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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
Other inquiries should be e-mailed to

Actrix – New Zealand's first Internet Service Provider

Welcome to the December Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the December Actrix Online Informer, the last one of the year. We're grateful for your custom and support, and I've appreciated the contact and conversations with so many customers that have taken place by email. Actrix management would like to wish you all the very best for the holiday season. Be safe, especially when you're driving, and enjoy whatever rest and relaxation you can manage.

Catch you in the new year,

Rob Zorn

Shopping safely online

Okay, so we're coming up to Christmas. Most of us are looking forward to being off work and spending some time with friends and family. One thing we are all not looking forward to, however, is jostling through hordes of fellow shoppers at the mall while we try and buy gifts. That is, provided we have been able to find a parking space.

It really does make sense to shop online as much as you can. More and more people are doing it, and reporting positive experiences. There's so much available that it actually makes sense to shop online all year. Things can be cheaper (because a net-shop doesn't have to maintain physical premises) and even the delivery fees you sometimes have to pay are a small price for the convenience of home delivery.

For the last couple of years we've published articles on some great online shops you can buy from in New Zealand (and overseas). You can check out articles from 2007 and 2008 here, for example, to get a few ideas, but most big retailers like Whitcoull's, Rebel Sports, Kirkcaldie and Stains etc, will let you shop online. If you buy enough, many will waive delivery fees. So, if there's a store you shop at a lot, why not check out its website and save yourself some hassle?

This year we won't repeat the list of online shops. I thought instead we could look at removing some of the barriers people feel there are to shopping online – the biggest of which is security.

Is shopping online safe?

In reality, shopping online is as safe as shopping in a bricks and mortar store. There are slightly different risks but with common sense and just a little knowledge you will be fine. Most people who shop online will tell you they have no problems. Those that have had problems can probably also tell you what mistakes they made to get in trouble. The biggest risk is in handing over your credit card number, but that can just as easily be stolen from you in a shop as it can online.

Rule number one, never type in your credit card number if you are not on a secure server. It's easy to tell whether or not that's the case. Look for the "S" for security. Make sure the payment page your are on has "https" in its web address instead of just http. When you are in the secure section of a website, you will also see an icon for a locked padlock on your browser, either on the address bar or on the bottom right corner. Normally information you send over the internet can be read by anyone with access to the server it is passing through, but if you are connected to a secure server, your informationis encrypted, so it can't be understood at all until it reaches the store where it is decrypted.

Rule number two: Stay current on security software. This means making sure your virus protection software regularly updates itself. If you're not sure yours does, then ask someone to check it for you. This is important for any internet use, not just when you're shopping online.

To be doubly safe, some people organise a separate credit card for online shopping and they make sure it has a low credit limit. This means that if someone does misappropriate their credit card number, potential damage will be limited. Most banks will not hold you liable if your credit card number is stolen and used, provided you have been behaving responsibly and safely with it online.

Lastly, make sure you log out once you are done purchasing online!  While most reputable online stores will automatically log you out after a certain idle time, it's best to never risk having your personal payment details openly stored in your browser. As an additional precaution, you might want to clear the history, cookies, and other private data from your web browser to ensure nothing is stored that someone else might stumble upon.

Firefox: Tools/Clear recent history
Internet Explorer: Tools/Delete browsing history.

But it's all so confusing!

Online shopping has become really quite easy to follow and do. In most cases, shopping websites have shopping cart software on them. Any time you like a product you can usually click to add it to your cart. That doesn't mean you're committed to buying it. Look for button on the site like "Add to Cart". There's usually a "View Shopping Cart" button so you can see what items you've collected while browsing that site. While you're viewing your shopping cart you'll also have tools to remove items from it or clear it completely. Once you've finished shopping, the "Proceed to checkout" button will take you to a form where you can enter delivery details, your card number etc. This is where you need to check you're on a secure server. You'll almost always be given two or three opportunities to confirm your order before the final payment button is presented.

Remember, online retailers are as keen to avoid hassle as you are, so they're usually at pains to make sure you understand what you're doing and that you have plenty of opportunity to pull out if you're not comfortable.

