone scams currently doing the rounds.

YouTube feature

Because we like to mix things up a little, this month's feature is a bit different. Rather than a single video, we're instead going to feature a site with a whole bunch of videos.

Harlem Shake Roulette hosts a collection of the best Harlem Shake videos. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past month or so, it's very likely you already know about the Harlem Shake. These videos are taking the online world by storm, and shaping up to be 2013's answer to Gangnam Style.

If you don't know what the Harlem Shake is, visit the site, "spin" the wheel, and prepare to lose hours of productivity.

Enjoy!

Rob Zorn

Bad web design

According to a number of articles on internet statistics, there are currently more than 11 billion pages on the world wide web. That's a lot of online material!

Having a website today is easier now than ever before. There are a number of great services and companies that will either build you a great site at low cost, or give you the tools to build one yourself. This means just about anyone can have their own website, from your technologically-challenged grandparents to your unborn child.

However, the problem with this is that so many people don't know basic web design. We're not talking about coding in HTML, CSS or PHP. Rather, we're talking about colours, fonts and navigation. People can make websites that work, but they can still be working monstrosities.

Depending on the type of site, there are some things that will work well, and some things that won't. And the things that work might work just for that site, so it's hard to put your finger on specific aspects of good web design. On the other hand, listing bad aspects is easy, so here are a few awful websites that demonstrate what not to do.

 

Dokimos
www.dokimos.org/ajff/

We won't make a comment on the content of this site, but it certainly doesn't take a genius to see what makes it so bad. Big flashy and distracting images like this make any website impossible to read. So if you actually want people to stay on your website and read your content, don't put an enormous flashing fluorescent rainbow as your background.

But there are a host of other problem with this site too. Consistency is a big thing in web design, and making similar elements of the site look the same makes viewing a webpage even more pleasant. In this case, we see numerous different fonts in an array of colours, as well as formatting that randomly changes throughout the page.

 

5 Safe points
www.5safepoints.com/

There are a number of things that stand out on this site. Perhaps the first to catch your eye is that annoying green bubble that floats across your screen (I kept trying to subconsciously swat the thing away with my mouse). Once you've got past that, there's the fact that the same images are repeated over and over again for no apparent reason. To make things worse, nothing really seems to line up.

And then there's the issue of figuring out the website's navigation system. It's hard to know from looking at it what's clickable, what's an image, and what's a link to take you to another page.

When you do finally find a link to another page, you discover that the new page is a completely different design, and still just as bad. What's also quite bad is the height of the website. While most of it fits in your screen, there's acres of space below containing absolutely nothing. You could be scrolling for weeks trying to get to the bottom, and all you'd see is that annoying green bubble sliding across your screen.

Again, the major issue with this site is consistency. So many different fonts, sizes and colours make using the site a relatively unpleasant experience.

 

Leoneck
www.leoneck.ch/en/

There are actually elements of this website that are quite interesting. The look and feel of the site, as if it's been painted in water colours, is quite trendy. And the transition animations (the elements that change when a link is clicked) are smooth.

However, there are still some major issues here. For one, why is the mouse cursor an enormous cow? As well as being a bit bizarre, it's also confusing when you're trying to click a link but you're not sure what part of the cow's head you're clicking with. And the cow-bell noises get pretty tiresome pretty quickly.

The funny-looking man waving his arm "inviting you in" is also a tad unsettling. Once I'm in, I'd probably lock the door.

It looks as if a lot of money and skill has gone into creating this website. It's just a shame they don't seem to have invested some of that in hiring a web-experienced designer.

 

One Nation
http://sa.onenation.com.au/

The political group behind this website is seeking new members, but you have to wonder whether anyone is going to stay on the site long enough to sign up. Again, the problem is the lack of consistency. There are no two sections of text the same, so it's hard to tell what's what.

The site gets even worse further down. After a couple of mouse-scrolls you hit a few articles with text and images thrown around the page at random before hitting a collection of links in all shapes and sizes. It may not be so in politics, but in terms of web design, less is often more.

 

Arvanitakis
www.arvanitakis.com/en/

Before visiting this website, turn your speakers down or off. I stared at this website for just a bit too long and started feeling quite whoozy. There are so many moving parts it does your head in to try take them all in. But you can't look anywhere without being subjected to flashing lights, sudden zooms and sliding polar bears.

