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 July 2009 Actrix Online Informer!
Welcome to the July Actrix Online Informer. This means half of 2009 is already gone, and we're supposed to have seen the worst of winter, though I'm not convinced about that.
Just one YouTube video was suggested this month, so I guess interest in these appearing each month is nearing its use-by. But this one's quite a goodie. It's a performance of Toto's hit Africa by Slovenia’s only jazz choir, Perpetuum Jazzile. It's done completely without instruments, and the way they simulate the sound of the rain and thunder is really clever. But I think the guy mouthing the drums is probably having the most fun. Don't we all do this in the shower?
Thanks, Leigh, for suggesting this YouTube video. Seeing as there's only one, I've embedded it this time so, just click the image to have it play. Click the square at the bottom-right to view the video in full screen mode.
I have to confess I am enjoying my Facebook account more than I thought I would, and still poke my head in most days, even now that article has been written. It's good to have even tentative contact with some old friends and acquaintances (even some old students from back in my teaching days), and even though we don't say much to each other, it's fun to see what they're up to by reading their occasional comments.
Next on my list of modern applications to try was Twitter, which hasn't been as much fun, but I can see its value and uses.
Twitter's another free social networking application that seems to be taking the net-world by storm. You can create an account at www.twitter.com. Once you've done that you can type an update about what you're currently doing or thinking, or ask a question as long as it's 140 characters or less. These little messages are called updates or "tweets". Those tweets go out into the twitter world and can be read by anyone searching either for you or for the topic you tweeted on.
But the way it's supposed to work is that you build up a network of people you are "following". The tweets of anyone you're following will automatically be posted to your account so you can read them when you log into Twitter. Your tweets will be posted to the accounts of anyone following you.
If you want to send a message to just one person, you can do that by typing an @ sign and then their user name before your message.
To find people you might want to follow you can use the Find people feature and just click the Follow button that appears next to them in the search results.
To help people find you, it's important to fill in Account Information under Settings. This lets you enter who and where you are, write a bit about yourself, and a link to your website if you have one. But people still won't be able to find you until you put out your first tweet.
The thing to remember about Twitter is that there is not much privacy. For example, if someone finds you in a search they can read everything in your archive of tweets even if they don't decide to follow you (including the ones you sent to just one person). They can see what you've tweeted, and who you've tweeted it to, and then they can look at the tweets of your followers and who they're following. You can delete tweets manually from your archive, but that's the sort of thing most people forget to think about.
This open way is how most people seem to operate and it's the most fun. If you want to make it so that only followers can follow your updates, you can do that too, under settings. It also means you get to personally approve people who follow you. Doing that, however, seems to be missing the point of Twitter, which is supposed to be like an enormous chat room. If you're that concerned about privacy, you should probably avoid Twitter and use MSN or some other private chat tool. If you do use Twitter, just remember it's not the sort of place you want to go and pour your heart out or confess your sins.
Individuals can be blocked from reading your tweets, however, so if you want to keep a public profile, but want to avoid someone pestering you, look up their Twitter profile and click the Block link.
If you're interested in a topical event, such as what's going on in Iran at the moment, click Search in the bottom menu to see what others are saying about that topic. The Trending topics box to the right tells you the most discussed topics currently going on. You can click those to get a list of the latest that's being tweeted.
Twitter has a number of uses. You can follow New Zealand's Ministry of Health, for example and get the latest updates on swine flu. News services like CNN use it to broadcast real time news developments. Lots of famous people and celebrities use it (or I suspect pay people to tweet in their name because they're so busy being awesome somewhere else). Barack Obama announced his running mate in the US election simultaneously via text, email and Twitter. Ashton Kutcher has gained a new level of fame by being the first on Twitter to have one million followers.
Beyond keeping up with the developments of their favourite celebrities and staying informed, most people just use Twitter as a fun way to socialise and network. You can set it up to work with your mobile phone so you can also send and receive tweets by text. That's free as far as Twitter is concerned, but your phone company would charge for the texts as per usual.
There are also programs out there you can download that act like Twitter interfaces, and can even co-ordinate them with Facebook for you (so you post to both at the same time). If you find you're really getting into the Twitter spirit, you could try Tweetdeck, for example.
There are various Twitter settings you can play with, found under the Settings tab. There you can add your mobile phone if you want to, upload a picture of yourself to your homepage and to accompany your tweets, and set alerts so that you get emailed each time someone tweets or follows you. You can customise your homepage by uploading a background image etc.
It's very easy to use Twitter and you get a feel for it pretty quickly. Under the Help menu there's a neat little four-minute video that talks you through the basics step by step. Also under Help is a section of resource pages, such as "Getting started".
