With P30 Pro, Huawei shows US controversy and trade war aren’t stumbling blocks

Whether you know the telecom giant because of its popular Android phones or because it’s made an enemy of the US government, you’ve probably heard the name Huawei.

This fact alone marks a big shift from even a couple of years back, when people struggled to even pronounce the name of the Chinese company — now the number two phone maker in the world behind Samsung and the world’s largest telecom equipment maker.

Huawei’s phone business has grown since then, but a dark cloud has also formed over the company. The US fears Huawei is using its phones and network equipment for spying due to its cosiness with the Chinese government. The company’s CFO is detained in Canada, awaiting extradition to the US to face charges of violating sanctions on Iran, as she increasingly looks like a pawn in a broader trade war between the US and China.

Not that you’d know any of this from attending Huawei’s P30 Pro phone launch in Paris on Tuesday. It was almost as if Huawei’s geopolitical strife didn’t exist — and given the popularity of the company’s phones, it might as well not.

Following years spent establishing its P series and Mate series as standout phones in a market crowded with impressive rivals, Huawei now has a firm track record of exciting us with its flagships.

“If you were to ask me what I thought of Huawei just five years ago, I would just say that it’s a Chinese OEM catching Apple,” said IHS Markits analyst Wayne Lam. “But ever since the P20 Pro introduced last year, I can confidently say that Huawei has surpassed Apple in terms of quality and performance of mobile photography.”

Foldable fame

This year has seen the company step up its game even further with the launch of the Mate X at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. Huawei’s entry into the foldable phones market stole the show, eclipsing even the long-awaited first slew of 5G handsets to hit the market. It’s enjoying similar success in the PC market. The Huawei X Pro, the latest top-end laptop from the company (and a dead ringer for an Apple MacBook), is winning early plaudits from reviewers.

After bringing the wow factor with the Mate X and X Pro, Huawei’s latest hope is that it will blow you away with the photographic capabilities of the Huawei P30 Pro.

In the keynote at the phone’s launch event, Huawei CEO Richard Yu walked the audience through the varied capabilities of its four cameras. He boasted of its skills in low light, its ability to capture details from a distance and the layered depth-of-field (or bokeh) effects, comparing results side-by-side against photos taken with the latest Apple and Samsung phones.

Keep your Internet connection during load-shedding #Loadshedding

Load-shedding looks like it is here to stay for some time, according to Eskom.

Being without power for eight hours a day is not an enjoyable experience, but it is often made worse by the lack of an Internet connection.

If your home ADSL or fibre connection is connected to a router and the power goes out, your Internet is gone.

With the increasing reliance on a data connection for entertainment and communication, this can prove frustrating for South Africans who are stranded in their own home with no electricity.

However, there are several ways to stay connected to the Internet during periods of load-shedding.


UPS for fixed-line

If you have a fixed-line broadband connection and your home is struck by load-shedding, you can prevent Internet downtime with a UPS or battery backup powering your router and CPE.

This does depend on your ISP and network provider, however, but most companies will have their own power backup solutions which keep their broadband products online during load-shedding.

A cheap UPS which could run your router and PC for a short period will cost you around R549. You will need a bigger unit if you are connecting multiple devices or relying on the power supply for sustained use, and larger UPSs sell for up to R5,000,

A better choice for long periods of downtime is an inverter or generator, but this is more expensive. A large home generator costs up to R8,999, while inverters sell for up to R32,000.

If you are not willing to commit to such a big purchase, you may be better off looking at a mobile solution to your Internet problems.

Mobile LTE router

One of the most useful gadgets to have when Eskom turns the lights off is a battery-powered MiFi router.

These portable routers contain a SIM card and run for ages on a single charge while delivering an LTE connection to Wi-Fi-connected devices.

Many mobile operators offer these routers along with an LTE data plan, which work out much cheaper than using standard mobile data.

This is especially true if you use a data-only provider like Rain, which bundles a MiFi router and SIM with 10 days of unlimited data for a once-off cost of R790.

