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AppDate: App reveals free WiFi in Tshwane

In this edition of his regular AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Tshwane Free WiFi, NLife Africa, WordFlex, miCoach, Hub++, Flapp, Opera with sidebar extensions and Safety Score from Momentum.

Tshwane Free WiFi

Citizens of Tshwane can now find free WiFi hotspots thanks to a new app developed by Project Isizwe, a provider of free WiFi in selected areas. The app is easy to use, with a screen showing a map with the hotspots around Tshwane. A second screen shows hotspot details, including the distance from a user’s current location. The last screen is more interactive, letting a user search for a hotspot by point of interest, for instance all hotspots in clinics or libraries.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Availability: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

NLife Africa

The NLife Africa app offers users offline maps, live traffic updates and turn-by-turn instructions. The app’s interface is easy to navigate, offering the ability to search for a destination by its address or as a point of interest. Once a destination is chosen, options are given to walk or drive, and the user can chose to stay off high-ways and avoid toll-roads. NLife pulls its maps and data from TomTom and, because it is available offline, no ongoing data charges are incurred. The premium app offers navigation for 19 countries, including South Africa.

Platform: iOS and Android

Expect to pay: A 15-day trial period is offered, thereafter a once-off fee of R800.

Availability: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

WordFlex

WordFlex is similar to Scrabble, but uses hexagons with letters and lets users build words backwards, forwards, to the left and to the right. It can be played in single-player mode, but also offers the ability to play with friends or complete stranger around the world. After each game, a user is ranked and the score is uploaded to the leader board.

Platform: iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Availability: Visit the iTunes Store.

 

miCoach

The miCoach train and run app works with training techniques offered by some of the top Adidas athletes and coaches. It includes GPS tracking and real-time voice coaching to help a user build speed, endurance and strength. Various strength and flex exercises are on offer. The app makes full use of the tile features in Windows 8, giving access to online training videos at the touch of a button.

Platform: Windows Phone 8 and above.

Expect to pay: A free download.

Availability: Visit the Windows Phone Store.

 

Hub++

Hub++ is an upgrade to the default BlackBerry 10 Hub notification system. Users can drill down into specific notifications based on e-mail sender, subject line and priority, and activate a variety of LED, vibration, and tone notifications. Hub++ makes managing larger e-mail boxes easier and is great for users who receive high-priority messages that need to be actioned immediately.

Platform: BlackBerry OS 10 and above

Expect to pay: R25

Availability: Visit the BlackBerry App World.

 

Flapp

Instead of searching the Internet for the cheapest flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg, Flapp presents users with list of flights on one screen and though one search. All it needs is a date and time, and corresponding flights from various airlines will be displayed. Once a flight is chosen, the user is re-directed to that airline’s online booking system, where a seat can be booked and paid.

Platform: iOS and Android

Expect to pay: A free download.

Availability: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Opera with Sidebar extensions

The latest version of Opera for desktops and notebooks brings Sidebar extensions. These are small bits of software that add additional functionality to the browser. For example, a user can decide to have a Twitter window open while still browsing the Internet. A separate extension can be dedicated to a Facebook timeline or even incoming e-mail. Users can also include a notes option.

Platform: PC and Apple.

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit www.opera.com

 

Safety Score from Momentum

Safety Score is an online app that assesses how effectively South Africans protect their homes and vehicles. After filling in the online form, the app offers suggestions on how users can further protect themselves and their possessions. It will offer suggestions like installing burglar bars around the home, or linking an alarm system to an armed response company or even getting involved in community policing forums.

Platform: Any device with an Internet browser.

Expect to pay: A free tool.

Availability: www.momentum.co.za

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as it reaches the end of its support, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2005.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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