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Actrix Online Informer – December 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.


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 – best little ISP in New Zealand

Welcome to the December Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for December 2014. This month we look at a few of the main factors that may be slowing down your WiFi speeds, and offer suggestions for improving your WiFi signal around your house.

We also take a look at some weird and unusual Christmas presents you could consider purchasing this year. We often do an article like this for the holiday season, and while most are usually quite silly, there are actually some pretty cool ideas here.

YouTube feature

In this month's YouTube feature we meet Alex Siegfried, a young German fella who's very passionate about his unusual sport: extreme wheelbarrowing. We're not sure what's cooler – the sport itself or just the way Alex tells us about his custom wheelbarrow. Anyway, after watching this, you'll be tempted to grab that wheelbarrow out of the shed and start living life on the edge! All you extreme skateboarders out there; eat your hearts out!

Enjoy!

Rob Zorn

Four factors that affect the speed of your WiFi

There are few things in life as frustrating as slow internet... your videos won't buffer, your songs won't play and your favourite websites won't load.

When this occurs, you're probably on some kind of mobile device, connected to the internet via WiFi. There are a lot of factors that could be contributing to your slow internet, and here we discuss the main issues, and offer a few solutions to help you get your speed back.

Factor 1: Distance between the router and connection points

The first and most obvious factor that will affects the strength of your WiFi is the distance between your router and the device you're using. WiFi routers have various ranges, from 15 to 50 metres, but as the distance grows, the signal weakens. For apartment dwellers or those with small homes, this might not be much of a problem. But for people living in large homes or those in restaurants and cafes, this can be the reason why WiFi signals are so weak or why they can't get a signal at all.

This problem can also affect people living in multi-level homes. While many believe routers transmit signals in a circular pattern, like the ripples made in a pond, they actually transmit signals in horizontal beam pattern, similar to a spotlight, making the whole signal pattern look more like a flattened circle. This means that the areas right below and above the router will have a weak signal.

Solutions

The easiest solution would be to move the router to an area where it is unobstructed or move your devices closer to the router when in use. However, it is also possible to increase the range of Wi-Fi signals with a WiFi booster, like one of these: Top 10 WiFi boosters.

Factor 2: Walls and other interference

Although WiFi radio waves are invisible to the naked eye, they can be affected by physical barriers like walls, floors, and metal objects. Radio waves are capable of passing through some obstructions easily, such as Drywall, glass, and plywood. However, many walls today are built of thicker and sturdier materials, like brick, cement, and stone. These can deflect Wi-Fi signals and shorten the range or slow down the speed of a router. Also, metal absorbs WiFi signals, and many older houses are built with chicken wire sandwiched between layers, blocking any sort of radio waves.

Router signals can also be interrupted by interference by other appliances in the home that use the same frequency bands as the router. These include microwaves, cordless phones, video cameras, fluorescent bulbs, elevator motors, digital satellites, and even other wireless routers in the area.

Solutions

Moving your wireless router to a different area can definitely help prevent the signals from being blocked or interfered with by walls or other devices. Additional WiFi boosters can also help extend the WiFi range to allow the signal to move through the home unencumbered.

Factor 3: Number of devices online

Wireless routers have a limited bandwidth, and having too many devices connected to the router at the same time can slow down your internet speeds dramatically. People connect to the internet using a variety of devices, such as laptop computers, smart-phones, tablets, media streaming devices, etc. Multiply that with the number people sharing the connection and the connection gets choked, slowing down internet speeds for everyone.

Solutions

If there are just too many people using the internet at the same time, an additional internet connection may be needed. It's also possible to limit the number of devices connected to the internet at the same time. Instructions for doing this will vary depending on the type of router you're using, so you may have to use Google to find out how. Alternatively you could call the helpline of the company that made your router, and they should be able to help you too.

In some cases, there may even be outsiders accessing your router and slowing down your speed. TO combat this you should always use a strong password for your network.

Factor 4: Outdated Wireless Router

Technology changes all the time, and wireless routers are no different. If a wireless router is too old or too outdated, it may not be able to function as well as newer routers. Also, any electronic gadget or device could suffer damage from heat over time, and when this happens it can have difficulty sending and receiving signals.

