Microsoft services down worldwide

Source: News Hub

Microsoft Office 365 users have taken to Twitter to complain that the company’s services are down. Users in the US, Australia and New Zealand have been badly hit, according to outage tracker website Downdetector.

Microsoft 365 said in a Twitter post it was investigating the issue.

“We’ve identified that multiple Microsoft 365 services are affected and we’re actively looking for the swiftest means of restoring access.”

Some Twitter users have reported the issue has been resolved while others say they’re still offline.

According to Down Detector, a high number of issues were reported along Australia’s east coast, New Zealand, Japan, and the West Coast of the US.

It was unclear what caused the issue and when service would be restored.

Released in 2011, Office 365 is an integrated product of Microsoft apps and services. Products in the service include Outlook 365 and Skype.

Tech billionaires are just getting richer

By Yusuf Khan for Business Insider US

Tech billionaires are leading the ultra-wealthy in growing their fortunes, according to a UBS report titled “The Billionaire Effect” released on Friday.

The Swiss bank found tech tycoons’ wealth grew 3.4% or $1.3 trillion (roughly R19.1 trillion) in 2018, and the number of tech billionaires nearly doubled from 76 to 148 in five years.

Billionaires have become a key policy issue in the US as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic presidential candidates have proposed wealth taxes.

Tech billionaires are leading the ultra-wealthy in growing their fortunes, according to a UBS report titled “The Billionaire Effect” released on Friday.

UBS, one of the world’s largest wealth managers with roughly 1 000 billionaire clients, found tech tycoons’ wealth grew 3.4% or $1.3 trillion (roughly R19.1 trillion) in 2018, and the number of tech billionaires nearly doubled from 76 to 148 in five years.

The Swiss bank estimated the wealth of tech entrepreneurs like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg almost doubled in the last five years – growing 91%.

“If tech billionaires’ wealth were a country, it would rank second only to the US,” the report said. “Looking back over five years, tech billionaires have driven almost a third of the growth in billionaire wealth. US tech billionaires accounted for more than half of that growth.”

Billionaires have become a key policy issue in the 2020 US presidential election with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other democratic presidential candidates saying they would implement a tax on the ultra wealthy.

Warren has been criticised by billionaires such as Leon Cooperman for her proposed wealth tax of roughly 3% to 6%. Cooperman said she was “s——- on the American dream”.

Meanwhile, tech billionaires have come under fire for issues such as data protection and political advertising on their platforms. Zuckerberg – who’s worth $72.9-billion (roughly R1-trillion), according to Bloomberg – was recently grilled by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Facebook’s sale of personal user data to third parties and policy of allowing false political adverts.

“I think there will be a change in behaviour [of billionaires] driven by the mainstream, with a reduction in risk appetite and I think there will be a reduction of output,” said Josef Stadler, head of UBS’ global ultra-high net worth department. “Whether that’s a good or bad thing I don’t know,”

Stadler made the comments at the report’s launch event in London, in response to a question about whether billionaires will be forced to clean up their acts.

The report highlighted that entrepreneurs who built software, the internet, and equipment are the wealthiest in the tech industry. However, fintech and multimedia have grown rapidly – 419% and 504% respectively in the past five years.

“Even so, pioneers of the future such as e-commerce, fintech, ride hailing, and data systems are making headway, as they stand to disrupt swathes of the global economy,” the report said.

“Banking today is already different today than it was five years go. You look at Revolut and Monzo and the newly developed systems and this will fuel new billionaires or at least millionaires,” said Marcel Tschanz, Swiss head of wealth management at PWC, at the event.

SA cloud market to grow to R23.6bn by 2023

Source: MyBroadband

BMIT has published its SA Cloud Computing Overview and Market Sizing 2019 report, which shows that the growing adoption of cloud computing in South Africa has democratised IT resources and made technology available that traditionally would have been out of reach of the smaller player.

