This newsletter has been produced to help you get the most out of the Internet,
and to keep you, as an Actrix customer, informed of developments and services within the company.
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CNN News
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Rumours Confirmed or Debunked

 

New Nimda Virus!

Well, here we go again. A new virus has been unleashed on the world, and so far given the name "Nimda." Unfortunately, this one is no hoax, and is a little worse in some ways than other recent viruses. Though it comes as an e-mail attachment, you only have to click the e-mail's subject line in your inbox in order for the payload to be activated.

When activated, Nimda replaces a number of files on your hard drive with copies of itself. Mails itself out to whomever it can by using your e-mail program, and may generally degrade the performance of your machine. Unfortunately, this worm is spreading even faster than most because it also has the ability to infiltrate web pages and, apparently, you can receive it by visiting an infected site, but only if you accept the page's prompt to download a .eml document.

This worm makes use of a security hole in Internet Explorer. Microsoft recognised this hole and released a patch for it way back in March. So you are only at risk from Nimda if you haven't yet installed this patch. The patch will have been available via the Windows Update webpage at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/ since March. Nimda achieves its nefarious business in the same way that the old KAK worm did, which also made use of a security hole in IE which was patched months before the worm was created. If you've been staying current with updates and patches, then you're probably safe, but it pays to be sure, especially if you are using Outlook as your e-mail program.

Excellent information for end users is available from Microsoft.

The patches are also available from www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS01-027.asp and apply to IE 5.5 and IE 5.01. If you have IE 6.0 installed you're already safe.

Removal instructions are not available at time of writing, but they will be soon at the Symantec (Nortons) web site.

A past article on using the Windows Update page to download patches is available from the August 2000 newsletter.

Macintosh users are not vulnerable to this virus, and neither are those who do not use Microsoft software. Unfortunately, it's a Microsoft world, and 95% of us do use Explorer, Outlook or Outlook Express) on our "Microsoft" PCs.

 

Buying and Selling Online With Ebay

by Rob Zorn

www.ebay.comwww.ebay.com

I would imagine that most of us have probably heard of Ebay online auctions, but, being the cynical, cautious kiwis that we are, many of us probably have yet to venture out and give it a go. It's something I heartily recommend, and exactly the sort of life-enriching feature of the Internet that we, as part of the new global community, should be making more use of. To illustrate, I wanted to buy a CD lately by a band from overseas who have virtually no following in New Zealand. Real Groovy here in Wellington had the album for $46.00. I could buy it online from Amazon for $15 U.S./$35 NZ (plus postage). I didn't. I'm currently bidding for it on Ebay. I have had the highest bid for the last two days at a staggering $1.75 U.S. If I win at this price, then, together with airmail postage, I'm probably going to get it for between $10-$12 NZ all up.

I guess my main motivation for writing this article is to encourage some of our newer users to take a stab at using the Net for more than just e-mail. The Net has incredible things to offer us, and once we gain a bit of confidence in sorting out what's useful from what's a scam or a waste of time, the closer it can come to fulfilling its potential as a wonderful tool. -Ed

Okay, so that's only a CD. It's not particularly important or life-enriching, but one only has to browse around the various items for sale (and there are currently one and a half million) to realise that no matter what you're after, you'll probably find it, or something close to it, on Ebay. A lot of things, like my CD, for example, are sold at low prices because many users treat Ebay like they might a business, selling lots of items cheaply rather than a few items at prices with higher profit percentages.

Ebay is highly organised, very powerful and very well set out. Using it with common sense is safe, secure and easy. To use Ebay, you have to register as a user which means there are all sorts of protections for you, whether you are a buyer or a seller. You can leave feedback on someone you've dealt with and you can check a seller's feedback before you commit yourself to a bid. People that use Ebay are serious and used to buying and selling internationally. You are able to get the e-mail address of the seller (once you've registered yourself) so you can contact them before or during your bidding in order to ask questions about the item, and so that you can establish some rapport or get a feel for the person you're dealing with.

My suggestion is that you surf on over to Ebay at www.ebay.com and have a look around. Use the advanced search features to locate something that interests you, and then, if you think you might like to cut your online buying teeth, register to use Ebay. It's free to register, and there are no  fees for buying (there are small charges for selling - see below). As you sign up, the processes involved are explained very clearly, and there is an extensive online help file for when you become unsure. There is a New Zealand Ebay site where you can restrict searches to items that are located in New Zealand only. The URL for the New Zealand site is www.ebay.co.nz.

