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Build a better you in 2018

With most new year’s resolutions including words like “weight” and “fit”, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at a few sites, devices and apps that go beyond activity bands to boost our self-image.

Activity bands like the Fitbit and Garmin fitness trackers have become standard tools on the wrists of people with aspirations to more well-being, greater fitness, and lesser bulk.

The problem with these devices, however, is that the motivation quickly vanishes and, by February 1, New Year’s resolutions have come home to die.

One suggestion is to overhaul not only one’s fitness routine, but one’s entire consciousness routine. This is not a suggestion to ignore diets and treadmills, but to take a different approach.

For example, by investing in a new kind of scale that measures more than just weight, and having it in a location where it can never be ignored, it makes one that much more conscious of monitoring the body.

By investing in a fitness app that can be adapted into a fine-tuned coach that guides you in the activities you enjoy, you move away from the current smartphone fitness focus on what happens only on the activity band.

Finally, to make change more personal, one needs an overhaul that goes beyond the physical. Getting involved in a cause is a natural route, but not one that comes naturally. This guide concludes, then, on a website that takes you by the hand and connects you or your company to a cause.

We start with those smart scales:

Salter MiBody Bluetooth Analyser Scale

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Salter has been making scales for more than 250 years, and keeps pushing the boundaries. The first bathroom scale dates back to the 1820s, and its taken less than two centuries for Salter to evolve it into the Smart Scale. Or, more specifically, the MiBody scale.

It uses something called Bio Impedence Analysis technology to measure not only weight, but also the body mass index (BMI). It does this by sending a tiny (and safe) electrical impulse through the body to determine fat from lean tissue. This, in turn, provides an accurate measure of body fat, body water, and muscle mass, along with BMI and weight.

The MiBody operates as a conventional scale as well, but comes into its own when connected to a smartphone using the MiBody app. Up to four separate profiles can be stored on the scale, allowing family members to track themselves individually.

Two MiBody models encapsulate the options beautifully: The smaller MiBody 9159 is a sleek, black pad that enhances the décor of any modern bathroom; and the larger MiBody 9154, a large white gadget that comes with adjustable carpet feet for use in any room or on uneven surfaces. The former costs R849 and the latter R999.

* The scales can be purchased online from Accessory Lab here.

Aaptiv fitness coaching app

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Most activity bands and sports earphones pair up with apps that include coaching features. However, the best bands are not always paired with the best apps. In many cases, users opt for a third party app that combines expert coaching with the monitoring features of an existing device.

One of the best of these apps, Aaptiv, charges a subscription fee, but in return provides audio-based fitness classes and challenges by expert trainers. Workouts range from elliptical, cardio and strength to stretching and meditation – and are paired with music playlists for taking the experience further.

Aaptiv is a little more than two years old, but already has more than 2 500 classes available, with15 active trainers creating up to 50 new classes every week. Workout classes are geared to beginner, intermediate, or advanced users, who can interact with trainers through an Aaptiv Facebook community.

It’s like having a personal trainer at gym, but at a fraction of the cost. The dollar pricing is $9.99 a month or $99.99 for a year, but specials keep popping up. The one-month free trial is recommended before paying over those dollars.

* Download Aaptiv from the Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Forgood

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Rekindle your soul at Forgood, a home-grown online platform “that connects passionate people with needy organisations”. It is described as “a social market place where skills, goods, services and information can easily be offered and asked for”, with the site acting as the matchmaker for good causes.

Says CEO Andy Hadfield: “We believe that you can change your community and world for good. No longer do you have to wonder where to start or how to begin. By connecting online at forgood you can find ways to make a difference in your area and in line with your interests.”

Forgood is also geared towards companies’ employee volunteer programmes, allowing businesses of any size to get a CSI initiatove off the ground. A companies are then able to track, incentivise and report on their community engagement. Forgood also provides support to train, motivate and keep staff engaged.

According to Hadfield, 9 000 corporate employees registered on client volunteering programmes through the site last year, completing 13 000 actions – either in the form of volunteer work or donations.

As the organisation puts it, “Take the action offline and see your real world impact.”

* Rekindle your soul here.

 

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as end-of-support looms, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2008.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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