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Soweto ready to get unwired

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The Soweto Wireless User Group (SOWUG) will go live this month, offering opportunities for local developers to produce content, which will be hosted locally, reducing international costs and stimulating local emerging online services.|The Soweto Wireless User Group (SOWUG) will go live this month, offering opportunities for local developers to produce content, which will be hosted locally, reducing international costs and stimulating local emerging online services.

The Soweto Wireless User Group (SOWUG) says it will go live this month, and it is partly thanks to critical support received from Africa’s only vendor neutral data centre, Teraco. SOWUG is a registered Non-Profit Organisation that provides free wireless to residents of Soweto. It forms part of a number of development projects facilitated by The Foundation for Internet Development (FID), which was formed by ZACR (formerly UniForum SA), ISPA, WAPA and ISOC-ZA to provide a mechanism for ICT industry players to make a meaningful contribution in terms of Enterprise Development, but do not have the capacity, nor the platform to do so themselves.

SOWUG founder, Jabulani Vilakazi says that Teraco’s donation has played a significant role in the formation and launch of the SOWUG: “Teraco’s Joburg data centre is where backhaul fibre and Internet breakout aggregate. Access to this kind of world-class infrastructure enables network peering with the likes of NAPAfrica, Africa’s largest Internet eXchange point. This is a fundamental element that reduces the cost of local bandwidth to users and makes what we are trying to do possible.”

The purpose of FID is to consolidate the Enterprise Development efforts of the ICT industry. Vilakazi says that Teraco took the initiative and supported FID by offering to host SOWUG as part of its Enterprise and Supplier Development Initiative: “They provided cabinet space and power, connecting us to what is most definitely a global standard data centre. As an NGO we could never afford this high level infrastructure.”

He says that what is more significant is that SOWUG’s presence in Teraco will provide opportunities for local developers to produce content, which will be hosted locally, reducing international transit costs and stimulating local emerging online services: “The locally hosted content can either be cached or stored in servers and because we have access to the last mile, we can deliver content closer to the end user, minimising the distance that video data travels over the general Internet, and ultimately deliver it more quickly and reliably.”

Lex van Wyk, CEO, Teraco says that the SOWUG concept is exactly what needs to be happening in and around South Africa: “Access to information is critical and keeping content local is even more significant.  We are privileged to be working with SOWUG and remain committed to help achieve its goal of providing access to information to all residents in and around Soweto.”

Vilakazi says that when visiting Teraco, the team was impressed by its world-class infrastructure: “We were also excited to learn that the Netherlands (AMS-IX) and London (LINX) have partnered with Teraco. This together with its Internet exchange point, NAPAfrica, opens SOWUG to content from global content providers such as YouTube and Facebook. We are also hoping to learn more data centre skills, which will enhance Internet usage and improve the existing access infrastructure,” says Vilakazi.

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The myths of microwaves

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We all know microwaves make cooking a breeze and it helps save those minutes, we rarely have enough of these days. However, some people do have those lingering doubts about whether microwaving food destroys nutrients or that it emits harmful radiation. However, the truth is a lot more comforting and positive.

“The microwave makes life so much easier,” says Tracy Gordon, Head of Product – Home Appliances at Samsung South Africa. “It’s human-centred technology at its most helpful. The Samsung Hotblast for example, has revolutionary functions, which are tailor-made to create fast, tasty and healthy meals in minutes.”

A recent article by Harvard Health Publishingclaims stated that “microwave ovens cook food using waves of energy that are remarkably selective, primarily affecting water and other molecules that are electrically asymmetrical. Microwaves cause these molecules to vibrate and quickly build up thermal (heat) energy.” The article debunks two common myths about microwaving food.

Myth 1: Microwaving kills nutrients

Whether in a microwave or a regular oven, some nutrients, including vitamin C, do break down when exposed to heat. However, the fact is, cooking with a microwave might be better when it comes to preserving nutrients because it takes a shorter time to cook. Additionally, as far as vegetables go, cooking them in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients seep out into the cooking water,” states the report by Harvard Health Publishing. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), food cooked in a microwave oven is as safe and has the same nutrient value, as food cooked in a conventional oven.

Myth 2: Microwaving food can give you cancer

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that microwaves do not make food radioactive. Microwaves heat food but they do not change the chemical or molecular structure of it. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that microwaves pose a health risk to people when used appropriately, the organisation added.

With those myths well busted, it’s comforting to know one can make full use of the convenient kitchen appliance. And when the time comes to use a microwave to heat up a tasty meal in no time, one can trust the Samsung Hotblast to do the job. The HotBlast has multiple air holes blowing out powerful hot air, which reduces cooking time. Samsung claims the Slim Fry technology ensures that food is perfectly crisp on the outside and delicious and juicy on the inside. Additionally, this versatile microwave has a wider grill, making it easier to brown food fast and evenly. The turntable is wider, measuring 345mm, making it possible to prepare bigger portions of food. And with its Eco Mode power, it significantly reduces energy consumption with its low standby power. Its intelligent features and stylish design makes it very useful and as we now know – a safe, healthy way to enjoy a meal.

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New BMW 3-series ushers in autonomous future

The new BMW 3-series is not meant to be an autonomous car, but it is so close, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers.

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It was not meant to be a test-drive of an autonomous vehicle. But the Driving Assist button on the steering wheel of the new BMW 330i was just too tempting. And there I found myself, on Sir Lowry’s Pass near Cape Town, “driving” with my arms folded while the vehicle negotiated curves on its own.

Every 10 seconds or so, yellow or red lights flashed to alert me to put my hands back on the wheel. The yellow lights meant the car wanted me to put my hands on the wheel, just to show that I was in control. The red lights meant that I had to take over control from the artificial intelligence built into the vehicle.

With co-driver Ernest Page, we negotiated a major highway, the bends of Sir Lowry’s pass, and the passes of Hell’s Heights (Hel se Hoogte) above the Cape Winelands.

As the above video of the experience reveals, it can be nerve-racking for someone who hasn’t experienced autonomous driving, or hasn’t been dreaming of testing it for many years. For this driver, it was exhilarating. Not because the car performed so magnificently, but because it tells us just how close true autonomous driving really is.

There was one nervous moment when the autonomous – or rather, Driving Assist – mode disengaged on Hell’s Heights, but fear not. A powerful sense of responsibility prevailed, and my hands hovered over the steering wheel as it took the curve. Assist disengaged, and the car began to veer towards the other side of the road. I quickly took over, and also sobered up from the giddiness of thinking I was already in the future.

In reality, Driving Assist is part of level 2 of driving autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. A presentation on the evening of the test drive, by Edward Makwana, manager of group product communications at BMW Group in South Africa, summed up the five stages as the driver having Feet Off, Hands Off, Eyes Off, Mind off, and finally, only being a Passenger.

However, the extent to which the hands-off mode of Driving Assist mimics self-driving, and easily shows the way to eyes-off and mind-off, is astonishing.

Click here to read about the components that make the Driving Assist work.

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