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Industry & Technology

Office 365 declared illegal in German schools due to privacy risks

Ars Technica - July 15, 2019 - 5:58pm

Enlarge / Germany's government continues its history of principled Microsoft opposition. (credit: Flickr user fdecomite)

Last week, the German state of Hesse declared that its schools may not legally use the Office 365 cloud product. Hesse is one of the sixteen federal states of Germany, with a population of roughly six million (of roughly 83 million Germans). Although the press release specifically targets Office 365, it notes that competing Apple and Google cloud suites also do not satisfy German privacy regulations for use in schools.

This isn't the first time part of Germany has publicly broken up with Microsoft Office; some German cities including Munich and Freiburg famously ditched Microsoft Office applications in favor of OpenOffice in the early 2000s. Those open source adoption programs have had a notoriously rough ride, plagued with interoperability issues—just because one town changes its office applications doesn't mean its neighboring towns, parent state, or even its own citizens have. The municipalities have also been targeted heavily with lobbying from Microsoft itself, up to and including Steve Ballmer (then Microsoft's CEO) interrupting a ski vacation to fly to Munich to try to cut a pro-Microsoft deal in person.

However, the early-2000s attempts to break free of Microsoft were a function of choice. This time around, the Hessian commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HBDI) isn't just saying that schools would prefer not to use Microsoft, he's stating that their use of Office 365 is outright illegal. In August 2017, the HBDI ruled that Office 365 could legally be used by schools so long as the back end for the school accounts was stored in Microsoft's German-located cloud. A year later, Microsoft closed its German cloud datacenter, and schools migrated their accounts to the European cloud. Now, the HBDI states that the European cloud may offer access to US authorities; with no way for the German government to monitor such access; this makes use of that cloud illegal without specific consent being granted by its individual users.

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Why is there no smoking in Gears 5? It depends on who you ask

Ars Technica - July 15, 2019 - 5:38pm

Enlarge / Don't expect any more cigar-chomping characters to show up in the Gears games going forward.

The upcoming Gears 5 will not feature any on-screen depictions or references to smoking, according to the developers at The Coalition. But the precise sequence of events leading to that decision is apparently up for some debate.

The smoke-free story gained attention over the weekend with a report in Variety that linked the decision to a pressure campaign from the anti-smoking advocates at the Truth Initiative. According to Variety, The Coalition decided to remove the smoking references after Truth reached out to Turner Broadcasting, which featured Gears 5 as part of an invitational tournament filmed during its ELeague esports over the weekend.

That sequence seems plausible, especially considering that Truth is a presenting sponsor of the tournament, which is officially titled "Eleague Gears Summer Series Invitational powered by Truth." And Truth has a long history of pressuring media companies to remove smoking references from their products, a move that recently led to changes in Netflix's youth-focused programming.

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Flay your mind: Stranger Things S3 just might be the show’s best season yet

Ars Technica - July 15, 2019 - 5:02pm

Enlarge / Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the gang are back to face down yet another supernatural threat to Hawkins, Indiana, in the third season of Stranger Things. (credit: YouTube/Netflix)

Warning: This story contains spoilers for episodes 5-8 of Stranger Things' third season, following up on Nathan Matisse's slightly spoiler-y review of episodes 1-4. You can read our non-spoiler preview of the new season here, or catch up on what's come before with past Ars stories on season one and season two.

Everyone's favorite teen sleuthing squad is back, taking on Russian operatives, local corruption, and the latest supernatural evil to emerge from the Upside Down in the third season of Netflix's Stranger Things. Anyone who feared the series might be losing its luster, three years on, should rest easy: season three is just as good as the first—in some respects, even better.

The first season was set in November 1983, when an accident at a secret government lab opened an inter-dimensional portal and unleashed a supernatural threat from a different dimension onto the unsuspecting town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the form of a creature dubbed the Demogorgon. The source of that accident? A young girl with psychokinetic powers, known only as Eleven (Milly Bobby Brown). She escaped the lab and was befriended by a group of preteens whose friend Will (Noah Schnapp) mysteriously disappeared into an alternate dimension dubbed the Upside Down. They teamed up to find Will and defeat the monster that took him.