If you do pluck up the courage to click one of the links to another page, several problems arise. The first is the loading time. I clicked the first link, to "Our Downloads", and the page took a good ten seconds to load. But while I was waiting for the page to load, I only had a bright fluorescent blue screen to stare at, which was only marginally less upsetting than all the flashing on the home page.

And then there's the music. Background music is generally a bad idea for a website. For one, it uses unnecessary data to play the song. If someone with a poor internet connection visits your site, background music will make your site take even longer to load. It's also incredibly distracting, and can disrupt an entire office. Clicking on to a site with automatic music that blares suddenly and unexpectedly from your speakers can be enough to give your family a decent fright or get you in trouble at work. And there's a good chance many of your visitors won't like the music you've chosen. Why take the risk of offending them?

 

MSY
http://msy.com.au/

This website regularly features in lists of the worst websites around. MSY is some kind of technology company, and many people scoff and ask "what kind of reputable technology company would have a website like that?". And it's a good question.

But there's more to this site than meets the eye. Yes, it has been very poorly designed and built, the shapes, colours and fonts don't match and the images seem to change at random. However, at closer inspection you see that nearly every element of the website is an advertisement for some other technology-related product or company.

Depending on the agreement this site has with the people who own the advertised products, they could be getting money every time someone views the page or every time someone clicks an ad. And because this site features quite regularly on lists of bad web design, a serious amount of traffic is being directed to the website solely because of its poor design (note the Hitwise Top 10 award).

Basically, every time someone searches for ugly websites and clicks onto this site and has a laugh, the site owners make a little bit of money. Could they have designed it poorly on purpose? While we laugh at their website, they laugh on their way to the bank.

 

Spam and scam rundown

Have you been hit with more spam than usual lately? I've lost count of the amount of emails I've received in the last few weeks that appeared to have come from friends but contained dodgy links to unknown sites.

You may have heard in the news about thousands of accounts with Telecom's email service, Xtra, being hacked. It's estimated that the contact lists of more than 80,000 accounts were copied and then spammed.

So, if you do receive an email from a friend or someone you know that has little text in the body except a link to an unknown website, do NOT click the link. It will be spam, guaranteed. Just click delete, and forget about it.

Stuff recently ran an article on how to keep yourself safe from hackers. While the article was written primarily for those affected Telecom customers, there was plenty of useful information in there for everyone.

  • Don't enter your details into a website unless you are sure it is genuine. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs says a telltale sign of a dodgy site is often a slightly weird URL address, such as www.bank.co.nz.log107.biz, rather than the normal www.bank.co.nz.
  • Never visit your bank, email or other important site by clicking on a supplied link. Type in the website address instead.
  • Don't reply to, click on any links, or contact any email addresses or phone numbers in spam emails. Delete them.
  • Banks and other reputable websites will never ask for your account, password or pin in an email.
  • If you've given away banking details, call your bank straight away to let them know.
  • If you've given away your email login details, email your contacts to let them know and warn them not to click on suspicious links.

You can read the article here.

And speaking of scams, there have been a few telephone scams doing the rounds again. Only last week I received a call from someone telling me he was from IRD and that I had a large amount of money waiting to be claimed.

I hung up before he could explain how I was meant to claim that money, but I'm sure it would have required me passing on my credit card details. His thick foreign accent, the poor connection over the phone line and the fact he couldn't even tell me my first name made me very suspicious.

Another scam that's increasing in frequency is one where you get rung up and told you've won an all-expenses trip to Florida, California or another holiday destination in the United States.

This scam is a little harder to detect as the person speaking to you has an American accent and even names a website you can visit to authenticate your prize. She tells you that you were entered into the competition six months ago and that you're name was drawn. All you need to do to claim your prize is pay a "small administration fee", which requires you handing over your credit card details over the phone.

Both the IRD and Florida holiday scams prey on those in our society who don't understand the implications of passing on their personal and credit card details over the phone. And surely that isn't you.

 

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!

