Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Afrihost offers cheapest bandwidth in South Africa

Afrihost, an ADSL re-seller became the cheapest bandwidth provider in South Africa when they launched a price of R29/Gb on their ADSL packages. Even though it is a limited offer, the drastic reduction in bandwidth prices will surely attract a lot of new customers.

We're bandwidth hungry in South Africa but the prices are unfortunately still quite high in general, if compared to the western world. So any substantial reduction in bandwidth prices by any ISP (Internet service provider) automatically receives a lot of attention.

Other ISPs

WebAfrica, a reputable ISP who is known for their good service are busy testing their own 1st-tier network and is expected to publish their new pricing structure early next year. Their 10Gb offering at R490 was always considered to be one of the cheapest ADSL products around but with Afrihost's new pricing structure at R29/Gb, there is just no comparison anymore.

WebAfrica: R490 for 10Gb ADSL data package (R49/Gb)
Afrihost: R580 for 20Gb ADSL data package (R29/Gb)
So for only R90 more, you can get 10Gb extra at Afrihost. Great deal.

Axxess, another reputable smaller ISP offers a creative range of products and are cheaper than the bigger ISPs, but they offer nothing compared to Afrihost's cheap R29/Gb packages.

ISP loyalty goes out the window if the bandwidth prices drop through the floor! Luckily most ISPs offer month-to-month contracts which makes it easy to move from one ISP to another.

Here's a screenshot of Afrihost's R29/Gb ADSL packages

Afrihost's R29/Gb offer

The R29/Gb products on Afrihost's site (the details may change once the limited offer has expired). Afrihost's bandwidth is provided via the IS (Internet Solutions) backbone. If you sign up for a R29/Gb package, the account will be locked-in and will remain at R29/Gb, even after the actual promotion expires.

High bandwidth prices in general are a hotly discussed topic in the South African technology world, so even though I'm not associated with Afrihost, I will always support any company that sends a signal to other ISPs to lower their prices too. Any price war is always good for the consumer!

I stay away from the larger ISPs. M-Web in particular reduced their prices recently but they're still comfortably one of the most expensive ISPs in South Africa. Read more on "Afrihost offers cheapest bandwidth in South Africa"!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Newspapers dying a slow death?

Cape Times newspaperI absolutely love reading the news. I've always been very inquisitive and grew up reading newspapers all the time, to stay on top of current affairs. However, since the arrival of the internet (and therefore online news sites), I've gradually read less and less print media. In fact, I can't remember the last time I actually bought a newspaper, yet I avidly read the news online on a daily basis.

Are newspapers still important? If you don't have internet access, yes. But for most part I don't see the point in buying newspapers anymore. Sure, the idea of reading a newspaper while sitting outside on Sunday morning, nibbling on a croissant and enjoying a glass of orange juice may seem attractive but that's also where the attraction stops.

There are several reasons why I read news online instead of printed newspapers

It's convenient - Easy access to several different news sites from around the world. Get different perspectives on the same story which leaves you better informed.
The news is fresh - News sites update their content several times a day.
It's interactive
- You can leave comments on a news article and therefore interact with the journalist or people with similar interests.
It's free
Customisation - You can customise some news sites to only show the type of news you're actually interested in.
Archives - You can always refer back to an online news story through the site's archives. But you can't keep hundreds of newspapers piled up every year.
You can also sit outside, nibble on a croissant while enjoying a glass of orange juice; the only difference is there's a laptop in front of you. ;)

Duncan Mcleod from TechCentral wrote a great article, SA editors mull the future of newspapers in a digital world, which is definitely worth a read and the reason I decided to write this blog post in the first place. It's interesting to read the views of editors on the future of South African newspapers and see how some get it completely wrong, in my opinion.

Business Day editor Peter Bruce: "You can be indifferent to the future of newspapers, but not about journalism".
Fully agree!

But when it was suggested that people under 30 will never regularly buy a newspaper, he disagreed: "Young people always say they'll never read a newspaper, until they start."
Wrong. Once they've realised they can read that exact same story online, from the same source, they'll always opt to read it online instead.

