Google announces introduction of five more products

Google announces introduction of five more products


Google has announced introduction of five additional products that would enable internet users to access information with ease.

Mr Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, Google’s Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Anglophone West Africa, made this known in an interactive session with some internet users including journalists in Lagos on Friday.

Kola-Ogunlade listed the products to include Gboard, Health Knowledge Panel, Movie Showtime, entertainment Archive and Google Post.

He advised internet users to take advantage of the products for more relevance.

According to him, Google built its platforms and products to be globally relevant.

He said that Google introduced Gboard in July to enable sending of messages in dialects including Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa.

He described Gboard as a new keyboard from Google for Android or iPhone.

“If you are like most Nigerians, then you probably have a grandma, uncle or family member that prefers to read messages in Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa.

“The next time you need to type a message on SMS, Whatsapp or any other messaging app, simply click on the Google ‘G’ logo on your keyboard and click on translation and let Gboard do the translation for you.

“No more app switching; just search and send, right from your keyboard. If Gboard is not installed on your phone, you can download it from the Apple store or the Android play store,” he said.

According to the manager, Google introduced the health knowledge panel in the realisation that 20 per cent of searches on it are health-related.

He said that the panel covers up to 800 health conditions.

“You may be worried about a loved one down with malaria. By simply typing ‘Malaria’, Google will show you a health panel with information on malaria symptoms and treatments.

“Google’s health knowledge panels is now accessible to Nigerians and Google has partnered with the University of Ibadan to ensure that answers are reviewed by Nigerian doctors,” he said.

Kola-Ogunlade said that the Google Movie Showtime would enable an internet user to get a list and times for movies showing at a nearby cinema.

“Just type ‘whatmovies are showing at the Ikeja Mall’ into Google, and Google will give a list of movies showing at Ikeja Mall plus the time those movies are showing,” he said.

He added that Google was archiving and getting Nollywood films so that local contents would show on the Google search.

“Simply type the name of the ‘Nollywood movie into search and let Google give you all the information, including the actors,” he said.

According to the manager, Google Post will get more details of what a favourite musician, movie or sports star is up to.

“With Posts on Google, entertainers and businesses can share visible updates directly to Google.

“This means you get your favourite star’s live update alongside your search results when you Google them.

He said that Google announced the availability of Google Posts in Nigeria at Google for Nigeria on July 27, noting that Nigeria was the third country where the feature was made available.

“Some of the country’s popular musicians are already using it. Posts had been available for limited use since January 2016.

“Google Posts allow businesses and individuals to create posts that show up in the knowledge panel on Google Search and Google Maps.

“Posts expire after a week, unless they are event-based, in which case, they expire after the event date,” he said.

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Roughted remains the top malware in Africa to watch out for

Roughted remains the top malware in Africa to watch out for

Roughted remains the top malware in Africa
(Image source: Business Advice UK)

Check Point Software has revealed that banking Trojans were extensively used by cyber-criminals during August 2017, with three variants appearing in the company’s latest Global Threat Impact Index.

The Zeus, Ramnit and Trickbot banking trojans all appeared in the top ten. These Trojans work by identifying when the victim is visiting a banking website, and then use keylogging or webinjects to harvest basic login credentials or more sensitive information such as PIN numbers. Alternatively, Trojans may also direct victims to fake banking websites designed to mimic the legitimate ones and steal credentials that way.

The August 2017 Global Threat Impact Index also revealed that Globeimposter, a ransomware disguised as a variant of the Globe ransomware, was the world’s second most prevalent malware throughout the month. Although it was discovered in May 2017, the malware did not begin to rapidly proliferate until August, distributed by spam campaigns, malvertising and exploit kits. Upon encryption, Globeimposter appends the .crypt extension to each encrypted file, and a payment is demanded from victims in return for decrypting their valuable data.

“Financial gain is the major motive for the vast majority of cybercrime, and unfortunately criminals have a wide range of tools at their disposal to achieve this,” said Doros Hadjizenonos, Country Manager of Check Point South Africa. “To see both a highly effective ransomware variant and a range of banking Trojans in the top ten most prevalent malware families really underlines how tenacious and sophisticated malicious hackers can be in their attempts to extort money. Organisations need to be both vigilant and proactive in order to protect their networks.”