Pimp that snack
www.pimpthatsnack.com – If you thought just a standard Snickers bar or Kitkat was a naughty treat, wait till you see some of the "pimped out" snacks people have come up with on this site... There's a Kitkat (Bigkat) that's more than ten-times the normal size, a Kinder Surprise (Pimp edition) that's bigger than a rugby ball, and even a giant Arnott's Tiny Teddy. Best of all, there are recipes for nearly every pimped out snack for you to try at home.
Flame painter
www.escapemotions.com/experiments/flame/#gallery – This site lets you create your own art by turning the "paint-strokes" made with your mouse into flames. You can customise your artwork quite a bit which is cool, and once your masterpiece is done, you can even download your artwork for your mum to hang on the fridge!
Record tripping
www.recordtripping.com/ – This site is perfect for any wannabe DJs to practice spinning records. The site has a range of different games that let you use your mouse to solve puzzles and complete levels, and every mouse movement is linked to a different record-scratching technique. Confused? Check it out!
Tokyo plastic
www.tokyoplastic.com/dm.html – This site is hard to explain... basically you click your mouse on a square and it grows some legs and walks around and then disappears and then some small cartoon women appear and start playing a cool beat on their drum kits with their heads. Intrigued? Make sure your speakers are on, but not too loud.
Google gravity
http://mrdoob.com/projects/chromeexperiments/google-gravity/ – This clever take on Google's homepage sees everything suddenly fall to the bottom of your browser. You can use your mouse to pick up the pieces and fling them around the screen or rearrange the page however you want. What's especially cool is that everything still works. So the search bar may be upside down and under a pile of other parts, but you can still use it exactly like you would Google's ordinary page. And we think that's quite clever.
WuRiddles
http://wuriddles.com/ – WuRiddles is a massive collection of brainteasers, mind games and riddles. Some you'll have heard before, but there are so many here there's bound to be something to stump you! Most riddles have a series of hints if you're finding it too hard-going. They're also sorted into categories, so whether you're after something light and easy or something that'll take you most of the morning to solve, it's easy to find the level of challenge you need.
World's highest website
http://worlds-highest-website.com – Welcome to the world's highest website, a whopping 18.9 kilometres high. If you're ever bored and feel like accomplishing something truly memorable, why not try scrolling to the bottom? But if you're feeling lazy, you can always take the elevator.
Kissing giraffes
www.ferryhalim.com/orisinal/g3/casanova.htm – Consider yourself a bit of a match-maker? Well here's a site to hone your skills. The objective is to help one giraffe kiss all the others. You have to lengthen or shorten the giraffe's neck to match the length of the other giraffes. Sounds easy and just a wee bit odd, but like other online games, it's harder than it sounds.

Addicting games
www.addictinggames.com/ – If you've got a bit of time to kill, you can't go past this site. It's packed full of all sorts of free online games. Some games force you to sit through an ad or two before playing, but the quality and quantity of games available, from sports and puzzles to strategy and action, make this site worth checking out.

Just toilet paper
www.justtoiletpaper.com/ – Tired of your toilet paper always looking the same? Is it time for a change in your bathroom? This site lets you order toilet paper in a seemingly infinite number of patterns and designs. You can even get toilet paper with your name on it. This site offers just what you need to make your bathroom just that little bit classier.

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Website spoofs Morgan's cat campaign: A retaliation site set up in response to Gareth Morgan's controversial website advocating people get rid of their cats depicts and image of a cat dragging the shot carcass of a fox with Morgan's head superimposed on to it. Click here for more.

Downloader fined $616 in first Skynet case: The music industry has won its first case under the controversial Skynet anti-piracy regime. Click here for more.

Claim broadband speed improving: Broadband testing company TrueNet says average fixed-line broadband speeds have improved about 6.5 percent to an average of 11.5 megabits per second over the past year. Click here for more.

Comments: Why some don't make the cut: Stuff receives thousands of comments every day and they love the engagement they get from their audience. Sometimes frustrated readers contact them asking why their comment wasn't approved to appear on the website. Click here for more.

Making real money from YouTube: Corey Harris is a 16-year-old high school pupil in Kerikeri who likes hanging out with his mates, gaming, photography and spending time on his computer. Click here for more.

Tourists post tips to beat trek fees: International travellers are using social media sites to post advice online on how to illegally camp along many of the southern walking tracks. Click here for more.

New app rounds up posse for businesses: Social search engine Posse, the brainchild of Wellington woman Rebekah Campbell, is about to enter the United States market and launch a mobile app after $3.5 million of investment. Click here for more.

Smart technology aims to help iCops: After almost a year on her new iPhone, Lower Hutt's Detective Constable Andrea Quinn was worried she would have to hand it back. Instead, she, and 6500 colleagues, will be issued with iPhones and iPads by the middle of next year. Click here for more.

Webpage helps catch criminals: Less than a month since it launched, the Central District police's "Wanted to Arrest" webpage has seen 10 people arrested. Click here for more.

80,000 Telecom users hacked: Telecom's email cyber attack is four times worse than first thought. Click here for more.

