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Acer expands notebook range

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Acer has recently announced new additions to its consumer notebook range, with the addition of the convertible Aspire R 15, the new Aspire F Series with metal covers, and the Aspire E Series and Aspire ES 15.

“We have expanded our Aspire notebook line to provide stylish, and powerful options for everyday use,” said James Lin, Acer general manager for consumer notebooks and IT products business. “From casual to serious users, design-conscious to budget-conscious, there’s an Acer notebook that suits any way of life and level of productivity required.”

“We are on track to reach our goal of 1 billion devices running Windows 10,” said Nick Parker, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s OEM division. “The next wave of Windows 10 innovations will help modernise the PC, with capabilities to help people be more secure, productive and personal.”

The Acer Aspire R 15 was awarded the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2016 for its blend of design and usability. The metal top cover features a hairline-brushed finish, and the bottom cover is made of 40% glass fiber and silver particles, which improves rigidity, while maintaining a thin profile. Diamond-cut edges complement the 360-degree versatility of the Aspire R 15, which can lay flat at 180-degrees. Acer’s patented soft-closing hinge design allows the device to convert between laptop, tablet, display and tent modes.

The Aspire R 15 features 6th Generation Intel Core processors, up to 12GB DDR4 memory with faster speed and lower power consumption, up to NVIDIA GeForce 940MX graphics and a reversible USB 3.1 Type-C port. Acer ExoAmp Antenna technology allows for improved connectivity – with an optimized antenna position, it avoids system noise and provides a faster, smooth, and stable wireless experience through its metal cover. Users also benefit from rapid connectivity with 2×2 MU-MIMO wireless and extended battery life of up to 9 hours.

It delivers innovative Windows 10 features, including Cortana with Voice & Skype for Business Certification, making it more personal and secure. The Aspire R 15 also has Continuum capabilities, enabling any screen to have the power and ability to work like a PC.

Aspire F 15 and Aspire E Series

Acer provided the following information:

Acer has introduced premium-finish metal covers to its mainstream notebook line with its new Aspire F Series. Available in five colors (Sparkly Silver, Obsidian Black, Indigo Blue, Wine Red, and Marble White), the Aspire F Series is a perfect blend of style and performance for everyday use.

The 2016 Acer Aspire E Series is refreshed with seven color options, available in Marble White, Steel Grey, Twilight Purple, Red Copper, Obsidian Black, Rococo Red and Indigo Blue, each model features a metallic horizontal hairline-brush design with a premium textile pattern.

Equipped with 6th Generation Intel Core processors, up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX950M graphics with GDDR5 VRAM, and DDR4 RAM, the Aspire F and Aspire E series provide ample power for everyday use. Wired connectivity includes a USB Type-C port in addition to other essentials, while 802.11ac MU-MIMO technology provides blazing fast wireless connectivity.

Both the Aspire F and Aspire E Series are powered by Windows 10 and feature Acer ExaColor technology, with meticulously, step-by-step tuned displays bringing out colorful and vivid details, while Acer BluelightShield technology allows people to adjust the screen’s blue-light emission for extended periods of use. Acer TrueHarmony provides immersive and pure sound for entertainment, and Skype for Business certification ensures crisp and clear communication.

Enhanced Productivity with the Aspire ES 15

Meanwhile, the Aspire ES 15 is refreshed with the latest 6th Generation Intel Core processors, and comes in three stylish colors: Midnight Black, Rosewood Red, and Cotton White. Its rounded corners, sleek highlights and modern textured pattern on the top cover and palm rest offer an attractive profile which is as eye-catching as it is fashionable.

Pricing and Availability 

The Acer Aspire R 15 will be available in South Africa with prices starting at R 8 999,99.

The Acer Aspire F Series will be available in South Africa with prices starting R 8 499,99.

The Acer Aspire E Series will be available in South Africa with prices starting at R 8 499,99.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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