Save Yourself From Heartbreak – Backup your iPhone

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Your iPhone is probably one of your most important and valuable possessions and not just because of the premium price tag. Your device is home to all of your sensitive data and treasured memories in the form of photos, videos and messages. Think about it, if you lose or irreparably damage your iPhone, you could just get a new one no matter how ‘wallet breaking’ it may be. However, imagine that you lost those photos you took at your best friend’s wedding, the last video you made with your grandparents before they passed on, hours of instant messaging conversations with the love of your life or that mission critical document you took a picture of for work. Losing precious data is truly a heartbreaking experience, but there’s a simple and easy way to insure against such a situation and it can be summed up in two words: Back Up!

Apple has made it incredibly easy to back up your important data using iCloud and this should be the first go to solution. iCloud is available to anyone with an Apple device, not just iPhones. Each Apple ID comes with 5GB of storage free and can store everything from bookmarks, contacts, calendars, iCloud documents, mail, messages, notes and your iCloud photo library. The best part is that iCloud backups can be set to happen automatically whenever your device is connected to Wi-Fi, which means that it’s quite a ‘set and forget’ approach to backing up your data. If you take lots of pictures and videos though, you’ll find yourself soon running out of space and needing to purchase more, yes you’ll have to spend for extra storage. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to note that expanding your storage is pretty affordable with expansion starting at USD 0.99 per month for 50GB.

While iCloud backups alone can often be sufficient to ensure that your data is backed up to the cloud and so available to you anywhere at any time, it’s very easy to have your backups corrupted as a result of device sync issues and incorrectly setting up sync features on your other devices. Another way your data in the cloud could be affected is by hackers. Therefore, it’s always best to couple iCloud backups with at least one other method.

The best method to couple iCloud Backups with is a local backup regimen to a laptop or PC. This way you can rest assured knowing that you have a copy of your information that you control, rather than leaving everything to the mystical nature of the Cloud. This can be easily accomplished using iTunes and connecting your device to your computer. iTunes lets you automatically or manually backup your device locally and even lets you encrypt your backups for added security, which means no one but you will have access to your personal data. With the exception of media purchased from the iTunes store, all other data including photos, videos, contacts, notes, call histories, profiles and bookmarks will all be backed up.

For added security and safety, you can make copies of your backed up data and hold them on external drives so that you’re always sure to have copies of your sensitive information. You can take things one step further to secure yourself by encrypting the external storage device you will use to store your backups as well. Keeping external, offline backups will also ensure you will never fall victim to ransomware attacks as you can always restore backups. Speaking of which, backups also come in handy when upgrading or just setting up a new device as you can easily transfer all your data, settings and stuff by just restoring an old backup. It is also possible to backup your iPhone data to third party cloud service providers such as Google Drive.

Do you backup? Will you back up in the future? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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Cryptomania Fuels GPU Price Bubble, Causes Worldwide Shortage

Gamers, casual PC enthusiasts and content creators everywhere have been suffering since the middle of2017 as prices of GPUs (Graphics Processors or Cards) have gone through the roof, even here in SriLanka. These massive increases in retail prices are driven by the cryptocurrency mining craze that reached epic proportions in 2017. Along with increased prices, the high demand from miners has also resulted in massive shortages worldwide.

 

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum shone during 2017. Their astronomical gains led many to believe in them as assets of the future. However, like any system of electronic value transfer, a networkneeds to be in place to facilitate and validate transactions and Crypto Miners provide this transactional network infrastructure.

Crypto Mines are essentially massive computer rigs with 10s if not 100s of GPUs linked together to work on what is called hashing, the solving of complex mathematical problems, in order to validate transactions. In return for their effort, the miners receive a certain amount of the Cryptocurrency they’re validating to keep for themselves.

The craze has taken hold even here in Sri Lanka. We were surprised when we spoke to industry insiders at Unity Plaza, Sri Lanka’s biggest IT mall. While asking to remain anonymous, they confirmed that there was a massive shortage of GPUs, particularly at the high end with many costing more than twice their actual worth, if you can even find one.

The situation has become so bad that retailers here and abroad are now refusing to sell more than a single GPU to an individual, maybe two if it’s clear the person is genuinely setting up a high end computer. According to our sources, there are a number of clandestine, solar powered Bitcoin mines operating in Sri Lanka and these miners are zapping up high end graphics cards like the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 at prices exceeding LKR 120,000/-, which is double what the card is worth. Even mid-range
cards have significant premiums added to their prices.