Top 3 ‘Most Wanted’ Malware in South Africa:
South Africa jumped a considerable 11 places in the Threat Impact Index over the past month, now sitting at number 21 on the list out of all countries worldwide.

1. Roughted – Large-scale Malvertising used to deliver various malicious websites and payloads such as scams, adware, exploit kits and ransomware. It can be used to attack any type of platform and operating system, and utilises ad-blocker, bypassing and fingerprinting in order to make sure it delivers the most relevant attack.

2. Fireball – Adware vastly distributed by the Chinese digital marketing company Rafotech. It acts as a browser-hijacker which changes the default search engine and installs tracking pixels, but can be turned into a full-functioning malware downloader. Fireball is capable of executing any code on the victim machines, resulting in a wide range of actions from stealing credentials to dropping additional malware.

3. Globeimposter – Ransomware disguised as a variant of the Globe ransomware. It was discovered in May 2017, and is distributed by spam campaigns, malvertising and exploit kits. Upon encryption, the ransomware appends the .crypt extension to each encrypted file.

Top 3 ‘Most Wanted’ Malware in Kenya:
Kenya’s risk ranking improved, dropping 13 places on the Global ranking in August, moving down to number 39 on the list.

1. Roughted – Large-scale Malvertising used to deliver various malicious websites and payloads such as scams, adware, exploit kits and ransomware. It can be used to attack any type of platform and operating system, and utilises ad-blocker, bypassing and fingerprinting in order to make sure it delivers the most relevant attack.

2. Fireball – Adware vastly distributed by the Chinese digital marketing company Rafotech. It acts as a browser-hijacker which changes the default search engine and installs tracking pixels, but can be turned into a full-functioning malware downloader. Fireball is capable of executing any code on the victim machines, resulting in a wide range of actions from stealing credentials to dropping additional malware.

3. Virut – One of the major botnets and malware distributors in the Internet. It is used in DDoS attacks, spam distribution, data theft and fraud. The malware is spread through executables originating from infected devices such as USB sticks as well as compromised websites and attempts to infect any file accesses with the extensions .exe or .scr. Virut alters the local host files and opens a backdoor by joining an IRC channel controlled by a remote attacker.

Top 3 ‘Most Wanted’ Malware in Nigeria:
Nigeria remains amongst the top ten countries at highest risk of cyberattack, currently sitting at number nine on the list after having climbed one position from last month.

1. Roughted – Large-scale Malvertising used to deliver various malicious websites and payloads such as scams, adware, exploit kits and ransomware. It can be used to attack any type of platform and operating system, and utilises ad-blocker, bypassing and fingerprinting in order to make sure it delivers the most relevant attack.

2. Virut – One of the major botnets and malware distributors on the Internet. It is used in DDoS attacks, spam distribution, data theft and fraud. The malware is spread through executables originating from infected devices such as USB sticks as well as compromised websites and attempts to infect any file accesses with the extensions .exe or .scr. Virut alters the local host files and opens a backdoor by joining an IRC channel controlled by a remote attacker.

3. Fireball – Adware vastly distributed by the Chinese digital marketing company Rafotech. It acts as a browser-hijacker which changes the default search engine and installs tracking pixels, but can be turned into a full-functioning malware downloader. Fireball is capable of executing any code on the victim machines, resulting in a wide range of actions from stealing credentials to dropping additional malware.

The August 2017 Threat Index shows just how diverse and dynamic the cyber threat landscape is. Just a few months ago, Hummingbad was incredibly dominant; however, in August 2017 it did not even make it into the top ten. Similarly, ransomware has been grabbing most of the cybersecurity headlines, yet well-established banking Trojans are on the rise again.

“It’s vital for organisations to be alert to these shifting threats, to simultaneously keep their defences up against well-known malware families, new variants and new zero-day threats,” added Hadjizenonos. “This requires a multi-layered cybersecurity strategy, which can respond to a broad range of continually evolving attack types.”

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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How to simplify software design

How to simplify software design

Lorraine Steyn, co-Founder and CEO of Khanyisa Real Systems.

