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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 50 min 43 sec ago

F1 2018 is worth buying even if you own last year’s version

3 hours 5 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Codemasters)

Reviewing the latest version of a yearly sports franchise game isn't always something to look forward to. "It's just like the Game Name 20xx you love, but now with one extra year on the date" can be hard to spin out into a full-length piece. Then again, persuading cynics like me to open our wallets again is probably an even tougher job from the developer's side. I don't envy the task in front of Lee Mather (the game director) and his team at Codemasters—luckily, F1 2018 is proof there's genuinely a lot of thought going into that effort.

"It's actually not the ideas that are the problem, it's purely the time we have to create it," explained Mather. "2015 was a tech establishing year [when the game moved to the new EGO engine]. The career added in 2016 was just the beginning, and we know where we wanted to take it, what features to add over time. With such a tightly constrained dev window, we can't waste any time. We can't just try things and throw them away if they don't work."

At its core, F1 2018 is a damn fine Formula 1 game. But the last two years' games were, too, thanks to a revised game engine that's right up there with the best in the racing genre. So to stand out from those past iterations, the crew at Codemasters has tweaked things all over the place this go round. Some of it you may not notice, like the way the new game renders skies, clouds, and environmental lighting. But some of it you definitely will notice, like the way you now have to manage your car's hybrid system throughout the race or the RPG elements that have been integrated into career mode.

Read 32 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Game dev suffers broken teeth, skull fracture after trying to film arrest

5 hours 5 min ago

Enlarge / Patricia Pizer posted images of visible injuries after being released on bail from a Rock Hill, SC, prison. Pizer and her husband allege that there was "no excuse" for the level of force used in her arrest at a QuikTrip gas station on Wednesday. (credit: Patricia Pizer)

A longtime video game developer was arrested at a South Carolina gas station on Wednesday afternoon after suffering significant injuries as the result of a tackle by a police officer. The arrest followed the woman's attempt to film officers arresting fellow shoppers at a QuikTrip store in Rock Hill. Soon afterward, both sides of the arrest told vastly different stories of what exactly happened.

Former Disney, Turbine, and Ubisoft developer Patricia Pizer posted images from her hospital stay on Thursday morning on her Facebook page. A text post attached to the images, apparently written by Pizer's husband, included the following list of injuries that she sustained following her altercation with police: "Broken teeth (five that we know of), dislocated shoulder, several lacerations, bruised hip, fracture of the skull, concussion."

The news of Pizer's arrest and injuries quickly spread throughout the game development community, with industry peers such as Brenda Romero (Wizardry) and Robin Hunicke (Journey) sharing Pizer's text and video updates (along with a link to a GoFundMe fundraiser to cover her medical bills). Pizer's game-industry credits include Creative Director for Asheron's Call 2, Senior Designer for Disney's Club Penguin series, and Senior Design Analyst for MMOs such as The Matrix Online and Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New Iron Fist Season 2 trailer renews our hope for the Netflix series

11 hours 2 sec ago

Enlarge / Train up: Iron Fist's second season premieres on Netflix on September 7. (credit: Netflix)

You’d be forgiven for losing track of Marvel’s various Defenders series and characters on Netflix over the past few years—particularly if you let its weakest standalone series, Iron Fist, fall through your viewing queue. But thanks to the new trailer for Iron Fist’s second season, which arrived on Thursday, we may have good reason to get excited when this Defender returns to Netflix on September 7.

(Mild spoilers for IF S1 and Defenders below.)

Hopes for a more compelling Iron Fist took a while to come to fruition: sometime through the first Defenders season, when Danny "Iron Fist" Rand (Finn Jones) received a verbal beatdown from Luke Cage ("You had power the day you were born"). That potential was fulfilled when Rand guested in Luke Cage's second season. This downright likable two-episode arc delivered what was arguably missing from his series' first season: a sense of deeper personal growth, even as he overcame tremendous physical odds to become the Iron Fist.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Polls show little support for Trump’s Space Force

August 16, 2018 - 10:29pm

Enlarge / Soon to be an actual MOS? (credit: Imgur, uncredited)

President Donald Trump's enthusiasm for a new military branch focused on space is apparently not widely shared. Two polls released today show that a majority—and in one poll, a plurality—of respondents said that the Space Force is a bad idea.

