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Earphones for every ear and wallet

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As earphone technology and manufacture improves, the ranges and variations keep expanding, from high-end to budget devices. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK highlights four very different options.

The choice of earphones available nowadays is as bewildering as that for smartphones, but the same rule applies: look for options that suit your budget, your needs and your preferred look and feel. No one option is best, or even best value for money, as it depends entirely on the user’s preferences, needs and circumstances.

Earphones are used in a variety of settings, from highly active exercising to deeply passive music enjoyment. However, increasingly, they also have to cross the boundaries between activities. While there is no one-size-fits-all earphone, the four devices selected here are versatile enough to ensure they won’t gather much dust in a drawer somewhere:

Jabra Elite Sport earbuds

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The most pricey of this batch is also the most function-rich. The Jabra Elite Sport is a set of in-ear wireless buds that link to a smartphone via an iPhone or Android app.

It is designed specifically for runners, with four features that set it apart:

• Three-hour active-use battery, and a small, chargeable carry case for another two recharges.

• Sweat-proof, with a three-year warranty against “failure due to the effects of perspiration.

• External microphone that can be switched on to pick up ambient noise, so that the user isn’t oblivious to traffic, for example.

• In-ear heart rate monitor and analyser.

• In-ear audio coaching.

The last is the possibly the most valuable. Specialised coaching is increasingly available via fitness bands, but rarely in an earbud package. The Sport Life companion app includes coaching, planning workouts and testing fitness levels, making it the ideal device for getting new year’s fitness resolutions on the road.

If those aren’t good enough, it is compatible with most independent fitness apps, like Strava, Runtastic and Endomondo.

Of course, excellent sound quality is a given, and it comes with an astonishing array of wingtips for a wide range of sizes. This will probably allay fears of the buds being dislodged and even getting lost. If not, there is always its wired cousin, the Jabra Sport Pulse.

  • The Elite Sports are available for R3 499 from Circuit City here.

Jabra Sport Pulse

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The Jabra Sport Pulse is not exactly the wired version of the Elite Sport, as it has a link connecting the two earpieces, but that is where the wired connecting stops: it still uses Bluetooth to connect to a smartphone. It’s also intended for fitness and running enthusiasts, but with slightly lower tech and at a somewhat lower cost.

Its most compelling features are:

• In-ear heart rate monitoring

• Sport button with voice prompts

• VO2 Max tracking, meaning it measures “maximal volume of oxygen” that the body delivers to the working muscles, and is one of the best measures of physical fitness.

•  Sweat-proof, with the same three-year warranty against “failure due to the effects of perspiration”.

• Five hours talk time.

The earphones are charged via a concealed Micro USB charging port in the one earbud, which then also charges the other bud. It also comes with a set of foam ear tips and has built-in active noise cancellation.

It’s a great option for listening to music while having a serious work-out.

  • The Jabra Pulse is available for R2 499 from Circuit City here.

House of Marley – Smile Jamaica

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Without a doubt, the coolest brand in sound equipment, House of Marley is best known for making its products from sustainable materials, and for donating a portion of the proceeds to 1Love (www.1love.org), the Marley family’s charitable foundation.

It makes beatboxes, headphones and in-ear headsets, among other audio merchandise, typically with the signature reggae colours and designs associated with Bob Marley. The earphones are the most affordable of its products, and make a great festive season gift.

The Smile Jamaica in-ear set offers the following key features:

• High-quality fabric cable.

• In-line remote with microphone and button to take or end calls, as well as pause, play and skip tracks.

• Enhanced bass.

• Great build quality for a low-cost device.

The package only includes one extra silicon ear tip, and may not be comfortable for non-average ears. For the price, though, it is as comfortable as an earphone is going to get.

There is one feature, however, that truly sets apart the Smile Jamaica earphones

they use wood in the earpieces, and it’s a wood that brings the device close to home: sapele, a sustainable African wood. The wood is combined with an aluminium cap, the better to connect to the earbud.

In short, it is economical, tough, looks good, serves a cause, and is “mindfully” made. What’s not to love?

  • Smile Jamaica earphones are available from Accessory Lab for only R279-R299 here.

Meizu EP52 Sports magnetic neckband Bluetooth earphones

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High-end Bluetooth earphones tend to be excessively expensive in South Africa, running to three to five thousand rands. As a result, the final choice in this selection is an import, via the Chinese site that is fast becoming a go-to site for South African gadget buyers, Gearbest.

The highlight of the product is the unboxing: a minimalist cover sleeve is pulled off to expose an elegant red box, which folds open to reveal a beautifully presented headset, charger holder and box of eartips to match various size requirements. Certainly, the unboxing does not add to the quality of the earphones themselves, but provides a quality experience that is then carried over to the device.

The main features of the earphones are:

• Waterproof.

• Six-hour battery life.

• Three-button remote on the arm, with microphone, to control volume and answer calls.

• Magnetic earpieces that clip together when the set is worn round the neck while not in use.

• Machined aluminium ends.

• Four extra wingtips and four eartips.

• Lightweight

The sound quality is superior to that of any earphones that come with smartphones, including Samsung or Apple variants, and includes noise cancellation.

The red cables combine with black neck rest to provide a deeply aesthetically pleasing look, making for one of the best looking earphones around for both sport and leisure.

When shopping on Gearbest, look out for discount codes or vouchers that can reduce the cost of a device by up to a third.

  • The Meizu EP52 is available from Gearbest at $89.99, excluding shipping is available here.

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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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