Edited by Neo Sesinye for IT News Africa

Popular Facebook-owned chat service WhatsApp has updated its iOS app, on Tuesday, 05 February with support for biometric authentication, allowing users to ‘lock’ the app with Face ID or Touch ID.

To activate the new feature, you’ll need to head to the settings inside the app, then hit “account,” “privacy,” and “screen lock.”

There, you can choose to activate Face ID or Touch ID, though of course the available option will depend on your model of iPhone — Touch ID exists on the iPhone 5S through to the iPhone 8 / 8 Plus. Face ID replaced Touch ID from the iPhone X onward.

Once the feature is activated, you can stipulate if you prefer Face ID or Touch ID used immediately or after 1 minute, 15 minutes, or 60 minutes of inactivity.

Interestingly, WhatsApp hasn’t added the option to add a separate passcode and users will have to rely on biometrics like Touch ID or Face ID only which is used to lock the iPhone or iPad.

Previously, WhatsApp made headlines when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that merging Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram would create a safer experience. He compared the possible merging of the services to iMessage.

Allowing users to lock down WhatsApp behind a biometric authentication system could certainly help that broader mission, and it seems the company is preparing something similar for its Android app, as evidenced by a beta build that recently emerged.

Google poured billions into its business in 2018

By Julie Bort for Business Insider US

Google doubled its capital expenditure spending in 2018 to R344-billion, which included spending on offices and tech infrastructure.

Its cloud unit also got the lion’s share of new hires in the quarter, the CFO of parent company Alphabet said.

Google’s cloud computing efforts were a mixed bag in 2018 but the company on Monday said that it invested heavily in 2018, and will continue do so in 2019, albeit maybe not at the same pace.

During its year-end earnings report on Monday, Google revealed that it doubled its capital expenditures in 2018, to R344-billion, up from R168-billion in 2017. The hefty spending went towards everything from new office facilities to accommodate Google’s growing workforce to bolstering its infrastructure such as datacenters and servers.

It’s tough to say exactly who much of that capex went towards Google’s cloud business specifically, but the company has made it clear that investing in the cloud is a priority. Google said it launched its 18th Google Cloud region in the fourth quarter and pointed to plans for continued expansion in the US and abroad.

In comparison, Amazon spent R151-billion cash on capex in 2018, split between fulfillment operations (like warehouses) and AWS, it said. And Microsoft said it spent R214-billion.

Google also hired madly for its cloud unit, with more than 4 000 new hires in the final three months of the year. “The most sizeable increases were in cloud, for both technical and sales roles,” Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said during the conference call.

Porat noted that spending on talent and equipment will continue in 2029, though the pace will cool off compared to 2018. Capex, she said, will “moderate quite significantly.”

How does Google’s cloud business compare?
Google is spending to catch up. Revenue from its cloud business lags Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, although Google does likely have a multibillion cloud business. It’s a bit tough to tell because Google doesn’t break out cloud revenue. It lumps it in its “other” category which also includes the revenue it makes from its Google play app store and its hardware devices like Google Home.

That “other revenue” category was R8-billion in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from just under R66=billion for the year-ago quarter and a sizeable portion of that is generated by its app store. Google noted on Monday that the number of Google Cloud Platform deals worth more than R13 million more than doubled in 2018 and that it ended the year with more than 5 million paying customers of its cloud productivity tools, but otherwise offered little new information by which to measure the size of its Cloud business.

For comparison, AWS generated R99 billion in net cloud sales for Amazon in the fourth quarter.

Microsoft also doesn’t disclose specific revenue figures for its cloud, Azure, so a direct comparison here is even harder to noodle out. The unit that includes Azure is called “Intelligent Cloud” and it generated R125 billion in the same quarter. However, despite putting “cloud” in the unit’s name, that unit includes a lot of classic software products, including Microsoft’s popular database and Windows Server, its operating system for servers. Those are both older, massive businesses compared to Azure and are not what anyone would consider a cloud service.

