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Notebook purchasing needn’t be rocket-science‚Ķ

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When consumers make the decision to purchase a new notebook, a number of thoughts probably go through their heads. Key questions relating to what they know about the different notebook providers, what they want to do with that notebook and quite possibly what colour their ideal notebook should be are just a few. But in that hit-list, there is no reference as to what needs to be under the bonnet.

Traditionally, it was the remit of well-informed technology experts to buy PCs and notebooks. They would take their new PC home, open it up, have a tinker inside and then rebuild it. Ultimately, this would be the number one hobby for ‚techies’. They found it easy and enjoyable to review the different technology options that affect a computer’s speed, look and performance. Until recently the PC market was built around technology as a differentiator.

The market today, however, is very different and notebooks, in particular, are now high on the list of a consumer’s ‚must have‚ items. A wide range of home and family uses of the Internet has been one factor that has taken PCs and notebooks from just the ‚techy’ market into private homes. As well as surfing, many consumers are actively engaged in the creation of online content ‚ be it video, music or status updates and posts on social networking sites. Or they edit their own videos and digital photos. There has also been a rise in casual gaming with more and more people using their notebooks for gaming entertainment.

To help to illustrate this shift, in 2000, notebooks made up only 25 per cent of the entire PC market: today the figure is 56 per cent ‚ with the trend growing each year, confirming that notebooks have made it into the mainstream.*

So what does this mean? Well, the potential customer base is certainly no longer restricted to hobby ‚techy’ enthusiasts. Rather, it is people, like you, me or even my mother with no specialist understanding of the technology, who are now buying these must-have accessories. To be completely honest, many consumers just aren’t interested in what’s going on inside their laptops but they do want it to look good and do the job it is bought for. The technology needs to perform our tasks, and everything else ‚ apart from the price ‚ is immaterial. We are a new generation of notebook buyers who want our brand-new laptop to perform those tasks that are important to us, be it quick emailing, speedy Internet browsing or editing our home made videos and pictures.

Today, communications between the industry and consumers tends to be highly technical ‚ almost as if it were still one expert speaking to another. What’s more, the communications, can at times, fail to distinguish at all between the different customer groups. Students are approached with the same messages, motifs and suggestions as housewives, yet students and housewives are likely to perform different ‚duties’ on their laptops so will need different advice as to which notebook is for them. This is when we come to rely on sales people in stores to enlighten us. However, even our local friendly salesmen are often overloaded with information. This makes it hard for them to steer away from the ‚tech spec’ to advise the customer on what notebook they need based on their usage.

That said, buying a notebook will probably never be possible without some emphasis on technology. But the few genuinely important criteria are easy to take on board. Here is a no-nonsense guide to help you ask yourself the right questions:

– Do I want a good-looking laptop? Notebooks come in various colours and with patterned surfaces. The eyes have it when it comes to purchases. This may sound superficial but it can be important. Everyone wants a nice-looking, sleek laptop to carry around.

– Do I want long battery life? If the notebook is regularly being used away from a main power supply, then long battery life is important.

– Is it heavy? When on the move, low weight and compact dimensions pay off.

– Does speed matter? If the notebook is intended to be used to cut videos or play back HD TV, to edit large-size digital photos or handle 3D gaming, then the processor (or CPU for all you ‚techies’) can never be too fast.

– Do I care about graphics? Without a high-performance graphics chip, you can forget about 3D gaming. The ideal is what are called hybrid notebooks, with two on-board graphics chips. Depending on the demands on the machine, the high-performance or the regular chip is selected. Using the regular chip helps extend battery life.

So, what have we learnt about buying your next notebook? Well, the notebook market has changed rather dramatically as have consumer buying habits. This has resulted in more people buying laptops but we must first be clear about what we use it for. Therefore, it is important that you think about what you want from your laptop in order to make the correct decision when purchasing.

The five golden questions you must ALWAYS ask

1. What purpose does the equipment need to satisfy? Am I simply looking to surf the internet and write e-mails?

2. Is editing digital photos important to me? Or even editing my own videos?

3. Does the notebook need to handle the demands of modern 3D games?

4. Does the laptop look good, and how much am i prepared to spend on it?

5. Do I want to be using the equipment a lot whilst on the move? Or will it mainly be at home on the living-room or dining-room table and connected to a power supply?

