The Actrix Online Informer is published each month to help keep
Actrix customers up-to-date with what's happening on the Internet, and to
help ensure they have every opportunity to benefit from it.
Welcome to the September Actrix Online Informer!
Welcome to the September Actrix Online Informer.
Thanks for having a read. I hope we've included something of interest for you this month.
This month we thought we might do a quick round-up of some free programmes you can download from the Internet to use instead of others you might normally have to pay for.
Just a couple of matters before we get underway. Firstly, if you haven't downloaded programs from the Internet before, check out this month's Forum question about how best to save them before installing. Secondly, the inevitable disclaimer. It is our opinion these programs are safe to install and use according to manufacturer's instructions. However, we can't be responsible if something goes wrong with the install and causes other problems on your computer. In other words, you download these programs at your own risk, and if you have any doubts about installing them, don't.
Because they're free, and therefore don't have large development budgets, many of these programs won't always do things as well or as easily as their paid-for rivals, but usually they'll do the basics fine, and it'll be with the more advanced features that differences are noticeable.
We'll include 10 this month, and maybe a few more next month.
Why are programs free?
Sometimes these programs are developed by people just for fun, or because they're part of a community (such as the Open Source lot) that shares an interest in a particular type of software. Sometimes free software is a scaled down version of a commercial product and they're hoping you'll like the freebie enough to pay them to get the more advanced features. Sometimes the free programs will have ads included in them. The developers make money from the ads, or from the payment you make to them to remove the ads.
What about spyware and stuff?
Some free software will come will spyware or adware bundled inside, especially those free offers that pop up while you're surfing. such as wallpapers and smilies. Stay away from those. If you have any doubt about a program, Google its name and the word "spyware" at the same time and see what comes up. You can also check with Wikipedia which often carries articles on software with bundled malware.
Open Office (www.openoffice.org): Open Office works on most platforms (PC, Mac and Linux) and comes as a free bundle of word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and html editor programs. The interface is very similar to the pre-Office 2007 Microsoft programs and most users should be able to adjust with relative ease. It will open and save documents in Microsoft format, so you can share your stuff with Microsoft users without problems. As you'd expect, it's a pretty big download: 93 Megabytes.
VLC Media Player (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/): This is a highly portable multimedia player that will play just about anything and everything. You can use it instead of Windows Media Player or Real Player. What I especially like about it is that it will play partially downloaded .avi files you might be downloading from a file-sharing network (a legal one of course) before they are fully downloaded. 9.2 Megabytes. Most other media players will simply refuse to do this until the very last frame has been downloaded.
TweakNow Registry Cleaner (www.tweaknow.com/products.html): Your registry is like a hypothalamus telling your computer what to do, so you don't want to fiddle around with it if you don't know what you're doing. However, if you're installing and uninstalling lots of programs, it can get a bit slow and overloaded with unnecessary leftovers. TweakNow removes all the junk, which may help speed up your PC and make it more stable. The scaled-back free standard version will do nicely, but it only works for Windows. 1 Megabyte.
Picasa (www.picasa.google.com): Google's Picasa makes sorting and viewing your photos easy. It scans your hard drive when it first starts up and shows your photos chronologically, then lets you organise them almost any way you like, including writing up hidden labels so you can see all your pictures of a certain theme in one go. It comes with handy basic image editing tools too, like red-eye reduction and photo resizing. The Online Informer has covered Picasa in more details here. It's 4.5 Megabyte download.
Gimp (www.gimp.org): Short for 'GNU Image Manipulation Program', Gimp is a free alternative to big, expensive programs like the famous Photoshop. It can handle photo retouching, image composition and image authoring and works on most operating systems. The Gimp website only has the source code (and most of us won't want to bother with that). To get yourself a version for Windows go to http://gimp-win.sourceforge.net/. It's a 7.5 Megabyte download.
Having anti-virus software on your computer is nothing short of essential
these days, and there are all sorts of ways you can get them, even directly
across the Net. There are a number of free anti-virus programs out there that
will give you basic protection from Net nasties including viruses, worms and trojans.
They just provide the basics, so if you're new to computers we'd recommend
using a paid-for product that gives you wider coverage and an easy-to-use
interface. If you don't want to pay, though, these three are
FileZilla (http://filezilla.sourceforge.net/): FTP programs are used to transfer files up to websites (or to transmit files between any computers which is essentially what uploading a site is all about). FileZilla has recently made quite a reputation for itself as being fast, reliable, secure and and very easy to use. If you've been using WS_FTP, and you're thinking about a change, you may want to check it out. On the download page select FileZilla_2_2_32_setup.exe (3.3 megabytes). FTP is short for "file transfer protocol", by the way.
