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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 October Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for October 2012.

This month we talk about the foreseeable future of technology and the direction recent developments will lead society. Feel free to let us know what you think of the technology we discuss and where you think we'll be in 20 or 100 years time.

We also look at RSS and how to make the most of this great feature. Don't worry if you don't know what RSS is... all will be explained.

And finally we look at a phishing email that some Actrix customers have been receiving recently. The email is a scam that attempts to get your account details. We talk more about the email and what you can do to protect yourself online.

YouTube feature

This month's YouTube feature is a clip of Penn and Teller's version of the famous cup and balls magic trick. Penn and Teller, arguably two of the most famous magicians in the world, perform the seemingly impossible trick to an astounded audience, and then repeat the trick while explaining exactly how it is done.

It all seems simple enough, but will still require years of practice if you're ever going to match them.


Rob Zorn

Bogus phishing emails 

This month we received lots of messages from a customers letting us know they'd received one or more of a variety of emails claiming to be from Actrix (some even bearing our logo) and informing that their account would be closed or their email deleted unless they clicked a link in the email. Most were informing us rather than inquiring which shows most customers understand how to spot a fake email that wants to lead you to a false website in order to steal your password. But some people weren't sure.

The rule of thumb is that a reputable company will not ask you for your password or such details in an email or provide links to log ins. If you get an email that does either of these, you can be fairly sure it's not legitimate.

Here are a few things to remember about keeping safe online and dealing with spam emails:

  • never open email attachments if you don't know what they are or who they're from
  • always type in the website address to your online accounts, don't use links sent to you in emails
  • make sure your computer is running up-to-date anti-virus software.

Find out more.

Technology of the future

When I started on the Actrix Help Desk back in the late nineties, 56kbps modems were the latest thing. Most of you will remember them. Broadband was a long way off and things were much simpler. Websites were mostly pretty amateurish and it was all extremely slow. Nothing had a touch screen (and the very idea of such a thing seemed a little far-fetched. And don't get me started on what the cell phones were like.

I can remember sitting around talking with my workmates between calls about what the internet could be used for. We came up with all sort of possible futures such as newspapers being available online (who'd have thought!), ordering your shopping at a website, and maybe even turning on your houselights or heating remotely across the web. These ideas seemed pretty amazing to us then, but we thought they would probably happen one day. If only we knew these things would be pretty ordinary and mundane compared to a host of other wonderful technologies that were just about to surface – and would keep on surfacing at an ever-increasing rate. What will be next? anti-gravity flying cars, personal jetpacks and meals in a pill?

Just for a laugh, try telling your kids that television used to be all black and white with a single channel and they probably won't believe you. Ask them if they know what an encyclopaedia is and they'll just stare at you blankly.

While it's impossible to predict the technological advancements society will achieve in the next decades, we can still speculate, and my money's on technology currently being developed by Google.

One new and exciting technology is Google's Project Glass. Allow Wikipedia to tell you more:

"Project Glass is a research and development programme to develop an augmented reality head-mounted display (HMD). The intended purpose of Project Glass products would be the hands-free displaying of information currently available to most smartphone users, and allowing for interaction with the Internet via natural language voice commands."

Basically, the technology takes what normally appears on a smartphone screen and places it on the lens of a pair of glasses. And instead of using your fingers to swipe the screen, you'd use your voice. Is that cool or what? This technology would allow you to make calls, watch movies and even use the internet without lifting a finger.

Google has released a short video on what they are intending to do with the technology. You can view the video here.

But don't get too excited yet… the technology is still a while away. Google is testing prototypes as we speak, and a number of other companies have joined the race to create similar technology. How the technology looks and works is going to be interesting, and surely the next step will be implanting screens on the underside of your retinas or under your eyelids!

Another "glimpse" into the future of technology is a series on YouTube called H+. The series explores the idea of trans-humanism, where the human body's abilities are enhanced by technology.

You can watch the first episodes here. Every week another few episodes, each roughly five minutes long, are uploaded to YouTube.

The story follows different people all over the world who have received H+, an implant which allows their mind to connect to the internet. The implant lets them check emails, get directions and even watch football while driving. But when a virus hits the system, everyone implanted becomes vulnerable to attack.

