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Industry & Technology

Command & Conquer Remastered Collection review: Loving the smell of Tiberium

Ars Technica - 58 min 13 sec ago

The strategy, the explosions, the FMV sequences, the ripping guitars, and the Kane-fueled cheese—they're all back. The original 1995 game Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn and its 1996 prequel Red Alert have returned in today's launch of the C&C Remastered Collection on Windows 8/10 (AmazonSteamOrigin). In good news, the package is right for the price: $20 gets you both original games, all of their expansion packs (one for C&C:TD, two for Red Alert), and each game's console-exclusive content. The complete package has been aesthetically touched up for the sake of working on modern PCs.

I've spent the past week tinkering with Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection to break down exactly what to expect and how you should temper your real-time strategy expectations. Despite a few quality-of-life tweaks, the package is otherwise faithful to the originals—almost to a fault—while its compatibility with modern PCs is mostly good enough.

From 400p to 2160p, but not without issues

The package's biggest selling point is a new coat of high-res paint. Every single asset and map element has been redrawn, and like other recent classic-game remaster projects, this one includes a handy "graphic-swap" button. By default, tap the space bar at any time during single-player modes to switch from the original 400p assets to a new, 2160p-optimized suite of units, buildings, and terrain. Here, enjoy an after-and-before gallery of both zoomed-in units and full battleground scenes.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Elon Musk calls for 'break up' of Amazon

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 5 min ago
The entrepreneur condemned the online retailer after it rejected a book about coronavirus.

Investors argue against excessive pay package for Activision CEO

Ars Technica - 2 hours 26 min ago

Enlarge

A major investment group with substantial holdings in Activision stock is speaking out this week against the high compensation for Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. The move comes ahead of a shareholder vote on executive pay scheduled for June 11.

"Over the past four years, Activision Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick has received over $20 million in combined stock/option equity per year," the CtW investment group writes in a letter filed with the SEC this week. "These equity grants have consistently been larger than the total pay (the sum of base salary, annual bonus, and equity pay) of CEO peers at similar companies."

CtW—which works with union-sponsored pension funds to speak out against "irresponsible and unethical corporate behavior and excessive executive pay"—said Kotick's excessive compensation is especially concerning in light of the wave of nearly 800 layoffs the company rolled out in 2019. Those layoffs were implemented amid the announcement of "record results in 2018" for Activision and reportedly focused on "non-development teams" that were no longer needed thanks to a lighter slate of releases from the company going forward.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Combat drone to compete against piloted plane

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 32 min ago
The US Air Force will pit an advanced autonomous aircraft against a piloted plane in tests.

Whatever happened to the NHS contact-tracing app?

BBC Technology News - 5 hours 6 min ago
The app, first tested on the Isle of Wight, had been expected to be rolled out at the end of May.

Coronavirus: National Rail to offer 'busy station' alerts

BBC Technology News - 5 hours 24 min ago
Rail passengers will be warned if trains or stations are busy, to aid social distancing.

From Zelda to Civ to Frostpunk—can climate change be fun?

Ars Technica - 6 hours 28 min ago

For decades now, video games have concerned themselves with the end of things. From the bombed-out nuclear wasteland of Washington, DC in Fallout 3 to the flooded Hyrule of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, popular games have explored the concept of the apocalypse with both goofy humor and stark seriousness, often revealing unpleasant truths in the process. So perhaps it’s no surprise that as the all-too-real climate change crisis continues to creep towards a breaking point—even as the ongoing public health disaster known as COVID-19 eclipses it in the public imagination—video game developers are taking steps to systematize the ways that rising sea levels or other ecological catastrophes might overwhelm us in the coming years.

While many of these climate changed-focused games focus on depicting the dire future that experts predict if we refuse to radically alter our behavior patterns, others are a bit more traditional in their approach. And some notable game-makers like Firaxis Games (Civilization) and 11-Bit Studios (This War of Mine) are drawing inspiration from climate-change to craft ludic dilemmas that force players to make radical decisions in the face of overwhelming odds. In other words: if these studios can't necessarily make living through the apocalypse as fun as it sounds, they can at least make it interesting.

