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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.

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Actrix – New Zealand's first Internet Service Provider

Welcome to the May Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for May 2013.

This month we look back at some of the best internet-related April Fool's pranks that were pulled this year. We also take a brief look at cyber bullying, and run through a couple of scenarios and solutions that could help you identify and report bullying on Facebook.

YouTube feature

We found the video for this month's feature while researching one of our articles below. The video displays a series of images taken from a satellite for Google Earth which contain some of the strangest things. Each image has a possible or probable explanation, though why a fighter jet is parked in a car park in France still remains a mystery.


Rob Zorn

April Fools!

Every year on the first of April, thousands, if not millions, of pranks are pulled all around the world in celebration of April Fool's Day. Generally these are quite small pranks, like putting salt in your flatmate's coffee or hiding all the toilet paper. But some people take April Fool's Day a little more seriously and put some real planning and money behind their elaborate pranks.

Taking an April Fool's prank to the next level is a bit easier if you're a multi-national company with money to burn. So this month we're looking at some of this year's biggest and best internet-related April Fool's Day pranks.

The man-skirt

Popular online clothing store Boden joined in the fun by launching a new product on the first of April – the man-skirt.

According to Boden, now is the time for the man-skirt to take its rightful place in the wardrobe of the modern man. Trousers made sense when men rode horses, ploughed fields and trawled for fish, but now that so many men sit in front of a computer monitor all day, the man skirt is a smart and comfortable choice.

Boden approached its designers and asked them to develop a lightweight fabric suitable for spring and summer, which would offer unrivalled freedom and keep the wearer cool.

What's more, the man-skirt can quickly be converted from professional attire (when worn with knee-high socks) to casual wear, by slipping on a pair of jandals.

And while clicking on a link to purchase the man-skirt only causes a pop-up to appear letting you know "you've been got", Boden do promise to investigate the possibility of actually producing the man-skirt in the future.

Check out the man-skirt.

Sony's pet range

On 1 April, Sony Electronics announced the Animalia line of technology products specially designed and created for pets. The introductory line-up includes Sony-branded products targeted at owners with dogs, cats and hamsters, with additional devices and networked services slated for release later this year.

"Now that there are more households with pets than with children, we are targeting pet owners who want to provide unique entertainment experiences for their furry, four-legged family members," said Tom Barret, Lead Engineer for the Animalia line.

"Sony is known for making products that enrich our lives, and the Animalia line was developed for domesticated animals who also naturally seek visual, musical and emotional experiences."

Among the products in the new Animalia range is the Sony K9 4K TV, which only uses blue and yellow tones, and no red and greens, to make viewing more comfortable for dogs. The TV is also designed to attach to most dog baskets and comes with an easy-to-use, paw-friendly remote control that features just two buttons – one for "play" and another for "Skype" so that dogs can interact with their owners in real time.

The TV's audio system also boasts a new Dog Enabled Frequency (DEF) with a special 54.2 channel surround sound which is tuned to dogs' levels of hearing so that they can hear what their owners are saying more clearly.

Other products include headphones for your cat, as well as in-cage speakers to help motivate your hamster to use his exercise wheel more.

Check out Sony's Animalia range.

Google Map Treasure mode

While on a recent expedition in the Indian Ocean, as part of a deep-water dive to expand their underwater Street View collection, the Google team came across a submerged treasure chest.

Archaeological analysis has confirmed that the treasure chest is indeed one of history's long lost relics, and contained a treasure map belonging to the infamous pirate, William "Captain" Kidd.

Captain Kidd was rumoured to have buried his treasure around the world, and tales of a long-lost treasure map have lingered for generations.

When Dr Marco Meniketti, an independent archaeologist, confirmed that this was Captain Kidd's 315 year-old map, Google were very excited. However, the map contained a variety of encrypted symbols that were not readily decipherable. Google is asking for your help to decipher these symbols and find Captain Kidd's treasures.

To help you help them, Google has digitised the map and made it possible for the whole world to participate. However, the clues are hidden, and can only be revealed in specific ways.

Google's official video explains more.

Twitter vowels

On 1 April, Twitter announced a new system, whereby users could choose to use either "Twttr" or "Twitter". The former was a free service which would allow users to continue tweeting, but wouldn't allow them to use any vowels in their tweets.

