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AppDate: From Sports to Spotify, apps get serious

Roundup of new apps by SEAN BACHER include SAP Sports One, Spotify for the Apple Watch, FNB nav» Home, Opera with cookie dialog popup blocker and Nando’s ordering app.

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SAP Sports One

SAP Sports One, a sports-specific cloud solution powered by SAP’s HANA platform, provides teams and administrators with a single platform for the management of teams and players by delivering analytical insights for performance optimisation. The solution was born out of a partnership between SAP and the German football team. Following the team’s victory at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, SAP was heralded as the team’s “12th Man” by the Wall Street Journal and credited with a significant contribution to the famous win.

Deployed in the cloud, SAP Sports One helps clubs and organisations digitalise sports performance management by coordinating all administrative, training and team management, scouting and medical processes. In short, it’s an app for serious sports professionals.

Platform: Most devices with an Internet connection and up-to-date Internet browser
Expect to pay: Price is available on application
Stockists: SAP Sports One is not available for download from any app store as it is a specialised application.
Those interested can get more information here: https://www.sap.com/africa/products/sports-one.html

 

Spotify for the Apple Watch

Spotify has recently brought its mobile streaming music app to the Apple Watch, allowing users to listen to music on the move without having to access their smartphone. With this new app, users can enjoy a better music experience with better control. The added ability to connect the watch to external speakers or devices using the Spotify Connect feature essentially turns the watch into a mobile DJ platform. There is also the option to listen to music and podcasts offline for when connectivity is limited or non-existent.

The app makes full use of the watch’s screen, with a clean and clutter free layout. The volume, skip, rewind and pause controls are prominently displayed, making it easy to take control of the music without getting too distracted.

Platform: An Apple iPhone connected to an Apple Watch
Expect to pay: A free download, but Spotify subscriptions need to be paid to stream and download music.
Stockists: Visit the Apple App Store.

 

FNB nav» Home
FNB’s nav» Home functionality enables FNB customers to list and sell their homes privately and securely to buyers who qualify for a home loan, while saving costs associated with the process.

The solution allows sellers and buyers to engage, arrange to view a listed property and negotiate the price via secure chat on the FNB Banking App. Sellers and buyers can also  disclose personal contact information only when they are comfortable to do so.

To date, nav» Home has over 1 million visitors and has paid out R4.7 billion worth of home loans.

Platform: Android and iOS
Expect to pay: A free service, but users must bank with FNB
Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Opera for Android with cookie dialog popup blocker
Opera for Android, with a cookie dialog blocker built in, means that one’s mobile browsing experience will become cleaner and neater, allowing one to focus on content while still being confident of online safety and privacy.

The cookie dialog blocker can be switched on in the browser settings. To configure the feature, go to Settings, tap on “Ad blocking”, and you find the switch to toggle it on or off.

When enabled by the user, the cookie alert blocker will hide dialogues but will not block websites from setting any cookies. To control cookie behaviour, the Opera browser has a dedicated setting that allows users to choose between accepting all or no cookies,  or blocking any third party cookies.

Opera for Android now also has home screen short cuts. Users with an Android 7.1 operating system or later can do a long tap on the “O” logo on the phone’s home screen and navigate through the new home screen shortcuts. These shortcuts allow a user to start a new search, scan a QR code or open a new private tab. In addition, one can now long tap on the “+” new tab button, and open a shortcut to a website on the device’s home screen.

Platform: Android 7.1 or higher
Expect to pay: A free download
Stockists: Visit the Google Play Store

 

Nando’s ordering app
The Nando’s ordering app allows users to place orders via voice or text. Its simple design means that users can order something like a hot chicken with fries and a coke without having to scroll through endless individual menu items and tick what they want.

All they have to do is place their order in simple English. An artificial intelligence engine running in the back-end makes sense of this, adds all the items to the basket and sends them directly to the checkout section, where payment is made. The AI engine also remembers a user’s previous ordering preferences and so brings those up as soon as the app is opened.

In addition, users can place their order for a specific time in the future, meaning they don’t have to scramble around placing an order when their stomachs start grumbling. Deliveries can be tracked in real time.

Platform: Android, iOS or directly through the Nando’s website
Expect to pay: A free download
Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

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Did an earthquake take out SA Internet?

Seabed avalanches caused by an earthquake could have cut several undersea cables, leading to one of South Africa’s biggest Internet outages yet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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Picture by TooMuchCoffeeMan from pixabay.com

There is still no official explanation for freak breaks 11 days ago in two separate undersea cables that provide international access to South Africa’s Internet users. However, as reported in the Sunday Times yesterday, the most common causes of such breaks are damage by ship anchors and earthquakes at sea.

