Actrix Newsletter December 2003

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.
Past newsletters may be viewed at http://editor.actrix.co.nz/
Newsletters are now archived by article at http://editor.actrix.co.nz/byarticle/
Questions and comments about the newsletter can be e-mailed to editor@actrix.co.nz
Other inquiries should be e-mailed to support@actrix.co.nz

So You've Decided to Call the Actrix Help Desk

by Rob Zorn

Norrie
"Hi there. This is Actrix Support. You're speaking with Norrie. How can I help?"

Actrix Networks Ltd runs a help desk between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight, seven days a week. Each and every Actrix customer is entitled to e-mail the help desk or phone them as often as they like between those hours.

Our help desk crew are a skilled and likeable lot. They do work according to varying guidelines, but, unlike with many other ISP help desks, we don't require them to follow specific formulas in helping you. They're able to be flexible and friendly. Hopefully they'll help you without making you feel ignorant or guilty for having called them. We want our help desk to come across as human and real, rather than robotic and confined to set procedures. They've been selected according to a number of criteria including outgoing and helpful personalities, their knowledge of computer and Internet related issues, and their problem solving skills.

This last aspect is probably the most important. There are a million and one things that conspire together to produce a successful Internet connection or lack thereof, and problems are often caused by unexpected factors. Getting to a solution is often a more obscure process than it may seem, and so the ability to sort through everything that's going on, eliminating red-herrings, is a real and valuable skill.

You can be of great assistance to the help desk staff by being as prepared as possible when you call them. The more information you can give them, the more able they will be to help you swiftly. I've included some ways you can be best prepared below. Not all of them will be relevant every time, and you shouldn't feel that you have to be on top of each one before you call, but the more of them you can cover the better.

Take note of error messages: Windows (and presumably a Macintosh system) has a limited number of error messages that it can serve up to you at various times when things go wrong. Usually these are relevant to the problem and helpful. If you're striking a problem, and you get an error message, write it down or memorise its main points before you call. That way you can inform the help desk person and they can begin to narrow down the cause of the problem right away. If you aren't sure what the error message said, the help desk may ask you to hang up and go repeat the process so you can get the error message and call back. It saves time if you can get on top of this the first time around.

What were you doing at the time things went belly-up?: As soon as something goes wrong and puts you in a situation where you think you may need help desk assistance, take note as much as possible as to what you were doing when it all turned to custard. What programs were open and which keys did you press? Were you doing anything differently this time around?

Has anything been changed recently?: If recent changes have been made to your computer or its configuration(s), let the helper know right away. This may save him or her having to think down a few blind alleys.  Have programs recently been installed or removed? Has your machine been serviced recently? Have any of the cords been removed or replaced? Has someone else in the house has been making such changes without your knowledge? If at all possible, check into these things before you call.

Is the problem affecting web site browsing, e-mail or both?: If you find web pages aren't loading, do a quick Send and Receive with your e-mail to check that you can connect to the mail servers okay. If e-mail is your problem, have a quick browse on the Internet to see whether web pages load. It's often really helpful if the help desk staff can know the extent of the problem and what it's affecting. That way they can often eliminate red herrings and zero in on the true problem more quickly. 

Know your version of Windows: Finding out about your problem may mean the help desk staff member will want to know what sorts of settings you have. Every time Microsoft releases a new version of its Windows operating software, it seems to want to put settings in different places. It will save time if you can tell them what version of Windows you have (98, 2000, ME, XP etc). Every time you start your machine up, Windows will display what version it is to you quite prominently on a big splash screen. Make a mental note of it next time. If you use a Macintosh, or any other operating system, it would be good to let the help desk person know right away.

Know your user name, e-mail address or customer number: The help desk needs to be able to identify you before they can help you. They need to be sure your account is open and functioning as it should. Establishing which is your account can be problematic if these details aren't able to be given. Also, if you're writing an e-mail to the help desk, make sure you send it from your main Actrix e-mail address. If you have to contact them from a different e-mail address, be sure to tell them what your Actrix user name is.

Have your Windows CD(s) handy: Or at least store it/them where they can be easily found and retrieved. Most of the time these CDs won't be needed, but occasionally they are if a part of your system needs to be re-installed. It will save time if you don't have to go hunt for them and call back.

