Durban gets internet exchange

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INX-ZA announced on Tuesday that Durban has become the first South African city to get a multi-site Internet exchange point. This has been achieved following a public private partnership between INX-ZA and Ethekwini Municipality (Durban Municipality).


By contributing resources from its Ethekwini Fibre Metro project, the City of Durban has been able to work towards its socio economic goals to promote the local economy. Having multiple site Internet Exchanges, lowers the operating costs for local Internet Service Providers based in Durban, increases the quality of the experience for Durban users, especially when accessing websites hosted locally in Durban.

Internet exchange points enable Internet Service Providers to interconnect their networks, so that users benefit from faster connections and more efficient access to online services. Internet exchanges in South Africa have historically been limited to a single location, requiring ISPs using the exchange, to have infrastructure connecting to that location.

Now, with the support of the Ethekwini Metro and Internet Solutions, INX-ZA has been able to extend the Durban Internet Exchange (DINX) to a second location, in Umhlanga.

Nishal Goburdhan, INX-ZA’s Manager said the extension of DINX makes it easy for Internet companies who already have infrastructure in Umhlanga to connect to peers at the existing DINX location.

“Peers at the new site will have the same peering experience and will be able to be directly linked, at no additional complexity to all existing, and future DINX peers. Network operators now get more flexibility in the choice of location that they may want to host their infrastructure at.  Companies connecting to DINX also get immediate access to resilient core Internet infrastructure services, like the domain name services hosted at the current DINX location, which means that users on their networks are less likely to experience down-time if the global domain name system comes under attack.”

An early adopter of the new DINX service is eNetworks.  Saul Stein, Technical Manager has this to say about the project:  “The multi-site INX (Internet Exchange) in Umhlanga has afforded our Durban based customers the same experience as their counter parts in Johannesburg and Cape Town, allowing us to inter-connect to peer ISPs in the region. Being based in Umhlanga, it was a phenomenal experience for the INX to extended out to Umhlanga, rather than having to build out to the INX.”

INX-ZA began as a project of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), but is now independently managed by the users of the Internet exchanges. INX-ZA currently operates the only community-run, public Internet exchanges in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The Johannesburg exchange point is the oldest Internet exchange on the continent, and has provided uninterrupted services to users since December 1996. Plans are underway to extend multisite capabilities to JINX and CINX.

The connection between the existing Riverhorse Valley location and Umhlanga is being provided by the Ethekwini Metro fibre project.

MTN, Jumia launches Africa’s Entrepreneurship Challenge 

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MTN, in partnership with the MTN Solution Space and Jumia, on Tuesday announced the launch of the MTN Entrepreneurship Challenge powered by Jumia.


The Pan-African competition, will be the first of its kind in Africa, bringing together over 1000 entrepreneurs, students and investors, to collaborate on ways to amplify and consolidate the continent’s entrepreneurs. Targeting more than 60 universities in 13 countries across Africa, the competition will challenge students to develop a unique digital application or smart solution that will solve a tangible problem faced on the continent.

“We are incredibly excited to partner with Jumia to launch the entrepreneurship challenge. Africa is a continent of promise, and our aim with the MTN Solution Space has always been to help fulfil this promise by developing uniquely African solutions. We believe that the entrepreneurship challenge is a key element of this. The response and willingness from universities across Africa to collaborate on this initiative has been truly remarkable and certainly exemplifies the impact of collective efforts to foster entrepreneurship among our next generation of business leaders,” says Sarah-Anne Arnold, Manager of the MTN Solution Space.

Applications for the first round of the multi-phased competition are open from today and will close on 27 March 2016. Aspiring entrepreneurs from participating universities can enter in teams by logging onto www.gsb.uct.ac.za/MTNECbyJumia.

All applications will be judged by campus captains, who consist of successful entrepreneurs in their respective market. Shortlisted teams will then move on to a live pitching phase at their selected universities between 1-8 April 2016, after which the final five projects will be selected to move through to the Semi-Final.

The finalists will be announced on 16 April 2016, and as part of this achievement, the successful teams will get the opportunity to attend the Entrepreneurship festival, hosted at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business in South Africa on May 27 2016.

The festival, aims to facilitate the collaboration of over a thousand attendees with prominent and innovative speakers and workshop experts from across the world. Finalists will have to pitch their business to a room of successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, judges, investors and international media, after which the winner of the challenge will be announced.

The winner of the MTN Entrepreneurship Challenge powered by Jumia will win a cash prize of $25 000 towards their start-up, and will also benefit from a yearlong partnership with Jumia, where they will have the opportunity to work from any of JUMIA’s offices across Africa. This will enable the winner to learn from, and be mentored by experienced and successful entrepreneurs in the JUMIA network.

The winner will also have access to a Facebook Start Program to the value of $15 000, which includes tools and services needed to build mobile applications. In addition, they will have the opportunity to work from the MTN Solution Space at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. The two runners-up will each receive $5 000 towards their projects.