“Two heads are better than one”, says Lorraine Steyn, co-Founder and CEO of Khanyisa Real Systems (KRS), in making the case for why it’s better to have ‘pair programmers’ and the right techniques upfront, when it comes to developing good code design that will help avoid looking for the black cat in the dark room, that isn’t there.

Software organisation is a difficult subject. Most developers agree that good code design is important, but few can consistently describe what good design is.

A lovely definition from author and software engineer Steve McConnell is: “Once you understand that all other technical goals in software are secondary to managing complexity, many design considerations become straightforward”. That’s a ‘wow’ definition for me. The essence of the problem that we grapple with – managing complexity.

Software projects have two types of complexity: inherent complexity in the problem being solved, and accidental complexity introduced by the development team through poor design, misunderstood specifications, time pressures or lack of skill in a technical field.

We should aim to eliminate all accidental complexity. Then what remains is only the problem that needs to be solved. In solving the problem, we should note that the human brain can only keep track of a limited number of issues at once. Think of it like mental juggling – if you have to keep too many conceptual balls in the air at once, you are more likely to drop one (i.e. create a design or coding error).

So, a key strategy for handling complexity is to break the problem down into smaller parts. In coding, we refer to methods, and the aim is to have any particular method responsible for only one behaviour (single responsibility principle). For instance, a method that stores some data into the database, should not also be responsible for updating on-screen information. Good design is definitely modular.

Additionally, methods should be ‘loosely coupled’. This means that where the method is invoked in code, it should be passed all the data that it needs to perform its function. The method shouldn’t be dependent on other methods, or even worse, on a particular programme state. When there are many inter-dependencies between methods, we are back to juggling mental balls, and need to remember, which other methods affect the piece of code we are writing, and what the next method might need from us.

Methods must be treated, as far as possible, as black boxes. We know what they do, and what data they need to do it (a clear interface), but we don’t have to know ‘how’ they do it and we especially don’t want to have to worry about any side effects they might produce.

You may have gleaned from this that the ‘way’ we design code is as important as the instructions that we write. To really improve code design, try writing code with another developer. This technique is called pair programming. It turns out, not too surprisingly, that two heads really are better than one.

Pair programming consistently delivers better, simpler code design, as well as having a built-in review process. Code produced by a pair of developers is generally of higher quality (less bugs) than code produced by a single developer.

Before you start screaming “but what about the cost of having two developers for every task – isn’t that terribly inefficient”, let me point out four big reasons why it isn’t.

1. Fixing code errors in testing, or even after deployment if they’ve slipped through testing, is very, very expensive. In pair programming, every line of code is being reviewed as it is written, and far fewer errors reach the testing phase.

2. No developer types 100% of the time. They type a bit, and then they think a bit. When two developers sit together, they are generally working at a higher pace than one, because one is thinking while the other is typing, and vice versa. On this point, developers report that pair programming is very tiring because it is so intense!

3. When two developers discuss their code design as they work, they naturally arrive at a better design. Just having to explain what you want to do, usually helps to clarify uncertainties. The pair will jointly produce a simpler design that is more maintainable, modular and efficient, than most developers would arrive at on their own. This is true even when one developer has a lot more experience than the other.

4. Pair programming is great for knowledge sharing. It is always a risk when only one developer knows a specific piece of code, and with pair programming, you always have at least two who can now support and maintain that code.

It is generally accepted that there is an overhead to pair programming if you just look at upfront development time. However, that overhead disappears entirely when you look at the full life cycle. The quality improvements result in less testing time, and a quicker delivery into production of the code.

What other issues should we consider in defining good design?
Think about how much off-the-shelf software is available. Now we know that writing software is expensive, and is usually reserved for requirements that are not standard. This inherent uniqueness adds a lot of complexity to software design. Everything that the developers are writing, is different to anything they have written before. Perhaps there are only small differences, or they could be working in completely new fields.

Developers need to interpret the good code design practices to apply them to their new situation. This makes good design an inexact science, and open to a lot of interpretation. It is one of the reasons why a great definition like McConnell’s is so important, as it helps developers to focus on the key aspects of good design, even in new situations.