Have your machine switched on and ready, and be at the machine when you call: It is not very likely that the help desk staff member will be able to get very far in diagnosing your problem if the misbehaving machine is not nearby and ready to be looked into. If at all possible, get your phone near the computer (or vice-versa), as talking with you about the problem while you shout instructions down the hall to someone in another room is really going to make things difficult for all concerned. The computer uses a phone line to connect to the Internet, so there should be a phone plug handy and nearby.

If things have frozen, try a re-boot: Often the Internet stops working for you because there is a temporary problem with your operating system that a simple re-boot will fix. If one program gets hung, it can affect your computer's other resources resulting in a general paralysis where nothing works or only some things work. It happens. It's nothing to be alarmed about (unless it is happening regularly). Try shutting down and re-starting. See if things are now okay before you call the help desk.

Call from a landline: You can't call our support line from a cell phone, and you shouldn't really need to. You don't need to be online to have most problems fixed, though this is a common misconception. 

Passwords and 691 Error Messages: Password problems would probably be the most common reason for customer calls. It is true that occasionally our authentication equipment may be temporarily down, but in 99% of cases, the reason is an input error at the user end. Check that capslock key before you call. Passwords are case-sensitive, so if your capslock key is on when you're typing in your password, you're going to get a 691 error.

Use the opportunity to ask questions: Being able to talk to someone in a one-to-one situation is often really helpful. If you can, why not make the most of it? Ask questions about what the help desk person is telling you to do. If you don't understand why you're changing a setting ask! I can remember from my own days back on the help desk. What a breath of fresh air it was to talk with someone who was interested in their own problem and was taking whatever steps they could to understand better so they could help themselves the next time it occurred!

Contact the Actrix Help Desk

0800-228749

support@actrix.co.nz

Their bark is worse than their bite: Don't be intimidated by the help desk staff. They can deal with most customer problems in their sleep, and though they shouldn't, sometimes they can talk above your head without really meaning to. These guys (and girls sometimes) build computers, tinker with them in their leisure time, and read about them online when they have nothing to do. They can forget that Mr or Ms Customer has a different kind of life that doesn't revolve around motherboards, modems and megabytes. Politely ask them to slow down and give you the story in bite-sized pieces of real English. They really can do it if they try.

While you're at it, get the help desk staff member's name: The person helping you will tell you their name pretty much as soon as you call, but a lot of customers miss it, or don't take note. It's a good idea. Not only does it enable you to interact with your helper on a more friendly (and therefore productive) basis, but it often makes things easier afterwards. If you need to complain (heaven forbid, but it has happened on the odd occasion) then things will be more easily dealt with if you can tell us who you were working with. Also, some problems need more calls to the help desk than others. If you can ask for the same person again it will save a lot of time avoiding going over ground already covered. Notes will usually be kept on your previous call, but not everything can be noted in detail, and it's always best to get back to whomever you were dealing with.

Limit your calls to Internet-related matters: Actrix is an Internet Service Provider. We're not the local branch of Microsoft, and we have no business advising you on stuff that doesn't relate to the Internet. Problems with your connection or your Internet software are fine, and, though out help desk staff have a wide spectrum of computer knowledge, they don't have any official expertise in matters regarding your printer or the reasons why Microsoft Word is committing illegal operations. You're best off going to your hardware vendor for that sort of assistance.

Check our state-of-the-network messages: Often you can save your own time and ours by checking our state of the network messages. If we are experiencing technical difficulties, we'll usually put a message on our web page stating what the problem is and when we expect it fixed. If you're experiencing a problem, but you can still browse, have a look at our home page (www.actrix.co.nz). You may find the answer there and not need to call. Also, when and if you do call, our auto-attendant phone greeting message will allow you to press the "1" button to hear a recorded message about a current problem and its estimated time of fix. Hearing this may help you understand that the problem is not yours, and that things should return to normal at a given time. It will mean less time wasted waiting in a phone queue because lots of other customers are calling about the same problem at the same time. 