While the data rates are more expensive than fixed-line broadband, a MiFi router is cheaper than using standard mobile data while also providing the advantage of a portable Wi-Fi hotspot.

Mobile tethering

A last resort in the case of load-shedding is to rely on the mobile data connection provided by your smartphone.

Many modern smartphones include support for Wi-Fi hotspot tethering, allowing them to act as hotspots for other devices to connect to.

This can be turned on in the device’s Wi-Fi settings, where users can set up an SSID.

This is the most expensive option in terms of data consumption, and if you are planning to use the Internet this way you should expect a hefty data bill.

However, this is often the fallback for many South Africans who need to send out one more email or finish one more document just as their power goes out.

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Car licence transaction fees to increase in South Africa

South Africa’s national licensing transaction fees will increase from R72 to R82, the Department of Transport has announced.

In the Government Gazette published on 8 March, transport minister Blade Nzimande announced the 14% increase in the transaction fees to be paid to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).

In terms of The RTMC Act, local registering authorities – licensing centres – must pay a transaction fee for each motorist it processes.

This car licence transaction fee is subsequently passed on to the applicant and added to the annual licence fee.

While this fee is separate from the actual licence fee, the R82 is effectively added to the renewal costs for all motor vehicle licences across the country.

The latest increase follows a R30 increase last year. In February 2018, the fee increased from R42 to R72.

This increase will affect all South African motorists, with the licensing fee differing from province to province – dependent on the size and weight of your vehicle.

In the Western Cape, a motorcyclist can expect to pay R192 for a new licence, while motorists can pay anywhere between R288 to R966.

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NASA busts out untouched moon rocks for study

The Apollo missions to the moon didn’t come back empty-handed. NASAastronauts carried samples of the moon back to Earth. Now untouched pieces of the moon will pass into the hands of today’s scientists after spending nearly 50 years in storage.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the lunar sample studies in a speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday. It was a combination of a pep rally for NASA’s proposed 2020 budget and a review of the space agency’s future mission plans, which includes returning astronauts to the moon.

“I would like to thank the Apollo generation for preserving these samples so that our generation could have this opportunity,” said Bridenstine.

NASA selected nine teams to investigate the samples, which were gathered during the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions. Those groups come from within NASA as well as the University of Arizona, University of California Berkeley, US Naval Research Laboratory, Mount Holyoke College and the University of New Mexico.

The teams will look into topics as diverse as space weathering, the geologic history of the Apollo 17 site and volcanic activity on the moon. The teams will work with NASA experts to decide on the best way to open the samples in order to avoid contamination.

A sample from the 1972 Apollo 17 mission is particularly fascinating. It consists of 1.8 pounds (800 grams) of material enclosed in a tube that was pounded into moon. This will give researchers a good look at the layers below the surface. Some of the other samples were kept frozen or stored in helium.

“These samples were deliberately saved so we can take advantage of today’s more advanced and sophisticated technology to answer questions we didn’t know we needed to ask,” said NASA’s Lori Glaze.

Bridenstine says NASA felt confident in studying these samples since the space agency expects to be able to gather fresh moon rocks in the near future.

Taylor Swift doles out sage social media advice in essay for Elle

ome days social media is a laugh-a-minute whirlwind punctuated by puppy gifs, travel inspo and meme exchanges with your best online friends.

Some days it is hell.

It’s something global superstar Taylor Swift knows all too well.

In an essay on turning 30 for the latest edition of Elle magazine, Swift opens up about how she copes with the massive amount of noise directed at her through social media platforms, and specifically how she deals with negative comments and trolls.

It’s unlikely that any regular human being gets anything like the influx of notifications or comments that celebrities deal with. But as Swift explains, minimizing this is more than just about keeping the constant pinging to a minimum.

“Social media can be great, but it can also inundate your brain with images of what you aren’t, how you’re failing, or who is in a cooler locale than you at any given moment,” she said in the essay.

