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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 editor@actrix.co.nz
Other inquiries should be e-mailed to support@actrix.co.nz.

Actrix – New Zealand's first Internet Service Provider

Welcome to the July Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the July 2011 Actrix Online Informer.

Okay, that's half the year gone already right there!

Thanks to all those who responded with positive comments about last month's article on the new copyright law, Section 92 and you. This month's Cyberspace News Snippets section on New Zealand has a number of new articles for those keen on following developments.

YouTube feature

Frozen Grand Central is one of many "missions" by New York improvisation troupe Improv Everywhere. They execute pre-planned "missions", usually involving socially awkward or unusual situations, and including sometimes more than 1000 undercover agents. In this one, 207 agents freeze completely in place for five minutes (at the exact same time) in the middle of Grand central Station. A YouTube search will reveal lots of other Improv Everywhere stunts including Food Court Musical, Star Wars Subway Car and the Subway No Pants ride.

Rob Zorn


Online documentation tools: Google vs Microsoft

by Rob Zorn

It doesn’t seem like too long ago that Google was just a search engine. You used it to check the scores of sports games, to find recipes and to win arguments, but that was all.

Then slowly Google started adding features to its repertoire, expanding the corporation beyond internet-searching. Such additions include Gmail in 2004, Google Earth and Video in 2005, and Google Translate in 2006.

Perhaps one of the more popular and functional additions to Google has been Google Docs in 2005, an online word-processor that allowed users to create and immediately share documents, spreadsheets and presentations with other users the world over. Until then the word processing market had been dominated by Microsoft Office’s Word, and its compatriots Excel and PowerPoint. Online word processing was a fairly new concept; a niche market Google could dominate.

But not for long…

In 2008 Microsoft unveiled plans to build a series of web-based applications based on its Office productivity suite. Users would be able to load and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations online, making it possible to share and access these documents around the world. Microsoft’s Office Web turned online word processing into a battle-ground and challenged Google Docs to a fight to the death. As consumers it’s great news, as competition generally creates a better product. The hard part is choosing which one to use!

The main reason anyone would use either of these products is to be able to collaborate with other users, to share documents, and to be able to access their documents away from their personal computer. It's a great productivity tool for teams working on the same project, for small business staff working together, or for any group with a common interest.

So how do they compare?

With any product comparison one of the first things anyone will ask is how much do they cost? While it’s a common question, the answer is certainly rare. Both Google Docs and Microsoft’s Web applications will cost you nothing. All you need for Google Docs is a Google account (free), and all you need for Microsoft’s applications is a Windows Live account (also free). Google Docs will run on any web browser, and Microsoft Apps run on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and even Chrome. There’s no mention of Opera, but it seems to work fine there too. So far, all tied up.

But what about aesthetics and functionality? It’s all good to have free stuff, but no-one wants an ugly program that’s poorly designed and impossible to use.

Just like the search engine, Google Docs has a simple look and feel to it; everything is laid out in front of you, and it just takes little practice to get the most out of the product. On the other hand Microsoft had no problems with sacrificing a bit of simplicity for functionality. Their Web applications are nearly identically based on their Office 2010 suite with a similar usability, which in this case puts them a bit ahead of Google Docs.

While Google Docs is simple to use and easy on the eye, it lacks the editing edge that Microsoft supplies. Basic editing tools are present in Google, but no way near as much as Microsoft. That said, Microsoft’s Web applications aren’t as functional as their Office suite, but are still a step ahead of Google Docs.

While Microsoft may take this one, one of the advantages of Google Docs is its auto-save feature. Every time a change is made to a document, an updated version is created. But rather than saving over previous versions, it creates an almost limitless file of old versions. So if something happened and you needed to go back to a previous version, all you’d need to do is use the “infinite undo” feature to find any previous version.

One the main advantages of using Google Docs is its real-time collaboration. As soon as a change is made to a document, the updated version is immediately available to anyone who has access to the document. No need to save changes and re-share the document, which is one of the issues with Microsoft’s product. With Microsoft’s Web applications, if you were to make a change to a document, everyone else with access would be oblivious to the change unless they were resent the document. Google’s real-time collaboration is just a step above in this department.