The picturesque environments of Civ6 were about to experience some hardships.

A game that can do both

To be fair, climate scientists have understood for years now that video games have a unique ability to communicate the stakes and severity of this global crisis to a mass audience. Historically, many of these games fit well-within the strategy genre, and developers have tried different approaches to lure players in. For example, the commercial game Fate of the World often overwhelms new players with the heft of its interlocking systems: make a few bad decisions early on, and you'll quickly find yourself hurtling towards a bad ending. All you can do then is apply the lessons learned to a future playthrough. On the other hand, educational fare like the underwater exploration sim Beyond Blue lean more towards accessibility. By focusing on the specific effects of climate change—in this case, the destruction of the Earth's oceans—the game can communicate the costs of a warming climate to a wider audience.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rocket Report: Falcon 9 leaps forward; a gator and a Dragon

Ars Technica - 6 hours 58 min ago

Enlarge / Falcon 9 lifts off on its most important mission to date: carrying NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into orbit. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

Welcome to Edition 3.03 of the Rocket Report! We just passed a week of the highest of highs, with Saturday's Crew Dragon launch, and the lowest of lows, as this country's racial prejudice was laid bare. Jeff Manber, the CEO of Nanoracks, said it well: "The space community can, and must, do better to become part of the solution to the horrific challenges America faces today." We agree.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Vega set for return-to-flight mission. After an in-flight accident in July 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic, Arianespace has resumed preparations for the Vega rocket's return to service mission. This launch will also demonstrate the rocket's utility as a platform for rideshare missions. Launch is targeted for June 18, local time, NASASpaceflight.com reports.

Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Coronavirus: NHS contact-tracing app in place by end of month, says minister

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 11 min ago
The app will "be running as soon as we think it is robust", a government minister says.

‘Venus flytrap hand’ has gentle touch and other tech news

BBC Technology News - 11 hours 53 min ago
BBC Click's Paul Carter looks at some of the best of the week's technology news stories.

A lost Maxis “Sim” game has been discovered by an Ars reader, uploaded for all

Ars Technica - 12 hours 25 min ago

Wow. It may only be an incomplete prototype, but in a breathtaking span of time, SimRefinery has gone from a seemingly lost legend to a playable, downloadable video game. (That's its real, full-resolution opening screen, as captured using a DOSBox emulator.) And it's all thanks to an Ars Technica commenter. (credit: archive.org / Maxis / Chevron)

We at Ars Technica are proud to be members of video game archiving history today. SimRefinery, one of PC gaming's most notoriously "lost" video games, now exists—as a fully playable game, albeit an unfinished one—thanks to an Ars Technica reader commenting on the story of its legend.

Two weeks ago, I reported on a story about Maxis Business Solutions, a subdivision of the game developer Maxis created in the wake of SimCity's booming success. Librarian and archivist Phil Salvador published an epic, interview-filled history of one of the game industry's earliest examples of a "serious" gaming division, which was formed as a way to cash in on major businesses' interest in using video games as work-training simulators.

As Salvador wrote in May:

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Iran- and China-backed phishers try to hook the Trump and Biden campaigns

Ars Technica - 16 hours 29 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker)

State-backed hackers from Iran and China recently targeted the presidential campaigns of Republican President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, a Google threat analyst said on Thursday.

The revelation is the latest evidence of foreign governments attempting to gain intelligence on US politicians and potentially disrupt or meddle in their election campaigns. An Iran-backed group targeted the Trump campaign, and China-backed attackers targeted the Biden campaign, said Shane Huntley, the head of Google’s Threat Analysis Group on Twitter. Both groups used phishing emails. There’s no indication that either attack campaign succeeded.

