Actrix Online Informer – February 2016
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 February Actrix Online Informer
Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for February 2016. This month we take a look at New Year's Resolutions, and suggest a few tech-related resolutions that'll help you throughout 2016. We also take a look at laptops, and offer a quick overview of the different types you should be looking at if your children are needing a laptop for the coming school year.
We also include an interesting article based on a recent study looking into whether Facebook is making us dumber! The study explores why misinformation is still able to spread so quickly via social media, even though we're got the means to research and explore the facts for ourselves.
This month's YouTube feature shows a hungry fan who was caught on camera eagerly chomping into a whole watermelon at a recent cricket game in Melbourne. He has now won the internet's heart the world over. Plastered all over social media, this young boy ate the entire watermelon, skin and all. Where usually stadium food for kids is hot chips and hot dogs, this boy decided to inhale his favourite fruit…. In one sitting, he got through the 3kg giant watermelon. We bet his thirst was quenched after all that.
January has come and gone and with it often come and go a series of well-intended "New Year Resolutions". For some this may include spending time on a new hobby or kicking a bad habit. Other people may find it hard to think of a resolution (and stick to it!). How about basing your resolutions on technology? Bonus is, it can last longer than a year.
By following these three suggestions you will feel less clogged down when sitting at your computer, you will be more protected from scammers and searching for a past email will be far easier when you need to pull it out for referencing. Often resolutions fail quickly, so a different approach is to use the New Year to undertake specific tasks that will have a lasting benefit and at best may initiate better behaviours long term.
1. Get up and stretch
We all know we should do it, but how often do you stand up from your desk and stretch? We read everywhere that once an hour we need to get up and stretch our muscles. How many of us actually follow through with this though? Set an alarm on your phone or desk top to go off hourly throughout the day to remind you. All it takes is two minutes to stand up and stretch or walk to the kitchen for a glass of water. Too easy and so important for your overall health.
2. Re-do all your passwords
Hundreds of millions of passwords are stolen every year. Having an account compromised is bad enough but the problem is magnified if the stolen password is the same one that is used for all of the user's other accounts. Even if you use different passwords for different accounts it is a really good time to change them now and then periodically during the year. Either use a password manager to ensure you have a strong password or follow the three steps; a) include capitals and lower case letters, b) include a number and a symbol and c) avoid using common words as part of the password.
3. Unclutter your digital life
Information overload! Unsubscribe from emails you no longer want to receive, be this hotels, deal websites or an old online dating profile. Unsubscribing to third party e-mails is usually just a question of clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the e-mail. For social media platforms you can turn off the email notifications to avoid unnecessary emails you simply don't require.
In the next few weeks, children will be getting ready to go back to school and with that can often come the demand for a new laptop. Here are some pointers for choosing the best laptop for your children.
Size: On average, a laptop weighs 2.7kg, which is a lot for most kids to lug around. Aim for a screen (which determines both size and weight) of between 11 and 13-inches.
Build: School can be a rough and tumble place. A laptop needs to be durable. Try opening up the laptop screen by its corner and feel for any flexing. Avoid anything that looks like it could break. If your budget allows, buy a laptop with a metal body.
Battery: Most classrooms don't have enough power outlets for an entire group of pupils so schools don't let children use a power adaptor. Go for a battery life of at least six hours but aim for eight if possible.
Safety: Because school laptops can get lost or stolen, play it safe and install a free anti-theft app. Prey is free and available for Windows, Chrome OS and Macs. With Prey you can track down and lock a lost or stolen laptop.
Ask the school: Check with your child's school to see if they recommend any particular operating systems. Chromebooks are a low cost option for younger pupils. Windows is popular but If your home is Apple equipped, the Macs may be your best option.
CPU: This refers to the computer's processor and is important to how "fast a computer runs".
Unless Johnny and Joanne are decoding the human genome at school, they won't need a huge CPU. For classroom chores, an Intel Core i3 or Celeron M is all they'll need. If you want to give them more power, an Intel Core i5 delivers a good balance between cost and performance. If you must push the performance boat out, go for a Core i7.