*Stats taken from from IDC (PC Tracker)

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Prepare for deepfake impact

Is the world as we know it ready for the real impact of deepfake? CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO at ESET SA, digs deeper

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Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming easier and quicker to create and it’s opening a door into a new form of cybercrime. Although it’s still mostly seen as relatively harmful or even humorous, this craze could take a more sinister turn in the future and be at the heart of political scandals, cybercrime, or even unimaginable concepts involving fake videos. And it won’t be just public figures that bear the brunt. 

deepfake is the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence to create fake content either from scratch or using existing video designed to replicate the look and sound of a real human. Such videos can look incredibly real and currently many of these videos involve celebrities or public figures saying something outrageous or untrue.

New research shows a huge increase in the creation of deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months alone. Deepfakes are increasing in quality at a swift rate, too. This video showing Bill Hader morphing effortlessly between Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan is just one example of how authentic these videos are looking, as well as sounding. If you search YouTube for the term ‘deepfake’ it will make you realise we are viewing the tip of the iceberg as to what is to come.

In fact, we have already seen deepfake technology used for fraud, where a deepfaked voice was reportedly used to scam a CEO out of a large sum of cash. It is believed the CEO of an unnamed UK firm thought he was on the phone to his boss and followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 (roughly US$244,000) to a Hungarian supplier’s bank account. If it was this easy to influence someone by just asking them to do it over the phone, then surely we will need better security in place to mitigate this threat.

Fooling the naked eye

We have also seen apps making DeepNudes where apps were able to turn any clothed person into a topless photo in seconds. Although, luckily, this particular app has now been taken offline, what if this comes back in another form with a vengeance and is able to create convincingly authentic-looking video?

There is also evidence that the production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business especially in the pornography industry. The BBC says “96% of these videos are of female celebrities having their likenesses swapped into sexually explicit videos – without their knowledge or consent”.

recent Californian bill has taken a leap of faith and made it illegal to create a pornographic deepfake of someone without their consent with a penalty of up to $150,000. But chances are that no legislation will be enough to deter some people from fabricating the videos.

To be sure, an article from The Economist discusses that in order to make a convincing enough deepfake you would need a serious amount of video footage and/or voice recordings in order to make even a short deepfake clip.

Having said that, In the not-too-distant future, it may be entirely possible to take just a few short Instagram stories to create a deepfake that is believed by the majority of their followers online or by anyone else who knows them. We may see some unimaginable videos appearing of people closer to home – the boss, our colleagues, our peers, our family. Additionally, deepfakes may also be used for bullying in schools, the office or even further afield.

Furthermore, cybercriminals will definitely use such technology to spearphish victims. Deepfakes keep getting cheaper to create and become near-impossible to detect with the human eye alone. As a result, alt that fakery could very easily muddy the water between fact and fiction, which in turn could force us to not trust anything – even when presented with what our senses are telling us to believe.

Heading off the very real threat

So, what can be done to prepare us for this threat? First, we need to better educate people that deepfakes exist, how they work and the potential damage they can cause. We will all need to learn to treat even the most realistic videos we see that they could be a total fabrication.

Secondly, technology desperately needs to develop better detection of deepfakes. There is already research going into it, but it’s nowhere near where it should be yet. Although machine learning is at the heart of creating them in the first place, there needs to be something in place that acts as the antidote being able to detect them without relying on human eyes alone.

Finally, social media platforms need to realize there is a huge potential threat with the impact of deepfakes because when you mix a shocking video with social media, the outcome tends to spread very rapidly and potentially could have a detrimental impact on society.

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A career in data science – or your money back

The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees

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The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa. 

Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place.  The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT. 

The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.

“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.

Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.

 “There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.  

“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”

The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate. 

“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.

EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.  

In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course.  In year two, this number increased to 400.  

“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.

“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”

There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55. 

“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.

To find out more, visit  http://www.explore-datascience.net.

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