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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 34 min 11 sec ago

Hayabusa2 touches down on asteroid, shoots it

1 hour 13 min ago

Enlarge / The timeline of the approach and sampling process. (credit: JAXA)

Today, in an extended Twitter thread and ensuing press conference, JAXA's Hayabusa2 team announced that everything had gone well in gathering an asteroid sample for eventual return to Earth. While we don't yet know about the material it obtained, the Japanese spacecraft has successfully executed all the commands associated with the sample recovery.

Hayabusa2 has been in space since 2014, and it slowly made its way to an orbit 20km above the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. In late 2018, the spacecraft made a close approach to the asteroid and released two small, solar-powered robots that have been hopping on the surface since. This week has seen the first of what are intended to be several sample-gathering attempts.

The procedure for this is pretty straightforward: Hayabusa2 snuggles up to the asteroid and shoots it. The probe has a sample-gathering "horn" that it can place up against the asteroid's surface. Once it's in place, Hayabusa2 can fire a bullet into the asteroid's surface, blasting material loose that will be gathered by the horn and stored for return to Earth. JAXA, the Japanese space agency, calls its gun a "projector," but admits that the thing it fires is a bullet. JAXA has a Web page that describes some on-Earth testing of the whole system.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

SpaceX to European competitors: We’re not subsidized, you are

1 hour 23 min ago

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches the Iridium-8 mission in January, 2019. (credit: SpaceX)

Last summer, the Trump administration announced that it was opening negotiations with the European Union to achieve "fairer, more balanced trade" on behalf of US corporations, workers, and consumers. Since then, the talks have proceeded in fits and starts, with the president threatening auto tariffs if he didn't like the deal struck by the current US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer.

As part of this process, US companies were apparently asked what grievances they had concerning current barriers to free trade with the European Union. The most prolific US rocket company, SpaceX, was among those that responded, and the company used the opportunity to complain about foreign subsidies propping up its competitors for commercial satellite launches.

Large subsidies

On Dec. 10, SpaceX director of commercial sales Stephanie Bednarek wrote to Edward Gresser, chair of the Trade Policy Staff Committee in the Office of the US Trade Representative. The letter was first reported on by a French publication, Les Echos. A copy was then shared in the NASASpaceFlight.com forums.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Why putting Xbox games on Switch isn’t as ridiculous as it might sound

2 hours 37 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Aurich)

Here at Ars, we tend to be skeptical of the regularly recurring rumors that two major video game competitors are going to be merging or teaming up in some way. From the early 2000s whispers that Microsoft would buy a struggling Sega to suggestions that Apple should buy Nintendo, these rumors often reflect wishful thinking at least as much as actual insider knowledge.

That said, we're still intrigued by recent rumors that Microsoft could be bringing certain Xbox One games—and a version of its Xbox Game Pass subscription service—to the Nintendo Switch and other consoles.

As the current scuttlebutt has it, an Xbox app to be released for the Switch would let players with an Xbox Game Pass subscription play a selection of Xbox One games on Nintendo's hardware. High-end games would work on Nintendo's lower-end hardware thanks to streaming via Microsoft's recently announced Project xCloud. Meanwhile, Microsoft would also sell certain low-end first-party Xbox One games, like the Ori series, to the Switch directly, according to the rumors.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google ends forced arbitration for all employees

3 hours 27 min ago

Enlarge / Some Googlers held protest signs during the November 2018 walkout. (credit: Cyrus Farivar)

Google is dropping forced arbitration requirements for its employees, the company announced on Thursday. Starting March 21, both existing and new employees will have the option to sue Google in court and to join together in class-action lawsuits.

The news is a victory for a group of activist Google employees who have been pressuring Google to make this change since last fall. Thousands of Googlers walked out last November to protest Google's handling of recent sexual harassment controversies.

