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Industry & Technology

How Google influences the conversation in Washington

Ars Technica - March 16, 2019 - 11:45am

Enlarge / Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

A few days after last year’s midterm election, a Google policy manager and lobbyist sent an email to a congressional staffer with a link to a blog post on the right-wing news site Red State, written under the name The Real DC. In the post, the author accuses Google’s competitor Yelp of prodding President Trump to tweet a “professionally designed” video about Google’s alleged bias, which The Real DC calls “fake news” because it “bears many similarities” to content produced by Yelp.

In the email, a copy of which was viewed by Wired, Ed An, the Google lobbyist, said he does not typically share articles from Red State but thought the staffer would find this one interesting.

Neither Red State, its publisher Townhall Media, nor its owner Salem Media Group responded to repeated questions about The Real DC. In a statement, An, the Google lobbyist, said he has no knowledge “of the author who goes by The Real DC.” Yelp Vice President of Public Policy Luther Lowe denied any connection to the video or tweet.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Christchurch shootings: Sajid Javid warns tech giants over footage

BBC Technology News - March 16, 2019 - 8:23am
The home secretary says firms "must do more" after the New Zealand attack was shown live on Facebook.

How swarming drones will change warfare

BBC Technology News - March 16, 2019 - 1:41am
Flocks of airborne robots are being developed, able to collaborate and overwhelm enemy defences.

Study finds people in Ireland and Scotland made “bog butter” for millennia

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 9:28pm

Enlarge / Modern-day bog butter, made by Benjamin Reade of the Nordic Food Lab and sampled by participants at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery in 2012. It's something of an acquired taste. (credit: Navaro/Wikimedia Commons)

Ancient denizens of what is now Ireland and Scotland buried stashes of so-called "bog butter" in peat bogs, presumably to stave off spoilage. Thanks to the unique chemistry of those bogs, the stashes have survived for thousands of years. Now, scientists at University College Dublin have conducted chemical analysis and radiocarbon dating of several bog butters recovered from archaeological sites in Ireland. They found that the practice was a remarkably long-lived tradition, spanning at least 3,500 years, according to their new paper in Nature: Scientific Reports.

The researchers also uncovered the first conclusive evidence that Irish bog butters are derived from dairy fat as opposed to being meat-based. According to bioarchaeologist Kristina Killgrove, writing in Forbes, "Previous attempts at analyzing bog butter have come up short, because even though the butter is known to have an animal origin, techniques were unable to distinguish between adipose tissue where lipids or fats are stored and milk fats from ruminants like cows and sheep, particularly on an archaeological time-depth."

There are some 430 recorded stashes of bog butter, according to Benjamin Reade of the Nordic Food Lab, 274 of which were found in Scotland and Ireland. It's usually found wrapped in some kind of wooden container—buckets, kegs, barrels, etc.—or animal bladders. The bog butter may have been buried as a means of meat preservation, based on a 1995 study demonstrating that meat buried in peat bogs for up to two years had roughly the same levels of bacteria and pathogens as meat stored in a modern freezer. Alternatively, it may have been a kind of primitive food processing.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Report: James Gunn has been un-fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 8:25pm

Enlarge / Peter Quill/Starlord, Groot, Draxx, and Gamora: dusted Guardians of the Galaxy. (credit: YouTube/Marvel Studios)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is back in production after an unofficial hiatus, according to reports from Deadline and Hollywood Reporter. If you're for any reason fatigued by Marvel Studios sequelitis, you may be more intrigued by why it's back on: because its original director, James Gunn, has been rehired.

Gunn's departure from Marvel Studios and Disney became an airing of dirty laundry in July of last year, after tweets and blog posts from as far back as 2009 were resurfaced by an alt-right proponent of Pizzagate conspiracy theories. The "joking" tweets in question were, on their face, well on the side of bad taste, although because they appeared in an earlier version of Twitter, they lacked the site's newer, reply-linked metadata that might have offered more context.

Gunn's last comment on the matter was an apology posted on Twitter that same month:

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Any Steam game can now use Valve’s low-latency, DoS-proofed networking

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 6:49pm

Enlarge (credit: massmatt)

Valve is opening up its latency-reducing, DoS-protecting network relay infrastructure to every developer using its Steamworks platform.

A few years ago, large-scale denial-of-service attacks against game servers were making the news and becoming a frustratingly frequent occurrence in online gaming and e-sports. To protect its own games, Valve has for a number of years been working on developing a networking infrastructure that makes the system more resilient against denial-of-service attacks and lower latency to boot, and the company is using this system for both Dota 2 and CS:GO.

At 30 different locations around the world, Valve has established relaying servers that route networking traffic between clients and servers. These relay points provide DoS-resilience in several ways. They're equipped with an aggregate of several terabits of bandwidth, so they can handle a certain amount of flooding in any case. Games can also switch from one relay to another without necessarily interrupting their connection. This switching can be to another relay in the same location or even to another point-of-presence entirely.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Social media sites struggle to contain video of New Zealand shooting

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 6:11pm

Enlarge / The shooter had a collection of guns in his car before he entered the mosque.