So when I think about what's happened in technology over the last 10-15 years, and when I remember that the speed of technological advances is occurring exponentially I don't know whether to be absolutely excited or just a little bit terrified to think what we'll be doing by 2030.

Subscribing to RSS feeds 

Have you ever been on a website and noticed a small orange square icon labelled RSS? These days many websites have this icon, but not many people know how to use it or what it does.

Depending on who you ask, RSS stands for either Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, and is a technology that allows you to get news, articles, website updates, and other content automatically and directly delivered to your computer. It's a bit like email, but without all the spam.

To support RSS, websites need to provide what is known as a feed, which is a specially formatted data file that is updated whenever something is added to a website. This allows people to subscribe to a particular website and receive updates on articles and news as they are put on that site.

To subscribe to an RSS feed you will probably need a special RSS reading program called an aggregator or feed reader. Then, when you run the programme, it inspects the websites you've subscribed too and lets you know what changes have been made since you last looked.

One of the best aggregators or feed readers out there is Google Reader, and it's free! To use Google Reader, you will need to have a Google account. Google has a range of other useful products and services, so an account could come in handy. You can make one here.

After creating or logging in to your Google account, go to Google's homepage and you'll see the list of services at the top. Look for Reader. It could be in the list, or you may have to click the button that says More and select Reader from the options that appear.

Once in the Google Reader page, you should see an orange Subscribe button on the left. Click it and copy/paste the url of the website you'd like to subscribe to in the box. If that site has an RSS function, Google will find the file it needs on the site and keep you updated of any changes that happen in the future. Not all websites support RSS, so for some it may not work.

The beauty of RSS is that it means you don't have to go trawling through all your favourite websites looking for updates. Instead you can go to one place (Google Reader) and see all the new content on whatever sites you subscribe to.

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!

Cow abductions
www.cowabduction.com/ – Apparently alien cow abduction is a serious problem. Countless bovines have disappeared from dairy farms everywhere, and the the number of missing cows is on the rise. This site showcases a rapidly growing collection of evidence of alien cow abduction.
www.elonka.com/kryptos/ – Outside the CIA headquarters in the United States is a sculpture called Kryptos. Designed to represent the CIA's work, the sculpture is a combination of letters written in code, and houses four secret texts. To date, three of the four codes have been broken, but one remains. This site is dedicated to discovering its secret.
Translator Boomerang
www.donationcoder.com/Software/Mouser/boomerang/index.html – Translator Boomerang is a silly little program that uses the Google Translation engine to translate your English text to foreign languages and then back again into English, for some amusing results. Use it to generate zen poetry or examine how well the translation of your text really matches with your intentions. You might be surprised to learn how your words may come across in another language.
Barcode art
www.barcodeart.com/ – Scott Blake is not your typical artist... the man uses random things like coins, books and barcodes to create stunning portraits and some amazing sculptures. He has displayed his work in galleries all around the world and is in hot demand for portraits from politicians and celebrities.
Silly walks generator
www.sillywalksgenerator.com/ – Love 'em or hate 'em, Monty Python are one of the most celebrated comedy groups out there. Their Ministry of Silly Walks sketch is one of their more famous, and this site lets you generate your very own silly walk. How silly can you go?
Reincarnation station
www.reincarnationstation.com/ – There exists a popular belief that once we die, we are reborn into a new existence as another form of life. This site gets you to answer a few questions about yourself, and then tells you which form of life you'll be coming back as. I'm an alligator.
The 50 best robots ever
www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.01/robots.html – Robots are seriously cool. From Terminator and Astro Boy to R2D2 and Optimus Prime, this site lists the top 50 robots out there. Which is your favourite? Mine would probably be Kryten of Red Dwarf fame, but it seems he didn't make the list.
Personal Injury Warning System
http://piws.org/ – Standard warning signs often ignore or overlook the complexity of human actions, and the complexity of the injuries, both physical and psychological, that can arise from these actions. To protect others from complex injuries, this clever chap designed the Personal Injury Warning System. Each symbol is based on an injury he received, and indexed by the date he would have benefitted from such a warning.

Tomatoes are evil
www.tomatoesareevil.com/ – If you want your kids to eat their vegetables, keep them away from this site which is dedicated to exposing the nutrient rich tomato as a poisonous incarnation of evil that ruins lives. Luckily tomato sauce passes.

