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"The Internet is a shallow and unreliable electronic repository of dirty pictures, inaccurate rumours, bad spelling and worse grammar, inhabited largely by people with no demonstrable social skills."

– Chronicle of Higher Education











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.

Questions and comments about the Actrix Online Informer can be e-mailed to
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Actrix – New Zealand's first Internet Service Provider

Welcome to the May 2009 Actrix Online Informer!

Welcome to the May Actrix Online Informer. I hope there's something of interest for you this month. Comments on articles or on other people's emails in the Forum section are always welcome, so feel free to drop me a line:

Rob Zorn

Finally facing Facebook

Not being a great one for social networking or dangling my private life 'out there' online, Facebook is something I have been avoiding for some time. But an Actrix customer emailed the Forum requesting an article, and it has become very popular (to the extent that you can now get served court papers via Facebook), so here we are. I've spent the last couple of weeks fiddling about on Facebook and confess I've enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  I probably won't spend all day chatting with friends and posting pictures of my latest exploits, but it was fun to search for and make contact with a few old school friends I haven't heard of or from for many years (you don't need to know how many).

But let's start with some background. Facebook is free and anyone can access it and start an account. Users can join networks organised by city, workplace, school, and region and can also add friends and join existing groups. Once you have a friend or join a network or group you can send messages, share photos, and post stuff to your 'Wall' that your friends can see and comment on. There are also quite a few extra little applications you can add that let you interact with others in enhanced ways (like throwing sheep at them, for example, or challenging them to quizzes).

There has been some controversy about Facebook. It has been banned intermittently in countries like Syria and Iran and many workplaces block it to discourage employees from wasting company time. However, a recent Australian study suggests surfing the Internet for fun and using social networking sites like Facebook during office hours actually increases productivity. Meanwhile, Facebook makes its money through advertising. You can sign up at

Creating your profile

Creating your profile is the first thing you need to do once you have opened your account. This is easy and takes just a few minutes. It's up to you how much information you put about yourself here. Unless you change your privacy settings only people you accept as friends will be able to see your profile, but my advice would still be to err on the side of caution. It takes a little while to figure out who can see what, so wait until you're comfortable before you add too many details about yourself. In other words, stick with the default settings.

You probably should include what schools or universities you went to and where you work as these are the most frequently used ways others will find you. Facebook makes it easy to do that. It's also optional as to whether you want to add a photo. If you want to, click the picture icon to the top left to invoke the photo upload tool.

Finding friends

Facebook is a pretty lonely place without friends, and the whole system is designed to help you network around in a viral way. You can see who your friends' friends are, for example, but you can't interact with them unless you first send them a friend request. This helps people keep things private but it also helps you find others. By perusing your friend's list of friends you can find other friends the two of you have. Facebook will also make suggestions to you about people you might want to add – such as someone two of your friends are also friends with.

Finding friends from your past is pretty easy. You can search for them by name, or if you join a group, such as one dedicated to your high school. You can peruse the list of people who are in the group and then see who they're friends with, even if you don't contact them. It all adds up pretty quickly, and the more friends you add, the more your viral network grows.

Another way to make contacts is to use the Find Friends feature (under the Friends tab along the top). This uploads your address book and reports back to you on what email addresses you have that are also registered with Facebook. You need to provide your email address and password to use this feature which makes me a little uncomfortable. Even though Facebook promises not store your password, I think it's good practice never to share your password for any reason. Your call on that one!

Once you have some friends you can communicate with them in various ways: by sending them email messages through Facebook, by posting to their "Wall" or by live chat. If you don't want to be friends with someone, simply ignore or decline their friends request. To my knowledge, there isn't a general problem with being pestered by nutters and perverts wanting to make friends with you, but I guess it could happen. If someone contacts you that you're not sure about you could send them a message asking more about who they are before you add them as a friend.


The Wall is a space on your Facebook where you and friends can post messages only you and mutual friends can see. Your Wall is visible to anyone who is able to see your profile, so you may want to think about your privacy settings. By default these are set so that no one can see your profile or your Wall except people you have accepted as friends. This is sensible in that you can't control what others put on your wall. You can delete things from it, but you may not know something's there that needs to be removed until it's too late. Now I'm sure all your friends are decent and trustworthy, so I'm just suggesting this as prudent practice. If you want to live fast and loose, you can change your privacy settings to let everyone see everything, but I wouldn't!