How to keep yourself safe from hackers: Kiwis have been stung by a spam tsunami after hackers gained access to more than 20,000 YahooXtra email accounts. Click here for more.

Creator is bringing PostSecret to NZ: In November 2004, Frank Warren handed out 3,000 self-addressed postcards to complete strangers on the streets of Washington D.C. They were blank on one side with simple instructions. Thus, the phenomenon known as PostSecret began. Click here for more.

Porn fine scammers impersonating police: Porn site users are being conned by scammers using the New Zealand police logo. Click here for more.

Kiwi cyber-attacks 'under reported': Over 130 cyber-attacks were reported against critical infrastructure and Government targets in New Zealand in 2012. Click here for more.

Telecom warns customers to beware scammers: Telecom says scammers have begun taking advantage of the confusion caused by the hacking of its outsourced YahooXtra email service by trying to conduct fresh frauds. Click here for more.

General

Mixed decision in phony Scrolls email appeal: Evidence in a rare internet impersonation case showed that a highly educated defendant broke the law by trying to "damage the careers and livelihoods" of scholars caught up in an academic debate about the Dead Sea Scrolls, a New York appeals court ruled in a mixed decision made public Wednesday. Click here for more.

Podcasts: All you need is an internet link: When I emigrated from the UK to New Zealand in 2001 I left behind the best public broadcaster in the world. I'm still mourning the loss of BBC South, which produced local radio and television content 24/7 that aired alongside national radio and television programming. Click here for more.

Internet at its best open and free: The internet should be like a blank sheet of paper for people to write on, says the creator of the World Wide Web. Click here for more.

Google puts North Korea on the map: Until today, North Korea appeared on Google Maps as a near-total white space: no roads, no train lines, no parks and no restaurants. The only thing labelled was the capital city, Pyongyang. Click here for more.

Ticket website's CAPTCHA too hard: The American version of Ticketmaster, often the target of fan anger when tickets to popular concerts get sold out in seconds, is removing an annoyance that can slow down the buying process: the jumble of letters that people need to decipher known as CAPTCHA. Click here for more.

Online viewing for the time poor: You might already know about New Zealand television channels that have on-demand viewing online. Click here for more.

Problem loading the '*!# page?: There you are, happily following some twisting, turning path through the web when you are brought suddenly to a halt by a broken link. Many websites will tersely tell you "404 Not Found" and leave you to it. Click here for more.

How parents can make cyber-bullying worse: Parents who buy into their children's online disputes can continue the tirade long after their children have made up, warn bullying experts. Click here for more.

Google pay 60m to French media fund: Google is to pay 60 million into a special fund to help French media develop their presence on the internet under a top-level deal signed on Friday, but will not pay them for posting links to their content. Click here for more.

Tweak your smartphone: Customising made easy: Nearly half of all New Zealand households now have a smartphone. Here's some start-up tips for those thinking about joining the revolution. Click here for more.

Transparent smartphone future nears: If Polytron Technologies has its way, you'll barely be able to see your next smartphone. Click here for more.

Egyptian regulator appeals YouTube ban: Egyptian authorities have appealed against a court order banning the video file-sharing site YouTube for a month over an amateur video that denigrates the Prophet Mohammad, saying the ruling was unenforceable. Click here for more.

Social Media

Theatre experiments with 'tweet seats': Sarah Bertness slipped into her seat at a recent staging of the musical Million Dollar Quartet and, when the lights dimmed, started doing something that's long been taboo inside theatres: typing away at her iPhone. Click here for more.

YouTube preparing paid subscriptions: YouTube, the video website owned by Google, plans to offer paid subscriptions to some of the content on its site later this year, according to a media report. Click here for more.

Social media sites erode workplace privacy: Colleagues posting embarrassing photos of one another on social media sites is contributing to a widespread breakdown of workplace privacy, a new international study suggests. Click here for more.

Coming soon to Facebook: more games: When nWay began a trial of its dark, sci-fi combat game ChronoBlade on Facebook last year, the San Francisco-based startup felt sure it had a hit on its hands. Click here for more.

Facebook wins fake name court fight : Facebook has won a court battle against a German privacy watchdog that challenged the social networking site's policy requiring users to register with their real names. Click here for more.

Facebook's unwelcome look at hackers' dark side: Facebook is getting an unwelcome look at the shady side of the hacking culture that CEO Mark Zuckerberg celebrates. Click here for more.

Instagram wants terms lawsuit thrown out: Facebook's Instagram photo sharing service asked a federal court on Wednesday to throw out a lawsuit filed against the popular app over changes to its terms of service. Click here for more.