Okay, that will do for now. Please do make use of the help desk. It's free (although, of course, you pay for it in your connection fees) and we don't want our guys to get bored. Make it a positive experience as much as you can. I hope that the points above will help that be possible. And don't forget that they're there on the weekends. There's no need to wait until Monday to make a call or write them an e-mail.       

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Readers' Forum

If you'd like to ask a question or request some help on any Actrix or Internet-related matter. Simply send me an e-mail with the word "forum" in the subject line. I'll try and answer your question by return e-mail, and will also post the answer here for the benefit of others who may have a similar question or problem. By the same token, if you read something here and think you may have something to suggest, please feel more than free. Please also note that questions and answers may turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz).

I'm really grateful to the Actrix Support Team, too, for their input here when some of the questions also have me a little stumped.

Brian writes: Lately we have been receiving mail with attachments and when we go to open and read them we find that there is a message saying that the attachment has been deleted : " OE removed access to the following unsafe attachments in your mail: etc. " Why does this happen?

Hi Brian, Your Outlook Express has been set to block any e-mail attachments which it sees as a potential threat. Unfortunately, this feature is a little over-zealous, and ends up blocking just about everything. To fix the problem follow the procedure below:

  1. Open Outlook Express;
  2. Click on Tools and the click on Options;
  3. Click on the tab called Security;
  4. Remove the tick next to "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus."
  5. Then click on Apply and OK.

I do recommend removal of this feature as it causes more inconvenience than anything else. If you do remove this feature, you should be sure to keep your e-mail software up-to-date by means of the Windows Update page (http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/en/default.asp) in order to ensure it won't automatically run viruses. You should also take usual care with attachments i.e., not clicking any that you are unsure of.

Ken writes: Recently my computer decided to do its own thing resulting in my losing all programmes etc. Everything has now been re-entered but I have an ongoing problem with the computer losing its internet connection. It sometimes works fine but will then start to disconnect and can repeat the disconnection a number of times. Timing between the disconnections varies but can be as little as 30 seconds. I have asked the question of others and am told it may be the fact that I live in a rural area with limited phone lines and demand causing the problem. The fact is I use the computer at all times of the day and I never had the problem before the computer crashed. Help!

Actrix Security Suite

CyberScan (anti-Virus) - $2.95/month or $15.95 for six months.
CyberFilter (anti-Spam) - $1.95/month or $10.45 for six months.
Security Suite (both products) - $3.95/month or $19.95 for six months.

Your first trial month is free and there's no obligation to continue! See below for more details.

Hi Ken, This is one that you will probably want to talk over with someone on our help desk, but a few general ideas might be of help to yourself and other readers before you do.

Yes, rural areas are notoriously bad for dialup connections. The reasons for this include poor quality phone lines, old equipment, electric fences which cause havoc with your modem's ability to send clear signals across the wire, and heavy demand.

Your modem's settings can be tweaked a bit, however, to help it cope a little better with these problems. For example, by setting the maximum speed to be a little slower, the modem may in fact perform better and at a better speed than it appears to be now. By making it slow down, you lessen its chances of getting itself into a knotty situation where it has to drop the connection, or where the Actrix modem drops the connection because it can no longer understand what your modem is communicating. There are a number of other things that can be done to help a modem such as adding initialisation strings to the settings which make its performance more robust. These settings are easy to alter. Our help desk guys can talk you through the changes over the phone. It's all done with a few mouseclicks and a bit of typing. You don't need to open the machine's case or anything like that.

I think what may have happened is that your modem was tweaked a little before your crash and was performing at its best back then. Now that you've re-installed everything, your modem may have returned to its default settings which are not always the most ideal for rural use. Therefore it is struggling and performing badly. I'm guessing, of course, because I don't know all the specifics, but a chat with our help desk would certainly be my first suggestion. You can reach them on 0800-228749 between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight.

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14 Day Trash Deletion for Web Mail and IMAP

From 1 December, Actrix will begin deleting any e-mail that is 14 days old or more and stored in Web Mail and/or IMAP mail folders named Trash.

This is being done to reduce the amount of waste e-mail being stored on our servers, and will particularly assist some customers who find their 25 Megabyte mailbox allocation is frequently being exceeded.

