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Industry & Technology

US nuclear is dying, but it produced more electricity in 2018 than ever before

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 6:55pm

(credit: Photograph by tva.com)

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the US nuclear fleet produced more electrical energy than ever before in 2018. Last year, it produced 807.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, barely beating its 2010 peak of 807TWh. But the US nuclear industry has been in a well-documented decline. So what gives?

(credit: Energy Information Administration)

The EIA says the explanation comes from a combination of scheduling serendipity and what's called "uprating," where older nuclear plants are permitted to output more power. In a post this morning, the administration wrote that we shouldn't expect this much nuclear power output from the industry again—at least not in the near future.

Since the last peak in 2010, more than 5 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity has been retired. Some of that was offset by a new reactor addition: another 1.2GW of capacity came online in 2016 at TVA's Watts-Barr nuclear plant when reactor 2 was completed.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Arrests shut down illegal TV streaming gang

BBC Technology News - March 21, 2019 - 6:49pm
The gang behind the net TV services offered access to hundreds of channels in 30 countries.

Huawei ban would delay 5G rollout: Three

BBC Technology News - March 21, 2019 - 6:34pm
The boss of mobile operator Three said he was confident the Chinese firm was not a threat to customers.

Windows Virtual Desktop now in public preview

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 6:34pm

Enlarge / A VT100 remote terminal, which is basically the same thing as Windows Remote Desktop. (credit: Wolfgang Stief)

Initially announced last September, Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service has now entered public preview.

The service brings together single-user Windows 7 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and multi-user Windows 10 and Windows Server remote desktop services (RDS) and is hosted on any of Azure's virtual machine tiers. Microsoft is pricing WVD aggressively by charging only for the virtual machine costs; the license requirements for the Windows 7- and Windows 10-based services will be fulfilled by Microsoft 365 F1/E3/E, Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5, and Windows VDA subscriptions. The Windows Server-based services are similarly fulfilled by existing RDS client access licenses. This means that for many Microsoft customers, there will be no additional licensing cost for provisioning desktop computing in the cloud. The virtual machine costs can be further reduced by using Reserved Instances that commit to purchasing certain amounts of VM time in return for lower pricing.

As another big sweetener, Windows 7 users will receive all three years of Extended Security Updates (ESU) at no extra cost; this is in contrast to on-premises deployments that will cost either $25/$50/$100 for the three years of ESU availability or $50/$100/$200, depending on the precise Windows license being used.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

First-person digger: Stanley Black & Decker’s game controller for excavators

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 6:20pm

Enlarge / An operator puts an excavator to work with a game-style controller using Stanley's ROC remote operating system. (credit: Stanley Black & Decker)

In a parking lot at an industrial and office park just outside Baltimore, I took a mid-sized excavator for a spin. I pushed around some cinder blocks with a leveling blade, nosed them around with the excavator's shovel, and maneuvered the heavy metal beast around to make room for an incoming tractor-trailer. And I did all of this with a wireless controller that was almost identical to the one I used to play Forza the night before.

The excavator was configured with a prototype of the Remote Operated Control (ROC) System from Stanley Black & Decker's Infrastructure Innovation unit—a bolt-on remote control system that allows heavy machinery from major manufacturers to be operated either from in the cab as usual or with a wireless game-style controller.

Stanley is currently recruiting contracting companies to act as beta testers for the technology, which is currently being targeted at Bobcat, CAT, Kubota, and John Deere excavators under 10 tons. The remote control kit can be installed in existing excavators in about 5 hours by someone with little to no mechanical experience. And the control system has a physical switch that allows an operator to quickly switch back and forth between local and remote control.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Scientists think they’ve solved one mystery of Easter Island’s statues

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 6:04pm

Enlarge / Moai statues in a row, Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile. (credit: De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images)

Chile's Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is famous for its giant monumental statues, called moai, built by early inhabitants some 800 years ago. The islanders likely chose the statues' locations based on the availability of fresh water sources, according to a recent paper in PLOS One.

Scholars have puzzled over the moai on Easter Island for decades, pondering their cultural significance, as well as how a Stone Age culture managed to carve and transport statues weighing as much as 92 tons. They were typically mounted on platforms called ahu. According to co-author Carl Lipo, an anthropologist at Binghamton University, you can have ahu (platforms) without moai (statues) and moai without ahu, usually along the roads leading to ahu; they were likely being transported and never got to their destination.