Another reason why Google ultimately takes the cake is that users wishing to download a document from Google Docs can be running any operating system the wish and formatting and usability will be maintained. Downloading a document from Microsoft is a bit more of a mission. The files don’t like being printed from other non-window’s platforms, and will only download in the latest Microsoft Office formats, so you won’t be able to view and edit any documents unless you also have the latest version of Office on your computer.

When it comes to versatility and variation of products on offer, Microsoft’s in pole position. While both Microsoft and Google offer word processors, spreadsheets and presentation platforms, Microsoft’s years of experience in building these platforms give them the edge. Google’s word processor lacks an auto-correct feature, its spreadsheets don’t allow for any sort of complicated formulas, and their presentation platforms lack necessary image editing tools.

There are a couple more things to know when comparing these two online office suites. While Google Docs offers users 1GB of room for storing uploaded files, Microsoft offers users a whopping 25GB. Google offers numerous free templates for your documents. Microsoft also offers templates, but not as many and they need to be downloaded separately before they can be uploaded again and used.

So does Microsoft’s experience in creating office suites put them on top? Or does Google’s original platform in its simplicity and practicality push them ahead? There really is no wrong or right answer. Of course you will like one more than the other, and that’s the key. Have a look, try them out. One or the other (or both) will surely meet all your online collaboration needs.

For a simple guide to using Google Docs, click here.

For a simple guide to using Microsoft’s Web Apps, click here.

View this article on its own... 

Phone scam alert

This scam has been around for a good year or more, but three people I know well have recently almost been taken in by it. None would describe themselves as Internet whizzes, but none is a complete fool, either, so I reckon the scammers must be pretty good and very convincing. My friends say they sounded very knowledgeable and friendly on the phone.

It seemed a good idea, therefore, to alert readers to it who may not have heard of this particular scam. It's a dangerous one in that it would allow the scammer remote access to your machine, and therefore the ability to do on it just about anything you could do – including installing some pretty nasty viruses or software. The below is an adaptation of a warning page on the Department of Consumer Affairs website.

How it works

It goes something like this, though mentions of fees might come a lot further down the line.

  • You get a phone call out of the blue from someone saying your computer has a virus or a security problem, and if you give them remote access they can fix it. They may claim to be from Microsoft, Telecom or an ISP to add legitimacy. They may play on your confusion to make you think some other problem you've been experiencing is linked to their offer to help you.
  • They ask you to go to a website which shows your IP address, they ask you for it (this allows them to find your computer online in future).
  • They will ask you to download some software – often legitimate remote access software which they will then connect to so as to gain remote access to your machine.
  • They will either log in remotely, say your computer is full of viruses and request a ‘one off payment’ to fix the computer – anything from $150 up to $500; or they will just use their remote access to install key loggers or other nasty software on your computer so they can get your passwords or other personal information.

Seventeen percent – that’s about 1 in 6 – New Zealanders have received an unsolicited phone call of this type in the last six months.

Reports also suggest scam callers are getting more aggressive. The Department of Consumer Affairs says it has had reports of people shouting, swearing, being rude, intimidating and threatening. Hang up the moment you feel uncomfortable.


  • Treat any unsolicited phone call with extreme caution.
  • Treat any offer warily. If anyone has your phone number as a result of what they say is your internet activity, something dodgy is definitely going on.
  • Remember you have the power to hang up.
  • Would you ever give anyone remote access to your bank account? Opening up your PC is the same sort of thing.

Hear Richard Parlett from Scamwatch discuss this topic on Radio New Zealand's This Way Up programme.


Google to abandon older browsers

We also wanted to draw readers' attention to this important bit of news (reproduced below from the BBC website). Google will soon be ceasing support for older browsers, which means some of its pages and services will no longer work for you if you're running them.