Ultimately, the best design won’t help if we are solving the wrong problems. We talk about design as being “emergent” and this refers to the way that requirements tend to grow and evolve as the software is developed. The inexact science hits again – designing for change that you don’t yet know about, is like looking for the black cat in a dark room that isn’t there!

Luckily, there are some techniques that can be applied. A good design will model reality as closely as it can, making the software easier to change when the reality changes.

1. Separate technical aspects from business or domain concerns so that advances in technology don’t affect the entire program. These are further levels of modularisation and abstraction that are part of good design.

2. Make your language must be “fit for purpose”. The coding language used also affects complexity. A lovely explanation of this is to consider doing long division in the days of Roman Numerals. It was an impossibly complex task, and the ancient Romans would have never believed that even children would one day do long division. Once our decimal notation was invented, the task became much simpler. So, it is with programming languages and picking the right tools for the job.

3. Finally, the management processes should also work for the problem being solved. Because of the very changeable nature of software development, processes like Agile can align well, and support the team in being more flexible and responsive to change. At KRS, we find a lot of benefit in Scrum, which helps to break work into small iterations (modularisation). We also employ many techniques from Extreme Programming, especially pair programming.

Software craftsmanship should be actively pursued. Good design does not happen by accident, and is seldom picked up on the job without additional reading, learning, and caring about the code that is being created. Managing complexity will remain software’s primary technical imperative no matter what new technology the future holds.

By Lorraine Steyn, co-Founder and CEO of Khanyisa Real Systems

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EU to propose Google, Facebook tax in 2018, says Juncker

EU to propose Google, Facebook tax in 2018, says Juncker

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during a press conference after a meeting with France’s Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (Unseen) at the European Commission in Brussels on February 6, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND

The EU will propose a new tax on tech giants such as Google and Facebook next year despite opposition by several states that fear a blow to their economies, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday.

Championed by French President Emmanuel Macron, the new tax on digital multinationals will target revenue generated in an EU country, instead of on profits that are booked in a low-tax EU headquarters, often Ireland or Luxembourg.

The hope is to have a formal proposal by EU ministers in December, that would become a draft law by the commission, the EU’s executive arm, in 2018.

“Tax has to be paid where it is due, be it offline or online,” Juncker said after an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia.

“The commission will propose next year new rules on fair and effective taxation that provides legal certainty and a level playing field for all.”

Juncker made the commitment after Macron pressed the issue at the second day of the summit, where the leaders discussed the opportunities and dangers of the digital economy.

The push by France, already backed by powerful Germany, is part of a wider onslaught by the EU on Google and other US tech behemoths as Europe seeks ways to regulate Silicon Valley more tightly.

In a closely watched speech on Europe Tuesday, Macron thundered against high tech companies that had become the “freeloaders of the modern world.”

So far about a dozen of the EU’s 28 member states have signed on to the idea, though many urge action to take place on a global level, such as the G20, instead of just in Europe.

Europe-wide tax reform is a huge headache in the European Union, requiring unanimity of all 28 states, which has proven nearly impossible on tax issues.

Already smaller EU states have expressed strong resistance to the idea, which they say will chase US tech giants from their shores, especially Ireland that serves as a low-tax hub for Apple, Facebook and Google.

“If we want Europe to become digital leader, the solution isn’t more taxes and more regulation, it’s actually the opposite,” said Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

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Experts urge teachers to embrace digital technology

Experts urge teachers to embrace digital technology

Digital experts have stressed the need for teachers to make use of social media platforms such as podcasts; YouTube and Google drive to make education more creative, innovative and to promote sustainable Development goals.

The Executive director of one African child foundation, Victoria Ibioye, who gave this advice at the ongoing Lagos startup week (LSW), with the theme, “New media as a tool for social development,’’ said this could promote education in the country.

She attributed that technology is a game changer and a lot of things can be learnt through technology, stressing that there are diverse ways we can make education more interesting.

She urged entrepreneurs to believe in their selves, research, invest by putting their best in all they do, take risks, listen to feedback from people, have mentors to share ideas, and deliver standard.

The Lead Consultant for Audacity to lead, Dayo Samuel called on the government to make it mandatory that every university must have an e-commerce website platform where students can access materials for lectures and other things.