However, the freak occurrence of two separate cables being cut simultaneously far out at sea, as happened on the morning of 16 January, can only be explained by sea-bed activity.  One of the cables was cut in two places, and it is widely believed that a third major cable was also cut.

The cable damage mostly occurred in or near an area called the Congo Canyon, which starts inland and extends 220km into the sea. It is known for having the world’s strongest “turbidity currents”, underwater sediment avalanches over hundreds of kilometers, which are known to destroy undersea cables.

The most likely culprit is a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that struck the Atlantic Ocean near Ascension Island shortly before the cables were cut on the morning of 16 January. The earthquake occurred just before 8am South African time, and local ISPs reported losing international access from just before 10am. The epicentre of the earthquake was more than a thousand kilometres off the coast of Africa, but disturbances caused by seismic activity at sea become more powerful as they approach the coast. Combined with turbidity currents, this could well have taken out all cables in the area.

The West Africa Cable System (WACS) was cut in two places, and the South Atlantic 3 (SAT3) cable in one location. Industry insiders believe that the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable was also cut, but it has not been publicly confirmed.

South Africa is connected to the global Internet via seven such cables, with a total capacity of 42.3 terabits per second (tbps).  These cables, in turn, connect to additional cables connecting the West and East coasts of Africa, with a single cable running from Angola to Brazil providing another 40 tbps.

However, it emerged in the past week that smaller ISPs in South Africa had bought capacity on only one or two cables. In a freak occurrence, two of the most commonly used cables, the WACS and SAT 3 cables, were cut simultaneously, plunging millions of Internet users into data darkness.

Customers of the major mobile network operators – Vodacom and MTN – were largely unaffected, as these tend to have both part-ownership and access to most of the cables running up both the East and West coasts of Africa.

Visit the next page to read about how ISPs have battled to reroute access, how massive resources are needed to deal with these kinds of outages, and when the ship will reach the breakage points.

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Lenovo express-delivers new range from CES to SA

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Lenovo has unveiled its new range of ThinkBook laptops, barely two weeks after they were showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 

The company’s newest sub-brand, ThinkBook, is intended to meet the demand for more aesthetically pleasing, yet agile and powerful devices.

The new range is aimed at small and medium enterprises. According to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), there are more than 2-million SMEs in South Africa – although there are only 667,433 in the formal sector. This tallies with estimates in recent editions of SME Survey, produced by World Wide Worx, which suggest 650,000 active, formal businesses in South Africa. These SMEs employ about 14% of the South African workforce. 

Lenovo argues that access to affordable, yet efficient, technology is a crucial factor in aiding business success and contributing towards the success of the nation. The company has found, in its own research, that younger people prefer working, creating and communicating online “with stylish devices that make a statement”. This means they require streamlined laptops which can be used to collaborate from any remote location, to enhance productivity.

Lenovo said in a statement on Thursday night: “Backed by customer research, ThinkBook is specially designed for SMEs, who typically purchase consumer laptops for perceived design and price advantages but can no longer rationalise their lack of extended services and warranties – core needs of any business. ThinkBook allows growing firms to keep a competitive edge in attracting today’s young tech-savvy execs with trendy yet cost-effective devices. 

Thibault Dousson, general manager of  Lenovo for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said at the launch event: “With the capacity, SMEs have to grow and upskill the country’s workforce, they are perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between the public sector and large enterprise. Bearing in mind the demands of the digital economy, this sector needs skills and resources in order to compete, and that is where devices such as the ThinkBook come in.”

In South Africa, ThinkBook laptops are now available in 13-, 14- and 15-inch variants. The flagship ThinkBook 14 and ThinkBook 15 devices are powered by Windows 10 Pro and up to 10th Gen Intel Core processing, which Lenovo says combines high performance with intuitive, time-saving features. Options include Intel Optane memory, WiFi 6, and discrete graphics.

The ThinkBook 15 comes at just 18.9mm thin, while the ThinkBook 14 is a mere 17.9mm, both with FHD displays and two Dolby Audio speakers, dual-array, Skype certified microphones and a USB 3.1 (Gen2, Type-C) port.

Lenovo has also introduced the ThinkBook S series, including an elegant 13.3-inch ThinkBook 13s. The sleek and light device is constructed of a metallic finish on an all-aluminium chassis, alongside a narrow bezel display. As with the ThinkBook 14 and 15, the ThinkBook 13s also features advanced Intel processing and an FHD display, Dolby Vision and Harman speakers with Dolby Audio.

Visit the next page to read about the design and features of the new ThinkBook range.

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