FreeRIP (www.mgshareware.com/frmmain.shtml): FreeRip is a freeware Windows application that lets you save the tracks on your CDs to MP3 so that you can play them on your portable media devices (this process is known as "ripping") such as your iPod or whatever else you use. It can also handle conversions to and from other formats such as WAV, WMA, Ogg Vorbis or FLAC, which may also be useful for some people. It also connects to an online database and can often work out what CD you're ripping and automatically put titles and artists in the mp3 file names. It's a 1.7 Megabyte download.
NVU Html Editor (www.nvu.com/index.php): It's pronounced NView, and is one of the few free rivals to FrontPage and Dreamweaverthat is of any real value. It's a true WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface with a number of features such as an internal spell-checker and the ability to call W3C's HTML validator from within the product. Those wanting just a simple text-based editor for their html could try PSPad or Crimson Editor which are more like Notepad with colours to help sort your code better.
PDFCreator (http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/): PDFCreator allows you to make a PDF (portable document file that can be read by any computer with Acrobat reader on it) out of just about any other document. It adds a virtual printer on your computer, so just select File, then Print in the document you're working on (e.g. a Word or Open Office document), and choose PDFCreator instead of your default printer. Hey presto, out comes a PDF!
Why can't I log in to Webmail?
A few customers have noticed problems logging in to Actrix Webmail since the new Actrix website was launched. You should be able to fix this by checking you have the correct date, time and time zone set on your computer.
In Windows, double click on the time down in the bottom-right corner. Go to the Time Zone tab, select the correct time zone and click Apply. Next go to the Date & Time tab and make sure the correct date and time are set. It won't matter what time zone you're in as long as the date & time are correct for that zone.
If this doesn't help you may need to clear your web browser's cookies. Instructions for how to do this in various web browsers are included below. If you find you still cannot access Webmail please give the helpdesk a call on 0800 228 749.
Internet Explorer 7
Internet Explorer 5 & 6
You can learn a little more about what cookies are here.
If you'd like to ask a question or request some help on any Actrix or Internet-related matter. Simply send us 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).
Last month Peter wrote in about what he and his partner were doing online with their Globe/Actrix connection, and encouraged others to also write in to get their 15 minutes of fame. We're more than happy to include such letters and give a little publicity to sites hosted with Actrix.
Jim writes: Rob, Just reading the latest issue on Online Informer, great job.
For my 15 mins of fame I would like to point your readers to several websites of the Pye family host on my Internet connection through Actrix. I am an avid Open Source user and developer so these sites are hosted on my Linux server running from the backroom :-).
First off is my sister's Family Tree website that she has put together for my niece's first birthday. It covers our side of the family and my sisters husband's family back to exotic places such as Gelardine, where a road is named after an ancester, Holland, France, Ireland and Scotland. http://www.pyenet.co.nz/familytrees.
My dad, who is restricted to a wheelchair, has published a page on the ZLW (Wellington Coastal Radio Station) that was located on Tinakori Hill overlooking Wellington. Dad worked at the site in the 1950's, he and some of his ex workmates have put together some memories of the site. http://www.pyenet.co.nz/zlw.
I have my own "homepage" that has photos from various mountain biking trips the Wellington Region. http://www.pyenet.co.nz/mtb.
I also have some information on projects both hardware and software that I have published on the web. These include a door monitoring project using the computer's parallel port, complete with circuit diagrams and component layout schematics. Links to some Open Source Software I have on Sourceforge.net and some robotics information. You guessed it at http://www.pyenet.co.nz.
Nathan writes: Dear Rob, I received two of the emails you mention in the last Online Informer which claimed to be postcards. I naively opened the first one. Can you tell me how to check if the Storm Trojan has been installed on my PC and, if so, how to remove it? Thanks, Nathan
Hi Nathan, Storm is a really common virus (and it has a number of other names depending on the variant), and if your anti-virus software is up-to-date, you're probably protected from it. As far as we know, all the big anti-virus products can get rid of it, and it doesn't seem to be one of those that disables anti-virus software. If you want to check that you're clean, you could try Trend Micro's Housecall, which is a free online virus scanner: http://housecall.trendmicro.com/.
Wilma writes: A while ago I read something about a Free PDF Reader from Foxit software, I was looking on their website and couldn't find a free PDF reader. I was wondering if you could help me out. Thanks, Wilma
Hi Wilma, The company behind PDF technology is Adobe, and they offer a free PDF reader called Adobe Reader. If you have broadband, I would go for this one as the original and the best, but it does come to 25 Megabytes.