The reason behind this new system was Twitter believed that by eliminating vowels, they would encourage a more efficient and "dense" form of communication. They were also looking for an opportunity to diversify their revenue stream.

Alternatively, users could pay just $5 a month to use the premium "Twitter" service, which included all the vowels.

But because Twitter was feeling generous, they decided to keep the letter 'y' free for all users. They also announced they were offering a purchasable single character extension for those moments when you need just one more character to finish your thought. The price of the extra character is based on a bidding system reflecting the popularity of the character you would like to add.

Find out more.

Google Nose

Google has released its latest innovative service – Google Nose. Have you ever smelled something odd that you can't quite put your finger on? Google Nose will scan the smell and tell you exactly what it is your nose is detecting.

There's even a feature which lets you make a search in Google's extensive database to find a particular smell. Their vast indexing program has been able to amass a 15 million 'scentabyte' database of smells from around the world. So if you've ever wondered what the inside of an Egyptian tomb smells like, or just want to be able to sniff wet dog for a while, simply look it up in the database and sniff your mobile or desktop screen.

The video explains some of the more intricate science behind the program in greater detail.

YouTube competition

On 1 April, YouTube announced it was no longer accepting any more videos. When the video-sharing site was started nearly a decade ago, the idea was to find the best video in the world. Millions of videos were uploaded as entries into the competition, and now YouTube is certain it has enough material to sift through to find the greatest video ever.

YouTube has hired thousands of staff to spend countless hours watching every video ever uploaded to the site, with each video being marked on a number of criteria, including audience reaction, number of views and originality.

The YouTube team estimate it will take at least a decade to view all the clips and make a decision, but are pleased to announce that they will have a winner by the year 2023. Once the winner is announced, every video on the site will be deleted, except for the winning video.

Find out for yourself.

Gmail Blue

How do you completely revolutionise a product while keeping it exactly the same? According to Google, which runs the popular email service Gmail, all you need to do is make it blue.

In the beginning of April, Gmail Blue was launched, with a noticeable change of colour. Everything comes in different shades of blue, from the buttons to the backgrounds and the fonts.

According to Google, Gmail Blue was actually part of the original idea when Gmail was launched, but at the time, the technology needed to pull it off didn't exist. Before arriving at blue, they tried all sorts of different colours, but nothing looked as good as blue (apparently brown was a complete disaster).

The inspiration behind the blue came from nature: the sea, the sky and blue whales. The blue they chose was reminiscent of nature, but better.

Get Gmail Blue

Cyber bullying

Last month we received an email from a customer asking about cyber bullying. They knew someone who was constantly being harassed rather nastily on Facebook and wanted to know if this was cyber bullying, and if there was anything this person could do about it.

The situation described was certainly a form of cyber bullying. Technically, cyber bullying is when a child or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child or teen using the Internet. To be called cyber bullying it must involve a minor (child or teen) being bullied or doing the bullying. When it involves adults, as the situation mentioned above does, it's usually called cyber harassment.

It's unfortunate that cyber bullying/harrassment is becoming more prevalent, and it's even worse that this is something we're not just seeing happening among young people.

There have been a number of high-profile stories in the media recently regarding cyber bullying. Many of these stories have ended tragically with the person being bullied taking their own life, so it's obvious how harmful it can be.

It's something Facebook takes very seriously. To their credit, they've actually included a number of features designed to identify and prevent bullying/harrassment.

If you are ever bullied on Facebook, or you see a comment or message or photo that you deem to be bullying, the best thing you can do is report it. Reporting is very easy to do, and Facebook will investigate every report they get. If they agree with you that the message comment ot photo was offensive, they can go so far as to suspend the offender's account.

So here are a few tips on ways you can deal with bullying or harassment. We've taken many of these from Facebook itself, so these methods do work and are up to date. If you'd like to know more about Facebook's efforts against bullying, go to

Untagging yourself from a post or photo.

If you're tagged in a post or photo you don't want to be tagged in, it's easy to remove yourself. Hover over the story, click and select Report/Remove Tag from the dropdown menu. You can then choose to remove the tag or ask the person who posted it to take it down.

You can also remove tags from multiple photos at once:

  1. go to your activity log
  2. click Photos in the left-hand column
  3. select the photos you'd like to remove a tag from
  4. click Report/Remove Tags at the top of the page
  5. click Untag Photos to confirm.