The Trump administration plans to cleave Space Force from the Air Force and have it largely in place by 2020. The first step would be to create US Space Command—a joint command within the Pentagon similar to the Joint Special Operations Command and US Cyber Command that would oversee space operations of all the services—by the end of 2018. The Pentagon will also create a Space Development Agency that will pull military space research, development, and procurement out of the Defense Department's current acquisition system. The agency's goal would be accelerating the development of new space stuff.

The Space Force plan has been widely derided, though some members of Congress have previously voiced support for creating a space-focused branch. Concerns about anti-satellite technology being developed by Russia and China—and the perception that the Air Force is not focused enough on the space portion of its mission, which is under the Air Force Space Command—have driven some support for creation of a separate force. There have been similar discussions about creating a US cyber force as well, though those discussions have gotten significant pushback from the service branches.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The nightmarishly complex wheat genome finally yields to scientists

August 16, 2018 - 9:50pm

Enlarge (credit: State Historical Society of North Dakota)

Bread, like wine, is pivotal in Judeo-Christian rituals. Both products exemplify the use of human ingenuity to re-create what nature provides, and the fermentation they both require must have seemed nothing less than magical to ancient minds. When toasted, rubbed with garlic and tomato, doused with olive oil and sprinkled with salt like the Catalans do, there are few things more delicious than bread.

Wheat is the most widely cultivated crop on the planet, accounting for about a fifth of all calories consumed by humans and more protein than any other food source. Although we have relied on bread wheat so heavily and for so long (14,000 years-ish), an understanding of its genetics has been a challenge. Its genome has been hard to solve because it is ridiculously complex. The genome is huge, about five times larger than ours. It's hexaploid, meaning it has six copies of each of its chromosomes. More than 85 percent of the genetic sequences among these three sets of chromosome pairs are repetitive DNA, and they are quite similar to each other, making it difficult to tease out which sequences reside where.

The genomes of rice and corn—two other staple grain crops—were solved in 2002 and 2009, respectively. In 2005, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium determined to get a reference genome of the bread wheat cultivar Chinese Spring. Thirteen years later, the consortium has finally succeeded.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

After coffee brewhaha, CA fears cancer warnings have “gone seriously wrong”

August 16, 2018 - 9:31pm

Enlarge / Delicious, non-cancerous, coffee. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

After a judge ruled in March that coffee should be served with jolting labels that alert drinkers to a cancer risk, the state of California seems to have woken up to the concern that its pervasive health warnings may have gone too far.

There’s a danger to overwarning—it’s important to warn about real health risks,” Sam Delson told The New York Times.

Delson is the deputy director for external and legislative affairs for California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. The office proposed a regulation shortly after a March ruling that would unequivocally declare that any cancer-linked components of roasted and brewed coffee “pose no significant risk of cancer.” Today, August 16, the proposed regulation is getting a public hearing in Sacramento.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ajit Pai knew DDoS claim was false in January, says he couldn’t tell Congress

August 16, 2018 - 9:00pm

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaks during an FCC oversight hearing held by the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The Federal Communications Commission chairman has known that his agency's claims about being hit by DDoS attacks were false for more than six months, but he says he could not correct the record publicly because of an internal investigation that didn't wrap up until this month.

The FCC Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued its report on the matter last week, finding that the FCC lied to Congress when it claimed that DDoS attacks caused a May 2017 outage that temporarily prevented net neutrality supporters from filing comments opposing Pai's plan to kill net neutrality rules. The false claims were made primarily by former Chief Information Officer David Bray, and Bray's false statements were sent to Congress in attachments to letters that Pai wrote to lawmakers.

At an FCC oversight hearing held today by the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) pressed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on his failure to correct those false statements until this month.

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Get 6 free months of Apple Music with a Verizon unlimited plan

August 16, 2018 - 7:10pm

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is led by a promotion for subscribers of Verizon's "unlimited" mobile plans: starting today, they can get six months of Apple Music for no added cost.

Verizon first announced the promotion earlier this month, saying it was "just the first step in an exclusive partnership with Apple," but the offer officially became available on Thursday. The deal is available to new customers and subscribers of any of Verizon's three current "unlimited" plans, as well as new and current subscribers of Apple Music itself. Since Apple Music normally runs for $9.99 a month, you're saving about $60 in total.

