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How open-source became a corporate staple

Not only has open-source software has grown rapidly in recent years, but businesses using open solutions are well ahead of the competition, BRYAN TURNER learns from Red Hat

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Many of the best technologies we are using now have open source components. Using Facebook? It’s mostly built on open-source software. Using Android? That’s built on Linux, an open-source operating system. In fact, Huawei may soon be forced to use a fully open-source version of Android on their latest devices. Even this article is brought to you by the power of strong open-source web software. There is a great deal of power in open-source software, but it wasn’t always as mainstream as it was today.

A few years back, many IT decision-makers at large businesses would have looked at open source software with scepticism, because: how can something that’s been developed by so many people be safe and stable? Most wouldn’t even consider an open solution.

Now, having an open-source platform at the business’s disposal is a huge advantage that many IT decision-makers fully understand. With so many open-source startups having track records of doing well, it just makes sense to use open source solutions. When IBM acquired the well-established Red Hat for $32-billion, over 3 times its market cap at the time, the industry realised open-source was the new methodology to adapt for a rapidly growing business.

However, it’s still natural to have questions about the security and stability of open source solutions. That’s why we spoke to Lee Miles, vice-president of the Central Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) region for Red Hat, to break down where open source solutions and platforms are at, and why businesses – large and small – are using them.

“Enterprises are far more willing to use open source solutions than before,” says Miles. “Developers are naturally more open to using open source solutions and, when you look at any one of the top five topics of transformation strategy, cybersecurity is one of them. Open source is definitely at the forefront of cybersecurity.

“[Securing multi-platform environments] is one of the strengths of open source. It’s always been in a position to be able to interact with other vendors so, even today, where we have the infrastructure elements of our platform, they will all work with proprietary and open-source solutions seamlessly. Actually, we don’t even see cybersecurity being the real challenge here. The real challenge is making sure that our customers are using the solutions to the fullest extent, because such a wealth of development has gone into these solutions, and many companies are still struggling with the legacy of what they had.

“It’s really about being able to modernise that and then bring that to something that is useful for us as consumers. When talking about cybersecurity specifically, I think it’s building those solutions that give people the comfort and the protection that they need.”

It’s not just cybersecurity that open-source platforms improve, says Miles, because it enables other players to join an existing traditional market and scale quickly.

“For example, the banks are under threat from everybody. So it’s not just other banking institutions that can provide banking services, supermarkets can provide financial services and there are many other industries that are now tapping into being able to provide those services. To react to that, the banks need to modernise and adapt very quickly. That becomes very difficult when you’ve got large legacy applications and systems behind you, but we find they’re decoupling, so it’s not a matter of having to say ‘I’m going to lift and shift this huge environment’.

“It’s ‘I can actually break the environment off a little bit’ so we’re seeing they take parts of innovation, they’re building new capabilities and new services for consumers, and then they’re using open banking technology or they’re using API technology to better make that work with their legacy systems. So the crushing need to move all that legacy is not necessarily there, because we can combine both areas; we can move it over time. But there’s no panic to be able to move away from the legacy that works well, because we can build new at the same time as we can manage the old.”

One of the biggest factors of open source development is the skillset available in the labour market to implement open source platforms and software.

“We have five times as many universities available in the last 18 months to be able to provide Red Hat skills courses. We have our training programmes themselves and the subscriptions we provide for people to be able to learn Red Hat solutions. That’s increased tenfold in the last two years. But actually, if you look at the projects, Africa is a huge contribution to those projects already, so you know a lot of the development cycles are coming from within Africa – as many as there are with other continents.

“When those developers want to move into either corporate environments or mainstream roles, then there’s a certification they can take at the end of it. We’re trying to ramp up a little bit in terms of being able to provide an environment to certify, but I think a lot of the skills from open source are already here, and you’ll find a lot of the developers are already well entrenched with the open-source movement.”

The bottom line: Open-source tech is steadily taking over the business environment , and those who aren’t adopting some open-source solutions and platforms now may find themselves left behind.

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Huawei Mate Xs foldable goes beyond design

The new foldable handset from Huawei ups the game with great performance and improved hinge design, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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“Falcon Wing Design.” Run those words over your tongue. It sounds cool, it looks cool and it feels cool. And it sums up the high-tech engineering that will make the new foldable handset from Huawei a formidable competitor in this fast-growing segment.

But it is not only design that sets the new Huawei Mate Xs apart. Unlike its predecessor, the Mate X, the device runs on EMUI10.0.1, an operating system based on Android Open Source Project. The software is based on Google’s mobile operating system, but is not affected by the United States government ban on Huawei using American technology. That means the phone operates like an Android 10 phone, but does not run Google Mobile Services (GMS), which includes the Play Store and its automatically updated apps.

