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Dynamite comes in CloudGate package

CloudGate’s latest mini-computer packs a powerful punch and redefines what it means to be a great desktop computer, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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With the dimensions of a sandwich, the CloudGate X delivers more on speed and responsiveness than most desktop towers in its price range. The practical engineering of the X demonstrates how tower PCs no longer have a place in the typical home, office, or classroom.

Compared to the previous generation of this device, the CloudGate X is a little bigger, at 12cm², but adds all the necessary functionality which makes it a feasible desktop replacement. The X weighs a quarter of a kilogram, around 32 times lighter than a run-of-the-mill tower PC. The X runs off just 10W of power, drawing less than 5% of the power a typical tower PC would.

The front of the mini-computer provides two USB ports, an SD card slot, and the power button. The side holds more ports, like the power jack, another USB, an HDMI, an Ethernet, and an audio jack. A VGA port on the back of the device is a pleasant surprise: a nice addition for those who want a computer replacement without getting a new screen.

The computer houses an Apollo Lake Intel Celeron Quad-Core CPU, clocked at 1.1GHz, which can be boosted to 2.2GHz. It contains 64GB of eMMC solid state storage and 4GB memory. The internal storage can be bumped up by another 128GB on request or replaced with up to 320GB with m.2, one of the fastest storage standards.

The chipset provides 802.11b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. For office environments, a gigabit LAN port is available.

Once the screen, mouse, and keyboard are set up, Windows 10 starts with the usual setup options at Microsoft account sign-in. This was easily replaced with Ubuntu 18.10 in a matter of 12 minutes.

Thanks to its fast solid state drives and quad-core CPU, the speed at which the computer set itself up after the installation was remarkable.

This continues to be a theme while using the computer: its snappy performance leaves most budget tower desktop configurations feeling sluggish. We ran a storage benchmark test against another tower desktop with a 7200rpm hard drive and the CloudGate X come out 4.5 times faster at reading data from its solid state drive.

In terms of Office applications, this means that the X delivers on performance with fast application start-up times of around 3 seconds for Word and responsive document editing. The X has no performance issues with running other business-critical applications, like Pastel, SalesForce, and Sage. Typical office applications had great performance and multitaskingl.

For playing HD video, it does well without stuttering, which could prove useful when used as a media centre computer. This is due to the latest integrated Intel HD Graphics, which now decodes H.265/HEVC video more efficiently than previous processors. Media centre applications are generally good for HD video playback.

Keeping in mind that this computer is not a gaming computer, it handles most pre-2013 games well on medium settings. The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion saw around 30 frames per second on medium graphics settings. The Sims 3 scored around 35 frames per second on medium-high graphics settings. Overall, less graphics-intensive games perform well on the X.

Development tools fare well on this computer. Visual Studio 2017 V15.8 was used to create, edit and build web applications with a few other apps open. Creating and editing web page code was smooth but the builds were surprisingly fast.

“Even though the Intel Core CPUs may have higher clock speeds and more cache, the N3450 in the CloudGate X will outperform them due to the extra cores – especially when it comes to multitasking,” says Xavier Nel, head of product at CloudGate and CloudWare.

Ranging between R3 500 and R5 200 (depending on the chosen configuration), the CloudGate X is a powerful system that delivers on several use cases across industry sectors. Even more significant, the cost of the Windows-based device includes a Windows 10 Professional licence (priced at R2 500).

Outperforming most office desktop towers, the CloudGate X shines as an affordable option to replace traditional tower desktop computers.

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Revealing the real cost of ‘free’ online services

A free service by Finnish cybersecurity provider F-Secure reveals the real cost of using “free” services by Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, among others.

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What do Google, Facebook, and Amazon have in common? Privacy and identity scandals. From Cambridge Analytica to Google’s vulnerability in Google+, the amount of personal data sitting on these platforms is enormous.

Cybersecurity provider F-Secure has released a free online tool that helps expose the true cost of using some of the web’s most popular free services. And that cost is the abundance of data that has been collected about users by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon Alexa, Twitter, and Snapchat. The good news is that you can take back your data “gold”.

F-Secure Data Discovery Portal sends users directly to the often hard-to-locate resources provided by each of these tech giants that allow users to review their data, securely and privately.

“What you do with the data collection is entirely between you and the service,” says Erka Koivunen, F-Secure Chief Information Security Officer. “We don’t see – and don’t want to see – your settings or your data. Our only goal is to help you find out how much of your information is out there.”

