March 07 Topics
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"Information on the Internet is subject to the same rules and regulations as
conversation at a bar."
March 07 Topics
"I believe that this notion of self-publishing, which is what Blogger and blogging are
really about, is the next big wave of human communication. The last big wave was Web activity. Before that one it was e-mail.
Instant messaging was an extension of e-mail, real-time e-mail."
March 07 Topics
"I've had a wonderful evening, ... but this wasn't it."
March 07 Topics
The Actrix Online Informer is published each to help keep
Actrix customers up-to-date with what's happening on the Internet, and to
help ensure they have every opportunity to benefit from it.
Welcome to this month's Actrix Online Informer. I don't know about the rest of the country, but in Wellington we've had some of the warmest, stillest weather in a long time. Wherever you are I hope you've also managed to get outdoors a bit and enjoy the sunshine. Just don't forget to slip, slop, slap and wrap!
Two small announcements before we get underway. If you weren't aware yet, each Actrix customer's personal web page space has been upgraded from 5MB to 20Mb. That's a much better amount if you want to upload big picture files and stuff, though if you do, you might want to check out our article about making images smaller. Next month we'll include an article on how to make the best use of your personal web page space.
We have some new faces on the help desk, too, though for most customers they
will be new voices: Rey, Samantha and David. Welcome guys!
Instant messaging, where people communicate by text online remains one of the most popular uses of the Internet. It's been around for a long time and now comes in a number of standalone flavours. It's popularity means it is also often built into other popular applications such as Skype and file-sharing programs as an extra feature.
Instant messaging has several advantages over e-mail, mainly because it occurs in real time. If your contacts are online, they receive your messages as soon as you send them, and can reply right away. But it is less intrusive in that it can be running in the background while you do other things on your PC, replying to or ignoring people at your leisure.
Instant messaging can be used to communicate with people in the next street or on the other side of the world, and because it is text-based, it remains reasonably quick and free of cost, even if you're on dialup. For many, instant messaging provides a sense of "connectedness" to friends and loved ones who are online at the same time, even if messages aren't always being exchanged.
Each of the various instant messaging programs works in pretty much the same way. As you use the program you add people to your contact list. Then, when you log in, you can view this list to see who is currently online and able to receive your typed messages. They can also see when you're online and you'll usually receive some type of alert when messages are sent through to you.
Communicating is as easy as clicking on one of your contacts. A panel opens and you can immediately start typing. Some programs allow you to send messages to contacts even if they aren't online. When they next log in, your message will be waiting for them.
Most programs also allow for some type of file transfer so that you can share things like photos; great for people who are introducing themselves for the first time. It can be a risky function, though, as it has been used to transmit viruses. You can refuse to accept sent files though, and you should do unless you are absolutely sure you can trust your contact.
Recently, voice and video functionality has also been added to most instant messaging programs as optional extras. For voice you'll need a microphone and headset which start at around $30 from Dick Smith Electronics. You can also purchase a web cam with a built in microphone for under $50. Voice and video use a lot more bandwidth, and may only be suitable for broadband users, though.
Instant messaging serves a wide variety of communication purposes besides just keeping in touch with friends or family. It is also commonly used as a social environment in and of itself. Kids will often use it to communicate after hours with the school friends they see every day, especially if they're not able to send text messages via cell phone.
For Internet daters, instant messaging is the logical next step after contact through a dating site, and before an actual meeting. Many seeking romance or other forms of intimate contact can also use some instant messaging programs to seek partners. Some programs allow the user to search and make contact with others online that they do not know.
Instant messaging is becoming more and more important in corporate environments as well. It is an effective way to stay in touch with your colleagues, especially if you’re working remotely. Many offices have an internal communications network set up, and some use off the shelf IM programs.
There are viruses and other forms of malware set up specifically to attack the most popular IM programs, however, so many businesses are wary of using programs that will connect them to the outside world. If you are going to use instant messaging, it pays to have a good firewall program such as Norton Internet Security or Zone Alarm installed, and to keep all your software up-to-date.
Windows Live Messenger
Windows Live Messenger comes standard as part of Windows XP, though if you have an older version of XP you may have an earlier incarnation known simply as Windows Messenger. Nowadays, if you start up Windows Messenger it will usually (and often) suggest you download the upgrade to Windows Live Messenger which has all the latest features such as games, video and phone functionality and an enhanced array of smileys and animations that you can send to your contacts. It's highly customisable and very easy to use, with built in guides to connecting your microphone and web cam if you want to use it to that extent. It also interacts with some other instant messaging programs such as Yahoo Messenger, though not all features, will work across differing networks.
