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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 55 min 19 sec ago

The original Ghostbusters franchise is getting a new film in 2020

10 hours 34 min ago

Enlarge / Who ya gonna call? Three of the four original Ghostbusters: Bill Murray, the late Harold Ramis, and Dan Ackroyd. (credit: Columbia Pictures)

Fire up your proton packs, people, because there's going to be another Ghostbusters movie from Sony Pictures, according to Entertainment Weekly. Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking) will direct the new film, which will be set in the same fictional universe as the 1984 original and its sequel—unlike Paul Feige's 2016 all-female Ghostbusters.

Reitman is a fitting choice, seeing as how he's the son of Ivan Reitman, director of the 1980s films. You may have glimpsed Jason, his mother, and his sister in the original Ghostbusters, as residents fleeing their haunted skyscraper. Jason even had a line in the 1989 sequel: he was the birthday boy who told the 'Busters, "My dad says you guys are full of crap."

Reitman resisted following in his father's footsteps for years, but it seems he's finally succumbing to the call. “I’ve always thought of myself as the first Ghostbusters fan, when I was a 6-year-old visiting the set. I wanted to make a movie for all the other fans,” Reitman told EW. “This is the next chapter in the original franchise. It is not a reboot. What happened in the ‘80s happened in the ‘80s, and this is set in the present day.”

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple releases official battery cases for iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR

12 hours 44 min ago

Today, Apple quietly began taking orders for battery-equipped cases for all three 2018 iPhone models—iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. The value proposition and designs are essentially the same as with battery cases made by Apple for prior iPhones.

As pictured above, each phone gets a black and a white option. The cases are made of silicone and closely resemble the existing, not-battery-equipped silicone cases that began shipping with the phones first became available late last year, except for the significant bumps on the lower two thirds of the backs of each case. The bump houses the battery, of course. Since the three phones are each different sizes, these cases are not interchangeable between models.

These cases work with Qi wireless chargers, and you can charge both the case and the phone at the same time from said chargers—though it should probably be said that Qi speeds on iPhones are nothing to write home about, and that's a whole lot of lithium-ion battery to fill up. In many cases, you'll be better off going wired, and that's OK, because the cases support fast-charging from USB-PD compatible chargers.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Report: EA’s beleaguered, open-world Star Wars game is no more

13 hours 4 min ago

Artist's approximation of the status of EA Vancouver's Star Wars video game. (credit: Lucasfilm)

Ahead of an official EA announcement, Kotaku has gone forward with major Star Wars gaming news. The most troubled game in the EA and Star Wars deal, which was signed in 2013, has been canceled.

The game in question was once codenamed "Ragtag" while in development with wholly owned EA subsidiary Visceral Games. That changed in late 2017 with a formal announcement of that studio's closure, along with the game's assets and development being primarily handed over to the EA Vancouver studio. This handover was officially described as "a significant change" to the in-development game due to "fundamental shifts in the marketplace."

Kotaku's Tuesday report alleges that the resulting, rebooted Star Wars game, which had been built as an "open-world" adventure, has since been canceled. The report, from Jason Schreier, cites "three sources," but it does not confirm an exact timeline of the cancellation. Schreier says that EA has neither offered its own news post nor responded to Kotaku's questions.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

EPA at a 30-year low for referring pollution cases for criminal prosecution

14 hours 28 min ago

Enlarge / Acting Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA Andrew Wheeler listens as President Donald J. Trump leads a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on July 18, 2018, in Washington, DC. (credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Polluters likely had a good year in 2018. According to numbers from advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the number of criminal pollution cases that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) referred to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution was lower in 2018 than it had been in 30 years.

That's probably not because industry in America is becoming more environmentally conscious. PEER suggests the reason for the low number of referrals is that the EPA is only employing between 130 and 140 special agents in the agency's Criminal Investigation Division, less than the minimum 200 agents specified by the US Pollution Prevention Act of 1990.

The EPA only referred 166 cases to the Justice Department in 2018. According to numbers from the Associated Press, referrals peaked in 1998, with 592 cases referred for prosecution. Throughout the George W. Bush presidency, referrals ranged somewhere between 300 and 450. Referrals dipped during the Obama presidency to a range between 200 and just over 400. Referrals have been on a downward trend since 2012.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New federal rules would let drones fly at night and over crowds

15 hours 9 min ago

Enlarge / A drone is flown during a property inspection following Hurricane Harvey in Houston in 2017. (credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed Monday to relax rules governing commercial drone operations. Since 2016, the FAA has allowed the commercial operation of unmanned aerial vehicles weighing less than 55 pounds under certain limited circumstances. New rules proposed this week would relax two of the restrictions in the 2016 rules: drones will now be allowed to operate at night, and they'll be able to operate over people.

