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Actrix Online Informer – August 2015

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
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Welcome to the August Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for August 2015. This month we've collected a whole bunch of crazy and interesting tech facts from around the world. Some are startling, some are scary, and some are just unbelievable!

We also include an article on internet addiction which was provided by one of our readers. It explores the nature of cyber addiction, and takes a close look at the causes, symptoms and effects.

YouTube feature

This month's YouTube feature is a short but gripping video of World champion skimboarder, Austin Keen, showing us just how easy it can be to steal a jet ski. That said, he makes it look easy, but it must take years of dedicated practice to get skills like that!

The dangers – and benefits – of Dr Google

Jo Hartley, originally published on Stuff, 15 June 2015

Thanks to the wonderful world of the web and the magnitude of information freely available at our fingertips, by the age of 16 months my son [not mine, just so we're clear – Ed] had been 'Google diagnosed' with lots of things.

He was wheat, gluten and lactose intolerant, suffered from stomach issues and silent reflux, and was nearly rushed to hospital with heat exhaustion, dehydration and fever.

He was forced to drink surplus amounts of milk because he was not having the 'recommended' intake for his age and weight. He was patted in his cot for hours on end to ensure that he was meeting his daily quota of sleep, and he was denied a dummy or 'blankee' for fear of becoming 'too dependent'.

Of course, none of this was actually accurate or necessary. My son was – and still is – fine.

Googling as a parent can be a dangerous thing, because it can potentially send us into a tail spin. It's easy enough to misdiagnose or get unnecessarily stressed. Yet many of us turn to the internet for reassurance in times of the unknown, looking for answers and resolutions.

Naomi Garnett is one of them.

"I saw a picture of my daughter where one pupil was larger than the other," she explains. "I thought it was weird so Googled it."

Garnett says that the search revealed similar pictures of children with a diagnosis of a serious neurological condition.

"I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the results," she says. "I immediately made an appointment with the doctor, who calmed my nerves and referred me to an eye specialist."

"It turns out there wasn't anything wrong after all. The specialist said the condition was pretty normal, and about 10 percent of the population have the same thing."

Leisa Bacon had a similar experience.

"My daughter got a rash as an infant all over her body, so I Googled baby rashes and tried to diagnose it by comparing her spots with photos of other spots online," she explains.

Panicking and thinking that her daughter potentially had meningococcal, Bacon immediately got on the phone to an after-hours doctor.

"The doctor quickly talked me off my ledge with this bit of wisdom: 'if you have to ask if it's serious, chances are it's not'," she says.

Despite this, using Google doesn't always mean we jump to the worst conclusion. In some instances, it can prove helpful and useful, and can certainly save time sitting in a doctor's waiting room if the resolution is simple enough.

Read more.

Chances are most of our readers have also turned to Dr Google at some time to help diagnose a medical issue for themselves, friends or family. Did you find it helpful? Or did it just make you worry even more?

With The Hobbit and LOTR in the can, trolls are no longer welcome in New Zealand

New Zealand has become the latest country to think bad online manners are amenable to legislation.

In July New Zealand passed a controversial bill, the Harmful Digital Communications Bill, in the hope of stemming "cyber-bullying".

The bill creates a system under which digital communications causing "serious emotional distress" are subject to an escalating regime that starts as "negotiation, mediation or persuasion" but reaches up to the offences of not complying with an order, and "causing harm by posting digital communication".

The most serious offenders would face two years in jail or a maximum fine of NZ$50,000.

The bill covers posts that are racist, sexist, or show religious intolerance, along with hassling people over disability or sexual orientation.

There's also a new offence of incitement to suicide (three years' jail).

The regime will be enforced by a yet-to-be-established agency that will make contact with publishers and social media platforms, and if it can't resolve a complaint, the agency will be able to escalate it to the district court.

There's a safe harbour provision for websites, and here's where the free speech arises. A platform like Facebook or Twitter (if they bothered) cou;d opt into the safe harbour – but only if they agree to remove allegedly offending material either on-demand or within the bill's 48-hour grace period.

Some of the best corporate social media fails

A lot of thought can, and should, go into the 140 characters that comprise a tweet.

Yet some corporations fail to understand the power of social media, and how quickly small messages posted online can turn into big headaches.

With that in mind, here are our some examples of companies that should either take a crash course in social media dos and don'ts, or revert to communicating via carrier pigeon.


British grocery chain Tesco fell foul of social media just days after it was revealed the supermarket had sold beef burgers containing horsemeat. Things went from bad to worse when a tweet posted on its Twitter feed informed its followers that staff were off to "hit the hay". Despite Tesco bosses apologising and saying the tweet was scheduled before the horsemeat scandal broke, it was too late for hundreds of Twitter followers, who condemned it.