Please note that this will only affect customers who use Actrix Web Mail, or who have their mail clients set to use IMAP, and it will only affect folders named Trash. The vast majority of customers use pop mail, and will be unaffected by the change. No e-mail will be deleted from the Deleted Items folder on customers' computers.

If you use Actrix Web Mail or IMAP, please be aware that, after 1 December of this year, once you delete any e-mail by moving it to a folder named Trash, you will have only 14 days to retrieve it before it is permanently deleted.

If you have inquiries regarding this matter please call our help desk on 0800-228749 between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight.
Actrix Security Suite

The Actrix Security Suite consisting of our virus protection product (CyberScan) and our Spam protection product (CyberFilter) was released in March this year. It has proved to be a successful addition to our services with widespread customer take-up. So far we have over 1500 customers using it.

CyberFilter is an effective and radical approach to Spam control developed right here by the Actrix Networks web technicians.

We'd like to invite customers to take up our invitation to a free month's trial of both products if they haven't already done so.

To read about the Actrix Security Suite (CyberFilter and CyberScan) click Domestic/Security Suite on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz ) or simply click here: http://www.actrix.co.nz/domestic/security/index.php.

There you can sign up for either or both products and try them free for a month. If you don't want to continue with either product, simply unsubscribe before your free month is up and you will not be billed. If you decide to continue with the products, your trial month will still be free. You can unsubscribe by clicking the Subscription Options link to the left of the Security Suite information pages.

To check out what customers have said about CyberFilter, click here. We're also pleased to announce that CyberFilter 3 is just about at testing stages, so expect some great further improvements in the next month or two!


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!

Dave Letterman's Top Ten Archives
www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/top_ten/archive/ - Even people who can't stand Letterman usually enjoy his top ten lists. This archive is pretty massive, stretching back to 1995. It's searchable, if you'd like to see whether a certain topic was covered, or you can just browse by month and day. For example: The Top Ten Hilarious April Fool's Day Pranks In The Mafia, or The Top Ten Things Shakespeare Would Say If He Were Alive Today...
Men's Urinal Etiquette Test
www.drinknation.com/urinaltest.php - This test presents you with varying scenarios involving a row of six urinals in a men's room, each with differing configurations of occupants. For each scenario you have to indicate which is the correct vacant urinal go to. Somehow men instinctively know, even when the difference in choices is so subtle it's beyond explanation. A few more tips about urinal etiquette are given when the answers are presented along with your score.
Philosophical Consistency Test
www.philosophyquotes.net/cgi-bin/god_game1.cgi - How consistent are your beliefs about God and morality? This page asks you a series of questions about what you believe and then analyses how logical, rational and/or contradictory your beliefs are. If you enjoy the way this one challenges your thinking, you might enjoy the other philosophy and character games at http://www.philosophers.co.uk/games/games.htm.
Rip-Off Primer
www.trampolinesales.com/ripoffs.htm - Learn the psychological tricks sleazy salesmen use to make you buy when you don't want to. "The ten items listed here are some of the most common "Sneaky Snake" deceptions used by unscrupulous salespeople to get in your wallet and 'make the sale' at any cost. The variations on these themes are limitless, but with this general outline you'll be able to spot a "snake" and protect yourself."
World Time Server
http://www.worldtimeserver.com - Find out the correct time anywhere in the world. Simply select the country and/or location from the list on the left to have the correct time in that place displayed. Daylight saving is accounted for.
Lunar Anomalies
www.lunaranomalies.com/ - Are you convinced that we're not being told everything about aliens, the moon and extra-terrestrial visits and artifacts? Then this is the site for you. Here you' find all sorts of essays, photos, articles and links to news items that seek to demonstrate that we're not alone and that the moon is littered with alien ruins and machines. There's even something about the CIA searching for Noah's Ark!
Common E-mail Hoaxes
www.humorcafe.com/hoaxes/ - This site contains brief descriptions of some of the more popular Internet hoaxes, urban legends, rumours and junk that might circulate through your e-mail. Thankfully I haven't heard of most of them, but they are still a good read, and may help with developing a healthy level of scepticism towards some of that spectacular news we stumble across online.
Calorie-Count.Com
http://calorie-count.com/ - A good site for dieters or the curious about food, Calorie-Count lets you work out how many calories you need in a day according to your sex, height and weight. Then you can type in a food, or search through the categories, and see how many calories are in that food. It can make for depressing reading...
Institute for Naming Children Humanely
http://inch.stormpages.com/ - Now in their "second year of enlightening the world," the Institute for Naming Children Humanely are continuing with their mission - achieving a better society through better names for children. Learn why children should be given better names and the dangers involved with naming children according to some of the more common methods. These include the "Scrabble Draw" category, the "How About Another Last Name?" category, the "Unfortunate Connotation" category, the "Let Me Spell That For You" category and many more!
The Amazing Internet Time Travel Tale of John Titor
www.johntitor.com/ He's either really from the future, or it's all an amazing and elaborate hoax. Whichever way you decide, it's a fascinating read. Check out some of the linked sites as well for more. "In November 2000, a person calling themselves John Titor, started posting on a public forum that he was a time traveller from the year 2036. One of the first things he did was post pictures of his time machine and its operations manual. As the weeks went by, more and more people began questioning him about why he was here, the physics of time travel and his thoughts about our time... In his posts John Titor entertained, angered, frightened and even belittled those who engaged him in conversation."
Let Them Sing It For You
www.sr.se/cgi-bin/p1/src/sing/default.asp - Do you have an original musical composition bouncing around in your brain? If you're eager to hear a rough estimate of how your piece might sound, this site will help. Type in your poetry and hear it sung by some very recognisable voices - and it doesn't even have to be poetry. This site will sing anything for you. It's quite amusing, and the results may not quite be what you're expecting. E-mail your results to a friend!
Last E-mails to Grieving Loved Ones
www.mylastemail.com - "Mylastemail.com is a unique online service, which allows you to leave messages for those you care about – to be e-mailed after your death." It's a pay service ($9.99 US) but they do go to great lengths to make sure it works for you. The only thing is, you won't be around to verify that..... Here's another last e-mail type site that is specifically designed for Christians after they are raptured. http://www.raptureletters.com/.

