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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 22 min 32 sec ago

Latest Windows Insider build makes a major upgrade to, uh… Notepad

9 hours 20 min ago

Enlarge (credit: g4ll4is / Flickr)

There's a new Windows Insider build out today, and the biggest changes appear to be none other than Notepad, Windows' venerable barebones text editor.

Notepad already received a significant update in the recent October 2018 Update: Microsoft added support for files with Unix-style line endings. But the work hasn't stopped there. Oh no.

The new and improved Notepad now has better Unicode support, defaulting to saving files as UTF-8 without a Byte Order Mark; this is the standard way of encoding UTF-8 data, as it maximizes compatibility with software expecting ASCII text. The status bar will now show the encoding being used, too.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Electric car industry group says Californians have now purchased 500,000 EVs

9 hours 35 min ago

Enlarge / Nissan Leaf electric car plugged in and charging at an electric vehicle charging station in San Ramon, California, September 26, 2018. (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

In November, California reportedly crossed the 500,000 threshold for electric vehicles sold in the state since 2010. Months of strong US sales in 2018, preceded by a strong 2017, are starting to show a trend: electric vehicles are selling well, especially in places where there are strong monetary and non-monetary incentives to buy them.

According to Veloz—a group of electric vehicle industry stakeholders that includes GM, Honda, Nissan, Pacific Gas & Electric, Uber, and Lyft, among others—electric vehicle sales in California hit a cumulative 512,717 since 2010.

"Overall, this year has seen exponential growth in electric car sales," Veloz wrote. "Electric cars accounted for 7.1 percent of California car sales in the first three quarters of the year, with fully electric, zero-emission car sales outpacing plug-in hybrid sales 4.1 percent to 3 percent respectively." Veloz's data tallies not just fully battery-electric vehicles but also plug-in hybrids as well as the much rarer fuel cell vehicles. The group gets its data (PDF) from the blogs InsideEVs and HybridCars.com as well as a market-research firm called Baum & Associates and estimates from the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Elon Musk promises big new Tesla Autopilot upgrade, but is it legal?

December 10, 2018 - 11:48pm

Enlarge (credit: https://arstechnica.com/author/aurich-lawson/)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is famous for the use of his Twitter feed, where he often engages with his almost 24 million followers. Sometimes it gets him in trouble—as with the case of the infamous "420" tweet that landed both him and Tesla with $20 million in fines. Sometimes it gets him dates, as was the case with a bizarre theory involving an artificial intelligence that some people believe will one day torture digital replicas of people who knew about the intelligence but failed to help usher it into existence. (Yes, really.) And sometimes, Musk just uses Twitter to tell the world what his engineers have cooking.

On Sunday evening, a few hours before appearing on 60 Minutes, Musk engaged in the last of these. First, he just wanted to remind owners of the most recent Tesla vehicle about the most recent update, Navigate on Autopilot:

If you have a Tesla built in past 2 years, definitely try Navigate on Autopilot. It will blow your mind. Automatically passes slow cars & takes highway interchanges & off-ramps.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2018

But then came more momentous news:

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Just pee in a cup for bladder cancer detection

December 10, 2018 - 10:35pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty | UniversalImagesGroup )

Bladder cancer is among the most common and deadly of cancers. Because of its high recurrence rate (50-80 percent), patients must be monitored frequently for recurrence or progression of the disease. This monitoring currently consists of visual analysis of cells taken from the patient's bladder. It is uncomfortable, it is expensive, and it is not even especially accurate, detecting only around 60 percent of low-grade tumors.

Now, scientists have figured out how to use atomic force microscopy (AFM) to detect bladder cancer in urine samples. By analyzing only five cells, it can achieve 94 percent accuracy.

Use the force

Atomic force microscopy differs from optical microscopy in that it doesn't produce an image of the sample. Instead, a probe scans the sample and produces a topographical map of its surface with nanoscale resolution. In engineering, atomic force microscopy is usually used to describe surfaces like ceramic and glass, as it can analyze different properties of the surface, like its roughness, fractal nature, or magnetic behavior.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Qualcomm says a Chinese court has banned sales of older iPhones nationwide

December 10, 2018 - 10:10pm

Enlarge / A Chinese woman reacts while setting up the facial recognition feature on her iPhone X inside an Apple showroom in Beijing in 2017. Qualcomm says a Chinese court has banned iPhone X sales in China. (credit: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Qualcomm says it has scored an important victory in its long-running global patent battle with Apple over patent rights. According to Qualcomm, a Chinese court ruled that several recent iPhone models infringe multiple Qualcomm software patents and has ordered a nationwide ban on iPhone sales. Apple says it has already appealed the ruling.

The ruling occurred on November 30, but Qualcomm announced the ruling today.