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Eric Michels murder: Serial killer Stephen Port's drug dealer convicted

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 4:51pm
Gerald Matovu, who sold drugs to serial killer Stephen Port, gave his victim an overdose of GHB.

The Snapdragon 855 is getting an upgrade to the Snapdragon 855+

Ars Technica - July 15, 2019 - 3:56pm

Enlarge

Today Qualcomm announced a mid-cycle upgrade for the Snapdragon 855, called the "Snapdragon 855+." As a mid-cycle upgrade, there aren't huge changes here. It's still an eight-core, 7nm SoC, but the CPU and GPU are a bit faster thanks to higher clock speeds.

First up: the CPU, which sees the 855's "Prime" core clock speed get bumped from 2.84GHz to 2.96GHz in the Plus version. Remember the 855's "Prime" core layout was a bit of a new thing for Qualcomm. It was typical to split the eight CPU cores up into two sets of four cores. The "Big" core set got a more advanced core design and a higher clock rate for the heavy workloads, while a "little" set of cores had slower, more power-efficient cores for smaller workloads. The 855 took that bigger core set and pumped a single core up to a "Prime" core, so you had one Cortex A76-based core at 2.84GHz, three A76-based cores at 2.42GHz, and four 1.8GHz Cortex A55-based cores for the smaller cluster. The new "Prime" core clock speed means that only the single main core is faster.

As for the faster Adreno 640 GPU, Qualcomm's press release promises "15 percent faster graphics rendering" and offers no technical details. We're going to assume that means the 585MHz clock rate from the Snapdragon 855 is now somewhere around 673MHz.

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Amazon workers launch protests on Prime Day

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 3:51pm
Thousands of workers are calling for better conditions as the retail giant's annual sale starts.

Ars is hiring a technology reporter

Ars Technica - July 15, 2019 - 2:05pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson)

Ars Technica seeks a Technology Reporter with deep expertise in GPUs, CPUs, systems architecture, storage innovations, networking, and other consumer-focused hardware.

The Technology Reporter will report to the Senior Reviews Editor and will produce daily content including informed news and analysis—plus regular long-form reviews with an emphasis on benchmarks and testing as well as the analysis Ars Technica is known for.

We are looking for a strong writer who can not only grok the business that drives today’s technological innovations but who can also write clean and compelling prose accessible to readers from a wide variety of technical backgrounds.

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Galileo sat-nav system still without service

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 2:02pm
"Europe's GPS" remains offline as it grapples with a technical glitch in its ground infrastructure.

Porn block: Margot James 'extremely sorry' for delay

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 1:40pm
"I know it sounds incompetent," Margot James says of age rules that should have started on Monday.

Virgin Media probes why it blocked giant Gif site Imgur

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 1:27pm
The broadband provider had warned viewing some of Imgur's content could be a criminal offence.

Computer password inventor dies aged 93

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 1:12pm
Fernando Corbato also pioneered work on ways for lots of people to use the same computer simultaneously.

AI pioneer Turing is the face of the new £50 note

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 1:12pm
The note - once called the currency of corrupt elites - gets a makeover with the image of a computer pioneer.

There’s a slight problem with Russia’s proposed Federation spacecraft

Ars Technica - July 15, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / A mock-up of the next-generation manned spacecraft Federation (Federatsia, Federatsiya) at the offices of Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation in 2017. (credit: Anton NovoderezhkinTASS via Getty Images)

It has been more than half a century since Russia developed its last new spacecraft for carrying humans into orbit—the venerable Soyuz capsule, which still flies both Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts into orbit today. However, over the last decade, the Russian space program has been designing and developing a new vehicle, named Federation.