So why not tweet yourself and become a twit?
Broadband rate limiting explained
We've been getting some help desk feedback indicating that some customers aren't quite sure what rate-limiting means on the broadband connection, and what their other options might be. We therefore thought we'd provide an article addressing those questions.
Most Actrix broadband customers are on a plan with either a set daily or a set monthly traffic allowance. A traffic allowance is how much data (web pages, emails, videos, images, etc) you are allowed to download/upload per month. Rate limiting kicks in when you reach the end of this allowance (e.g. your 70MB per day, 10GB per month, etc, according to the plan you're on).
When your rate is limited your connection speed (i.e. your rate) is reduced to 64Kb (a little faster than dial-up) until the next time when your traffic allowance and connection speed are due to be reset. Customers on a monthly allowance will have their speed reduced for the duration of their billing month. Customers on a daily allowance will have their speed reduced until the next daily re-set time which is normally 2am. In other words, we don't ordinarily charge you for extra traffic (data you download/upload) after your allowance is exceeded, we just slow you down.
However, there are other options.
Customers on plans with a monthly traffic allowance can choose not to have their speed reduced. Instead, these customers will be charged for their excess usage. This is useful if it is more important to you not to have your speed reduced than it is to cut costs.
If your broadband connection seems to be going slow, the chances are you have been rate limited. You can easily check this through My Actrix. Go to www.actrix.co.nz, enter your username and password to log in, and then select the 'CyberJet Usage' option from the menu on the left. If you have been rate limited there will be a message telling you so and advising your next reset time.
There are also graphs available showing what you've used over the past day and seven days with the periods you were rate limited displayed in a different colour. There's also a 30 day history which details your usage per day and total for the period. This should give you an idea whether the plan you're on is best for you.
If you frequently exceed your daily traffic allowance you might want to consider moving to a plan with a monthly allowance, or upgrade to a higher daily allowance plan. More information on the plans available can be found at www.actrix.co.nz/page.php?id=144.
If you have any questions about your broadband connection or need help understanding the various plan options, please feel free to get in touch with our friendly helpdesk via email@example.com, or on 0800 ACTRIX (228-749) between 8am and 11pm seven days.
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 (www.actrix.co.nz).
Many forum emails this month were about spam and dodgy emails. See articles above.
Linda writes: Hi Rob, I am unable to send emails out. SMTP isn't working for me. What shall I do? I'm in NY. Thanks Linda.
Hi Linda, This is most likely what's known as a mail relaying problem and is probably happening because you are connected to an ISP other than Actrix while you're in New York, but your email program is trying to send through an Actrix sending (SMTP) server because that's what's in your settings.
Mainly to guard against spam, an ISP will only accept connections to its mail SMTP server that come to it on one of its own connections. If someone tries to connect to our sending server while connected via XYZ ISP in New York, we don't know who they are, and have no way of tracing them, so if they are sending spam, we could get into trouble or have our reputation tarnished. That's the rationale behind refusing to "relay" mail for people connected though other ISPs.
Now I'm sure you're not trying to send spam, but it's a blanket rule imposed as a safety measure. What you need to do is contact whatever ISP you're connected with over there and have them talk you through changing the SMTP server settings in your email program. Then you should be able to send fine. You can call us (0800 228749) when you come back if you need help putting the Actrix settings back in.
Another option is to use Secure SMTP which allows an ISP to verify the sender's identity before relaying the message. On the one hand this is easier as you can use the one setting regardless of whether you're at home or abroad (no need to keep changing servers settings). But this might involve installing an Actrix secure certificate or your e-mail program could badger you about it. There are instructions on how to set this up in various E-mail programs here: www.actrix.co.nz/page.php?id=128.
After receiving spam that appeared to come from his own email address, Brian writes: I forward this email to you for your information and ask a few questions. How did I get this unsolicited email from someone who has latched onto my Actrix email account and advises me that my IP address has changed? I will be interested in your responses in due course.
Jono, from the Actrix help desk, responds: Hi Brian, The email you have received appearing to be from yourself is just another form of spam email. What you're seeing is commonly called "From-spoofing" – sending email that appears as if it's coming "from" someone that it's not. It's pretty easy to do. When you see your own address spoofed in the From: field of spam, it's happening for one of two reasons:
Tjalling writes: Hi, Not sure what you think of the attached email, but I believe it to be one of these scams. You want to have a look and perhaps, if found to be a scam, warn others? It was fully accepted by my Norton package which, far too often, classifies e-mails from legit people as spam. I hope this is of some help. Cheers.