Actrix is also keen to see people upgrade their browsers, and not just because we care about you losing some Google services. Viruses, malware and phishing infections thrive on old browsers because they are still running with the security holes that have been fixed in newer versions. See here for example.

Secondly, some old browsers (like that clunker Internet Explorer 6) have real trouble displaying the features of modern websites (and they really make the lives of web designers into a nightmare trying to come up with something that will still work for them).

After reading the below, you can check your browser version by clicking Help in the menu at the top, and then About.

Updating non-Microsoft browsers is quite easy. Just go to their home pages and click on the prominent download buttons to install the latest versions.

Firefox: www.getfirefox.com

opera: www.opera.com

Safari: http://www.apple.com/safari/download/ 

If you've got Windows 7 or Vista, then you should be running Internet Explorer 9. You can download this at www.microsoft.com, by selecting Products, and then Internet Explorer 9. If you still have Windows XP, you should be running Internet Explorer 8, which you can download here.

Google to abandon older browsers

Google is phasing out support for older browsers from 1 August.

Those using IE7, Safari 3, Firefox 3.5 and their predecessors to view Gmail, Google Calendar, Talk, Docs and Sites will then lose some functions. Eventually, it warned, these web services will stop working for those sticking with older browsers.

The move is part of a trend to stop the use of ageing browsers which can be insecure and not sophisticated enough to handle the latest web technologies.

Statistics on browser versions suggest about 17 percent need to change in the light of Google's decision.

Google made its announcement in a blogpost saying its engineers were keen to make use of the latest capabilities in browsers, and that required support for HTML5 technology. As a result, from 1 August, Google will only support what it calls "modern browsers". By this it means the latest versions and major prior releases of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari.

Read more at www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13639875


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!

Mythology from around the world
http://aworldofmyths.com/ – A World of Myths offers a collection of articles devoted to the gods of the ancient world and the adventures of its greatest heroes. Sections include Greek, Roman and Norse mythology, and resources include videos. There's also a sizeable section on folk tales.
Symbol Dictionary
http://symboldictionary.net/ – Symbols are fascinating things, often so evocative of meaning and cultic mystery. This visual glossary contains lots nof pictures of symbols – both modern and from throughout the ages – that you can browse by genre, faith, or type. Each entry comes with a picture, an explanation and links to related symbols.
Google scavenger hunt
www.agoogleaday.com – A Google a Day asks you a question such as, "An 11-foot bird lives less than two miles from 30.891383, -102.885032. What’s his name?". You then put your search skills and Google's tools to use. For instance, you can enter 30.891383, -102.885032 in Google search at the top of the page, and learn that it's directly in the centre of Ft. Stockton, TX. A quick Search for [Giant bird ft stockton TX] and you'll have your answer. To keep the game interesting for everyone, a wormhole inspired time machine that only searches the Internet as it existed before the game began is used. Nobody wants someone's recent blog post about finding an answer spoiling their fun.