“This competition will contribute to building a stronger and more sustainable business environment across Africa. Its main goal is to boost and fuel African entrepreneurship by enabling young and smart entrepreneurs to kick off with their own projects. The key for us is to give full and adapted support to young talents, from funding to mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs,” says Bankole Cardoso, Head of Communications from Jumia.

For more information about the MTN Entrepreneurship Challenge powered by Jumia, visit the MTN Solution Space at www.gsb.uct.ac.za and Jumia at www.Jumia.com or visit their social media pages on Facebook: facebook.com/uctgsbsolutions. More information will also be available on Twitter at @uctgsbsolutions and @Africa_IG, where regular updates, articles and interviews will be shared.

MTN fixes network problems

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Mobile operator MTN has remedied the network problem that saw a million subscribers affected by intermittent outages of SMS and data. By Duncan Alfreds, NewsAgency


“Our engineers worked around the clock to resolve the connections issues. Everything is back to normal, we are monitoring and shall revert if any changes during the day,” MTN SA told Fin24.

Late on Monday intermittent network problems related to SMS, data and voice caused about a million subscribers to have limited access to the network.

“MTN experienced network intermittent connection issues affecting approximately one million voice, SMS and data customers throughout the country yesterday (Monday). This is due to a minor glitch in the nodes carrying traffic related to the affected customers,” the company said.

“MTN apologises for the inconvenience this may have caused to our customers,” it said. – Fin24

Are dating apps killing relationships?

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By Skye C. Cleary

Online dating sites and apps are transforming relationships. More than 10 percent of American adults – and almost 40 percent of people who identify as “single and looking” – are using online dating websites and apps.


But what might someone from the 19th century think about this unique fusion of technology and romance?

In the late 1800s, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had a lot to say about love. Arguing that society was heading toward nihilism – that is, a world without meaning, morals and values – Nietzsche thought that romantic love was frivolous, with friendship acting as a much stronger foundation for relationships.

From a Nietzschean perspective, the rise of dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, Omegle and Grindr that encourage us to “swipe” or judge potential lovers in a nanosecond could be cited as examples of a society that has become obsessed with pleasure and instant gratification.

Nietzsche also said that instinctive judgments are misleading because they “pronounce their Yes and No before the understanding can speak.” Furthermore, to act impulsively is decadent and hedonistic, and these are “signposts to nihilism.”

So does the rise of online dating in our culture signal an embrace of self-indulgence? And does it come at the expense of long-term relationships?

The research is mixed, but a few dominant themes emerge, including findings showing that “swiping right” might not be the best way to find a true match.

Quick picks

Tinder certainly isn’t killing romance – at least, that of the ephemeral kind.

More choices, more relationships, and more socializing open up new kinds of opportunities that wouldn’t have existed without dating apps and websites. A 2012 study found that the Internet has allowed users to find partners more easily, especially homosexuals and middle-aged people who operate in a “thin market.”

The big question is whether marriages that originate online work out in the long run. Here, the research is mixed. Some studies suggest that American marriages that begin online are slightly less prone to collapse than those who met offline. Other studies find the opposite.

Nonetheless, there’s an inherent problem with how these online relationships begin – at least, from a Nietzschean perspective.

Because users instinctively react to photographs, they’re choosing dates or matches based on sexual attraction and airbrushed beauty. (Studies also show that users will misrepresent themselves on their online profiles.)

So sure, there might be an initial physical spark. But what about the things that ensure a long-term relationship, like trust, constructive communication and enjoying joint activities?

Tired romance

The fundamental problem with modern Western coupling is the ideal that romantic love culminates in marriage – and will last forever.

This ignores the fact that romantic passion dissolves over time. Nietzsche likened it to an engraving that fades when bare fingers continually touch it. Lovers tire of each other. Habits weigh them down. Love’s passion and beauty atrophy.

Research about how long romance lasts tends to vary. But most arrive at the same conclusion: it doesn’t last forever.

A group of Italian scientists found that neuropeptides – molecules associated with the euphoria of love – returned to normal levels within 12 to 24 months of being in a romantic relationship. Another group of neurobiologists found that levels of hormones such as cortisol change upon falling in love and return to normal levels after 12 to 18 months. Other researchers found that people in a relationship for 28.8 months on average appeared less intensely in love than those who had been in love for 7.4 months.

On the other hand, in 2009, researchers at Stony Brook University conducted a meta-analysis of 25 studies of romantic lovers who were college age or older. They suggested that as long as we don’t include the obsessiveness of the early phases of romantic love in our definition of it, then long-term romance may be possible.

Whatever the lucky number, the reality is that over one-third of marriages do not make it to a 25-year silver anniversary. And even without the work of social scientists at hand, Nietzsche understood that, in many cases, romantic passion fades. As a solution, he suggested banning marriage for a couple in the initial throes of romantic passion.