Hi Tjalling, I think I know what to make of it. On the surface, they appear to be offering you a loan on very easy terms. They don't ask for your password, of course, but they do ask for an awful lot of personal information in the online application questions they include. I'm fairly certain this is not a legitimate loan offer, but the first step towards identity fraud or eventually getting access to your bank account.
Aeon Credit Company does exist, but I doubt this email really comes from them. The reply email address is not an one from Aeon, and a legitimate finance company would not send out unsolicited emails offering loans. Quite simply, reputable companies don’t use spam as a way of marketing. Most sensible internet users wouldn't respond to such an offer from a company they’ve never heard of based in Malaysia. I think these crooks are probably posing as Aeon, and targeting people who have unmanageable debts. By offering cheap and easy term loans, these people, who may not be thinking clearly or who could be feeling desperate, may be tempted to respond with their personal details.
No doubt, if they do, they will find themselves in ever worse financial trouble eventually. It's a pretty despicable thing to do. Thanks for sending this one in.
Please note: Actrix supplies links to these sites for your interest and possible use. We cannot endorse or take any responsibility for their contents.
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Sixty-four funny, inspiring and stupid money quotes from famous people
http://www.wisebread.com/64-funny-inspiring-and-stupid-money-quotes-from-famous-people – "People love quoting famous people. Whether the celebrity in question is a genius or not, we love a good sound byte. We've collected quotes from presidents, movie stars, philosophers, athletes, and even Paris Hilton on everybody's favorite topic: Money."
http://remindd.com/ – "Remindd is an easy to use tool that allows for you to set reminders and be reminded about them, so you never forget anything. Have a meeting next week that you can't forget? A date? Something important? Regardless of what you need to be reminded about, we'll help you out."
Pick the perp|
http://picktheperp.com/ – This site show you real mug shots from arrest records from open sheriffs' websites in the United States of America, along with an offense. You then click on the person who you think was booked for the crime shown. The results can be surprising and I'm not sure why.
www.dft.gov.uk/drivingchallenge/ – You'll need sound for this and probably broadband. This is an online driving test by the UK's Department for Transport to see how well you concentrate, drive and talk on a cell phone – at the same time. Only 19 percent of people pass the test. Will you be one of them? It's very important that you carefully listen to the instructions before you click on Take the test.
http://www.hunch.com/ – "It's a cruel world out there. Coin-flipping, I Ching consultation, closing your eyes and jumping, postponing the inevitable, Rock-Paper-Scissors, and asking your sister are all time-honoured means of coming to a decision – and yet we think there's room for one more: Hunch." This actually is pretty cool, First the site asks you a bunch of questions about yourself. Then, you can consult it on topics such as which cheese you should get, whether or not to buy a Prosche, and whether to get your DNA sequenced.
www.extremeironing.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Gallery&file=index – We have 'extreme' everything else, so why not ironing? "The sport that is 'extreme ironing' is an outdoor activity that combines the danger and excitement of an 'extreme' sport with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt. It involves taking an iron and board (if possible) to remote locations and ironing a few items of laundry. This can involve ironing on a mountainside, preferably on a difficult climb, or taking an iron skiing, snowboarding or canoeing."
How much would you sell for?
www.humanforsale.com/ – "Have you been thinking about putting yourself up for sale lately? Ever wonder how much money you could get on the open human market? This fun quiz will attempt to place a value on your life using a variety of criteria in four basic facets of life." Some of the questions are a little personal (without being unnecessarily gross), but when you get your results, the rationales for why you scored the way you did can be quite interesting.
Pacific Northwest tree octopus|
http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/ – Despite the falsehoods shown on this site, such as its support by "GreenPeas.org," the mentioning of other hoax species such as the Rock Nest Monster, the mountain walrus, and its affiliation with People for the Ethical Treatment of Pumpkins (P.E.T.PU.), 24 of 25 students involved in one well-publicised Internet literacy class believed the content.
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories: year 3|
www.evilmadscientist.com/article.php/emslyear3 – Staff at Evil mad scientist Laboratories are a bunch of really intelligent wackos, and this year they're turning three. To celebrate they're rounding up their most interesting projects from this past year. Their 'monetary density of things' project, for example, found, among other things, that human blood is worth its weight in Kopi Luwak coffee. But perhaps more useful are their inventions like the bicycle frame lunch bag and the no-sew iPhone cozy.
