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Online Informer – April 2017

The Online Informer is published each month to help keep 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 Online Informer can be e-mailed to editor@actrix.co.nz
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Actrix – best little ISP in New Zealand

Welcome to the April 2017 Online Informer

Welcome to the Online Informer for April 2017. In this issue we take a look at what the internet has to offer in terms of simple ways to improve our lives by making them more efficient. It's all about ways to 'hack your life'. We also take a quick look at April Fools' Day online and borrow some tips from the New Zealand Herald about how to make your email more secure and safe from the bad type of hacking. 

YouTube feature – Dominos pizza reverse call prank

It's not exactly an April Fools' Day prank, but this is pretty funny. What happens when you call in twice and have two Dominos phone order attendants talking to each other; each thinking the other is making an order? I suppose it could be done on April Fool's Day, but don't tell Dominos where you got the idea.

Watch the video.


Hacking your life

A "life hack" refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty way of increasing productivity and efficiency in life. Other than meaning 'illegally breaking into a website or server' The term 'hack' was mainly used by computer experts for methods they found that could accelerate their workflow. It was later extended to 'life hack', in reference to a solution to a problem unrelated to computers that might occur in a programmer's everyday life. Examples of these types of life hacks might include ways to synchronise files, track tasks, remind oneself of events, and even clean or organise day-to-day things.

Interestingly, the American Dialect Society voted 'lifehack' (one word) as the runner-up for "most useful word of 2005" behind 'podcast'. The word was also added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online in 2011.

The original definition of the term 'hack' is, of course, "to cut with rough or heavy blows." This is fitting because life hacks are often effective but inelegant solutions that involve things like toilet rolls, paper clips and bread bag tags.

The internet absolutely abounds with life hacks and some of the ideas you'll find are so simple yet so ingenious, that you'll wonder why you didn't think of them yourself. So in this article we present a short collection of some of the best or most interesting life hack websites we could all be using more often.


Of course the first place we should look is Lifehack.Org, "your source for tips to help improve all aspects of your life". Lifehack is widely recognised as one of the premier productivity and lifestyle blogs on the web and has been endorsed by many major newspapers, magazines and online publications. It is frequently updated with articles by a team of contributors that "just want to make your life as friction-free as possible".

The site's home page features a list of articles on a wide range of topics, but if you hover over 'Blog' in the main menu, you can click through to the various subcategories, which include Motivation, Lifestyle, Health, Productivity, Work and more.

If you just want to get down to the nitty-gritty and toilet rolls, Lifehack provides a great page of 100 life hacks that make life easier – and it's all in pictures so the hacks are easy to digest and understand quickly. I bet you'll find something useful here. Offerings include how to: build an iPad holder out of a toilet roll; remove strawberry stems; keep your wrapping paper rolled; protect your car door from the garage wall; and much, much more.

Lifehack also has a Facebook page you may want to follow.


Lifehacker.com.au is quite similar to Lifehack.  It's an Australian version of its sister US and UK sites, and it filters out all the stuff that isn't so relevant Downunder. It has the usual blog posts about how to improve your motivation or productivity, or what to do when your caught lying, but it also has a number of simple life hacks arranged under various categories. Just hover your mouse over the main menu items of Life, Work and IT Pro.

Sleep hacks

Here are a three articles specifically providing how-to-hacks for getting more and better sleep.

Cooking hacks

Preparing meals is just one of those things. But whether you love or hate cooking, a few simple hacks could make things easier if you don't like it or even more interesting if you do.

Unethical hacks

Unethical Hacks, a website featuring ethically ambiguous 'life hacks' caused controversy in 2011 when a user of the site fraudulently advertised goods, "inspired by [the website's] advice". We don't endorse or recommend unethical lifehacks (and Unethical Hacks is no longer functioning), but they remain quite a 'thing' on the internet – and it can be interesting to read about some people's evil ingenuity.

A few more hacks

Okay, so these are just a few examples. If there's a topic that particularly interests you (e.g. managing money, cleaning, car mechanics), just Google it along with the word 'hacks' and you're bound to come up with something useful. But here are a few more life hack type sites before we go:

  • Fixya – ask a question about fixing anything
  • Snapguide – discover and create how-to-guides on all your favourite topics.
  • Macgyverisms – if you'd like to know how to start a fire using a lemon...