He fantasized about giving two lovers a special pair of glasses so that they could see how the other would look in 20 years’ time. Presumably, it would either extinguish their attraction, or they’d be better prepared to grow old together.

Sexual attraction is undoubtedly an important part of romance. But from a Nietzschean perspective, strong-willed people enjoy the intoxication of loving, but have the big picture in mind: they realize the main criterion for choosing a long-term partner ought to be the ability to hold a decent conversation. Nietzsche suggested that intellectual attraction would provide a deeper and more durable foundation for relationships than sex appeal.

Research suggests that the ability to communicate is central to relationship durability. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology suggested that negative communication is one of the key culprits of divorce. Another 2010 study found – unsurprisingly – that couples who criticized and yelled at each other early in the marriage had higher divorce rates.

Forming an über-relationhip

Apps discourage friendship more than any other form of courtship because they rush “Yes and No” snap judgments of others with information that’s highly edited.

Nietzsche warned that by presenting ourselves in highly curated ways, we risk becoming victims of our own acting skills because we have to become our masks in order to sustain the illusions we create. In the process, we sacrifice authenticity. (A study in 2002 found that the few people who reveal their “true” selves online create more enduring friendships.)

If lovers were better friends, relationships would be healthier. Great friends support and encourage each other to look beyond themselves, to achieve their goals and to become better people. Nietzsche referred to this as striving toward the ideal of the Übermensch.

Marriage is still useful when taken seriously, but it’s not the only valuable structure. Married or cohabiting, open or closed, gay or straight, sexual or platonic, brief or lifelong – all can work just as well, as long as they’re built on a foundation of trust, respect and friendship.

Gravitational waves discovered

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One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein published his general theory of relativity, which described how gravity warps and distorts space-time. While this theory triggered a revolution in our understanding of the universe, it made one prediction that even Einstein doubted could be confirmed: the existence of gravitational waves.

Today, a century later, we have that confirmation, with the detection of gravitational waves by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (aLIGO) detectors.

Here we collect reactions and analysis from some of the leading astronomers and astrophysicists from around the world. By Keith Riles, Alan Duffy,  Amanda Weltman, Daniel Kennefick,  David Parkinson,  Maria Womack, Stephen Smartt, Tamara Davis,  and Tara Murphy


Keith Riles, University of Michigan

Keith Riles explains gravitational waves.

Einstein was skeptical that gravitational waves would ever be detected because the predicted waves were so weak. Einstein was right to wonder – the signal detected on September 14, 2015 by the aLIGO interferometers caused each arm of each L-shaped detector to change by only 2 billionths of a billionth of a meter, about 400 times smaller than the radius of a proton.

It may seem inconceivable to measure such tiny changes, especially with a giant apparatus like aLIGO. But the secret lies in the lasers (the real “L” in LIGO) that are projected down each arm.

Fittingly, Einstein himself indirectly helped make those lasers happen, first by explaining the photoelectric effect in terms of photons (for which he earned the Nobel Prize), and second, by creating (along with Bose) the theoretical foundation of lasers, which create coherent beams of photons, all with the same frequency and direction.

In the aLIGO arms there are nearly a trillion trillion photons
per second impinging on the mirrors, all sensing the precise
positions of the interferometer mirrors. It is this collective,
coherent sensing that makes it possible to determine that one mirror has moved in one direction, while a mirror in the other
arm has moved in a different direction. This distinctive,
differential motion is what characterizes a gravitational
wave, a momentary differential warp of space itself.

By normally operating aLIGO in a mode of nearly perfect cancellation of the light returning from the two arms (destructive interference), scientists can therefore detect the passage of a gravitational wave by looking for a momentary brightening of the output beam.

The particular pattern of brightening observed on September 14
agrees remarkably well with what Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity predicts for two massive black holes in the final moments of a death spiral. Fittingly, Einstein’s theory of photons has helped to verify Einstein’s theory of gravity, a century after its creation.


Amanda Weltman, University of Cape Town

The results are in and they are breathtaking. Almost exactly 100 years ago Einstein published “Die Feldgleichungen der Gravitation” in which he laid out a new theory of gravity, his General Theory of Relativity. Einstein not only improved on his predecessor, Newton, by explaining the unexpected orbit of the planet Mercury, but he went beyond and laid out a set of predictions that have shaken the very foundations of our understanding of the universe and our place in it. These predictions include the bending of light leading to lensed objects in the sky, the existence of black holes from which no light can escape as well as the entire framework for our modern understanding of cosmology.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured gravitational lensing of light, as predicted by Einstein. NASA, ESA, K. Sharon (Tel Aviv University) and E. Ofek (Caltech), CC BY
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured gravitational lensing of light, as predicted by Einstein. NASA, ESA, K. Sharon (Tel Aviv University) and E. Ofek (Caltech), CC BY

 

Einstein’s predictions have so far all proven true, and today, the final prediction has been directly detected, that of gravitational waves, the tiniest ripples through space; the energy radiated away by two massive heavenly bodies spiralling into each other. This is the discovery of the century, and it is perhaps poetic that one of the places it is being announced is Pisa, the very place where, according to legend, 500 years ago, Galileo dropped two massive objects to test how matter reacts to gravity.