To watch a video on how to do this, click here.

How do I unfriend or remove a friend?

Go to that person's timeline, hover over the Friends box at the top of their timeline, and click Unfriend.

How do I block someone?

  1. Click at the top right of any Facebook page
  2. Click How do I stop someone from bothering me?
  3. Enter the name or email address of the person you want to block and click Block
  4. If you entered a name, select the specific person you want to block from the list that appears.

Remember, people will not be notified when you block them.

How do I report inappropriate or abusive things on Facebook

Facebook will remove anything that violates the Facebook Terms (pornography, hate speech, threats, graphic violence, bullying and spam). If you come across something on Facebook that violates these terms, use the report link near the abuse to submit a report.

Report a message

  1. Open the message you'd like to report
  2. Click Actions at the top-right corner of the message
  3. Click Report Spam or Abuse.

Report a page

  1. Go to the Page you want to report
  2. Click the dropdown menu under the Page's cover
  3. Select Report Page

Report a photos or video

  1. Click on the photo or video you want to report
  2. Click the gear menu
  3. Select Report This Photo or Report This Video

Report a post

  1. Use your mouse to find the X or the arrow menu in the right corner of the post you'd like to report
  2. Click Report post or spam

It's important to remember that threatening harm or violence, even over Facebook, is illegal. If any such threats are made, the best cause of action is to save the threat, and report it to the Police immediately.

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!

Clouds over Cuba – History buffs will enjoy this interactive website that takes a detailed look at the Cuban Missile Crisis. This documentary-style website features all sorts of information on the crisis, including commentary from people directly involved in the conflict. It also contains authentic archive footage and investigates what might have happened had Cuba and the Soviet Union launched their nuclear warheads at the United States.
http://dilbert.comDilbert is one of the most popular comic strips in the world. Started by Scott Adams nearly 25 years ago, the strip has gained a massive following, and appears in more than 2000 newspapers around the world. This site is the strip's official website and contains everything from daily cartoons to animated comic strips. It even has a feature that lets you edit the comic strips and insert your own punchlines.
The Knitterstream – Every day, an endless stream of tweets enters the Twitterverse. This "here today gone tomorrow" phenomenon led us to wonder "must digital chit chat be so fleeting?" These guys didn't think so. And thus, Knitterstream was born. It began as a data visualisation project – an electronic knitting machine from 1998 that, with the help of custom software and hardware, could transform a humble tweet into a tangible, real life, woven work of art.
Kreative Testen – The Norwegian School of Creative Arts has created this great site which lets you edit important parts of an old cartoon. You can draw the paintings that'll feature on the wall, decide what the birds say when they sing and even choose the main character's favourite band to feature on his t-shirt. Then you can sit back and watch the cartoon just how you made it.
82nd and fifth Museum – Something for the artists among you: This site features a series of episodes filmed from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where 100 curators talk about 100 works of art that changed the way they see the world. Each episode is also paired with an interactive feature.
Messi Matrix – Sports fans will enjoy this great site. Lionel Messi, the Argentinian goal-scoring maestro is often hailed as the greatest footballer to have ever played the game – and he's only 25. This site explores Messi's every move on the football pitch throughout 2012 in a range of interactive graphics. It presents all sorts of statistics, such as when he scores most often, how he scores, the distance he covers in a single match and much more.
The monster that wouldn't let children go to school – This site was created to raise money for UNICEF, specifically to help children in need around the world. Watch the short story about the monster that wouldn't let children go to school. At some stage in the show you can step in and help the children by sending a text. Your text will give them the key they need to defeat the monster, and it will also be your donation. As soon as you send your text, you'll see the end of the story.
Lost phone experiment – In this experiment, Dutch researchers deliberately lost 100 phones throughout the Netherlands and tracked them to see what happened. The results are displayed on the site, and feature interesting statistics regarding the kinds of people that returned the phones, the number of phones that just disappeared and what people did when they found the phones.

Airman challenge – This site lets you get to know the depth and breadth of the United States Air Force as you play through missions undertaken day in and day out by United States Airmen. From basic training and logistics to problem-solving and combat, it won't be long before you've trained with the best.