A white nationalist who murdered an estimated 49 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday livestreamed a portion of his gruesome crime on Facebook, sending social media companies scrambling to contain the spread of the video.

Major social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, have terms of service prohibiting graphically violent videos. Officials worry that wide distribution of such videos boosts the profile of mass shooters and could inspire copycats. It can also be painful for victims' families.

"Our hearts are broken over today’s terrible tragedy in New Zealand," YouTube tweeted. "Please know we are working vigilantly to remove any violent footage."

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

ISPs strike deal with Vermont to suspend state net neutrality law

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 5:53pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Baris-Ozer)

The state of Vermont has agreed to suspend enforcement of its net neutrality law pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission.

In October, the nation's largest broadband industry lobby groups sued Vermont in a US District Court to stop a state law that requires ISPs to follow net neutrality principles in order to qualify for government contracts. But the lobby groups and state agreed to delay litigation and enforcement of the Vermont law in a deal that they detailed in a joint court filing yesterday. The lawsuit against Vermont was filed by mobile industry lobby CTIA, cable industry lobby NCTA, telco lobby USTelecom, the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the American Cable Association (ACA).

The delay will remain in place until after a final decision in the lawsuit seeking to reverse the FCC's net neutrality repeal and the FCC's preemption of state net neutrality laws. Vermont is one of 22 states that sued the FCC in that case in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Tech companies and consumer advocacy groups are also opposing the FCC in the same case. Oral arguments were held last month, and DC Circuit judges will likely issue a decision in the coming months.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Epic says its Game Store is not spying on you

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 5:43pm

Enlarge / Despite what you may have read, Epic says this is not spyware.

This week, certain corners of the gaming Internet have been abuzz with a bit of self-described "amateur analysis" suggesting some "pretty sketchy," spyware-like activity on the part of the Epic Game Store and its launcher software. Epic has now stepped in to defend itself from those accusations, while also admitting to an "outdated implementation" that can make unauthorized access to local Steam information.

The Reddit post "Epic Game Store, Spyware, Tracking, and You!" points to a wide-ranging set of implications based on some broad file and network access traffic observations when the Epic Game Store is running. But much of the post is focused on Epic's association with Chinese gaming giant Tencent, which owns a share of the company.

"Tencent is a significant, but minority shareholder in Epic," co-founder and CEO Tim Sweeney wrote in response to the conspiracy theory in one Reddit thread. "I'm the controlling shareholder of Epic... The decisions Epic makes are ultimately my decisions, made here in North Carolina based on my beliefs as a game developer about what the game industry needs!"

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

After pushing addictive OxyContin, Purdue now pursuing overdose antidote

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 4:16pm

Enlarge / If approved, Purdue's new drug would compete with opioid overdose antidote, naloxone. (credit: Getty | Steve Russell)

Notorious OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma—which has been widely criticized for deceptively marketing its highly addictive painkiller and for its role in spurring the current nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose deaths—is moving ahead with a new, potent drug, one said to be an antidote to opioid overdoses.

The company announced this week that the US Food and Drug Administration has granted fast-track status to its investigational drug nalmefene hydrochloride (HCl), an injectable, emergency treatment intended to rescue people suspected of having an opioid overdose. Purdue suggests that nalmefene HCl’s effects last longer than the similar emergency opioid antagonist naloxone. As such, the company hopes nalmefene HCl will out-compete naloxone at reversing overdoses from the most highly potent opioid, namely fentanyl, which is currently driving the alarming numbers of opioid overdose deaths. The FDA’s fast-track status will speed the development and regulatory review of the drug.

“Opioid antagonists like naloxone have played an important role in the emergency treatment of opioid overdose,” John Renger, Purdue’s head of Research & Development and Regulatory Affairs, said in a statement. “However, because of the increasing number of deaths due to fentanyl and its even more potent analogues, we are focusing on a potentially more potent and longer-lasting rescue option specifically intended to work in those overdose situations.”

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rocket Report: SLS delays prompt NASA action, Brazil considering launch site

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 1:57pm

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (credit: Aurich Lawson/SpaceX)

Welcome to Edition 1.40 of the Rocket Report! There were some Earth-shaking developments in heavy lift this week, with the announcement by NASA that it will consider using commercial rockets to perform the first Moon launch of the Orion spacecraft. Readers have also submitted a variety of interesting stories, such as Brazil considering a launch site to rival Kourou in neighboring French Guiana.

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

Vega-C rocket enters qualification phase, but slips. The new European small satellite launch system recently passed its Critical Design Review and is now ready to complete manufacturing and final testing as part of the qualification phase, according to the European Space Agency. The initial flight of the Vega-C booster, a more economical version of Arianespace's Vega rocket, is now planned for early 2020 (this is a slip from late 2019).