April Fools' Day on the web

According to Wikipedia: April Fools' Day (sometimes called All Fools' Day) is celebrated every year on 1 April by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. The jokes and their victims are called April fools. People playing April Fool jokes expose their prank by shouting April Fool. Some newspapers, magazines, and other published media report fake stories, which are usually explained the next day or below the news section in small letters. Although popular since the 19th century, the day is not a public holiday in any country.

But according to Infoplease, its origins are uncertain. Some see it as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar.

Here is a small collection of links if you'd like to learn more about April Fools' Day online.

  • Museum of Hoaxes: The top 100 April Fool's Day hoaxes of all time
    We've researched the entire history of April Fools' Day and selected its top 100 hoaxes ever, as judged by creativity, historical significance, the number of people duped, and notoriety.
  • History.Com: More on the origins of April Fools' Day
    April Fools' Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with "hunting the gowk," in which people were sent on phoney errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people's derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or "kick me" signs on them.
  • Buzzfeed: 41 genius April Fools' Day pranks your kids will totally fall for
    Act like the coolest parent ever and tell your kids you'll be serving sundaes for dinner, that way when they realise their sundae is actually mashed potatoes and gravy, it can be their dinner. Because kids don't get a free pass on 1 April.
  • Pioneer Woman: 20 interesting things about April Fools' Day
    I grew up in a family of pranksters; I’m not kidding. In the summer we stayed for weeks with my grandparents and my Grandma was not your typical grandma. It was never a surprise to have firecrackers attached to the toilet seat and get the shock of your life when you lifted the lid. She also put frogs in our drawers and surprises in our food. Here are 20 interesting things you may, or may not know, about April Fools' Day.

  • Quote Garden: April Fools' Day quotes
    "This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four." – Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
  • On this day: Famous 1 April birthdays
    See which celebrities, historical figures, scientists and criminals were born on April Fools' Day.


Lessons from Yahoo hack: Simple tips to safeguard your email

New Zealand Herald, 20 March 2017

Many people are still not taking routine precautions to safeguard their email accounts – and hackers are exploiting that.

According to US officials who filed charges in a massive Yahoo break-in, Russian hackers didn't have to work very hard to break into people's email accounts, even those belonging to government officials or powerful executives.

You can make yourself less of a target. There are a few simple ways to help safeguard your email account from hackers.

Don't reuse passwords

Many online break-ins result when people have reused a password across, say, their email, social and financial accounts. If it's compromised at any one of those services, the others are suddenly vulnerable.

Pick a stronger password

You can make things harder for attackers by making your base password stronger. The more complicated and lengthy a password is, the harder it will be for hackers to guess.

Have your passwords managed for you

Of course, you can make things easier on yourself by using a password-manager service such as LastPass or Dashlane, which keep track of multiple complex passwords for you.

Multifactor authentication is a must

The next line of defence is two- or multifactor authentication, which asks users to enter a second form of identification, such as a code texted to their phone, when they log in.

Keywords matter

According to the indictment, the Russian hackers searched email accounts for keywords like "passwords" to find people's passwords for other accounts. They also searched for "credit card" ''visa," among other terms.

Read this article in much more detail.

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!

9 Eyes
9-eyes.com/ – 9 Eyes is a collection of interesting images as captured by Google Street view cards around the world. Some are beautiful, some are disturbing and some are just plain weird. Are those ladies walking guinea pigs on leads? And what's that tiger doing loose?
www.gnoosic.com// – Gnoosic is your go to spot for new music recommendations. It asks for three of your favourite bands, and based on your interests, spits out an artist that you might like. You then have the option to like, dislike, or mark it as something you aren't familiar with – which further refines the results.

Uncontacted tribes
www.survivalinternational.org/uncontactedtribes/who-they-are – There are more than one hundred uncontacted tribes around the world. This website is a beautiful collection of videos, pictures, and even stories of those which still exist. It gives an interesting insight into the way of life of humans who have been untouched by technology, electronics, and other modern facets of life. It also gives you an opportunity to donate to their cause.

