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Apple launches affordable subscriptions

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Apple may be a premium brand, but it is offering a streaming service that’s cheaper than major streaming providers, as well as providing a cross-platform gaming service, both for $5 per month.

Apple TV+ is the first all-original video subscription service on the market, meaning it will only showcase content that it has made itself. It will launch on November 1 in over 100 countries and regions. 

It offers a promising lineup of original shows, movies and documentaries, including “The Morning Show,” “Dickinson,” “See,” “For All Mankind”, and “The Elephant Queen.” The service will be available on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac and other platforms, including online at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. 

Starting today, customers who purchase any iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch or Mac receive one year of Apple TV+ for free. Through Family Sharing, up to six family members can share one Apple TV+ subscription.

“With Apple TV+, we are presenting all-original stories from the best, brightest and most creative minds, and we know viewers will find their new favorite show or movie on our service,” says Zack Van Amburg, Apple’s head of Worldwide Video. “Each Apple TV+ original offers its own unique story, fresh perspective and powerful message — all meant to entertain, connect and inspire cultural conversations.”

“Apple TV+ is an unprecedented global video service with an all-original slate,” says Jamie Erlicht, Apple’s head of Worldwide Video. “We look forward to giving audiences everywhere the opportunity to enjoy these compelling stories within a rich, personalized experience on all the screens they love.”

Subscribers can watch Apple TV+ originals both online and offline, ad-free and on demand, on the Apple TV app, which comes pre-installed on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and iPod touch and will soon be on Mac with macOS Catalina. The Apple TV app is also available on select Samsung smart TVs, and will come to Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony and VIZIO platforms in the future. Customers can also sign up and watch Apple TV+ originals on the web at tv.apple.com.

Starting today, viewers can watch trailers and add Apple TV+ series and movies to Up Next on the Apple TV app, so they can be notified when the first episodes become available. At launch, most Apple TV+ series will premiere with three episodes, with one new episode to roll out each week, while full seasons of some series will be available all at once.

Audiences worldwide can watch Apple TV+ originals subtitled and/or dubbed in nearly 40 languages, including Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (SDH) or closed captions. Apple TV+ series and movies will also be available with audio descriptions in eight languages.

Click here to read about the latest cross-gaming platform, Apple Arcade.

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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