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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 1 hour 8 min ago

HQ Trivia and Vine co-founder dead at 34

7 hours 51 min ago

Enlarge / Honorees Rus Yusupov (L) and Colin Kroll accept the Breakthrough Award for Emerging Technology onstage at the Variety Breakthrough of the Year Awards during the 2014 International CES at The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on January 9, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (credit: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images for Variety)

The co-founder of the popular smartphone-based trivia game, HQ Trivia, Colin Kroll, was found dead at his New York apartment on Sunday, local media reported.

A New York Police Department spokesman told Ars that Kroll died of a drug overdose.

According to the New York Post, citing anonymous police sources, Kroll, 34, was found with marijuana and heroin near his body.

Kroll, back in 2012, also co-founded Vine, a popular video looping app that was quickly acquired by Twitter and later shuttered four years later.

On Sunday afternoon, HQ Trivia issued this tweet:

We learned today of the passing of our friend and founder, Colin Kroll, and it's with deep sadness that we say goodbye. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.

— HQ Trivia (@hqtrivia) December 16, 2018

Rus Yusupov, Kroll’s fellow co-founder, also tweeted:

So sad to hear about the passing of my friend and co-founder Colin Kroll. My thoughts &  prayers go out to his loved ones. I will forever remember him for his kind soul and big heart. He made the world and internet a better place. Rest in peace, brother.

— Rus (@rus) December 16, 2018

HQ Trivia, a live online game that awards cash prizes became incredibly popular in the months after its August 2017 debut, but its popularity has since waned.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Trump will replace Interior Department Secretary next week

December 16, 2018 - 10:30pm

Enlarge / US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke arrives at the US Capitol prior to the service for former President George H. W. Bush on December 03, 2018 in Washington, DC. (credit: Photo by Shawn Thew - Pool/Getty Images)

On Friday, President Trump announced on Twitter that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will step down from his post in the coming weeks. Zinke has headed the Department of the Interior (DOI) since 2017 and overseen some of the more significant rollbacks in environmental policy in the US.

Trump said a successor to Zinke would be named in the coming week. A likely successor, according to Reuters, is David Bernhardt, the current Interior Deputy Secretary and a former oil, gas, and water industry lobbyist. According to Politico, Bernhardt played an active role in weakening Endangered Species protections to make it easier for oil and gas drilling to occur on ecologically sensitive land.

Zinke's time in office was marked by a similar effort to stymie the environmental protections put in place by the Obama Administration in the name of oil and gas interests. In one of his most controversial moves, Zinke reopened vast tracts of federal waters that had previously been off-limits to offshore oil and gas drilling. The Secretary drew sharp criticism for opening up federal waters adjacent to states that didn't want offshore drilling, while exempting Florida from the same treatment after a meeting from the state's Republican governor.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

No more doubts: Two independent studies confirm LIGO’s Nobel discovery

December 16, 2018 - 7:13pm

Enlarge / LIGO's February 11, 2016, press conference in Washington, DC, where they announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves. (credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Just last month, we told you about a small group of Danish physicists who were casting doubt on the original gravitational wave signal detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), saying it was an "illusion." The researchers alleged that the collaboration mistook patterns in the noise for a signal. Now Quanta is reporting that two independent analyses have been completed that confirm that detection. This should lay any doubts about the momentous discovery to rest.

“We see no justification for lingering doubts about the discovery of gravitational waves,” the authors of one of the papers, Martin Green and John Moffat of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, told Quanta. That paper appeared in Physics Letters B in September. A second paper by Alex Nielsen of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover, Germany, and three coauthors, was posted to the physics preprint site arXiv.org last month and is under review by the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics.