As I said above, Ebay is well organised and presented. Clicking the Help link at the top of the Ebay page will take you to a series of explanatory guides.

Buying Via Ebay

The Buyer's Guide is located at http://pages.ebay.com/help/buyerguide/index.html (It also comes up as a button link after you click the Help button on the Ebay homepage) and details what you need to know about how to use Ebay to make a purchase. Ebay doesn't charge you if you buy, and one of the nicest things for buyers is Ebay's Proxy Bid system. When you bid, you simply list the top price you are willing to pay for an item. Ebay keeps this amount secret from everyone but you, and then automatically increases your bid for you by the minimum amount (50 cents or a dollar at a time depending on the level of the bidding) every time someone else outbids you. It carries this on until it reaches your designated maximum before it stops. This way, the system works for you, even if you're not paying particular attention to the auction. You can learn about Proxy Bidding and all the other information you need about buying safely with Ebay from the Buyer's Guide.

Selling Via Ebay

The Seller's Guide can be located the same way, either by clicking the button after clicking Help, or by accessing it from the following URL: http://pages.ebay.com/help/sellerguide/index.html. Selling items on Ebay is also pretty simple, and the guide will step you through the process. If you know the basics of html, you can use your Actrix user homepage to put a picture of your item up on the Internet, and it will automatically display with your ad. If you're not sure how to do this, send me a picture of your item and I'll put it up for you, and send you back the address of your picture to include with your ad. It's all a lot simpler than it sounds, and again, Ebay will step you through the process. The Seller's guide includes short tutorials on how to accomplish stuff, and gives you the facts you need such as what commission Ebay charge you when your item sells. When the auction ends, Ebay automatically e-mails both the seller and the high bidder with instructions about what to do next.

Selling Fees

Ebay make their money by charging a small commission to your credit card, and by means of an insertion fee. The insertion fee is between 30cents and a dollar depending on the opening price you decide for your item. When your item finally sells, you will be charged 5% if it sold for under $25.00 and a further 2.5% if it sold for between $25 and $1000. For a full breakdown of Ebay's fee structure, try this URL: http://pages.ebay.com/help/sellerguide/selling-fees.html.

My Ebay

One of the most impressive features of Ebay is the customised My Ebay page. Each registered user can log in to their own private page that keeps track of all of your Ebay activities in one place. All the auctions you're currently in will be displayed along with how long the auction has to go, what the current price is and so forth. You can set this page to watch auctions you're interested in (but not sure you want to bid on). You can also use your preferences tab to get Ebay to e-mail you every time a new item is listed that you might be interested in. You can read any feedback that has been left on you, and you can view all the feedback you've left on others - and all this in one place, and all at no charge!

Paypal

Paypal is an international money transfer service (separate from Ebay) that just about every Ebay buyer or seller uses. It really makes paying for your items simple, straightforward and speedy. You can sign up for a Paypal account at http://www.paypal.com and it doesn't cost anything. You register your credit card with them (and they charge a dollar to it to verify it, and then place your PayPal account $1 in credit). From there on, all you have to do to pay someone overseas is log into PayPal, enter the seller's e-mail address and the amount you want to pay them. Paypal then e-mails the seller telling them you've paid and that they can withdraw the money from their own PayPal account. It's virtually instant, and sure beats mucking about with money orders or worrying about the cleverly concealed cash you sent. If you sell on Ebay you can also accept money via Paypal. The buyer pays into your Paypal account, and then you instruct Paypal to transfer the money to your NZ bank account. Unfortunately, because we're not in the U.S.A. we have to use PayPal's international account system, and there are currency exchange transaction fees. Still, when you consider the service being offered, these fees are well worth it.

Norton AntiVirus 2001
One of our technicians, and regular newsletter contributor, Jeremy Fairbrass has a few boxes of Norton AntiVirus 2001 that he is selling privately. They are the full retail version, brand new and still shrink-wrapped and sealed. He's selling them for only $90 which is significantly cheaper than the normal shop price. There are a limited number of them so it's first in, first served! Head on over to his personal web site for more info, or drop him an email to jeremy@actrix.co.nz.

That will probably suffice as an introduction to Ebay. Why not give it a go? In the course of writing this article, I got my CD for $1.75, and the whole process was a lot more fun than walking into a record store and forking over $46.00. 