As we bathe in the glory of this moment it is appropriate to ask, what is next for astronomy and physics and who will bring about the next revolution? Today’s discovery will become tomorrow’s history. Advanced LIGO brings a new way of testing gravity, of explaining the universe, but it also brings about the end of an era of sorts. It is time for the next frontier, with the Square Kilometre Array project finally afoot across Africa and Australia, the global South and indeed Africa itself is poised to provide the next pulse of gravity research.


Stephen Smartt, Queen’s University Belfast

Not only is this remarkable discovery of gravitational waves an extraordinary breakthrough in physics, it is a very surprising glimpse of a massive black hole binary system, meaning two black holes that are merging together.

Black holes are dark objects with a mass beyond what is possible for neutron stars, which are a type of very compact stars – about 10 km across and weighing up to two solar masses. To imagine this kind of density, think of the entire human population squeezed onto a tea spoon. Black holes are even more extreme than that. We’ve known about binary neutron stars for years and the first detection of gravitational waves were expected to be two neutron stars colliding.

What we know about black hole pairs so far comes from the study of the stars orbiting around them. These binary systems typically have black holes with masses five to 20 times that of the sun. But LIGO has seen two black holes with about 30 times the mass of the sun in a binary system that has finally merged. This is remarkable for several reasons. It is the first detection of two merging black holes, it is at a much greater distance than LIGO expected to find sources, and the total mass in the system is also much larger than expected.

This raises interesting questions about the stars that could have produced this system. We know massive stars die in supernovae, and most of these supernovae (probably at least 60%) produce neutron stars. The more massive stars have very large cores that collapse and are too massive to be stable neutron stars so they collapse all the way to black holes.

But a binary system with two black holes of around 30 solar masses is puzzling. We know of massive binary star systems in our own and nearby galaxies, and they have initial masses well in excess of 100 suns. But we see them losing mass through enormous radiation pressure and they are predicted, and often observed, to end their lives with masses much smaller – typically about ten times the sun.

If the LIGO object is a pair of 30 solar mass black holes, then the stars that formed it must have been at least as massive. Astronomers will be asking – how can massive stars end their lives so big and how can they create black holes so massive? As well as the gravitational wave discovery, this remarkable result will affect the rest of astronomy for some time.


Alan Duffy, Swinburne University

The detection of gravitational waves is the confirmation of Albert Einstein’s final prediction and ends a century-long search for something that even he believed would remain forever untested.

This discovery marks not the end, but rather the beginning, of an era in which we explore the universe around us with a fundamentally new sense. Touch, smell, sight and sound all use ripples in an electromagnetic field, which we call light, but now we can make use of ripples in the background field of space-time itself to “see” our surroundings. That is why this discovery is so exciting.

The Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (aLIGO) measured the tiny stretching of space-time by distant colliding black holes, giving them a unique view into the most extreme objects in general relativity.

The exact “ringing” of space-time as the ripples pass through the detector test this theory and our understanding of gravity in ways no other experiment can.

We can even probe the way galaxies grow and collide by trying to measure the gravitational waves from the even larger collisions of supermassive black holes as the galaxies they are contained in smash together.

Australia in particular is a leading nation in this search, using distant pulsars as the ruler at the Parkes telescope.

The LIGO detectors are sensitive to the minute ripples in space-time caused by the merging of two black holes. University of Birmingham Gravitational Waves Group, Christopher Berr
The LIGO detectors are sensitive to the minute ripples in space-time caused by the merging of two black holes. University of Birmingham Gravitational Waves Group, Christopher Berr

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Tara Murphy, University of Sydney

In addition to binary black holes, aLIGO will detect gravitational waves from other events such as the collision of neutron stars, which are the dense remnants left over when a massive stars collapse.

Astronomers think that two neutron stars colliding may trigger a gamma-ray burst, which we can detect with “regular” telescopes.

Simulation of neutron stars colliding. Credit: NASA

In Australia, we have been using the Murchison Widefield Array and the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder) to follow-up aLIGO candidates.

aLIGO is an incredibly sensitive instrument but it has very poor ability to determine where the gravitational waves are coming from. Our radio telescopes can scan large areas of sky extremely quickly, so can play a critical part in identifying the event.

This project has been like no other one I have worked on. When aLIGO identifies a candidate, it sends out a private alert to an international network of astronomers. We respond as quickly as possible with our telescopes, scanning the region the event is thought to have occurred in, to see if we can detect any electromagnetic radiation.