Apple has downplayed the ruling's significance, telling media outlets that the ban has not yet taken effect and that it only applies to older versions of iOS software, not to the current version, iOS 12. The ruling also only applies to older iPhone models—including the iPhone 8 and iPhone X—but not to the iPhone XS and XR.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Report: FBI opens criminal investigation into net neutrality comment fraud

December 10, 2018 - 9:43pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | courtneyk)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the use of stolen identities in public comments on the government's repeal of net neutrality rules, BuzzFeed News reported Saturday.

The investigation focuses on "whether crimes were committed when potentially millions of people's identities were posted to the FCC's website without their permission, falsely attributing to them opinions about net neutrality rules," the report said.

"Two organizations told BuzzFeed News, each on condition that they not be named, that the FBI delivered subpoenas to them related to the comments," BuzzFeed wrote.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google+ bug exposes non-public profile data for 52 million users

December 10, 2018 - 9:30pm

Enlarge / The Google Plus (G+, or Google +) social network logo is seen in the company's offices behind Android toys on August 21, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (credit: Adam Berry/Getty Images)

Two months after disclosing an error that exposed the private profile data of almost 500,000 Google+ users, Google on Monday revealed a new leak that affects more than 52 million people. The programming interface bug allowed developers to access names, ages, email addresses, occupations, and a wealth of other personal details even when they were set to be nonpublic.

The bug was introduced in a release that went live at an undisclosed date in November and was fixed a week later, Google officials said in a blog post. During the time the bug was active, developers of apps that requested permission to view profile information that a user had added to their Google+ profile received permission to view profile information about that user even when the details were set to not-public. What’s more, apps with access to users’ Google+ profile data had permission to access non-public profile data that other Google+ users shared with the consenting user. In all, the post said, 52.5 million users are affected.

“The bug did not give developers access to information such as financial data, national identification numbers, passwords, or similar data typically used for fraud or identity theft,” Monday’s post said. “No third party compromised our systems, and we have no evidence that the developers who inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way.”

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Doom’s next expansion pack, made by John Romero, will be free—or cost up to $166

December 10, 2018 - 9:12pm

Romero Games Ltd.

John Romero—co-creator of the classic and influential 1990s first-person shooter Doom—has announced that he will release 18 new levels for the game for its 25th anniversary next year.

Scheduled for a mid-February 2019 release, the free megawad of levels will be called "Sigil." Romero's website describes it as "the spiritual successor" to the fourth episode of Doom, picking up "where the original left off." It will include nine single-player levels and nine multi-player Deathmatch levels.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: A bunch of Amazon devices are back on sale today

December 10, 2018 - 8:30pm

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 deals on a suite of Amazon products.

While these discounts aren't quite as steep as those offered on Black Friday, there are still some good prices available. The deals do include the first major drop for the newest (and waterproof) Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, which is down to $100 for its usual $130. The Fire HD 8, arguably the only tablet under $100 worth buying, is down to $60 from its usual $80, while the latest Echo Dot and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K are $20 and $15 off, respectively. Just note that a couple items are backordered and may not arrive until after Christmas.

If Echo and Fire devices aren't your thing, though, we also have noteworthy deals on Apple's latest 9.7-inch iPad, Microsoft's Xbox One X, Razer's well-reviewed DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse, Google Home Mini bundles, and much more. If you still have some holiday gadget gifting to do, have a look for yourself below.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Super-solid helium state confirmed in beautiful experiment

December 10, 2018 - 6:43pm

Enlarge / Computer artwork of the nucleus of a helium atom, or an alpha particle given off during radioactive decay. The nucleus consists of two positively charged protons (red) and two neutral neutrons (green) surrounded by a quantum cloud of gluons, a type of subatomic particle. (credit: Getty Images)

In recent months, I’ve mentioned super-solids a couple of times, which is a bit unusual for something we haven't been sure actually exists. However, a recent paper seems to offer some quite strong confirmation that super-solids are real. That means it is time to delve into the weird and wonderful world of low-temperature helium.

Helium is, without a doubt, the Universe’s weirdest material, beating out molecular hydrogen by a rather long nose. The key to helium’s strangeness is that it is normally a boson: a helium-4 atom consists of two protons, two neutrons, and two electrons, which sums to an even number, making a composite boson.

Helium is confusing

What does all that mean? It means that when cold enough, a group of helium atoms can enter the same quantum state. Even though they are spread out over a whole vessel, they all know something about the condition of their distant neighbors. This enables the helium atoms to flow without resistance, a state called a superfluidity. It's good company among other weird and wonderful properties of helium.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Cryptography failure leads to easy hacking for PlayStation Classic

December 10, 2018 - 6:03pm

Enlarge / The PlayStation Classic's internal USB, removed and picked at as part of the hacking effort. (credit: Yifan Lu / Twitter)

In the days since the PlayStation Classic's official release, hackers have already made great progress in loading other PlayStation games (and even non-PlayStation software) onto the plug-and-play device. What's more, it seems some sloppy cryptography work on Sony's part is key to unlocking the device for other uses.