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Mauritius: Learners to receive PC tablets in 2018

Mauritius: Learners to receive PC tablets in 2018

Mauritian primary school learner to receive PC tablets in 2018.

Primary School learners in Mauritius will receive PC tablets as part of a major initiative co-sponsored by the Government of India.

The Minister of Education of Mauritius, Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun announced that personal computer (PC) tablets will be made available for Mauritian learners in January 2018.

The announcement of the initiative to encourage digital literacy among primary school learners marks the latest stage in a determined effort by Mauritius to upgrade its education system as part of its plan to turn the country into a high-income economy by 2030. Mauritius also sees itself as a leader in technology-assisted learning and an example to other African nations.

“African countries have to invest early in ICT so as to consolidate the quality of education, right from an early age,” said Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun. “I’m particularly pleased to announce that my Ministry will, from the start of the school year in January 2018, provide PC tablets for students of Grade 1 and 2 to be used as part of the teaching-learning process. The introduction of ICT to early childhood education will be intrinsically linked to the major reform process under implementation in the education sector in Mauritius.”

Dookun-Lauchoomun reminded her audience, which included ICT and Education Ministers from several African countries, of the “paramount importance of early childhood development.” She told them that there was “glaring evidence of the low penetration of ICT in early childhood education.”

Mauritius is seeking to carve a niche for itself as a champion of technology-assisted learning in Africa. The Mauritian Minister of Information and Communications, Yogida Sawmynaden, said, “We realise that proper education is key in transforming Mauritius into an inclusive, high-income country, in line with the Government’s Vision 2030… but rather than just being users of new technologies, young people must understand how technology works and how the science of these technologies operates. Furthermore, they must be skilled enough to be creators of similar technologies.

“We do not want a nation of users only. We want a nation of innovators and technology creators.”

Sawmynaden said that the “challenge will be to educate our kids for the new jobs and new skills of the future, which, by definition, have not yet been created… It is imperative that we start using modern educational tools and techniques in order to create a modern workforce.”

He said that these tools and techniques include internet connectivity; WiFi-equipped classrooms; devices such as tablets; updated and interactive online content; mobile education applications; and “most importantly, digitally fluent teachers.”

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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Stash: The investment app taking South Africa by storm

Stash: The investment app taking South Africa by storm

Stash: the investment app taking South Africa by storm.

People want to believe in the companies they invest in. This is where Stash comes in – the investment app now available on Android. The app has seen over 17 000 South African downloads since May 2017. Good news for Apple fans – the app is also coming to iOS in October 2017.

Getting the younger generation interested in investment, however, can be challenging. Younger people have no real interest in playing the market. Most are too focused on building a career, building a family or working on their social lives. It’s important, though, to give these vital financial activities some attention. We know, just mentioning the JSE has every millennial’s eyes glazing over with boredom.

Adding to that general sense of indifference – the Rand Merchant Bank recently released their ‘Where to Invest in Africa’ report for 2018. In it, South Africa was knocked off the top spot for the first time in seven years – replaced by Egypt. South Africa has seen sluggish growth rates. Over the last seven years, our economic activity score has, shall we say, crumbled, declined, deteriorated, languished, regressed and been cast headlong into a swirling abyss of hopelessness. Good times. And this sort of news is yet another reason why young people couldn’t care less about investing their money anywhere. Stash aims to change that.

What Is Stash?
Launched by insurance and investment company, Liberty, Stash aims at getting South Africans to invest. How does the app do this? Every time you swipe, every time you sweat and every time the sun shines.

You can link any credit, debit or cheque card from your major South African bank to the app. When you make a transaction with the linked card – the amount is rounded up to the nearest 10 and the spare change is stashed into a Liberty fund that tracks the top 40 companies on the JSE.

All this spare change accumulates. Before you know it you’ve got a significant Stash balance. Another good thing is that the app won’t interfere with your day-to-day life. The app will check your daily bank balance and won’t transfer more than you can afford, so you don’t have to worry about running into the red. There are no minimum deposits, either. If you spend R9.99 – that 1c gets invested.