Skrillex Quest 3D RPG – Skrillex Quest is a 3D action RPG that pays tribute to the classics of the 8 bit NES and, best of all, you can play it free on your browser. The kids might wonder why you'd waste your time playing something so slow with such poor graphics, but for many this game will have you overcome with nostalgia.

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Chch jetpack prepares for launch: Christchurch aero-engineering firm Martin Aircraft Company has appointed a new chief executive to launch its jetpack into the market later this year. Click here for more.

Trade Me to cater for iPad users: Trade Me has released its first dedicated iPad app that allows members to browse its main auction site. Click here for more.

The worst things parents share online: The first time a story about explosive baby poop showed up in my Facebook news feed, I was alarmed. Click here for more.

Number of homes with internet increases: Four out of five New Zealand homes has access to the internet, and more than half of us have shopped online, according to Statistics New Zealand. Click here for more.

Education not in sync with IT goal: The story of the 17-year-old British teen, Nick D'Aloisio, who sold his app Summly to Yahoo for $36 million has resonated with me and is an inspiration for the next generation of tech start-up entrepreneurs. Click here for more.

Generation Net loneliest of all: The face of loneliness isn't a solitary pensioner – hyperconnected Millennials say they feel the most isolated of any age group. Click here for more.


Google searching for Star Trek destiny: HELLO, GOOGLE: Search engine's mission is to build a Star Trek computer that can understand what you want. Click here for more.

Are microwaves actually bad for you?: To those of us who have little time and even less inclination to cook, the microwave oven has become a stalwart kitchen companion. Fast, reliable, efficient – it embodies everything I am not in the kitchen. Click here for more.

Epic fails with gadgets: Have you ever been happily typing along and suddenly had your text disappear? Or you've launched a program you didn't intend? Click here for more.

Memory swaps can strain disk: There you were, happily typing an email when you decided to check something in another window when it happened: the hard drive chattered to life and everything started moving in slow motion. Click here for more.

HP to revolutionise motion-control: Computers controlled by a swipe of the hand, a staple of science fiction flicks such as Minority Report, could soon hit the mass market as the result of a new deal between Hewlett-Packard and San Francisco start-up Leap Motion. Click here for more.

Google services outage cause unknown: Google's mail and application services were unavailable to some users this morning. Click here for more.

PC sales on the decline: Personal computer sales have plummeted as consumers embrace portable devices such as smartphones and tablets and shift to web-based software. Click here for more.

Schooling up on the latest smart TVs: Smart TVs are televisions that connect to the internet, allowing consumers to use applications like Skype and Twitter and watch television programmes and movies downloaded from the internet on their flat screens. Click here for more.

Campaigners call for ban on 'killer robots': Machines with the ability to attack targets without any human intervention must be banned before they are developed for use on the battlefield, campaigners against "killer robots" have urged. Click here for more.

Cheap netbooks on brink of extinction: Sub-$500 netbook computers have probably disappeared from the market for good, driven out by tablet computers and more expensive touch-screen laptops, says an industry manager. Click here for more.

Dictating tech just as dangerous as text driving: Using voice to send text messages while driving is just as dangerous as texting with fingers, with driver response times significantly delayed no matter which method was used, a new study shows. Click here for more.

Amazon to challenge Apple TV: will release a set-top TV box later this year that will stream video over the internet, challenging Apple's Apple TV device and a similar gadget sold by start-up Roku, BloombergBusinessweek has reported. Click here for more.

The plot to block internet freedom: The internet has created an extraordinary new democratic forum for people around the world to express their opinions. Click here for more.

The phenomenal rise of Insta-pageants: In this day and age, the 'selfie' is pretty common practice. Click here for more.

Social Media

Facebook negotiating iPhone Home: Facebook is talking to Apple about crafting a version of its new mobile software for the iPhone, in a push to boost revenue from the growing number of users who access the social network on smaller screens. Click here for more.

Twitter launches #music: Social media leviathan Twitter have launched a music discovery service, called simply "#music". Click here for more.

Researchers take heart from Twitter: Twitter may help prevent heart disease, a new Australian study shows. Click here for more.

Trial via social media a problem for courts: One British juror who could not reach a verdict on a child abduction and sexual assault trial turned naturally to Facebook. Click here for more.