Corporations take note: do not insult the most powerful man in the free world, or his grandmother, on social media. Kitchen appliance manufacturer KitchenAid managed to do both in one fell swoop after President Barack Obama mentioned his grandmother during the first presidential debate, tweeting "Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president. #nbcpolitics" The tweet was swiftly removed and apologised for, and it appeared a KitchenAid team member had accidentally used the company account instead of their personal one.


Twitter was ablaze with heartfelt messages of support and condolences after the tragic shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. #Aurora was trending, and online retailer CelebBoutique misguidedly thought Twitter users were just loving their Aurora dress, a white pleated V-neck inspired by Kim Kardashian. CelebBoutique removed the tweet after about an hour, and apologised, saying their PR team was not US based, and had not checked the reason for the trend.

Luton Airport

A particularly enthusiastic employee of London's Luton Airport posted a picture of a Boeing 737 that slid off a Chicago runway in 2005 with the caption 'Because we are such a super airport....this is what we prevent you from when it snows......Weeeee :)'. Less "super" was the background behind the photo - the Southwest Airlines flight slid off the runway in heavy snow, killing six-year-old Joshua Woods, who was a passenger in a car hit by the plane. The airport removed the post and apologised for the "wholly unacceptable and insensitive" post, and said an over-enthusiastic new member of their support team made an honest but misguided mistake.


Cooking site Epicurious decided to use social media to help people cope with the bombing at the Boston Marathon... By posting a recipe for whole-grain cranberry scones. After tweeting "Our thoughts are with everyone in Boston", the site then went on to post "Boston, our hearts are with you. Here's a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today," and "In honour of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!" You may, but as became immediately obvious, the scone suggestion in the wake of a terrorist attack was not well received.

JP Morgan

Global financial services firm JP Morgan decided to make use of social media to engage with consumers through a Q&A session on Twitter. Unfortunately for them, six hours of trolling ensued, as Twitter users asked "What's it like working with Mexican drug cartels? Do they tip?" and "When will you all go to jail?". The company realised its mistake, and wisely cancelled plans for a follow-up session of "Ask JP Morgan" the next day.


Employees subject to a mass-firing by British entertainment company HMV took to Twitter in 2013 to liveblog the "mass execution" to the company's 61,500 followers. Administrators who took over the business confirmed news of 190 firings – including the company's community manager who had access to its corporate Twitter account. Over a 20 minute period, Poppy Rose tweeted her anger at the mass-firing, which ended on an entertaining note just before HMV regained control of the account and deleted the offending tweets - "Just overheard our marketing director (he's staying, folks) ask 'How do I shut down Twitter?"'

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!

White Whine – If you think those of privilege have nothing to complain about, visit White Whine, the globe's finest collection of First World bellyaching about trivial problems. From loathing the colour scheme on an iPhone to limos that don't have partitions to thinking the Grand Canyon view is "just ok," these are the people who'll make you want to yell at the world.

iversity – Learning online is nothing new, but free MOOCs – massive open online courses – get new traction because of the offerings at iversity. Anyone with internet access can choose from a variety of classes, spending as much time with them as they desire. Currently courses are in both English and German, and cover subjects such as business studies, online marketing, architecture and graphic design.

ChartGirl – In early 2012 Hilary Sargent started making charts, which got picked up by tech-blog Boing Boing, and ChartGirl was born. Since then she's charted everything from the Cheney family to famous people who've admitted to taking the drug Molly, to who's really annoyed (everyone except Tina Fey). They're not infographics of beauty but text-heavy charts that entertain as much as inform.
Colossal – Launched in 2010, Colossal is a Webby-nominated blog that explores art and other aspects of visual culture. Colossal won the Utne Media Award for Arts Coverage in 2013 and is ranked by Technorati as one of the top 50 blogs on the web. Each week you'll find 15-25 posts on photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture, drawing, and street art. Colossal is also a great place to learn about the intersection of art and science as well as the beauty of the natural world.
Blank on Blank – Interviews with people like Grace Kelly, Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles, Tupac, and many more that might otherwise have been lost to history have found a new home at Blank on Blank. "We curate and transform journalists' undiscovered interviews into the Blank on Blank podcast and segments heard nationwide on public and satellite radio." Many are even presented with accompanying illustration or even animation.
Facecrooks – "Don't get crooked by the Book." Facecrooks is all about scams on Facebook and how to avoid them. This seedy underbelly of social media is apparent to anyone who's clicked a fraudulent link. If you love conversing with friends online, use this site to stay one step ahead of the not-so-friendly (including the questionable privacy policies of Facebook itself).
TaskRabbit – How is this not a bigger name? TaskRabbit is an online marketplace to hire people to do your errands and tasks. You describe what you need, where you are, and then receive bids from the background-checked taskers willing to handle it for you. Get someone to fix a sink, buy your groceries, deliver a package, clean a house, or milk a goat. It's all possible. – Six generations of the Berolzheimer family have made pencils. The latest, Charles, has taken his top-quality pencils online to sell (and provide a wealth of pencil-related info and history). Make a request when you order and the team will make an original sketch on your package before they send it – in pencil, of course.
Tapestry – Reading things in what might feel like PowerPoint slides doesn't sound like a perfect match, but these "tap stories" where you cycle through a story one bit a time, building as the author intends, typically with illustrations or sometimes animations, are amazingly compelling.
The Mary Sue – Geek culture and the internet? It's the mashup that arguably keeps the entire internet afloat. Few sites cover the world of sci-fi, fantasy, and superheroes with the unbridled glee of The Mary Sue, which also looks at it through a feminist lens (and frequently finds the geek world wanting).