To pay or not to pay

Will I pay for online news content? I'm not sure. The content will have to be quite unique. I've landed on news sites before where it was required of me to be a subscriber to the printed version already, in order to read the online version. The New York Times is a prime example. Within seconds I'd simply search for another respected news site out there, where I'd find the same story, for free. The NY Times have subsequently dropped that model and their online news site is now open to all.

On home soil, Naspers used to do the same thing a few years ago, where you couldn't access the M-Web news & sport websites unless you were an M-Web ISP client as well. Of course, since I wasn't an M-Web subscriber I simply found alternative news sites which ran similar stories. Naspers have since allowed public access to their sites anyway. Therefore moving away from a subscriber model to an advertising model, earning money through the ads displayed on their news sites.


However, from a publisher's point of view, this does create the inevitable problem: How do you succeed in generating advertising revenue online when a lot of people simply use software to block the ads anyway? I use Firefox as my default browser and the first add-on I install, is AdBlock Plus which blocks just about every ad on every site. It makes the site load faster (since the ad images don't have to load) and the site is also less cluttered which enhances the reading experience. But since I don't get to see the ads, I'm definitely not the online sites' favourite visitor.

The bottom line is that all these sites rely heavily on the fact that the majority of their visitors don't use ad blocking software in their browsers since (I assume) they're not aware that it exists? But what if these uninformed users become informed? Perhaps some visitors prefer to see the ads anyway; I'm simply not one of them.

There are several news sites in South Africa, but these two are the most popular:

IOL Read more on "Newspapers dying a slow death?"!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

New money for SA in 2013

The Governor of the SARB (South African Reserve Bank) announced that South Africa will get new banknotes and coins in 2013, with new themes and improved security measures to fight counterfeiting.

I like the current notes we have (colourful nature themes). Let's hope they don't put a bunch of geriatrics on the new notes (no disrespect to the geriatric readers of this blog though; I know they're all colourful people anyway).

Will they be printing new R500 notes though? So I can buy a loaf of bread..? ;)

Current SA banknotes, introduced in 1992 and revamped in 2005:

R10 and R20 notesR50 and R100 notesR200 note
Read more on "New money for SA in 2013"!

World's tallest man

Sultan Kösen from Turkey has been named by World Guiness Records as the tallest man in the world measuring 8 ft 1 inches/246.5cm.

Sultan Kösen - World's tallest manAccording to Sultan life is not necessarily rosy when you're that tall; you can't fit into a car, you have to bend over to enter any standard size house, all clothes have to be tailor made and you can't find a girlfriend who is not scared of you.

According to Guiness, there's only 10 confirmed cases in which humans have grown past the eight foot (2.44 meter) mark.

Kösen's rapid growth was caused by tumour damage to his pituitary gland which triggered the overproduction of growth hormones. His tumour was removed in 2008.

Video of Sultan Kösen

Leonid Stadnyk the tallest?

Determining who is the tallest man on earth is usually a hotly contested affair but being independently measured is not always easy, considering that some of these giants live in remote parts of the world and are not always willing to be measured anyway. Kösen was named the tallest man after the Ukranian, Leonid Stadnyk, refused to be measured stating that he doesn't enjoy being in the public eye. According to his countrymen he measures 8 ft 5 inches/2.57cm but since it's not official, he couldn't be considered.

Leonid Stadnyk

Stadnyk lives in poverty in a small village in the Ukraine and lost his job as a veterinarian because he couldn't use public transport due to his considerable size. So the president of the Ukraine presented him with a new car:

Robert Wadlow - tallest man in history

American Robert Wadlow was the tallest man ever, measuring 8 ft 11.1 inches/272cm. He died at age 22 in 1940.

