Actrix Online Informer – January 2014
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 January Actrix Online Informer
Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for January 2014. We're getting this Online Informer out early so we can wish you all the merriest of Christmases and all the best for the new year.
This month we feature an article looking at the year that's been for Actrix, and let you know when our support team will be available over the Christmas break, in case you need our expert help.
We also take a brief break from the internet and technology for a light-hearted look at some of the strangest New Year's traditions. We go all around the globe to uncover what people get up to as one year ends and another begins. And if you've been infested with Sweetpacks, have we got a small article for you!
This month's YouTube feature will make even the most hardened Christmas grinch smile. Passengers on this airline think they're just indulging a Christmas tradition of telling Santa want they want for Christmas, but when they go to collect their luggage after their flight, they end up getting much more than they bargained for.
As the New Year approaches, we'd like to take a moment to express our deep appreciation to you for being with the Actrix Networks family. To our new customers: welcome aboard. We're glad to have you. And for those who've allowed us to serve your needs year-after-year a heartfelt thank you from all of us here!
We hope everyone can find some time to share Christmas and the New Year with friends and family and enjoy some of the kiwi summer over the holiday break.
The team here has been especially grateful for the many nice notes and emails we've received throughout the year – it really makes our day!
Working for You
Reflecting on what it means to be connected, New Zealand has seen improvements nationwide this year. Our role in keeping you connected becomes even clearer during the festive season. Ultra-Fast Broadband is allowing our families to catch up and stay close in ways never before imagined possible. Please don't hesitate to consult with us to see if UFB can help you stay closer to friends and loved ones around the world.
2013 has been a big year for your internet provider. Actrix has settled into our new Wellington office and made good use of our new network infrastructure and data centre. We're humbled to have again grown our customer base and are delighted with the new customers who have joined us during the year. It's our promise to work hard to earn your recommendation for family, friends, and associates. Thank you for telling people about your Actrix experience.
Support Availability during the Season
Actrix remains firmly committed to providing our customers with the best possible service year-round. Our 25 years of experience has shown us that support calls are few and far between on Christmas and New Year's Day. On these days, if you have a support need your call will be logged and we'll follow up on Boxing Day or the day after New Year's Day, respectively.
Accordingly, we give our team a holiday and encourage them to spend time with family and friends. If you do experience a major issue which requires immediate attention, Actrix will come to your assistance.
Please note that over the holiday period, other network providers who own the copper and the fibre infrastructure prepare for their maintenance programmes while giving their staff a break. Accordingly, from mid-December to early January, any 'build' work where new infrastructure is required to be installed is deferred. As a result, our ability to quickly complete new builds and some provisioning work can be affected.
Don't worry – if you have any concerns about scheduled work or support coverage over the break, please feel free to contact me and we can work it through.
In closing... we appreciate you have choices in providers and we are grateful you have selected Actrix. Have a wonderful Christmas and a joyous New Year and we look forward to supporting you during 2014.
In a matter of days people all around New Zealand will be lighting fireworks, beeping car horns and counting down to mindnight in celebration of the dawn of 2014. Traditionally the day is spent with friends and family around a barbeque and might involve a pavlova or two.
That's how we do it in New Zealand, but around the world the New Year is welcomed and celebrated in a variety of different ways. We've done a little research and found some pretty interesting and unusual things people get up to on the last day of the year.
We gathered this information fro a variety of sources online, but as you should know, you can't trust everything you read on the internet! So forgive us if some of these are innacurate, and feel free to send us any corrections, or other interesting traditions you might be able to think of.
So here (in no particular order) are 15 of some of the strangest New Year celebrations practised around the world.
Don't ask us why, but in downtown Johannesburg, locals throw old appliances out the window and onto the street.
Colombians hoping for prosperity will pour champagne all over their bodies at midnight. Also, those wanting to travel safely in the new year will run around the block with an empty suitcase.
Here celebrants wear a costume of the next year's zodiac animal (a horse in 2014) to the local temple, where bells chime a sacred 108 times.
The Danes ring in the New Year by hurling old plates and glasses against the doors of friends' and relatives' houses. They also stand on chairs and then jump off them together at midnight. Leaping into January is supposed to banish bad spirits and bring good luck.