You can download Adobe here: http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html.
If you have a slower connection, you could download the Foxit Reader, which is only 2 Megabytes in size, and has many of the same features: http://www.foxitsoftware.com/download.htm.
Creating PDFs is another matter, however. If you purchase some Adobe products (e.g. PageMaker or InDesign), the ability to make PDFs gets added to other software you might have such as WORD, but Adobe products are expensive, and you'd only buy them if you were into desk-top publishing and layout. If you want free PDF makers, there are a number of them out there such as PDFCreator at http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/. I hope that helps.
Colin writes: Dear Rob, After hours of frustration trying to download and install replacement anti-virus software on my PC , I decided to give Actrix support a call (0800-228749)to see if they could help with this problem. Simon answered my Sunday, 8am call and after patiently listening to my tale of woe, and obviously recognising he was dealing with one of Actrix's more ancient customers, he provided me with excellent advice which enabled me to successfully install the latest version of Avast! without a hitch.
Essential to this successful installation was Simon's advice to download from the internet into a download folder, already set up. Maybe there are other readers of the Online Informer who are not aware of this useful tip and could save themselves hours of frustration. My thanks to Simon and other members of Actrix support for their generous help. Best regards. Colin
Hi Colin, Indeed, this is why we pay Simon three times as much as all the other support workers!
When you're downloading software you want to install, you can usually choose to either "Run this file" or "Save to disk" from the download dialog box. Installs work a whole lot better when you save the file to your hard drive and then install it, so you should choose Save or "Save to disk".
It's important to know where you're saving the file, too, so that you can easily find it to run it once it has been downloaded. The easiest place to save it is to your Desktop. You can set the download path in Firefox under Tools/Options/Main. When that's done, downloaded files will go there by default. If you like you can set up a special folder for them. In Internet Explorer, you can browse to where you want to save the file once you click the Save, or "Save to disk" button.
Melanie writes: Hi Rob, I'm a new internet user and chose Actrix as my provider after reading the Consumer write up. Thanks so much for this Informer it's brilliant. I love the way it is set up with brief info then the ease with which you can expand to full items. The article on Passwords was especially informative (I'll cetainly be changing mine). Thanks again, Melanie
Hi Melanie, thanks for taking the time to write in, and we're really pleased you find the Informer useful.
(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!
The periodic table of websites
of-the-internet.html - Here we have the Internet's "heaviest" websites, arranged in a table according to their weight. I don't quite understand how they've been selected and ordered, but I've never really understand the periodic table either. If you're inclined to visit the actual sites, just click them in the table.
What's happened with the alphabet?
http://usemycomputer.com/indeximages/2007/July/Alphabet%20Evolution.gif - Imagine some poor Phoenician person from 900 BC got transported to the 21st century. They'd really be struggling to read things, and would be wondering what had happened to their alphabet. Well, you could just show them this. Problem solved.
Religions of the world|
www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/religion/ - "From the earliest known evidence of human religion by Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis around 100,000 years ago to the present day, religion continues to be a very influential aspect of human lives." Here's a basic introduction to the main ones.
Putting the "eek" into Elvis Week|
www.honorelvis.com/default.htm - "Elvis" rescrambled = "Lives". Coincidence? You decide. Anyway, here's a site dedicated to the king, and especially to honouring him by doing business in his name. There's some pretty weird stuff. The Elvis Nixon connection may be believable, but I'm undecided about Elvis having himself shrunk so he could date Barbie.
For the really keen, here's a site comparing Jesus and Elvis: http://individual.utoronto.ca/johnbowen/dare/elvis.html.
Golf cover comic books|
www.golfcomicbooks.com/ - "The game of golf has more collecting categories than any other sport. Collecting comic books, that have a reference to golf on the cover, is just one of these collecting interests. Many collectors are nearing the total collection of golf covers, which is now nearing the 340 mark." Links to the covers are at the bottom of the page. Enthralling...
Old creepy ads|
http://weirdomatic.blogspot.com/2007/07/old-creepy-ads.html - You have to wonder, just what were these people thinking, and where did they find those strange-looking kids? And I'm really struggling to settle on the most disturbing. The Pears soap ad? The pig gleefully slicing himself up into ham steaks, or the shaving baby, perhaps?
http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/ - Whether you're into cartography or not, Strange maps is an interesting site. Maps featured range from oddly accurate ancient maps of the world through to maps of things that don't really exist. The content is often updated, so if you're enjoying it, click the Older posts link at the bottom. Some of the pictures will take a while to load over dialup modems.