Stash is incredibly easy to use. It’s perfect for those who are slightly intimidated by the idea of investment or the power of the stock market. You don’t need to fill out any forms, print, scan, or send in any documents.

It takes a lot of time and energy to do proper homework on individual stocks. Make a bad choice and just like that, your money is gone. Stash makes it easy and painless.

Liberty is primarily targeting users between the age of 18 and 28. Young people don’t tend to invest or save their money. This is mostly because of how complex it can get. So, Liberty have made the app really easy to use and designed it in a way that it ‘speaks’ to younger people.

Their Sweat option is designed for people who like to keep active. The app can stash money based on your fitness data. Stash uses Google Fit to work out how much money to stash on a daily basis. For every 100 steps, 100 meters, 20 calories and 20 seconds of activity, you’ll collect one drop. One drop stashes 5c.

With Sunny Money, the app receives weather data from Open Weather Map using your location. On sunny days – you stash money, presumably for those dreaded rainy days. You can choose to stash R5, R10, R20 or the maximum temperature of that day in Rands. Bad news (or good news) for people living in Upington, then. With both of these features, you can also set a monthly limit to the amount that gets stashed.

Any Problems?
With Stash, beginners can take advantage when it comes to tax-free investments. In other words, you don’t pay tax on the cash you’ve stashed. You’re not taxed on the growth of your money, nor penalised when you cash out – and you can put in or withdraw money whenever you like. That sounds great, but only for beginners.

There’s an annual limit on the amount of tax-free money you can invest, and the app only offers a tax-free version, for now.

So, for those who have already assumed the ultimate adult form, you won’t be able to exceed the R33 000 / annum limit without excess penalties.

If you want to invest more than R2 000 a month or if you want to cash out – you’ll have to be FICA registered. This is usually a hassle. With Stash, all FICA requirements are completed in app. Users are able to submit proof of address by snapping a picture of, let’s say, an account statement, with their smartphone. Easy.

Just to sweeten the deal, Liberty is giving all new users R50 to start out with, and an additional R10 for every friend you get to sign on. Now that we think of it, there don’t seem to many problems at all.

Contributed by Jason Snyman, CompareGuru.

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The drone industry has potential to create jobs in South Africa

The drone industry has potential to create jobs in South Africa

The drone industry is at pole position for job creation in SA.
(image: JacarandaFM)

The drone industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs for qualified drone pilots per year, but the right training is crucial to move this industry forward and to help grow the country’s employment rate.

According to economic expert – Dr Roelof Botha – the largely untapped sector is expected to create 33 000 jobs this year alone. And in addition, the total economic output generated by the same industry equates to an anticipated turnover of more than R2 billion. This research formed part of Botha’s Economic Impact Assessment of the South African Drone industry.

“It is clear after comparing 2015 data to the latest economic impact assessment that the domestic drone industry is expanding exponentially,” Botha says.

But Sean Reitz, CEO of United Drone Holdings (UDH) – an entrepreneurial-focused drone service business says there are multiple career paths to consider once qualified as a drone pilot, but training is “priority one” and the fundamental step to ensure the right calibre of drone pilots are produced.

“We would like to grow the 33 000 figure year-on-year. But very little can be done and achieved without the proper training and an enabling regulatory environment. Potential drone pilots need to commit to seeing their training through from RPL to advanced applications in order to succeed and make a positive contribution to the industry and in-turn grow employment levels in this country,” Reitz says.

To demonstrate UDH’s commitment to growing the industry, producing first-rate, qualified drone pilots with the right skillset and boosting employment levels in South Africa, the organisation recently launched its RPAS flagship training academy, accredited by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and designed to suit all skill levels. The academy is based at the Eagle’s Creek Aviation Estate in Gauteng.

Reitz says the academy is the first drone training academy in the country that offers both night and weekend classes, as well as one-on-one slots specifically aimed at students with full-time jobs and little to no time to study during the day; but who are interested in pursuing a career as a drone pilot. Standard courses include 6-days of theory and 6-days of practical training. And flying ranges from 5-20 hours to develop full competence and confidence. It takes just two to four weeks for beginners to complete a remote pilot license (RPL), and just one week for skilled aviators.