At midnight on New Year's Eve, it's customary in Spain to quickly eat 12 grapes (or uvas) – one at each stroke of the clock. Each grape signifies good luck for one month of the coming year. In Madrid, Barcelona, and other Spanish cities, revelers congregate in the main squares to gobble their grapes together and pass around bottles of cava.
It's a longtime Finnish tradition to predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a cup of cold water, and then interpreting the shape the metal takes after hardening. A heart or ring shape means a wedding in the New Year, a ship forecasts travel and a pig shape signifies plenty of food.
Effigies of well-known people – called muñecos – are burned in New Year's bonfires in Panama. The figures can include everyone from television characters like "Ugly Betty" to political figures like Fidel Castro (in 2007, Panama's first Olympic gold medalist, track star Irving Saladin, was burned as a muñeco). The effigies represent the old year, and burning them is meant to drive off evil spirits for a fresh New Year's start.
During the New Year's Eve celebration of Hogmanay, "first-footing" is practiced all over Scotland. The custom dictates that the first person to cross the threshold of a home in the New Year should carry a gift for luck (whiskey is the most common). The Scots also hold bonfire ceremonies, most notably in the small fishing village of Stonehaven, where townsmen parade while swinging giant fireballs on poles overhead (supposedly symbols of the sun, to purify the coming year).
Round shapes (representing coins) are thought to symbolise prosperity for the coming year in the Philippines; many Filipino families display heaps of round fruits on the dining table for New Year's Eve. Others wear New Year polka dots for luck.
During the traditional celebration of Kaliady, still-unmarried women play games to predict who will be wed in the New Year. In one game, a pile of corn is placed before each woman, and a rooster is let go; whichever pile the rooster approaches first reveals who will be the first to marry. In another game, a married woman hides certain items around her house for her unmarried friends to find. The woman who finds bread will supposedly marry a rich husband, and the one who finds a ring will marry a handsome one.
In (leaner) decades past, Estonians followed a custom of trying to eat seven times on New Year's Day, to ensure abundant food in the coming year. If a man ate seven times, he was supposed to have the strength of seven men the following year. However, modern-day celebrations – especially in the party-hearty capital of Tallinn – tend to revolve as much around alcohol as food.
Central and South America
In Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela it's considered lucky to wear special underwear on New Year's Eve; in cities like São Paulo and La Paz, market vendors start displaying brightly coloured underpants a few days before the holiday. The most popular colors are red and yellow: red is supposed to bring love in the coming year, and yellow is supposed to bring money.
Late in the year, all lasses in the villages hoping to get married would drop their rings, as well as oats and barley (the symbols of fertility) into a caldron full of spring water, with all the rings fastened with a red thread to a bunch of perennial plants, such as ivy or basil. The cauldron was left overnight in the open under the stars, and on New Year's Eve, following a ritual dance around it, the girls' fortunes were told.
An important dish prepared for the celebration is Vassilopitta, otherwise known as St Basil's cake. St Basil was one the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is remembered for his kindness and generosity to the poor, and is said to have died on the first day of the year.
The cake is baked with a gold coin inside, and is divided and distributed in accordance to a strict order. The first piece is for St Basil, the second for the house, the next for the most senior member of the household down to the youngest member. There may also be a piece of cake for the cattle and a large piece for the poor. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be lucky for the next year.
Babylonian New Year
While this civilisation doesn't eist anymore, it's still an interesting glimpse into an ancient new year celebration. The people of Babylon celebrated the New Year festival (known as Akitu) in the springtime, where they would celebrate the arrival of the spring rains and the renewal of nature.
At the festival the story of creation is read out to remind people of the order of the universe and how it had risen out of the struggle between Marduck (the god of heaven) and Tiamut (goddess of the powers of chaos). On the third day of the celebration the king was put through the ritual of humiliation. All of his powers were removed and he was hit in the face by a priest, who tells him he must go and pray for forgiveness of his sins. Three days later he reappears and is absolved. His royal insignia is restored, ceremonies are performed to ensure that nature will support him during the coming year and then he takes part in a procession. Following the procession came three days full of chaotic activities and all sorts of misheif.
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Cyberspace news snippets
What's been happening in the online world?
Year in Review
Top app downloads: We've got a Candy Crush: You weren't the only ones addicted to a mobile confection in 2013. Click here for more.