Everything is kept top secret – even the other people using our telescopes are not allowed to know where we are pointing them.

To make sure their complex processing pipeline was working correctly, someone in the aLIGO team inserted fake events into the process. Nobody on the team, or those of us doing follow-up, had any idea whether what we were responding to was real or one of these fake events.

We are truly in an era of big science. This incredible result has been the work of not only hundreds of aLIGO researchers and engineers, but hundreds more astronomers collaborating around the globe. We are eagerly awaiting the next aLIGO observing run, to see what else we can find.


Tamara Davis, University of Queensland

Rarely has a discovery been so eagerly anticipated.

When I was a university undergraduate, almost 20 years ago, I remember a physics lecturer telling us about the experiments trying to detect gravitational waves. It felt like the discovery was imminent, and it was one of the most exciting discoveries that could be made in physics.

Mass and energy warping the fabric of space is one of the pieces of general relativity that most captures the imagination. However, while it has enormous explanatory power, the reality of that curvature is hard to grasp or confirm.

For the last few months I’ve had to sit quietly and watch as colleagues followed up the potential gravitational wave signal. This is the one and only time in my scientific career that I wasn’t allowed to talk about a scientific discovery in progress.

But that’s because it is such a big discovery that we had to be absolutely sure about it before announcing it, lest we risk “crying wolf”.

Every last check had to be done, and of course, we didn’t know whether it was a real signal, or a signal injected by the experimenters to keep us on our toes, test the analysis and follow-up.

I work with a project called the Dark Energy Survey, and with our massive, wide-field, half-billion pixel camera on a four metre telescope in Chile, my colleagues took images trying to find the source of the gravitational waves.

The wide-field is important, because the gravitational wave detectors aren’t very good at pinpointing the exact location of the source.

Unfortunately if it was a black hole merger, we wouldn’t expect to see any visible light.

Now that we’re in the era of detecting gravitational waves, though, we’ll be able to try again with the next one.


Maria Womack, University of South Florida

This is a momentous change for astronomy. Gravitational-wave astronomy can now truly begin, opening a new window to the universe. Normal telescopes collect light at different wavelengths, such as Xray, ultraviolet, visible, infrared and radio, collectively referred to as electromagnetic radiation (EM). Gravitational waves are emitted from accelerating mass analogous to the way electromagnetic waves are emitted from accelerating charge; both are emitted from accelerating matter.

The most massive objects with the highest accelerations will be the first events detected. For example, Advanced LIGO, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, can detect binary black holes in tight, fast orbits. GWs carry away energy from the orbiting pair, which in turn causes the black holes to shrink their orbit and accelerate even more, until they merge in a violent event, which is now detectable on Earth as a whistling “chirp.”

 

An example signal from an inspired gravitational wave source. A. Stuver/LIGO, CC BY-ND
An example signal from an inspired gravitational wave source. A. Stuver/LIGO, CC BY-ND

 

The gravitational-wave sky is completely uncharted, and new maps will be drawn that will change how we think of the universe. GWs might be detected coming from cosmic strings, hypothetical defects in the curvature of space-time. They will also be used to study what makes some massive stars explode into supernovae, and how fast the universe is expanding. Moreover, GW and traditional telescopic observing techniques can be combined to explore important questions, such as whether the graviton, the presumed particle that transmits gravity, actually have mass? If massless, they will arrive at the same time as photons from a strong event. If gravitons have even a small mass, they will arrive second.


Daniel Kennefick, University of Arkansas

Almost 100 years ago, in February 1916, Einstein first mentioned gravitational waves in writing. Ironically it was to say that he thought they did not exist! Within a few months he changed his mind and by 1918 had published the basis of our modern theory of gravitational waves, adequate to describe them as they pass by the Earth. However his calculation does not apply to strongly gravitating systems like a binary black hole.

Albert Einstein was the original theorist who started the hunt for gravitational waves.
Albert Einstein was the original theorist who started the hunt for gravitational waves.

 

It was not until 1936 that Einstein returned to the problem, eventually publishing one of the earliest exact solutions describing gravitational waves. But his original sceptical attitude was carried forward by some of his former assistants into the postwar rebirth of General Relativity. In the 1950s, doubts were expressed as to whether gravitational waves could carry energy and whether binary star systems could even generate them.

One way to settle these disputes was to carry out painstaking calculations showing how the emission of gravitational waves affected the motion of the binary system. This proved a daunting challenge. Not only were the calculations long and tedious, but theorists found they needed a much more sophisticated understanding of the structure of space-time itself. Major breakthroughs included the detailed picture of the asymptotic structure of space-time, and the introduction of the concept of matched asymptotic expansions. Prior to breakthroughs such as these, many calculations got contradictory results. Some theorists even got answers that the binary system should gain, not lose, energy as a result of emitting gravitational waves!