The agency already allows some nighttime flights, but only on a case-by-case basis. The agency says that since 2016, it has received thousands of requests for waivers for nighttime operations and granted 1,233 of those requests. The FAA says that it hasn't had any reports of accidents due to these nighttime operations. So the new FAA proposal would allow people to operate drones at night without special permission from the agency—provided the operator gets extra training and that the drone has lights that are visible from three miles away.

Current rules prohibit commercial drone operations over people who aren't directly involved in operating the vehicle. The new rules would allow drones to fly over people if the drone manufacturer certifies that doing so is safe. Specifically, manufacturers would need to demonstrate that in the event of a malfunction, the drone won't fall with more than an FAA-defined maximum of kinetic energy (either 11 or 25 foot-pounds, depending on the situation).

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Psychologists defend claim of “destructive aspects” to masculinity

January 15, 2019 - 11:20pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Photofusion)

The American Psychological Association is on the defensive over its newly released clinical guidance (PDF) for treating boys and men, which links traditional masculinity ideology to a range of harms, including sexism, violence, mental health issues, suicide, and homophobia. Critics contend that the guidelines attack traditional values and innate characteristics of males.

The APA’s 10-point guidance, released last week, is intended to help practicing psychologists address the varied yet gendered experience of men and boys with whom they work. It fits into the APA’s set of other clinical guidelines for working with specific groups, including older adults, people with disabilities, and one for girls and women, which was released in 2007. The association began working on the guidance for boys and men in 2005—well before the current #MeToo era—and drew from more than four decades of research for its framing and recommendations.

That research showed that “some masculine social norms can have negative consequences for the health of boys and men,” the APA said in a statement released January 14 amid backlash. Key among these harmful norms is pressure for boys to suppress their emotions (the “common ‘boys don’t cry’ refrain”), the APA said. This has been documented to lead to “increased negative risk-taking and inappropriate aggression among men and boys, factors that can put some males at greater risk for psychological and physical health problems.” It can also make males “less willing to seek help for psychological distress.”

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Intel reported to have a new 5GHz chip that’s literally priceless

January 15, 2019 - 11:07pm

Enlarge / This is a 10-core Skylake-X processor. It uses the low core count (LCC) version of the Skylake-SP die. (credit: Fritzchens Fritz / Flickr)

If the $1,979 Core i9-9980XE isn't enough processor for you, Anandtech reports that Intel will soon have an even more expensive Core i9 processor: the i9-9990XE. But you won't be able to buy it, and Intel won't even have a price for the thing.

The current i9-9980XE has 18 cores/36 threads and clock speeds between 3.0 and 4.5GHz, and it draws 165W. The new i9-9990XE has fewer cores—14 cores/28 thread, same as a 9940X—but it boasts clock speeds between 4.0 and 5.0GHz, with a monstrous power draw of 255W. It will use the existing LGA2066 socket and X299 chipset. This configuration is still a long way off the one that Intel teased in the middle of last year, when the company demonstrated an overclocked machine with 28 cores running 5GHz across all cores.

The price of this new chip is likely to sit above that of the 9980XE, but where exactly isn't clear. According to Anandtech, Intel won't be selling this chip through regular retail channels, and it won't have a regular list price. Instead, the chip company is asking system builders to bid for the chips in an online auction. The auctions will be held quarterly, with apparently only three system integrators bidding in the first.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Chinese firm scores a win in smallsat-launch competition

January 15, 2019 - 10:55pm

Enlarge / Satellogic satellites being prepared for launch. (credit: Satellogic)

China’s new Long March 6 rocket has won a major commercial launch contract, with an agreement for up to six flights over two years to deploy 90 small remote sensing satellites for Argentina-based Satellogic.

The contract—which will allow Satellogic to deploy a constellation capable of imaging the entire planet at a 1-meter resolution on a weekly basis—is significant in that it comes at a time of increasing competition in the small-satellite launch market. Satellogic and the China Great Wall Industry Corporation (or CGWIC), which sells Chinese government launch services on the commercial market, did not disclose terms of the agreement.

