January '06 Topics
Individual articles from Past Actrix Newsletters are archived in
January '06 Topics
January '06 Topics
Actrix Contact Info
Actrix Help Desk
Help Desk Hours
Health nuts are just going to feel stupid someday,
lying in hospitals dying of nothing.
Top 10 Viruses
This newsletter has been produced to help you
get the most out of the Internet,
It's been an incredibly busy year with the Introduction of Actrix Tolls and our CyberJet broadband plans. We're pleased that the Commerce Commission has ruled in TelstraClear's favour meaning that all ISPs should get less fettered access to Telecom's DSL network. This means that at last we all might be able to get some decent competition going within the industry, which is really going to be of benefit to end-users. We'll have to see how all the pieces fall once the dust has settled, but you can expect some greater innovations around our broadband products in the new year,
I'll be on leave until 9 January, but it'll be business as usual for the company as a whole over the break. The Help Desk will be open as usual (8 am - midnight) every day except Christmas and New Year's Day. Let's hope you're all to busy with friends, family, turkey, toys and left-overs to need the help desk on those days anyway.
I hope 2006 is a great year for all, and that everyone gets the rest they need over the break. Eat, drink and be merry, but limit the driving to the playstation if things get too merry.
RSS is another one of those great Internet things that you probably don't yet realise you need. It's a very useful service that is becoming more and more prominent, and will one day be quite commonplace. It's easy to understand and use, and there are plenty of free RSS readers around that you can download in a short amount of time.
An RSS reader looks and works a little bit like an e-mail or usenet program. It connects to various sites for you (you specify them) and downloads headlines. All you have to do is click the headlines and the story will load into the reader from the web site in question. So the usefulness of RSS is mainly to do with time-saving and convenience. You don't have to surf to all the news or blog web sites you normally visit, and you can easily see when a site has been updated with a new article or story.
All these tech-related acronyms sound complicated, but RSS is really simple in concept. In fact, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, or Rich Site Summary, or RDF Site Summary, or a variation on one of those. But who really cares what it stands for (really smelly squid?). The important thing is what it does.
Making RSS work
Not all news sites have an RSS feed, but one that does is said to be "syndicated". You can tell an RSS capable site because it will usually have a button on it that looks something like or . It can vary because RSS is a type of XML, but you don't need to know or care about that. If you see a button like this on a syndicated site, click it to bring up a page that lets you choose what links you want to add to your reader. Sometimes it's as simple as just dragging the orange button into your RSS reader program. Note that sometimes the orange button can be hard to find. Often it's right down the bottom of the page (but not always).
The NZ Herald site, for example, lets you customise to the extent that all headlines, or just headlines about certain things in certain sections appear in your reader. You then select and copy the link, click the Add button (or similar) in your reader, and paste in the link. Your reader will then display your new "feed" on the left. When you click that "feed" all the related headlines will come up on the right hand side, and you can click to read them. Move from feed to feed to select different sets of headlines. The program will automatically update itself, too. It's really that simple!
Getting a reader
Free RSS readers can be downloaded from various sites such as the following:
RSS Reader (pictured above): http://www.rssreader.com/
I haven't tried all of the above, but the various screenshots at each site indicate that they probably all work pretty similarly, and you should be able to intuit your way around them reasonably easily. Of course each will have its own settings that you can fiddle around with so that you can get things just right.
Some Good Syndicated Sites
NZ Herald - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/
Next month we'll have a look at ways in which you can access similarly syndicated web pages using Firefox.
Record companies and distributors have long been alarmed at the way unauthorised music downloads from the Internet have eroded revenues and deprived their artists. Despite regular lawsuits against in the U.S. as a clear warning to people who use peer-to-peer technology illegally, up to 90% of the music downloaded is still done in violation of copyright law.
This year, however, weve seen a number of user-friendly, legal alternatives burst onto the scene as these executives have realised that if you cant beat em, youre best off finding ways to provide attractive alternatives.
Apples iTunes, now the seventh largest music retailer in America, has extended its reach around the globe. Since October Australian punters have been able to purchase from its 1.5 million song catalogue, and indications are that Apple is negotiating the small print with distributors here and the service may soon open its cyber-doors in Godzone too. Distributors jealously guard their local territory, which is why you generally cant download music online from any country but your own.