Facebook brings 'chat heads' feature to iPhone: Facebook has updated its iPhone and iPad applications to let people keep using its chat feature even when they are doing other things, such as reading friends' updates. Click here for more.

Keywords open up Twitter customers: Twitter Inc has unveiled a new tool that allows marketers to disseminate targeted messages based on the content of users' tweets, a technology that could help elevate Twitter's effectiveness as an advertiser to a rarefied level demonstrated only by digital advertising leaders like Google Inc.Click here for more.

Youth skim surface of life with social media: They suffer from FOMO and FONK. Four in five say they haven't found their passion in life. With more information at their fingertips than any generation in history, today's under 30s live their lives "a mile wide and an inch deep", and they're so busy keeping up with their social media feeds they have no time to go deeply into anything. Click here for more.

Apple and Android

Hijacking planes with an Android phone: Imagine the kind of havoc a malicious hacker could cause if he or she were able to take over an aeroplane simply using his or her Android phone. Click here for more.

Apple knocked off its perch: Shares of Apple Inc have fallen below US$400 (NZ$480) for the first time in a year and half, after a supplier hinted at a slowdown in iPhone and iPad production. Click here for more.

App of the week: CardMunch: Simply put, CardMunch digests the information on any business card and puts it into an electronic form. Click here for more.

Apple wins patent case against Google: Apple has scored a win after the US International Trade Commission ruled it did not violate a Google patent to make the iPhone. Click here for more.

iTunes celebrates a decade: When Apple launched its iTunes music store a decade ago amid the ashes of Napster, the music industry – reeling from the effects of online piracy – was anxious to see how the new music service would shake out. Click here for more.

Copyright vs Piracy

First 'legal' movie sharing service launched: "Sharing" can be a dirty word in the entertainment industry, which continues to battle digital piracy. But an online video service from Sweden has a new feature that encourages it. Click here for more.

Parents to pay for kids' illegal music downloads: A couple have been ordered to pay $317 after their children illegally pirated Black Keys and Owl City tracks using file-sharing service BitTorrent. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

LulzSec hacker gets prison for Sony attack: A 25-year-old hacker with the group known as LulzSec has been sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay US$605,663 (NZ$715,723) in restitution for an attack on Sony Pictures computers that began in late May 2011. Click here for more.

Germany fines Google for privacy violation: A German data protection agency fined Google 145,000 (NZ$225,000) for illegally recording information from unsecured wireless networks – an amount it acknowledged is "totally inadequate" as a deterrent to the multinational giant. Click here for more.

Malware hijacks Twitter accounts: Cyber criminals are always looking for new ways to avoid detection, escape cyber sleuths, and carry out their cyber crimes. Click here for more.

Proudly pro-Assad group behind Twitter hacks: It sounds like it could be the name of a band you might hear on the radio, but Syrian Electronic Army is a real online threat, as media organisations and universities across the world are discovering. Click here for more.

Don't want to be an open book? The web has ways: You may be surprised at how easy it is to discover a range of information about you just from a single visit to a website. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Phone 'bump' to beat incest: Important questions to ask before sex in Iceland: Do you have a condom? Do you have any sexually transmitted diseases? Are you my cousin? Click here for more.

Aussies develop sexy robotic undies: Sydney-based tech firm Snepo have built "Fundawear" garments, which contain small vibrating and pulsating actuators that can be remotely controlled via a mobile phone app. 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.

Kiwis ahead of their time, study confirms: Jock Phillips, general editor of online encyclopedia of New Zealand Te Ara, has started a blog that lists all the things little old New Zealand is top of the world at. Click here for more.

U.S. presidential election can be hacked: This year, the US will pick a new president using electronic voting machines that can be hacked, security experts said Thursday at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. Click here for more.

New Zealand ISPs forced to police internet piracy: Internet service providers took a big step towards becoming internet police courtesy of a new copyright law passed in Parliament last week. Click here for more.

Google The Future? Only on April 1: If you rushed to the Internet to book one of airline Virgin Blue's "no chair fares" for half price as advertised in Australian newspapers on Tuesday, you might have found one message on its Web site: April Fools! Click here for more.

US man gets $2.6m for domain name: A US man has sold the domain name for $2.6m – after maintaining the site for just $20 a year since 1994. 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 ( or to the Accounts Department (

Take care through May,

Rob Zorn 


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