With a couple of mouse clicks you can install a sharing folder for any selected contact. Any files you drop into that folder can be accessed by either of you, even if one of you is offline. This is a wonderful feature for work contacts, but as these files are stored externally, you would be advised not to put anything too sensitive in there.
Yahoo Messenger is very similar to Windows Live Messenger but it doesn't come as part of Windows XP. It has a number of features that may or may not justify downloading and using it instead of Windows Live for you. These include predefined chatrooms on topics such as music, hobbies, and interests. Public chatrooms you can set up yourself have been discontinued in part because of their abuse by sexual predators.
Yahoo Messenger also comes with Phone In and Phone Out; features that allow your PC to call or receive calls from landlines and mobiles. Rates start at US1 cent per minute, but you have to sign up specially for this service and load in some prepaid credit with your plastic.
Lastly Yahoo Messenger can be modified with a number of special plug-ins that offer greater functionality according to your interests. These include podcatchers, game finders, and even recipe search.
You can download Yahoo Messenger at http://messenger.yahoo.com/.
Short for "I seek you" ICQ was first released way back in 1996. It is one of the pioneers of instant messaging, and was quite popular before it was eclipsed by Windows Messenger, though it is still preferred by many as "the original and the best". It offers a similar range of features to most other instant messaging programs such as text/video/audio chat and file transfers. It has a number of pre-defined chat groups you can join including Games and Dating, and also allows users to start and monitor their own groups.
If you're away from your own PC where ICQ is installed you can still use it to chat with friends and contacts via the web-based ICQ2Go that works from any computer. ICQ is also unique in that users are identified by numbers called UINs (short for either "universal internet number" or "user identification number"). These are distributed in sequential order, and these days new users are given a UIN of well over 300,000,000. Low numbers (five or six digits) have been auctioned on eBay by users who signed up in ICQ's early days.
The ICQ program is available for download at www.icq.com.
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).
Ray writes: I have a connection problem which you might be able to help me with. When I'm online using my browser (Firefox) and want to switch to my email (Outlook Express) my connection is terminated as soon as I click on Send/Receive, so I have to re-connect. No great hardship but it used not to do this. A setting to change somewhere?
Hi Ray, Yes, I think the problem may indeed be a setting in Outlook Express. With that program open, click Tools, then Options. In the Options box, select the Connection tab. Make sure there isn't a tick in the box that says "Hang up after sending and receiving." I hope that helps.
Alan has the opposite problem and writes: Is there any facility to disconnect me from the internet after a set time of inactivity? I have a tendency of going away and forgetting I am connected...
Andrew Chan from the Actrix Help Desk responds: Hi Alan, I'm assuming you are using Windows XP. To enable Windows to auto disconnect you from the Internet please follow the steps below.
Doreen writes: Hello Rob, I have a problem with incoming emails. On the task bar when all messages are in, the number may be 5 new messages, but the Inbox may only contain 3. The other two messages are in the Deleted Items folder. This does not happen every day and the number of emails is variable. Best regards. Doreen
Hi Doreen, It sounds like you may have an odd message rule in place. Outlook Express allows you to set these up so that you can automatically delete mail from people you don't want to hear from.
Have a look under Tools/Message Rules/Mail. This should bring up a box that shows you any message rules that are in place. The rules will appear in the top field and a brief description of what each rule does will appear in the field below. Click anything underlined in the description to change the rule. If you want to remove the rule completely, click the rule and then click the Remove button on the right.
(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!
http://badpsychics.com/thefraudfiles/modules/news/ - Whether you're a believer in the paranormal or not, I'm sure you'd agree that 'psychics' faking it for fame or money is always a bad thing. This is a site dedicated to exposing bad psychics and finding out the truth. Some of the videos are well worth a watch if you have broadband.
|Stuff people write on money
http://www.sorabji.com/_/Stuff_People_Write_on_Money - I think it's actually a crime to deface money, but people do it anyway. They add graffiti, personal notes, shopping lists, their names, and new acquaintances' phone numbers. Here's a gallery of thumbnails of things written on American bills.
http://vinylmysteries.blogspot.com/ - I guess there have been so many vinyl records produced over the years that there is bound to be some oddities. Well, here they are. Sounds of the Zodiac cosmos, music for your plants, and some of the absolute worst album-cover art imaginable. Did anyone ever buy this stuff?