Greyhounds as pets
www.greyhoundsaspets.org.nz – Every year many greyhounds retire from racing and need a good home to adopt them. This site lets you see the greyhounds up for adoption and tells you more about whether you'd be suitable to adopt, how to apply to get yourself one of these lovely pets and how to care for them once you have. Everyone deserves a happy ending!


Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

New Zealand ranks 7th in global web index: New Zealand is number 7 on the list of the world's top 10 nations that use the internet to improve people's lives, a new global study reveals. Click here for more.

Kiwi firm bring Anne Frank Diary to app market: The most famous first-hand account of the Holocaust, Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl, is being brought to life as an iPhone and Android app by Wellington company TradeMobile. Click here for more.

'Skynet' fees to stay at $25: The Government has decided not to change the $25 fee that music and movies firms must pay internet providers to issue infringement notices to their customers under the three-strikes "Skynet" copyright regime, after a review. Click here for more.

Family First unfazed by domain double-up: People who want to access Family First's website are instead inadvertently being directed to the marriage equality campaign's website. Click here for more.

Cybercrime claims questioned: Computer security company Symantec says cybercrime cost New Zealanders $463 million in the past year but the firm has come under pressure to back up what some believe to be wildly inflated claims. Click here for more.

Red flags raised over 'Cyberbullying Bill': It is aimed at combating harmful digital communications, but those attending an InternetNZ workshop on the Communications (New Media) Bill are concerned it may interfere with free speech. Click here for more.

Common internet misconceptions: I'm that insufferable kind of person who can't help but correct people. Often the first impression people get of me starts with "Well, actually". Click here for more.


Online sharing is worldwide problem – poll: The languages and the cultures are different, but the pet peeves of mobile technology users around the globe are the same, with most people annoyed by receiving too much information, according to a poll released on Wednesday. Click here for more.

Win friends and influence people: Following in the digital footsteps of "brain dump", "bricks and clicks", "netiquette" and "gamification", the ever-widening lexicon of hipster tech jargon now has another buzzword – "Klout". Click here for more.

UK company's glasses better than Google's?: A Cambridge-based company has figured out how to make "augmented reality" glasses that will seamlessly project information into the scene in front of you, creating a more effective version of the technology Google is developing with its Glass project. Click here for more.

Intel wants to do away with passwords: Passwords for online banking, social networks and email could be replaced with the wave of a hand if prototype technology developed by Intel makes it to tablets and laptops. Click here for more.

Web companies fuzzy on free speech: For Google last week, the decision was clear. An anti-Islamic video that provoked violence worldwide was not hate speech under its rules because it did not specifically incite violence against Muslims, even if it mocked their faith. Click here for more.

Google won't pull clip for White House: Google rejected a request by the White House on Friday to reconsider its decision to keep online a controversial YouTube movie clip that has ignited anti-American protests in the Middle East. Click here for more.

Online reviews have some at boiling point: Rogue online reviewers are holding restaurants to ransom with their scathing remarks. Click here for more.

Google to keep pre-quake map: Using Google's street view for Christchurch has become much like a virtual walk down memory lane – and it seems likely to stay that way. Click here for more.

eBay gets a facelift after 17 years: Online marketplace eBay has unveiled a new logo, a re-design the company says reflects a shift away from auctions and collectibles toward full-priced, buy-it-now merchandise. Click here for more.

Online instruction takes off among crafters: If you're itching to take up knitting or are stuck in a beadwork project, there's help – and many classes – online. Click here for more.

YouTube under threat in Russia over film: Access to YouTube across Russia could be blocked under a new law that takes effect on November 1 if the site does not remove a video mocking the Prophet Muhammad, the country's communications minister said on Tuesday. Click here for more.

Mainfreight founder backs Trade Me rival: Mainfreight co-founder and "rich lister" Neil Graham is taking on Trade Me with a new online auction and classified site, Wheedle.co.nz, that officially opens for business on Monday. Click here for more.

Brazil judge orders Google head's arrest: A judge has ordered the arrest of the president of Google's operations in Brazil for failure to remove YouTube videos that attacked a mayoral candidate. Click here for more.

Einstein's brain is now interactive: Albert Einstein's brain can now be downloaded as a $14 app. Click here for more.