Read 28 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple responds to Spotify complaints over App store

BBC Technology News - March 15, 2019 - 12:53pm
The tech giant has hit back over claims that its App store is unfair and levies a tax on developers.

Everything you need to know before Apple’s March 25 “it’s show time” event

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 12:30pm

Enlarge / The Steve Jobs auditorium on Apple's new campus.

On March 25, Apple executives and partners will take to the stage in the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple's Cupertino campus to talk about subscriptions, software, services, entertainment, and media. These are all things Apple has dealt with before, but never before has an event focused so completely on them as we're expecting later this month.

That's not to say it's impossible that hardware will appear. The timing is right for an update to Apple's base iPad model, and reports and rumors have been joined by developer beta evidence to imply that hardware refreshes are imminent for a few Apple products like the iPad, iPad mini, iPod touch, and AirPods. These would fit perfectly in an event focused on services like TV, Music, and News: they are media-consumption devices, first and foremost.

But this will be Apple's first public event after it reported a marked decline in worldwide iPhone sales, worrying pundits, analysts, and investors that the iPhone-hardware-dependent company is in for difficult times. It is fitting (and perhaps telling) that the event will focus on services—the division Apple is happiest to boast about right now—rather than hardware.

Read 46 remaining paragraphs | Comments

UK cyber-security efforts criticised by audit office

BBC Technology News - March 15, 2019 - 12:24pm
The warning comes in a National Audit Office (NAO) assessment of the UK's national cyber-defence plan.

HBO’s Elizabeth Holmes documentary tells a bloody good story of a bad con job

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 11:30am

Enlarge (credit: HBO)

AUSTIN, Texas—While watching new documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, I constantly marveled at the film's effort to do the seemingly impossible: to present Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos, as a likeable person.

For one, that's an uphill battle for a Silicon Valley burnout whose crash-and-burn reputation precedes her. For another, this documentary comes from famed takedown artist Alex Gibney, who has previously focused his filmmaking lens on the obvious-villain likes of Enron and the Church of Scientology. Shouldn't we expect the worst?

Things get savage in The Inventor, certainly. Theranos' worst stories have previously been laid bare, and anybody familiar with the company's original promises—transparent, affordable bloodwork for all—won't learn much new in this documentary. (Though, yes, The Inventor is still a fine primer for anyone going into the story blind.) Rather, what Gibney really contributes is a better look at Theranos' secret sauce: how Holmes got so far with so little.

Read 30 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Insect inspired winged drone makes a buzz and other news

BBC Technology News - March 15, 2019 - 9:25am
BBC Click’s Lara Lewington looks at some of the best tech news stories of the week.

Musk adds new Model Y to electric car line-up

BBC Technology News - March 15, 2019 - 6:13am
The new mass-market electric vehicle has a base price of $39,000 and a 230-mile range.

At quick Los Angeles event, Tesla announces the 300-mile-range Model Y

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 5:37am

Tonight in Los Angeles, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed off a prototype version of the Model Y, the fourth mass-produced vehicle that the electric car maker will bring to market. As expected, the vehicle will be a larger SUV take on the Model 3, much like the Model X was the larger, SUV version of the Model S.

Musk revealed very few details about the upcoming car, but some key figures stuck out: the 300-mile, long-range version of the vehicle will go into production in Fall 2020 with an MSRP of $47,000. The 230-mile standard version will cost $37,000 and go into production in Spring 2021, according to Musk. The Y will seat seven people with 66 cubic feet of storage space.

The vehicle will also have a dual-motor all-wheel drive version and an available performance package, both at additional cost.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Nasty WinRAR bug is being actively exploited to install hard-to-detect malware

Ars Technica - March 15, 2019 - 2:10am

Enlarge (credit: Michael Theis / Flickr)

Malicious hackers wasted no time exploiting a nasty code-execution vulnerability recently disclosed in WinRAR, a Windows file-compression program with 500 million users worldwide. The in-the-wild attacks install malware that, at the time this post was going live, was undetected by the vast majority of antivirus product.

The flaw, disclosed last month by Check Point Research, garnered instant mass attention because it made it possible for attackers to surreptitiously install persistent malicious applications when a target opened a compressed ZIP file using any version of WinRAR released over the past 19 years. The absolute path traversal made it possible for archive files to extract to the Windows startup folder (or any other folder of the archive creator’s choosing) without generating a warning. From there, malicious payloads would automatically be run the next time the computer rebooted.

On Thursday, a researcher at McAfee reported that the security firm identified “100 unique exploits and counting” in the first week since the vulnerability was disclosed. So far, most of the initial targets were located in the US.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Prisoners in England to be taught code

BBC Technology News - March 15, 2019 - 1:49am
The programme is modelled on the Last Mile project in the San Quentin prison in California.

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