Amplifier (www.amplifier.co.nz) has been around since 1999 (making it one of the oldest download services running anywhere in the world) and we covered that one briefly last month, Coketunes (www.cokefridge.co.nz) launched its Internet service here in August, and Digirama (www.digirama.co.nz) in November. In each case, the music is authorised. Artists are reimbursed, and consumers get the advantages of choice, money-back guarantees and virus-free downloads, which is not the case with peer-to-peer alternatives.
To download and play legal music from the Internet youre probably going to need Windows, and the latest versions of Internet Explorer. On Broadband each song will take about 1-2 minutes to download. A lot of users (still around 50% by most counts) make do on dial-up meaning their phone lines are tied up for 10-15 minutes per song. Your PC should play this music fine, but if you want to take it with you, youll need to purchase a portable music player. The cheapest of these start at under $100.00.
Generally the sites work by allowing you to create a pre-pay account with your credit card. You can browse by artist, song title or genre, and play a lo-fi sample of any given track. If you like the song (or sometimes a whole album) you can download it to your PC. In most cases the songs have copyright protection built in, known as digital rights management (DRM). This restricts the amount of times you can copy or burn the songs, but once downloaded, theyre yours forever.
Coketunes (www.cokefridge.co.nz) has only been available in New Zealand since 1 August 2005, but already boasts 100,000 users. Its growing by several thousand each month and offers 722,000 songs. These cost $1.75 each, or you can download the whole album, for $18.00.
Its advantage over other legal online music providers is that it is powered by On Demand Distribution, whose software it also uses in seven similar European download sites. Songs added to their catalogue anywhere in the world also become available here, and vice-versa, which is why theyve got such a wide selection. They do actively promote New Zealand music, but its the size of their international catalogue that is most impressive. If your taste is mainly for overseas artists then this is the site that will offer you the greatest choice.
Coketunes also offers a pretty sophisticated download experience, and depending on your level of computer expertise, this can be a good or a bad thing. You can play streamed samples direct from the site, but you need to download and install their music manager software before you can download any songs to your computer. This will take you 5-15 minutes depending on your connection speed. Downloaded songs will the automatically play in Windows Media Player.
Youre restricted to using Internet Explorer 6 on a Windows machine (no Macs or boutique browsers) because their download technology is dependent upon IEs built in Active X software. The songs come down in WMA format which is a compression format similar to mp3, but one that also carries licensing restrictions, ie a built in restriction on how many times you will be allowed to copy or burn the song to a CD (usually around 3 times).
Many players can handle WMA format, most notably Windows Media Player which comes standard with Windows. but you wont be able to play these songs on your iPod, unfortunately, because of the Microsoft based digital rights management component built into the WMA format of Coketunes downloads. This is probably the biggest drawback.
You can pay by credit card or SMS (Telecom only), and Coketunes will give you increased credit if you load up lots of dollars in advance. E.g a $59.99 payment will get you $66 worth of credit, and the more you pay in advance, the greater the credit bonus.
Compression - Full quality music files tend to be large and would take a long time to download. Music available on the Internet is typically compressed. A small amount of music quality is sacrificed (youd have to listen closely to notice) but file sizes are reduced by about 90%.
Kbps - Kilobits per second. This refers to how compressed the music file is. The higher the number of kilobits per second, the less compressed and the better the quality. 128kbps is considered acceptable. 256kbps should provide better sound.
Low-fi - Highly compressed file down to as little as 48kbps.
WMA (Windows Media Audio) - a compressed audio file format developed by Microsoft, similar to mp3, but which more easily incorporates DRM.
DRM (Digital Rights Management) - refers to the encryption coding built into audio media files to protect their copyright. DRM controls the amount of times that you can copy, transfer or burn a track Windows Media and Fairplay are the most widely used types of DRM.
MP3: (MPEG Layer III) - This is the most popular type of compressed audio file. Its compatible with almost all digital audio players, but the files arent normally protected by DRM.
Stream - This is typically how you would listen to samples. Streamed music is played in real time either by music software at the site itself, or via your own music playing software (e.g. Windows Media Player). But the music is not downloaded to you in a way you can keep.
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 get an answer to you 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 also turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz).
Dean writes: Hi. Regarding the "things up close" web site and the US penny [mentioned in last month's newsletter] - A US penny has a relief picture of President Abraham Lincoln on the "head" side, and fittingly, the "tail" side shows the Lincoln Memorial, a well-known Washington attraction with marble columns. The figure "lurking" in the columns on the US penny is simply the statue of Abraham Lincoln (sitting in his chair) which is located just inside the columns of the Lincoln Memorial building. Still, the detail is quite incredible given the size of a penny. See http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/sites/memorial.htm for pictures of the Lincoln Memorial, and the statue.
