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iOS 12: What to expect

Apple this week announced iOS 12, bringing with it improved apps and promises of performance improvement on older devices, writes BRYAN TURNER.

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose this week promised to make up for two years of underwhelming updates to iOS. 

The event was intended to give developers insight into the capabilities of the new version of Apple’s iOS, and what they can harness before the official release in September. Developers have access to the first iOS 12 beta now, while everyone else has access to the public beta at the end of the month. While this public beta might be tempting to install, Apple is notorious for releasing extremely buggy public beta versions of iOS which are not suitable if iPhone is your daily driver.

iOS 10 and 11 often introduced more bugs and performance issues than useful features and improvements. iOS 12 has been unveiled as the better version of iOS, which deals with these known issues and improves performance on the older iPhone and iPad models. This promise was solidified by offering the upgrade to every iOS device that runs iOS 11, which means that every iPhone from the iPhone 5S onwards can be upgraded. 

The performance upgrades were announced by using the 2014 iPhone 6 Plus as an example of an older device. Compared to iOS 11, iOS 12 is claimed to launch apps up to 40% faster, the keyboard displays up to 50% faster when requested, and the camera launches up to 70% faster from the lock-screen shortcut.

The only new iOS feature is grouped notifications. Users can group notifications by person or app if the person or app creates too many notifications on the iOS device. This feature has been a long time coming and has been a feature in Android since 2014.

True to its promise to jpin the fight against phone addiction, Apple introduced a new health app that doesn’t require any additional technology. The Digital Health Dashboard provides insights into how many times one picks up one’s phone, how much time one spends on particular apps and provides warnings when one is using an app too much. It can also be used by parents to monitor iPhone or iPad app time usage and block apps after a certain amount of time spent on them. 

For example, if you feel Instagram wastes a lot of time, you can prescribe an hour a day and no more than that. iOS will warn you when you have 5 minutes left to use it.

Animoji, the facial-tracking emoji videos on the iPhone X, has been improved by introducing tongue recognition. A new extension of Animoji called Memoji allows users to create virtual avatar-style emojis to use as an Animoji. This is clearly following in the footsteps of Samsung’s facial tracking AR Emoji.

Siri gets an update but not as great as one would expect. Siri Shortcuts is a new feature which allows users to create recipes for phrases, similar to the IFTTT app, which can be used to execute multiple actions. For example, one can create a Siri Shortcut to the phrase “I’m coming home” to turn on a smart home heater, begin boiling a smart home kettle, find the fastest route home in the Map app and start playing a favourite radio station via CarPlay.

CarPlay gets an upgrade, with the integration of third-party map apps like Waze and Google Maps. A great step forward in the direction of a great smart car experience with the iPhone.

Group FaceTime, a highly anticipated feature, has finally been made a reality. The update will bring the capability to host 32 participant FaceTime calls, with a promise of similar clarity to traditional 2-participant FaceTime calls.

AR Kit has also been improved and iPhones which support AR will receive an app called Measure. It allows a user to measure a line on any surface and get the length of a real-world object, without the need for a ruler. 

Finally, the Photos app receives smarter features, allowing users to share photos from events with everyone who was at the event, using the facial recognition software built into the app. The redesign makes the Photos app more user-friendly and provides the users with a glance at what happened a year ago and groups notable events. This brings the Apple Photos app closer to the powerful Google Photos app.

Overall, iOS 12 shouldn’t be anticipated for its new features but rather for its performance upgrades. This announcement has shown that Apple cares about its customers.

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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