| Māori fishing calendar
www.fishing.net.nz/calendar/index.cfm - "Our Māori fishing calendar comes to you courtesy of fishing guru, Bill Hohepa. Bill not only gives us an outline of the good/poor days, but also an indication of bite times."
| Smart or stoopid
www.flashbynight.com/test/ - "The Smart or Stoopid test is purely meant to be a fun quiz to see how your IQ rates alongside the average, based on the scores of other people who have taken the test. Naturally, only stupid people would take it as a true indicator of intelligence, and only intelligent people would take it as a true indicator of stupidity. Or something like that."
|Cute animal overload
www.thecuteproject.com - This website contains page after page of cute animal photos, or 'cutefolios' of people's 'cutizens'. If you're a sucker for puppy dog eyes and fluffy baby ducklings then this is your nirvana. If you just want the thumbnails without all the guff, go here: http://www.thecuteproject.com/photos/&page=1. If that's not enough, try the Random Kitten generator at www.randomkittengenerator.com.
www.karisable.com/crunsolved.htm - This website is dedicated to unsolved crimes, murders, disappearances etc. It is riddled with information, stories and links to more information. There are a number of sections including: Unsolved Serial Killers, Famous Unsolved Murders and Missing Persons. There are also articles on how crimes are investigated and solved.
http://grant.robinson.name/projects/guess-the-google/ - Guess the google is sort of like a Google image search in reverse. It searches Google for a particular keyword and then presents 20 resulting images to you in a grid. You have to guess what the search term was. It can be frustrating in that if you don't get it, it will only tell you what the keyword started with. Good fun!
|101 new uses for everyday things
www.realsimple.com/realsimple/gallery/print/0,22304,1030084,00.html - #88: Pour 1/4 cup Baking Soda into a clogged drain. Slowly add Vinegar. It works better than Draino without the poisonous toxic death chemicals. There are a hundred more liike that.
|A phrase a week
www.phrases.org.uk/ - A phrase a week is a free service - where you can subscribe to receive a weekly e-mail explaining the origin of a commonly-used English phrase. There's a couple of neat quizzes like the one testing your knowledge of which plays some phrases have come from. The best part of the site, though is the Meanings section where you can browse 1200 or so sayings to see where they came from and what they mean.
Online cupid survey shows NZers where to find romance: Ladies, if it's Cassanova you're looking for, don't bother going to the West Coast. The men there are more likely to try and woo you with a pint at the RSA than a bouquet of long stemmed red roses. Click here for more.
Chair in e-govt created at Victoria: Victoria University has created a chair in "e-government," believed to be the second such academic post in the world. Click here for more.
How to sell like a Trade Me pro: Finally, the old couch in the garage has gone, sold on the popular online auction site Trade Me for $20. It's great to have the space, but the thought occurs to you that you might have let it go for too little. Click here for more.
Tough talk from the top for telco: Prime Minister Helen Clark sent a stern message to Telecom and its rivals in her opening speech to parliament yesterday. Click here for more.
InternetNZ battles proposed changes to copyright laws: The Copyright (New Technologies and Performers' Rights) Amendment Bill would impose a maximum penalty of a $150,000 fine and five years in prison... Click here for more.
Kiwi blogger logs on to make a living: Read/WriteWeb attracts more than 600,000 page views per month and is linked to over 4000 other blogging sites, making it the world's 51st most popular blog... Click here for more.
One at a time, please: Downing Street's "e-petition" service, which allows the public to voice their concerns online to the prime minister, has received its millionth signature. Click here for more.
Act of God hampers spam: The recent earthquake that hit Taiwan in late December may be responsible for a reduction in spam and virus rates for January. Click here for more.
How the net turns code into politics: The freedoms built in to the net are under attack like never before, argues Bill Thompson. Click here for more.
Plan to list paedophile web names: Sex offenders could be forced to register their e-mail addresses and chatroom names, the [UK] government says. Click here for more.
Hackers attack heart of the net: Hackers have attempted to topple key parts of the internet's backbone, in one of the most significant attacks of recent years. Click here for more.
Net grows to meet fresh demands: Hackers have attempted to topple key parts of the internet's backbone, in one of the most significant attacks of recent years. Click here for more.
US teens get high-tech abuse: Jealous teenagers often use cell phones and computers to harass and control their romantic partners, and most victims of the abuse are reluctant to discuss it with their parents, a survey showed. Click here for more.
Is that really what your email meant to say?: Billions of emails are sent around the globe each day but are their true meanings getting across? Maybe not. Click here for more.