I like to hold things I'm buying in my hot little hands

Good for you, but with most products, that probably isn't all that necessary. I wouldn't recommend you buying a new lounge suite online because you would want to feel the fabric and look at it in natural light, and see how comfortable it is before you spend lots of money. But for most products, such as books, CDs, etc, a description and the picture on the website will probably be fine. And in many cases, you'll be buying products you've bought before, so will know exactly what you're getting.

Things can get lost in cyberspace

Well, yes they can, but the chances that something will be mis-delivered or that your order will be misplaced are actually less with electronic transactions than they are with paper transactions or by phone. If you're buying online you're the one typing in your address and other details, so they are more likely to be entered correctly than if someone was writing them down or typing them in as you spoke those details to them.

Online systems will also be based on software that keeps things efficient at the vendor's end, too. They will know where your order is and be able to access it quickly if you make enquiries about it. But to be doubly sure, always check for a message that your order has been successfully placed when you click the online payment button, and print out or save the order confirmation. Make sure you note your order or customer numbers too, if they are available.

Again, online retailers don't need hassle, so they will usually have good systems in place to see that your order is dealt with efficiently, and that it is easily tracked. Online purchasing software has really come a long way.

Try and get your goods delivered at a time when you will be there or your package might end up with your dodgy neighbours, or some other passing opportunist. Most confirmation orders will specify what method of delivery will take place and when delivery is likely to occur. And, of course, many items can be sent to you through regular mail. Insurance is usually available, too, for expensive items.

Getting help

Even with the best of intentions, something can still go wrong. If it does, the first thing you should do is approach the merchant to work through the issues. Look at the contact information listed at the site (and don't shop from a site that doesn't make it easy for you to contact them). If you cannot contact the merchant or if you think the merchant's response has been unreasonable, you can contact Shop Safe New Zealand for advice. For serious problems, you could try Consumer Affairs or the Commerce Commission.

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Checking your email while on holiday

Heading out on holiday this festive period? Here's how to keep track of your email while you're away.

Actrix WebMail can be used from any location in New Zealand or worldwide as long as you have access to the Internet.

To get to Actrix WebMail just go to and look for the My Actrix login box – located on right hand side of the Actrix Homepage. Enter your username (which is just the first part of your e-mail address) and password and click Login.

The first thing you'll notice is a big box telling you whether or not you have new mail. If you do, click the big box and you'll land at a web page showing all the e-mails you have received since you last downloaded to your home computer.

Remember that WebMail will not allow you to access e-mails you have already downloaded to your home computer as those e-mails are no longer on the Actrix system. New messages will be in bold type, and messages that have already been read via WebMail will be in normal type. Message markings such as the paperclip for an attachment, and the ! for a priority message are all displayed as well.

Most of a normal e-mail program's features are included with WebMail, including Reply and Forward. Attachments can be viewed and downloaded as well.

If you delete a message using WebMail it won't be able to be received by your machine at home. The Trash folder (in the folder list on the left) is turned on by default and anything you delete using WebMail goes in there (and is permanently deleted automatically after seven days). If you want to get something back out of Trash that hasn't been permanently deleted yet, you can go in and manually put it back into your inbox so that your e-mail program will be able to see it again at home (but, as stated, that's only good for seven days).

You can also use WebMail to access your Spam folder (also in the folder list to the left). This is where our Spam filters send all the spam they catch. Feel free to have a look at what you've missed out on, but remember, a lot of spam isn't pleasant.

There is a WebMail Help menu which has a mine of information presented in a relaxed easy to read style to assist you in finding your way around. Alternatively the Actrix Helpdesk can assist you with WebMail inquiries – 0800 228 749.

E-mail on the go is never easier than with Actrix WebMail. If you think you might need to use it, have a bit of a play with it before you head off on your trip. Send yourself a message or two with it, explore the different menus available and familiarise yourself with how the system works. It might even be worth planning a trip just to test it out!

One final word of advice – WebMail from Internet cafes is always a risk. Machines in public places can contain key-logging software to steal your password. There's no need to be too paranoid, but don't deal with sensitive or really private matters from Internet cafes. And make sure you change your password as soon as you get home.


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 (


Alison writes: Hi there, I am wondering why or how we got the .gen in our email address – and could we use .co instead? No one else seems to have .gen in their address. I notice that your address has .co not .gen.