But some drama still remains. Andrew Jackson, group spokesman for the skeptical physicists at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, is refusing to accept the results of the two independent groups' analyses. Quanta's Natalie Wolchover writes:

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

California transit agencies have 21 years to build zero-emissions bus fleets

December 16, 2018 - 6:30pm

Enlarge / One of Antelope Valley Transit Authority's 79 electric buses. (credit: Megan Geuss)

On Friday, California's Air Resources Board (CARB) unanimously approved a regulation that would compel the state's public transit agencies to build zero-emissions fleets by 2040. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the regulation would also prohibit transit agencies from investing in diesel- or gas-powered buses after 2029. Buses usually last about 12 years before they need to be replaced, the Chronicle noted.

In a press release on Friday, CARB noted that the transportation sector contributes 40 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions, and 80 to 90 percent of the state's smog-creating pollutants. "Full implementation of the regulation adopted today is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million metric tons from 2020 to 2050 – the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off the road," CARB wrote.

Battery-electric and fuel cell buses are two potential avenues for investment, CARB noted. The air resources board added that roughly 12,000 gas- or diesel-burning buses are on California's roads today, but only 153 zero-emissions buses are in operation in California today. Still, based on orders placed by transit agencies, 1,000 such buses are expected to be in service by 2020.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Huawei Watch GT review: When hardware and software don’t mesh

December 16, 2018 - 3:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Only a handful of wearable operating systems exists today. Dominating the market are watchOS and Wear OS, unsurprisingly so, as they accompany the two most popular smartphone operating systems. But there are a few challengers out there, like Samsung's Tizen and Fitbit OS, that give users other options.

Variety is good, so I'm always interested in testing out wearables that don't run the most popular OSes. Huawei's latest smartwatch, the Huawei Watch GT, falls into this category, as it runs the company's LiteOS rather than WearOS. While the Chinese company has primarily focused on its smartphone business this year, going the extra mile to put its own OS on this smartwatch shows that it's serious about wearables (at least, for the time being).

So what do the Huawei Watch GT and LiteOS have to offer? Essentially, the device is a simplified smartwatch that has all the hardware bells and whistles you'd expect from a a high-end Wear OS device or an Apple Watch—things like an AMOLED display, a continuous heart-rate monitor, an embedded GPS, and more. But in practice, its feature set and its real-world abilities don't exactly match its relatively high, $230 price tag.

Read 39 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Forget Fortnite—my son is still obsessed with Minecraft

December 16, 2018 - 2:22pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich / Getty)

Though my ten-year-old’s obsession with Minecraft first took hold three years ago—back when Minecraft was all the rage—I have to hand it to him. He’s sticking with it, despite the imperialist hegemony of Fortnite. What’s more, he’s not a fan of the newer game. “Too much violence,” he says, despite his affection for Nerf guns and laser tag.

The Minecraft connection began when some of my friends came by with an iPad and a teenager. “While we catch up,” my friends said, “Henry [their kid] can show Gus [my kid] all the stuff he’s building in Minecraft.” 

It sounded innocent enough—not like the kind of thing that would destroy the very fabric of our family.

Read 60 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Signal app to Australia: Good luck with that crypto ban

December 15, 2018 - 3:15pm

Enlarge / Graffiti urging people to use Signal, a highly-encrypted messaging app, is spray-painted on a wall during a protest on February 1, 2017 in Berkeley, California. (credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Signal, one of the most secure messaging apps, essentially told Australia this week that its attempts to thwart strong crypto are rather cute.

"By design, Signal does not have a record of your contacts, social graph, conversation list, location, user avatar, user profile name, group memberships, group titles, or group avatars," Joshua Lund, a Signal developer wrote. "The end-to-end encrypted contents of every message and voice/video call are protected by keys that are entirely inaccessible to us. In most cases now we don’t even have access to who is messaging whom."

Lund is referring to a recent law passed in Australia that will fine companies that do not comply with government demands for encrypted data up to AUS$10 million.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Computing pioneer Evelyn Berezin died this week—she should be remembered

December 15, 2018 - 2:09pm

Enlarge / Secretaries use typewriters, before the word processor changed everything. (credit: Evening Standard | Getty Images)

Computing pioneer Evelyn Berezin died at 93 this week. She was most known as the designer of the first true word-processing computer. But she designed many other innovative computing systems and helmed Redactron Corporation, a company that helped transform offices by producing and distributing her word-processor device.

