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AppDate: Better handsfree email with messageLOUD

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In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights messageLOUD, TakeAction, Folx 5 Mac download manager, Tetris Twist and Opera – now with ad blocking.|In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights messageLOUD, TakeAction, Folx 5 Mac download manager, Tetris Twist and Opera – now with ad blocking.

messageLOUD gets upgraded

messageLOUD has just been upgraded to read emails without the annoying signature detail thrown in. This is an eyes-free smartphone app that automatically reads your texts, WhatsApp messages and mails out loud, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road. The beta version of the app was originally launched in January, but the final version is now available for download, says South African Garin Toren, Founder and CEO of messageLOUD. When activated, messageLOUD will tell users who is calling, read e-mails in their inbox and will pause music for calls or navigation directions. The app is designed to skip promotional e-mails and its new signature parsing algorithm means all the contact details at the end of a message won’t be read out either.

Platform: Android

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the Google Play Store.

 

TakeAction

The TakeAction app is designed to help users log service delivery requests quickly and easily. It uses a smartphone’s GPS location and allows users to specify the problem – whether it be a pothole, accident, broken robot or emergency. All incidents reported in an area are grouped together and sent to the appropriate service provider for action.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Folx 5 Mac download manager

In addition to allowing Mac users to manage their downloads easily, Folx 5 also acts as a torrent client. The free version offers a very basic download and torrent option, whereas the pro version will let one split downloads into threads for quicker downloading. The pro version also offers a scheduler, speed control, iTunes integration, password manager and the ability to search torrents.

Platform: Mac OS 10 and above

Expect to pay: A free download with the pro version R280

Stockists: Visit the Apple App Store for downloading instructions.

 

Tetris Twist

Tetris Twist is a new take on the iconic Tetris game. It is HTML 5 based and currently offers 100 levels of gameplay, including multiple levels that players can unlock. One is taken through various cities, including New York, Tokyo, London, Paris, and Amsterdam, with more to be added. Tetris Twist also features new mechanics, such as Gravity mode where Tetriminos rise “up” instead of falling down, Hourglass mode in which Tetriminos are mixed-up as you would see in an hour glass, and Score Cells mode where select cells in the Matrix must be filled with Tetriminos to receive extra bonus points.

Platform: Most computers and tablets with an up-to-date browser running HTML 5

Expect to pay: Free to play.

Stockists: www.coolgames.com

 

Opera – now with ad blocking

The latest Opera browser now incorporates an ad blocking feature, resulting in a dramatic decrease in web page loading times. The improved performance is possible because the filtering happens at the web-engine level – or before the page is downloaded to a computer –

where the browser can fully control the loading process of the page. This is something most extensions do only once the page has loaded. The feature can be switched off, and the ad-blocking feature comes with a benchmark so users can see how much ads and tracking software affect page-loading times.

Platform: Most computers running the latest Opera version.

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: www.opera.com

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

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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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