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Wellington university students take to social media to warn about crime: Victoria University students have resorted to posting on social media after a series of break-ins in student residential areas. Click here for more.

Facebook New Zealand's trifling tax take: Facebook paid just $43,000 of tax in New Zealand last year, according to financial statements filed with the Companies Office. Click here for more.

Twitter officially sets up shop in New Zealand: Twitter has officially set up shop in New Zealand, selling its adspace and services to Kiwi businesses as of this month. Click here for more.

Five dumbest tweets from prominent New Zealanders: Twitter can be a great way to make far-flung connections, however it can also lead to rapid social downfall. Click here for more.

Computerised fisheries monitoring may see observer numbers halved: Every commercial fishing boat will be fitted with a camera and "real time" reporting and monitoring system under a proposal that may also see the number of fisheries observers halved in the next few years. Click here for more.

More Kiwi icons added to Grand Theft Auto mod, but the Mongrel Mob is out gallery: One man's attempt to bring a bit of Kiwiana to the new Grand Theft Auto video game is again catching five stars worth of attention online. Click here for more.

Online romance seekers targets for international drug cartels: People looking for love online are increasingly becoming targets for international drug cartels, a New Zealand lawyer says. Click here for more.

Broadband connection map lays out New Zealand's network: The strengths and weaknesses of the broadband network are laid out in a map of the nation. Click here for more.

Easy-to-use 3D Solo 'smart drone' coming to New Zealand video: A new consumer drone that makes it easy to take photos and videos using a GoPro is coming to New Zealand in August. Click here for more.

Faulty phone charger may have sparked Wellington house fire: A faulty cellphone charger is believed to have caused the fire that gutted one Wellington home and damaged the roof of another. Click here for more.

Drone operators may need flying permits under new rules: Drone operators must be more open about their surveillance activities under new Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations. Click here for more.

Parrot announces new minidrones for NZ: Parrot's new mini drones will be available in New Zealand in September offering 13 new "connected robots". Click here for more.

Cats' night-time habits revealed in tracking project: Even cats sometimes make late night trips to Burger King. Click here for more.

New wi-fi service for Porirua CBD: The central business district could have a new fast and free public wi-fi service by the end of the year. Click here for more.


Using a candle to charge your smartphone video: A power outage - it's an experience all are familiar with and everyone dreads. The lights go out, the TV goes black, the computers shut down as their batteries drain. And worst of all - your smartphone dies. Click here for more.

Google apologises after contractor threatens to remove gay bars from search engine: For a company that prides itself on being a pride ambassador, this was an awfully embarrassing gaffe at the hands of a contractor thousands of kilometres away. Click here for more.

Can GIFs be considered legitimate art?: Philip Intile is a rising star in high school. He already has his eye on a potential career path: one that loops on and on and on. Click here for more.

Men who harass women online are literally losers, new study reveals: Here's a research finding that should surprise no-one: The men most likely to harass women online… are the men most likely to have their own problems. Click here for more.

Technology on TV is finally getting realistic: Television shows have always had trouble portraying technology, with many efforts being mocked by fans. Click here for more.

Lost something? Use tech to track it: Trying to find your misplaced keys, wallet or phone is a battle everyone has experienced. Click here for more.

Social Media

German regulator orders Facebook to allow pseudonyms: Facebook may not prevent its users from using fake names, a German privacy watchdog has said, in the latest privacy setback for the US company in Europe. Click here for more.

Google+ finally divorced from Google services: Search giant finally admits 'It doesn't make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products'. Click here for more.

Facebook-YouTube face-off on online video battlefield: Last week some 21,000 folks gathered near Los Angeles to celebrate online video and the world's largest video network, YouTube, at the VidCon convention. Click here for more.

You don't know it, but you're working for Facebook for free: What do you call a multimillion-dollar, for-profit company that's run in large part by unpaid or underpaid grunt labourers? A century ago, you might've dubbed it robber-barony or sharecropping - if not, you know, outright slavery. Click here for more.