Solutions

Outdated routers simply need to be replaced with newer wireless routers that comply with current WiFi standards. While damaged routers can often be repaired, in most cases buying a new router will save you time, effort and probably even money.

Unusual Christmas gift ideas

Let's face it – the internet's great. You can do all sorts of fun, interesting, productive and stupid stuff with it, and your enjoyment is only as limited as your imagination. It's also a great help for finding Christmas presents that aren't as run-of-the-mill as the pair of socks your Grea-aunt Erma is already knitting you or the three-set of underpants you're buying your Dad.

We've gone ahead and done some of the hard work for you, and found a great collection of silly, unusual and weird presents you should consider purchasing... at least to say thanks to Great-aunt Erma for the socks.

Mohawk Ring

Jewellery is always appreciated, but it's not always edgy enough for some people. Thank goodness for the Punckette, the first ring we've seen with a mohawk.

The ring doesn't look particularly comfortable, and is very likely to be annoying, especially when you forget it's there and go to scratch your nose and end up with a mouthful of fur. But maybe that's what people are into these days.

Santa Yoda

Even if you've already adorned your front lawn with Christmas decorations, it's not too late to find room for this great Santa Yoda! Perfect for any Star Wars fan, this tinsel features Yoda is dressed from head to toe in a traditional red and white Santa suit, and accessorised with a large red and white candy cane.

The Mogaurd

May the plight of all your soaked mustachios be GONE! Introducing the Moguard. The easiest and most effective way to make sure your 'stache is looking as good (and dry) as Tom Selleck's.

The best products solve a problem that is plaguing mankind, and so do the weirdest products. The Moguard solves the pesky problem of beer suds or milk froth soaking your cool moustache.

Runny Nose Shower Gel Dispenser

Let's face it: Getting gel or body wash in the shower is a hassle. You risk back injury bending over to get the bottle on the floor or waste valuable shelf space that could be used for hair conditioner and water-proof radios.

This Runny Nose Shower Gel Dispenser sticks on the wall, thus saving space. The fact that it looks like a nose oozing strange-coloured mucous is just icing on the cake.

Pet Poop-Shaped Candy

Chocolate is a great gift, but can seem a little generic. If you buy candy shaped like dog and cat poop, there is no doubt that your loved ones will know you were thinking of them (whether or not they like what you were thinking is not your problem).

And unlike normal pet poop, this product is endorsed by a celebrity – former 'Brady Bunch' cast member Susan Olsen – so it has to be good...

Polaroid Toilet Dispenser

Toilet dispensers are basic enough, but their design causes people to argue over whether the roll should go over the top or not.

The Polaroid Toilet Paper Holder solves that by housing the roll in a replica of an old school camera. Now the big argument won't be about the toilet roll but whether or not the holder is secretly taking pictures.

Twirling Spaghetti Fork

Sometimes the best gift idea is one that'll save someone time and effort. Maybe there's a menial task they're required to do, and a gift that makes that task easier is always going to be a winner.

Well, say you know someone who loves spaghetti, but gets fed up with having to constantly twirl the pasta around their fork... introducing the battery-operated twirling spaghetti fork!

Not much more we can say about this really... except batteries not included.

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!

10 Minute Mail
www.10minutemail.com – In case its name didn't give it away, 10 Minute Mail sets you up with a self-destructing email address that expires in – you guessed it – 10 minutes. Your temporary inbox works just like regular email, allowing you to forward and respond to messages, and you can add extra time if 10 minutes isn't quite long enough. Once you're done, light a match and walk away.

Any.do
www.any.do – Any.do is already one of the best task managers for smart-phones, and the website is especially useful when you need a big-picture view of your plans. With its grid-based layout, you can easily see everything in Any.do's four distinct categories ("Today," "Tomorrow," "Upcoming" and "Someday") and drag and drop between them. It's better than trying to manage your life from a claustrophobic smart-phone screen.

