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AppDate: Kaspersky clamps down home networks

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In this edition of AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights the Kaspersky Lab IoT device scanner, Knysna’s Municipality Citizen Engagement Application, Lego Mindstorms, the Exclusive Books app, HeyLets and Showmax for Xbox One.

Kaspersky Lab IoT device scanner

The Kaspersky Lab IoT device scanner allows home users to monitor their networks and see which devices are connected. The app does an overall scan once installed and notifies the user of any security flaws that may be present. For instance, when installed on my network, it alerted me that a port was open on my router that could allow hackers to gain access and steal sensitive data.

The app continually monitors the network and offers alerts should new devices try to connect with incorrect credentials.

Platform: Android

Expect to pay: The app is still in a beta and has not yet been officially released.

Stockists: Visit www.kaspersky.co.za for more information.

 

Knysna Municipality Citizen Engagement Application

The Knysna Municipality and ComUnity have collaborated to create the Knysna Municipality Citizen Engagement Application (Knysna app) in order to drive a more direct, interactive and open relationship between the municipality and its communities.

The app was designed to make it easier for emergency services to respond to needs faster, as app users receive the most relevant and up-to-date information directly on their mobile devices. Community members can log and track service issues or phone any municipal division from the app, allowing them to report or inform other community members of incidents.

The municipality can also keep communities informed of upcoming events and festivals, and can post public service delivery notices, such as electricity or water interruptions and weather forecasts.

But the app also proved to serve a much deeper purpose when devastating fires swept the region in June – the Knysna Joint Operations Centre (JOC) that coordinated the crisis response was able to use it to keep in close and constant touch with communities, which assisted in prioritising their safety and that of their families, pets and belongings.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Lego Mindstorms

Lego Mindstorms is designed to give children a head start in their programming careers. The app works in conjunction with the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robotics construction set and allows kids to use basic programming code to make their robots move, shoot and act in a particular way.

This app also lets kids create their own robot programs from scratch by dragging and dropping blocks of code into sequence and then playing that code out to see what each block does.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download, but the construction set will need to be bought first.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Exclusive Books app

The Exclusive Books app sends users special offers, alerts them to in-store promotions and activities, and allows Exclusive Books’ Fanatics members to link their membership and carry around a virtual Fanatics card in their mobile devices.

In addition, the app stores a ‘Favourites’ list to receive notifications of special offers at the stores and gives directions to Exclusive Books Cafes and Social Kitchen & Bar outlets.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

HeyLets

HeyLets is a personalised feed of fun experiences and cool places recommended by people that enjoy doing the same things you do. Discover new food, nightlife, shows and outdoor adventures in your hometown, and get travel tips from around the world.

Select Your Interests –- Easily and quickly choose from 45 interest categories. This will help us deliver the best experiences possible to you and locate other community members who share the same interests.

Explore What Locals Recommend –- Scroll through a beautiful feed of hidden gems, fantastic new places and amazing new experiences you never knew existed.

Once installed, filter experiences by categories, from nightclubs and extreme sports to scenic hikes and farmers markets. Or search by keyword to find the ultimate truffle fries. User can filter by location to find things to do on upcoming trips and Wishlist option saves experiences you want to try.

In addition, if you have had a good meal or just enjoyed a good concert, you can share what you love by posting a video or photo along with a short description about what made it great.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Showmax for Xbox One

In addition to streaming Showmax content though a DStv Explora, Android and iOS devices, viewers can now use their Xbox One consoles.

To get the app, they need will need their Showmax username and password and go to the Store tab on their Xbox One. Once signed in, the app will download to the Xbox, where it can be pinned to a user’s home screen.

The app looks and functions very similarly to the other Showmax apps, so users should have no problem using it once signed in.

Platform: Xbox One

Expect to pay: A free download, but users need to be signed up for Showmax.

Platform: Any Xbox One console.

* 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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