Kittens and Pandas

Huntley identified the Iranian group that targeted Trump’s campaign as APT35, short for Advanced Persistent Threat 35. Also known as Charming Kitten, iKittens, and Phosphorous, the group was caught targeting an unnamed presidential campaign before, Microsoft said last October. In that campaign, Phosphorous members attempted to access email accounts campaign staff received through Microsoft cloud services. Microsoft said that the attackers worked relentlessly to gather information that could be used to activate password resets and other account-recovery services Microsoft provides.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A detective hunts a costumed vigilante in Major Grom: Plague Doctor trailer

Ars Technica - 16 hours 42 min ago

Major Grom: Plague Doctor is adapted from the Russian comics of the same name.

A rogue detective who doesn't always play by the rules hunts a costumed vigilante serial killer in the first English-language trailer (well, subtitled) for a Russian superhero film called Major Grom: Plague Doctor, directed by Oleg Trofim (Ice). There's some pretty strong The Punisher vibes here, as well as V for Vendetta. The Major Grom comic books, created by Artem Gabrelyanov, have been likened to the early Batman comics in tone, which might explain the Dark Knight overtones as well.

(Some spoilers for the Russian comics below.)

The original Major Grom comics were published between 2012 and 2015, later spawning several spinoffs. The protagonist is Major Igor Grom, a detective in St. Petersburg who has mean martial arts skills and takes part in the occasional amateur boxing competition (aka Russian Fight Club). He has a tendency to bend the rules, which irritates his young rookie partner, Dmitry "Dima" Dubin, who prefers to play things by the book. Grom's love interest is an investigative reporter named Yulia Pchelkina, whose skill set proves useful in helping solve Grom's various comic book cases. A billionaire social media mogul named Sergey Razumovsky is Grom's archnemesis. Razumovsky is a philanthropist by day but murders homeless people by night, all in the name of cleaning up St. Petersburg.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Is coronavirus changing the world of cleaning?

BBC Technology News - 18 hours 46 min ago
Hi-tech cleaning products are being offered to tackle coronavirus, but are they better than soap and water?

Do face masks help? Studies leaning toward yes

Ars Technica - 19 hours 42 min ago

Enlarge / If only some of the public wears protective gear, is it helpful? (credit: Diego Puletto / Getty Images)

What's the best way to protect yourself when you're at risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2? It seems like a simple question, but many of the options—face masks, lockdowns, social distancing, etc.—have been politically controversial. In addition, it has been difficult for public health authorities to maintain a consistent message, given our changing state of knowledge and their need to balance things like maintaining supplies of protective equipment for health care workers.

But several months into the pandemic, we've started to get a clear indication that social isolation rules are helping, providing support for those policies. So, where do we stand on the use of masks?

Two recent events hint at where the evidence is running. The first involves the retraction of a paper that appeared to show that mask use was ineffective. And the second is a meta-analysis of all recent studies on the use of protective gear against SARS-CoV-2 and its relatives SARS and MERS. It finds support for a protective effect of masks—as well as eye protection—although the underlying evidence isn't as strong as we might like.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Instagram just threw users of its embedding API under the bus

Ars Technica - June 4, 2020 - 10:32pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Instagram does not provide users of its embedding API a copyright license to display embedded images on other websites, the company said in a Thursday email to Ars Technica. The announcement could come as an unwelcome surprise to users who believed that embedding images, rather than hosting them directly, provides insulation against copyright claims.

"While our terms allow us to grant a sub-license, we do not grant one for our embeds API," a Facebook company spokesperson told Ars in a Thursday email. "Our platform policies require third parties to have the necessary rights from applicable rights holders. This includes ensuring they have a license to share this content, if a license is required by law."