Background Burner
www.bonanza.com/background_burner – For those without serious Photoshop skills, Background Burner does a surprisingly good job of removing background images from photos. You just pick the image you want, and the site automatically figures out what's in the foreground, presenting a few different levels of background removal to choose from. It's great for joining the latest Photoshop battle even if you can't wield a lasso tool.
Calm.com
www.calm.com – If you're stressing and losing sleep while trying to get all your Christmas shopping done, it's definitely time for a break! Calm.com lets you toggle through peaceful backgrounds and ambient music, with the ability to set a timer for up to 20 minutes. Chill out on your own, or choose a "guided calm" peppered with soothing spoken instructions.
CamelCamelCamel
http://camelcamelcamel.com/ – This is Amazon's a one-stop shop for many people, but its prices tend to fluctuate on a fairly regular basis. CamelCamelCamel can set you up with email- and Twitter-based price alerts that let you know when a particular item goes on sale. You can also see a particular item's 18-month price history to decide whether you should buy it now or wait until it gets even cheaper.
Can I Stream.It?
www.canistream.it – In a perfect world, the answer to this question would always be "yes." But we live in a world of timed release windows, exclusive streaming deals and overly cautious movie studios, so finding what you want to watch can be complicated. Can I Stream.It? makes sense of this confusion with a single search engine that works across Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and other providers, telling you whether you'll need to subscribe, rent, buy or wait.
The Internet Arcade
https://archive.org/details/internetarcade – If you need to take a break and have some fun, the Internet Archive has gathered over 900 classic arcade games from the 1970s through the 1990s and made them all playable in your browser. Games included in the collection range from early black and white games all the way up to 90s staples like Street Fighter II. The games are emulated in your browser and you can control everything with your keyboard. Just head to the link below, pick your favourite game, and relive some memories.
Black and white photos restored with colour
http://all-that-is-interesting.com/color-black-and-white-photos – From an intimate portrait of Mark Twain to an incredible overhead photograph of the D-Day invasion, this site lets you take a look at history's most important people and events transformed from black and white photos into beautiful colour images.
75 iOS 8 tips and tricks
www.maclife.com/article/features/50-ios-8-tips-and-tricks – Statistically, it's very likely you or someone in your household owns an Apple iOS device, be it an iPhone, iPod or iPad. Apple recently launched their latest version of their operating system, iOS8, which included a whole range of cool new features. If you're wondering what you can do now with iOS8, or if it's worth upgrading to the latest version (if you haven't already), here's a run-down of 75 tips and tricks that apply to iOS8.
12 worst parking error videos on YouTube
www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/6440323/12-worst-parking-error-videos-on-YouTube.html – If we're honest, we all have to admit to making mistakes while driving. Sometimes we cut people off, turn the wrong way into a one-way street, or need 17 attempts at a parallel park. So if you're feeling guilty or embarrassed, this collection of videos of the worst parking errors will most definitely make you feel better about your own driving.

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Curran's criticism of Sky curtailed: Labour MP Clare Curran is sidestepping questions on whether Sky Television has too much market power after today picking up responsibility for broadcasting in the party's reshuffle. Click here for more.

Netflix's arrival sure to rattle some: So Netflix is coming, and many hope for a digital revolution as a result. The giant American company provides online movies and television in the United States for a mere $10 or so a month. Click here for more.

More retailers jump on Click Monday: A hundred online retailers are offering a total of more than 1200 discounts until midnight tonight in a pre-Christmas sale known as "Click Monday". Click here for more.

Quickflix undaunted by Netflix NZ: Aftershocks from Netflix' announcement that it will launch in New Zealand and Australia in March are continuing to ripple around the television sector. Click here for more.

Why Stuff comments and log ins are missing: A worldwide hacking operation hit major companies and media websites overnight, including stuff.co.nz, but no personal data was compromised. Click here for more.

NZ IT jobs a tough sell to Aussies: Hold the sheep jokes, and listen up: New Zealand wants to give Australian technology workers up to 50,000 jobs. Click here for more.

Dotcom 'officially broke right now': Kim Dotcom says he is broke and has become a political pariah with the National Government. Click here for more.

The Warehouse to pull R18 games, DVDs: The graphic nature of Grand Theft Auto was the tipping point for The Warehouse which will pull all R18 DVDs and computer games off its shelves. Click here for more.

General

Net neutrality: the internet balancing act: Everyone from giant internet service providers to lone Twilight fan-fiction writers seems to love "net neutrality". Click here for more.