Facebook has a number of additional features. It's not my purpose here to write a user manual, so I'll introduce them briefly and you can explore them if you're inclined.

Along the bottom of the Facebook interface you'll find a number of buttons that let you do things. Photos can be posted to your Wall or they can be put up in albums organised around a theme. You can also upload videos if you have them that will play on your Wall similar to the way they do at YouTube. The photo album feature is a great way to share what's been happening with friends or relatives overseas.

Events allows you to organise an event such as a birthday party, and then post it on your Wall. You can then send invitations to all or some of your friends via Facebook. There are also Notes and Links tools which seem to be just different ways of adding content to your wall.

To the bottom right is a feature which shows which of your friends are online. You can use that to initiate a private chat just like you would with MSN and similar chat programs.

The groups feature is quite an important one. It shows you all the groups your friends have recently joined and lets you search for existing groups or set up a new group of your own. Groups have a Wall that all members can post to, or you can set up individual discussion forums. if you're looking to connect with old friends, look up a group dedicated to a school you attended. There are lots of these where people reminisce about their high school days, discuss their memories of teachers and ask whether anyone knows what may have happened to so-and-so.


The applications button is down to the bottom left, and the options here are almost limitless and mostly pretty silly. Click the Applications button and then click 'Find more' in order to access the full list. A lot of the applications are games you can play with others, such as word games, and there are lots of quizzes you can take to find out your IQ or other useful stuff like which Mr Men character you are or what your name really means. Superpoke lets you send various types of pokes to other Facebook members, and this is where you can throw sheep, give someone a roundhouse kick, or hand them a yellow snow cone.

There are some more 'useful' applications, however. Check out Causes, for example, which lets you join and start causes for things you care about. The Facebook toolbar for Firefox lets you integrate Facebook into your browser, and there are a number of tools there to help with genealogy building. You can organise and select applications according to various categories. That should help you zero in on the ones that are most useful to you.

I'll close with one further word of caution: Apparently it is reasonably common for prospective employers to check Facebook pages to find out about a person they are thinking of hiring. They shouldn't be able to see much about the person unless they've been accepted as a friend, but there are quite a few stories about people missing out on jobs because of something they were seen to be doing or saying online. Then there's this story about a Swiss woman who was fired for being found on Facebook while she claimed to be too unwell to be in front of a computer.

Be sure your sins will find you out!

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A few more YouTube goodies

Last issue we provided a brief introduction to YouTube which has received some fairly good feedback. A number of people have made suggestions about great YouTube videos that could have been included. So, just for fun, I thought we'd highlight a few over the next few issues (or as long as interest lasts). If you've seen something great on YouTube you think others would like to see, let me know and send me a link:

These videos have not been imbedded here so you will need to click the link below each one.

Susan Boyle has recently burst onto the entertainment scene after appearing on Britain's Got Talent. The 47-year-old spinster wasn't given a chance because of her 'dowdy' appearance, but when she opened her mouth and began to sing, she moved most people in the house to tears.

This is rated the favourite David Attenborough moment. It's amazing footage of the Australian lyrebird mimicking other birds and a variety of sounds, including camera shutters, car alarms and the sound of chainsaws used by loggers to destroy its native habitat. Well-known British comedian, Bill Oddie (of The Goodies) features in the clip as well. Thanks for this one, Abi.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
"Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, a ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope and a nice red uniform. Oh damn!"

"Confess, confess, CONFESS!!"

Fans of Whose Line is it anyway will love this one. It's Colin Mochrie doing the green screen, but this time the subject matter has a bit of a twist. The quality of this video isn't the best, but  it's good enough to let Mochrie's improvisational genius shine through.

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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 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 turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (


John writes: How do I find out what emails have not got through your spam filter system for whatever reason. I thought all emails to addresses in the Address Book got though automatically but am looking for some photographs someone has sent to me that have not yet arrived despite being sent this morning. Don't get me wrong. I am pleased not to be receiving rubbish.

Hi John, Our spam filters work on a points system where each email is allocated a number of points according to various characteristics it shares with typical spam emails. Those that reach a certain points threshold get channelled off into your Spam folder where they live for seven days until they are deleted permanently. If you're expecting something that hasn't turned up, you can check what's in your Spam folder by logging into My Actrix on our homepage and clicking on 'WebMail and Spam folder'. You'll find your Spam folder in the folder list on the left hand side.