Hi Dean, Ah, thanks for that. It makes sense, and I can now see that the figure is sort of seated. I guess I just assumed it was more mysterious stuff to be found on American money. - Ed.
Mick writes: Hi, Lately Ive been getting pop-ups leaping out for various things (gambling, games, porn) whilst online, although not necessarily with explorer open or on a related web site page. I have recently upgraded my Norton Security 2005 Anti Spy Ware and it is from this point that the troubles has started. How do I get rid of these pop-ups? Thanks. Mick
Pete Cranston, our help desk supervisor responds: I suspect this problem occurring at the same time as the Norton upgrade is probably just a coincidence, but it would be a good idea to open Norton, run LiveUpdate to make sure it has the latest virus and spyware definitions and do a full system scan. If it finds any problems just follow the recommendations, restart the computer and see if the problem has been resolved.
If this doesn't resolve the problem you may want to go to Control Panel - Add/Remove
Programs and see if there is anything unusual in here. If you are unsure what a particular
item is a good idea would be to go to www.google.com
If this doesn't help either I would suggest using one or more of the following programs to scan your machine for Adware / Spyware.
Microsoft Anti-Spyware - for users with Windows 2000 or XP only: - www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx
SpyBot - www.safer-networking.org
- this is an excellent, and free tool to check your machine for SpyWare and Adware. It
supports internet updating, so is able to learn about new SpyWare threats, in a similar
way to your virus scanner.
CWShredder - www.intermute.com/spysubtract/cwshredder_download.html -
this is a program specifically designed to remove variants of CoolWebSearch, a common
homepage hijacking application.
AdAware - www.lavasoftusa.com
- a similar program with similar features to SpyBot, however this program primarily
targets adware, rather than all spyware applications. Best used secondary to SpyBot.
AdAware provides both free and paid versions of it's software.
If you continue experiencing problems I would advise calling the Actrix helpdesk - we may be able to assist further with removal tips for particularly stubborn SpyWare, or it may be necessary to take your machine to a private technician for a thorough clean out.
I hope this information is of some assistance. Regards, Peter Cranston
Jack writes: I have Windows XP. Recently I took the computer in to get fixed. Previously, when I used dial up, there was sound, which I prefer, but now it is silent. I asked how to get the sound back, and was told to get to the dial-up icon and in Properties click on Configure, and then click on Enable windows speaker. I've done that, but I still do not get sound on dial-up. I get sound on other programs in my computer.
Peter Cranston responds: Hi Jack, In order to get sound when the computer dials you will need to have 'Enable windows speaker' ticked, so you're off to a good start. The next step is to go to Control Panel, (if it says 'Pick a Category' click the 'Switch to Classic View' text on the left) and open 'Phone and Modem Options'. If this is the first time you have been here it may ask for a country and area code. If it does complete both of these (but nothing else) and then click OK.
The next window should have a Modem tab at the top, so click on this, then the Properties button at the bottom right and the Modem tab at the top of the new window. On this page there should be a Speaker volume setting which you can adjust. Slide the bar to the right to increase the volume and then test the dial up connection again. If there is still no sound you may need to try using different modem drivers. If this is the case it would probably be best if you gave the helpdesk a call on 0800-228749 or discussed this with the technician who repaired the computer.
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? Click here to e-mail and let me know and receive a free Norrie the Nerd chocolate bar courtesy of Actrix!
Web site could save lives: New Zealand search and rescue teams say a new travel-planning web site could save lives. Click here for more.
Bill tries to reduce spam: A bill to put a stop to unwanted e-mails - spam - passed its first reading yesterday. Click here for more.
Three more music sites on the way: New Zealand will shortly be spoilt for choice for music download services with three more online stores rumoured to hit the market soon, bringing the total to seven. Click here for more.
Bestiality webmaster loses appeal: "In backing Judge Everitt's decision, Justice Allan sends a clear warning to offenders that they can't hide behind spurious arguments about cyberspace and the internet." Click here for more.
Spam filters thwart junk mail menace: Incomplete study declares victory over spammers. Click here for more.
Young 'prefer illegal song swaps': The music industry could be facing a crisis because of the number of young people still illegally downloading from the internet, a report has warned. Click here for more.