Companies like NVIDIA and ATI have recently come out strongly against the prevailing status quo, even going so far as to request that retailers restrict bulk sales so that sufficient supplies can be made available for genuine users. These companies have also worked to release mining specific GPUs that are designed especially for cryptomining and provide far superior performance than ordinary consumer cards to ease the situation. This, along with small scale mining becoming less profitable with recent
drops in crypto prices and increased numbers of miners may see the prices of GPUs come down slightly in the future along with supply levels reaching normalcy.

The crypto mining craze has also spawned a plethora of malware that highjacks unsuspecting users’ system resources (CPU,GPU) to run mining software for unscrupulous miners. If you find your computer is slow, warmer than usual or hangs frequently check your task manager to see what’s running in the background. Every so often you’ll find it’s crypto mining malware. Good antivirus/malware software can
help prevent such disasters.

Speaking of mining software, do you know that you can mine cryptocurrencies too? If you have extra computers or keep your computer running at night you can use software such as NiceHash, whichis very easy to install, to mine cryptocurrencies and receive Bitcoin in return for your efforts. Even a small amount can be significant if the uptrend in prices resumes as many expect it to.

But hey, if cryptos crash or don’t recover again properly, the market will be flooded with cheap GPUs and gamers and other users will be spoilt for choice.

What do you think about cryptomania, mining and unscrupulous activity in its name? Let us know in the comments below!

SLASSCOM’s People Summit 2018 – Transforming The Way We Think, Work & Connect

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The SLASSCOM People Summit 2018 will be conducted for the seventh consecutive year on the 20th of February 2018 at the Shangri-La Colombo. It aims to provide leaders at all levels with innovative talent management insights and perspectives from renowned global leaders, along with prime networking and experience sharing opportunities. The event will bring together over 300 HR professionals and business leaders representing IT/BPM and other industries.

The summit’s objectives are two fold – firstly, to expose the audience to international best practices,cutting-edge trends and insights delivered by renowned HR practitioners within the region. Secondly, to provide an excellent networking opportunity for participants to meet and share experiences.

This year, the SLASSCOM People Summit 2018 will be held under the theme ‘Transforming the way we Think, Work and Connect’ in keeping with current trends and focusing on what are known to be the biggest issues in people management, globally. Areas such as building collaborative organisations, data analytics and leveraging automation & AI based technology to build future ready organisations will be delved into.

The summit will comprise of two main sessions: The CXO Breakfast Forum and the General Conference. The conference will have three parallel breakout sessions focusing on gathering insights through data analytics to create value, creating future ready organisations using AI & Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and building collaborative workspaces through concepts such as work-out loud and design thinking.

Experienced speakers from renowned organisations around the world will be conducting these workshops with the keynote address being delivered by Oracle Corporation Asia Pacific HCM Cloud Applications Head, Yazad Dalal. Other speakers include Virtusa Executive Vice President and Global COO Keith Modder, Microsoft Asia Pacific Human Resources Director Kathy Tingate, University of Columbia Economics Professor Prof. Lalith Munasinghe, Great Place To Work India CEO Prasenjit
Bhattacharya and Great Place To Work Sri Lanka Director and Oracle Corporation HR Asia Pacific Senior Director Rachna Sampayo.

Tickets for the SLASSCOM People Summit 2018 are available now and can be purchased online here. If you’re a SLASSCOM member, tickets are priced at LKR 15,000/- with group tickets for five available at the discounted price of LKR 67,500/-. For everyone else tickets are priced at LKR 17,000/ with group tickets for five available at the discounted price of LKR 76,500/-. It’s also possible to attend only the CXO Breakfast forum for which tickets are priced at LKR. 8,000/-.

We are excited to see the new ideas and concepts that will be presented at this year’s SLASSCOM People Summit. After all, human capital is probably the most important capital of all and the most easily mismanaged. Better, more modern management practices will result in better places to work and thus increased productivity, job satisfaction and overall well-being.

Will you be attending this year’s People Summit? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Caught Red Handed: Apple Is Purposely Slowing Down iPhones

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Have you ever wondered if your iPhone was becoming slower? Well, wonder no more! Older iPhones are becoming slower but not because they’re old. Instead, it appears that Apple is deliberately slowing down old iPhones through software updates causing the phone’s processor speed to be limited. Apple was forced to officially admit to this practice after a Reddit post about slowing iPhones went viral. While Apple’s reasoning for this practice is sound, it still sounds very much like ‘planned obsolescence’ a practice where manufacturers intentionally mess around with old devices so that users will be forced to buy new ones.  In the aftermath of the official admission by apple 26 lawsuits have been filed against the company.