Most market experts believe that AWS is way ahead. One researcher, Synergy, puts AWS at 40% market share in cloud.

Keep an eye on the new boss
Of course the big news for Google’s cloud efforts in 2018 was its change of leadership. Near the end of 2018, Google board member Diane Greene left. Google hired Thomas Kurian to replace her. He left Oracle where he helped build Oracle into a database and applications giant during his decades there, and then lead Oracle’s cloud efforts. Oracle’s cloud is growing quickly by internal metrics as it moves its customers from buying its software to renting its software on its cloud. But Oracle’s cloud is not exactly taking the tech industry’s breath away, so his performance at Google Cloud will be a test for him and the company.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Kurian will embark on an acquisition spree to help Google’s Cloud catch up with the competition. Google CEO Sundar Pichai kept mum on Monday when asked about any potential big deals or changes in strategy under Kurian. Pichai spoke of “continuity” and focusing on the parts of the business where the company is seeing good returns.

Even with all the shrouding of investment and financial results, the cloud industry is often considered a three-player race, with Amazon in the lead, Microsoft on its heels, Google in third and a variety of players, from Alibaba to IBM to Oracle, in the chase pack.

Get more consistent printing from your printer

By Eyal Goldshmid for TCPalm

Typically, when one sees faded printing, it indicates that that your ink levels are low or that the ink has been exhausted from a cartridge. If ink levels are full, then the problem may be caused by something faulty inside the printer, such as a blocked jet head or ink sticking to a roller instead of a page, which can sometimes happen if you are printing in an area with high humidity.

But in all those cases, the issue would happen across the board, not selectively depending on the program you are using.

If you are able to print normally via one channel (Works, Quicken) and not another (a web page or email), then the problem would most likely be caused by an incompatible version of the programs you are using, a default printer calibration found inside a program’s print settings or an outdated printer driver.

Start with the programs themselves. Please go to the manufacturer websites for your browser and email program, respectively, and download and install the latest versions of the programs. This should ensure the issue is not one of compatibility between the programs and Windows 10. You can find the latest versions of each program by performing a Google search on the applications, such as (latest version Google Chrome Windows 10).

After doing that, try printing again and see if the problem continues or not. If so, then update the drivers for the printer.

Drivers are programs that help your computer communicate with its hardware peripherals, like printers and monitors. Sometimes, after completing a Windows or program update, device drivers will need to be updated manually so they can stay in sync with the updates.

In Google, type “latest printer driver Windows 10 (your computer make and model).” This should lead you to the printer manufacturer’s support site, on which you can download the latest drivers for the device.

If you already have the latest drivers installed, then the installation program will tell you so and you can move to the next step. If they are not installed, please install them and see if the problem continues or not.

If so, then see if a print setting in your web browser or email program is causing this to happen. Launch your email program or browser, open a page or message you are having trouble printing, and click file, then print, then properties, and scour through the print settings console there, searching for an odd setting that may be activated. Given the information above, you will want to look for a line that tells the printer to avoid or conserve black ink or something similar to that. (Each printer has a different setup for this, so without knowing your printer make and model it’s hard to offer more specific instructions than this.)

If you find such a setting, modify it accordingly and the printer should print normally again. If you cannot find such a setting, then contact your printer’s manufacturer support team for additional suggestions and advice.

Edcon Holdings is making progress toward securing R3-billion in funding need to keep the South African clothing retailer afloat for another three years, according to Business Day.

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC), Africa’s biggest money manager, may provide R1.8-billion to assist the company. In addition,  landlords may contribute another R700-million in reduced rent, and Edcon’s banks about R500m, they said.