Google quickly agreed to drop forced arbitration requirements in certain sexual harassment cases. But critics kept up the pressure, and Google is now exempting all employees and direct contractors from forced arbitration requirements in a broader range of cases.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook VPN that snoops on users is pulled from Android store

3 hours 37 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images )

Facebook has pulled its privacy-invading Onavo Protect VPN app off the Google Play store and will reportedly stop gobbling up data from users who still have the app on their devices.

Facebook "will immediately cease pulling in data from [Onavo] users for market research though it will continue operating as a Virtual Private Network in the short term to allow users to find a replacement," TechCrunch reported yesterday.

Facebook's Onavo website still exists, but links to the Android and iOS apps are both broken. Facebook pulled the app from the iPhone and iPad App Store in August 2018 after Apple determined that Onavo violated its data-collection rules. Facebook purchased Onavo, an Israeli company, in 2013.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Firefly planning a major rocket assembly and launch facility in Florida

4 hours 41 min ago

On Friday, Texas-based rocket company Firefly announced that it has reached an agreement to develop manufacturing facilities and a launch site at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida. The new facility will support the production of up to 24 Alpha rockets a year, with the ability to scale from there, company officials said.

These are sizable plans. Over an unspecified period of time, the company said it will invest $52 million into the facilities. Florida’s spaceport development authority, Space Florida, will also provide an additional $18.9 million in infrastructure investments.

The company will build its launch facilities at Space Launch Complex 20, where Space Florida hopes to develop a multiuser facility for small-satellite launch companies like Firefly. It will also build an expansive facility to assemble its Alpha (and eventually the larger Beta) rockets, near the large Blue Origin plant in Florida's Exploration Park area.

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A lunar lander launches from Florida for the first time since Apollo 17

5 hours 21 min ago

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches on Thursday night from Florida. (credit: SpaceX)

A mild winter breeze blew along the Florida coast when the final Apollo mission roared into the sky shortly after midnight on December 7, 1972. More than half a million people turned out to watch Apollo 17 lift off despite the late hour. Imagine you were lucky enough to be among them.

After the rocket disappears and nighttime closes in, you're musing about when humans might return to deep space, when an aging drifter in a Steppenwolf t-shirt interrupts your reverie.

Won't see that again in our lifetimes.

Huh?

A rocket sending a lander to the Moon. Ain't gonna happen again for nearly 50 years.

That's impossible. NASA is talking about going to Mars in a decade or so.

Well, the next rocket from here that's sending a lander to the Moon won't launch until 2019. 

I can't believe that. And how can you know that—

And that rocket will already have flown twice.

What? Our rockets fall into the ocean.

Yeah, well, there will be a boat to catch this one.

I think I've got to be going.

Oh, and the rocket will be built by a dude from South Africa, and the lander will carry an Israeli flag.

You'd probably better call a cab to get home, old-timer.

In December 1972, Elon Musk was one year old, living in South Africa. Israel was just three months removed from the Munich massacre, in which 11 members of its Olympic team were taken hostage and killed during the summer games. And yet nearly five decades later on Thursday night, Musk's company, SpaceX, would link up with a private Israeli effort to launch a small lander to the Moon's surface.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Trump’s mistrust of the intelligence community expands to the climate

5 hours 48 min ago

Enlarge / William Happer, a retired Princeton physicist. (credit: Gage Skidmore)

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that it had obtained a document suggesting that the Trump administration is considering combining two areas where it has consistently dismissed expert conclusions: climate change and intelligence analysis. While the intelligence community has consistently accepted that climate change creates security risks for the United States, the document suggests that Trump will circumvent its advice by setting up an advisory committee in an effort headed by a retired professor noted for not accepting the conclusions of the scientific community.

The document is a National Security Council discussion paper, and it suggests using an executive order to set up a Presidential Committee on Climate Security. The committee would provide advice to Trump on the current climate and its future changes and how those affect the national security of the US.