Like NASA's own Orion spacecraft, the Federation capsule has been beset by delays and cost overruns for more than a decade's worth of development. But when it flies, possibly as early as 2022 aboard a Soyuz-5 rocket for a test flight, Federation would be the rare human vehicle designed to fly beyond low-Earth orbit.

However, Russian sources are reporting a problem with the vehicle's launch escape system. Federation will lift off from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in far eastern Russia, located within about 600km of the Pacific Ocean. Under certain scenarios, during which Federation's launch abort system would pull it away from the rocket during an emergency, Federation could splash down in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

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Dealmaster: All the best Amazon Prime Day 2019 tech deals we can find

Ars Technica - July 15, 2019 - 12:50pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! Your friendly neighborhood Dealmaster is back and reporting for bargain-hunting duty—and boy, is he going to need some extra coffee. That's because today marks the start of Amazon Prime Day 2019, the increasingly misnamed sales event that sees the nation's largest online retailer discount products beyond number to Black Friday-level prices midsummer. This year's Prime Day lasts 48 hours, from July 15-16, because time is a social construct and trillion-dollar companies can pretty much do whatever they want.

Before we dig in to our deals roundup, a disclaimer: as is often the case with big sales events like this, most of this year's Prime Day deals aren't really deals at all. Amazon will promote thousands of "discounts" over the next two days, but with that much volume, the majority of those offers will naturally have less-than-special prices or apply to less-than-desirable products.

Many "deal prices" are relative to MSRPs that products have not sold at for months, for instance, and some companies artificially raise product prices before the event starts. (As always, price checker sites are a handy tool for verifying good deals.) Prime Day is not a "holiday" for Amazon Prime users—the only people who can take part in the event—so much as a multibillion-dollar business for a retailer looking to gin up sales during a typically slow shopping period. It's also a way for Amazon to convert more shoppers into Prime members, who are estimated to spend twice as much on the site than non-Prime users.

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Politics of automation: Factory workers and robots

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 11:47am
Humans and robots working together in a factory may excite some tech geeks, but worry others who fear job losses.

Monsters and power-ups in new go-kart experience

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 8:46am
Drivers can score points by shooting virtual monsters while racing each other.

University of Suffolk hosts all-female games jam

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 8:09am
Organisers hope the "amazing" opportunity will help encourage more women into the gaming industry.

'My son spent £3,160 in one game'

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 1:26am
As politicians call for more regulation, you share your stories about children spending money within games.

Are 5G masts dangerous or is it just fearmongering?

BBC Technology News - July 15, 2019 - 12:33am
Exposure from mobile networks including 5G fall well below limits set by international regulators.

Dealmaster: Amazon discounts almost its entire product lineup for Prime Day 2019

Ars Technica - July 14, 2019 - 8:41pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Prime Day is nearly upon us, and Amazon has already pushed out a bunch of deals on its own devices. Like Prime Days past, Amazon has discounted most of its devices and services in the hopes that more people will take the plunge and try Echo speakers or other Alexa-enabled devices, Kindle e-readers, Fire TV devices, and more. As with all Prime Day deals, the discounts are only available to members of Amazon’s Prime service.

Fire TVs

Speaking of Fire TVs, Amazon has heavily discounted many of those streaming devices, including the Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV Stick 4K. For Prime Day, the Fire TV Stick with an Alexa Remote for $14.99 (down from $39.99) or a Fire TV Stick 4K with an Alexa Remote for $24.99 (down from $49.99). Fire TV Sticks are the most affordable Alexa-enabled streaming devices from Amazon, but these Prime Day prices are both new lows for the respective devices.

The most obvious difference between the two is video resolution: the Fire TV Stick has a max resolution of 1080p, while the Fire TV Stick 4K supports 4K video as well as HDR10 and Dolby Vision technology. The Fire TV Stick 4K also has an updated quad-core processor so it will have noticeably faster and smoother performance when compared to older Fire TV devices. Otherwise, both streaming sticks have 8GB of RAM, 802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi, and Alexa voice command support via the included remote.

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