“We committed to producing the very best and highly skilled drone pilots, and obtaining an RPL is that crucial first step to a lucrative career and bright future. Our training is customised and means there is no waiting around in groups, time is maximised with each student,” he says.

And to accommodate the rapidly expanding industry, Reitz says UDH has recently opened its Durban base and plans to launch one in Cape Town towards the end of 2017.

“Endless potential exists in this industry and career paths vary from emergency response and firefighting support to aerial surveillance and even cinematography. It’s our responsibility to develop future drone pilots, grow the industry and create the jobs we so desperately need,” Reitz concludes.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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NBA 2K18 Review

NBA 2K18 Review

The latest edition of the NBA 2K series was released to much anticipation on the 19th of September 2017. In what is the 19th instalment in this series, NBA 2K18 didn’t fail to live up to the hype of a game series which has all but cemented itself as a fan favourite among gamers and basketball fans alike. There is one glaring issue with this game around the added focus on microtransactions, but more on that later.

As with many sports titles, NBA 2K18 looks to provide users with a realistic experience that rewards real-life knowledge of players, playing styles, tactics and the sport in general. It is quite evident when you pick up the controller and immerse yourself in the world of NBA 2K18 that the game has managed to deliver on the above points.

The gameplay is focused on differentiating players based on their strengths and weaknesses, as a result, each player handles differently and offers an experience which allows players to take full advantage of their real-world NBA knowledge. The one area that the gameplay does fall slightly short is that of the A.I players who struggle to mark their man… this leads to a few defensive glitches but on the other hand clear improvements have been made in the offensive playing styles of A.I players again with an emphasis on differentiating players based on their traits.

Improvements have also been made in long-term technical issues around fast breaks and rebounds. The issue with fast breaks saw defending players manage to get back and produce a block when they really should never have been able to catch the attacking player, this is now more realistic and instead of a block, your player is able to produce a smashing dunk to secure the 2 points. One issue that still persists in the fast break scenarios is that the players still don’t keep their attacking lines and spaces, this results in an uneven attacking formation of player which could ultimately see the attack break down.

The rebounds have also seen an interesting update which has seen them get a diversification with an interesting mix of loose ball animations and tip in rebounds. Something that was again apparent in the rebound gameplay is the focus on player traits and strengths.

My Team/online play
The My Team section of the game allows players the opportunity to build their own teams and take on other gamers from all around the world. In getting started with the Packs and Playoffs you have to choose which type of playing style you would like your team to have, you then get 6 packs which give you randomised players for your team within that specific style. These players will be the base of your side and then as you play more, you will be able to trade and upgrade your side with new players and new extras.

In another interesting improvement, NBA 2K18 has done away with the linear loading/waiting time in between games. Instead, they have replaced it by combining My Pack and Pro-am to create the Neighborhood. This allows players to let loose in an open environment which helps hide the dreaded waiting times in between games.

This now brings us to the microtransaction dilemma, which arises in this edition of the game. Players will face the choice of whether to use their money to buy NBA tokens, which allow you to upgrade your team, or spend hours of game time accumulating these tokens. As these tokens are used to buy everything, and I mean everything from players to sneakers, it creates an uneven balance between those who spend the money and thus create powerful teams and those who don’t.

My General Manager
The My GM mode is a new text driven story mode on NBA 2K18. I must admit I like the idea but the fact that it is text driven is a little off-putting. There is a lot of reading, and I mean a lot. It seems more logical to have a real interaction with a combination of audio and text but maybe that is just me.

In this mode, the story is styled as a choose-your-own-adventure book. Another criticism is that the cut scenes are pretty simple, again with a lot of reading, and the few decisions you get to make don’t really feel like they have an impact. For example, you may make the decision to keep a coach in charge just to have the owners’ son fire him behind your back. I feel like this mode will see improvements in future editions of the series.

My League
The My League mode is quite possibly my favourite part of NBA 2K18. Here you can forget about the story elements, forget about having to accumulate tokens and just simply enjoy immersing yourself in the world of NBA. This mode offers a deeper analytical perspective of running a franchise and allows you to enjoy the experience of playing with your selected team.