Adversarial

Normally, these functions are provided by the scientific community and the intelligence community, respectively. But these parties have been giving Trump evidence that he's not interested in accepting.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rocket Report: Virgin seeks funds, SpaceX lunar launch, no Boca Chica wall

8 hours 18 min ago

Enlarge / The Rocket Report is published weekly. (credit: Arianespace)

Welcome to Edition 1.37 of the Rocket Report! Lots of news this week about plans to develop smallsat launchers, from India to Australia to the United Kingdom. We also have some serious shade throwing from Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos, who doesn't think a flight near (but not above) the Karman line will come without an asterisk.

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.

India smallsat launcher to fly later this year. Indian space officials have confirmed that their new Small Satellite Launch Vehicle will attempt its first flight in "July or August" of this year, The Economic Times reports. The rocket will carry two Indian defense satellites for the mission, each weighing about 120kg. The rocket has undergone a complete technical review, officials said.

Read 28 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Many websites threatened by highly critical code-execution bug in Drupal

18 hours 28 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Victorgrigas)

Sites that run the Drupal content management system run the risk of being hijacked until they're patched against a vulnerability that allows hackers to remotely execute malicious code, managers of the open source project warned Wednesday.

CVE-2019-6340, as the flaw is tracked, stems from a failure to sufficiently validate user input, managers said in an advisory. Hackers who exploited the vulnerability could, in some cases, run code of their choice on vulnerable websites. The flaw is rated highly critical.

"Some field types do not properly sanitize data from non-form sources," the advisory stated. "This can lead to arbitrary PHP code execution in some cases."

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Bowser will replace Reggie Fils-Aimé as Nintendo of America president

19 hours 49 min ago

Enlarge / If your name is Mario and you work at Nintendo of America, watch out. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

After 16 years at Nintendo of America, president, COO, and famed spokesperson Reggie Fils-Aimé will retire from his roles this year. His last day is April 15, at which time he will be replaced by senior VP of sales Doug Bowser, according to a press release.

Fils-Aimé joined the company in 2003 as executive VP of sales and marketing before becoming its president and chief operating officer in 2006. For years, he has been the public face of Nintendo in the United States at press conferences and online marketing streams, and he has become the personification of the gaming brand for millions of consumers, players, and onlookers. He became the subject of numerous memes, and he sparked the "my body is ready" meme popular on Internet gaming forums.

A new age of gamer memes seems to be upon us, though, because his replacement bears the same name as the primary villain of the company's beloved Mario video game franchise. Doug Bowser has been with Nintendo since 2015, when his title was vice president of sales. He was promoted to senior VP in 2016.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tesla’s Model 3 loses coveted Consumer Reports recommendation

February 21, 2019 - 11:23pm

Enlarge / Tesla's new Model 3 car on display is seen on Friday, January 26, 2018, at the Tesla store in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images)

Last year, Tesla won a Consumer Reports recommendation for the Model 3 thanks to a last-minute upgrade to its braking software. But on Thursday, the magazine rescinded its endorsement of the vehicle due to poor results in its customer survey.

"Model 3 owners in our spring survey sample reported some body hardware and in-car electronics problems, such as the screen freezing, which we have seen with other Tesla models," wrote CR's Patrick Olsen. "The latest survey data also shows complaints about paint and trim issues. In addition, some members reported that the Model 3's sole display screen acted strangely."

"The vast majority of these issues have already been corrected through design and manufacturing improvements, and we are already seeing a significant improvement in our field data," a Tesla spokesperson told Consumer Reports in an emailed statement.

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Trump demands quick rollout of “6G” wireless tech, which doesn’t exist

February 21, 2019 - 11:07pm

Enlarge / “Hello, operator? Hi, this is the President. I need the best phone you can find. Not 5G, this is America. Let's go with 6G. I want all the Gs, the best Gs.” (credit: Getty Images | Washington Post)

US President Donald Trump today urged wireless carriers to deploy 5G and "6G" networks "as soon as possible," seemingly ignoring the small problem that 6G technology doesn't exist yet.

"I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible," Trump wrote on Twitter this morning. "It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind."