Aussie firms plot fight back against uberX: Australian taxi and hire car drivers are increasingly looking for ways to fight back against the threat of the uberX car sharing service, fed up by police and government inaction. Click here for more.

Who's to blame for internet culture?: The tastes of Western internet-users are both well-known and much-derided: Cat videos. Personality quizzes. Lists of things that only people from your generation/alma mater/exact geographic area understand. Click here for more.

What Google knows about you (and how): According to Google, I am a woman between the ages of 25 and 34 who speaks English as her primary language and has accumulated an unwieldy 74,486 e-mails in her life. Click here for more.

Mayer bets on Firefox boost for Yahoo: Yahoo struck a deal with Firefox maker Mozilla to replace Google Inc as the default search engine on the Firefox browser in the United States, a move that Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer said will help boost its flagging search market share. Click here for more.

Virtual Paul McCartney is mind-blowing: It would have cost you more than $500 for a front-row seat at Paul McCartney's farewell to Candlestick Park Concert in San Francisco last August - and you wouldn't have been able to see much. Click here for more.

Will Generation Z be as connected as us?: Today's hot tech companies may soon be in for some nasty surprises. Teenagers are pushing back against the technology dependence that previous generations have developed - in fact, against anything the corporate world pushes at them. Click here for more.

Sony planning e-paper watch: Sony is developing a watch made of electronic paper for release as soon as next year in a trial of the company's new venture-style approach to creating products, according to people familiar with the matter. Click here for more.

Netflix sues Yahoo exec over kickbacks: Netflix is suing a former company vice president who is now chief information officer at Yahoo, accusing him of receiving money from vendors he hired to work with the video streaming company. Click here for more.

Ex-Tinder execs launching 'respectful' app: A Tinder cofounder and VP who left the company is reportedly gearing up to launch a new "respectful" dating app, Bumble. Click here for more.

Do you know how the internet works?: Most people can recognise Microsoft founder Bill Gates and know that hashtags belong in tweets, but are confused about whether having a privacy policy means that a company actually keeps consumer information confidential, according to a new Pew Research study. Click here for more.

Microsoft sues US tax agency: Microsoft is suing the Internal Revenue Service in an effort to get details of an agreement between the tax regulator and a law firm examining how Microsoft tallied its sales between subsidiaries. Click here for more.

Anna and Elsa want to get girls coding: Code.org has brought in the royal women of Arendelle to get girls interested in computer science. Click here for more.

Social Media

Twitter tracking apps that you download: An app update, slated to roll out to iOS users Wednesday and Android users in the next week, will add a setting that allows the social network to keep track of the apps you download, the company announced Wednesday. Click here for more.

Social media makes GPs' lives harder: Young doctors who are social-media savvy often struggle to maintain professional boundaries with patients, research shows. Click here for more.

Apple vs. Android vs. Amazon

Lollipop tasty but limited to certain phones: Google released its latest mobile operating system, with a new look and several features to make it easier to use your phone. Click here for more.

Apple uses clout to boost Product Red: Apple will use people's lust for its devices and apps to raise money for charity. Click here for more.

Apple may ditch Google as default search: News broke last week that Yahoo would replace Google as the default search engine on Firefox browsers. Now another - more powerful - company might also be ditching Google. Click here for more.

Security and Privacy

Stealth malware 'Regin' stalks victims: An advanced malicious software application has been uncovered that since 2008 was used to spy on private companies, governments, research institutes and individuals in 10 countries, antivirus software maker Symantec Corp said in a new report. Click here for more.

Why your iPhone probably isn't safe from hackers: An iOS bug enables hackers to access devices by persuading users to install malicious applications with tainted text messages, emails and web links. Click here for more.

Anonymous hacks Ku Klux Klan's Twitter: It should be a cardinal rule of the internet by now: Unless you want to humiliate yourself, don't anger Anonymous. Click here for more.

Darkhotel malware 'spying on bosses': Travelling business executives have become victims of malware called Darkhotel, a bug that targets guests of high-end hotels through their networks, a computer-security firm says. Click here for more.

Sony denies PlayStation was hacked: Sony has rejected claims that PlayStation Network was hacked, following an alleged attack on Sony's online gaming service and a number of others. Click here for more.