Apple and Android

Brazilian company has patent on iPhone: Brazil's patent authority has taken a bite out of Apple with an announcement that the iPhone name in Brazil belongs to a local company called Gradiente SA, not to the global computer giant. Click here for more.

Countdown begins for Apple iWatch: Apple is experimenting with the design of a device similar to a wristwatch that would operate on the same platform as the iPhone and would be made with curved glass, the New York Times has reported. Click here for more.

Tamagotchi reborn as app: Tamagotchi is re-hatching as an app. Click here for more.

Copyright vs Piracy

Microsoft sued over search-related patents: A lawsuit alleges Microsoft has been infringing patents that allow internet search engines to most effectively place advertisements. Click here for more.

150 copyright notices for Mega site: Kim Dotcom's Mega file sharing site has been stung with 150 copyright warnings, according to an international report. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Map's peek into hackable webcams: TRENDnet Cam, a protest-like website, recently launched an interactive map to raise awareness of the flawed camera systems – designed by security company TRENDnet – that are set up in homes across the world. Click here for more.

Researchers warn of 50 million exposed devices: Bugs in widely used networking technology expose tens of millions of personal computers, printers and storage drives to attack by hackers over the regular internet, researchers with a security software maker said. Click here for more.

WhatsApp violates privacy norms: Regulators in the Netherlands and Canada say the popular messaging application WhatsApp is violating internationally accepted privacy norms by stockpiling phone numbers belonging to people who don't even use the service. Click here for more.

Google to fight Govt over users' email: Google will lobby Washington in 2013 to make it harder for law enforcement authorities to gain access to emails and other digital messages. Click here for more.

The massive hypocrisy of Data Privacy Day: Today is Data Privacy Day in the United States and Canada. To mark the occasion, Twitter has launched a new transparency-focused website to tell users about how governments are snooping on them. Click here for more.

US Energy Dept hacked: The US Department of Energy's electronics network was attacked by hackers in mid-January but no classified data was compromised, the agency said in a letter to employees. Click here for more.

Hacking the new standover tactic: Journalists are on notice. If you investigate the Chinese government, Chinese hackers will come after you. Click here for more.

Teenage sentenced in UK for cyber-attacks: A British court has sentenced a teenage hacker to youth rehabilitation after he and other members of the Anonymous movement carried out cyber-attacks targeting financial sites like PayPal and Visa. Click here for more.

Mega's first search engine blocked: Kim Dotcom's new sharing website Mega has come a little closer to resembling its old, closed-down version, Megaupload. Anonymous users launched a search engine that indexes files uploaded on the new sharing service, potentially making it easier to find copyright-protected material. Click here for more.

US man to plead guilty to 'sextortion': A US man has agreed to plead guilty to charges alleging that he tricked about a dozen teenagers into stripping or performing sexual acts for him via webcam and used recordings of those sessions to coerce them into making even more explicit videos. Click here for more.

Developer discovers Google Play privacy issue: An Australian app developer has discovered he has access to the personal information of users who download his Android app in the Google Play store, sparking fears of a Google privacy issue. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Chubby Checker sues over penis app: Rock 'n' roll legend Chubby Checker has his knickers in a twist after an app to measure penis size was named after him. Click here for more.

Iran's fighter jet Photoshop blunder: Iran has been caught out in another Photoshop blunder in an effort to prove its purported stealth fighter jet is the real deal. 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.

Kiwis' online lives exposed: The desire to reconnect with old friends has led to 1.3 million adult Kiwis turning to the Internet to reunite through social networking sites. Click here for more.

Kiwis flock to internet banking despite risks: Two out of three internet users now access online banking, despite New Zealand banks admitting the sites are exposed to frequent attacks. Click here for more.

419 scammers plead guilty in US: Three West African defendants pleaded guilty to federal charges of running an advance-fee scheme that targeted U.S. victims with promises of millions of dollars, including money from an estate and a lottery. Click here for more.

Net dating experts tell how to get lucky online: Struggling at finding love on the web? Start by blaming your online dating profile, which may contain out-of-date photos, bland descriptions, or one too many white lies. Correcting these common mistakes should go a long way toward avoiding another Valentine's Day alone. Click here for more.

How2 ... spot hoax emails: How many times have you opened up your emails and found one like the following: Subject: Important! Worst Virus Ever!! Please Read!! 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 March,

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

 

Copyright 2013 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: editor@actrix.co.nz