I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind. There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on.........

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2019

In a second tweet, Trump said that 5G and 6G are "so obviously the future."

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New dates show massive volcanic eruptions overlapped with dinosaurs’ death

February 21, 2019 - 10:46pm

Enlarge / Did these enormous layered volcanic deposits arise through many big eruptions or a few massive ones? (credit: Courtney Sprain)

Modeling what happened after a massive asteroid struck the Yucatan has painted a hellscape capable of causing a mass extinction: choking dust, immense tsunamis, and enough debris leaving and reentering the atmosphere to set off global fires. But questions remain whether the impact alone drove the dinosaurs to extinction or if it merely finished the job started by a massive volcanic outburst happening in India.

The Deccan Traps cover an area of roughly a half-million square kilometers, and the eruptions that created them involved over a million cubic kilometers of rock. Immense eruptions like this have been blamed for mass extinctions in the past, as they pump lots of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and cause a rapid seesaw of cooling and warming. And the Deccan Traps are no exception: people have argued that they were already killing the dinosaurs or had stressed ecosystems in a way that set the stage for a mass extinction. But not everyone has bought in to this idea, and some have suggested that the asteroid collision actually drove changes in the Deccan Traps eruptions.

Sorting all this out requires a better sense of the timing of the eruptions vs. when the impact and extinctions occurred. In today's issue of Science, two papers attempt to narrow down the timing. Unfortunately, their results don't entirely agree.

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European governments approve controversial new copyright law

February 21, 2019 - 10:06pm

(credit: tredford04 / Flickr)

A controversial overhaul of Europe's copyright laws overcame a key hurdle on Wednesday as a majority of European governments signaled support for the deal. That sets the stage for a pivotal vote by the European Parliament that's expected to occur in March or April.

Supporters of the legislation portray it as a benign overhaul of copyright that will strengthen anti-piracy efforts. Opponents, on the other hand, warn that its most controversial provision, known as Article 13, could force Internet platforms to adopt draconian filtering technologies. The cost to develop filtering technology could be particularly burdensome for smaller companies, critics say.

Online service providers have struggled to balance free speech and piracy for close to two decades. Faced with this difficult tradeoff, the authors of Article 13 have taken a rainbows-and-unicorns approach, promising stricter copyright enforcement, no wrongful takedowns of legitimate content, and minimal burdens on smaller technology platforms.

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Follow-up to Haunting of Hill House will reimagine The Turn of the Screw

February 21, 2019 - 9:41pm

Enlarge / The perpetually locked red door is a central mystery of Netflix's adaptation of Haunting of Hill House. (credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix)

The Netflix adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House was a critical and ratings hit last year, and the streaming giant has announced plans for a second season—or more accurately, a second installment in what is now a horror anthology series. Deadline Hollywood reports that The Haunting of Bly Manor will adapt Henry James' classic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, which is very much in the same vein of psychological gothic horror as the classic Shirley Jackson tale upon which season one was based.

The Haunting of Hill House shared the top spot in Ars' 2018 list of our favorite TV shows with BBC's Killing Eve. We loved Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy's inventive re-imagining of Jackson's novel, at once a Gothic ghost story and a profound examination of family dysfunction. And yet it stayed true to the tone and spirit of the original, aided by dialogue, narration, and other small details from the source material. Small wonder that it garnered award nominations from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, Writers Guild of America, and Art Directors Guild.

Rumors of a possible second season began swirling soon after the series started streaming. Flanagan eventually confirmed plans to to turn it into a horror anthology series, with a whole new ghost story and fresh characters. (He opined in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that the Crain family featured in Hill House had suffered enough.)

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Trump admin ends talks with California to find fuel-efficiency middle ground [Updated]

February 21, 2019 - 9:28pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

On Thursday, the White House released a joint statement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), saying that the executive branch would no longer work with California's air regulator to find a middle ground on vehicle fuel-efficiency rules.