Robert Wadlow - Tallest man in history

Related links
World's tallest man Sultan Kösen seeks love — and a big car - Times Online
Too tall to be happy - Shanghai Star Read more on "World's tallest man"!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Powerball - New lottery game in South Africa

Gidani, South Africa's national lottery operator announced that a new lotto game, called Powerball, will be introduced on 16 October. The first draw is on Friday, 23 October. Tickets will cost R3,50 each and the draws will be on Tuesdays and Fridays. It does not replace the current LOTTO game.

You choose five numbers out of 45 and one powerball number from a pool of 20. Gidani has said that the jackpots for the Powerball will be significantly higher than the LOTTO game but the chance of winning is very slim. Mathematically you stand a chance of 1 out of 14 million to win the LOTTO and 1 out of 24,4 million to win the new Powerball game.

SA Powerball ticket

I'm a bit surprised that the new game has been introduced in the middle of a recession though. People have less money but I guess that means some of them are more desperate for wealth too, even though it's completely unrealistic.

There's been quite a big backlash from several corners of society e.g. churches and gambling addiction groups, calling the new game unethical. Also because the national operator has made the sale of tickets available through cellphones and ATMs, thereby arguing that it will make it easier for poor people to get even poorer.

Gidani said that the Powerball will enable them to give much more to charity than before.

Even though the Powerball will be the game with the biggest jackpot prize on offer in South Africa, it's still comfortably smaller than the Powerball in the USA. Last month this man from South Carolina won $260 million!

A man from Limpopo won an R11 million LOTTO seven years ago... and then won the recent R30 million Powerball opening draw as well! How about that.

Related links
Powerball results
SA National Lottery Read more on "Powerball - New lottery game in South Africa"!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Springboks crowned 2009 Tri-Nations champions!

Springboks win 2009 Tri-Nations trophySouth Africa won the Tri-Nations trophy (contested between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia) today after beating New Zealand 29 - 32 in Hamilton. It was a tough encounter between the two traditional foes in world rugby. Great intensity!

South Africa only needed one bonus point from this match to win the Tri-Nations.

SA fullback Francois Steyn scored three superb long range penalties in the first half which set the tone for the match. Flyhalf Morné Steyn scored a dropgoal and scrumhalf Du Preez scored the only try in the first half while centre Jean De Villiers scored a signature intercept try later on which eventually turned out to be the winning try. South Africa completely dominated the lineouts in the first half.

The Springboks led 29 - 12 with about 30 mins to go. However, the All Blacks started a great comeback with tries by Sivivatu after a great break by Toeava. AB flyhalf Dan Carter kept his team within reach kicking five penalties in total. SA flyhalf Morné Steyn kicked a vital penalty and AB captain Richie McCaw scored a try in the dying minutes after a crosskick from Carter but in the end it was not enough. South Africa's defence was superb, especially during the last quarter when they successfully stopped the NZ onslaught.

Springboks captain John Smit is truly an inspirational leader and it shows on the field. He has achieved everything in rugby.

This pic by Superbru says it all:
South Africa glory

Victory is sweet. The Springboks are currently setting the pace in world rugby and as an ardent supporter, I'm smiling all the way!

Roll on November! (Boks are playing France, Italy and Ireland) Read more on "Springboks crowned 2009 Tri-Nations champions!"!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Derren Brown - Brilliant illusionist

First off, I'm a skeptic. I don't buy into the fact that mediums have supernatural powers or that they can talk to the dead. They're mentalists who mostly use techniques like cold reading to deceive their audiences.

Derren Brown

Derren BrownDerren Brown is a brilliant illusionist, magician, mentalist. The difference though is that he openly admits that he tricks his audience by using a variation of techniques. He'll even explain afterwards exactly how he did it. Of course, his explanation is (sometimes) a further deception since he may have used a completely different technique to fool the guest, than the one explained to you. The bottom line is that he's first and foremost an entertainer and admits it freely. He has great skill and his illusions can leave you mesmerised. It's also fun to try and figure out how he actually did the trick in question.