In plain English, before you embed someone's Instagram post on your website, you may need to ask the poster for a separate license to the images in the post. If you don't, you could be subject to a copyright lawsuit.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Huawei’s temperature-taking smartphone is the most 2020 phone of 2020

Ars Technica - June 4, 2020 - 10:15pm

Smartphones have always been the modern tech equivalent of a Swiss Army knife, combining a phone, a music player, a camera, a GPS, a PDA, and more into a single device. Now Huawei is pitching yet another device that can be integrated into a smartphone: a thermometer. Huawei's Honor Play 4 Pro has an IR temperature sensor integrated into the rear camera block that can measure the surface temperature of people and objects. In a year when containing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic is a major concern and a fever can be an early indicator of infection, the Play 4 Pro is an extremely 2020 smartphone.

In a video posted on the Chinese social media site Weibo, Huawei demonstrates how the feature will work. Just aim the phone at someone's forehead, tap through the app, and the phone will give you a temperature reading. Temperature checks aren't a guaranteed way to screen for COVID-19, but a fever is a symptom in the majority of hospitalized cases, and it's very easy to check for. The use of infrared non-contact thermometers is a common sight in Huawei's home country of China, and in the United States, employers like Amazon and Walmart are screening masses of warehouse employees for fevers as part of coronavirus control.

Huawei says its IR sensor can read temperatures from -20°C (-4°F) to 100°C (212°F). An IR sensor isn't as accurate as a thermal camera, and neither device, which reads a surface temperature, is as accurate as an internally taken temperature. An IR sensor is cheap, though, and they are already frequently integrated into a smartphone for face unlock and camera effects, so Huawei was able to quickly react to the pandemic.

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Nature’s cosmic hard drive? Black holes could store information like holograms

Ars Technica - June 4, 2020 - 10:00pm

Enlarge / New research suggests we really can describe black holes as holograms: they have two dimensions, in which gravity disappears, but they reproduce an object in three dimensions. (credit: Gerd Altmann for PIxabay)

Nearly 30 years ago, theoretical physicists introduced the "holographic principle," a mind-bending theory positing that our three-dimensional universe is actually a hologram. Now physicists are applying that same principle to black holes, arguing in a new paper published in Physical Review X that a black hole's information is contained within a two-dimensional surface, which is able to reproduce an image of the black hole in three dimensions—just like the holograms we see in everyday life.

Black holes as described by general relativity are simple objects. All you need to describe them mathematically is their mass and their spin, plus their electric charge. So there would be no noticeable change if you threw something into a black hole—nothing that would provide a clue as to what that object might have been. That information is lost.

But problems arise when quantum gravity enters the picture because the rules of quantum mechanics hold that information can never be destroyed. And in quantum mechanics, black holes are incredibly complex objects and thus should contain a great deal of information. As we reported previously, Jacob Bekenstein realized in 1974 that black holes also have a temperature. Stephen Hawking tried to prove him wrong but wound up proving him right instead, concluding that black holes therefore had to produce some kind of thermal radiation.

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Jake Paul: YouTuber charged with criminal trespass and unlawful assembly

BBC Technology News - June 4, 2020 - 9:25pm
The 23 year old is charged with criminal trespass and unlawful assembly at a Scottsdale mall.

Retracted: Hydroxychloroquine study pulled over suspect data [Updated]

Ars Technica - June 4, 2020 - 9:07pm

Enlarge / A bottle and pills of Hydroxychloroquine. US President Donald Trump announced May 18 he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for almost two weeks as a preventative measure against COVID-19. (credit: Getty | George Frey)

The Lancet medical journal on Thursday announced the retraction of a dubious study suggesting that the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine significantly increased the risk of death and heart-rhythm complications in hospitalized COVID-19 patients worldwide.

Three of the study’s four authors made the decision to retract the study after they were unable to independently verify the data used for their analysis. The data was provided by an obscure data analytics company, Surgisphere, which is run by the fourth author of the study, Sapan S Desai, who did not appear to agree to the retraction.

The three retracting authors—Mandeep R. Mehra of Harvard, Frank Ruschitzka of University Hospital Zurich, and Amit Patel of the University of Utah—said in their retraction notice that Surgisphere refused to hand over its full dataset and an audit report of its servers for an independent peer review. “Based on this development, we can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources,” the wrote.

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