RAM (memory): This makes a huge difference to performance. A laptop with 4GB is plenty, unless your children are into video and photo editing or gaming.
Hard Drive (storage): This is where everything is stored. A 256GB hard drive should be enough. If performance matters, go for an SSD (solid state drive). They're a lot faster than a conventional hard drive. If a larger hard drive is outside your budget, consider an external USB hard drive.
Also, set your kids up with a Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive account so they can store files online.
Wi-fi: This is how the laptop will need to connect to the internet. The wireless technology is regularly updated so try and get the current standard which is 802.11ac. This will mean they get the fastest connection possible, especially since most schools have ultrafast broadband.
Windows vs. Mac vs. Chrome OS
Windows: Familiarity with Windows and its productivity software is considered essential by most employers. Tech support is also widely available.
This is a good thing as Windows is the operating system that is most often targeted by malware. The huge variation in PC configurations also means Windows can be prone to crashing.
Chrome OS: Google's OS is a simple, reliable and an affordable option. It uses Google's online services for much of its functionality.
Most Chromebooks are priced around $400-$500. This means that if they're damaged (or stolen) the impact on your wallet is less than that of a PC or Mac.
For browsing, email, social media and basic office tasks, a Chromebook is ample. If your child needs to run more complex apps, a Chromebook mightn't be the best choice.
Chromebooks also back up data to your Google account. Their downside is that you need an internet connection to use most apps. Some can be accessed without an internet connection, but their functionality can be limited.
Apple: Apple has three types of laptop. The best option for pupils is the MacBook Air. The MacBook and MacBook Pro are more expensive and suited to professional use.
Apple's operating system is intuitive and ideal for non-technical users. Derived from UNIX, Apple's operating system gets touted as more secure than Windows.
Because it runs on hardware whose configuration is set by Apple, it is also less crash prone. This said, Apple gear usually commands a price premium.
Originally published on Stuff, 13 January 2016
Why does misinformation spread so quickly on the social media? Why doesn't it get corrected? When the truth is so easy to find, why do people accept falsehoods?
A new study focusing on Facebook users provides strong evidence that the explanation is confirmation bias: people's tendency to seek out information that confirms their beliefs, and to ignore contrary information.
Confirmation bias turns out to play a pivotal role in the creation of online echo chambers.
This finding bears on a wide range of issues, including the current US presidential campaign, the acceptance of conspiracy theories and competing positions in international disputes.
The new study, led by Michela Del Vicario of Italy's Laboratory of Computational Social Science, explores the behaviour of Facebook users from 2010 to 2014.
One of the study's goals was to test a question that continues to be sharply disputed: When people are online, do they encounter opposing views, or do they create the virtual equivalent of gated communities?
Conspiracy theories spread rapidly
In sum, the researchers find a lot of communities of like-minded people. Even if they are baseless, conspiracy theories spread rapidly within such communities.
More generally, Facebook users tended to choose and share stories containing messages they accept, and to neglect those they reject. If a story fits with what people already believe, they are far more likely to be interested in it and thus to spread it.
Extreme views can intensify
Striking though their findings are, Del Vicario and her co-authors do not mention the important phenomenon of "group polarisation", which means that when like-minded people speak with one another, they tend to end up thinking a more extreme version of what they originally believed.
Whenever people spread misinformation within homogenous clusters, they also intensify one another's commitment to that misinformation.
Of the various explanations for group polarisation, the most relevant involves a potentially insidious effect of confirmation itself. Once people discover that others agree with them, they become more confident - and then more extreme.
In that sense, confirmation bias is self-reinforcing, producing a vicious spiral. If people begin with a certain belief, and find information that confirms it, they will intensify their commitment to that very belief, thus strengthening their bias.
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Cyberspace news snippets
What's been happening in the online world?