However, the Chinese launch marketer made clear that this is an important milestone for its Long March 6 (or LM-6) rocket. "Satellogic's constellation will introduce a new era of affordable Earth observation just as the LM-6 will open new opportunities for the global space industry," Gao Ruofei, executive vice president of CGWIC, said in a statement.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Nine defendants charged in SEC hacking scheme that netted $4.1 million

January 15, 2019 - 10:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)

Federal authorities have charged nine defendants with participating in a scheme to hack a Securities and Exchange Commission database to steal confidential information that netted $4.1 million in illegal stock trade profits.

Two of the defendants, federal prosecutors in New Jersey said, breached SEC networks starting in May 2016 by subjecting them to hacks that included directory traversal, phishing attacks, and infecting computers with malware. From there, the defendants allegedly accessed EDGAR (the SEC’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system) and stole nonpublic earnings reports that publicly traded companies had filed with the commission. The hackers then passed the confidential information to individuals who used it to trade in the narrow window between when the files were stolen and when the companies released the information to the public.

“Defendants’ scheme reaped over $4.1 million in gross ill-gotten gains from trading based on nonpublic EDGAR filings,” SEC officials charged in a civil complaint. It named Ukrainian nationalist Oleksandr Ieremenko as a hacker, along with six individual traders in California, Ukraine, and Russia, and it also named two entities. A criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors in New Jersey charged Ieremenko and a separate Ukrainian named Artem Radchenko with carrying out the hack.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft’s fonts catch out another fraudster—this time in Canada

January 15, 2019 - 9:49pm

Enlarge / The Calibri font. Don't use this if you're forging anything written before 2007. (credit: Peter Bright)

You'd think that people forging documents would have learned by now. Canadian Gerald McGoey was judged to have falsified documents in an attempt to protect certain assets from bankruptcy proceedings because—and stop me if you've heard this before—the documents used Microsoft's modern "C" fonts, which didn't become widely available until 2007. This would have been fine were it not for the minor detail that the documents were dated 2004 and 1995. Whoops.

McGoey was CEO of Look Communications when it collapsed and left him bankrupt. The company was liquidated, and McGoey was ordered to replay $5.6 million to creditors. McGoey claimed that the assets in question—homes, in this case—were held in trust by his wife and three children and hence beyond the reach of the courts. To prove this, he presented two signed documents. Unfortunately for him, he'd created the documents using typefaces that didn't exist at the time of the documents' purported creation.

The first trust document was dated 1995 and used the Cambria font. The second, dated 2004, used Calibri. Cambria was designed in 2004, while Calibri was between 2002 and 2004. But neither became widespread until 2007, when they were bundled with Windows Vista and Office 2007. That software included seven different fonts with names beginning with "C"—the "C fonts"—that were optimized for ClearType antialiasing. With their release, Microsoft changed Word's default font from the venerable Times New Roman to Calibri. Using the new fonts instantly betrays that a document wasn't written any time prior to 2007.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Get big discounts on 4K TVs from Vizio, LG, and TCL

January 15, 2019 - 8:44pm

Enlarge (credit: TechBargains)

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a handful of high-end 4K TV deals, with the likes of Vizio's P-Series, TCL's 6-Series Roku TVs, and LG's B8 OLED TVs all on sale.

As we noted last year, we're nearing the time when TV deals start to reach their apex. Black Friday has passed and this year's models are getting introduced, which means prices on many of the still-great models of 2018 will gradually drop until they are discontinued for good. It's very much possible that the TVs highlighted below will get even cheaper as the year goes on, but if you're interested in grabbing a high-end 4K HDR TV ahead of the Super Bowl, have a look at the various deals below.

And if you don't need a new TV, we also have deals on Black Ops 4, cheap wireless workout headphones, Echo devices, and more.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Spidey takes on the Elementals in first Spider Man: Far From Home trailer

January 15, 2019 - 8:30pm

Marvel's Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer.

Powerful inter-dimensional beings are wreaking havoc across Europe, Spidey finds a new ally in Mysterio, and Aunt May is getting it on with Happy Hogan in the first trailer for Spider-man: Far From Home.

(Spoilers for Infinity War below.)

When we last saw Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), [corrected] he was breaking our hearts by turning to dust in front of his mentor, Tony Stark. (Stupid Thanos with his stupid Infinity Glove.) Far From Home will purportedly pick up a few minutes after the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, so we can presume that the planned "Un-Snappening" was successful. Also returning from dust for this outing: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders).

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

On GMO safety, the fiercest opponents understand the least

January 15, 2019 - 8:15pm

Science is our most effective means of understanding the natural world, yet the public doesn't always accept the understanding that it produces. Researchers have been trying to figure out why there's a gap between science and the public for decades, an effort that is becoming increasingly relevant as the US seems to have a growing discomfort with facts in general. In some cases, the issue is clearly cultural: politics and religion appear to have strong influences on whether people accept the science on climate change and evolution, respectively.