Meanwhile, according to an article by MoneyWeb, Edcon aims to take the following steps in a bid to downsize:

  • Reduce the size of its Edgars store in the Johannesburg CBD by a third
  • Close down its big Melrose Arch store
  • Reduce its footprint at shopping centres across the country
  • Reduce regional footprints in centres such as Mall of Africa, Eastgate and Gateway
  • Continue with closing smaller stores across the country (115 have been closed to date)
  • Downsizing several stores
  • Continue to reduce retail space – in 18 months, Edcon has already downsized by 7%
  • Reduce space nationally by 5% – 7% per year over the next few years

Edcon is one of the country’s biggest employers. It has 1 200 stores which employ approximately 30 000 permanent and casual workers.
Over 100 000 jobs are supported by the company when clothing suppliers and other service providers are included.

 

Source: EWN

The trade union federation has warned doing so would not solve the struggling utility’s governance and debt problems.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) says it does not support a proposal to split up Eskom into three different entities.

The trade union federation has warned that doing so would not solve the struggling utility’s governance and debt problems.

The proposal to split Eskom into three separate firms was reportedly made by a task team appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Cosatu’s first deputy president Michael Shingange says any unbundling would result in retrenchments.

“When you unbundle and turn debt into equity, as they say, we [Cosatu] view that as part of retrenchment. Even if you don’t pronounce that you’re going to restructure or privatise, we view it as privatisation because you are going to invite private ownership.”

Source: IOL 

The Competition Commission in South Africa said it has noted an agreement between Standard Chartered Bank and the New York State Department of Financial Services where Standard Chartered pleaded guilty to currency manipulation.

The Competition Commission said in a statement: “The Competition Commission has noted a consent agreement, which subsequently became a court order, between Standard Chartered Bank and New York State Department of Financial Services. In the consent order, Standard Chartered pleaded guilty to currency manipulation which included the South Africa Rand (ZAR) between 2007 and 2013. This is captured on pages 9 and 10 of the court order.”

The Commission said it would consider the impact of the order on the ongoing forex litigation with the banks in South Africa.

The statement continued: “In February 2017 the Commission referred to the Tribunal for prosecution a collusion case against Bank of America Merrill Lynch International Limited, BNP Paribas, JP Morgan Chase & Co, JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A, Investec Ltd, Standard New York Securities Inc., HSBC Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank, Credit Suisse Group, Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd, Commerzbank AG, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited, Nomura International Plc., Macquarie Bank Limited, ABSA Bank Limited (ABSA), Barclays Capital Inc, Barclays Bank plc (Respondents).

“The Commission investigated a case of price-fixing and market allocation in the trading of foreign currency pairs involving the South African Rand since April 2015. The Commission found that from at least 2007, the respondents had a general agreement to collude on prices for bids, offers and bid-offer spreads for the spot trades in relation to currency trading involving US Dollar / Rand currency pair.

“Further, the Commission found that the respondents manipulated the price of bids and offers through agreements to refrain from trading and creating fictitious bids and offers at particular times. Citibank N.A. pleaded guilty and reached a settlement agreement with the Commission and agreed to pay an administrative penalty of R69 500 860. Citibank N.A. undertook to cooperate with the Commission and avail witnesses to assist the prosecution of the other banks.”

The commission said that since February 2017, it has been engaged in protracted litigation with the rest of the banks, including Standard Chartered Bank, on pre-trial issues such as jurisdiction of the South African authorities and disclosure of the Commission’s evidence.

How YouTube is replacing hobbies

By Marchelle Abrahams / Daily Mail for IOL

Are we raising a generation of web addicts? A major new study seems to point in that direction, saying children in the UK have become so addicted to screen time that they are abandoning their hobbies.

It found that under-5s spend an hour and 16 minutes a day online and their screen time rises to four hours and 16 minutes when gaming and TV are included. Youngsters aged from 12 to 15 average nearly three hours a day on the Web – and two more hours watching TV.

The study said YouTube was “a near permanent feature” of many young lives and seven in 10 older children took smartphones to bed. It concluded: “Children were watching people on YouTube pursuing hobbies that they did not do themselves or had recently given up offline.”