While the work of the 1960s convinced theorists that binary star systems did emit gravitational waves, debate persisted as to whether Einstein’s 1918 formula, known as the quadrupole formula, correctly predicted the amount of energy they would radiate. This controversy lasted into the early 1980s and coincided with the discovery of the binary pulsar which was a real-life system whose orbit was decaying in line with the predictions of Einstein’s formula.

In the 1990s, with the beginnings of LIGO, theorists’ focus shifted to providing even more detailed corrections to formulas such as these. Researchers use descriptions of the expected signal as templates which facilitate the extraction of the signal from LIGO’s noisy data. Since no gravitational wave signals had ever been seen before, theorists found themselves unusually relevant to the detection project – only they could provide such data analysis templates.


David Parkinson, University of Queensland

Gravitational waves can be used to provide a direct probe of the very early universe. The further away we look, the further back in time we can see. But there is a limit to how far back we can see, as the universe was initially an opaque plasma, and remained so even as late as 300,000 years after the Big Bang.

This surface, from which the cosmic microwave background is emitted, represents the furthest back any measurement of electromagnetic radiation can directly investigate.

But this plasma is no impediment for gravitational waves, which will not be absorbed by any intervening matter, but come to us directly. Gravitational waves are predicted to be generated by a number of different mechanisms in the early universe.

For example, the theory of cosmic inflation, which suggests a period of accelerated expansion moments after the Big Bang, goes on to predict not just the creation of all structure that we see in the universe, but also a spectrum of primordial gravitational waves.

It is these primordial gravitational waves that the BICEP2 experiment believed it had detected in March 2014.

BICEP2 measured the polarisation pattern of the cosmic microwave background, and reported a strong detection of the imprint of primordial gravitational waves. These results turned out in fact to be contamination by galactic dust, and not primordial gravitational waves.

But there is every reason to believe that future experiments may be able detect these primordial gravitational waves, either directly or indirectly, and so provide a new and complementary way to understand the physics of the Big Bang.The Conversation

Mustek unit Rectron exit Australia

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South African-based distributor of personal computers and electronic equipment Rectron said on Friday it planned to sell its 100% shareholding in  Rectron Australia. By Gugu Lourie


The firm, which is part of the JSE-listed ICT distributor Mustek, said the Australian unit will be sold for more than AUD 1 million to IG3 Education Ltd.

The deal is effective from 1 October 2015.

Rectron added that the deal was part of its drive to dispose of non-performing and non core assets. It will utilise the proceeds from the sale to reduce its debt.

The net asset value of Rectron Australia at 31 December 2015 was R14.3 million and included a deferred tax asset of R95 million. The net loss after tax for the six months to 31 December 2015 was R2.2 million.

David Kan, the CEO of Mustek, is a 38% shareholder in IG3 Research & Applications that holds 62.97% stake in IG3.

The firm, which was established in 1995, provides coponents, mobility products, multinationals laptops, peripherals and printers, representing brands including Lenovo, Gigabyte, Transcent, Seagate, Everki, Samsung and Ricoh to name a few.

Distribution of high-tech ICT solutions has been Rectron’s key strength, but evolving trends in the market have prompted the firm to consider other revenue streams..

Absa deploys predictive alerts

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Absa Bank, a division of the Barclays Africa, has piloted a new predictive alert service that not only notifies customers of potential shortfalls in their bank accounts, but which also offers personalised options to make it easier for customers to manage their finances.


By using the latest in big data and open source technologies, Absa’s smart personal alert enables customers to effectively manage their monthly payment obligations and avoid unexpected surprises. To date, it has been piloted to more than 50 000 customers in South Africa, according to Yasaman Hadjibashi, Chief Data Officer for Barclays Africa.

“The alert works by applying historical transactional behaviour to cheque accounts and assists customers who might not be able to make certain regular monthly payments, thereby helping them to avoid unexpected overdraft charges,” she says.

 

“The solution prompts customers, based on their individual circumstances, to transfer or deposit funds into their account or connect instantly to a dedicated Absa colleague who will help them find the right solution.”

Hadjibashi explains that typical industry alerts normally focus on notifying customers when they reach or are close to pre-set minimum limits. These alerts often arrive too late for a customer to action appropriately, and typically without the right personal options.

“By predicting and better understanding our customers’ behaviour, we are able to proactively engage with them before their funds are depleted – and without the customer first having to set a minimum limit. We are then able to provide them with tailored opportunities to manage their account.”

By also connecting them directly to a dedicated Absa colleague in real-time, Absa is offering relevant engagement via a personalised service and an end-to-end experience in one short call. Almost a third of calls resulted in product applications.

Of the 50 000 customers who have been part of Absa’s pilot to date, 60% proactively took actions following the alerts to manage their payments better, and 84% confirmed that they found the alerts useful and preferred the service to continue.

“Our aim is to constantly seek ways to help customers in their everyday banking,” says Anna Nascimento, Head of Commercial Engagement, Personal Bank at Absa.