“One thing I do to lessen this weird insecurity laser beam is to turn off comments. Yes, I keep comments off on my posts. That way, I’m showing my friends and fans updates on my life, but I’m training my brain to not need the validation of someone telling me I look.”

The question of how much of our ego and self-worth is tied up in validation from social media is relatable no matter how many, or how few followers, you might have. Whether you turn off comments and notifications or delete apps altogether for a while, everyone has their own way of getting a handle on those negative feelings — Swift included.“I think it’s healthy for your self-esteem to need less internet praise to appease it, especially when three comments down you could unwittingly see someone telling you that you look like a weasel that got hit by a truck and stitched back together by a drunk taxidermist. An actual comment I received once,” she said.

For Swift, a successful woman, abuse and negativity are sad and still unavoidable side effects of putting herself out there. Keeping comments turned off is one way to block out “anyone who might feel the need to tell me to ‘go die in a hole ho’ while I’m having my coffee at nine in the morning,” she said.

Swift is in the top 10 most-followed people across multiple platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. But for the reasons she herself has stated, it’s rare to see her engage with people directly through any of these services. Instead she tends to hang out on Tumblr, where she follows many of her fans. She often likes and sometimes comments on or reblogs their posts.

But there have been times when Swift has disappeared from the internet altogether. In her essay, she described what it feels like when it feels like the internet turns completely against you.

“A few years ago, someone started an online hate campaign by calling me a snake on the internet,” she said. “The fact that so many people jumped on board with it led me to feeling lower than I’ve ever felt in my life, but I can’t tell you how hard I had to keep from laughing every time my 63-foot inflatable cobra named Karyn appeared onstage in front of 60,000 screaming fans.”

Unlike the other measures suggested by Swift, this might not be a practical solution for everyone dealing with internet bullying. But the point is to take a stand and make a statement in a way that allows you to laugh rather than feel bad about yourself.

“It’s the Stadium Tour equivalent of responding to a troll’s hateful Instagram comment with ‘lol,'” she said.

Benefits of Microsoft’s new data centres in South Africa

Microsoft South Africa announced today that it has launched enterprise-grade data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The data centres will allows customers to access the company’s Azure cloud services, with more offerings coming later this year.

At an event led by MD of Microsoft South Africa Lillian Barnard and Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president of Azure Networking at Microsoft, the company said its data centres in South Africa put the country among key global regions.

“These are the first hyperscale data centres on the continent,” said Khalidi, adding that this launch is only “the tip of the iceberg” for the country.

The launch comes after Microsoft announced in 2017 that it would open data centres for its Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics 365 services locally.

These data centres were expected to be installed in Johannesburg and Cape Town in 2018, but Microsoft failed to complete the project on time.

The details

Speaking to MyBroadband, Khalidi said Microsoft does not disclose how much it spends on its data centres, but that the investment is part of a multi-million dollar play in the country.

When asked about where Microsoft’s data centres are located, and whether they had partnered with providers like Teraco or Internet Solutions, Khalidi said this information is confidential due to security and privacy standards which must be maintained.

The quality of the service, however, is guaranteed – with the SLA it gives clients Microsoft’s responsibility.

“We may have to lease a component or buy a component, but the end result and the level of quality is what we manage,” said Khalidi.

In terms of Microsoft’s cloud services, Khalidi said a wide range of Azure products are available from today.

Office 365 and Dynamics 365 services are then set to launch in Q3 and Q4 of 2019 respectively.

Latency

One of the benefits of Microsoft’s local data centres is that latency for users is massively improved.

“To get to Europe from here is 150ms on a good day, assuming you do not have congestion. Locally, it will depend on which ISP you use, but it is in the tens,” said Khalidi.

This is thanks, in part, to extensive peering agreements Microsoft has with local partners. “We probably have the highest number of anyone,” he said.

Barnard added that the cloud services Microsoft will deliver are secure and resilient – and will meet all local compliance standards.

“This footprint will not only service this country, but Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, and Angola. We are the first hyperscale cloud provider available right now on the continent,” said Barnard.

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