Volt Technology develops super powerful, long-lasting rechargeable AA battery: A Kiwi inventor has developed a rechargeable battery claimed to charge eight times faster than its rivals and last three times longer. Volt Technology managing director Andrew Wigney is in Las Vegas attending the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 promoting Boost FP – a 1.5-volt rechargeable battery he has been developing over the past 18 months. When used in a flashlight AA and AAA Boost FP batteries lasted about five times longer than disposable batteries and up to three times longer than rechargeables. Click here for more.
Electric hatchback reaches the top of Arthur's Pass: An electric hatchback touring the South Island has climbed Arthur's Pass as it begins its return trip to Timaru. Martin Kane left Timaru on January 3 on a 1344-kilometre, 10-day journey to test the limits of his Nissan Leaf, an electric car with an estimated range of 100km on a single charge on flat road. Click here for more.
10 facts about: the internet and 2015: Kim Kardashian was the most Googled person in NZ last year, as well as in many other countries including France and the US. Click here for more.
This robot is totally Ace: A worker who will never need a sick day has arrived in Auckland Airport - a world-first robot that sorts and delivers duty free goods to travellers. ACE - Automated Collection Experience - is a white crane-like robot installed at Aelia Duty Free. Pre-paid duty free orders can be collected in 30 seconds by scanning a bar code outside the glass-fronted case ACE works in. Click here for more.
Why 360 video is the next big thing in tech : The world is one big round place, and the problem is, we've been looking at a cropped view of it for way too long. But thanks to new technology advancements in cameras and online algorithms, we can now zap open our smartphones and see all around us - in front, back, to the left and right, above and below, in full spherical, 360 view. At the Consumer Electronics Show last week, 360 video and virtual reality (VR) was the big talk of the show, from huge companies like YouTube and corporate parent Google, to Facebook's Oculus Rift and camera makers GoPro, Ricoh and 360fly. Click here for more.
24 words that have changed since the internet: Technological change, as we know very well, tends to provoke linguistic and cultural change, too. It's the reason why, several times a year, dictionaries trumpet the addition of new and typically very trendy words. But more interesting than the new words, I think, are the old words that have gotten new meanings: words such as "cloud" and "tablet" and "catfish", with very long pre-internet histories. Click here for more.
Security expert warns the dangers of posting your boarding pass online: You need to stop posting the humble-brag boarding pass photos that you place online, and not just because they're really annoying. Cyber-security site Krebs on Security detailed this week how the barcodes found on boarding passes are full of your private information that anyone can access if they see the code. The scariest part being that no special equipment is needed, only free, basic barcode reading software. Click here for more.
Fitbit sued over 'inaccurate' data: Smartwatch brand Fitbit has been hit with a class-action suit filed by customers who say the gadgets' measures are wildly — and dangerously — far off. The San Francisco federal-court suit claims that the devices' heart-rate monitors are inaccurate. "The heart-rate monitoring function of the PurePulse Trackers is a material — indeed, in some cases, vital — feature of the product," the lawsuit states. One plaintiff said her Fitbit measured her heart rate at 82 beats per minute while a personal trainer measured it at 160 bpm. Click here for more.
What Does the Internet Actually Look Like?: It's difficult to define "the cloud." Even more difficult, perhaps, is photographing it. But that's precisely what Peter Garritano set out to do with his photo essay 'The Internet'. Taken over the course of the past year, Garritano visited five of New York City's most interconnected spaces, colloquially called "carrier hotels." Inside these buildings, like 60 Hudson and 111 8th Avenue, hundreds of fiber-optic cables, fans, servers, and machinery connect to form the Internet. Click here for more.
English is losing its status as the universal language of the Internet: More than half of the internet is in English. But that percentage may decline in the future, according to research by Álvaro Blanco from Funredes, a nonprofit that studies technology usage in the developing world. In 1996, Blanco's research estimated that 80% of online content was in English. Less than a decade later, he said it fell to 45%. These estimations don't even take into account activity on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, since search engines only index about 30% of the web, Blanco told Quartz. Click here for more.