Word 2007 tips
http://wordribbon.tips.net/ – Microsoft Word is the most widely used word processor on the planet and, in my view, the 2007 version was a massive improvement on earlier versions in terms of usability. Still, getting used to using the ribbon instead of all the dropdown menus can be bewildering at first. This site contains tips, tricks, and ideas for users of Word versions starting with Word 2007. You'll find all sort of productivity help, even if you've been using Word 2007 for years.
The top five regrets people have on their deathbed
http://thenextweb.com/lifehacks/2011/05/31/the-top-5-regrets-people-make-on-their-deathbeds/ – There may be no better way to learn about life than by listening to people who are facing death. A palliative nurse has posted the top five regrets people have in the last few weeks of their lives – lessons for us all now.
Top ten myths about the brain
www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Top-Ten-Myths-About-the-Brain.html – This web page from the Smithsonian asks – and attempts to answer – the question, "When it comes to this complex, mysterious, fascinating organ, what do—and don’t—we know? It's a fascinating read with lots of links to more information.
The longevity game
www.northwesternmutual.com/learning-center/the-longevity-game.aspx – How long can you expect to live? The Longevity Game was developed by Northwestern Mutual to give you a peek into your future by identifying the factors that can lead to a healthier, more productive life. The you can do it again and fudge the results to see whether it's worth giving up any of your bad habits!
What's the most epic photo ever taken?
www.quora.com/Iconic-Images/Whats-the-most-epic-photo-ever-taken – This website will probably take a while to load for those on slow connections. However, it may well be worth the wait. It's a collection of some of the most amazing photos ever taken with lots of information about each one. Many familiar, but certainly not all. Many are disturbing, but each is important and thought-provoking in its own way.
Unsolved philosophical problems
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_problem – This is Wikipedia's list of some of the major unsolved problems in philosophy. There sure are quite a few, arranged into categories such as Aesthetics, Epistemology, Morality, Language etc. Most of the time the concepts and problems are explained in easily digestible language... most of the time.
100 things your kids may never know about
www.wired.com/geekdad/2009/07/100-things-your-kids-may-never-know-about/ – Here's a list of 100 things that kids growing up today will probably never experience. I know most would be unfamiliar to mine, who would probably laugh at what I was amazed at as a kid. Some in the list are factual, some are funny, but just about all show how much and how quickly the world is changing, especially in the area of technology.


Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Kiwi kids flock to Facebook: Two-thirds of New Zealand children aged six to nine are using social networking sites for kids, according to a survey. Click here for more.

'Tupac alive in NZ' – hackers hoax US website: PBS officials say hackers have cracked the network's website, posting a phony story claiming dead rapper Tupac Shakur was alive in New Zealand, and a group that claimed responsibility for the hacking complained about a recent "Frontline" investigative news programme on WikiLeaks. Click here for more.

Darby in anti-piracy ad backlash: Rhys Darby has posted a statement saying he does not support the government's controversial copyright law change. Click here for more.

Editorial: New copyright law deserves to get a fair go: It is understandable that the Commerce Minister responded somewhat tartly to United Nations criticism of internet copyright legislation that will take effect in September. Click here for more.

Govt refuses to budge on internet law: The Government says it will not alter its internet copyright legislation, despite UN criticism that such laws are an attack on human rights. Click here for more.

ISPs 'will struggle with new web laws': Internet companies are scrambling to prepare for anti-piracy laws coming into effect this September, but a legal expert warns they will struggle to cope with the new regulations. Click here for more.

UN criticises NZ's three-strike piracy law: The United Nations has declared internet access a human right and criticised "three strikes" laws like that in New Zealand which may see users lose access for repeat infringements. Click here for more.

Fairfax 'looking at partial float of Trade Me': Fairfax Media, publisher of newspapers in Australia and New Zealand, is conducting a strategic review of its New Zealand auction website Trade Me, apparently as a sop to investor concerns about the company's flagging share price. Click here for more.

Facebook pro-bullying page blasted by parents, students: A Facebook page set up to bully an Otumoetai College student was taken down on Saturday night after causing an internet furore. Click here for more.

New law refines internet search criteria: The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Amendment Bill, recently returned from select committee, has recognised the site of a search for evidence may be virtual. Where the NZ SIS Act empowered SIS officers to search a “place”, this has been amended to read “place or facility”. Click here for more.

Online sellers zapped over danger: Traders are dodging safety laws by peddling potentially dangerous goods online. Click here for more.

ANZ bank customers warned: Internet safety watchdog NetSafe is warning ANZ National Bank customers to be on the lookout for scams as the bank contacts customers about a huge information technology overhaul. Click here for more.

Politicians can tweet during campaign, but carefully: Politicians have been told they can tweet at will during the election campaign provided it is only their personal views they are expressing. Click here for more.


Chinese army: cyber-warfare important: China must make mastering cyber-warfare a military priority as the Internet becomes the crucial battleground for opinion and intelligence, two military officers said, two days after Google revealed hacking attacks that it said came from China. Click here for more.

Watson named 'person' of the year by Webbys: The Jeopardy-playing IBM supercomputer Watson has been named person of the year by the Webby Awards. The Webbys, which honour Internet achievement, announced their special honorees Thursday. Click here for more.