 

Actrix Users Home Pages to Move

Within the next month, we are going to be changing the web address (URL) for our Users Home Pages from http://www.actrix.co.nz/users/yourusername/ to http://users.actrix.co.nz/yourusername/. After this change is made, the old URL will still work, but will automatically forward you to the new URL.

This change should be seamless, however if the HTML code inside your web pages has any "hard coded" or absolute references to the old URL, they may not work after the change. Your links should instead be "relative". For example, if you had a web page located at http://www.actrix.co.nz/users/mickeymouse/index.html that included a picture called donald.jpg, which was located in the same directory on the server, you may have linked to the picture (inside your HTML code) using an absolute link like this: http://www.actrix.co.nz/users/mickeymouse/donald.jpg. Whereas you should use a relative link by simply linking to donald.jpg.

If you're unsure how to check or change such a link, you should consult the Help file of the program you used to create your web pages. You can go to https://secure.actrix.co.nz/webupload.html to upload your web content to the new URL right now if you wish.

As a result of customer feedback, we have also added a new feature to this new location which allows you to view and delete your files or directories from our server! Just log in at https://secure.actrix.co.nz/users.html.

 

Internet Explorer 6

by Jeremy Fairbrass

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft released a new version of their Internet Explorer web browser program - version 6.0. The previous version was 5.5. I promptly downloaded and installed it on my computer, eager to see what, if anything, was different.

On the surface, nothing much has changed between 5.5 and 6.0. New icons are used for the Desktop shortcuts for Internet Explorer and Outlook Express (the icons are of the same style as those used for the soon-to-be-released Windows XP). There is also a new, integrated Media Pane - a vertical pane that you can enable or disable, which appears on the left-hand part of the Internet Explorer window and which allows you to listen to things such as music and radio.

Then there is the Image Toolbar. This is a nice little addition, and is enabled by default. If you go to a web page that has images on it, try holding your mouse over the image for a couple of seconds (if you have Internet Explorer 6.0 installed, of course). You should see a small "toolbar" pop up in the top corner of the image - the toolbar contains four buttons, which allow you to Save, Print or Email the graphic, or Open your "My Pictures" folder. The toolbar seems to only pop up in certain situations, however - possibly only if the image is over a certain size, or possibly only if the image is a JPG - I haven't figured out the conditions yet! But you can right-click on ANY image, regardless of whether the pop-up Image Toolbar appears, and select to Save, Email or Print the image from the context menu that appears.

IE 6.0 also has Automatic Image Resizing enabled by default, which means it will automatically enlarge or reduce an image to fit the window, if the image is the only thing displayed on the page. This feature can also be disabled if you want, by going into Internet Options (on the Tools menu) and unticking "Enable Automatic Image Resizing" on the Advanced tab.

But my favourite feature of IE 6.0 would have to be the addition of the Privacy tab in Internet Options! These new settings allow you, the user, to control which types of cookies IE is allowed to accept - thus giving you much more control over your browsing privacy. To access these new settings, click the Tools menu in IE 6.0, select Internet Options, and then select the Privacy tab. By default, it's set to "Medium" privacy which in my opinion is the best setting anyway, providing a nice balance between privacy and useability. The Medium privacy setting allows the following:

The Internet Explorer help file has a lot more information on what this means!

There is very little difference between Outlook Express 5.5 and 6.0. One small difference, which I quite like, is the addition of a couple of minor "virus protection" features in Outlook Express's Options. Click on the Tools menu in Outlook Express 6.0 and select Options, then select the Security tab. Here you'll see the ability to select the Security Zone that Outlook Express uses. This particular feature was already available in Outlook Express 5.x, and I highly recommend that everyone selects "Restricted Zone" in order to limit the ability for a malicious script to run from an e-mail. You will also see two new tick-boxes here - one is called "Warn me when other applications try to send mail as me", and is ticked by default. The other is labelled "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially contain a virus", and is not ticked by default. I recommend leaving these set as they are by default. The first option will prevent many viruses which e-mail out copies of themselves invisibly through Outlook Express. But the second option, if ticked, will restrict your ability to view or receive many legitimate attachment types (such as HTML files or ZIP files), and in my opinion takes too much control away from the user. Instead I would encourage people to use regular antivirus software as the best measure of defence against virus-infected email attachments, coupled with a good dose of common sense and informed caution!