Facebook's airforce: Giant solar-powered Aquila drone to bring internet to rural areas video: Facebook says it will begin test flights later this year for a solar-powered drone with a wingspan as big as a Boeing 737, in the next stage of its campaign to deliver internet connectivity to remote parts of the world. Click here for more.

Apple vs. Android vs. Amazon vs. Microsoft

Stagefright makes tech journalist says goodbye to Android forever: As you might have heard, a security researcher revealed on Monday that a series of bugs deep inside Android's source code allow hackers to hack and spy on users with a simple multimedia message. Click here for more.

Microsoft launches revenge porn report page to target 'despicable practice': Microsoft wants to help victims of revenge porn regain control of their images and privacy. Click here for more.

Apple car hints: Company hires Chrysler executive, robotic car expert: In another sign that Apple might get into the auto business, the US tech giant has quietly hired a former senior executive from Chrysler. Click here for more.

Hackers can use a text to infiltrate your Android smartphone: Hackers have found a way to steal information from Android phones with just a text. Click here for more.

Beijing police shut down massive iPhone counterfeiting operation: Police in Beijing have busted a factory that produced more than 41,000 fake iPhones worth as much as 120 million yuan (NZ$28.6 million), including some that reached the United States, and have arrestedne suspects in the counterfeiting operation. Click here for more.

Security and Privacy

Google fighting French order to apply 'right to be forgotten' outside Europe: Google is refusing to bow to an order from the French privacy watchdog to scrub search results worldwide when users invoke their "right to be forgotten" online, it said on Thursday, exposing itself to possible fines. Click here for more.

Reports shows Russians hackers used Twitter, photos to breach US computers: Russian government-backed hackers who penetrated high-profile US government and defense industry computers this year used a method combining Twitter with data hidden in seemingly benign photographs, according to experts studying the campaign. Click here for more.

Will the Internet of Things listen to your private conversations?: Like a lot of teenagers, Aanya Nigam reflexively shares her whereabouts, activities and thoughts on Twitter, Instagram and other social networks without a qualm. Click here for more.

Hackers can be good for innovation: Every week seems to bring a new hacking story - the massive hacking attack on the US government's databases and the attacks on the US health care system are just two of the bigger stories - so it's perhaps no surprise that the knee-jerk reaction is to take the fight directly to the hacker. Click here for more.

The Net - 20 years on: Twenty years ago this week, Hollywood entered the online fray, warning cinema audiences of the perils of hacking, identity theft and a life lived on The Net. Click here for more.

Automakers rush to add wireless features, leaving cars open to hackers: The complaints that flooded into Texas Auto Centre that maddening, mystifying week were all pretty much the same: Customers' cars had gone haywire. Horns started honking in the middle of the night, angering neighbors, waking babies. Then when morning finally came, the cars refused to start. Click here for more.

'It was a reign of terror': An online troll destroys a family's offline life: Sharon and Richard Moreno were awakened by a phone call from a police negotiator around 2.30am one night last May. He told them to get out of their home immediately and leave their adult son behind. Click here for more.

AshleyMadison hack threatens millions of would-be adulterers: Adultery website has been hacked, potentially exposing names, addresses, and sexual preferences of millions of would-be cheaters just as the site's owner was preparing to go public. Click here for more.

Ashley Madison offers free profile deletion after hack: Extramarital dating site is offering customers, including a reported 127,000 Kiwis, the option to delete their accounts for free in the wake of a data breach that could expose their information. Click here for more.

Hackers seize control of Jeep: Hackers have managed to take control of a car and crash it into a ditch while sitting on their sofa 16 kilometres away. Click here for more.

Cyber attacks that look like a video game: It ranks the countries who both commit the most attacks and those who are targeted. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

The five wacky home gadgets you never knew you needed: Not even the mundane, like the cereal bowl, can escape the ideas of the crowdfunding mobs wanting to improve your breakfast experience. 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.

Monkey business: Forget hanging around and watching climate change. Lee Suckling talks to the team behind an online social network that aims to teach children about a greener, less purchase-driven future. Click here for more.

Judge calls bluff on online gambling site: The poker news websites went wild. "New Zealand Court Backs Poker" proclaimed "In a groundbreaking ruling a New Zealand court has delivered a huge blow to opponents of online poker, and poker in general," said Click here for more.

We're OK, says InternetNZ: The Charities Commission has never raised doubts about continuing InternetNZ's status "as far as we know", says chief executive Vikram Kumar. Click here for more.

Police warn women over 'cyber casanova': A man police describe as a cyber-casanova has been wooing New Zealand women into allowing him to use their addresses to receive goods bought with stolen credit cards. Click here for more.

NZ behind, so we download more: A lack of timely and legal access to movies and music is encouraging New Zealanders to illegally download them, says a New Zealand entrepreneur. 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 August!

Rob Zorn 


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