 

Early last year iPhone 6, 6S and 6 Plus users complained that their phones were suddenly shutting down, even though there was sufficient battery left. This tended to happen during peak current demands when users would be doing something on their phones that required a burst of power like playing games or downloading apps. It’s this issue that apple tried to remedy through the deliberate slowing down of older iPhones. The reasoning goes that the phones were shutting off as a result of ageing batteries not being able to provide peak power when required. The solution to the problem was to limit the processor speed on older devices in order to prevent the phone from drawing peak current from the battery.

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Here’s Apple’s official statement: ‘Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

‘Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.’

John Poole the founder of Primate Labs and Geekbench took matters into his own hands even before Apple’s confession and pulled together and compared data from the performance testing Geekbench had done on users’ iPhone 6s and 7 devices. His analysis revealed that processors did slow down after the software update meant to fix the shutdown problem, that the problem was widespread, and likely to get worse as phones (and their batteries) age. He also noted that iPhone 6s users who replaced their batteries had faster phones.  According to his analysis even the iPhone 7 was being slowed down by the update.

All of this is quite upsetting because while Apple appears to be doing something for the benefit of its users, it shines a light on the potential for manufacturers to tamper with old devices in order to force users to buy new ones. Apple has faced a barrage of criticism about the issue, huge social media backlash and even some lawsuits. We think that the response is not only reasonable but also good because if users are not going to hold their device manufacturers accountable, there’s no telling what they might get up to!

What do you think? Are you one of those affected? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

The Fake WhatsApp: Why You Should Think Once & Read Twice Before Downloading Apps

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It seems incredible but, believe it or not, a cunning app developer has managed to spoof over a million users into downloading an advertising app that masquerades as the globally popular messaging app, WhatsApp. The app is called Update WhatsApp Messenger and does a very convincing job of looking like the real thing, even pulling off a clever trick to ensure that the developer’s name appears legitimate.

Fortunately, this particular developer wasn’t exactly malicious and their only intention seems to have been to generate ad revenue by tricking users into downloading the app. The app also didn’t require too many permissions and turned out to be an ad-loaded wrapper which is designed to have a blank icon and title so that users don’t see the app once it’s installed. This has left novice users helpless against the app’s intrusive ads and unable to uninstall it. For added measure and to encourage more people to download the app, the developers used a clever, digital ‘sleight of hand’ to appear as the genuine developers of WhatsApp. They achieved this by using what is known as a Unicode character space after the developer name which read, in computer code, as ‘WhatsApp+Inc%C2%A0.’ but appeared to Android users as ‘Whats App Inc.’ just like the real deal.

Google has now removed this ‘fake WhatsApp’ from the Play Store but this is not the first time such apps have been spotted on Google’s official app delivery platform. The Play Store has often been plagued with these kinds of incidents but this one is particularly significant given the number of downloads and the lengths to which the developers had gone to appear genuine. It’s very sad and even shameful that Google wasn’t able to pick up on this scam early on and put an end to it, even as more than a million users downloaded the app.

Despite efforts on Google’s own part and their security incentive programs such as Bug Bounty, the Play Store is awash with malicious apps that manage to fool security mechanisms and affect Android users in the millions. While this is to be expected given the Android Platform’s open nature as opposed to its competitors, it’s high time that Google stepped up its efforts to stop this kind of exploitation of its services.

Still, common sense is the best and first line of defence in the world of cyberspace. Despite the lengths to which the developers had gone to appear legitimate, there were a number of tell-tale signs of ‘fishiness’ to anyone with common sense and anyone who took a bit of time to read before they tapped install. First off the name, ‘Update WhatsApp Messenger’ is a dead giveaway. Why would What’s App issue an ‘update app’ when updates to the app are delivered via the Play Store? Then, the number of downloads. It’s common knowledge that, What’s App has over a billion users so the app having only one million downloads should look suspicious. A cursory reading of the reviews may also have alerted users to the nature of the app they were downloading. For more knowledgeable users, the ‘contains ads’ under the install button would also have been a huge red flag as WhatsApp does not display ads.

The lesson to be taken from this episode is that ultimately, you alone are responsible for your security online. It is very unlikely that you can be infected, affected or in any other way intruded upon without your authorization. Therefore, we strongly encourage everyone to think once and read twice before they click or tap on anything.