 

“Data science brings us closer to understanding our customers’ everyday banking needs and helps us protect them against unnecessary additional charges, through the use of predictive low balance alerts. Analytics is helping us build a deeper understanding of customer behaviour and ensuring that our engagement with them becomes more personal and relevant.”

Metrofibre to offer FTTH to Kyalami Estates

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Metrofibre Networx, a tech company led by ex-Absa boss Steve Booysen, has secured a lucrative contract to be the preferred fibre supplier to Kyalami Estates, the company announced on Thursday. By Staff Writer


The deal is a big win for Metrofibre, one of South Africa’s fastest growing fibre company, against its smaller and bigger rivals.

Situated in Kyalami in Gauteng, Kyalami Estates was one of the first security estates established in South Africa and today the residents in its some 1100 homes enjoy 24-hour controlled access in an environment where urban convenience is housed in a rural environment with extensive parklands and a natural wetland.

With a footprint that now extends to Kyalami, Sunninghill, Barbeque Downs, Lonehill, Beaulieu, Heathcliff and Blue Hills estates, Glenferness, as well as parts of Paulshof, Sandton and Rivonia, Metrofibre is well positioned to be the primary fibre supplier to the northern suburbs of Johannesburg.

“We are delighted that the residents of Kyalami Estates and its home owners association elected to partner with us for their fibre needs,” states Jacques de Villiers, at Metrofibre Networx. “These customers will now be able to reap the full benefit of being able to browse the Internet faster, take advantage of video and television on demand services, chat via voice over IP (VoIP), play online games, host conference calls and even be able to speak to family and friends abroad as if they are in the room next door.”

The project will start towards the end of February, and it will be rolled out in a phased approach, The total financial outlay and investment from Metrofibre into the project is expected to be in region of R13 million.

Furthermore Metrofibre is partnering with its reseller partner RocketNet as the preferred service provider for the actual FTTH Internet Services. In support of the project RocketNet, have developed a series of highly competitive packages for “early bird subscribers”.

Metrofibre is supported by its active shareholder – Sanlam Private Equity (SPE).

In 2013 Sanlam invested in the managed open access fibre network and broadband fibre provider and has representation on the Metrofibre board. Sanlam invested in Metrofibre to grow its own fibre network, marking its first investment of this nature.

Metrofibre, which was founded in 2010, is looking to take a slice of the Fibre to the Home (FTTH) market, while also extending its globally compliant network and services to local service providers.

Metrofibre’s residential offerings include network connectivity that boasts speeds up to 1,000 megabits per second, facilitating super-fast downloads, streaming TV, unparalleled gaming as well as access to cloud solutions. The company has a series of packages suited for the small and home office, body corporates, and property developers.

 

AA slams Sanral’s e-toll move

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 The Automobile Association (AA) said that it is disappointed that the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) has decided to go the legal route before resolving their e-toll billing problems.


In an attempt to force Gauteng road users to pay their fees on the controversial tolling system, Sanral appointed a debt-collection agency to manage this process for them, the AA said.

Sanral has been sending an SMS to an undisclosed number of Gauteng road users, which reads: “We have noted your refusal to pay your outstanding e-toll balance. Your vehicle details are being submitted for listing, and legal action will commence with costs incurred. Call 087 353 1490 Ref…:”

The SMS and debt collection added “yet another layer to the costs of collection, which are already unnecessarily high,” the AA warned on Wednesday in a statement.

“It is extremely disappointing that Sanral has gone this route without first resolving their billing problems,” said the AA.

“A number of Gauteng drivers have been questioning their bills, but have not received satisfactory replies, if they’ve received any replies at all.

“Many people are also still not receiving invoices or statements, but may have received these text messages, which is unreasonable,” the AA noted.

Sanral will have to follow through

The AA said it is sure Sanral understands that it cannot threaten legal action against motorists unless it intends following through with court action.

“While it is a legal requirement to pay your e-toll account, it remains each driver’s choice to do so or not,” the AA said. “Should Sanral follow through on these threats, it will be left to the driver to defend themselves in court.”

Sanral said reports alleged that road users noticed zero-balances on their e-toll accounts, but have not received any explanations from Sanral.

“Our understanding from ETC, the company responsible for collections, is that these billing inconsistencies apparently relate to the splitting of customer accounts to reflect pre- and post September 2015 accounts,” said the AA.

“We have previously said that we support initiatives to improve roads in all provinces, but funding these improvements through e-tolls is not the answer,” it said.

