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Wits marks 25 years of SA Internet

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Next week is Wits Internet Week, and during that week various speakers will look back on what key events helped shape the history of the Internet in South Africa, how its progress has been and what the future holds.

We are rapidly approaching the next milestone for the Internet in South Africa, a mere 16 months away now, 25-years of the Internet on 12 November 2016. What are our memories of the early days, what are the key events that shaped the history of the Internet in South Africa, has progress in connecting South Africans been fast or slow, what are the successes and failures, what can we learn from the past and how can we build the future Internet? These questions will be considered by a number of speakers and debated by participants. Speakers include William Stucke (ICASA Councillor 2009 – 2014), Mike Lawrie (Internet pioneer), Nkateko Nyoka (Head of Regulatory Division, Vodacom), Pria Chetty (EndCode), Ant Brooks (ISPA), Ntsibane Ntlatlapa (CSIR Meraka), Duncan Martin (ZA Central Registry), Peter Knight (Fernand Braudel Institute, Brazil), Adrian Shofield (JCSE) and Luci Abrahams (LINK Centre).

This public seminar is part of Wits Internet Week 2015 and has been developed as part of the research project on the history of the Internet in South Africa commissioned by the ZA Central Registry. All are welcome including practitioners from the electronic communications sector; practitioners, advocates and innovators from the main user sectors such as policymakers, the sector regulator, media, banking and finance, travel and tourism, education and health, government departments, researchers and postgraduate students.

The Internet is the most important medium promoting digital transformation of society and the economy, reshaping trade, commerce and social services. As more and more South Africans join the mobile Internet, access online content at public Wi-Fi spots and communicate across the country, the continent and the globe, new questions, challenges and public debates arise relating to costs and benefits, access and the digital divide, Gigabit Internet in fibrehoods, cybersecurity and harmful content. Come and participate in the discussions towards 25 years of the Internet in South Africa.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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