What did we ask Dr Google this year?: Have you consulted Doctor Google this year? The search giant has released its annual lists of some of the top-searched queries in the world for 2013. Click here for more.
Top tech trends for 2014: The pace of technological change is accelerating, especially as cellphone and broadband prices drop and tech becomes more accessible. This coming year will see technology become even more part of our lives and, hopefully, help to improve our society. Click here for more.
The top technology trends of 2013 and beyond: Technology moves fast. From wearable computers to 3D printing, here are the main trends of 2013 and some predictions of what 2014 may bring. Click here for more.
Kiwi game builder in sight of funding: Bill Borman is a fan of computer games, but he's never found the perfect one. So he decided to make one himself. Click here for more.
Tardis app for iOS: Doctor Who will soon be landing his Tardis all over New Zealand. Click here for more.
Kiwi exposes North Korean news washing: A Christchurch computer programmer is winning world headlines after discovering that North Korea has deleted thousands of news articles mentioning Jang Song Thaek, the former top government and party official who was executed Thursday. Click here for more.
Techvana project in need of support: An initiative to establish a computer museum in Auckland has raised only $1000 through "crowdfunding", but project director Mark Barlow is still confident of securing the millions needed from commercial and government sponsors. Click here for more.
UN: Electrical waste up by third by 2017: The mountain of refrigerators, cellphones, TV sets and other electrical waste disposed of annually worldwide is forecast to grow by a third by 2017, according to a UN study released Sunday. Click here for more.
Hands on: Spotify Free Mobile Service: Spotify is getting an ad-supported mobile version - previously, you had to be a paying subscriber to get mobile access to the service from your iOS or Android phone. Oh, and you're going to get Led Zeppelin! Yes! Finally! Click here for more.
Spotify rolls out free music service to mobiles: Online music-streaming service Spotify has launched a free music service for smart phones and tablets as it tries to hook a fast-growing group of users keen to stream tunes on their mobile devices. Click here for more.
Software to predict school cricket scores: Saturday morning cricket is about to become more sophisticated. Click here for more.
South Australia links gaming and gambling: The South Australian government has launched a campaign called "NO GAME" this week, in which the concepts of problem gambling and casual gaming are linked as though there's a causal relationship between them. Click here for more.
Study: student data not safe in the cloud: It used to be that failing a maths test in primary school wouldn't haunt you long after you graduated (even if it might get you grounded). No longer. Click here for more.
DHL already testing delivery drones: Germany's express delivery and mail company Deutsche Post DHL is testing a drone that could be used to deliver urgently needed goods to hard-to-reach places. Click here for more.
Students' robotic arm makes you stronger: Need a hand lifting something? A robotic device invented by University of Pennsylvania engineering students can help its wearer carry an additional 18 kilograms. Click here for more.
Google snaps up robot maker Boston Dynamics: Google has bought Boston Dynamics, maker of creepy walking humanoids and creepy running animal bots. Talk about a power couple. Click here for more.
Hot gadgetry for your Christmas list: High-tech gadgetry is coming to a wrist near you this Christmas, with smartwatches and fitness trackers among the most popular gifts. Click here for more.
How accurate is the science in Gravity?: Most people who saw the film Gravity this year came away wowed by the special effects, the story or the tension. For every raving fan, though, there was a pedant quick to call on their armchair aerospace experience to pick holes in the plot line. Click here for more.
Facebook saves everything you type: It turns out the things you explicitly choose not to share on Facebook aren't entirely private. Click here for more.
The whole tweet, and nothing but the tweet: Just after political hero Nelson Mandela's death was announced, socialite Paris Hilton confused him with Martin Luther King, tweeting: "RIP Nelson Mandela. Your 'I Have A Dream' speech was so inspiring. Amazing man." Click here for more.
Twitter reveals top tweets of 2013: Twitter has unveiled the company's annual "Year on Twitter" report, including what the company calls the Golden Tweets – the year's most retweeted. Click here for more.
Instagram launches direct messaging: Instagram has added a new feature that lets users share photos and videos with up to 15 people rather than everyone who follows them on the popular Facebook-owned photo-sharing app. Click here for more.
Facebook unveils donate feature: Facebook has unveiled a new feature that will encourage people to donate to charities straight from their newsfeed. Click here for more.