Whether someone's email address is in your email program's address book has no effect on the way our spam filters work as they have no connection to your email program. Some email programs have spam filtering features or add-ons that will allow anything in your address book through, but this is a separate process from our filters. You will need to check your own settings as to where your program puts email it thinks might be spam if you have such a system installed.


Jack writes: I find that at times my non-spam email ends up in the spam folder. I do not mind this at all, as I realise that it must be quite difficult to filter only spam. My good emails that end up in the spam folder, I then forward to myself, which then arrives in my inbox as an attachment. I find that the attachment will not open. It has a .msg beside it. My question to you then is "How does one open .msg folders? Thanks in anticipation. Kind Regards, Jack

Hi Jack, I'm not sure why the .msg attachments aren't opening for you. They should (and do for me) as .msg just means it's an attached email which your program should be able to open. However, perhaps there is something else you could try. When you enter your Spam folder, try moving the desired email to your inbox rather than forwarding it to your self. To do this tick the box next to the email to select it, make sure Inbox is selected in the 'Move to' field (Inbox is selected by default) and click the 'Move' button. This should put it in your Inbox and it will be downloaded just like any other email the next time you do a ‘Send and Receive’. I hope that helps.

Bert writes: I received an email with no text in it. However when I went to--properties--details--message source--I was able to read the text. Could you explain this for me?

Hi Bert, Not sure I can explain why this occasionally happens (and Google wasn't much help), but I have come across it before. When an email gets sent, various headers are added, as you know. Emails pass through various servers (usually three or four, but sometimes more) between the sender and the recipient, and each time the server will insert some information about where it got the email, what time it got it, and when it sent it on to the next server or the end recipient. When the end-recipient gets the email, the headers aren't usually visible as most people don't care too much about them.

Very occasionally something goes wrong and the text of the email gets included as part of the headers rather than as part of the message body. You've obviously come across this before too, as you knew to go check the email's headers and found the message.

For others wanting to check email headers:

In Outlook Express you can find email headers by right-clicking the email in your inbox and selecting Properties, details and message source. In Outlook, you'll find the headers by right-clicking and selecting Message options.

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Interesting 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!

Odd superstitions about food – "Superstitions can fill peoples lives with a bit of innocent fun, but they can also be incredibly crippling. This is a list of some of the more unusual superstitions that surround food. Many of these superstitions derive from Great Britain, and therefore ultimately found their way around the world through colonisation."
Computer Tan – It's Tan-Tastic! According to the Times Online this site is actually a hoax created by the UK skin cancer charity Skcin "to raise awareness of skin cancer in the UK." However, within only 24 hours, 30,000 people had registered their interest in getting a "computer tan" before the site was revealed to be a hoax.
The Museum of Unworkable Devices – "This museum is a celebration of fascinating devices that don't work. It houses diverse examples of the perverse genius of inventors who refused to let their thinking be intimidated by the laws of nature, remaining optimistic in the face of repeated failures."

Recipe bridge – Find recipes from hundreds of online cooking websites quickly and easily by recipe name or ingredient. After years of searching through Google results for recipes the founders of Recipe Bridge decided that cooks around the world deserved a simple place to find any recipe. This is the result.
What if? – "Who hasn't at one time wondered how their life could've gone in other directions if different events had occurred or different choices been made. Thinking about it a bit more led me to make the below chart. These are ways my life could deviated from its actual path... To quickly read the accompanying text, hover your mouse over each Craig. To see each figure a bit bigger, click the Craigs."
First lines – Here's one for the 'literature heads'. So you think you're pretty well-read? Take this test to find out. Your challenge is to name the book given the first line provided. The books are divided into categories which may help you identify them.
Toiletology 101 – "Let's plunge in, flush out the facts and plumb the depths of toilet repairs. Almost everything you ever wanted to know about your toilets, and some things you probably never knew you needed to know." Wally Gross of Technomax gave this site a "Best of The Net" designation and said, "Who (not us) would ever believe that there is so much to know about that little throne where we all can be King or Queen (if only for a few minutes)". Mind you that was a few years back and the web has progressed a bit since then.
Regret the error – Regret the Error reports on media corrections, retractions, apologies, clarifications and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in the press. It was launched in October 2004 by Craig Silverman, a freelance journalist and author based in Montreal who was concerned about how media mistakes pollute the press and imperil free speech.
Monobrow – "Four years ago, despondent over the state of the world's brow situation, we approached the fine hard working people of Zoltron Industries, and asked them to build us a website. They did, and within a week, our site had well over a hundred hits. Sure, they were all us, but we knew we were on to something. Slowly, the word got out. Today, is visited by over a 1000 people a day, many of them Monobrows, seeking support from, and/or offering it to fellow sufferers."
The 3rd Annual Nigerian Email Conference – With topics like "Write better emails. Make more moneys", "The effectiveness of using all UPPERCASE characters", "Are 10 million emails a day too many?" and "Grammatical errors: What's the optimal number?" I think someone is taking the mickey!


Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

NZ broadband dramatically improved, says new report: The fourth Epitiro/IDC quarterly report for the Commerce Commission on New Zealand broadband quality said the New Zealand Broadband Index showed a significant increase in broadband performance across most measures by the end of 2008. Click here for more.

T-shirt seller puts his back online: A Kiwi entrepreneur is putting his back on the line in a bid to promote his fledgling business and beat the current economic crisis. Waikato businessman Scott Townsend is offering visitors to his website the chance to choose a word to be tattooed onto his back in a bid to promote his T-shirt business. Click here for more.

McDs hit by email scam: An email scam has been doing the rounds, offering $50 McDonald's vouchers in exchange for filling out a survey and providing personal information, including credit card details. Click here for more.

Would-be flatmate a fake, so is $6300: Janine Demanser just wanted a flatmate. Instead, the Napier woman's internet posting attracted a scam merchant who sent thousands of dollars in fake traveller's cheques with the intention of ripping her off. Click here for more.

Global botnet hits Kiwis too: At least 10,000 New Zealand computers have been taken over by malicious hackers, who are already selling sensitive information online. Click here for more.


Facebook, YouTube at Work Helps Productivity: Caught Twittering or on Facebook at work? It'll make you a better employee, according to an Australian study that shows surfing the Internet for fun during office hours increases productivity. Click here for more.

Facebook Takes a Dive: Why Social Networks Are Bad Businesses: The business of having online sites with content created by amateurs to be viewed by other amateurs never had a reasonable chance of making money. The fact that at one point Facebook had a $15 billion valuation, that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (NWS) bought MySpace, and that Google (GOOG) bought YouTube only proves the "greater fool" theory. Click here for more.

China Rejects GhostNet Spy Claims: China has rejected a report suggesting it may be involved in using computer networks to spy on exiled Tibetans and foreign governments, accusing its authors of being possessed by "the ghost of the Cold War." Click here for more.

Piracy law cuts internet traffic: Internet traffic in Sweden fell by 33% as the country's new anti-piracy law came into effect, reports suggest. Click here for more.

Ten things (OK, 9) I love about telecommuting: The sad fact is that many bosses and personnel departments refuse to see the value in allowing their underlings the freedom to work from home in spite of the massive cost savings of business overhead (i.e. office space rental, work stations, parking, etc.) and potentially increased productivity. Click here for more.

YouTube plans premium music site: Google's YouTube and Universal Music Group, the world's largest music company, will launch a premium music video website as they bid to increase revenue from YouTube's huge usage. Click here for more.

Facebook population hits 200m: In less than eight months, Facebook has doubled its user base by signing up 100 million people from around the world, officially hitting 200 million. Click here for more.

Australia commits $53b to high-speed broadband: The Australian Government yesterday announced plans to invest as much as A$43 billion ($53 billion) over eight years to build a high-speed internet network to connect 90 per cent of the nation's homes and create jobs. Click here for more.

Twitter too wordy? Try Flutter: Twitter is cool, but sometimes 140 characters takes too much time and too much concentration for espresso-soaked microbloggers and their ADHD buddies. Click here for more.

Spam overwhelms e-mail messages: More than 97% of all e-mails sent over the net are unwanted, according to a Microsoft security report. Click here for more.

Report: cybercriminals have penetrated US electrical grid: Cyperspies from China, Russia and elsewhere have gained access to the US electrical grid and have installed malware tools designed to shut down service, according to a news report yesterday. Click here for more.

Web manhunt tracks dirty Domino's duo: An online manhunt has led to the firing and arrest of two Domino's Pizza employees after they published videos of themselves on the web fouling up customers' food. Click here for more.