Verizon says eligible users can activate the deal on its promo page or in the Account > Add-ons section of the My Verizon mobile app. The offer doesn't blanket-cover family plans, but Verizon says that account owners can add the promo to each line in their Verizon account. (You may want to cancel any auto-renew settings right away, though, so you don't wind up paying for multiple Apple Music subscriptions come February.) If you're a Verizon subscriber who already pays for Apple Music, the carrier says you'll have to cancel your current membership to utilize the promo.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google reportedly plans flagship retail store (again), this time in Chicago

August 16, 2018 - 6:40pm

Enlarge / A rendering of 851 W. Randolph Street in Chicago. (credit: Newcastle Limited)

As Google makes more and more hardware products, it makes more and more sense for the company to have some kind of retail arm to show off its stuff. Google has a few "stores within stores" at places like Best Buy in the US and Currys PC World in the UK, setups where the company pays for a premium demo area specifically for its products. Google also has the occasional temporary "pop-up store" for holidays. A standalone brick-and-mortar Google Store has never materialized, though, despite several attempts.

A new report from the Chicago Tribune claims that Google is starting up its standalone retail ambitions again, this time with a flagship retail space in Chicago’s Fulton Market district. The report says Google is "close to finalizing a lease" for an almost 14,000-square-foot space that would consist of "several connected, two-story brick buildings between 845 and 851 W. Randolph St." This would be just two blocks south of Google's Chicago headquarters.

When asked for comment, Google gave The Tribune its usual “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation” statement. Newcastle Limited, the company that owns the space, also declined comment to The Tribune. Newcastle's listing of the space is here.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Intel’s 10nm Cannon Lake chip gets another outing in new NUC mini PC

August 16, 2018 - 5:50pm

Intel

Intel has updated its range of small form-factor PCs that it calls NUCs. We've generally liked the systems in the past; with a footprint of about 4 inches by 4 inches, they're pretty compact, and their feature set makes them versatile for home theaters, digital signs or other embedded industrial uses, workplace productivity, and in some cases, even gaming.

First up is a quintet of NUC kits named Bean Canyon, built around Coffee Lake-U processors. These range from a $299 i3-8109U at the low end (two-core, four-thread, 3.0-3.6GHz) to a $499 i7-8559U at the high end (four-core, eight-thread, 2.7-4.5GHz). All the chips are 28W processors, and all have Iris Plus graphics—128MB of eDRAM memory on the processor itself. The eDRAM is primarily there to boost graphics performance, but it can also help a lot in non-graphical workloads, too, as it acts as an enormous cache.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Nintendo’s Switch has been hiding a buried “VrMode” for over a year

August 16, 2018 - 5:30pm

A previous, browser-based proof-of-concept test from YouTuber Nintendrew shows how Switch-based VR could work. (credit: YoutTube / Nintendrew)

Hackers have uncovered and tested a screen-splitting "VR Mode" that has been buried in the Switch's system-level firmware for over a year. The discovery suggests that Nintendo at least toyed with the idea that the tablet system could serve as a stereoscopic display for a virtual reality headset.

Switch hackers first discovered and documented references to a "VrMode" in the Switch OS' Applet Manager services back in December when analyzing the June 2017 release of version 3.0.0 of the system's firmware. But the community doesn't seem to have done much testing of the internal functions "IsVrModeEnabled" and "SetVrModeEnabled" at the time.

That changed shortly after Switch modder OatmealDome publicly noted one of the VR functions earlier this month, rhetorically asking, "has anyone actually tried calling it?" Fellow hacker random0666 responded with a short Twitter video (and an even shorter followup) showing the results of an extremely simple homebrew testing app that activates the system's VrMode functions.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Kroger launches autonomous grocery delivery service in Arizona

August 16, 2018 - 3:24pm

Enlarge / Nuro's fully autonomous R1, slated to begin service in the fall. (credit: Kroger)

Starting today, residents of Scottsdale, Arizona have the opportunity to receive autonomous grocery deliveries from Fry's Food Stores—a brand owned by grocery giant Kroger. The technology is supplied by Nuro, a self-driving vehicle startup founded by two veterans of Google's self-driving car project. We profiled the company in May.

Kroger says that deliveries will have a flat $5.95 delivery fee, and customers can schedule same-day or next-day deliveries. Initially, the deliveries will be made by Nuro's fleet of modified Toyota Priuses with a safety driver behind the wheel. But Kroger expects to start using Nuro's production model—which doesn't even have space for a driver—this fall.