Born to Jewish immigrants from Russia in New York City in 1925, Berezin earned a BA in physics at NYU before working throughout the 1950s and 1960s designing early computing systems. She had become interested in physics after reading her brother's science-fiction periodicals.

In the earlier years of her career, she worked amidst a wave of innovation and new possibilities that came with the arrival of transistors. Among her early accomplishments was an airline reservations system for United Airlines, which "served 60 cities throughout the United States with a one-second response time and with no central system failures in 11 years of operation," according to the Computer History Museum.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

KeyForge: The red-hot card game where every deck is unique—and unchangeable

December 15, 2018 - 1:15pm

Enlarge (credit: Charlie Theel)

As a concept, KeyForge is enthralling. The game is the latest effort from legendary Magic: The Gathering designer Richard Garfield—and the big idea here is that every sealed deck is unique. Decks are pre-constructed and can’t be altered; there’s no card chasing, and there’s certainly no over-arching “meta” game that must be respected. This is a head-to-head two-player battler like no other.

The “unique” gimmick is great. The initial card pool numbers 370, and each 37-card deck you snag off the shelf consists of a completely one-of-a-kind mixture. This is accomplished via cryptic algorithms that govern deck construction. These 37 cards become your deck, your personalized slice of KeyForge that no one can take away. The bizarre naming conventions of each set only further the mystique and foster an emotional attachment to your cards.

Keys and vaults

Yes, there is a setting for KeyForge, but it’s almost irrelevant. Your deck represents the followers and the abilities of an Archon, an all-powerful being. These Archons live and die in the artificial world of the Crucible. This maelstrom is a ravaged place where champions scavenge keys in hope of unlocking hallowed vaults. So we battle as we always do.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ebola outbreak reaches city of 1 million residents

December 14, 2018 - 8:43pm

Enlarge / Ebola treatment center at the Hospital in Beni, North Kivu Province. (credit: MONUSCO/Alain Coulibaly)

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has spread to a city of nearly 1 million residents. There are now 30 confirmed cases and 15 deaths in the city of Butembo reported in the latest update provided by the World Health Organization (WHO). The number of cases in the city center is still low, according to Doctors Without Borders, but that number is rising quickly in more outlying districts and suburbs.

The outbreak, which has been going on since August, has so far resulted in 467 confirmed cases and a further 48 probable cases. More than half of the cases have resulted in death (including those of 17 health workers), while 177 patients have recovered, including a newborn baby.

Limited containment

The rate of transmission is beginning to slow down in Beni, a smaller city approximately 36 miles north of Butembo that has the highest number of reported cases so far. But “the outbreak is intensifying in Butembo and Katwa,” writes the WHO, “and new clusters are emerging elsewhere.”

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hyundai finally gives us a price for the 2019 Kona EV—$29,995

December 14, 2018 - 8:35pm

Enlarge / The Kona EV is relaxing to drive but does not demand you take it by the scruff and carve some canyons. (credit: Hyundai)

In October, we finally got a chance to drive the Hyundai Kona EV, a rather wonderful little electric vehicle. Based on the internal combustion-powered Kona, it packs in 64kWh of lithium-ion to give it an EPA range of 258 miles (415km). On top of that, the little Kona EV also sported a rather nifty Smart Regeneration System that uses the car's cruise control radar to maximize energy recuperation when following other cars. The one thing we couldn't tell you back then was how much this EV would cost.

Wonder no more. On Friday, Hyundai finally revealed US pricing: the 2019 Kona EV will start at $36,450, which means it should cost $28,950 after the $7,500 IRS tax credit is taken into account. (On top of that, there's the delivery charge, which bumps the post-credit price up to $29,995.)