Social Media

Mayors condemn Facebook confessions: A Facebook page boasting of sordid sexual exploits, robberies and misadventures has painted Hawke's Bay as a hotbed of morally questionable behaviour - and home to a good many people with poor spelling and grammar. Click here for more.

Memes give kids power: Students who taunt their teachers by posting offensive pictures on Facebook may feel empowered by their actions. Click here for more.

Rise in recalls tied to Twitter: Public use of Twitter and Facebook to warn consumers about dodgy products could be driving the increase in companies issuing voluntary product recall notices, Consumer New Zealand says. Click here for more.

Twitter must produce protester's tweets: Twitter must hand over the tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester to Manhattan prosecutors by Friday or face civil contempt and a hefty fine, a New York City judge said on Tuesday. Click here for more.

Tweeters still haven't got the message: A gulf exists between social media and its function as a legal publication, the Bond University Professor of Journalism, Mark Pearson, has said. Click here for more.

Twitter to surrender protester's tweets: Twitter is expected to hand over tweets from an Occupy Wall Street protester to a New York criminal judge on Friday after months of unsuccessfully fighting a subpoena from prosecutors, the protester's lawyer said on Thursday. Click here for more.

The 5 million kids Facebook doesn't want: Facebook has an ugly little secret, a number disclosed nowhere in its voluminous filings to become a public company and now only vaguely addressed by corporate officials. Click here for more.

Facebook stalking bad in breakups: Stalking an ex-lover on Facebook may prevent you from moving on with your life, new research reveals. Click here for more.

US judges to decide Facebook lawsuit venue: Before Facebook investors can pursue their court fight over the social network's problematic stock market debut, a panel of federal judges must decide whether to put the cases under one roof and, if so, where. Click here for more.

Social media lying at age of 8: Nelson children as young as 8 are faking their way into social media sites by using a second date of birth that puts them above the services' age restrictions, an internet safety expert says. Click here for more.

Facebook users help save lost man's life: Facebook and a pile of sticks have helped save a man who was missing for three days after "speedflying" off the Swiss Alps. Click here for more.

France asks Facebook to explain data glitch: The French government has summoned Facebook managers to appear before the country's data watchdog to explain how some of its users came to believe their privacy had been infringed on the social network, it said in a statement early on Tuesday. Click here for more.

Private Facebook messages go public: claim: Facebook has been swamped with complaints as users are convinced old private messages are being published on their public timelines. Click here for more.

Hot new facebook alternative: MySpace?: It's time to dust off that old MySpace page you had back in 2007 – if you can still remember the password, and you still have that old email address – Myspace is back with a new design and plans to relaunch (and with one less capital letter in its name). Click here for more.

Apple and Android

Kiwi app firm builds reputation: When national conventions for both the Republican and Democratic parties kicked off in the United States recently, a small Kiwi mobile app development company was involved in helping CNN-Time feature news reports from the showroom floor and poll Americans on their views. Click here for more.

Amazon to launch new weapon in tablet battle: Amazon.com sexpected to launch a new tablet on Thursday, the latest salvo in a battle for control of mobile access to the Internet. Click here for more.

Nokia, Motorola take fight to Apple: Nokia and Motorola have taken the wraps off five new smartphones in New York overnight ahead of next week's launch of Apple's highly-anticipated "iPhone 5". Click here for more.

YouTube offers own iPhone app: YouTube is being reprogrammed for the iPhone and iPad amid the growing hostility between Apple and the video service's owner, Google. Click here for more.

Satisfy that data craving: Fancy being able to find out, with just a few taps of an iPhone, that New Zealand has the third-highest rate of car ownership in the world? Click here for more.

New iPhone to run your purse: The new iPhone may be the start of a radical push by Apple to run your digital wallet, starting with tickets, boarding passes, coupons and loyalty cards but likely expanding into mobile payments at bricks-and-mortar stores, analysts and app makers say. Click here for more.

Apple's home-grown Maps leaves users lost: An entire city is in the ocean, a farm has been labeled as an airport, highways end in the middle of nowhere and a hospital now covers the entire center of British city Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's home. Click here for more.

So you think you can create an app: Another day, another smart phone app success story. It's enough to give any entrepreneur itchy fingers – until you consider those 400,000 apps on iTunes that have not once been downloaded. Click here for more.