The 10 most bizarre people on earth|
www.oddee.com/item_65612.aspx - Now these are people I'd like to meet. There are some questions I would like to ask of the Japanese Jesus, and just what is Pope Michael I of Kansas doing about global warming and world hunger? At last, too, someone who agrees with me about the world being controlled by giant reptilians.
When insults had class|
http://angryaussie.wordpress.com/2007/08/04/when-insults-had-class/ - "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play. Bring a friend... if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill.
"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.
Baldwin Street, Dunedin|
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldwin_Street%2C_Dunedin - So, the steepest street in the world has its own Wikipedia entry. But is it really the steepest street? Why does it have to be sealed in concrete, and how come it was built in the first place? Some good pics are provided at the site and there are links to other bits and pieces such as the news story about the notorious wheelie bin death in 2001. Good old Wikipedia will even tell you more about wheelie bins if you want!
What's been happening in the online world?
Firms 'overreact' to spam act: An anti-spam law that makes it illegal to send any unsolicited commercial e-mails comes into effect on Wednesday next week but Keith Norris, executive director of the Marketing Association, says most businesses have no need to panic. Click here for more.
InternetNZ treads softly on bank code: In a move that is likely to disappoint consumer advocates, InternetNZ has proposed only minor changes to a controversial banking code of practice that came into effect a month ago that could leave consumers footing the bill for Internet fraud. Click here for more.
Minister says Kiwi broadband not 'third world' service: New Zealand is definitely not a third world broadband market, and the Government is driving a 'revolution' in telecommunications, according to Communications Minister David Cunliffe. Click here for more.
Gang photos from jail on internet site: Jailed members of an Auckland street gang are using cellphones smuggled into prison to send out photos of themselves. Click here for more.
Online jokesters have a go at PM: A photo of Helen Clark on the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has been "protected" to prevent people editing her listing, and Ministry of Justice staff have been detected using Government computers to alter other entries.Click here for more.
Census info free on web: Statistics New Zealand made Census population data available on its website on 28 August at no charge. Click here for more.
Hackers hit New Zealand Herald website: The New Zealand Herald's website fell victim to a page spoofing stunt earlier today, by hackers wanting to publicise their upcoming Kiwicon security conference in November. Click here for more.
Song search requires you to sing in tune: Australian computer scientists are developing technology that will enable fans to search for songs to download by singing into the computer. Click here for more.
Elton John wants the internet shut down: "Hopefully the next movement in music will tear down the internet," British newspaper The Sun quoted him as saying. Click here for more.
Spammer gets 30 years in the slammer: Notorious spammer Christopher "Rizler" Smith was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a federal judge on Wednesday. Click here for more.
Zap! The new way for singles to meet: For people who think they've heard every pick-up line in the book, here's a new one - let's zap each other. Click here for more.
Web trumps newspapers, movies and music - study: Consumers this year will spend more of their day surfing the internet than reading newspapers or going to the movies or listening to recorded music, according a study released recently. Click here for more.
Experts to clean up your online image: Job hunters perfecting their resumes for that dream job are being urged to also polish their online profile - and clean it up if needs be, with a new breed of companies emerging to help mold Internet images. Click here for more.
Australia declares war on net porn: The Australian Commonwealth Government has announced they will spend AUS$189m on a range of packages and programs designed to protect Australian Internet users against all that the Internet has to offer, under the name Netalert. Click here for more.
Web 2.0: 'Generally Worthless': Keen didn't waste any time declaring most so-called Web 2.0 content to be extremely poor and hard to monetize. "The vast majority of Web video is un-watchable, the content unreadable and generally worthless," said Keen. Click here for more.
Stopping Spammers at The Point of Sale: A group of researchers from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) offered up what they felt was a new and unique way to target spammers at the recent USENIX Security 2007 conference in Boston. As it turns out, their idea isn't so new. Click here for more.
Internet is "the new Afghanistan": The Internet is the new battleground against Islamist extremism because it provides ideology that could radicalise Westerners who might then initiate home-grown attacks. Click here for more.
Study finds kids justify illegal downloads: Children in Europe are aware of the risks of illegal downloading, but often rationalize their act by saying that everyone - including their parents - is doing it. Click here for more.
Wikipedia 'shows CIA page edits': An online tool that claims to reveal the identity of organisations that edit Wikipedia pages has revealed that the CIA was involved in editing entries. Click here for more.
