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Travel tech Pt 1: The vital art of airport Wi-FI

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The single biggest challenge when travelling internationally is to remain connected. In the first of a series of articles on travel technology, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at the most vital of needs: Airport Wi-Fi.

The biggest benefit of an international flight from or to South Africa is that, for anything from 8 to 16 hours, one is out of touch with the world and forced to catch up with work – or sleep, reading, entertainment or conversation.

That, of course, it also its biggest drawback. Especially in business travel, where it is almost dangerous to be uncoupled from the office for more than half a day, the first priority on getting off the plane is to get connected. But even for leisure travellers, there is often a great psychological need to reconnect, download email and deal with anything urgent that may have cropped up during the time in communications limbo.

For South African travellers, using mobile data is out of the question – unless one is desperate or – more rarely these days – on a generous expenses account. For MTN, Vodacom and Cell C customers, roaming data in most countries outside Africa costs a near-criminal R100-plus per Megabyte.

This means that someone using 10GB – which would cost less than R1000 as a bundle in South Africa – would face a bill of more than R1-million on returning home. And it does happen, especially on arrival in another country, when mobile data has not been disabled and the user allows the phone to update apps via that mobile data. Without even knowing it, you can be ruined before you’ve left the airport.

Fortunately, most international airports now offer a quota of free Wi-Fi. A business traveller in particular should be aware of the fact that mobile data should be disabled as a first priority when switching on the phone. Some assume that Wi-Fi should be included in that disablement, when it is in fact the solution rather than the problem.

The key is to find the network offering free airport Wi-Fi. In most airports, posters advertise the presence of hotspots, but the danger exists that one may inadvertently access a fake hotspot, set up by a hacker to con people into typing passwords for online banking and the like into this “honeypot”. If it is at all unclear whether official Wi-Fi is being accessed, financially sensitive sites like online banking should be avoided.

It is fairly easy, however, to find out in advance what Wi-Fi is offered at the airports in which one is likely to need a connection. As they say in beginners’ guides, Google is your friend. Make sure the information is up to date, though.

At the time of writing, among major airports, unlimited free access is offered at Dublin, Hong Kong, Moscow Mumbai, Singapore, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Toronto and Vienna.

Heathrow has just upped its quota from 45 minutes to 4 hours free, going one up on Stockholm’s 3 hours. Amsterdam and Zurich both offer the first hour free. South African airports, with their 30 minutes free Wi-Fi, are matched by Frankfurt, Munich and Rome.

In the United States, LaGuardia, Newark and JF Kennedy in New York also offer 30 minutes free access throughout the airports, while JFK’s  Jet Blue Terminal (terminal 5) offers unlimited access.

Other airports are more generous, with Las Vegas, Boston, Dallas, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington among the unlimited free airports in the United States.

Airports that have yet to wake up to the public relations benefits of a good chunk of free Wi-Fi include London’s Gatwick, Spain’s Barcelona and Madrid, and France’s Charles de Gaulle, which are each open for a near-unusable 15 minutes. The technical geniuses behind these services appear not to have noticed that it can take almost that long just to get the connection working, let alone getting to use it.

If that Wi-Fi connection is truly urgent, and no free Wi-Fi is available, it is obvious one should pay the price to connect to commercial WI-FI in the airport, or even subscribe to a global Wi-Fi service like iPass or Boingo.

There was a time when such services were regarded as a luxury. For many travellers today, they are as essential as a passport. After all, connectivity has become the entry visa to the mobile office.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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