So - is IE 6.0 worth the upgrade? Yes and no! I've yet to encounter any bugs or problems with it - it hasn't crashed or frozen on my computer at all, and seems to be quite solid and stable. If you're running an older version of IE, such as version 4.7 or earlier, then I would encourage you to upgrade to 6.0 as the differences between 4.7 and 6.0 are a lot more noticeable, and 6.0 has a great many security patches and fixes built into it. If you like to keep your computer up-to-date with the latest versions of everything possible, you'll surely want to upgrade to IE 6.0 too. If you're already using IE 5.01 or 5.5, you probably will have to decide for yourself - the new privacy features are quite nice and in my opinion are good enough to warrant the upgrade, but if you're not so fussed about things like cookies then sticking with IE 5.x won't be a problem. I would, however, encourage people who prefer to stay with IE 5.x to make sure they have the latest Service Pack installed for their version of 5.x - specifically, IE 5.5 Service Pack 2, or IE 5.01 Service Pack 2. These service packs include many of the latest security fixes and patches, and can be downloaded from the Windows Update website at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/.

(And if you're not sure what version of IE you are currently running, just click on the Help menu in Internet Explorer, and select About Internet Explorer).

To download Internet Explorer version 6.0, head over to Microsoft's website at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.asp and click the Download Now link. 

 

Actrix Direct Debit Is Here!

Actrix is now able to offer you the option of paying your account by Direct Debit.

What is Direct Debit?
Direct Debit is a safe and secure service that allows a payment to be automatically deducted from your bank account, and paid to Actrix on your billing date. Why not get your bank to work for you? Set up a Direct Debit option so you can get on with the things you really enjoy.

How Much will Actrix be Deducting?
As your bill may vary each month, Actrix will always advise you (ten days prior) via an e-mail statement of the amount to be deducted. This gives you time to call the Actrix help desk to query your account or stop payment if necessary. So, though the system is fully automated, you remain in control.

So What are You Waiting For?
It's all very simple. To register, simply fill in and sign our Direct Debit form and return it to us.

To print off our Direct Debit Form yourself, click here. Please fill in this form and return it to us at:

Freepost Actrix
PO Box 11 410
Wellington

Once we have received and processed your form we will send you an e-mail confirming your Direct Debit option has been set up. At the same time we will put you into our Aussie Holiday Draw.

If you'd prefer us to send you a Direct Debit form, click here. Fill in the name and address fields, and we'll send one to you straight away.

Other Payment Options
If you do not want to pay your account by Direct Debit, there are other payment options that are available for you.

Credit Card - If you'd prefer to pay your monthly account automatically by Credit Card you can do so by registering your Credit Card details with us. Click here to do so. Please note that all your details will be stored securely while in our accounting system. As your monthly bill may change from time to time Actrix will advise you via an e-mail statement of the amount we are to deduct. This gives you time to call our Help Desk to query your account, or stop payment if necessary. So although this system is fully automated you remain in control.

Cheque – You can still pay your account by cheque. Just write your account number on the back of the cheque and post it to us.



Dialup Networking Error #5 Error: 718
by John Kontopos

Error 718: PPP - Timeout

A PPP (connection) negotiation was started, but terminated because the remote computer did not respond within an appropriate time.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

  1. Poor phone line quality
  2. A problem with the server at the ISP
  3. The wrong username and or password was entered.
  4. The wrong phone number was dialled by the connection..
  5. The server type settings maybe incorrect on the computer.
  6. The modem may need initialisation string to stabilise its operation.

POSSIBLE RESOLUTIONS:

  1. If you are using extension cords or faxes or any other similar device, disconnect them and try again
  2. Find out if Actrix is experiencing any server problems (0800-228749).
  3. Make sure the correct username and or password have been entered.
  4. Verify that the correct access number is being used, ie. 086722874.
  5. Make sure the server types in dial up networking is set to PPP, and TCP/IP box is ticked.
  6. Use a initialisation string such as +ms=v90 for smoother operation.

Does this all sound a little complicated? Call the Actrix helpdesk for assistance (0800-228749).

 

Interesting Sites (Click the picture links to access the 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? Let me know and receive a free Norrie the Nerd chocolate bar courtesy of Actrix!

