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Big, bigger, biggest – handsets challenge computers

The Samsung Note 9, iPhone XS Max, Huawei Mate 20 and LG G7 ThinQ make 2018 the year of handsets replacing computers, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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There were no surprises in the unveiling of the new Phone XS Max last month, but that is only from the perspective of the previous few months. Two years ago, the specs of the device would have sent shockwaves through the industry.

The most startling feature of Apple’s flagship smartphone, as viewed from 2016, would have been its size. Back then, the iPhone 7 Plus had settled into the new “large” 5.5-inch format that first arrived with the iPhone 6 Plus in 2014. That phone symbolised Apple caving into the market forces that had seen the Samsung Note series lead the way to larger phone screens.

The XS Max symbolises a different response to market forces: Apple no longer wants to be the follower, and its 6.5-inch display now claims bragging rights for the largest screen on a mainstream flagship phone.

It is astonishing how much bigger this display is than that of the first Samsung Note, back in 2011, when its 5.3-inch screen introduced a new term: the “phablet”, a combination of phone and tablet. The format was roundly mocked by iPhone users, who have since had to grow up as much as their phones grew bigger.

The main competitor to the XS Max, the Samsung Galaxy Note9, has only a marginally smaller screen, at 6.4-inches, so is essentially the same size. It has an added advantage, namely a stylus, which in previous editions was designed for writing, drawing and tapping on the screen. On the Note9, it introduces new functionality, acting as a remote control device for the phone. 

The significance of this feature is that Note9 was positioned from the start as a tool for productivity, with the stylus allowing it to be used for input in documents and spreadsheets, among other. Remote control functionality, sold as a great tool for selfies and underwater photography, also makes it an excellent presentation tool.

Slowly, then, we are seeing a joining of the dots that link the smartphone, the tablet, and the computer. For the first time, displays are big enough for effective viewing of documents and spreadsheets. On sub-6-inch screens, touchscreen keyboards tend to get in the way, and it is difficult to use the functionality that is theoretically available on productivity apps.

This does not mean laptops are about to vanish. Most laptop screens are double the size of the biggest smartphone displays, typically starting at 13-inches. However, just a few years ago the idea that a smartphone screen could be half as big as that of a laptop would have been unthinkable.

Now, all major manufacturers are pursuing this size bracket.

How Huawei and LG go large

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Get your passwords in shape

New Year’s resolutions should extend to getting password protection sorted out, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

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Many of us have entered the new year with a boat load of New Year’s resolutions.  Doing more exercise, fixing unhealthy eating habits and saving more money are all highly respectable goals, but could it be that they don’t go far enough in an era with countless apps and sites that scream for letting them help you reach your personal goals.

Now, you may want to add a few weightier and yet effortless habits on top of those well-worn choices. Here are a handful of tips for ‘exercises’ that will go good for your cyber-fitness.

I won’t pass up on stubborn passwords

Passwords have a bad rap, and deservedly so: they suffer from weaknesses, both in terms of security and convenience, that make them a less-than-ideal method of authentication.  However, much of what the internet offers is independent on your singing up for this or that online service, and the available form of authentication almost universally happens to the username/password combination.

As the keys that open online accounts (not to speak of many devices), passwords are often rightly thought of as the first – alas, often only – line of defence that protects your virtual and real assets from intruders. However, passwords don’t offer much in the way of protection unless, in the first place, they’re strong and unique to each device and account.

But what constitutes a strong password?  A passphrase! Done right, typical passphrases are generally both more secure and more user-friendly than typical passwords. The longer the passphrase and the more words it packs the better, with seven words providing for a solid start. With each extra character (not to mention words), the number of possible combinations rises exponentially, which makes simple brute-force password-cracking attacks far less likely to succeed, if not well-nigh impossible (assuming, of course, that the service in question does not impose limitations on password input length – something that is, sadly, far too common).

Click here to read about making secure passwords by not using dictionary words, using two-factor authentication, and how biometrics are coming to web browsers.

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Code Week prepares 2.3m young Africans for future

By SUNIL GENESS, Director Government Relations & CSR, Global Digital Government, at SAP Africa.

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On January 6th, 2019, news broke of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to announce a new approach to education in his second State of the Nation address, including:

  • A universal roll-out of tablets for all pupils in the country’s 23 700 primary and secondary schools
  • Computer coding and robotics classes for the foundation-phase pupils from grade 1-3 and the
  • Digitisation of the entire curriculum, , including textbooks, workbooks and all teacher support material.

With this, the President has shown South Africa’s response to a global challenge: equipping our youth with the skills they’ll need to survive and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Africa’s working-age population will increase to 600 million in 2030 from a base of 370 million in 2010.

In South Africa, unemployment stands at 26.7 percent, but is much more pronounced among youths: 52.2 percent of the country’s 15-24-year-olds are looking for work.

As an organisation deeply invested in South Africa and its future, SAP has developed and implemented a range of initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills development among the country’s youth, including:

AFRICA CODE WEEK

Since its launch in 2015, Africa Code Week has introduced more than 4 million African youth to basic coding.

In 2018, more than 2.3 million youth across 37 countries took part in Africa Code Week.

The digital skills development initiative’s focus on building local capacity for sustainable learning resulted in close to 23 000 teachers being trained in the run-up to the October 2018 events.

Vital to the success of Africa Code Week is the close support it receives from a broad spectrum of public and private sector institutions, including UNESCO YouthMobile, Google, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Cape Town Science Centre, the Camden Education Trust, 28 African governments, over 130 implementing partners and 120 ambassadors across the continent.

SAP’s efforts to drive digital skills development on the African continent forms part of a broader organisational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4 (“Ensure quality and inclusive education for all”)

A core component of Africa Code Week is to encourage female participation in STEM-related skills development activities: in 2018, more than 46% of all Africa Code Week participants were female.

According to Africa Code Week Global Coordinator Sunil Geness, female representation in STEM-related fields among African businesses currently stands at 30%, “requiring powerful public-private partnerships to start turning the tide and creating more equitable opportunities for African youth to contribute to the continent’s economic development and success”.

Click here to read more about the Skills for Africa graduate training programme, and about the LEGO League.

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