For businesses considering moving to the cloud, first mover advantage is more important than ever – while supporting innovation is a key success factor in today’s highly-competitive industries.

Analytics and artificial intelligence, along with other emerging technologies, are available to businesses at a fraction of the investment that would have been required before the transition to cloud computing.

IT modernisation, cost optimisation, and digital transformation are factors which motivate all companies to implement cloud computing.

The ability to scale is more important to medium and large companies than small companies, whose primary motivation is to transform digitally.

There is significantly less resistance to moving to the cloud in general – however, the question the market is grappling with is the “when and how” to move.

That being said, the conservative mindset of some in the IT market along with aversion to change is still challenging the industry and slowing adoption as more traditional-minded IT personnel often want full ownership and control over their IT resources – rather than the pay-per-use model that cloud has ushered in.

The cloud services market in South Africa is estimated to have grown at 31% in 2018 and is expected to grow another 35% in 2019 as the multinational hyperscale (Amazon, Google, Microsoft) local data centres go live over the next two years.

Looking further into the future, BMIT forecasts the cloud services market growing at a CAGR of 28% over the next five years to R23.6 billion in 2023.

Telkom’s recently released results show that fixed-line broadband subscribers – which include ADSL, VDSL, and fibre-to-the-home customers – declined from 974 181 in September 2018 to 781 255 in September 2019.

This means Telkom lost 192 926 fixed broadband subscribers over the last year, which equates to a 19.8% decline in its customer base.

However, the struggling telco has offered to buy Cell C and combine South Africa’s two smallest mobile network operators to better compete against larger rivals.

The bid includes a plan to reduce Cell C’s debt and renegotiate contracts with suppliers, the people said, asking not to be identified because negotiations are ongoing. Telkom wants to take over the management of Cell C’s business.

The approach comes as Cell C explores options with MTN and local investors known as the Buffett Consortium to recapitalise the company, which may include the sale of some of its assets. The two offers will be considered side-by-side as Cell C and its owners try to restructure R9-billion of debt.

This comes after Telkom recently announced that it will become the first national telecommunications operator in South Africa to switch off its legacy 2G network.

The company will terminate 2G services in March 2020, according to CEO Sipho Maseko.

The company has about 250 000 2G-only users left on its network, out of a total subscriber base of 11..5-million, as most have migrated from 2G to 3G.

Source: BBC

A US financial regulator has opened an investigation into claims Apple’s credit card offered different credit limits for men and women.

It follows complaints – including from Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak – that algorithms used to set limits might be inherently biased against women.

New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) has contacted Goldman Sachs, which runs the Apple Card.

Any discrimination, intentional or not, “violates New York law”, the DFS said.

The Bloomberg news agency reported on Saturday that tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson had complained that the Apple Card gave him 20 times the credit limit that his wife got.

In a tweet, Hansson said the disparity was despite his wife having a better credit score.

Later, Wozniak, who founded Apple with Steve Jobs, tweeted that the same thing happened to him and his wife despite the fact that they have no separate bank accounts or separate assets.

Banks and other lenders are increasingly using machine-learning technology to cut costs and boost loan applications.

‘Legal violation’
But Mr Hansson, creator of the programming tool Ruby on Rails, said it highlights how algorithms, not just people, can discriminate.

US healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group is being investigated over claims an algorithm favoured white patients over black patients.

Mr Hansson said in a tweet: “Apple Card is a sexist program. It does not matter what the intent of individual Apple reps are, it matters what THE ALGORITHM they’ve placed their complete faith in does. And what it does is discriminate.”

He said that as soon as he raised the issue his wife’s credit limit was increased.

The DFS said in a statement that it “will be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex”.

“Any algorithm that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class violates New York law.”

The BBC has contacted Goldman Sachs for comment.

On Saturday, the investment bank told Bloomberg: “Our credit decisions are based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law.”