Internet booze deliveries exploit loophole: Liquor licensing authorities in Australia have turned a blind eye to sly grog salesmen using the internet and word of mouth to run 24-hour booze delivery services. Click here for more.

Technology baffles inmate freed after 17 years: A woman exonerated after spending 17 years behind bars for the murder of her boss said that despite her freedom, a part of her life is on hold as the state appeals the release. Click here for more.

Password sharing could soon be a crime in Tennessee: State lawmakers in country music's capital have passed a groundbreaking measure that would make it a crime to use a friend's login – even with permission – to listen to songs or watch movies from services such as Netflix or Rhapsody. Click here for more.

Google to abandon older browsers: People who use older versions of web browsers could see services start to malfunction as Google and others drop support for them. Click here for more.

Hackers gather around the globe to fight climate change: When you hear the word hacker, you probably don't picture someone dedicated to solving the problems of global development. Click here for more.

Australia to draft cybersecuity strategy paper: In a sign of the growing government acceptance of cyber attacks as genuine threats to national security, Australia will develop its first Cyber White Paper. Click here for more.

EBay seeks acquisitions to speed impulse buys: EBay is hunting for acquisitions to speed up its development of image recognition and augmented reality features. Click here for more.

Next-gen internet address test underway with 'World IPv6 Day': A worldwide test is underway of the next generation of internet addresses designed to replace the dwindling pool of 4.3 billion unique identifiers in the original system. Click here for more.

50,000 BitTorrent users sued for alleged illegal downloads: The turn of the 21st century was rife with bitter anti-piracy lawsuits pitting studios against their potential customers, with music labels banding together to blast Napster – and its massive user base – to smithereens. Click here for more.

Thousands of websites exposed in hack attack: Thousands of Australian websites are vulnerable to being taken over by hackers following a break-in at Australian domain registrar and web host Distribute.IT, security experts say. Click here for more.

Aussie minister predicts end of bookshops: Australian booksellers' jaws dropped today upon hearing that Minister for Small Business Nick Sherry had predicted online shopping would wipe out general bookstores within five years. Click here for more.

Hoaxers take over the world wide web : From a Twitter hoax claiming McDonald's was charging black customers extra to a Gay Girl who was really an American bloke, it's been a good week for hoaxes. Click here for more.

Where are they now?: What ever happened to the online sensations - like that kid who bit his brother, or the newsreader who got "blind" and "gay" mixed up, or the university student who got tasered? Click here for more.

Thought Pottermania was over? Think again: Harry Potter fans will be able to find out more about their favourite stories after JK Rowling unveiled her new website. Click here for more.

Social Media

Investing in your kid's digital footprint: Meet Lucy Boudreaux, the queen of social media. She has a personal website at Lucyboudreaux.com, is @lucyboudreaux on Twitter, and has her own Gmail address, as well as an active Facebook page. Click here for more.

80pc of Twitter advertisers renew – CEO: More than 80 percent of the companies that advertise on Twitter renew their marketing efforts, the company chief executive said. Click here for more.

Twitter offers new button for attracting followers: Twitter is trying to make it quicker and easier to track the world's most interesting people on its short-messaging service. Click here for more.

Idle talk: How Twitter is proving the web isn't beyond the law Click here for more.

Facebook under fire over Israel, transgender bullying: Facebook was under fire again yesterday from various groups for alleged inconsistency in its moderation – too quick, it was claimed, to take down material supporting non-mainstream causes, too slow to react in other cases. Click here for more.

Facebook 'murder' sting backfires: She thought she'd caught her ex plotting via Facebook to kill her while she was plotting against him in a custody battle. Click here for more.

'Bucket list' wishes granted, via Twitter: A 15-year-old girl with terminal cancer has inspired an outpouring of online support. Click here for more.

Facebook gives regulators facial recognition info: Facebook is giving regulators information about its use of facial recognition technology, in response to concerns. Click here for more.