That vehicle, known as the R1, is significantly smaller and lighter than a conventional passenger car. When we talked to Nuro cofounder Dave Ferguson back in May, he argued that the R1's design had significant safety benefits. A smaller, lighter vehicle would do less damage if it ever ran into something. The vehicle's maximum speed of 25 miles per hour also makes serious injuries less likely.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ancient Egyptians had been making mummies longer than anyone thought

August 16, 2018 - 3:18pm

Enlarge (credit: Dr. Stephen Buckley, University of York)

Ancient Egyptians started embalming their dead about 1,500 years earlier than archaeologists previously realized, according to chemical analysis of the funerary wrappings of a young man who died in Upper Egypt around 3600 BCE. University of York archaeologist Stephen Buckley and his colleagues identified embalming compounds in organic residues from the mummy’s linen wrappings. They also examined the microscopic structure of the wrappings’ fibers, and radiocarbon-dated the mummy to between 3700 and 3500 BCE.

That’s about 500 years before Egypt was even a unified country. It took until 3100 BCE for an Upper (southern) Egyptian ruler named Narmer to conquer Lower (northern) Egypt, merging the two into a single kingdom.

Egyptian embalming is thought to have gotten its start in that Predynastic Period or even earlier, when people noticed that the arid heat of the sand tended to dry and preserve bodies buried in the desert. Eventually, the idea of preserving the body after death worked its way into Egyptian religious beliefs. When people began to bury the dead in rock tombs, away from the desiccating sand, they used chemicals like natron salt and plant-based resins for embalming.

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

High-energy protons emitted after hooking up with neutrons

August 16, 2018 - 3:01pm

Enlarge / Abstract image of electrons and protons. (credit: Kevin Dooley)

If you hit an atom's nucleus hard enough, it will fall apart. But exactly how it falls apart tells us something about the internal structure of the nucleus and perhaps about the interior of neutron stars. One of the unexpected things we seem to be learning is that the way particles in the nucleus pair up allows them to reach higher energies than expected, and having excess neutrons only encourages this behavior.

To someone like me—I never took any courses on nuclear physics—the nucleus is a bit like visiting a familiar beach and discovering a colony of dragons. The nucleus consists of protons, which are positively charged. These should repel each other, but the nucleus doesn’t explode because of neutrons. Neutrons are, as the name suggests, neutral. However, they are the glue that binds the protons together.

This description makes the nucleus sound like a disorganized mess of protons and neutrons, but it isn’t. The nucleus has a structure remarkably similar to the electrons orbiting the nucleus.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Please join us in welcoming Ars’ newest contributor, Jennifer Ouellette

August 16, 2018 - 2:36pm

Readers who pay careful attention may have noticed a new byline attached to an article yesterday. And if you follow physics, you'll have been excited to learn about our newest writer that way. For the rest of you, we're pleased to announce that Jennifer Ouellette is joining the Ars staff.

Jennifer will be familiar to many of you because of her deep background in science coverage. She has contributed as a freelancer to more places than is convenient to list. She has blogged on the field at Cocktail Party Physics and shares a huge range of science stories on social media. Her most recent staff position was as a senior science editor at Gizmodo. In short, she's been immersed in science for years and brings a wealth of experience to a field we don't cover as thoroughly as we'd like to.

But if I could channel my best informercial voice, that's not all. One of her interests in covering science has been to bring forward the science behind the everyday world around us—the sort of cocktail party physics that gave her blog its name. This is not something we've always done well (when we've done it at all), and it's the sort of coverage that bleeds over into technology and our wider culture, which makes her a fantastic fit for Ars.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

ISPs say they can’t expand broadband unless gov’t gives them more money

August 16, 2018 - 2:00pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Aurich Lawson)

Broadband providers have spent years lobbying against utility-style regulations that protect consumers from high prices and bad service.

But now, broadband lobby groups are arguing that Internet service is similar to utilities such as electricity, gas distribution, roads, and water and sewer networks. In the providers' view, the essential nature of broadband doesn't require more regulation to protect consumers. Instead, they argue that broadband's utility-like status is reason for the government to give ISPs more money.