Hi Alison and thanks for your email. The bottom line is, yes, .gen and .co (called sub-domains) are interchangeable in Actrix email addresses. The reasons for .gen being in early Actrix email addresses are historical.

Actrix was New Zealand's first ever Internet Service Provider. We began in 1989 and at that time there was a limited number of sub-domains available: .ac denoted academic, .mil denoted the military, .govt denoted government, and .gen (short for general) included just about everything else. There wasn't yet a .co domain. So in the early days Actrix customers had email addresses. Some customers who have been with us for a long time may still have that in their settings.

Now that there is a .co sub-domain, Actrix has appropriately included itself there, but we've made it so either will work.

If you'd like to change your email address settings, we have some online instructions about setting up accounts at There you can click on whatever email program you use to see how to change that setting. If you’d like some help, give the help desk a call on 0800 229849.

It's an interesting thought that .co was absent when the first sub-domains were set up. .Co is short for “company” and this indicates that in the early days of the net, people probably weren’t thinking it was all that relevant to business.


Justine writes: Hi Rob, Did you know about this website? I saw it written up in the Reader's Digest! A good one to check out those urban myths and conspiracy theories!  Regards, Justine

Hi Justine, Yes the Snopes (or Urban Legends) website is a fantastic resource, and I should have mentioned it in last month's conspiracy article. Snopes is great for checking up on any rumour that you might read about on the Internet or receive in one of those forwarded emails. Did Microsoft just draw your email address out of a hat at random and you can now claim a gazillion dollars in prize money? Is there a new virus that will eat your entire hard drive unless you forward the warning email on to 25 other people? Enter some key words at and you're sure to find out. Thanks for this!

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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!

365 exercise shots – This chap exercised every day to change his body from that of a paunchy wimp into a bulging muscleman. He took a photo at the same time every day and here you can see them one after the other to watch his body change. Click pause and go make a cup of tea if the download is slow for you. What I want to know is how this guy could pull the same expression everyday, and how he could afford so any different pairs of boxers. Click Next for more crazy videos, but at your own risk. We have no control over what else might come up.
101 historical moments you can relive on YouTube – "Got a love of history, some extra time, no money, and an internet connection? Then check out these best 101 moments in history on video to relive at no charge. There are historical videos on the presidents, famous speeches, breakthrough moments in space exploration, along with moving moments in culture, all found easily on YouTube."
Mystery Google – So I typed "Bob Dylan" into the Mystery Google search engine and got a page of Harry Potter results. Next I typed in "pancakes" and got a page on procrastination. To figure out what this was about I had to view the page source. Turns out you get the results of whatever search the person before you entered. Very interesting. I wonder what whoever was searching on when they got my "pancake" results. What's the use of Mystery Google? This is the Internet. We don't ask questions like that.

Learn something every day – To quench your thirst for knowledge, try taking just a little sip every day. The UK's We Are Young website brings you one illustrated fact every day, such as John Lennon's cat was named Elvis. Humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas. The little illustrations are pretty cool, too.
World's oddest couples – Here we have a collection of the world's strangest pairings. They range from the biggest and shortest to wed, to couples with the exact same name, and even a pair of homosexual penguins.
Past life analysis – Are you curious about who you were in your previous life? If so, here's a website that will happily make something up and tell you. Enter your birth date and then find out what a great and talented guy or gal you were the last time you graced this earth. You'll also receive some positive advice about how you can make the current world a better one.
The Oxford Etymologist – This is a great blog that will be of interest to people who love words and are interested in their origins. Each week, etymologist Anatoly Liberman discusses where a particular word comes from and how it has come to have the meaning it has. Interestingly, some words are connected in ways you might not realise. Others that seem related aren't connected at all.
Hoax Slayer – It's not that pretty a site, but it's certainly a useful one. "Hoax-Slayer is dedicated to debunking email hoaxes, thwarting Internet scammers, combating spam, and educating web users about email and Internet security issues. Hoax-Slayer allows Internet users to check the veracity of common email hoaxes and aims to counteract criminal activity by publishing information about common types of Internet scams." Read about the site on Stuff.
World Toilet Organization – Who'd have thought it? This WTO isn't the World Trade Organization, it's the World Toilet Organization. Yes, they really exist and their mission is to improve toilets worldwide. If you read a bit about them on the site you'll see that it's a pretty worthwhile and noble cause, but surely they could have thought of an alternative name? By the way, World Toilet Day was 19 November. I hope you all did your bit...
Will the world really end in 2012? – "The end of the world is near – 21 December 2012, to be exact – according to theories based on a purported ancient Maya prediction and fanned by the marketing machine behind the soon-to-be-released 2012 movie. But could humankind really meet its end in 2012—drowned in apocalyptic floods, walloped by a secret planet, seared by an angry sun, or thrown overboard by speeding continents?" Six 2010 end of the world theories are debunked on these National Geographic pages.


Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

'Teen' triggers email firewall: The pornographic connotations of the word "teen" are stopping emails from reaching the government department responsible for youth issues. Click here for more.

NZQA tweets students to remind them of exams: Students sitting NCEA and Scholarship exams can now sign up to receive reminders and updates from NZQA through the social networking site Twitter. Click here for more.

ISPs may have to remove suppression order data: InternetNZ has questioned a recommendation by the Law Commission that internet providers should stop customers accessing information that breaches court suppression orders. Click here for more.

Copyright treaty not the cause of S92A delay: The Government has denied that negotiations over a new international copyright treaty are delaying a decision over how hard it should come down on internet pirates. Click here for more.

Microsoft's man from Matamata bows out: Chris Liddell - the highest flying executive this country has produced - shocked markets yesterday when he announced he is stepping step down as chief financial officer at Microsoft. Click here for more.

German woman tells of 'horror house': A German tourist whose internet relationship turned out to be anything but romantic has warned of the dangers of travelling across the world to meet a stranger after spending a week in a Dunedin man's home she described as a "horror house". Click here for more.


Religion moves online: The World Wide Web has become the hottest place to build a church. A growing number of congregations are creating internet offshoots that go far beyond streaming weekly services. Click here for more.

The easy way to shop online: You're probably used to typing your name, address and credit card number when you buy things online. is guessing you don't enjoy it, though, and wants to simplify the process by letting you purchase items with a short phrase such as "Shopping Fanatic" and an identification number. Click here for more.

Hebrew, Hindi, Korean get web nod: The nonprofit body that oversees internet addresses has approved the use of Hebrew, Hindi, Korean and other scripts not based on the Latin alphabet in a decision that could make the web dramatically more inclusive. Click here for more.

Illegal downloaders spend most on music: study: Brits who illegally download music from the internet also spend more money on music than anyone else, according to a new study. Click here for more.

Police log on as children to trap online predators: Taylor is living a double life. At work he becomes a young girl called Molly, an online pseudonym he has created in his bid to lure internet predators who are looking to engage children in conversations about sex. Click here for more.

Facebook keeps profiles of the dead: Death doesn't erase the online footprints that people leave in life and Facebook won't either, though it will make some changes. Click here for more.

Never too old for Facebook: Age is no barrier to Facebook membership, with more seniors signing up to keep track of friends and relatives. Click here for more.

Global 'caring' portal to launch: President Barack Obama and Bill Gates are being invited to back a website that promotes social politics. The web portal, entitled Hope Plus, aims to offer online tools to enable social projects such as building schools and fighting pollution. Click here for more.

Social networks and kids: How young is too young?: Researchers say a growing number of children are flouting age requirements on sites such as Facebook and MySpace, or using social-networking sites designed just for them. Click here for more.

The sting of digital rejection: If you harbour a bit of angst over Facebook friend requests gone unanswered, a surprise "defriending" or being deserted by your Twitter followers, you're not alone. Click here for more.

Looking Back as Mozilla Firefox Turns Five: The Firefox 1.0 release was the culmination of months of effort that ultimately spell the end of the Mozilla Suite (now SeaMonkey) as the main Mozilla browser. Firefox was supposed to be a revolution for the browser world, a browser that cut out the bloat and made things faster. Click here for more.

Firefox Tops Vulnerability List: Application security vendor Cenzic today released its security trends report for the first half of 2009 application. In it, Cenzic claims that the Mozilla's Firefox browser led the field of Web browsers in terms of total vulnerabilities. Click here for more.

Googlers gather for Street View stunt: Passers-by could be forgiven for thinking the entire Google Australia team was on strike today after staff gathered outside the company's headquarters for a Street View stunt. Click here for more.