The Apple Card, launched in August, is Goldman’s first credit card. The Wall Street investment bank has been offering more products to consumers, including personal loans and savings accounts through its Marcus online bank.

The iPhone maker markets Apple Card on its website as a “new kind of credit card, created by Apple, not a bank”.

 

By Lameez Omarjee for Fin24

A flat rate for electricity could help foster a culture of payment among Soweto residents, a local councillor told Fin24.

Soweto ANC councillor Mpho Sesedinyane believes a proposal for a R150 monthly flat rate for electricity could be a starting point to address the country’s non-payment woes. The flat-rate proposal was the brainchild of the South African National Civic Organisation – a non-political organisation which advocates on behalf of communities in engagements with government and other service providers.

Soweto owes Eskom almost R20bn – almost half of the total local municipal debt owed to the electricity utility.

Eskom has started disconnecting power to thousands of Soweto households as a consequence.

The now famous couple from the KFC proposal viral video went on their first outing to the Sowetan Derby on Saturday. (Video supplied by KFC)

Sesedinyane said the culture of non-payment dates back to apartheid when residents were told not to pay for public services as an act of resistance.

“Our people were told not to pay for services, not to pay for electricity,” Sesedinyane said.

The ruling ANC had not come back to residents to communicate it was noble to pay for services, after taking over in 1994, he said. Some residents can afford to pay, but are stuck in the old “mentality” and are still resisting payment, he added.

“We need to bring them back and say, we have won the country now. It is us [the ANC] that are governing now, can we now start to contribute and pay Eskom,” Sesedinyane said. These views have previously been expressed by president Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza, among others.

Sesedinyane believes the introduction of a flat rate could be a starting point to create a culture of payment for services.

“We had to agree (with Sanco) to come up with this project. For Eskom to collect revenue, it is important to start somewhere,” he said. That starting point is a flat fee of R150 households should pay per month for electricity.

If a flat rate of R150 is introduced, Eskom would at least generate some kind of income, which is better than none at all, he suggested.

Sesedinyane explained that the majority of Soweto residents are unemployed, living below the poverty line and are reliant on social grants. This means they are unable to pay for electricity.

The flat rate should be set at an amount which everyone can afford, including grant beneficiaries. After three or four years the flat rate can be increased, and at that point people will be used to paying for electricity, he added.

“People will then be in a position to know it is noble to pay for services, especially electricity. And they will be used to paying at the end of the day.”

Sesedinyane said that prepaid meters will not be the solution. “Our people will start connecting themselves illegally and they will not pay for electricity.”

Not sustainable

The South African Local Government Association – an association comprised of 257 local governments – however does not think that a flat rate would work. Spokesperson Sivuyile Mbambato told Fin24 that the proposal was “unsustainable”.

“We do not have the luxury of cheap and excess electricity like we did more than 20 years ago. Everyone must pay for what they use,” he said.

Salga is supportive of a prepaid solution. “Prepaid will be the answer in Soweto and other townships but the residents still reject that. This is an indication of how deep is the culture on non-payment in our communities,” said Mbambato.

The association’s National Executive Committee met last week to discuss solutions for rising municipal debt, among other issues.

The NEC resolved that a two-phased approach be implemented to address rising debt, according to a statement issued by Salga last week.

Phase 1 puts forward stricter enforcement by municipalities on credit control measures. This means municipalities will have to target government properties and businesses, through disconnection if there is “sufficient merit” in line with their credit control policies, the statement read.

Phase 2 involves an analysis of debt to classify debt which must be written off, or is realistically collectable.

The proposal comes after a period in which Salga interacted with various parliamentary portfolio committees on matters relating to debt owed by municipalities.

Bank Zero goes live with debit card

Bank Zero has now fully completed its core value proposition by going live with its debit card. Following this card go-live, rigorous health-checks such as simulated card attacks, card fraud detection and retailer readiness are currently underway. Thereafter the final countdown to starting public operations will begin.