Back in 2012, Lipo and his colleague, Terry Hunt of the University of Arizona, showed that you could transport a ten-foot, five-ton moai a few hundred yards with just 18 people and three strong ropes by employing a rocking motion. Last year Lipo proposed an intriguing hypothesis for how the islanders placed red hats on top of some moai; those can weigh up to 13 tons. He suggested the inhabitants used ropes to roll the hats up a ramp.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google tries to reassure gamers about Stadia speed and latency concerns

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 5:50pm

SAN FRANCISCO—Google's Phil Harrison tells Ars that Stadia game streaming should provide a smooth, full-resolution experience on Internet connections above a threshold of 20 to 30mbps, a level that should allow for "hundreds of millions of potential players in the markets that we're talking about."

While the company set a threshold of 25mbps for its beta testing late last year, Harrison told Ars that "in actual fact, we only use an average of 20mbps; it obviously bounces up and down depending on the scene." Since that beta, Harrison said infrastructure and codec improvements "now allow us to get up to 4K resolution [at 60 frames per second] within about 30mbps. So we saw a dramatic increase in quality between then and now without a significant increase in bandwidth."

Even at that threshold, Harrison acknowledges that "I know [Stadia] won't reach everybody [and] I respect that some people will be frustrated by that. But I suspect that some of those people don't get a great YouTube experience, they might get a good Netflix experience today. The good news is the Internet continues to grow in quality and reach. So there is a bit of a rising tide that lifts all boats, with 5G potentially helping that equation in the future. That's a little bit over the horizon today, but it's I think going to come into view pretty quickly."

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

T-Mobile’s $50 home Internet service has no data cap, but plenty of limits

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 5:28pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

T-Mobile today said it is starting "an invitation-only pilot for in-home Internet service on LTE" and will connect up to 50,000 homes this year in rural and underserved parts of the country. It will cost $50 a month.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere said his company plans to "take the fight to Big Cable on behalf of consumers and offer real choice, competition and savings to Americans nationwide.”

Invitations for the home service will go out this week by email and US mail to current T-Mobile wireless customers in "select areas," which T-Mobile did not identify in its announcement.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Starship tests in South Texas will be broadcast, but temper your expectations

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 5:10pm

Enlarge / The Starship test vehicle, currently under assembly in South Texas, may look similar to this illustration when finished. (credit: Elon Musk/Twitter)

What a world we live in. As SpaceX gears up to begin preliminary testing of its Starship vehicle along the South Texas coast, nearby South Padre Island has set up a camera to broadcast the proceedings. More than 2,700 people were watching as of 11:30am ET Thursday.

It's a clever tourism marketing ploy for the island but also great for spaceflight fans to get unprecedented views of real-time testing.

With that said, it's worth tempering expectations at least for the next few weeks. For now, SpaceX has attached a single Raptor engine to the test vehicle—which is nicknamed Starhopper because it was designed to make "hop" tests to varying altitudes to test Starship's landing capabilities. Eventually Starhopper will have three engines on the vehicle.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft ships antivirus for macOS as Windows Defender becomes Microsoft Defender

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 4:57pm

Microsoft is bringing its Windows Defender anti-malware application to macOS—and more platforms in the future—as it expands the reach of its Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) platform. To reflect the new cross-platform nature, the suite is also being renamed to Microsoft Defender ATP, with the individual clients being labelled "for Mac" or "for Windows."

Microsoft Defender ATP for Mac will initially focus on traditional signature-based malware scanning.

macOS malware is still something of a rarity, but it's not completely unheard of. Ransomware for the platform was found in 2016, and in-the-wild outbreaks of other malicious software continue to be found. Apple has integrated some malware protection into macOS, but we've heard from developers on the platform that Mac users aren't always very good at keeping their systems on the latest point release. This situation is particularly acute in corporate environments; while Windows has a range of tools to ensure that systems are kept up-to-date and alert administrators if they fall behind, a similar ecosystem hasn't been developed for macOS.

One would hope that Defender for Mac will also trap Windows malware to prevent Mac users from spreading malware to their Windows colleagues.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Oculus releases updated Rift VR headset

BBC Technology News - March 21, 2019 - 4:13pm
The updated flagship headset has sharper displays but still needs to be tethered to a PC to work.

Health apps pose 'unprecedented' privacy risks

BBC Technology News - March 21, 2019 - 3:01pm
Data is being shared with companies, including Amazon and Google, a study of popular apps finds.

Christchurch shootings: 'Bad actors' helped attack videos spread online

BBC Technology News - March 21, 2019 - 1:05pm
Edited clips were continually uploaded to help defeat automatic detection systems, says Facebook

Photographer loses lawsuit over use of her photo in political mailer

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 11:30am

Enlarge / An image from the RNC flyer. We're quite sure that our use of this image is fair, since we're engaging in comment and criticism about this photo and its role in the lawsuit. (credit: RNC / Erika Peterman)

When Erika Peterman saw photographs she had taken in a flyer put out by the Republican National Committee, she wasn't happy about it. Peterman was a supporter of Rob Quist, the Democratic candidate for Montana's at-large seat in Congress in the 2017 special election. The Montana Democratic Party had hired Peterman to take photographs of Quist at a Democratic Party event. The photographs showed Quist wearing a cowboy hat and holding a guitar.