CES 2016: Four tech trends we're watching: CES, one of the tech industry's biggest annual consumer electronics shows, kicks off in Las Vegas this week. The show draws exhibitors and press from across the globe to share and show off what the industry has planned for the coming year. The show officially runs from January 6 to January 9, but companies get things started a couple of days early for the press. Monday night brings the first sneak peeks of what will be at the booths of the major show, which drew 3,600 exhibitors last year. Click here for more.
When is it OK to name and shame people on social media?: Social media allows everyday people to play detective but there are risks associated with naming and shaming others online. Pictures of people believed to have stolen something, scammed someone or some other wrongdoing, often show up on community Facebook pages and other social media platforms. Click here for more.
10 hidden tricks to get the most out of Facebook Messenger: On Thursday, Facebook announced there are more than 800 million monthly active users on Messenger. While we can assume they're all at least chatting with each other, there's a whole lot more you can do in the app beyond instant messaging. Over the last year, Messenger has shown it wants to be a one-stop shop for all your mobile needs — from sending GIFs to requesting an Uber. With so many updates, you may have missed some of the app's best new features. Click here for more.
Consumers Increasingly Turn To Social Media With Questions And Complaints: An increasing number of consumers are turning to social media first to voice complaints, have complicated situations resolved, and even in the case of a crisis, according to a survey of 1,000 UK adults by customer contact outsourcer Echo Managed Services, which found that almost one in five people (18 percent) use social media as first preference to voice a complaint, rather than channels including phone, face to face, email and web chat. Click here for more.
Family blames social media post for burglary: Many people post on social media and while friends may know the latest updates in your life, thieves may also be keeping a close watch. One West Lafayette family thinks they were targeted as part of a social media driven theft. The average Facebook user has about 338 friends. Click here for more.
How to find out everything Facebook knows about you: If you use Facebook, then you know the deal. Facebook is free to use and fun, and sometimes necessary if you belong to groups that use it to communicate with their members. But in exchange for that service, you have allowed it to track your activity so that advertisers can find you, hopefully to show you stuff you'll want to buy. Click here for more.
5 Ways Unhealthy Couples Use Facebook: Facebook is a wonderful social tool that keeps us connected with friends and family in our busy daily lives. But used in the wrong way, it can become a liability in both our lives and our relationships. Here are five ways that unhealthy couples use Facebook. If you recognize yourself in one or more of these ways, you may want to re-evaluate your use of Facebook. Cutting back on using it may benefit not only your own feelings of self-esteem but also your romantic relationship. Click here for more.
Peach is the latest, hot social network: The social media landscape is dominated by a few big players but that doesn't stop others from trying to join the party. Peach is the latest, hot social network that allows simple sharing of photos and text. It's more similiar to Twitter than Facebook but it does have some differences. The coolest feature is the way you get the attention of your friends. You can wave, "boop" or blow them a kiss, with each one using an emoji. It's also possible to "quarantine" them. Click here for more.
Apple vs. Android vs. Amazon vs. Microsoft
Apple Plans iPhone To Android Escape Route: Is Apple preparing an application to help move users out of iOS and onto the rival Android platform? That's the intriguing prospect reported by Christopher Williams in The Telegraph. Apple's ecosystem is seen as a one-way route by many in the industry, including the mobile carriers and operators. Those in the European Union are concerned that Apple is creating a data lock-in for users that keeps them buying iPhones when they come round to upgrades. Click here for more.
Netflix For Android TV Update Adds Smart Lock Capability - No More Slow Password Typing: Android's Smart Lock is a great way to save a little hassle when users are around familiar locations or connected devices. The default system version of the feature skips the lockscreen when the phone or tablet detects that it's in a safe location, and last year Google did much the same thing for apps, essentially turning Smart Lock into a password manager for supported applications. Click here for more.
How to record hyperlapse videos on Android: Hyperlapse and time-lapse videos aren't exactly the same thing. Thus, while there are plenty of Android apps that let you record time-lapse video, things are different when it comes to recording hyperlapse video. Still, there is one Android app that's very good at creating hyperlapses, being the best alternative to Instragram's Hyperlapse (which, as you may know, is currently available only on iOS). Click here for more.