Here's a YouTube video of Brown deceiving comedian Simon Pegg, using a technique called NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming). Pegg first had to write down what he wanted as a gift, on a piece of paper. However, after Brown spoke to Pegg, he proceeded to ask Pegg what he wanted as a gift and Pegg said a BMX bike. What he earlier wrote down on the piece of paper though, was 'leather jacket'. So Brown effectively convinced Pegg, using NLP, that he wanted a BMX bike without Pegg realising it.

Throughout the conversation Brown deliberately played with words, e.g. saying "what to saddle for" (instead of "what to settle for") or "bike creating a strong desire" (instead of "by creating a strong desire"), therefore continuously influencing Pegg using terms that specifically applied to a BMX bike, which eventually led to Pegg choosing that as the answer.

Of course, it could also be that NLP is 'sold' to the audience as the solution to satisfy their curiosity, while Brown used a completely different technique to do the trick, perhaps subtle hypnosis. Or it could be that Pegg (who is an actor after all) is in on the act from the start. Nevertheless, it is quite entertaining!

Richard Dawkins's interview with Derren Brown

In this interesting interview, Brown discusses and explains to Richard Dawkins how so-called mediums and other charlatans do all their tricks and the techniques they use to deceive the audience. Defintely worth watching!

Part one of the interview

Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five, Part six

Derren Brown predicts numbers of the UK National Lottery

Derren Brown predicts LOTTO numbersIn his latest feat, he appeared to successfully predict the numbers of the midweek draw last night (9 September) live on TV. Of course, I'm sure Brown cannot see into the future so it would be interesting to see how he did that. Some illusion! He'll explain it on Friday. Usually everything can be logically explained in some way but this could be considered so far-fetched that it perhaps is just a case of boisterous showmanship with some camera tricks involved? He is an entertainer after all. Of course, if there's any truth in it, then how will they prevent him from predicting the numbers again, and becoming an instant millionaire week in and week out? :) I'll remain a skeptic, for now.

Here's the video of his lottery prediction


People who claim to be psychic have it easy; if they guess it correctly, using all the known manipulative techniques, then everyone who is gullible is in awe; if they get it wrong, then they simply use the excuse that "the channel is blocked" or "nothing is coming through". They just use some excuse that refers to anything supernatural and that makes it impossible for anyone to disprove it. People who believe in psychics usually want to believe in them, so they're easy targets. They don't bother to look for tell-tale signs which could prove the contrary.

Barnum statements are often used by these people to gain the person's trust. "You're having problems with a relative or friend". Well, that is so vague that it could obviously apply to everyone. So it's a certain hit. Or asking a very old person in the audience if he/she knows someone with heart problems. Chances are quite good that he/she does, simply due to their own age. They also spend a lot of time pushing the audience to reveal bits of personal information about themselves, which is then used by throwing it back at them, as if the "psychic" knew the facts all along.

There's no doubt that some of them are very good at what they do and have mastered a lot of techniques to manipulate the person they're doing the reading for, it's just sad that they pass it off as them having supernatural powers. When they don't possess any. Playing with someone who lost a loved one in this manner is cruel but I suppose if the audience member finds solace in this, who I am to say it was wrong? Read more on "Derren Brown - Brilliant illusionist"!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

White South African Brandon Huntley gets asylum in Canada

Brandon HuntleyBrandon Huntley, a white South African, was recently granted asylum in Canada because Huntley convinced the canadian refugee board he was persecuted by black people in South Africa. His refugee status has therefore been granted beause of his colour.


According to him, he was a victim of crime on seven occasions and used that as the basis for his application for asylum. So what's the problem then? By his own admission, he never reported ANY of these crimes to the police! How on earth can you get asylum anywhere if there is no way to prove what you say is even true? I thought the canadian refugee board was extremely naive because they simply approved his application because his "presentation was convincing"? So as long as you have a strong personality but cannot prove anything you say, you'll get asylum? That's convenient.

The Ottawa Sun reported that he presented "clear and convincing proof of the state's inability or unwillingness to protect him". How can he say that the SA police was not "willing" to protect him, if he never even reported the crimes? Was he supposed to magically appear in the dreams of the police so they could protect him?