Cyberspace News Snippets

New Zealand

School head convicted on child porn charges: A former Canterbury principal who looked at but did not download child pornography has been found guilty of possessing objectionable material in a landmark case expected to have wide ramifications. Click here for more.

Pop up porn won't be prosecuted: The Internal Affairs Department says people who receive objectionable material inadvertently while using the internet should not fear prosecution. Click here for more.

E-crime just old crime in new bottles: Police electronic crime laboratory boss Maarten Kleintjes loves catching crooks. For almost 20 years, the 49-year-old Dutchman has been New Zealand's top cybercop, overseeing the transformation of e-crime policing from a one-man audio recovery unit to a 17-member squad throughout the country. Click here for more.

Expensive net lesson: A Southland woman who received a telephone bill for $190 after her internet connection disconnected and re-routed to an 0900 number, says she will fight Telecom over payment of the account. Click here for more.

Cyber bullies prey on girl: A 12-year-old girl has become the victim of a hi-tech and very public form of bullying which Internet watchdogs fear could become more widespread. A schoolyard spat between two Lower Hutt girls led to one taking her revenge by setting up a website encouraging abuse of the other. Click here for more.

Email surveillance powers sought by govt: Police and secret service agents will be able to intercept criminal suspects' emails and text messages under tougher new surveillance moves poised to become law. Click here for more.

General

Norton users on XP face reactivation problem: Users of Norton's Anti-Virus 2004 have been experiencing problems on Windows XP for nearly a month now, with the anti-virus software requiring reactivation after a computer is rebooted 25 times. Click here for more.

Net's dark side dents broadband: People are so fed up with spam, porn and viruses that they are put off high-speed broadband, says a study. The telecoms industry could do more to help users avoid the "dark side" of the net and pitfalls, says the study by think tank the Work Foundation. Click here for more.

Web littered with dead wood: Despite the Internet's ability to deliver information quickly, the Web is littered with abandoned sites and woefully out of date. Many people enthusiastically start Web sites and Web journals, but then lose interest. The Internet's novelty wears off. Click here for more.