Addicted 2 Success
https://addicted2success.com/ – Need a little pick me up? Addicted 2 Success is the place to go. It features articles that are designed to inspire and empower people who are looking to turn their life around. There's entrepreneurship, self-development, and an all-round focus on success and on getting things done!

The favourite foods of Trump, Obama, and 12 other American presidents
www.cheatsheet.com/culture/favorite-foods-trump-obama-other-american-presidents.html/ – We all have our favourite foods. Just as our parents and our grandparents have theirs. Tastes change over decades and generations. So what modern presidents like to eat is very different from what our founding fathers had on their dinner tables. (Donald Trump, in case you didn't know, is partial to fast food.)

www.futurelearn.com/ – Join 5,871,008 people learning together at FutureLearn. Try high quality online education – enjoy free online courses from top universities and specialist organisations. Online learning offers a new way to explore subjects you’re passionate about. Find your interests by browsing the online course categories.

www.sporcle.com/ – Sporcle is a vast collection of mentally stimulating diversions, trivia, quizzes, brain games and more. There is a fun quiz about virtually every topic imaginable: Geography, History, Sports, Music, etc.

Featured creature
https://featuredcreature.com/ – Welcome to where the wild things are and where you can discover unique animals you never knew existed. The mission of Featured Creature is to give every animal the time they deserve in the spotlight before it runs out.

Inherently funny
www.inherentlyfunny.com// – Inherently funny is a free, searchable database of inherently funny words, sayings, phrases, names, animals, and other things. Entries are searchable and divided up into categories (including 'funny diseases – is nothing sacred?). This could be a great source for that special story or pun you need for your next presentation.

http://clickotron.com/ – Clickbait refers to those story links you see on a lot of websites where the headline is big but the content doesn't really deliver. Click-o-Tron is a collection of clickbait stories. The site updates with a new, artificially generated story every 20 minutes. It automatically searches Wikimedia Commons for a relevant picture, and generates some body text to go with it. Interesting rubbish, mainly.

Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?


Seven easy ways to get tech savvy : You're not the only one struggling with technology troubles, the most common complaints are easily fixed with a little know-how. Read more.

Dire warning from internet visionary: Nearly three decades after the fact, the man credited with inventing the World Wide Web says we need to make some drastic changes in order to save it. Read more.

Google unveils Guetzli, open source JPEG encoder, to speed browsing: Guetzli is an encoder that allows JPEG files to be compressed as much as 35 percent, resulting in much faster Web page loading. Read more.

Buzz Aldrin takes you to Mars in VR: Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon, has launched a virtual reality movie detailing his plan to get humans to Mars. Read more.

Google balloon mistaken for UFO as it crashes in Colombia: Farmers living in central Tolima province in Colombia say they were terrified when an object they took to be a UFO crashed in a field. Police have since identified the object as an internet balloon developed by X, a company founded by Google, to boost the signal in rural areas. Read more.

The mysterious death of a live-streaming gamer: The death of a prominent gamer has led to a debate about whether gaming marathons are hazardous to health. Read more.

Bill Gates tops Forbes' rich list but Trump's wealth slips: Microsoft founder Bill Gates again tops Forbes' list of the world's richest people, in a year when the number of billionaires rose 13 percent to 2,043. Read more.

Here's why tech has taken over our relationships: Dating hasn't just been turned upside down by technology, it's been dominated by it. Read more.

New Zealand

Bike thieves on-selling online: A gang of teenagers are allegedly responsible for dozens of high-spec bike thefts, with over 40 bikes stolen across the city this year and uploaded for sale on fake Facebook pages days later. Read more.

Kiwi power firm hit by Egyptian hacker: An Egyptian hacker is believed to be behind a cyber attack that took down Top Energy's website. Read more.

Most Kiwi kids have no screen-time limits: The majority of Kiwi youngsters have no set restrictions when it comes to playing computer games, using phones or browsing the internet outside of school. Read more.

Trade Me launches new payment system: Online auction site Trade Me is launching a new payment programme aimed at making things easier for its customers. Read more.

Labour Party candidates told to clean up their social media including drinking pics or criticism of the party: The directive by Labour's general secretary Andrew Kirton was accidentally sent by text message to a Newstalk ZB reporter. Read more.

