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AppDate: Keep Truecaller safe

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In this AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Truecaller Backup for Android, Open Omnia, Marketplace on Facebook, Zulzi, Opera with news feed, Pet First Aid – Red Cross, Datally by Google, and Freeletics.

Truecaller Backup for Android

Truecaller, the app that allows users to filter out unwanted calls, has released Truecaller Backup for Android. Every day thousands of Truecaller users are switching to a new phone, getting a new SIM card, resetting their device or in general having to reinstall their Truecaller app. This inevitably leads to lost contacts, blank call logs and lost data. The backup solution is designed to simplify a user’s transition to a new phone or SIM card by securely backing-up contacts and settings to Google Drive.

Once the app is reinstalled, and the correct username and password provided, a user can go through the backed up data and decide what should be restored to the new device.

Platform: Most Android mobile devices.

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the Google Play Store

 

Open Omnia

Open Omnia is a web-based programme that aims to assist students who struggle with mathematics to better understand the subject, by breaking down the formulae and providing step-by-step illustrations for mathematical equations.

A student can simply type in a mathematical problem, and the service returns a step-by-step solution to the problem. This ensures that students learn how to get to the answer – and can then apply the process to similar problems.

Platform: Most devices with an up-to-date web browser.

Expect to pay: Free to use.

Stockists: Visit www.openomnia.com

 

Marketplace on Facebook

Facebook will be rolling out its Marketplace service in South Africa in an attempt to compete with the likes of Gumtree, BidorBuy and OLX. The feature is designed to let users buy and sell items on the platform, with strict safety precautions for both parties. In addition to buying and selling, users can communicate with each other and are able to set their privacy controls to their liking. They do not need to install any third-party applications.

The feature is set to be rolled out in early February. Users wanting to start trading need to click on the Marketplace icon towards the bottom of the page.

How to use Marketplace 

  • To use Marketplace, tap on the Marketplace icon.
  • To find what you’re looking for, search at the top and filter your results by location, category or price.
  • To sell something, take a photo, describe your item, set your price and you are done.
  • Buyers and sellers can communicate with each other using Facebook Messenger.

Platform: Most devices using the latest Facebook version.

Expect to pay: A free service.

Stockists: Visit www.facebook.com to begin trading.

 

Zulzi

Zulzi is a locally developed on-demand delivery service app that brings groceries to the doors of its customers within an hour. Zulzi took first place in the Best Breakthrough Developer category of the recent MTN Business App of the Year Awards.

Zulzi is already making an impact in a number of suburbs in the north of Johannesburg, and already has more than 9 000 active registered users.  Thhe company has delivered over 15 000 orders since launch in 2016.

The app is very easy to use and offers users the ability to order products like alcohol, pharmaceuticals, food and groceries. One needs to enter their delivery address and the app will bring up a range of stores in the vicinity, from which orders can be made. Unlike many other delivery apps, the prices of the products shown on the app are usually in line with those at the physical store.

Once an order is placed, a personal shopper is assigned to collect and pay for the products, while the Zulzi user is able to monitor the order in real time.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download, but delivery charges range from R20 to R85. (This fee goes to the personal shopper, with Zulzi generating revenue from partnerships with the retailers.)

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Opera with news feed

With over 100 million users reading news through Opera and Opera mini, the company decided to develope its own artificial intelligence newsfeed. The feature is designed to learn what users read on a daily basis and then delivers video and articles based on their preferences. In addition to delivering news, the app helps users with their online shopping, delivering relevant search results and making mobile payments.

Platform: Android, iOS and desktop computers.

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit www.opera.com

 

Pet First Aid – Red Cross

When your dog or cat suddenly becomes ill, it isn’t alway possible to rush it off to the vet. However, thanks to the Pet First Aid – Red Cross app, pet owners have some veterinary advice to help their dogs or cats out until they can be taken to a professional.

The app features a variety of how-to videos for advice ranging from helping a choking animal to treating ticks and viruses. It also offers help on how to administer medication and identifying toxic substances. Using geolocation, it shows the closest vet and its operating hours.

When your pet is not sick, Pet First Aid offers quizzes on what to do in case of an emergency, teaching one not to panic and how to react efficiently and effectively.

Even though Pet First Aid is a great app for helping pets at home, it is still advisable to take them to the vet should they get sick.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Datally

The Datally app by Google helps solve one of the biggest pain points for smartphone users around the world. Google research found that many smartphone users worry about running out of data. This is an especially acute problem for the newest generation to come online. Not only are these smartphone users constantly thinking about data balances, but they do not understand where their data is going, nor do they feel they can control allocating data to the apps they really need.

Datally empowers users to solve these problems with four key features:

Data Saver. Apps frequently use data in the background for updating content and information. Datally’s Data Saver feature lets users control data on an app-by-app basis, so that data only goes to apps they need.

Data Saver bubble. Once Data Saver is turned on, Datally’s Data Saver bubble will appear when a user goes into an app. Whenever that app uses data, the Data Saver bubble will show the current rate of data usage, and users can easily choose to block that app’s data use if things start to get out of control. The Data Saver bubble is like a speedometer for mobile data.

Personalised alerts. Datally alerts users when apps start consuming a lot of data, and it allows them to see how much data they’ve used on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Wi-Fi finder. There are times when users want to use more data than they have on their mobile plans, such as when they want to watch HD videos. Public Wi-Fi is an important access point for high-bandwidth connectivity, so Datally’s Find Wi-Fi feature reveals the networks nearby, rated by the Datally community. Once connected, users can rate the Wi-Fi networks based on their own experience.

Platform: Android devices running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and higher.

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the Google Play Store

 

Freeletics

Freeletics is a training app that combines full-body routines and exercises with running for a complete fat-shredding workout. The app is fast, efficient, effective, and it keeps you fit in under 20 minutes a day. It is designed for professional athletes or those merely looking to lose weight and tone up.

Whether you prefer to train outdoors, in your kitchen, at the gym or in your office, Freeletics will take you through every step. The app uses a virtual coach to assess your fitness level. It then combines the results with your age, weight and workout goals to customise an exercise plan. You’ll then have access to the online community of “Free Athletes”— to share tips, get advice and even compete with each another.

You can workout anytime, anywhere with little to no equipment. All workouts are designed to last between 5 and 30 minutes and you have more than 1000 training variations to choose from.cleardot.gif

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

* 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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