SimCentric Technologies

Quietly Creating World Changing Solutions

Software development companies are not a new thing in Sri Lanka nor are they in short supply. However, this week we had a lovely chat with Haridhu Abeygoonaratne, the General Manager of SimCentric Technologies, which is a R&D company specializing in advanced simulation add-ons and behaviour control modules, located at the Orion City IT Park in Sri Lanka that creates and sells simulation based products to the great militaries of the world.

SimCentric does not do any business in Sri Lanka at this time but the company is a Sri Lankan start up and not a part of any other organization and all its intellectual property rights are held in Sri Lanka. It was set up by two PhD holders from Oxford University, one of whom is a Sri Lankan.  Their work is exciting because the software that they develop allows militaries to train soldiers for missions using computer simulations without having to do real world training.

SimCentric works in partnership with Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BIS). BIS is the developer of the highly complex and versatile Virtual Battle Space 3 simulation engine (VBS 3) and SimCentric designs the add-ons and the Application Programming Interface (API) for that engine. The engine has everything from intricate maps to military units like battle vehicles and troops. Maps are detailed based on GPS and other geotypical information and can be used to run life-like simulations of battle field operations.

SimCentric sells two main off the shelf products, one for artillery fire training and the other for close air support. When training for artillery missions, according Haridhu, the artillery guns remain far behind enemy lines and scouts are sent forward to relay information back. This information is used to target the attack. A real world training exercise for an operation of this nature would require vast tracts of land, arms, ammunition and financial resources and would be extremely time consuming to set up. Instead, the world’s major militaries use solutions developed by SimCentric to run life-like training simulations for such operations.

The second product is Close Air Support, which is used when troops on the ground call in an air strike or for aerial assistance. Haridhu used the example of the Transformers movie where sequences like that can be seen, to illustrate. In this case too it is very complicated and resource intensive for militaries to conduct real-world training exercises. In some cases, it may actually be impossible to do so and this is where simulation based training comes in, allowing training for these exercises to be conducted at a much lower cost and with the added benefit of being able to run through them as many times as necessary.

In addition to these benefits, simulation based training is also very flexible in that troops can literally be trained anywhere and the equipment is portable which means it can even be taken onto the battlefield to provide onsite training. Using the solutions that SimCentric develops it is possible to adapt the software to any kind of simulator to provide training in diverse environments, vehicles or equipment. These products adapt easily and can be used by flight simulators or even battle tank simulators for any training purpose.

Generally such training exercises are conducted in large computer lab environments which make it difficult for one instructor to monitor exactly what each trainee is doing. Based on this, SimCentrics has developed yet another breakthrough technology branded TrainingMate. TrainingMate allows militaries to maximise the efficacy of VBS3 in battle lab training environments. It is a tool which allows an instructor to monitor trainees’ performance, easily launch and conduct training scenarios and to provide real-time feedback or instructions to trainees during a scenario all without moving around a classroom.  It also allows the instructor to operate from a remote location, which gives even more flexibility. This has resolved a lot of problems for training, especially on the part of the instructors who need not move around a classroom anymore and can clearly see exactly what every trainee is doing through screen share, remote assistance and other features.

After spending years on military simulation solutions, Haridhu now says they are working on adapting the TrainingMate platform to the education sector with a product branded Oxspire Classroom. The applications for such technology in education are vast and possibly ground breaking especially in a computer lab environment. Imagine attending computer classes and being able to receive one-on-one instructions from the best instructors who need not even be at the same location as the students or even in the same country. According to Haridhu, SimCentric is not looking to profit off of this technology from the Sri Lankan market and is happy to offer this to the local education sector at a very affordable price, as a way of giving back to their homeland.

Speaking about what sets SimCentric apart from other software companies at Orion City and in Sri Lanka, Haridhu had this to say, ‘What sets us apart at SimCentric is our people. We truly have an exceptional team.  It’s a young team and we don’t believe in unnecessary hierarchies and encourage an open environment where everyone can contribute. We have a healthy mix of staff from different ethnicities, genders and from state and private universities. Diversity is essential for innovation. We also encourage responsible behaviour amongst our staff, for example during the recent flood situation in the country, our team collectively decided to cut down on some entertainment expenditure and contribute that money towards relief efforts. This was not a management decision but a collective decision made by our employees. This is not to say that we have absolutely no hierarchy. We do, but for administrative purposes only.