More men logging on than tuning in: Men aged 18-34 are turning more to their computers and away from their televisions, a new study has revealed. Click here for more.

Hotmail Overhaul on the Way: Microsoft is preparing a substantial overhaul to its popular Hotmail e-mail service. While company officials aren't explicitly saying that many of the new features are geared toward removing spam annoyances, that looks to be the case. Click here for more.

Duped of $2m Five Singaporeans fall for Internet cheats : Five Singaporeans have been duped of almost $2 million, after falling for Internet cheats offering shares in non-existent family fortunes or shady investment deals. The four men and a woman, aged between 25 and 50 lost between $50,000 and $400,000 each. Four of them are in sales and the fifth is an insurance agent. Click here for more.

NSW police arrest Nigerian scam e-mail suspect: NSW police claim to have cracked a multi-million dollar, so-called Nigerian Internet scam based in Australia with the arrest of a 39-year-old Sydney man. Click here for more.

Group calls for peace talks in P2P wars: Having urged consumers to shun the music business, the man behind Boycott-RIAA.com now wants to 'foster working relationships' between all sides in the P2P file-sharing wars One of the music industry's more active opponents is calling for dialogue and debate between record companies and P2P network users, rather than legal action. Click here for more.

Millions deleted downloads after RIAA started suing: The threat of legal action by the record industry prompted more than 2 million households across America to delete all the music they had stored in their computers during the summer, according to a new report. The message is getting through to consumers, "but they're resenting it," said Russ Crupnick of NPD Group... Click here for more.

Officer Fired for Computer-Snooping on VIPs: Chief William J. Bratton has fired Los Angeles Police Officer Kelly Chrisman for using department computers to look up confidential law enforcement data on scores of celebrities. Click here for more.

Google Puts Search on the Desktop: With Google's new Deskbar, users can, for example, check spelling and look up definitions in an open document, conduct a news search, or use a sophisticated calculator -- all with a few keystrokes. The browser is taken out of the equation. Click here for more.

Firms face up to internet abuse: Abuse of the internet is now a major headache for UK employers, according to a new study on the growing problem. The survey found that almost a third of companies had dealt with up to five disciplinary cases in the last year. Click here for more.

E-mails piling stress on workers: A national study by Australia's peak psychological organisation has confirmed what most people know - email is a major contributor to workplace stress. Sixty-nine per cent of people find having to deal with a daily avalanche of electronic mail is mildly or moderately stressful, according to the study. Two in every 100 said they experienced high levels of stress. Click here for more.

Catholics seek recruits in cyberspace: Some Catholic religious orders, shaken by church sex scandals and a drop in priesthood volunteers, are turning to cyberspace to attract new vocations, church officials said. Click here for more.

Malicious email terrifies children: Young children are being targeted by a cruel and threatening e-mail which is leaving many feeling frightened and guilty, the Internet Safety Group says. The chain e-mail contains a death threat and a graphic picture of a dead child. Click here for more.

Experts comb web for terror clues: Cyber investigators are scouring the world wide web for clues on any future suicide bomb attacks, deploying satellites and other high-tech wizardry to hone in on suspicious Web surfing activity. Click here for more.

Fans mourn the day the pirated music died: The crowd of more than 30 young people, clad in sneakers and jeans, are the prime target for music industry sales. But yesterday they flocked to Sydney's Downing Centre courts in a show of support for three students who that same industry wanted jailed - for internet music piracy. Click here for more.

Women in battle for top tech jobs: The United States leads the world in technological advances, but women are still denied many of the high-tech industry's leadership roles, according to a study released today by Catalyst, a nonprofit research and advisory group dedicated to advancing women in business. Click here for more.

Looked at porn? The boss can't just fire you (if you're Dutch): Employees in the Netherlands can't be sacked for downloading Internet pornography onto office computers unless there is a clear code of conduct, according to the Dutch legal trade magazine People Planet Profit, which conducted research on the subject. Click here for more.

Pop-ups prove profitable, persistent: Call it spyware, or adware, or just plain annoying — but it’s everywhere. Programs designed to deliver pop-up advertising have multiplied like viruses in recent months and consumers should get used to it: Companies behind the pop-ups are signing up brand-name advertisers, winning court battles and rolling in cash. Click here for more.