That makes it more expensive than the base model Nissan Leaf, which starts at $29,990 before tax credits. However, the Leaf only offers 150 miles (241km) of range, and you'd need to spring for the $36,200 Leaf SL to get a similar level of equipment to the Hyundai. (A longer-range, more expensive Leaf with a 60kWh battery pack is coming at some point in 2019, but that adds $5,500 to the car's price.)

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Formula E starts season 5 in Saudi Arabia with a faster electric race car

December 14, 2018 - 8:10pm

Formula E

Most of the motorsports world takes a well-deserved break in December. The long Formula 1 championship is done, as is the even longer NASCAR season. But this weekend, one series is about to get started: it's time for Formula E, which holds its first race of the 2018/2019 championship on Saturday. This is the fifth season for this electric racing championship, and it represents a new chapter for the sport as Formula E gets all-new cars and adds some new cities to the roster (including this weekend's race, which takes place in Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia).

Here at Ars, we've been fans of the all-electric racing series from day one. We were at the first-ever US race in Miami in 2015, and that same year two of the cars even carried our logo at the season finale in London. Since then, we've been regulars at the NYC ePrix, a two-day doubleheader that marks the conclusion of the championship. Electric cars racing on temporary street circuits in city centers represented quite a departure from your average racing series, and it's fair to say that Formula E has had to deal with a lot of skeptics. But we like people who try new things, and, over the course of the past four years, the sport has done a lot to win many naysayers over.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“We’re sorry,” Facebook says, again—new photo bug affects millions

December 14, 2018 - 7:19pm

Enlarge (credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Another day, another privacy issue with Facebook.

The company announced Friday morning that a photo API bug might have resulted in millions of people having their private photos become improperly accessible by up to 1,500 apps for a period of 12 days in September 2018.

As Facebook described it in a blog post by Tomer Bar, a company staffer:

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Get your binge on: Season 3 of sci-fi gem Travelers is out now

December 14, 2018 - 6:40pm

Enlarge / Travelers. (credit: Netflix)

One of our favorite streaming shows of the last few years has been time-travel adventure Travelers.

The world of the future is in some ill-defined crisis, and the only way this can be averted is to send people back in time to make better decisions. But in a Quantum Leap-style twist, only people's consciousnesses can be sent back in time. To minimize disruption to the timelines, the mastermind of this plan, the Director, uses people who were just about to die as its targets, narrowly averting their deaths (at least most of the time) and allowing a traveler to resume their life.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Discord Store to offer developers 90 percent of game revenues

December 14, 2018 - 6:06pm

Enlarge / Discord wants to attract more developers to its game store as it continues to expand beyond simple communications features.

Discord has announced that it will start taking a reduced, 10-percent cut from game revenues generated on its online store starting next year, one-upping the Epic Games Store and its recently announced 12-percent cut on the Epic Games Store.

"We talked to a lot of developers, and many of them feel that current stores are not earning their 30% of the usual 70/30 revenue share," Discord writes in the announcement. "Because of this, we now see developers creating their own stores and launchers to distribute their games instead of focusing on what’s really important—making great games and cultivating amazing communities.

"Turns out, it does not cost 30% to distribute games in 2018," the announcement continues. "After doing some research, we discovered that we can build amazing developer tools, run them, and give developers the majority of the revenue share."

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Blizzard shifts developers away from Heroes of the Storm

December 14, 2018 - 5:07pm

Enlarge / Heroes of the Storm will continue to increase this character roster going forward, but maybe not as quickly as previously.

Blizzard may only have seven active games listed on its Battle.net launcher at the moment, but that list includes some of the biggest in the gaming world. So when the company announces it's shifting its development priorities away from one of those ongoing online titles, it's a big deal.

So it is with last night's surprise update on the status of Blizzard-universe MOBA Heroes of the Storm. Blizzard now says "we need to take some of our talented developers and bring their skills to other projects," and thus have "made the difficult decision to shift some developers from Heroes of the Storm to other teams."