‘We largely like to keep to ourselves, particularly because of the sensitive nature of our work. But I think now it’s time to let people know about our start-up success story. People in Sri Lanka and investors abroad both need to know that our country has a well-educated, sophisticated workforce and vast amounts of untapped talent. It’s not only a good place for basic software development but also for more sophisticated software products. This is very well supported by the plans laid out by the Sri Lanka Association for Software and Services Companies or SLASSCOM. I myself am part of SLASSCOM and this gives me a platform to encourage entrepreneurship and share our story so others can be inspired.

‘I want people to understand that Sri Lanka is a great place to set up shop and I want Sri Lankans to know that this is a great place to be an entrepreneur. SimCentric is a wonderful example of this where we started from scratch. I myself have been here from day one and have been involved in everything from ground up. That’s the typical start-up culture. I hope that our story will inspire others to do great things because there’s so much potential right here in Sri Lanka to make a big impact around the world.’

Visit SimCentric Technologies website and Facebook page to learn more about their work.

The Millennial: A Tough Customer

There is some argument as to exactly where Millennials begin and end but it’s safe to say that, almost without anyone realizing it, the kids of the late 80s, the 90s and the very early 2000s have grown up to become the largest group of consumers in the marketplace today. The Millennial Generation, especially the early ones, have grown up with the internet, literally.

They were born into and live in the information age and see it as natural to get any information they want on demand, usually within seconds to a minute. They have become accustomed to real-time responses from their favourite brands with online shoppers claiming that valuing their time is the most important thing a brand can do for them. Add social media into this merry mix and things have become extremely complicated and demanding for marketers.

Constantly switching between laptop, phone and TV has become habitual for most of us, yes even the non-Millennials. So, brands need to market and connect with consumers across multiple devices and social channels. In addition, as a result of being bombarded with information, the Millennial attention span is minimal, with some quipping that a competition with goldfish is in the offing. This means that websites and other digital platforms need to have clean, easy to use interfaces with tons of information displayed in an uncluttered fashion. Millennials don’t fall for the marketing gimmicks of yesterday and they expect brands to have an informal and honest attitude when dealing with customers.

Millennials like to engage with brands and their peers through tweets, texts, posts and Instagrams and not in any traditional manner. So, as a marketer, if you’re not speaking to your Millennial audience on their preferred platforms, in their native tongues and with complete authenticity or at least the air of complete authenticity :-P, then you are sure to be out of luck because say, ‘hello’ to the Social Warrior. They’re the armchair generals of the age only with the ability to inflict actual damage by weighing in on ‘social opinion’, even directing it.

While all of the demands that Millennials place on their brands of choice have made the marketplace a battlefield for marketers, the demanding nature of Millennials means that plenty of good is coming out of it as well. They’re socially conscious and really want to make a difference or at least feel that they are part of a movement that is making a difference. This means a healthy scepticism of overt sales tactics and a demand that their brands of choice act responsibly and become intimately involved in addressing the social issues of the day. For this reason, a brand that wants success in the marketplace will do well to choose and align themselves with a good cause, donating portions of profits or fundraising through promotional events.

All of these new demands might seem gloomy at face value, but there’s a very positive side to it too. You see, Millennials are a paradox. They are sceptical to overtness and fakery but they are by far the generation most open and receptive to advertising, partly because of their own voracious curiosity and also because the digital platforms with which they engage are a marketer’s dream. Whether they like it or not, Millennials can be reached.

Products and services today are more saleable in the market place than ever been before. In addition to this, post campaign launch, the audience themselves will do a lot of the work for you through content sharing, which has become a new kind of proclamation of self and values. Through it, consumers express their beliefs, who they are and the image that they want to project to the world.

Millennials, unlike generations before them, were largely brought up to believe that they can do anything and that they are special. This means a serious need for personalization of marketing content for this demographic and this is now easily achieved through various social platforms and a little bit of ingenuity on the part of the marketer. They value success, happiness, curiosity, enjoyment and passion and this drives how they engage with the brands of their choice. They want fun and engaging content and it never hurts to throw in a bit of wit and humour.

With the changes that we have seen in the last 30 years, the marketplace has evolved and changed. It has become simpler and more complex at the same time. While this means that it has never before been more difficult to market a product or a service. It also means that it has never before been easier to do so. The marketplace today, especially the Millennial demographic, is more ripe and receptive than it has ever been before.