More than half of adult Facebook users, 54%, adjusted how they use the site in the wake of the scandal that revealed Cambridge Analytica had collected data without users’ permission.* But the biggest social network in the world continues to grow, reporting 2.3 billion monthly users at the end of 2018.**

“You often hear, ‘if you’re not paying, you’re the product.’ But your data is an asset to any company, whether you’re paying for a product or not,” says Koivunen. “Data enables tech companies to sell billions in ads and products, building some of the biggest businesses in the history of money.”

F-Secure is offering the tool as part of the company’s growing focus on identity protection that secures consumers before, during, and after data breaches. By spreading awareness of the potential costs of these “free” services, the Data Discovery Portal aims to make users aware that securing their data and identity is more important than ever.

A recent F-Secure survey found that 54% of internet users over 25 worry about someone hacking into their social media accounts.*** Data is only as secure as the networks of the companies that collect it, and the passwords and tactics used to protect our accounts. While the settings these sites offer are useful, they cannot eliminate the collection of data.

Koivunen says: “While consumers effectively volunteer this information, they should know the privacy and security implications of building accounts that hold more potential insight about our identities than we could possibly share with our family. All of that information could be available to a hacker through a breach or an account takeover.”

However, there is no silver bullet for users when it comes to permanently locking down security or hiding it from the services they choose to use.

“Default privacy settings are typically quite loose, whether you’re using a social network, apps, browsers or any service,” says Koivunen. “Review your settings now, if you haven’t already, and periodically afterwards. And no matter what you can do, nothing stops these companies from knowing what you’re doing when you’re logged into their services.”

*Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/05/americans-are-changing-their-relationship-with-facebook/
**Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/30/18204186/facebook-q4-2018-earnings-user-growth-revenue-increase-privacy-scandals
***Source: F-Secure Identity Protection Consumer (B2C) Survey, May 2019, conducted in cooperation with survey partner Toluna, 9 countries (USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, and Japan), 400 respondents per country = 3600 respondents (+25years)

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WhatsApp comes to KaiOS

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By the end of September, WhatsApp will be pre-installed on all phones running the KaiOS operating system, which turns feature phones into smart phones. The announcement was made yesterday by KaiOS Technologies, maker of the KaiOS mobile operating system for smart feature phones, and Facebook. WhatsApp is also available for download in the KaiStore, on both 512MB and 256MB RAM devices.

“KaiOS has been a critical partner in helping us bring private messaging to smart feature phones around the world,” said Matt Idema, COO of WhatsApp. “Providing WhatsApp on KaiOS helps bridge the digital gap to connect friends and family in a simple, reliable and secure way.”

WhatsApp is a messaging tool used by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide who need a simple, reliable and secure way to communicate with friends and family. Users can use calling and messaging capabilities with end-to-end encryption that keeps correspondence private and secure. 

WhatsApp was first launched on the KaiOS-powered JioPhone in India in September of 2018. Now, with the broad release, the app is expected to reach millions of new users across Africa, Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

“We’re thrilled to bring WhatsApp to the KaiOS platform and extend such an important means of communication to a brand new demographic,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “We strive to make the internet and digital services accessible for everyone and offering WhatsApp on affordable smart feature phones is a giant leap towards this goal. We can’t wait to see the next billion users connect in meaningful ways with their loved ones, communities, and others across the globe.”

KaiOS-powered smart feature phones are a new category of mobile devices that combine the affordability of a feature phone with the essential features of a smartphone. They meet a growing demand for affordable devices from people living across Africa – and other emerging markets – who are not currently online. 

WhatsApp is now available for download from KaiStore, an app store specifically designed for KaiOS-powered devices and home to the world’s most popular apps, including the Google Assistant, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps and Twitter. Apps in the KaiStore are customised to minimise data usage and maximise user experience for smart feature phone users.

In Africa, the KaiOS-powered MTN Smart and Orange Sanza are currently available in 22 countries, offering 256MB RAM and 3G connectivity.

KaiOS currently powers more than 100 million devices shipped worldwide, in over 100 countries. The platform enables a new category of devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience.

* For more details, visit: Meet The Devices That Are Powered by KaiOS

* Also read Arthur Goldstuck’s story, Smart feature phones spell KaiOS

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