Google And Amazon Talk About Managing Drone Traffic At CES: Figuring out how to manage drone traffic over the United States to allow for drone delivery services and other drone-based service is going to be critical if Amazon and Google ever want to deliver packages to the backyards of their customers. Click here for more.
Apple is developing wireless headphones for the iPhone 7: Apple is reportedly getting serious about ditching the headphone jack in its next iPhone, and is working on new cordless Beats headphones for you to buy instead. The tech giant is developing Beats headphones that connect to a phone via blue tooth and won't have any cords at all, according to a new report from 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman. Click here for more.
Apple's music streaming subscribers top 10m: Apple has passed 10m subscribers for its music streaming service, taking six months to hit a milestone which took its arch-rival Spotify six years to hit, according to people familiar with the matter. Click here for more.
Security and Privacy
3 Lessons I Learned About Online Privacy When My Teen Googled Her Name: When my daughter Googled her name following a conversation with friends about who is on the Internet, I turned out to be her biggest online privacy problem. The results of the name search displayed several photos from my personal blog that we thought were labelled anonymously. Uh oh. Click here for more.
Privacy group says Google tracks your school children online: Google gives free software and sells low-priced Chromebook computers to thousands of American schools. In return, it collects alarming amounts of data on students without asking permission from their parents, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a privacy-focused consumer advocacy group. "Minors shouldn't be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit centre," says Nate Cardozo, an EFF attorney. "If Google wants to use students' data to 'improve Google products,' then it needs to get express consent from parents." Click here for more.
Problem gamblers' privacy breached when list tossed in footpath bin: The names and photos of 56 problem gamblers on a secret TAB list were stuffed into a public rubbish bin in Hamilton and found by a passer-by. The 33 pages of private and confidential information list those who asked to be excluded from betting with the New Zealand Racing Board. Among the names are well-known Waikato businessmen and -women and a sports personality who registered as having a problem between September 2011 and December 2014. Click here for more.
Hello Barbie, Can We Talk About Your Security Issues?: New security issues that surfaced last week in connection with Mattel's Hello Barbie doll, which talks back to kids, have heightened fears that hackers could use the toy to steal information about its owners and their families. The Hello Barbie app, which is available for iOS and Android, uses an authentication credential that can be reused by hackers, Bluebox disclosed. Click here for more.
The Weird, Wide Web
This Facebook Photo Of A Young Couple After Surviving An Awful Crash Is Inspiring Thousands: A young couple from Tennessee is warming the hearts of thousands on Facebook after sharing a beautiful photo of themselves recovering after a horrible car accident. Click here for more.
This robotic tailor can put you in the perfect suit in less than 10 seconds: Gay Giano, a tailor shop in Hong Kong, is using 3D technology to measure customers' body shapes. The machine can create a detailed visualization of a person in less than 10 seconds. Click here for more.
The 6 Weirdest Gadgets at CES: CES had a lot of interesting, innovative technology this year that has a huge potential to catch on with consumers. A lot of stuff also made me want to scratch my head. Of the more than 20,000 gadgets on display, some are so bizarre that you need to see them to believe they exist. Weird doesn't necessarily mean ridiculous, though. Sometimes, the oddest things at CES ultimately make a lot of sense. 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.
Phishing scam nets drivers' licences: The New Zealand Transport Agency is offering to waive the fee for a replacement driver's licence for victims of an online phishing scam. Click here for more.
Facebook users now in majority: More than half of New Zealanders have an online profile, half of those check it daily and one in 10 admits to being addicted to it. Click here for more.
Trade Me clients hit by scam: TradeMe customers are the victims of the latest online scam by fraudsters operating out of Russia. Click here for more.
Creator of 'best website in world' dies: Author, contrarian academic and web entrepreneur Denis Dutton died yesterday, aged 66. The professor of philosophy at Canterbury University had been diagnosed with prostate cancer but continued working until his health deteriorated quickly a week ago, his son Ben said. Click here for more.
Facebook friend now a foe: A Rotorua woman's Facebook whinge about wanting to leave work became an invitation to burgle for a "friend". Click here for more.
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