US push to charge for online news: Three media veterans plan to bundle the internet content of newspaper and magazine publishers into a subscription package that will test Web surfers' willingness to pay for material that has been given away for years. Click here for more.

Spam's Carbon Footprint Worse Than 2.3M Cars: The next time you're deleting a piece of spam, consider this: Not only are the unwanted e-mails wasting your time, they're also costing the planet. That's because spam has a sizable carbon footprint – using 33 billion kilowatt hours (KWh) each year, according to a report by security vendor McAfee. Click here for more.

Spam plummets as gang leaves net: The closure of a web hosting firm that is believed to have had spam gangs as clients has led to a drastic reduction in junk mail. Click here for more.

Web of support: In her darkest hours, a sleep-deprived Julie Adams would sneak from her bed, start up her computer, stare at the screen and just cry... Click here for more.

No quick fix for cybersecurity: The intelligence expert who prepared a still-secret study on cybersecurity for US President Barack Obama said the danger of attacks on US computer networks cannot be fixed easily or quickly. Click here for more.

Yahoo pulls the plug on GeoCities : Yahoo is to close its personal web hosting site GeoCities later this year. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Conficker's Real Lesson: It Was All Your Fault: Conficker – the malicious worm expected to activate today – did not cause widespread computer meltdowns around the globe. But considering that Microsoft patched the flaw five months ago, it's not clear why Conficker ever became a concern to begin with. So why was it an issue -- and will it be an issue again? Click here for more.

Conficker virus comes to life: The dreaded Conficker computer worm is stirring. Security experts say the worm's authors appear to be trying to build a big moneymaker, but not a cyber weapon of mass destruction as many people feared. Click here for more.

Keep tabs on your kids online: Parents should not shy away from using tools like Google Alerts to track their children's online lives, but traditional parenting is still the key to understanding the dangers they face, a child psychologist says. Click here for more.

Fear of viruses could be causing PC attacks: Computer users' growing fear of worms and viruses could be behind a recent spike in attacks on PCs via bogus security software, according to a Microsoft report. Click here for more.

2008 a boom year for hackers: Hackers made off with at least 285 million electronic records in 2008, more than in the four previous years combined, according to a new study that shows identity thieves are getting better at exploiting careless mistakes that leave companies vulnerable to attack. Click here for more.

Computer viruses hit one million: The number of viruses, worms and trojans in circulation has topped the one million mark. The new high for malicious programs was revealed by security firm Symantec in the latest edition of its bi-annual Internet Security Threat Report. Click here for more.

Mainly Microsoft

Is it worth switching to IE8?: However thrilling IE8's new offerings may be, I'm not ready to give up Flock, Firefox or Chrome just yet. Still, Microsoft should be applauded for trying. Click here for more.

Microsoft Poised to Push Out IE8: Are You Ready?: Microsoft will automatically push Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) out to users via automatic updates beginning next week, the company announced on its IEBlog. Click here for more.

Mac the News

Researchers dissect world's first Mac botnet: Fresh research has shed new light on the world's first Mac OS X botnet, which causes infected machines to mount denial of service attacks. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Pimpthisbum to help the homeless: In less than two months, Tim Edwards has gone from being a homeless beggar in Texas to the most famous – and wealthiest – bum in America, thanks to a father-and-son team of internet marketing experts. Click here for more.


It was five years ago today

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.

'Phishing' scams luring more users: The number of "phishing" e-mails circulating on the Web has increased from 279 to 215,643 over the past six months, according to e-mail security company MessageLabs. Phishing is an Internet scam in which unsuspecting users receive official-looking e-mails that attempt to fool them into disclosing online passwords, user names and other personal information. Click here for more.

Spammer's Porsche up for grabs: Internet giant AOL has ratcheted up the war against unsolicited e-mail with a publicity-grabbing coup - an online raffle of a spammer's seized Porsche. AOL won the car – a $47,000 Boxster S – as part of a court settlement against an unnamed e-mailer last year. Click here for more.

Passwords revealed by sweet deal: More than 70% of people would reveal their computer password in exchange for a bar of chocolate, a survey has found. It also showed that 34% of respondents volunteered their password when asked without even needing to be bribed. Click here for more.

Bringing it all back home

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 ( or to the Accounts Department (

Take care through May!

Rob Zorn 


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