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Opera revamps compression

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A new version of the Opera Mini Internet browser for Android now allow users to switch between different data compression methods, allowing them to optimise their data compression depending on the type of network they are on.

In the newest version of Opera Mini mobile browser for Android, users can switch between two different data compression modes: High and Extreme. With these two modes, they can optimize their data compression for different network conditions.

The new High-compression mode compresses web-pages without affecting the page display, making it the perfect mode for surfing the web on 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi networks.

The Extreme-compression mode compresses web-pages extensively, giving users a very high-speed internet experience while using very little mobile data. This mode is ideal for when users are experiencing slow network conditions, or just want to make their data plans last longer. The Extreme-compression mode can affect the layout of the web-pages and was previously the only compression mode available in Opera Mini.

“Opera Mini has for a decade helped hundred of millions of users across the globe to access their favourite content on the internet no matter which mobile phone they had or how slow their data connection was. With the rise of better smartphones and better network conditions our users now want the option to have a less aggressive data compression mode so they can experience the full internet when network conditions allow for it,” says Christian Uribe, Product Manager of Opera Mini at Opera Software.

On Facebook for example, users can clearly see the difference between the two data compression modes. In High-compression mode, users experience the site with more dynamic content and video playback. In Extreme-compression mode, users get a faster experience, but with scaled-down images and a simpler interface with less dynamic content.

Opera aims to become the dominant browser in fast-growing emerging economies

Opera Mini’s update is an important milestone toward Opera’s goal of reaching 275 million Android users by the end of 2017.

“Only half of the mobile population in India is connected to 3G networks, while in Indonesia, more than half of all smartphone users experience network problems daily. And, people all over the world turn off their phones while traveling, due to fear of data-roaming costs. In each case, Opera Mini offers a better web experience,” says Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera Software.  “We are continuously striving to improve user experience, lowering barriers to get online in all kinds of conditions.”

About the new Opera Mini for Android

In addition to the advanced compression technology, the latest Opera Mini includes the following features:

  • New and improved UI for saved pages and bookmarks
  • Better handling of bigger downloads in High-compression mode
  • Overhauled tab switch
  • Private-browsing mode
  • Options to customize the browser layout for more thumb-friendly surfing
  • A scalable interface with higher resolution for tablets and large phones
  • Updates to the Discover news feed to provide more of the latest content across the web
  • A data counter to show daily progress on data savings, helping users keep data costs under control

How it works

Opera Mini’s compression technology routes requested webpages through one of its data-saving servers. The server removes any extraneous page elements, shaves off image pixels a user won’t miss, diagnoses the state of the user’s connection and compresses any downloads. All this before sending the page back to the user’s device. Opera Mini allows users to do more on the web while getting the most out of their data plans.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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