Creative parenting expert and author Nikki Bush believes the danger of technology is that it has become a management tool.

Many times parents look to it as as a virtual babysitter, to the detriment of a child’s mental health.

“Your child’s cognitive intelligence is all based on emotional bonding.

“They are growing up in a very hostile world and it’s hostile for a number of reasons,” said the author of bestselling book Tech Savvy Parenting.

What they really need is that feeling of safety and security that comes from belonging and togetherness.

It’s very important for them – it’s like a cushion for a hostile world. And that comes from human interaction, which is very important.”

But as parents spend more time away from their younger ones, many are flocking to YouTube to fill that void. Some youngsters are becoming so obsessed with YouTube celebrities that they idolise them as role models, an Office of Communications report said.

“YouTube was a near permanent feature of many children’s lives, used throughout the day,” researchers in the study said.

Often they come across unsuitable content by accident, when they are searching for something else.

Sometimes they simply seek out material they are too young to view.

They are also led to it by YouTube’s own algorithm which feeds them suggestions based on their tastes.

Children prefer YouTube to old-fashioned television or TV on-demand services because they “could easily access exactly what they wanted to watch and were being served with an endless stream of recommendations tailored exactly to their taste”, the report said.

Many of the parents involved in the research were shocked to learn what their children had been watching.

 

Move over co-working: pro-working is here

Think of pro-working as co-working’s mature older sibling – one who is better dressed and much more sophisticated.

Linda Trim, director at FutureSpace, says, “Pro-working is rapidly growing in popularity with professionals and businesses worldwide that want a shared workspace that meets their polished image.”

She adds that pro-working has introduced a new kind of shared work spaced that is more advanced than co-working and which focuses more on services than just the space, much like a five star hotel.

“There is now a clear and growing distinction now between co-working spaces which tend to cater to freelancers, and pro-working offices which offer a more formal, luxurious environment with facilities to match.”

In the past few years, many long-established and professional businesses became conscious of the benefits that sharing a work-space has to offer: reduced cost office space; collaboration; networking; and exchanging skills and knowledge.

“The problem they faced was that many locations on the market just didn’t fit with their identity. They were utilitarian and geared towards freelancers as well as more informal startups and lacked services like the latest technology and formal spaces in which to meet clients.

“They were hip and often grungy and clearly not the best fit for professionals who want their workspace to match their image – and not be distributed by endless games of ping pong,” Trim notes.

But now that companies and consultants operating on a more traditional structure are learning about the benefits of sharing workspace with like-minded businesses, the market is looking to accommodate their needs.
As much as pro-working is a play on co-working, it has evolved from a typical serviced office set up, but with the added element of the best boutique hotel hospitality such as concierge services, personal assistants and access to gyms.

Says Trim: “In addition, the pro-working offering is inspired by the community spirit that co-working has brought to modern office life. Pro-working aims to allow formal businesses to create communities with compatible professionals.

“Co-working made this transition effortless for lone workers and small companies who depended on flexible work options. And now pro-working is doing the same for the professional set.”

Trim also notes that one of the key workplace trends today is to really invest in your people and make sure they are happy and able to produce their best work, which is why the shared market is such a hit the world over.

“Pro-working places are particularly appealing for companies that want to expand because the offices are ‘on-demand’ – there is no need for lengthy procurement processes or FICA (Financial Intelligence Centre Act) requirements,” says Trim. “They also offer extreme flexibility in that the office space is there for as short or long a time as you want it.”

FutureSpace offices in Katherine Street and Rivonia Road in Sandton host many of South Africa’s most successful companies, as well as international start ups that needed to quickly get up and running.

Such is the demand, FutureSpace plans to open several new offices in 2019.

By Benjamin Mayo for 9to5Mac

A significant bug has been discovered in FaceTime and is currently spreading virally over social media. The bug lets you call anyone with FaceTime, and immediately hear the audio coming from their phone — before the person on the other end has accepted or rejected the incoming call. Apple says the issue will be addressed in a software update “later this week”.