Console hackers yifanlu and madmonkey1907 were among those who were able to dump the PlayStation Classic's code via the system's UART serial port in the days after its release. From there, as yifanlu laid out on Twitter, the hackers found that the most sensitive parts of the system are signed and encrypted solely using a key that's embedded on the device itself, rather than with the aid of a private key held exclusively by Sony. In essence, Sony distributed the PlayStation Classic with the key to its own software lock hidden in the device itself.

Further examination by yifanlu during a series of marathon, Twitch-streamed hacking sessions found that the PlayStation Classic also doesn't seem to perform any sort of signature check at all for the sensitive bootrom code that's loaded when the system starts up. That makes it relatively trivial to load any sort of payload to the hardware from a USB device at startup, as yifanlu demonstrated with a video of a Crash Bandicoot prototype running on the PlayStation Classic last week.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

At least one major carrier lied about its 4G coverage, FCC review finds

December 10, 2018 - 5:20pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Four months after receiving a complaint claiming that Verizon "grossly overstated" its 4G LTE coverage in government filings, the Federal Communications Commission says that at least one carrier is apparently guilty of significant rules violations.

The FCC did not name any specific carrier in its announcement and did not respond to our question about whether Verizon is among the carriers being investigated. But the investigation was apparently triggered by a complaint about Verizon filed in August by the Rural Wireless Association (RWA).

The RWA, which represents rural carriers, made its case to the FCC by submitting speed test data. The speed tests showed the Verizon network wasn't providing 4G LTE service in areas that Verizon claimed to cover, according to the RWA.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Elon Musk on 60 Minutes: “I do not respect the SEC”

December 10, 2018 - 4:11pm

Enlarge (credit: CBS)

If anyone thought that Elon Musk had turned over a new leaf following a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over illegally manipulating Tesla's stock price, think again. On Sunday, CBS' 60 Minutes interviewed the Tesla CEO, which gave Musk an opportunity to let the world know exactly what he thinks about SEC. Spoiler alert: not much.

As you may recall, this all started in August, when Musk took to Twitter to tell his 23.6 million followers that he had secured funding to return Tesla to private ownership via way of an oblique drug reference.

Despite adding "Funding secured," it turned out there was in fact no such commitment. The resulting yo-yo effect on Tesla's stock price led to a deluge of complaints with the SEC from investors both short and long who lost money as a result, and it caused us to question whether or not Musk's presence at Tesla was actually a good thing for the company.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Here’s why China’s launch to the far side of the Moon is a big deal

December 10, 2018 - 3:29pm

Enlarge / China launches Chang'e-4 lunar probe in the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province, Dec. 8, 2018. (credit: Xinhua/Jiang Hongjing via Getty Images)

Late last week, China launched an ambitious mission that will send a lander and rover to the far side of the Moon. This Chang'e-4 spacecraft represents a significant achievement for China, as no other nation has ever softly landed a rover on the side of the Moon facing away from Earth.

If successful, this mission will carry out several lines of important scientific research on the still somewhat unknown far side of the Moon. However, the launch and landing of Chang'e-4 also helps to reveal the full scope of China's spaceflight ambitions and how the space program furthers the country's ambitious geopolitical goals. In this post, we try to unpack some of the implications.

What happened?

On Saturday morning (local time in China) a Long March 3B rocket sent a 4-ton lander and a 140kg rover into space, and then this Chang'e-4 spacecraft performed a trans-lunar injection to send it flying toward the Moon. The spacecraft should reach lunar orbit on Wednesday.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New Stranger Things 3 teaser confirms 2019 release, reveals episode titles

December 10, 2018 - 3:10pm

Netflix, YouTube

As 2018 comes to a close, Stranger Things fans continue to wait (somewhat) patiently for season 3. Netflix has a bunch of new hints about next season's adventures with a new teaser trailer that dropped Sunday and includes episode titles for the forthcoming season:

  • Suzie, Do You Copy?
  • The Mall Rats
  • The Case of the Missing Lifeguard
  • The Sauna Test
  • The Source
  • The Birthday
  • The Bite
  • The Battle of Starcourt

The episode titles play over the show's recognizable intro sequence, featuring that foreboding, electronic theme song that many have come to associate with the antics of Mike, Eleven, Steve, Nancy, and the rest of the gang in Hawkins, Indiana.