School meals from around the world|
http://izismile.com/2009/06/02/school_meals_from_around_the_world_30_pics.html – Here are 30 pictures of school lunches from around the world. Some look really appetising and some, well, just don't. It looks to me like the Japanese kids eat best, going by these entries, but what are the French kids supposed to do with a whole raw artichoke?
What's been happening in the online world?
Is Anne Tolley more risky than a junkie?: What do Amy Winehouse and Anne Tolley have in common? The troubled singer and our education minister both feature in the top 10 most "dangerous" internet searches in New Zealand. Click here for more.
Kiwis spend less time online: New Zealand adults spend nearly 50 percent less time on the internet than other adults worldwide, a new survey shows. Click here for more.
Govt broadband detail delayed: Communications minister Steven Joyce told the audience at a telecommunications conference in Auckland today that two graphs had "burnt a hole in his brain". Click here for more.
Online ads edge up: Online advertising will account for 10 percent of the New Zealand advertising market this year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau has forecast. Click here for more.
Google Street View nabs Dutch muggers: Dutch police have arrested twin brothers on suspicion of robbery after their alleged victim spotted a picture of them following him on Google's Street View map application. Click here for more.
Wikipedia entries slag off Palmerston North: References to gang violence and crime on Palmerston North's Wikipedia page have seen overseas investors and professionals shy away from the city. Click here for more.
Trade Me grudge lands man in home detention: A man who began a vendetta against a senior employee of online auction site Trade Me after being banned from the website was today sentenced in Wellington District Court to home detention. Click here for more.
Gambling billions flowing overseas: New Zealanders are gambling about $40 million a week on overseas websites - about 2 times what they spend on Lotto. Click here for more.
Surfers spending more time on Facebook: Spending more time on Facebook, Twitter and blogs? You're not alone, with the latest figures showing the number of minutes spent on social networking sites in the United States has almost doubled over the past year. Click here for more.
Website catches flu data: Google has launched a free website, Flu Trends, that shows how widespread the flu is in the North and South islands each day. Click here for more.
Pope Benedict eyes Catholic youth online: You won't get an email saying Pope Benedict added you as a friend and you can't "poke" him or write on his wall, but the Vatican is still keen to use the networking site Facebook to woo young people back to church. Click here for more.
Kidnapped son found on networking site: Three years ago, Gavin Paros wrote a short description of himself in Hungarian on a social networking website. Alongside details such as his pride in his three children and trade as a plasterer, he gave his birthplace as Liverpool and added: "I have not seen my mother since I was three. I do not know anything about her. But I would like to." Click here for more.
Heat on student over principal's MySpace page: A federal appeals court must decide whether a Pennsylvania intermediate school can suspend a student who, at home on her own time, created a lewd MySpace page about her principal. Click here for more.
US cuts off 'criminal' net firm: An American ISP allegedly involved in distributing spam and images of child abuse has been thrown off the net. Click here for more.
Web pirates placed in 'slow lane': Persistent pirates who illegally download movies and music will be tackled with "technical solutions", says the [UK] government. Click here for more.
Britons say broadband 'essential': UK consumers now believe broadband is becoming as essential a utility as electricity or water, according to a panel of government advisers. Click here for more.
Aerial images online endanger national security, critics say: Critics fears that online aerial imagery of nuclear power plants and other sensitive sites could help terrorists plan attacks. So they've launched efforts to try to get Internet map services to remove or blur photos. Click here for more.
The Facebook name game: Get ready for the great Facebook land grab. The social networking site now allows members to register their own user names to make it easier for others to find their pages. Click here for more.
English hits one million words... maybe: A US-based language monitoring group crowned Web 2.0 as the one millionth word or phrase in the English language, although other linguists slammed it as nonsense and a stunt. Click here for more.
IT workers snooping on colleagues: More than one-third of information technology professionals abuse administrative passwords to access confidential data such as colleagues' salary details or board-meeting minutes, according to a survey. Click here for more.
Dio girls suspended for Facebook comments: One of New Zealand's top private schools stood down four students for making derogatory comments on Facebook about a teacher and a student. Click here for more.
The internet is incomplete, says its co-designer, Vinton Cerf: The co-designer of the internet's basic architecture, Vinton Cerf, says the internet "still lacks many of the features that it needs," particularly in security, in a blunt talk to a US tech industry crowd. Click here for more.
Domain Changes a Boon for Business?: Two thirds of businesses are unaware they will be able to use their own name in place of domain extensions such as .com, .org, or .net when Internet domains are liberalized next year, according to a survey. Click here for more.
US to create cyberwar group: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered the creation of a new military cyber command that will co-ordinate the Pentagon's efforts to defend its networks and conduct cyberwarfare. Click here for more.