It would be easy to think that the controversy over GMO foods is similar. After all, opposition to GMOs is often ascribed to liberal granola eaters. But several polls have suggested that's not the case, as there's as much discomfort about GMOs on the right as there is on the left. Now, a new study in Nature Human Behavior suggests an alternate explanation: opposition to GMOs is highest among those who know the least about genetics but have convinced themselves they're experts. Or as the authors put it, "Extreme opponents know the least but think they know the most."

Science literacy

A US-Canadian team of researchers started off by having a demographically diverse group of 500 US residents answer a series of questions. Participants were asked to rate their level of concern with and opposition to GMOs. As had been found in past surveys, there was a lot of uncertainty about the biotechnology; more than 90 percent of respondents reported concern, and a similar number were somewhat opposed to its use. But that opposition didn't break down along political lines: "there were no significant differences in extremity of opposition between self-reported liberals, moderates, and conservatives."

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Meet MASHBot, the touchscreen-tapping, Nintendo DS-playing robot

January 15, 2019 - 6:30pm

Enlarge

Since making its public premiere at 2014’s Awesome Games Done Quick marathon, TASBot (the tool-assisted speedrun robot) has repeatedly amazed audiences by performing seemingly impossible in-game feats. Using nothing but pre-recorded electrical signals sent through a game console’s standard controller ports, TASBot has done everything from beating Super Mario Bros. 3 in under a second, to running Twitch chat through a standard SNES, to coding an SNES version of Super Mario Maker on the fly.

But no matter how amazing TASBot’s performances are, there’s still a group of naysayers out there that argues that the robot’s direct connection to the controller port makes the whole thing inauthentic, somehow. "Every single YouTube video I post, there's at least one guy calling us haxxors and saying we are filthy cheaters,” TASBot team manager Allan “DwangoAC” Cecil told Ars at the recent Awesome Games Done Quick charity marathon (AGDQ). “No matter how many times we explain that it's not a ROM hack, people assume that we've hacked the game, when we haven't, in the sense of changing its ROM."

So this year, in an effort to prove the doubters wrong, Cecil and the TASBot team set out to create “a replay device that’s the most insane thing we’ve ever done,” as Cecil put it on stage. Rather than just sending signals through the controller port, MASHBot (the Machine-Assisted Speedrun Hardware robot) can actually manipulate the controller itself (in this case, a Nintendo DS touchscreen), without any human intervention.

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ajit Pai gives carriers free pass on privacy violations during FCC shutdown

January 15, 2019 - 5:41pm

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with his oversized coffee mug in November 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai refused a Democratic lawmaker's request to immediately address a privacy scandal involving wireless carriers, saying that it can wait until after the government shutdown is over.

A Motherboard investigation published last week found that T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are still selling their mobile customers' real-time location information to third-party data brokers, despite promises in June 2018 to stop the controversial practice.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) asked Pai for an "emergency briefing" to explain why the FCC "has yet to end wireless carriers' unauthorized disclosure of consumers' real-time location data," and for an update on "what actions the FCC has taken to address this issue to date."

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Millions of customers will now pay more for Netflix—here’s how much

January 15, 2019 - 5:22pm

Enlarge / Netflix company headquarters in Los Gatos, California. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Another round of Netflix price hikes is upon us. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Netflix will increase the prices of all of its subscription plans, effective immediately, for all new customers. Existing customers will see their rates increase over the next three months.

Netflix's most popular plan, which lets users stream HD content on two screens simultaneously, will now cost $13 per month. That's an 18-percent increase from its previous $11 monthly price. Netflix's premium plan, which includes HD and UHD streaming on up to four screens simultaneously, will now cost $16, up from $14 monthly. The most affordable Netflix option, the "basic" plan, increases by $1, from $8 per month to $9.

Netflix last increased its prices at the end of 2017, but only its standard and premium plans were affected. This time around, all three plans will cost more, resulting in a price hike that affects all US Netflix users. According to the report, the rate increase will allow Netflix "more flexibility to continue its aggressive spending on content."