Mainly Microsoft

Microsoft offers virus bounty: Microsoft has offered a $500,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the writers of two computer viruses. The Blaster worm and SoBig.F e-mail virus crippled many PCs running on the Microsoft Windows operating system this summer. Click here for more.

Microsoft forgets to renew hotmail.co.uk domain: Microsoft was busy covering up an almighty cock-up last night after forgetting to renew its hotmail.co.uk domain name. Despite being warned that the domain for its popular Web mail service was up for renewal... Click here for more.

Microsoft: EU may get poor Windows: Microsoft Corp said it would be forced to offer European consumers a substandard version of Windows if the European Union makes it re-write its operating system, sources close to the case said on Thursday. Click here for more.

Unix/Linux Line

Linux Nips at Microsoft: Sometimes the Microsoft/Linux software battle royale seems more like King Kong being attacked by fleas. IDC found that Microsoft actually increased its share of the desktop operating systems market in 2002 (to 93.8 percent), while also seeing gains in server operating systems (to 55.1 percent). But Linux also gained in both departments... Click here for more.

China to invest in Linux-based software: The Chinese government plans to throw its financial weight behind Linux-based computer systems that could rival Microsoft Corp's Windows in one of the world's fastest-growing technology markets, an official said on Wednesday. Click here for more.

Red Hat Dumps Free Linux To Focus on Enterprise: In what is being viewed as the maturation of both the company and the Linux operating system, Red Hat has announced it will no longer produce or support its free, consumer version of Linux. Industry analysts praised Red Hat's move to ride a building wave of Linux adoption by exclusively selling Enterprise Linux, which the Raleigh, North Carolina-based company unveiled two weeks ago. Click here for more.

Attack on Linux kernel foiled: An unknown intruder attempted to insert a Trojan horse program into the code of the next version of the Linux kernel, stored at a publicly accessible database. Security features of the source-code repository, known as BitKeeper, detected the illicit change within 24 hours, and the public database was shut down... Click here for more.

Mac News

Panther is a special breed of cat: A gross stereotype: Windows customers begrudgingly tolerate their computers; for Macintosh users, the machines are a labor of love. I'm reminded of these differing mindsets in the aftermath of Apple's recent launch of OS X Version 10.3, Panther for short. Click here for more.

Apple TV ad banned in U.K.: British TV regulators banned an ad for Apple Computer's Power Mac G5, saying its claim to the title "world's fastest personal computer" is not fully supported. While reviewers initially gave the ad the OK, the Independent Television Commission (ITC) this week decided to take action after receiving eight complaints from viewers. Click here for more.

Apple rolls out new Macs: Apple Computer Inc. Tuesday unveiled an iMac computer with a 20-inch flat-panel screen and introduced a new model of its Power Mac G5 desktop computer with dual microprocessors as the iconic computer maker geared up for the holiday selling season. Click here for more.

Spam, Wonderful Spam

Spam education grows along with the problem : If it's possible, spam is more intolerable now than this time last year. In recent weeks, we've seen countless news stories about the scourge, some generated by a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which essentially said nothing new to anyone who has watched spam grow from an annoyance to a plague. Click here for more.

Spammers Target Instant Message Users: Nicole Fann was shocked the first time it happened. Fann, a consultant at a Northern Virginia high-tech company, was working on her computer when a new window popped up. It was an instant message from someone called "hot_girl" inviting her to "come check out my website." Click here for more.

Man Arrested Over 'Spam Rage': A Silicon Valley computer programmer has been arrested for threatening to torture and kill employees of the company he blames for bombarding his computer with Web ads promising to enlarge his penis. Click here for more.

Reclaiming your inbox: The US Senate has approved the first law aimed at stemming the flood of unsolicited email, or spam, into the inboxes of computer users. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

The spyware that came in for the code: A batch of files appeared on the popular Kazaa file-sharing network last June purporting to be "cracked" versions of the popular video games Battlefield 1942 and FIFA Football 2003. When downloaded, the "cracked" files – files that have been manipulated by hackers – contained a nasty surprise. Click here for more.