Facebook hermits risk being 'cat ladies' I'm apparently a "cat lady" of the online world. I'm what Australian technology expert Iggy Pintado calls a "basic connector" – I don't have a Facebook profile, I don't Tweet, in fact I don't even own a computer. Click here for more.
Websites to improve your life: Looking for new ways to improve your life without having to do the grudge work of random link- clicking? These 10 websites are guaranteed to make your life better, easier, more fun and more informed. Click here for more.
Music pirate ordered to pay recording companies $2m: A jury ruling in the only US file-sharing case to go to trial said Thursday that a woman must pay nearly $US2 million to recording companies for illegally sharing 24 songs by artist such as Gloria Estefan, Green Day and Sheryl Crow. Click here for more.
Retweeting: 'Followers' look to 'leaders' as social networks grow: Retweeting, represented on Twitter with the symbol "RT," means a user has taken someone else's tweet – or message – and copied part or all of it. The original author is often credited through the convention "@username," although sometimes the true source gets lost as messages spread further. Click here for more.
Lonely hearts 'tricked into paying for spam': An Australian Court has granted interim orders against three companies over allegations of setting up false dating profiles and SMS spamming. Click here for more.
Stupid things we do – NZ's top 10 risky online behaviours : We're used to not clicking on sex drug emails, we know that sending vast sums of money to people in Nigeria isn't very clever, and most now understand that loading a Facebook photo of yourself sitting on a beach while you're meant to be off sick could get you in trouble with the boss. Click here for more.
Symantec Says Phishers Have New Tools: Phishing and spam are intimately related on the Internet, as spammers use phishing attacks to secure access to victims' accounts on trusted Web sites such as Twitter and Facebook, according to two reports from Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC). Click here for more.
Fake Microsoft E-Mail Carries Real Malware: Security experts are warning of deceptive e-mails that claim that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Outlook needs an update. The e-mail claims that you have a new message in Microsoft Outlook, but you need to reconfigure your settings (by clicking on the helpful link) in order to read it. Of course, the e-mail is bogus and you're actually in danger of handing over details of your email settings to internet hackers. Click here for more.
Can you spot a fake email? : Fake emails flood inboxes every day but digital forensics experts say they can be easy to spot ... or create, if you know the tricks. Click here for more.
Windows minus IE: Microsoft said it will make a separate version of the Windows 7 operating software for Europe that does not include Internet Explorer. Click here for more.
Microsoft plans free antivirus 'soon': Microsoft is getting ready to unveil a long-anticipated free antivirus service for personal computers that will compete with products sold by Symantec and McAfee. Click here for more.
Microsoft hits new record... for security flaws : Microsoft has issued software to fix 31 security flaws in its programs, a single-day record for the company whose products are targeted by hackers because they sit on the vast majority of computers. Click here for more.
Opera applauds scepticism on MS browser pledge: Browser maker Opera has applauded EU officials for rejecting Microsoft's promises not to include Internet Explorer in European copies of Windows 7. The European Commission indicated the pledge would not satisfy its anti-trust investigators Click here for more.
Goodbye Microsoft Live Search, Hello Bing: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduced the company's new Google search competitor and its new name – Bing – Thursday at the D: All Things Digital Conference in Carlsbad, California. Click here for more.
Experts warn of porn Mac attacks: Security experts have discovered two novel forms of Mac OS X malware. OSX/Tored-A - an updated version of the Mac OS Tored worm - and a Trojan called OSX/Jahlav-C were both found on popular pornographic websites. Click here for more.
Weird and wonderful attract bidders: Lisa Lewis's bikini, a time machine, a soul and an apostrophe are some of the more bizarre items to be put up for sale on Trade Me. Click here for more.
Keyboard cat phenomenon plagues the web: A new internet phenomenon has drawn the interest of millions – including Stephen Colbert. One of the most popular current online crazes is something called "Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat," a user-generated video meme. 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.
Windows worms tax ISPs: Computer worms will cost European ISPs an estimated €123m this year, according to a study by Sandvine. Click here for more.
Net games lure 'bored housewives': While hardcore online gaming remains the preserve of young men, research firm Screen Digest found that "bored housewives" are fuelling the growth of other games offered on the net. Click here for more.
Gates' money-pile now bigger than galaxy: When looking at the total sum of Bill Gates' wealth we are reminded of the old Abba song. No, not Money, Money, Money, but rather SOS... Click here for more.
Zombie PCs spew out 80% of spam: Four-fifths of spam now emanates from computers contaminated with Trojan horse infections, according to a study by network management firm Sandvine out this week. 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).
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