“The unnecessary administrative costs, which are escalating with this type of approach, place an extra burden on already over-extended motorists.” – Fin24

Online Vigilantism and the Law

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Batman. Superman. Iron Man. What do all of these characters have in common? We have all sat in our comfy seats at the movie theatre and watched them defeat numerous super villains with their superhuman strength and indomitable will. We have watched them save the world from impending doom. We have watched them take the law into their own hands. We have watched them do all of this in the name of the “greater good”. They are vigilantes. We call them heroes. By Amy Eliason, an Associate at Webber Wentzel


Yet, these characters dwell in the realm of fantasy. We are not required to question the legal and ethical implications of their acts. We believe that Bruce Wayne is a hero because he looks good in a superhero costume and beats up bad guys. The question of his virtue is moot. The world, however, is currently experiencing a real life quandary of vigilante justice, in the form of what has become known as “hacktivism”.

Hacktivism is the subversive use of technology to promote a political or social agenda. Whilst there are those who view hacktivists as cyberterrorists, many hacktivist attacks are actually employed merely to voice civil protest, to promote freedom of information or to undermine terrorist groups’ online operations.

One hacktivist group which has recently garnered attention is Anonymous. In a video which has been circulating on social media, a masked speaker warns the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to be prepared for a massive retaliation in the wake of the terrorist attacks committed by ISIS in Paris in November. Since the video surfaced, there are reports that Anonymous, along with other hacktivist entities, has been successful in disrupting ISIS’s presence on internet platforms, thereby inhibiting its ability to disseminate extremist propaganda and to implement its recruitment drives.

Amy Eliason, an Associate at Webber Wentzel
Amy Eliason, an Associate at Webber Wentzel

There is an old proverb that states that “an Englishman’s home is his castle”, with the inference being that citizens should be entitled to protect their countries as they please, particularly if the government agencies tasked with this duty, have failed to do so. For this reason, hacktivist attacks against ISIS have been widely lauded by the public. In a time when governments’ anti-terrorism measures seem to be failing us, a vigilante group such as Anonymous is being glorified and extoled in the same manner as their fictional counterparts.

However, unlike in the movies, these hacktivist groups do not always get to ride out into the sunset, branded as heroes. Legal systems around the world do not allow for vigilante justice. It is generally accepted that vigilantes are acting outside of the purview of the law. There is a fine line between true vigilantism and anarchism, and it appears to be too onerous for the law to try and govern that line.

This is particularly relevant in the South African context, where a vigilante group known as People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) was formed in 1996 as a response to the prevalence of drugs and gangsterism in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town. PAGAD, like Anonymous, was applauded by many for its efforts but eventually it was accused of facilitating murder and terrorism and its leader, Abdus Salaam Ebrahim, was convicted of public violence and imprisoned for seven years.

If the Cape Flats were Gotham City, Batman would be in jail.

Hacktivist groups in particular are often amorphous beings, whose loose and decentralised systems of command can often lead to drastic shifts in motives and behaviours. Anonymous is currently focusing its attention on ISIS, but in previous years there have been accusations of tendencies by its members to engage in recreational hacking as opposed to political activism.

Ultimately, it is apparent that authorities around the world are struggling with how best to deal with cybercrimes and cybersecurity and the complexities that result therefrom – and South Africa is no exception. With the recent publication of the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill (the Bill), our legislators have made the first step in attempting to regulate this world. It is clear that effective cybersecurity legislation is necessary, as South Africa currently has no co-ordinated legal framework and cybersecurity is regulated through a hybrid mix of legislation and the common law.

The Bill’s stated aims include the promotion of cybersecurity, the regulation of aspects of international cooperation in respect of the investigation of cybercrime, provision for the establishment of various structures to deal with cybersecurity and the imposition of obligations on electronic communication service providers regarding aspects which may impact on cybersecurity.

However, the Bill, like its American counterpart, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), has been criticised for being overbroad and for failing to take constitutional freedoms into account. Jane Duncan, a Professor of Journalism at the University of Johannesburg has expressed concerns that the definition of cyberterrorism may be too broad and doesn’t exclude acts committed in the context of “legitimate struggles for national self-determination or national liberation.”

The Bill, like other legislation, also does not make any distinction between cybercrime and vigilantism, and hackers are tarred with the same brush, irrespective of their motives. You will likely agree that this is the correct approach. In Hollywood, the superhero’s good guy credentials are never tarnished but life doesn’t always imitate art and, in the real world, vigilantism and hacktivism such as that practiced by PAGAD and Anonymous is a more complex, moral grey area. Society simply cannot legislate for it.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (Department) has invited the public to comment on the Bill by 30 November 2015 and it will be interesting to note whether any of the concerns which have been raised thus far are suitably addressed. It is hoped that the Department can strike the right balance between the promotion of the constitutional rights to privacy and free speech and the need to appropriately mitigate against cybersecurity threats and to implement innovative infiltration techniques – an achievement which has, thus far, eluded most legislators around the world.

In the meantime, there is no doubt that hacktivist groups like Anonymous will continue to mete out their own personal versions of vigilante justice, largely unabated and without consequence. As a famous web-shooting, costumed crime-fighter once said – “with great power comes great responsibility”. One can only hope that hacktivists around the world aspire to this creed.