That's the argument made by trade groups USTelecom and NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. USTelecom represents telcos including AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink, while NTCA represents nearly 850 small ISPs.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Elon Musk’s Boring Company proposes one-way, 3.6 mile tunnel to Dodger Stadium

August 16, 2018 - 1:30pm

Enlarge / A potential design for an electric skate. (credit: The Boring Company)

Elon Musk's two-year-old tunnel digging venture has proposed yet another project in the Los Angeles area: a one-way, approximately 3.6-mile tunnel from a lot near an LA Metro Station to Dodger Stadium.

Currently, this idea is just a proposal, and it still needs approval by LA City Council as well as all of the permitting necessary to tunnel under the Echo Park and Silver Lake neighborhoods. (That's not trivial: there are at least five separate agencies that would be involved in the process of building this tunnel.)

The Boring Company offered three possibilities for a western terminus of the tunnel, in either Los Feliz, East Hollywood, or Rampart Village. Each neighborhood has an LA Metro station that could be used, and The Boring Company proposes that it would buy a piece of property within walking distance of that station to set up its own station.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New sponge for cleaning harbor oil leaks has a successful real-world test

August 16, 2018 - 1:00am

Enlarge / Seth Darling, Jeff Elam, and Ed Barry conduct research experiments with the Oleo Sponge in Santa Barbara, California. (credit: Argonne National Laboratory)

In March 2017, Ars wrote about a new material that could soak up oil like a sponge. The so-called Oleo Sponge could be wrung out, the oil could be collected, and the sponge could be used again. The material had just been developed at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) outside of Chicago, so it was still being tested in controlled environments.

Now, Argonne has announced a successful real-world test of the Oleo Sponge at an oil seep in a channel near Goleta, California.

The test, conducted in April, involved immersing the Oleo Sponge in the Coal Oil Point Seep Field in the Santa Barbara Channel. The oil seep field is natural and is one of the largest in the known world (PDF). Not only does it release lots of methane every day, but it also releases oil into the channel water. A press release from ANL notes, "the seeps have been active for at least 500,000 years and release roughly 40 tons of methane, 19 tons of other organic gases, and more than 100 barrels of liquid petroleum daily."

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

DNA reveals ancient parrot breeder supplied US Southwest peoples

August 15, 2018 - 11:11pm

Enlarge / Chaco Canyon ruins in New Mexico. (credit: Erik Terdal / Flickr)

Lots of macaw parrot skeletons and feathers have turned up at human settlements in the southwestern US and northwestern Mexico dating back to at least 900 CE. Given that these sites are at least 1,000 kilometers north of the bird’s natural range, it has long been clear that there was an interesting story here. How were macaws traded between cultures and over such long distances, long before the arrival of the Spanish and their horses?

Between 1250 and 1450, a settlement discovered at Paquimé in Mexico seems to have hosted a macaw-breeding program that must have met the demand for this culturally significant bird in the region. But what about before Paquimé? Archaeologists have debated the possibilities: that traders frequently traveled the long route to bring back macaws, that birds were haphazardly traded between settlements, or that there was an earlier breeding post.

A study led by Penn State’s Richard George sought to answer this question using DNA from scarlet macaw skeletons found at New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and Mimbres settlements. Techniques to recover fairly complete DNA sequences from archaeological specimens have advanced in recent years, allowing researchers to test hypotheses with much more confidence.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Diablo III’s Switch version leaked ahead of official unveil, coming “2018” [Updated]

August 15, 2018 - 10:40pm

Enlarge / An artist's approximation of what Diablo III: Eternal Collection may look like when it arrives on Nintendo Switch by year's end. (credit: Blizzard / Aurich Lawson)

Blizzard's first-ever video game for the Nintendo Switch, Diablo III, was unveiled on Wednesday following an article's apparent accidental publication.

Forbes published an article on Wednesday confirming that the developer's popular slash-and-loot series would arrive on Nintendo Switch by the end of 2018 in the form of an "Eternal Collection." The outlet quickly removed the article from its site, but its copious details (screengrabbed by Reddit members) appear legitimate, and publications like Kotaku confirmed that Forbes' article ran one day before Blizzard's official unveil scheduled for Thursday of this week.

As you might imagine from a name like "Eternal Collection," this version of Diablo III will include all of the 2012 game's subsequent paid expansions, including Reaper of Souls and Rise of the Necromancer, along with all of the game's free updates and patches up to this point. It will launch at an MSRP of $59.99.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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