A heap of micromalicious fun!WINDOWS - Really Good Edition
http://128.241.244.96/portal/uploads/27000/27549_winrg.swf - I've thought long and hard about whether Microsoft Windows is a good thing on the whole, or whether it perhaps isn't. There are pros and cons on both sides of the debate, but what the hey! If you think you might enjoy taking the mickey out of Windows then this site is for you. Someone, who must really hate Windows, has put an awful lot of time and energy into creating this little masterpiece of mockery. It presents you with a simulated Windows RG desktop and well, if you're a Windows user, you'll be able to relate to the site pretty quickly, and it just goes on and on and on...
A site that really adds upMaths is Fun
www.mathsisfun.com/ - This is a truly impressive site for the kids, submitted by Sylvia Tapuke. There's a lot of emphasis on learning but the information and activities are presented in a very non-threatening way - makes you want to click on the "brush up your tables" link. There are free tables charts and lots of puzzles and games as well. The site has received an award from Edunet and contains links to other maths education related pages.
Cool games siteElectrotank Games
www.electrotank.com - I know Actrix staff members who spend their entire lunch times at this site trying to beat their online mini-golf scores! There is nothing to download as the games are all Flash based (you may need to download Flash, but you probably already have it installed). The graphics are good, and the games are interesting (or so I'm informed. Click the big large opening banner for the minigolf, and try the other games at your leisure.
University of LifeUniversity of Life
www.universityoflife.com - Okay, this one has a fun and a serious side. I enjoyed some of the fun tests, and I'm sure you're all interested in having your personality analysed according to how you eat soup, or your sexuality evaluated by your favourite colour. Here and there you will be encouraged to buy something, but there's no real pressure. I'd avoid any where you have to enter your e-mail address, though. Thanks again to Sylvia Tapuke.
What do you want to find out?Dictionaries and Encyclopaedias
www.csfwg.org/resources/links/csfwg-dictionaries.htm - This site contains links to all sorts of different dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Cooking terms, old sayings, Roman Catholic terms, even mountain bike slang. You name it, you'll find a dictionary or encyclopaedia on it here!
Friends Re-UnitedFriends Re-United
www.friendsreunited.com - This site was sent in by Jane Prenter who "decided to share this website with the selected few. The selected few being all expats that were schooled in England. It is a complete database of all the schools in UK and gives the opportunity to reunite with old school friends, share memories and post messages."
Some great Kiwiana! Kiwi Cards
http://kiwicards.newzealand.co.nz/ - This site allows you to send Internet postcards to friends overseas via e-mail. There are currently over 100 cards available under seven different categories. Clear instructions are provided and the service is completely free.
New Zealand Web LinksNew Zealand Web Site Directory
http://weblinks.newzealand.co.nz/ - Here's another one from the newzealand.co.nz domain. This one contains A free directory of over 1200 links to New Zealand web sites, including New Zealand Travel, Tourism Information, Accommodation, Commerce and lots more!
Rugby Tactic Demos Complex Rugby Tactics
www.rugbytactics.com/complex_moves_1.htm - RugbyTactics.com is a great resource for rugby players and coaches. They have an extensive catalogue of moves that can add variety to your team's game and features a comprehensive links page covering all aspects of rugby.   Especially great is the collection of small Flash demonstrations of player and ball movements. Select your move, wait for it to load, and then click Play.
Not what you'd expect!Easter Eggs!
www.eeggs.com/ - The term "Easter Egg", as used here, means any amusing tidbit that creators hid in their creations. They could be in computer software, movies, music (e.g. backwards masking), art, books, or even your watch. There are thousands of them, and they can be quite entertaining, if you know where to look. A couple of favourites are the "Spy Hunter"-like game in Microsoft Excel 2000 and the "Wacky Search Menu" in Internet Explorer 5. This site will help you discover Easter Eggs in the things you see and use everyday.
Search EzeeSearchezee.Com
www.searchezee.com/ - SearchEzee queries over 200 of the top search engines, directories and topical resources, all from one easy to use interface. The search engines are arranged in the following categories: General, Country Specific, English Language Ref, Language Translators, Freeware / Software, Photos, Encyclopedias, Topical Ref, Medical Ref, Computers & IT, News & Sports, Law, Music - Video, Kids - Learning, Personal.
Book a BachBook a Bach
www.bookabach.co.nz/ - It wouldn't hurt to start those Christmas holiday plans now. Here you'll find a directory of New Zealand Holiday Accommodation for rental - hundreds of baches, cribs, chalets, beach houses, vacation and holiday homes. Click your region, input your dates, and off you go!

 

Bringing It All Back Home

Well, what a month it's been. Wars, rumours of wars, unbelievable death and destruction, and the possibility of more to come. I hope that any friends and family you might have in the U.S. are all okay.

Take care through October,


Rob Zorn
Actrix Newsletter editor
editor@actrix.co.nz