Naturally, this poses a pretty big privacy problem as you can essentially listen in on any iOS user, although it still rings like normal, so you can’t be 100% covert about it. Nevertheless, there is no indication on the recipient’s side that you could hear any of their audio. There’s a second part to this which can expose video too.

9to5Mac has reproduced the FaceTime bug with an iPhone X calling an iPhone XR, but it is believed to affect any pair of iOS devices running iOS 12.1 or later.

The iPhone FaceTime bug could be reproduced by doing the following:

Start a FaceTime Video call with an iPhone contact.
Whilst the call is dialling, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and tap Add Person.
Add your own phone number in the Add Person screen.
You will then start a group FaceTime call including yourself and the audio of the person you originally called, even if they haven’t accepted the call yet.
It will look like in the UI like the other person has joined the group chat, but on their actual device it will still be ringing on the Lock screen.

Whilst the call is ringing, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and add yourself to the call.

The damage potential here is real. You can listen in to soundbites of any iPhone user’s ongoing conversation without them ever knowing that you could hear them. Until Apple fixes the bug, it’s not clear how to defend yourself against this attack either aside from disabling FaceTime altogether.

As it stands, if your phone is ringing with an incoming FaceTime request, the person on the other end could be listening in.

What we have also found is that if the person presses the Power button from the Lock screen, their video is also sent to the caller — unbeknownst to them. In this situation, the receiver can now hear your own audio, but they do not know they are transmitting their audio and video back to you. From their perspective, all they can see is accept and decline. (Another update: It seems there are other ways of triggering the video feed eavesdrop too.)

We have also replicated the problem with an iPhone calling a Mac. By default, the Mac rings for longer than a phone so it can act as a bug for an even longer duration.

Apple has taken Group FaceTime offline in an attempt to address the issue in the interim. They have said the issue will be fixed in a software update later in the week. Until then, if you are concerned, you should disable FaceTime in iOS Settings.

Facebook to merge WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger

By Sarah Frier for Bloomberg/Fin24 

Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg is planning to integrate the chat tools on the WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger services, a move that could help the social media giant identify users’ identities across all of its properties, and bolster its case against a breakup by regulators.

Zuckerberg’s plans, reported earlier by the New York Times, would involve stitching together the three apps’ messaging products behind the scenes, though consumers would still interact with each service separately. Facebook says the move would also enhance users’ privacy by introducing encryption to protect the messages from being viewed by anyone except those involved in the conversation.

“People want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private,” Facebook said in a statement. “We’re working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks. As you would expect, there is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of figuring out all the details of how this will work.”

The move isn’t something that Facebook’s more than 2 billion users have been asking for. Stitching the apps together may increase data-sharing among the properties, helping Facebook identify users across the platform, and improve the ability to target ads to them.

WhatsApp currently allows a person to create an account simply with a phone number, while Instagram allows people to have multiple anonymous accounts without using their real names. Zuckerberg’s vision centres around a service based on real identity.

WhatsApp, which Facebook bought in 2014 for $19bn, and Instagram, which was purchased in 2012 for $715m, had been operated relatively independently within Facebook until they grew to become more important parts of Facebook’s business.

Tensions around Zuckerberg’s pushes for integration and control led to the departures of founders of both services in the last year, people familiar with the matter have said. Last year, Zuckerberg started calling his portfolio a “family of apps.”

Another potential argument for bringing the three units more firmly into the parental fold is the threat of a regulatory breakup of Facebook.

Progressive groups have been urging the Federal Trade Commission for months to carve up Facebook and split off Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger into their own companies. That would be harder to accomplish if the services are more tightly entwined.

At the same time, it may increase concerns about transparency for consumers around how Facebook’s data gathering works.

         

           

Follow us on social media: 

               

View our magazine archives: 

                       


My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Top