Facebook pro-bullying page blasted by parents, students: A Facebook page set up to bully an Otumoetai College student was taken down on Saturday night after causing an internet furore. Click here for more.

Russian social networking site speaks for dead soldiers: "Hello, my name is Nikolay, I am 24 years old and I died serving in the Russian army." Click here for more.

Twitter is the new Facebook: Following a whirlwind week and a half of product announcements, you can throw Twitter's attempts to differentiate itself as an "information network" out the window -- there is little doubt the company is now entrenched in serious competition with Facebook for the much grander social networking crown. Click here for more.

Facebook users 'more trusting, engaged': Contrary to popular fears that cultivating Facebook friends will harm people's ability to make friends offline, research suggests that users of social networking sites have higher measures of social wellbeing. Click here for more.

Facebook photo tagging: useful or creepy?: If your face is among the hundreds of millions of images on Facebook, you've got a stake in a worldwide debate that has privacy advocates in a lather. Click here for more.

Facebook tests tweet-like real time updates: Facebook is dabbling with a Twitter-like feature that alerts members in real time to what their friends are up to on the social network. Click here for more.

Facebook helps itself by helping RockMelt browser: Facebook has updated its status to include a relationship with RockMelt, an upstart web browser that revolves around Facebook's online hangout. Click here for more.

Juror who contacted defendant on Facebook gets prison sentence: Joanne Fraill, the juror who used Facebook to contact a defendant in a UK drugs trial, has been jailed for eight months. Her actions caused the trial to be abandoned. Click here for more.

Facing up to Facebook: Thoughts that social media's influence on business would soon fade should be banished. Click here for more.

Facebook victims fight back with love: Students vilified on Facebook gossip pages are fighting back by setting up pages that spread positive messages. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Americans concerned about online snooping – study : A new survey found that nearly half of Internet-connected Americans age 16 and older worry about businesses checking what they do online. By comparison, 38 per cent worry about the government doing so. Click here for more.

Mac security threats: How vulnerable is Apple?: The attacks on Macs and Apple's response to them have stirred up new controversy in an ancient debate. Is OS X uniquely well-protected from cybercrooks? And as its market share increases, will it become a more enticing target? Click here for more.

Woman scammed on Facebook: Police are warning Facebook users to be cautious after a Hastings woman was scammed out of more than $500. Click here for more.

Risky online habits common, study says: Big companies such as Citigroup and Sony have been the targets of major hacking attacks. Yet a new survey finds that regular people are also prime and often unsuspecting targets. Click here for more.

Software helps protect children online: Software developed by an Israeli start-up could help concerned parents protect their children from potential predators and cyber bullies online. Click here for more.

Mainly Microsoft

XML patent saga ends with Microsoft withdrawing application: NZ Open Source Society hails decision; Microsoft says it wasn't influenced by opposition from Society Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Woman hires hitman on Facebook: You can do it all on Facebook - post photos, catch up with old friends and, apparently, arrange for someone to whack your child's father. Click here for more.

Man updated Facebook during standoff against police: Jason Valdez is no stranger to Utah police. His latest brush with the law, however, may have been the most public. 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.

Google has no plan for its own browser: Google Inc has no plans to build its own web browser software to compete with rival Microsoft Corp, Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said. Click here for more.

Defeat for net neutrality backers: US politicians have rejected attempts to enshrine the principle of net neutrality in legislation. Click here for more.

The internet is in for big changes: "The internet is all perishable technology that going to get replaced or extended." Click here for more.

Bill Gates to step down from Microsoft: Chairman Bill Gates said he will transition out of a day-to-day role at the company he co-founded to spend more time on global health and education work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Click here for more.

Teachers concerned about online ratings: Teachers fear a new website asking students and parents to rate their effectiveness could be exploited by disgruntled students. 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. The best place to send requests for support is the Actrix Help Desk (support@actrix.co.nz) or to the Accounts Department (accounts@actrix.co.nz).

Take care through July!

Rob Zorn


Copyright © 2011 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: editor@actrix.co.nz