The RNC had downloaded three of the photos from Quist's campaign Facebook page and used them in a campaign mailer attacking Quist. Peterman sued the Republican Party, arguing that the mailer infringed her copyright. But in a February ruling, a federal judge rejected Peterman's arguments, ruling that the Republicans' use of her image was fair use.

"The mailer uses Quist's musicianship to criticize his candidacy, subverting the purpose and function" of Peterman's original photographs, Judge Dana Christensen wrote. Her ruling noted that Peterman had charged the Montana Democrats a flat $500 to cover the event and had published the photographs on social media, suggesting that she had no expectation of making further money from them.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

George the Poet: Social media gives poets 'a fair shot'

BBC Technology News - March 21, 2019 - 4:56am
George the Poet says social media propelled his career and made poetry more accessible.

It’s been a long wait, but Bill and Ted 3: Face the Music is happening

Ars Technica - March 21, 2019 - 12:55am

"Be excellent!" Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise their iconic roles next summer in Bill and Ted 3: Face the Music.

John Wick 3 isn't even out yet, but Keanu Reeves is already onto his next project, reprising another of his iconic roles: a third film in the Bill and Ted franchise that has long been desired by fans. And it has been announced via Twitter in a quintessentially Bill and Ted way: with stars Alex Winter and Reeves—collectively Wyld Stallyns (the name of their band)—standing in front of the bandshell at the Hollywood Bowl ("where we will never play") and thanking fans for their support.

The third film will be called Bill and Ted 3: Face the Music, and it will hit theaters August 21, 2020, if the Bill and Ted 3 Twitter account is accurate. Naturally, time travel will be involved. Per an accompanying press release:

Following 1989's Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and 1991's Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the stakes are higher than ever for William "Bill" S. Preston Esq. (Winter) and Theodore "Ted" Logan (Reeves). Yet to fulfill their rock-and-roll destiny, the now middle-aged best friends set out on a new adventure, when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it and bring harmony to the universe. Along the way, they will be helped by their families, old friends, and a few music legends.

The film will be directed by Dean Parisot of Galaxy Quest and will reunite the screenwriters of the two previous films, Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson (who is incidentally the son of I Am Legend scribe Richard Matheson).

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

AT&T and Comcast claim “anti-robocalling milestone” with new Caller ID tech

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 11:10pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

AT&T and Comcast today said they have completed a successful cross-network test of a new Caller ID authentication system, and they plan to roll out the technology to consumers later this year.

AT&T and Comcast are among the phone providers implementing the new "SHAKEN" and "STIR" protocols, which use digital certificates to verify that Caller ID numbers aren't being spoofed.

Today's AT&T/Comcast announcement said the carriers completed "an exchange of authenticated calls between two separate providers' voice networks that is believed to be the nation's first." They called the test an "anti-robocalling fraud milestone."

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hotel guests 'secretly filmed and live-streamed'

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 10:53pm
Spy cameras hidden in hotel rooms in South Korea live-streamed footage to the web, police say.

Korea spycam porn: 1,600 fall victim and four men arrested

BBC Technology News - March 20, 2019 - 10:44pm
Four men allegedly filmed 1,600 guests in 30 South Korean hotels and sold the footage online.

The Air Force will soon take bids for mid-2020s launches. It’s controversial

Ars Technica - March 20, 2019 - 10:09pm

Enlarge / A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy lifts the NROL-71 payload on Jan. 19, 2019. (credit: United Launch Alliance)

Within the next 10 days, the US Air Force may issue an opportunity for rocket companies to bid on contracts for about 25 launches between 2022 and 2026. Although a “request for proposals” may not sound all that provocative, this particular government solicitation is filled with intrigue—and will have major implications for all of the big US rocket companies.

At present, United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX launch rockets for the Air Force, lofting powerful spy cameras, communication satellites and other sensitive payloads into various orbits for the government. In recent years, the military has sought to modernize its contractor base for the coming decade, encouraging new launch competitors and new ideas. This forthcoming solicitation for launch contracts in the mid-2020s, however, may effectively end that effort.

It was only five months ago, in October, that the Air Force announced $2.25 billion in “Launch Services Agreements” to be split among ULA (Vulcan rocket), Northrop Grumman (Omega), and Blue Origin (New Glenn). The funds were provided so that each of those companies could develop large, modern rockets and build the launch facilities needed to support military payloads. Over the first year of those awards, each company will receive the first $181 million of their individual awards. (SpaceX, somewhat controversially, did not receive an award. This is partly because the Air Force believes the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets can meet its needs.)

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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