His estranged wife, Melanie Crete-HuntleyHuntley first travelled to Canada on a six-month work permit in 2004 and worked as a carnival attendant. He returned to Canada in 2005 and after his work permit expired, he stayed on illegally until making his refugee claim in April 2008. Huntley's estranged Canadian wife believes he "suckered" her into marriage in a bid to secure permanent residence in her country.


I think this is a classic case of someone who worked the system and tried his luck after he realised that he couldn't legally stay in Canada. He simply used the paranoia about crime to his own advantage. There's a lot of South Africans who emigrate to Canada but at least they do it the right way, by getting a legal work permit with the appropriate qualifications. This specific asylum ruling makes a mockery of that process. If you don't qualify or don't feel like going through the normal emigration process (and facing a real chance of being denied), apply for asylum with some soppy story without any evidence! ;)

Here's a few tongue-in-cheek cartoons by Jeremy Nell (The Times) on the matter.


Canada's Department of Citizenship and Immigration has now decided to apply to the Federal Court for leave for a judicial review of Huntley's case. The Canadian government has stated that they have a very high regard for South Africa's track record and new democracy, and they also take into regard the bilateral relations between the two countries, which are very strong.

Huntley affair hits raw nerve with South Africans

This whole story has created quite a stir in South Africa, for several reasons. The government called the Canadian decision "racist". They said it reinforced unfair stereotypes that only whites were victims of crime.

A lot of white South Africans are also outraged because it simply gives the country a bad name considering that the country has so much going for it.

I do find it surprising that some ex-South Africans living in Canada have automatically latched on to the Huntley case simply to use it as an excuse to fuel their own hatred towards their former country. I think that's quite sad. Especially since nobody really bothers to consider the actual facts of the case.

Of course, all racists have had a field day with this as well, for obvious reasons.

Don't get me wrong, South Africa does have a big crime problem but it affects all South Africans, not only whites. Crime is colourblind. Black people in SA are victims of crime too, all the time. I've been a victim of crime myself but I love South Africa for about a thousand other reasons so even though I obviously acknowledge that crime is a big problem; it doesn't mean I'm automatically going to hate the country I live in. A positive mindset does help! I just get annoyed when I see a chancer like this who misrepresented himself and in the process gave the country a bad name.

As far as affirmative action goes, that is something I have a huge problem with simply because it is an unfair process where a certain section of the population is discriminated against; it has closed a lot of doors for me. If I ever had to emigrate, *that* would be the reason for leaving; simply due to seeking an equal opportunity in the workplace.

Related links
White South African Brandon Huntley 'lied to Canada' to get asylum - The Australian
Brandon Huntley's tales of racism in South Africa 'are ludicrous' - Times Online
SA man gets asylum in Canada for being white - IOL
'Huntley conned me into marriage' - IOL
Why would the Canadians want Huntley? - Gondwanaland Read more on "White South African Brandon Huntley gets asylum in Canada"!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

GMail down - 502 server error!

I use GMail on a daily basis and it's without a doubt a web service I have come to rely on. So when it goes down... I'm in trouble!

Today, when I try to log in at GMail, I get a "502 server error" message instead. It has been noted on the official GMail blog so at least they're aware of it. You can also check out the Google Apps Status Dashboard.

Usually GMail is very reliable but I've had the 502 errors before, maybe a year ago and then it only affected a certain subset of users and was down for about a day (for me anyway). Of course, being without email for a whole day when you rely on it... can be extremely troublesome and create havoc in your life, for several reasons.

Maybe you had to send that important email to a client? Perhaps you need to access an email to access an important attachment you haven't read yet? Will possibly miss important deadlines if the service is not up again soon!? Heaven forbid.

Yeah I know, don't rely on a free service, rather have a paid email service with a local hosting company since they offers support you can actually use but the reality is that GMail is out of the beta stage now so I expect it to be a reliable service.

Let's hope it's up again soon.

UPDATE 02/09/09
GMail is back up again. Gmail outage blamed on capacity miscalculation Read more on "GMail down - 502 server error!"!
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