Russias webcam spying site urged to shut down: A Russian website offering thousands of live feeds peering into bedrooms and offices around the world by accessing poorly secured webcams should be taken down immediately, British officials said on Thursday. Click here for more.

What does your password mean?: Like money or sex, you're not really meant to discuss your password in polite company. Click here for more.

Human rights groups' anti-surveillance tool: Four human rights groups have released a tool that lets users check whether their computer has been infected with surveillance software. Click here for more.

WhatsApp encrypts from beginning to end: WhatsApp, the globally popular instant messaging system owned by Facebook, has begun using a powerful new encryption program aimed at protecting users' conversations from unwanted surveillance and snooping. Click here for more.

China blocks sites as internet con begins: Chinese censors have newly blocked access to several popular websites as they target content delivery networks that serve much of the Internet, according to a US internet service company. Click here for more.

Surveillance app maker fined, avoids jail: The maker of a smartphone app once marketed to help catch cheating lovers by listening in on phone calls and tracking locations was ordered Tuesday to pay a US$500,000 (NZ$635,000) fine – a win for federal prosecutors that might spur more legal action against producers of so-called stalker apps. Click here for more.

Hacker claims he stole from Wikileaks: An Icelandic computer hacker and former associate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange unexpectedly pleaded guilty on Wednesday to embezzling 30 million Icelandic crowns (NZ$308,826) from the organisation. Click here for more.

Can Google expand 'right to be forgotten'?: European privacy regulators want internet search engines such as Google and Bing! to scrub results globally, not just in Europe, when people invoke their "right to be forgotten" as ruled by an EU court. Click here for more.

US tells EU not to politicise Google case: The United States has voiced concern over a draft plan by two EU lawmakers to break up Google, saying politicians should not influence the EU's antitrust inquiry into the world's most popular internet search engine. Click here for more.

What we know about 'Regin' spy malware: For many years, a sophisticated and unprecedented cyberespionage campaign known as "Regin" has been targeting hundreds of computers and networks in dozens of countries around the world. Yet its existence has only been unearthed in the last couple of days. Click here for more.

Sony Pictures system down after hack: Sony Pictures Entertainment said its computer system was down for a second day on Tuesday, following media reports of a major hacking attack aimed at the film and television studio. Click here for more.

Automakers aim to drive away car hackers: Meticulously overwhelming its computer networks, the hackers showed that - given time - they would be able to pop the trunk and start the windshield wipers, cut the brakes or lock them up, and even kill the engine. Click here for more.

Copyright and piracy

University collects $100,000 in piracy fines: The University of New South Wales says it has issued 238 fines - estimated to total about A$100,000 (NZ$109,000) - to students illicitly downloading copyright infringing material such as movies and TV shows on its Wi-Fi network since 2008. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Barbie says girls need boys to code for them: Back in 2010, Mattel released a Computer Engineer Barbie. Barbie has had every other type of career known to man (including her recent stint as an entrepreneur), why not have her work in the tech world too? Click here for more.

FBI's most-wanted uses cat's name as password: Cocaine dealers, bank robbers and carjackers converge at Manchester Federal Prison in rural Kentucky in the US and then there is Jeremy Hammond, a tousle-haired and talented hacker whose nimble fingers have clicked and tapped their way into the world's computing systems. 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.

'Teen' triggers email firewall: The pornographic connotations of the word "teen" are stopping emails from reaching the government department responsible for youth issues. Click here for more.

German woman tells of 'horror house': A German tourist whose internet relationship turned out to be anything but romantic has warned of the dangers of travelling across the world to meet a stranger after spending a week in a Dunedin man's home she described as a "horror house". Click here for more.

Religion moves online: The World Wide Web has become the hottest place to build a church. A growing number of congregations are creating internet offshoots that go far beyond streaming weekly services. Click here for more.

The easy way to shop online: You're probably used to typing your name, address and credit card number when you buy things online. Amazon.com is guessing you don't enjoy it, though, and wants to simplify the process by letting you purchase items with a short phrase such as "Shopping Fanatic" and an identification number. Click here for more.

Illegal downloaders spend most on music: study: Brits who illegally download music from the internet also spend more money on music than anyone else, according to a new study. 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!

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

 

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