Social media

Facebook, the ultimate trip – and how it keeps you hooked: Cocaine, heroin, slot machines – talk to an expert about the workings of Facebook and it's not long before the addiction analogies begin to crop up. Read more.

Facebook is New Zealand's second favourite leisure activity: Facebook is a vast beast, strapping itself to the social lives of millions of people around the world. As a consumer product it is only rivalled in daily popularity by one other brand – Coke. Read more.

It is past time we fully examined the ever-expanding influence of Facebook on our lives: Stuff launches a major series examining the role of Facebook in our lives. Stuff projects editor John Hartevelt explains 'The Takeover'. Read more.

How can you beat the Facebook bubble?: Facebook is working non-stop to give you what it thinks you want. How can you take back control over your newsfeed? Read more.

Fines loom for social networks: Germany plans a law calling for social networks to remove slanderous or threatening postings or face fines. Read more.

Facebook says police can't use its data for 'surveillance': Facebook is cutting police departments off from a vast trove of data that has been increasingly used to monitor protesters and activists. Read more.

YouTubers claim gay-themed restriction: YouTube is looking into why some gay-themed content is being blocked to those browsing under its "restricted" setting. Read more.

Facebook 'won't become media company': Facebook will not become a media company but remain as a technology platform, founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg says. Read more.

Pakistan asks Facebook to help fight blasphemy: Pakistan says it has asked Facebook to help investigate "blasphemous content" posted on the social network by Pakistanis. Facebook has agreed to send a team to Pakistan to address reservations about content on the social media site, according to the interior ministry. Read more.

Security and privacy

Cybersecurity tips for the mildly paranoid : So it looks as if the CIA could potentially break into most smartphone or computer networks, at least according to the stolen documents released by WikiLeaks last week. Whether you have anything to hide or not, it's a good reminder that in a digital age, keeping your life private requires some work. Read more.

Yahoo probed over its data breaches: Federal officials are investigating Yahoo over how promptly it informed the public about its historic data breaches. Read more.

Has your Gmail account been hacked?: A new phishing scam is so convincing it has even fooled tech experts. Here's what to look out for. Read more.

Online messages not private: Your online communications may not be as secure as you think, warns InternetNZ. Read more.

The weird, wide web

PB Tech customers shocked after receiving email containing 'N-word' : A technology company appears to have committed an embarrassing gaffe, which has seen them email out an online newsletter containing the n-word. Read more.

Tweet 'attack': Trump supporter arrested: This man allegedly tweeted an animated strobe image to an epileptic journalist who suffered a seizure. Read more.

Bank sends account info to adult site: A bank sent account details of 60,000 customers to an adult website owner in an embarrassing email bungle. Read more.

This is what flat-earthers on social media really believe: Shaq was trending on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend for alleging the Earth was frisbee-shaped, with his foolproof argument: "I drive from Florida to California all the time, and it's flat to me. I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle." Read 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. It's also cool to check whether predictions made look like they might be coming true.

Extradition request lodged for Kim Dotcom: The United States Government has formally lodged a request to extradite alleged copyright pirate Kim Dotcom from New Zealand. Read more.

Social media a fad – Shadbolt: Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt, who is known for being a little bit reluctant to use new technology, has gone on the record saying social media might be a "fad". Read more.

Man busted for bigamy after Facebook suggested his wives be friends: Facebook suggested that his first wife and his new wife should be friends on Facebook. When the first wife clicked the link to the suggested profile, she reportedly saw a profile photo of her husband and his new wife standing next to a wedding cake. Read more.

Man sues Google over Street View pee shot: A Frenchman is reportedly suing Google after he became the town joke when his village discovered a street view image of him urinating in his garden. Read more.

Wired world to be boon, bane for Gen Y: There is a good chance young people growing up in today's always-wired world will eventually become bright, nimble decision makers - if they don't wind up intellectual lightweights unable to concentrate long enough to chew over a good book. Read more.


Bringing it all back home

Thanks again for reading the 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 Help Desk (support@actrix.co.nz) or to the Accounts Department (accounts@actrix.co.nz).

Take care through April!

Rob Zorn


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