South African card holders suffered a whopping R873m in theft in 2018, according to SABRIC statistics. To protect customers from this traumatic experience, Bank Zero has designed a new patented card which offers vital security and convenience. This patent will dramatically minimise the negative impact of card data theft and card skimming on Bank Zero customers.

Open source technology combined with a scientific design approach delivered this card in record time. MasterCard teams from South Africa, India and the USA were closely involved in validating and commissioning this card solution. IBM’s global expertise in encrypted card security was also tapped into. Michael Jordaan, Bank Zero chair, says: “Globally, banks are big spenders on such projects, often spanning multiple years, but sweat capital along with an integrated business-and-tech design approach is our strategic advantage.”

“During the development of Bank Zero, no traditional banking systems were bought nor was any outsourcing done – these are expensive yet conventional solutions. We wanted to create an exciting customer offering which required building our own systems,” says Yatin Narsai, Bank Zero CEO. He explains that, in just over a year, three large payment rails were created, each from a clean slate:

  • Direct integration into the South African Reserve Bank’s system, in order to become a settlement bank
  • Electronic payments (EFTs) and debit orders, establishing Bank Zero as a clearing bank
  • Issuing and processing of debit cards

“Zero pricing, along with our advanced card security, are just some of the ways in which we make our customers’ lives easier. We also bring special functionality around social connectedness, transparency, control, advanced payments and a focus on savings,” says Narsai.

“Feature-rich banking must never force customers into paying exorbitant fees.”

The card go-live sets Bank Zero on the path to opening its digital doors to the public, and current internal beta testing continues to provide solid insights. Bank Zero now begins its final countdown towards starting public operations in the first half of 2020:

  • Add the final ‘shine’ to the Android and iOS Apps for both individuals and businesses
  • Put the patented card through its paces by actively using the first cards which recently arrived, sporting a fresh new design
  • Confirm regulatory reporting is in order
  • Perform the annual disaster recovery test
  • Ensure that cards can be used internationally
  • Confirm security and performance testing to ensure Bank Zero’s systems can handle massive volumes
  • Implement a standby system, enabling maintenance without inconveniencing customers
  • Fine-tune and complete the build-out of the customer service model
  • Extend current beta testing
  • Start public operations

“The last mile is always the hardest. You can walk this last mile with us by following our tweets,” says Jordaan.

On 25 October, the City of Johannesburg tweeted that it had been the victim of a network breach, where it was forced to shut down various systems including its website, e-services, and billing systems.
Business Day reported that a ransom note, sent by Shadow Kill Hackers, demanded 4 bitcoin (about R435,000) before 28 October, or else it would upload the sensitive data online.

Nearly two weeks later, the City of Johannesburg’s website is offline and its call centre is unreachable, leaving residents unable to register for e-services or receive their bills.

The city has responded to complaints on Twitter, confirming that its systems are “temporarily down” – but there has been no further information about the cause of the outage or how long it will last.

According to MyBroadband, attempts to call City of Johannesburg hotlines reportedly “resulted in callers being told that the number does not exist, while attempts to access the City of Johannesburg’s website are unsuccessful.”

It is unclear whether the website’s current downtime is linked to the Shadow Kill Hackers’ cyber-attack.

By Paul Lilly for PC Gamer

Did I ever tell you about the time Microsoft doled out a Windows 10 update to the wrong set of users? Probably not, because I don’t recall it happening before now. I’m not saying it never has, I just can’t think of another time, other than this one.

This one, by the way, refers to KB4523786, an optional update offered alongside a cumulative update for Windows 10 version 1903 with fixes for several bugs. The optional KB4523786 offers “quality improvements to Windows Autopilot configured devices.”

Business and IT admins use Autopilot to set up and configure new devices. In this case, however, Microsoft offered it to Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro users. The issue with this, as Microsoft notes, is that “Windows Autopilot update is not installed on Windows 10 Pro or a later version when the device is not registered or configured for Windows Autopilot deployment. Windows Autopilot update is never offered to Windows 10 Home.”