In an interesting addition, a new analytics tool has been implemented allowing players to search across a variety of selected attributes to pinpoint the perfect player to add to their roster.

NBA 2K18 has taken a step forward in many regards. The gameplay has seen some fantastic improvements which were needed and that has resulted in an all-around great addition to the series. The added focus on player traits has seen a more realistic version which rewards players for real-life knowledge of the NBA. The fusion of the different modes into the Neighbourhood is also a clever and welcomed addition which helps mask those pesky waiting periods. It is also worth mentioning the quality graphics and sound that is apparent throughout the game.

As mentioned before, this title is walking a tightrope with the microtransaction for the online modes but this could be pointing towards a future trend which could become commonplace in gaming. The My GM story mode, while an interesting edition, does need a few improvements and I fully expect these to come in future games.

Overall NBA 2K18 is yet another quality addition to a game franchise which only seems to grow year by year. A must play for all NBA/basketball fans and lovers of the series.

By Dean Workman
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Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite Review

Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite Review

Developed and published by Capcom, Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite is the sixth main entry in the Marvel VS Capcom series of crossover games – and is available on PC, Xbox One, and the PlayStation 4. Like previous titles in the series, players control characters from both the Marvel Comics and Capcom universes to compete in tag team battles.

This time around, however, a few changes have been made. Instead of having 3-on-3 tag team battles, Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite only features 2-on-2 tag team battles. While 3-on-3 battles were a grand experience in the past titles, 2-on-2 battles make this title feel a lot more fluid. To add to the changes, players can now tag in their partner whenever they feel the need to. This allows the player to perform endless tag team combos throughout a match.

To amp up the gameplay experience even further, the developers have now introduced a new gameplay mechanic in the form of the Infinity Stones. The Infinity Stones can be used to temporarily give characters special powers and/or stat boosts. These stones come in the form of the Power Stone, Mind, Stone, Soul Stone, Time Stone, Space Stone and Reality Stone.

Before a match begins the player can select which stones they want to use. Each stone now has a unique Infinity Surge and an Infinity Storm. The Infinity Surge is an attack that generates the Infinity meter. Once the meter is at least 50%, the Infinity Storm becomes available. Upon activation, the background will change to the colour of the Infinity Stone and give the tag team a major advantage. By using the Infinity Storm, players can also gain full access to Level 3 Hyper Combos.

When it comes to combat and gameplay, Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite welcomes both newcomers and veterans to the series with open arms. Combat is an immense amount of fun to experience as it just flows perfectly, making Marvel VS Capcom one of the best fighting games on the market at the moment.

While I have praised Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite for its superb combat, the game, however, falls flat when it comes to the single-player campaign as well as graphics. The campaign is a simple one at that… The Marvel and Capcom universes collide as heroes and villains battle together to save their merged worlds from a sinister new threat, Ultron Sigma. A combination of the robotic foes known as Ultron from the Marvel Universe and Sigma from the Capcom Universe, this psychotic villain is obsessed with infecting all organic life with a cybernetic virus. History’s greatest gathering of warriors (Including the likes of Iron-Man, Hulk, Ryu, Doctor Strange, Rocket, and many more) must now unite to fight back against Ultron Sigma and save their newly formed world.

The campaign itself, which I thought would play out like a well-scripted Avengers film, unfortunately, felt more like fan-fiction that was accompanied with bad voice-acting as well as below par cut-scenes. Granted, watching both worlds collide was fun at first, but things started going downhill when I began to notice the that the character models were just not up to scratch in terms of graphics. This accompanied by the sub-par voice acting made the single-player campaign feel like a chore to complete. Yes, there were a few great moments in the single-player campaign, which included an epic team-up with the Hulk and Ryu, but these moments were few a far between.

Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite is a mixed bag of tricks. It features some of the best combat mechanics I have come across in a fighting game to-date; however, this is let down by a sub-par single-player campaign and mediocre voice acting.

In conclusion, if you are are going to pick up Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite ignore the sub-par campaign and focus on the Versus or Online modes instead. It’s a brilliant fighting game; however, the storyline essentially needed a lot more work, especially when it came to the graphics, script, and voice acting.

By: Darryl Linington
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