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ford and VW are forming an alliance—here’s why it’s a smart move

January 15, 2019 - 5:15pm

Enlarge / Artist's impression of a VW-branded Transit van. (credit: Aurich / Ford)

We have seen a couple of big news days for two of the world's biggest automakers. On Monday, Ford used the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to announce the Shelby GT500, an uber-Mustang, as well as new Explorer crossovers. The same day, Volkswagen—one of the few German brands to attend Detroit this year—revealed the latest Passat sedan and an $800 million investment in its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The US plant is to become VW's North American base for manufacturing electric vehicles, adding 1,000 new jobs with production of electric vehicles using the new MEB architecture beginning in 2022.

You'd think that either company would be relaxing at this point; after all, both just laid out some pretty strong plans to sell a lot of vehicles here in the US market. But throughout yesterday, automotive Twitter (yes, it's a thing) was a-buzz with news of something else, a joint press conference between the two rivals. On Tuesday morning we got our answer: a global alliance between Ford and Volkswagen, with each contributing one of its strengths in an area where the other has a weakness.

It's not a merger, and no shares are trading hands between the companies. But it will involve plenty of collaboration. First up? New commercial vans and medium-sized pickups for the global (read not-US) market. And that's medium-sized as determined by those markets, so we're talking Ranger-sized, not F-250 monsters. Ford will build pickup trucks to be badged by both automakers, starting in 2022. It will also develop a replacement for the Transit van, with VW taking responsibility for a new city van due in 2023.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The digital hermitage: How “remote work” has changed over 20 years

January 15, 2019 - 2:30pm

Enlarge / Not my actual home office, but you get the idea. (credit: Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Getty Images)

As we look back on the past 20 years of Ars Technica from our "orbiting HQ," one of the things we've gotten to witness firsthand is how the nature of working from home has changed. Today, everyone at Ars works from home—and actually, that's how things have been since the very first post on the site's forums.

These days many people work from home in some way, whether they want to or not. Smartphones and perpetual connectivity have pushed work life into our home lives, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. (Thanks, Slack.) But when you work from home full-time, as I have for most of my adult life, it completely redefines the notion of work-life balance.

While I can't and won't speak for all of the Ars staff, I admit that it would be extremely difficult for me to return to working in a traditional office at this point. Though I've only been with Ars for the past seven years, I've been working from home in one form or another since 1990 (as a freelancer and side-gig tech consultant) and full-time since 1994. I have been through each stage of Internet connectivity, from dial-up to ISDN to DSL to cable broadband, and have the battle scars to prove it.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“Mona Lisa effect” is real but doesn’t apply to Leonardo’s painting

January 15, 2019 - 2:40am

Enlarge / Researchers at Bielefeld University in Germany used folding rulers for measurement to test the effect. Study participants indicated the number they thought Mona Lisa's gaze was directed at. (credit: CITEC/ Bielefeld University)

There have long been anecdotal reports that the eyes of the Mona Lisa—Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci's most famous painting—sometimes seem to follow viewers as they move around the artwork. The phenomenon is even called the "Mona Lisa effect" because of it. But a new study published in the journal i-Perception found that she's really "looking" to the right-hand side of her audience.

"There is no doubt about the existence of the Mona Lisa effect," the authors wrote. "It just does not occur with the Mona Lisa herself."

The study grew out of ongoing research at Bielefeld University in Germany on human communication with robots and avatars. Directional gaze is key when designing gaming avatars or virtual agents, for instance. That's one way an avatar/agent can indicate attention, perhaps directing a player/user toward objects that are relevant to the task at hand.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Pwn2Own contest will pay $900,000 for hacks that exploit this Tesla

January 15, 2019 - 1:50am

Enlarge (credit: Tesla)

Pwn2Own has been the foremost hacking contest for more than a decade, with cash prizes paid for exploits that compromise the security of all manner of devices and software. Browsers, virtual machines, computers, and phones have all been fair game. Now in its 13th year, the competition is adding a new category—a Tesla Model 3, with more than $900,000 worth of prizes available for attacks that subvert a variety of its onboard systems.

The biggest prize will be $250,000 for hacks that execute code on the car’s gateway, autopilot, or VCSEC. A gateway is the central hub that interconnects the car’s powertrain, chassis, and other components and processes the data they send. The autopilot is a driver assistant feature that helps control lane changing, parking, and other driving functions. Short for Vehicle Controller Secondary, VCSEC is responsible for security functions, including the alarm.

These three systems represent the most critical parts of a Tesla, so it’s not hard to see why hacks that target them are eligible for such huge payouts. To qualify, the exploits must force the gateway, autopilot, or VCSEC to communicate with a rogue base station or other malicious entity. Meanwhile, a denial-of-service attack that takes out the car’s autopilot will pay $50,000.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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