Fortunately, as far as facepalms go, this one is relatively minor.

As first reported by Windows Latest, Microsoft’s Intune Support Team noted on Twitter that it pulled the update, noting that anyone who might have already installed it (and shouldn’t have) need not worry about adverse effects.

No harm, no foul, in other words. It’s just a bit embarrassing, and it comes at a time when Microsoft’s Windows 10 updates have been put under the microscope due to several previously reported issues. One of the more persistent issues as of late is a Start Menu bug. I’m not sure how widespread it actually is, but affected users get an error message when trying to open the Start Menu. It reads, “Your Start Menu isn’t working. We’ll try to fix it the next time you sign in.”

While on the topic of updates, the next big upgrade to Windows 10 will be here soon. It’s called the November 2019 update (previously known as 19H2), and while it will not be as big as some of the previous major upgrades, now is a good time to think about backing up your important data, if you are not already on a backup routine.

Xerox makes $30bn bid to buy HP

By David Goldman, CNN Business 

Xerox is reportedly considering buying Hewlett-Packard Inc. in what would be a merger of two former American technology giants that have both seen better days.

The offer is thought to be worth $30-billion.

The Xerox (XRX) board discussed the possibility of an HP (HPQ) purchase on Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited sources familiar with the matter. The Journal also reported that the Xerox discussions are preliminary and might not lead to an offer for HP. Xerox declined to comment. An HP spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

A deal would be complicated by the fact that HP is more than three times the size of Xerox: HP has a market value of $27 billion, compared to Xerox’s $8 billion valuation. But Xerox announced Tuesday that it is selling various stakes in former parts of its business, and it will generate $2.5 billion in cash from those transactions. The Journal also reported that Xerox has been given the blessing by a major bank to receive lending for the transaction, should it go forward.

HP’s stock soared 9% in premarket trading. Xerox was down 3%.

A marriage between the companies could make sense. Both Xerox and HP spun off their big money-making ventures in recent years, leaving behind aging printing businesses that remain profitable. But those earnings are dwindling every year.
HP had surprised investors by growing faster than many had believed possible after its 2015 split with HP Enterprise, but it has struggled in recent quarters.

Although HP still has a sizable PC business, fewer customers are buying ink from HP. Ink sales had long been HP’s profit generator: HP would take losses on its printer sales, generating the bulk of its income from ink. But smartphones make printing less crucial, and many customers who do print are able to find cheaper ink suppliers.

The company announced last month that it would cut between 7,000 and 9,000 jobs by 2022. At the time, Enrique Lores, HP’s new CEO, called the move “bold and decisive action” to help the company in its next chapter. HP’s former CEO, Dion Weisler, stepped down on Friday for a family matter.
Xerox, like HP, relies on a dying business for the bulk of its sales and profit. It sells and services copy machines and printers, primarily for corporations. But sales are falling, declining in each of the past seven quarters.

The deal between two similar businesses could yield cost savings of about $2 billion through layoffs and other synergies, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Both companies have a storied history: Xerox started in 1906 as the Haloid Photographic Co. The photographic supply company in Rochester, New York, paved its way to mega-success in March 1960, when it shipped its first office copier. The Haloid Xerox contraption was the size of two washing machines and weighed 648 pounds. It also occasionally caught on fire. The Xerox copier’s core technology -— a process called xerography, invented by Chester Carlson — is still widely used in copy machines five decades later. Xerox is now based in Norwalk, Connecticut.

HP traces its origins to 1938, when Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard rented a garage in Palo Alto, California. That year, they invented their first product: the HP Model 200A, an audio oscillator used to test sound equipment. The company became the pioneer of Silicon Valley, building its first computer in 1966 and the famous HP-35 in 1972 — the world’s first hand-held scientific calculator.

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