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The 8 smart tips that can save your data

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Smart devices live on data, and many users often think that their data is simply disappearing. The truth is it is not disappearing, but is instead being used by various apps and operating systems. Here are some handy tips to conserve data.

A smart device such as a phone or tablet lives on data, and while they allow you to really stay connected and informed, it can sometimes feel like your data allcoation isn’t touching sides. Fortunately there are a number of things that can be done to reign in a device’s data consumption.

Using data sparingly on a computer

PCs and laptops come from an age before mobile broadband. These devices have kept their old habits: online services on a PC or laptop often assume they have access to a fixed-line connection such as ADSL or a company network. Modern computers have become more internet-friendly, but some aspects – specifically updates – are still very heavy-handed. With this in mind, when using a PC with a 3G dongle or other mobile broadband device, keep an eye that it doesn’t automatically start downloads that may quickly kill your data bundle. It knows not what it does. In some cases, you can set your PC to only download after midnight, and nite specific mobile data gives you cheaper access to do just that.

“Computers have very different data expectations to smartphones and tablets,” said Cell C Chief Information Officer Maria Pienaar. “Mobile services are designed to use as little data as possible, but a PC or laptop rarely has that in mind. So avoid treating them as the same.”

Delete under-used apps

Applications make smart devices so much more effective. But there is a dark side to them. Apps tend to load in the background – even if they aren’t used or even started. A common but highly underappreciated reason for battery drain is because there are too many apps on a device. Those apps can also drain data surreptitiously. Get rid of any apps not being used. Also investigate if the web version is as good: services such as Facebook and Twitter have very good mobile browser versions that will not run persistently in the background, since they are accessed through the browser. Some apps have push notifications to let you know when something is happening, sometimes turning that off using the settings within the application will save you data.

Pienaar said: “You often hear about app fatigue, resulting from someone trying out too many apps. But how often do we delete the apps we don’t use? Those will continue to be updated and connect online. Deleting will save both data and battery life.”

Apps also need to be updated

Applications and phone software also need to be updated from time to time, to make sure they are always secure, don’t pose a security risk and any new features are loaded. More often than not, customers have their applications set to automatically update. Ideally, customers should update over Wi-Fi, and most phones will allow you to set your applications to download only over a Wi-Fi connection. Remember, free applications sometimes push software updates or advertising, which consumes data. Reading the review of an application before downloading will provide you with useful tips about the application.

“App updates are very important, because they may contain security patches. But not every update is so important that it has to happen right away. Set the device to only update on Wi-Fi and, when you reach a hotspot, give it a chance to quickly catch up.”

Use apps to track data consumption

Data can be tricky to keep track of. Even though smart devices can give basic data consumption statistics, one of the best ways to really make sure you get an accurate picture is with a third party data tracking app. There are several options, both free and paid, on the various app stores. A good tracker will give a lot of insight, as well as separate between mobile and Wi-Fi use.

“Modern phones have software built in to help track data consumption. These are a good starting point, so consumers should try that first. But there are several good third-party apps that can show in great detail where data is going,” said Pienaar.

Don’t auto-play videos

Videos use a lot of data. They are fun to watch, but consume megabytes in no time. Even stopping a video may not be enough as the video will continue to buffer – download data – in the background. That is simply data down the drain. Well-designed apps have options to stop videos from auto-playing or at least reduce how much data they use. The latter approach will result in lower-quality video, but unfortunately that can’t be avoided. The better quality a video or image, the more data it uses. This also applies to downloading music or podcasts: the higher the quality, the more data will be required.

Pienaar said: “More South Africans are streaming videos these days. But it is very data intensive, so make sure video files on a page or feed aren’t chewing up data. They can take a lot in a very short time.”

Tone down photos and videos

Another drain on data can come from the photos and videos being uploaded. Recording a high definition video or taking a photo at the biggest format looks good. But that quality is proportional to the amount of data required: a high-quality image is larger and requires more data if uploaded. It’s a bit like packing the contents of a closet: if there are only a few items, one box will suffice. But more items require more boxes.

“Modern phones have very nice cameras, but nice cameras take big pictures that uses a lot of data to send. Fortunately modern phone cameras are so nice that you can tone down on the quality, yet the video or photo will still look great while saving data,” said Pienaar

Use data-saving browsers such as Chrome 

Not all browsers are created equal. Even though every smart device comes with a built-in Web browser, there are better choices. Specifically, the Chrome mobile browser is renowned for their data-saving features. Both use special data saver technologies that reduce the size of the information a device downloads. This also tends to deliver high browsing speeds.

Pienaar said, “The browsers that come with phones and tablets are very good. But a few third-party apps specialise in faster browsing while using less data. If someone’s browsing habits are destroying their data, they should try one of those”

Keep in-bundle

Data bundles exist for a reason: to manage network performance. When someone buys a certain amount of data, a mobile network can anticipate that the data will be used within a certain period and keep an eye on demand. This is why out-of-bundle data rates are higher, so keep data costs low by purchasing bundles. Data bundles also provide better value to customers.

Pienaar said: “Going out of bundle is a very expensive choice. Any good operator will inform their customer if a bundle is about to be depleted. If you keep running out of bundles, consider buying larger ones. It will work out cheaper than buying smaller quantities of data all the time.”

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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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