EU agrees on internet rights: EU lawmakers and governments have agreed on new rights for internet users, aiming to protect them from arbitrary crackdowns on those who illegally download music and movies on the internet. Click here for more.

What data is Google collecting on you?: Google is offering a new privacy control that will make it easier for people to see some of the information being collected about them. Click here for more.

Lawyers fight over 'hijacked' keywords: A lawsuit in Wisconsin is bringing a fresh challenge to the practice of paying for keywords on Google and other search engines to boost one company's link over a rival's. Click here for more.

Australia seeks to make online petitions count : Politicians are tweeting, blogging and poking, but most remain out of reach when it comes to receiving petitions over the internet. Click here for more.

Make the web work for you: With more than 183 million websites the internet has become mind-boggingly vast. Here are some sites to help you set up your own little corner in the world wide web. Click here for more.

What is the web teaching our brains?: We spend our days sifting emails and browsing the internet, then relax by tweeting or networking online and playing computer games, sometimes all at the same time. All this, according to Dr Gary Small of UCLA, is changing us. Click here for more.

Stock spam scammer jailed: A federal judge has sentenced a man described as one of the world's most prolific senders of spam email to more than four years in prison for his role in a 2005 stock fraud scheme that netted him $2.7 million (NZ$3.7m). Click here for more.

Wikipedia 'loses' 49,000 editors: A university researcher claims that far fewer people are editing the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia in 2009. Click here for more.

Website publishes '9/11 messages': A website has published what it says are 573,000 intercepted pager messages sent during the 9/11 attacks in the United States. Click here for more.

An internet that speaks to you: Progress towards making the net more multi-lingual is welcome says Bill Thompson. Click here for more.

The Ten Most Influential Internet Moments of the Decade: In a mix of technological, political and commercial events, the Top Ten Moments of the Decade makes for an interesting snapshot of the period 2000 - 2009. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

'Scareware' and Worms Top Corporate Threat List: Microsoft security software found rogue security software on nearly 3.5 million fewer PCs in the first six months of 2009 than it found in a six month period prior, but worm infections doubled during that same period. Click here for more.

Facebook Groups Hijacked in the Name of Security: Hundreds if not thousands of Facebook groups were usurped this week by an organization calling itself Control Your Info, renaming the groups "Control Your Info" and posting a message warning users of the very security vulnerability that allowed it to take control of the group. Click here for more.

Ripped off, hacked and taken to the cleaners: Twenty years ago the typical hacker was a bedroom-based teenager with an IBM clone 386 PC, a dial-up modem, whose goal was to gain geek kudos by infiltrating and disrupting an unsuspecting corporate computer system. Click here for more.

McAfee Outlines Growing Cyber Warfare Threat: McAfee has released the sobering results from its fifth annual Virtual Criminology Report, warning nations and companies that politically motivated cyber attacks continue to escalate around the globe and will for the foreseeable future. Click here for more.

Mac the News

Macs a growing target for malware: For decades Mac users have been the Volvo drivers of cyberspace, confident the strength of the machines protect them from calamity. And it remains true, as Sean Richmond of computer security firm Sophos says. "The threat for Macintosh is still nowhere near that of Windows," he says. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Tourists get tweets from New York toilets: Five new restroom ambassadors will soon be tweeting from toilets at Times Square after beating hundreds of hopefuls for the coveted jobs. Click here for more.

Redheads assaulted in Facebook stunt: Authorities in the US say there were at least five attacks on red-haired students at a Southern California middle school after a Facebook group announced "Kick a Ginger Day." However, nobody was seriously hurt and no arrests were made. 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.

Progress on new internet domains: By early 2005 the net could have two new domain names. Click here for more.

Nuclear bomber for sale on eBay: Vintage cars, old guitars, retro clothing or rare coins -- there's not a lot you can't buy on the popular Internet auction site eBay. But an Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber aircraft? Click here for more.

Too many users fall for cyber security urban myths: The 'Top Ten Cyber Security Urban Legends' released by Secure Computing Corporation warns that, while such improbable stories circulating on the internet are amusing... Click here for more.

First U.S. felony trial over spam begins: Three defendants face up to 15 years in prison. 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 December!

Rob Zorn 


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