The final lines of the teaser tell us that "the adventure continues" in the summer of 1985, the time period in which most of the third season will likely take place. The teaser also confirms what has been rumored for some time: the third season will debut sometime in 2019.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ars Technica’s ultimate board game gift guide, 2018 edition

December 10, 2018 - 2:30pm

If there's one thing board gamers love more than playing games, it's buying them. And what better time of year to stock up on games for a loved one (or yourself) than the holidays? But with so many options coming out of a booming board game industry, narrowing down the choices can be a pain.

Friends, you're in the right place. Whether you're a board game newbie or someone who's been in the hobby for years, we've got something for everyone below. For 2018, we've updated our massive 10,000-word guide by adding new entries, deleting others, and generally just bringing things up to date with our current recommendations. Entries are organized generally into categories, so you can jump around to the stuff that interests you most (some games could arguably be included in several categories, of course).

If we've missed your go-to recommendations, be sure to share them in the comments below.

Read 183 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New study gives some handy tips on how to survive on Game of Thrones

December 10, 2018 - 2:00am

Enlarge / How has Tyrion Lannister survived for so long? Being high born helps, being male doesn't. His willingness to switch his allegiance to Daenerys Targaryen likely tipped the balance. (credit: HBO)

Game of Thrones boasts one of the highest body counts on TV, knocking off even major characters in some very gruesome ways. Perhaps even more surprising is who still survives as we head into the final season. A new paper in the journal Injury Epidemiology offers some insights into the best strategies to ensure survival in the brutal world of Westeros.

(Some spoilers for first seven seasons below.)

This isn't the first time Game of Thrones has inspired a scientific paper. One 2016 study examined the Greyscale skin disease, while a 2017 study explored fight or flight responses of various characters on the show. And there was a lively discussion among chemists over what real poison was most similar to "The Strangler" used at the infamous Purple Wedding in season 4.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

50 years on, we’re living the reality first shown at the “Mother of All Demos”

December 10, 2018 - 12:45am

Douglas Engelbart during his 1968 demonstration. (credit: SRI International)

A half century ago, computer history took a giant leap when Douglas Engelbart—then a mid-career 43-year-old engineer at Stanford Research Institute in the heart of Silicon Valley—gave what has come to be known as the "mother of all demos."

On December 9, 1968 at a computer conference in San Francisco, Engelbart showed off the first inklings of numerous technologies that we all now take for granted: video conferencing, a modern desktop-style user interface, word processing, hypertext, the mouse, collaborative editing, among many others.

Even before his famous demonstration, Engelbart outlined his vision of the future more than a half-century ago in his historic 1962 paper, "Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework."

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Eleven researchers publish sharp critique of EPA fuel economy logic

December 9, 2018 - 8:30pm

Enlarge / Cars zoom past during rush hour on Interstate 10 after sunset in El Paso, Texas, on November 27, 2018. (credit: PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images)

In this week's edition of Science, eleven researchers from prominent universities around the US criticized the federal government's justification for rolling back vehicle fuel economy standards. They wrote that the economic assumptions made in the government's 2018 report resulted in a "flawed" analysis that will likely result in more traffic fatalities, more congestion, and more greenhouse gases emitted.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Trump has moved to rescind a number of environmentally-minded regulations instituted under the Obama Administration. One of the first in its crosshairs was the EPA's Greenhouse Gas (GHG) standards for light trucks and passenger vehicles, which paralleled the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These two regulations (the GHG and CAFE rules) both aimed to force automakers to adhere to gradually-tightening fuel efficiency standards, which were detailed out to 2025.

The EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt spent most of 2017 laying the groundwork to rescind the GHG rules, saying the rules were onerous for automakers. But it's hard to rescind and replace existing law—agencies need to justify their decisions with robust studies showing that a rules change will improve the livelihood of Americans, whether in health or in jobs.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Greenland’s melting snow makes new hockey stick (graph)

December 9, 2018 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / Staring down the barrel of an ice core drill. (credit: Sarah Das / WHOI)

The Greenland Ice Sheet’s unhealthy and rapid weight loss—and contribution to sea-level rise—occurs by a handful of mechanisms. In short, ice at the edge of the glacier can melt or break off into icebergs, and surface snow farther inland can melt. That snow melt is a bit like rainfall, in that it can either soak into the snow or runoff in streams.

Where it trickles down into the denser snow beneath, it refreezes and forms a stubborn layer that will continue to be visible when that snow is compressed into glacial ice. That means that drilling an ice core can give you a record of past surface melting events.

Greenland has experienced a remarkable amount of surface melting over the past couple decades, including the record-setting summer of 2012 that saw virtually the entire ice sheet melting at the surface. Because surface melting had historically been an unusual event akin to newsworthy heat waves, glaciologists wanted to put this into context. How much of Greenland’s recently accelerating ice loss was due to natural variability, and how much was due to human-caused trends?

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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