The state regulator, called the California Air Resources Board (or CARB), has enjoyed a legal waiver since the 1970s to set more stringent fuel-efficiency standards than those set by the EPA. Generally, automakers find that they must follow CARB's more stringent standards because the vehicle market in California is so huge. But the Trump administration has been working to weaken vehicle fuel efficiency, and CARB's exemption is preventing the administration from fulfilling that campaign promise.

In August, the Trump administration announced the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Act. SAFE proposed to freeze Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards—which would gradually make passenger vehicles more efficient until 2025—at 2020 levels. The Trump EPA claimed that the old rule would kill people, because efficient vehicles are more costly, so people put off buying newer, safer cars.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Take $15 off a trio of popular Nintendo Switch games

February 21, 2019 - 8:59pm

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 number of bargains on high-profile video games, including a trio of popular games for the Nintendo Switch—Super Mario OdysseyThe Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Splatoon 2 are all down to $45.

These titles have dropped to this price a few times in the past, but they're all still good for a $15 discount. To be frank, we'd like to see their prices sink a bit lower considering they all launched in 2017, but more substantial deals from reputable retailers have been few and far between. Nevertheless, each game is still worth owning. You can read our reviews of each game for more details, but Odyssey's inventivenessBreath of the Wild's sense of wonder, and Splatoon's colorful multiplayer haven't aged badly at all. Many Switch owners have these games already, but if you just grabbed the console, this might be a good excuse to catch up on some of its early essentials.

If you aren't hitched to the Switch wagon, though, we also have deals on popular games for the PS4 and Xbox One, including Red Dead Redemption 2Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and Marvel's Spider-Man. And if you don't care about video games at all, one, what is wrong with you, and two, you can catch more discounts on iPads, Amazon devices, ThinkPads, portable batteries, and more below.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Nike’s self-lacing sneakers turn into bricks after faulty firmware update

February 21, 2019 - 7:06pm

Enlarge / A pair of Nike Adapt BBs next to an iPhone, which was clearly the primary development platform.

Nike users are experiencing some technical difficulties in the wild world of connected footwear. Nike's $350 "Adapt BB" sneakers are the latest in the company's line of self-lacing shoes, and they come with the "Nike Adapt" app for Android and iOS. The app pairs with the shoes and lets you adjust the tightness of the laces, customize the lights (yeah, there are lights), and see, uh, how much battery life your shoes have left. The only problem: Nike's Android app doesn't work.

Android users report that their new kicks aren't pairing with the app properly, and some customers report failed firmware updates for the shoes, which render them unable to pair with the app at all. Nike's app on Google Play has been flooded with 1-star reviews in response to the faulty update.

One user writes, "The first software update for the shoe threw an error while updating, bricking the right shoe." Another says, "App will only sync with left shoe and then fails every time. Also, app says left shoe is already connected to another device whenever I try to reinstall and start over."

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Samsung Galaxy S10, S10+, and S10e hands-on: Samsung is slowly getting better

February 21, 2019 - 6:55pm

SAN FRANCISCO—Samsung presented not one, not two, not three, but four new phones at its Unpacked event in San Francisco yesterday. The devices included three variants of the conglomerate's S-series flagship phones—the Galaxy S10 as the default model, the S10 Plus as a larger variant, and the S10e as an iPhone XR-like lower-priced alternative, though in this case, the more affordable one is smaller than both of the other two. Samsung also introduced the radical (and extremely pricy) Galaxy Fold.

After the public briefing, we were hurried to a crowded demo room to see three of those phones, as well as some wearables and a tablet that Samsung also presented.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to do a whole lot with the devices on a crowded show floor. For example, there was no time to set up a fingerprint to see if the reader is fast enough, and the Adobe Premiere Rush CC app announced during the presentation was not installed on any of the phones. Also, Samsung did not offer hands-on opportunities with the 5G Galaxy S10 or its new folding phone. We were told more information about the folding phone will be released at Mobile World Congress later this month.

Read 27 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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