Mourning on MySpace: Social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace have become as important to young people in death as they were in life. Click here for more.
Chat room 'addict' sues IBM over firing: James Pacenza, 58, of Montgomery, says he visits chat rooms to treat traumatic stress incurred in 1969 when he saw his best friend killed during an Army patrol in Vietnam. Click here for more.
Twelve-steps to curing e-mail addiction: Alcoholics have one, and so do drug abusers. Now people addicted to e-mail also have a 12-step program designed to tackle their obsession. Click here for more.
Publicly owned broadband can spur net neutrality: Publicly owned information infrastructure is the key to healthy competition, universal access and nondiscriminatory networks, according to a US nonprofit firm that promotes "environmentally sound" economic development strategies. Click here for more.
Hackers test Vista defences: Computer hackers are off and running trying to find vulnerabilities in Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system, putting to test the software maker's claim that it is the most secure Windows program ever. Click here for more.
Banning children from internet ineffective, safety group says: An internet safety group says banning children from the internet to protect them from sexual predators doesn't work. Click here for more.
Net safety day marked worldwide: The net is facing the need for serious upgrades in order to meet fresh demands such as high definition video on the web and social networking. Click here for more.
Keeping secrets from web spies: Picking a password is a tricky business. And the temptation is to go for something that is easy to remember like our partner's birthday, a pet's name, or a film star. Click here for more.
Firefox hands out cookies from strangers: Firefox suffers from a flaw that allows attackers to manipulate the authentication cookies of virtually any website, a vulnerability Bugzilla has deemed severe. Click here for more.
Windows 'fails' active virus test: Security tools that work with Windows Vista have failed tests to see if they can detect viruses circulating online. Click here for more.
Howard heart-attack email carries virus: A fake breaking news report claiming that John Howard had a heart attack is being circulated by spammers in an attempt to hijack Australians' computers. Click here for more.
Microsoft in hot water over Wikipedia edits: Microsoft Corp. has landed in the Wikipedia doghouse after it offered to pay a blogger to change technical articles on the community-produced Web encyclopaedia site. Click here for more.
Microsoft warns of 'critical' security flaws: Microsoft has issued six 'critical' security patches to fix flaws in its software products that the company warned could allow attackers to take control of a user's computer. Click here for more.
Gates caps daughter's computer time: Just because you're the daughter of Bill Gates does not mean you get to play on your computer all day long. Click here for more.
Apple revs up Mac attacks on Vista: For nearly a year, television and Internet audiences have been seeing a familiar string of ads from Apple Inc. attacking rival Windows-based computers. Click here for more.
Mac users 'still lax on security': Kevin Finisterre caused ripples in the Mac community when he started a website in January revealing a different bug in Apple systems each day of the month. Click here for more.
Penguins Descend On NYC For LinuxWorld: This year's gathering of LinuxWorld, East Coast Edition is very different than its predecessors. Click here for more.
How Novell Saved Millions With Open Source: How much money can a large enterprise save by migrating to open source from proprietary? In Novell's case, it's millions of dollars. Click here for more.
Whistle blown on site for whistleblowers: It had to happen. A web site set up to encourage anonymous leaks of controversial [UK] government secrets has been exposed before its launch. Click here for more.
Want to cross the road? Don't ask Google Maps: 30-second walk becomes 10.4km epic road trip... Click here for more.
Dating website matches humans - and their pets: Looking for the love of your life? Does your pet put potential partners off? There is now a website where you can find a partner compatible with your dog, cat, snake or spider. Click here for more.
Each month we dredge through our archives to pull out stories from the Actrix Newsletter of exactly five years ago. Sometimes these stories will show just how much the net has changed in such a short time, and sometimes they'll be included just because they're interesting.
IE Continues To Outpace Netscape: A new study released Wednesday shows Internet Explorer (IE) continues to top the browser charts, and what's more, is taking the Netscape faithful with them. Click here for more.
Napster to Remain Offline: A motion by Napster to have its court-imposed closure overturned has been denied by a federal appeals court judge. Click here for more.
Microsoft Owes Customers for Botched MSN Accounts: Microsoft Corp. has agreed to refund customers seeking to stop their MSN Internet access accounts and $100,000 in civil penalties, according to the Orange County District Attorney office Tuesday evening. Click here for more.
Thanks again for reading the Actrix Online Informer. Feedback can be sent to me via the e-mail address listed below. Please limit this to comments/suggestions regarding the newsletter. Non-forum requests for support should go to the Actrix Help Desk (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to the Accounts Department (email@example.com).