Porn domain faces further delays: A final decision on the controversial .xxx domain has been delayed again. Click here for more.
Meet Average-Joe spammer: The spam honeymoon is over. The future is bleaker and more criminal. Click here for more.
Wikipedia tightens online rules: Prominent journalist John Seigenthaler described as "false and malicious" an entry on Wikipedia implicating him in the Kennedy assassinations. Click here for more.
FBI: Internet terror attack unlikely: Terrorist groups lack the capability to launch a damaging Internet-based attack on the United States but foreign governments are probably behind many online spying attempts... Click here for more.
Dutch church bids for sex.eu: A Dutch Full Gospel Church was seconds too late to bid on sex.eu, the most sought after domain name using the European Union's own top level domain. Click here for more.
Britney leads internet searches for 2005: Britney Spears remains the No. 1 most searched for item on the internet, Yahoo has reported. Click here for more.
Wikipedia found to be accurate: Errors appear to be the exception rather than the rule, Nature said after a comparison of articles. Click here for more.
You've got mail... and possibly an STD as well: ...an email service that tells your recent partners what the problem is and commits you to nothing, not even to give your name. Click here for more.
15 years of the World Wide Web: Spark looks at the top 10 "Web moments" since the World Wide Web was born 15 years ago, and asks viewers to vote for the one they think had the most impact in the Web's history. Click here for more.
Surgery goes live on the net: Hospitals in the US are taking reality TV one step further by showing live and unedited operations as webcasts on the internet. Click here for more.
Google taps into search patterns: Hurricanes, the London bombings, iPods and Britney Spears' pregnancy all featured in the round-up, revealing the broad interests of Google users. Click here for more.
Sober worm plans 5 January attack: Security outfit iDefense is reporting that the next Sober worm attack will take place on 5 January - the 87th anniversary of the founding of the Nazi party. Click here for more.
Malicious worm that talks back: "Now that we have seen the first attempt to put some intelligence into a worm we can expect to see the technique used again, and more effectively, probably with a rather more damaging payload next time around." Click here for more.
Computer worm traps child porn offender: A child porn offender in Germany turned himself in to police after mistaking an email he received from a computer worm for an official warning that he was under investigation, authorities said today. Click here for more.
Santa worm is coming to IM: A new virus is taking advantage of the Christmas-time custom of sending cards and joke attachments to spread itself among users of instant messenger software. Click here for more.
Security and Safety
Internet security breaches a significant cost to businesses: Internet security breaches are costing businesses between $140 million and $240 million a year, a survey has found. Click here for more.
1 in 4 targeted in phishing scams: Of those receiving the phony e-mails, most thought they might be from legitimate companies - seven in 10, or 70 percent, were fooled by the e-mails, said the report. Click here for more.
Hackers target Christian charity: In some cases, the fraudsters have used these details to contact benefactors directly, trying to extract more money. Click here for more.
MS releases IE überpatch: All Windows users with all supported flavours of IE are urged to apply the update. Click here for more.
MS pulls plug on Mac IE: Microsoft will formally kill the Mac version of Internet Explorer on 31 January 2006, the software giant has admitted. Click here for more.
Unix, Linux and Open Source
Overhaul for Firefox web browser: The people behind Firefox are planning a big marketing push for the latest version of the open source web browser. Click here for more.
Anatomy of a failed virus attack: Back to the main plot. This morning I received the following e-mail which allegedly came from the address: email@example.com Click here for more.
The Weird, Weird Web
Scientists embrace plan for cyberhugs: Singapore scientists looking for ways to transmit the sense of touch over the internet have devised a vibration jacket for chickens and are thinking about electronic children's pyjamas for cyberspace hugs. Click here for more.
eBayer pays £470 for photo of Xbox 360: ...an unwary eBayer appears to have just paid £470 for what he or she obviously thought was an "XBOX 360 PREMIUM PACKAGE". Click here for more.
MAN DATES GAL ON INTERNET FOR SIX MONTHS -- AND IT TURNS OUT SHE'S HIS MOTHER!: Skirt-chasing playboy Daniel Anceneaux spent weeks talking with a sensual woman on the Internet before arranging a romantic rendezvous at a remote beach... Click here for more.
New Year's Resolutions for Internet-junkies
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. Non-forum requests for support should go to the Actrix Help Desk (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to the Accounts Department (email@example.com).