Are gadgets, and the Internet, actually addictive?: When the users of BlackBerries could not send or receive e-mails for 11 hours in April because of a glitch in the system, hospital administrator Paul Levy pronounced it a "national disaster" because of all the BlackBerry "addicts" forced into withdrawal. Click here for more.
Baby-boomers slow to try broadband: Internet companies are missing out on well-off baby-boomer customers who are yet to join the broadband revolution, research shows. Click here for more.
Many parents now get domain names for kids too young to type: Besides leaving the hospital with a birth certificate and a clean bill of health, baby Mila Belle Howells got something she won't likely use herself for several years: her very own Internet domain name. Click here for more.
Don't let your boss catch you reading this: If you are at work, chances are you are probably doing it right now. Walk into any large office, and you will most likely hear the telltale computer bleeps of chat programmes and online games, accompanied by furious mouse-clicking. Click here for more.
The stolen identities of cyberspace: Cathy Wilson is a sensible 25-year-old working two jobs to save for a deposit on a flat. On the MySpace website, however, you can discover another side to the eastern suburbs marketing manager and child-care worker. Click here for more.
Online traps for unwary teens: From vengeful schoolgirls to predators and sophisticated scammers, social networking sites are increasingly being used to wreak havoc on users' lives, web safety experts say. Click here for more.
Storm Worm Gathers Strength on The Internet: The Storm worm tore through the Internet earlier this year like Hurricane Dean tore through the Caribbean. But while Dean is already dissipating, the Storm virus is still around, still causing trouble and stronger than ever six months later. Click here for more.
Critics urge rejection of Microsoft 'open' format: A Microsoft document format that may be adopted as an international standard this weekend is a ploy to lock in customers, who could lose control over their own data in a worst-case scenario, critics say. Click here for more.
Mozilla Updates Firefox Ahead Of Black Hat: Mozilla has patched a pair of security vulnerabilities in its Firefox Web browser just in time for its release of security tools at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this week. Click here for more.
The long hard road to open source: Will Microsoft's new licenses change the way we think about open source? Regular columnist Bill Thompson believes they could. Click here for more.
Window-breaking Linux release delayed by Red Hat: Software maker Red Hat says it has delayed its August release of a version of its Linux software for personal computers that would compete with Microsoft Windows operating system. Click here for more.
Does Open Source Licensing Matter?: The answer, according to a panel at LinuxWorld, will definitely surprise you. Click here for more.
Could Linux become the dominant OS?: Open source moves at a different speed to commercial software. This has become apparent over the last decade as Linux and its open source fellow travellers (Apache, Open Office, MySQL, Firefox ,et al) gradually established their position in the software world. Click here for more.
Catholics urged to save virtual souls too: Catholic missionaries have always trekked to dangerous parts of the Earth to spread the word of God - now they are being encouraged to go into the virtual realm of Second Life to save virtual souls. Click here for more.
Fixated by health websites? Join the cyberchondriacs: The number of so-called cyberchondriacs seeking health information on the Web has soared to about 160 million in 2006 - a 37 percent rise over two years, according a new poll. Click here for more.
Barking mad social networking for pets, bikes and sneakers: A San Francisco native who loves the beach, parks, running and dancing, Marco has easily made connections over the internet, racking up 5,200 on his profile. Not bad for a 4-year-old Miniature Schnauser. Click here for more.
eBay seller nabs $1500 for Jesus-like garage stain: An American family just sold the stain on the floor of their garage for more than $1500. This may or may not be a sign from God. Click here for more.
Unborn Aussie an internet star: Bubba Waring has not even been born yet and he, or she, has its own web space with cyber "friends" clamouring to get acquainted. Click here for more.
Couple try to name baby @: A Chinese couple tried to name their baby "@", claiming the character used in email addresses echoed their love for the child, an official trying to whip the national language into line said. 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.
'Fat Ass' hack prank causes outrage: Kylene Soar, 23, claims she was stunned when she received a letter from the New Zealand electoral roll centre asking her to confirm that she had changed her middle name from Fay to Fat Ass. Click here for more.
The Seven Deadly Security Sins: When it comes to computer break-ins and breaches, there are plenty of ways to place blame, but some security Relevant Products/Services missteps are more common than others - and most of them fall into the category of often-overlooked basics. Click here for more.
Internet addiction 'a real psychological disorder': The term Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), coined by American researchers, may be a wacky term, says Wits Psychology lecturer and researcher Andrew Thatcher, but its symptoms fit the same classification as other excessive disorders such as gambling. 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 (email@example.com) or to the Accounts Department (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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