Copyright vs Piracy

Megaupload case timeline: Follow the events of the Kim Dotcom case from the police raids to the pending trial. Click here for more.

US woman loses music downloading appeal: A Minnesota woman accused of sharing songs online owes record companies US$222,000 (NZ$271,568) for wilful copyright violations, a US federal appeals court has said, reversing a lower court's ruling in a long-running lawsuit over music downloading. Click here for more.

Cambodia deports Pirate Bay co-founder: Cambodia has deported a Swedish founder of the popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay who is wanted in his homeland for copyright violations. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

How to sidestep cyber crime: Here are some tips for diagnosing and dodging common–co–puter nasties. Click here for more.

Internet Explorer's huge security hole: Users of several Internet Explorer versions are being urged to switch to other browsers such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox amid news of a major security hole. Click here for more.

Anonymous 'leader' arrested in Texas: A self-professed leader of the computer hacker group Anonymous was arrested by authorities in Dallas, officials said on Thursday. Click here for more.

McAfee offers 'condom for your digital life': Software security firm McAfee says its new Social Protection app will add an extra layer of protection to Facebook and social networks. Click here for more.

Digital intruders still on attack: Despite advances in technology, hackers are continuing to break into computers. Click here for more.

Smartphone use spikes cybercrime: Australia's addiction to social media and smartphones has led to a spike in the number of people falling victim to cybercrime, a new study has found. Click here for more.

Qatar's Al Jazeera website hacked by Syria: The website of Qatar-based satellite news network Al Jazeera was apparently hacked on Tuesday by Syrian government loyalists for what they said was the television channel's support for the "armed terrorist groups and spreading lies and fabricated news". Click here for more.

Sony mobile customers emails, names hacked: Sony says hackers have accessed the email addresses and names of as many as 400 of its mobile unit's customers in China and Taiwan held on servers owned by a third-party vendor. Click here for more.

Microsoft fixing security bug in IE: Microsoft is releasing an update to its Internet Explorer browser to fix a security problem that could expose personal computers to hacking attacks. Click here for more.

Heightened internet threat, banks warn: A financial services industry group warned banks on Wednesday to be on heightened alert for cyber attacks after Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase experienced unexplained outages on their public websites. Click here for more.

UK spy agency tests Britons' cyber skills: Britain's largest spy service, losing cyber specialists to better-paying private employers, unveiled an online security competition open to all Britons on Wednesday to identify future espionage recruits and raise awareness of cyber attacks. Click here for more.

Security risk for millions of Android users: A serious security flaw has been discovered on some Samsung Android smartphones which allows hackers to remotely wipe them just by sending an SMS or getting a user to visit a URL. Click here for more.

Hackers breach, deface Aust uni website: Hackers broke into a server at the University of Technology Sydney and published the usernames and passwords of dozens of staff accounts on a UTS web page. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Please stop killing Morgan Freeman: For some reason the internet likes to kill Morgan Freeman. Click here for more.

Interactive gravestones link to online tales: Traditional gravestones are getting a technological revamp as some are being inscribed with an interactive code that can take you to a web page with a quick Smartphone scan. Click here for more.

Sleepwalking talking mum a hit: A video showing the dance steps and irrational comments of a sleep-talking mum is going viral on YouTube with over one million views. 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.

Elton John wants the internet shut down: The outspoken Sir Elton John, apparently feeling the pinch of declining album sales, has called for the internet to be shut down. Click here for more.

Spammer gets 30 years in the slammer: Notorious spammer Christopher "Rizler" Smith was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a federal judge on Wednesday. Click here for more.

Firms 'overreact' to spam act : An anti-spam law that makes it illegal to send any unsolicited commercial e-mails comes into effect on Wednesday next week but Keith Norris, executive director of the Marketing Association, says most businesses have no need to panic. Click here for more.

Minister says Kiwi broadband not 'third world' service: New Zealand is definitely not a third world broadband market, and the Government is driving a 'revolution' in telecommunications, according to Communications Minister David Cunliffe. Click here for more.

Hackers hit New Zealand Herald website: The New Zealand Herald's website fell victim to a page spoofing stunt earlier today, by hackers wanting to publicise their upcoming Kiwicon security conference in November. Click here for more.


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 June!

Rob Zorn


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