Bank scam may originate from Russia: A criminal element from Russia may be responsible for the recent spate of spoof emails that have attempted to con online-banking customers into revealing their account details. Click here for more.

Westpac warns customers about email scam: Westpac Bank is warning its internet banking customers about an email scam which tries to get them to reveal their login details and passwords. Click here for more.

Scam sucks in some: The Westpac Bank says at least 200 people entered their details on a fake internet banking website, meaning fraudsters could have accessed their accounts. Click here for more.

ANZ latest bank to be hit by internet fraud scam: Internet fraudsters who trick New Zealanders into revealing their secret banking passwords have a refined taste for irony. But their grasp of English grammar is less acute. Click here for more.

Gator sheds skin, renames itself: Gator, the controversial advertising software and e-wallet company, has changed its name to better reflect its business in behavioral marketing. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company plans to provide more details Thursday of its decision to adopt a name that better reflects its other businesses. Click here for more.

'DDoS' Attacks Still Pose Threat to Internet: On October 21, 2002, people around the world cruised through cyberspace the way they do every day -- bidding on auctions, booking airline reservations, sending e-mail -- all the while unaware that someone was working overtime to try to bring the Internet to its knees. Click here for more.

Blackmail latest scam for hackers: The rapid growth of broadband home computer connections may be inadvertently fueling what police suspect could be the start of a new crime wave -- cyber-blackmail. As more homes connect to faster delivery systems, their computers are becoming vulnerable to hackers and virus writers who can turn them into "zombie" machines, ready to carry out any malevolent command. Click here for more.

Microsoft Warns of Latest Software Holes: Microsoft Corp. today revealed a serious software security hole that lets hackers take over people's computers, its ninth "critical" software warning in the past four months. Microsoft said the flaw allows hackers to take complete control of computers running the Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems. Click here for more.

Mimail mutant targets PayPal users : For the second time in four days, a new worm has emerged that tries to con Paypal users into revealing their credit card details. In the past day, around 25,000 users have been infected by Mimail.j, the latest mass-mailing worm designed to target customers of online payment service PayPal. Click here for more.

The Weird, Weird Web

Things to do on the Net when you're dead: A new service designed to send emails out to your loved (or loathed) ones after you die went live this week. Mylastemail.com enables subscribers to set up a series of final messages online which it promises will be forwarded only when they are dead. Click here for more.


A Little Levity: Nerd Season

A truck driver hauling a tractor-trailer load of computers stops for a beer. As he approaches the bar he sees a big sign on the door saying "NERDS NOT ALLOWED--ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!" He goes in and sits down.

The bartender comes over to him, sniffs, says he smells kind of nerdy, asks him what he does for a living. The truck driver says he drives a truck, and the smell is just from the computers he is hauling. The bartender says, "Okay, truck drivers are not nerds," and serves him a beer.

As he is sipping his beer, a skinny guy walks in with tape around his glasses, a pocket protector with twelve kinds of pens and pencils, and a belt at least a foot too long. The bartender, without saying a word, pulls out a shotgun and blows the guy away. The truck driver asks him why he did that. The bartender said not to worry, the nerds are over-populating the Silicon Valley, and are in season now. "You don't even need a license," he said.

So the truck driver finishes his beer, gets back in his truck, and heads back onto the freeway. Suddenly he veers to avoid an accident, and the load shifts. The back door breaks open and computers spill out all over the freeway.

He jumps out and sees a crowd already forming, grabbing up the computers. They are all engineers, accountants and programmers wearing the nerdiest clothes he has ever seen. He can't let them steal his whole load, so remembering what happened in the bar, he pulls out his gun and starts blasting away, felling several of them instantly.

A highway patrol officer comes zooming up and jumps out of the car screaming at him to stop.

The truck driver said, "What's wrong? I thought nerds were in season."

"Well, sure," said the patrolman, "but it's illegal to bait 'em."


Bringing It All Back Home

Thanks again for reading the Actrix newsletter. Feedback can be sent to me via the e-mail address listed below. Please limit this to comments/suggestions regarding the newsletter. Requests for support should go to 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