Facebook testing video advertisements: Investors are giving a thumbs-up to the idea of Facebook making hundreds of millions in new revenue from video advertisements, but some users argue that the social network is already too cluttered and has become more about commercialism than communing with friends. Click here for more.
Apple and Android
Oh great, another messaging app: Let's say you see something cool and you want to show a few people, but not the world. You have a smartphone, so you whip it out and get the camera ready – but where to next? Click here for more.
Chinese message app good news for censors: The day before China's Communist Party published one of its most important policy statements in a decade, a copy of the reform plans was already circulating on Chinese social media. Click here for more.
Snapchat raises $60 million: Popular photo-sharing service Snapchat has raised another US$50 million (NZ$60 million), according to a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing made on Wednesday. Click here for more.
Let the apps do the thinking for you: New apps that listen to conversations or scan emails and calendars can predict and provide information such as websites, videos and maps to users before they ask for them or realise they want them. Click here for more.
Apple gets patent for curved screens: A patent granted to Apple on Tuesday might be the latest sign that the tech giant is making a curved-screen iPhone, following in the footsteps of South Korean rivals Samsung and LG. Click here for more.
Court rejects Samsung patent case: A Seoul court rejected Samsung's claim that iPhone and iPad models violated three of its patents, another setback for the South Korean electronics giant in a global battle with Apple over rights to technologies that power smartphones and tablets. Click here for more.
Labour group sees progress at Apple supplier: A labour group monitoring three Chinese factories that make iPhones and other Apple products says once-oppressive working conditions have steadily improved in the last 18 months, but more must be done to reduce the amount of overtime that employees work. Click here for more.
Apple caught lying to Australian customers: Apple has been lying to consumers about its obligation to replace or repair faulty computers, iPhones, iPads and iPods, but has now promised to retrain staff and reassess claims stretching back two years following action by the competition watchdog. Click here for more.
Samsung unveils GamePad controller: Samsung have announced the Smartphone GamePad controller and Mobile Console app, in response to what the company describe as "the rapidly expanding global mobile gaming market". Click here for more.
Will anyone replay San Andreas on iOS?: What was once a marvel of console wizardry is now available to play on your phone – in glorious hi-res, no less. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has been remastered for iOS and is out now. Click here for more.
Security and Safety
Google removes Android privacy feature: Google has removed an experimental privacy feature from its Android mobile software that had allowed users to block apps from collecting personal information such as address book data and a user's location. Click here for more.
Aussie inquiry to examine internet spying: An Australian inquiry will scrutinise internet and telephone surveillance by law enforcement. Click here for more.
Virus ransoms business files: Two New Plymouth businesses have been hit by an aggressive computer virus encrypting their computer files and demanding a ransom if they want them back. Click here for more.
Snowden: the book and, maybe, the film: A tale that could rival any spy novel is about to be told by three writers who are working on potentially rival books on the revelations and travails of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Click here for more.
Obama to release panel's report on NSA: President Barack Obama is prepared to release an independent panel's review of US intelligence practices in a prelude to announcing a broad set of new policy procedures aimed at reining in the National Security Agency. Click here for more.
The Weird, Wide Web
Woman walks off pier while checking Facebook on her phone: One candidate for a fine case study in social media addiction could be the Taiwanese tourist who was so engrossed with checking the Facebook feed on her phone that she accidentally walked off the end of a pier in Australia. 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.
The world can see your home: Big brother is watching – and New Zealanders appear to be enjoying being watched. They have shown an "overwhelming response" to images of their neighbourhoods going live on a new online mapping service, according to Internet giant Google. Click here for more.
We are what we google: Rob Muldoon once said that Kiwis who emigrated to Australia raised the IQ of both countries. That might have been true in the 1980s, but the tables have now turned, at least according to the search engine Google. In 2008 it seems like it's the intelligent Kiwis who have left our shores for Australia. Click here for more.
Thumbs down for dial-up: Kiwis are world champions at checking e-mails, but drag the chain with rusty dial-up Internet connections. Click here for more.
Microsoft busts pirates selling on TradeMe: Microsoft says a New Zealand-based website has been selling counterfeit software across four continents, shipping the software from China. Click here for more.
Britney tops Yahoo search for fourth year straight: She did it yet again: Britney Spears was the most popular search term on Yahoo for the fourth year in a row - her seventh time topping the list. Click here for more.
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