Instead, it uses Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), which replaces the likes of Google Assistant with Huawei Assistant, and allows services like Gmail to run on top of a built-in email service. It allows browser-based versions of any Google service, like YouTube, to be accessed via an on-board browser,  and includes workarounds for various other commonly used Google apps.

At first sight, one gets the sense that HMS and EMUI10.0.1 will quickly teach users that they are not as heavily dependent on Google apps as they may have imagined. Our first half hour spent on the phone suggested very little commonplace functionality that was not easily available. On a personal level, once Gmail is sorted for me, my apps needs are highly specific, rather than being dictated by an ecosystem – whether HMS or GMS.

But let’s get back to the Falcon Wing design. It was first used on the origjnal Mate X, but the new version, which features more than 100 interlocking parts, is made with a zirconium-based liquid metal, resulting in a hinge that is both more durable and provides a more satisfying 180-degree fold.

@arr2gee

#Huawei’s new foldable #smartphone is our. Check out the #MateXs in folding action #foryou

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The flexible display uses a two-layer polymer structure, manufactured by adhering two layers of aerospace-grade polyimide with an optically clear adhesive. This, says Huawei, allows the display to produce great image quality, colour saturation and brightness while retaining a high degree of durability. 

In folded mode, the Mate Xs is a dual-screen smartphone, with a 6.6-inch main screen on the front and a 6.38-inch secondary screen on the back. The secondary screen folds into an edge which serves as a grip when the device unfolds into an 8-inch tablet.

Unfolded, the Xs comes into its own. It offers Multi-screen Collaboration, which Huawei says “breaks down the boundaries between Windows and Android devices”. This means that it allows content to be moved easily between supported devices, and can allow two systems to be controlled from one device.

The phone also provides seamless Multi-window support, allowing two apps to be opened side by side, with a third one “floating” on top, and allowing content to be dragged between the apps – including text, images and documents. The Floating Window can be used to respond to instant messaging, for example, without closing the other apps.

Talking of apps, the Mate Xs debuts a revamped AppGallery, which Huawei intends to develop as a replacement for the Google Play Store. The company would, of course, want to suggest that it is a superior option, but that could take a few years more.

Read more on the next page about the cameras on the Mate Xs, along with the device specs.

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Surviving tax season: An accountant’s tech guide

As we approach the February tax-year deadline, Xero SA country manager COLIN TIMMIS offers tech tips for tackling the number-crunching

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We’re approaching the end of February, which means it’s officially coming to the end of the tax and financial year. It’s a difficult time for accountants and businesses as admin piles up, and task lists get longer by the day. And to top it all off, it’s summer too.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be a time drain. Research from Xero found that accountants can save up to 15 hours a week by using cloud accounting. That’s an average of 54 hours per month or 27 days – an entire annual holiday allowance, plus change. When respondents were asked what they would do with this spare time, of those who chose non-work related activities, 30% would spend more time with family, while 22% selected more time at the beach.

Together with Simon Magner, Xero partner and Director of Iridium Business Solutions, we’ve come up with a checklist to help accountants and small businesses prepare for this busy time.

Ensure your bookkeeping is up to date

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your bookkeeping is accurate and up to date. You don’t want to be scrambling for the information that you need at the last minute – doing the legwork to make sure all the data is ready will pay off in dividends when you come to generating the year-end report.

Check employee data

Remember that your employee data needs to be up to date, and it isn’t up to your employees to sort this out. If it’s not your responsibility to collect this data, warn the relevant people about the year-end in advance. You’ll need to gather all information on payroll and bonuses, while also collecting all receipts for expenses.

Use technology to help you

Admin-heavy work like invoicing, transaction imports, reconciliation, payments – and more – are time-consuming. Even though software can do all these tasks, they’re often done manually by accountants and business owners – which means there is more room for human error. Xero research reflects this too – a quarter of accounting and finance professionals said they could work smarter if they spent fewer hours on administrative tasks.

Having up to date records in real time using cloud accounting software allows you to make better business decisions in terms of your tax position and avoid any costly mistakes.

Don’t let the leap year fool you

Even though 2020 is a leap year, the last working day is the 28th of February – so don’t think you can file your return on the 29th. On that note, don’t leave it until the 28th, either – just in case issues pop up at SARS on the last filing day of the tax year.

Use previous data to guide you

Remember to use past data to inform your current return. Last year’s assessed profit should be used as a starting point to determine the minimum tax you should be paying as a business. And remember, if you made an assessed loss in prior years you could deduct it against the current year’s profits.

When experienced accounting professionals and business owners have to spend time inputting data, processing reports, and scrutinising invoices, they can’t work on strategy, pursue new business or developing client relationships. If accountants want to spend some time away from their desks during tax season, they need to invest in the right processes. It will save them time, energy and costly mistakes.

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