This doesn't mean the immediate end of the game or anything of the sort. Blizzard promises continued active support, "with new heroes, themed events, and other content that our community loves, though the cadence will change." We're guessing that last part means the "cadence" will get less frequent, for what it's worth.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple says iOS update will avoid Qualcomm patents, China iPhone ban

December 14, 2018 - 4:03pm

Enlarge / iPhones are seen at an Apple Store in Tianjin, China. (credit: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Apple's patent battle with Qualcomm in China has intensified this week, with Qualcomm seeking a broader ban and Apple claiming it has a workaround to avoid Qualcomm's patents.

On Monday, Qualcomm announced that a Chinese court had banned the sale of most iPhone models. However, Apple's newest models, the iPhone XS and XR, were not covered by the ban because they had not yet been introduced when Qualcomm filed its lawsuit late last year.

Qualcomm remedied that oversight this week, asking the same Chinese court to ban sales of the XS and XR.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Nearly 100 Lyft drivers sue, complaining of illegally being paid too little

December 14, 2018 - 2:20pm

Enlarge / Sticker for Lyft on the back of a Lyft ride-sharing vehicle in the Silicon Valley town of Santa Clara, California, August 17, 2017. (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Several dozen Lyft drivers across California have filed a new labor lawsuit against the ride-hailing company, arguing—like many before them—that they are being inadequately paid.

According to the lawsuit, Abdeljabbar et al. v. Lyft, which was filed in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, drivers are being paid “less than $8 per hour.” That’s far less than the California minimum wage of $11 per hour, and even further behind the minimum in some other Golden State cities, which mandate even higher pay.

A substantial portion of the drivers' lawsuit is based on a May 2018 decision by the California Supreme Court known as Dynamex.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Don’t buy a 5G smartphone—at least, not for a while

December 14, 2018 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / 5G is here, but that doesn't mean you have to buy into it.

2019 is going to be the year of 5G—at least, that's what the cellular industry keeps saying. We're going to see the launch of several 5G smartphones from OEMs like Samsung, Motorola, and OnePlus, and carriers will be tripping over themselves to tell you how awesome their new 5G networks are despite coming with a slew of asterisks. I would like to make something up about how ridiculous the 5G hype has gotten, but it's hard to top actual quotes from industry executives, like Verizon's claim that 5G will "dramatically improve our global society." Faster mobile Internet is coming, but should you care about it yet?

Qualcomm recently had its big 2019 chip announcement, and as the world's biggest provider of smartphone chips, that gives us a good idea of what the upcoming 5G hardware will look like. The industry is doing its best to hype 5G up as The Next Big Thing™, but 5G hardware in 2019 is going to be a decidedly first-generation affair. Early adopters for 5G will have to accept all manner of tradeoffs. And when there might not even be 5G reception in your area, it might be better to just wait the whole thing out for a year or two.

A 5G mmWave primer: Making use of the spectrum that nobody wanted

"5G" is a shorthand reference to the next generation of cellular network technology that is launching in 2019. The whole "G" naming scheme started in the 1990s with the launch of GSM, which was called the "second generation"—aka "2G"—of mobile networking technology. GSM upgraded early networks from analog to digital, and those old analog networks were retroactively given the name "1G." Since then, we've gotten new "G" numbers with major coordinated network upgrades about every 10 years. These iterations brought important features like SMS and MMS messages, IP-based networking and mobile Internet, and, of course, more speed.

Read 33 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse just became your must-see December film

December 14, 2018 - 1:30pm

Enlarge / Spider... sweatpants? That's just one of the many weird things you'll find in the hilarious, entertaining Into the Spider-Verse. (credit: Sony Pictures Animation)

I'll keep this glowing review short for two reasons: because I'm on vacation, and because there's not much I need to say to make my point.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is right up there with Black Panther and Deadpool 2 as one of the best comic book adaptations in theaters this year. What's more, it's easily the best comic-nerd film in years to warmly embrace the kinds of viewers who know their comics canon front and back, all without intimidating the inevitable kid and newbie viewers attracted to this incredibly family-friendly adventure.

Miles and Peter and Gwen and...

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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