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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 59 min 14 sec ago

Samsung teases new Notebook 9 Pen with 15-hour battery life before CES 2019

4 hours 44 min ago

Samsung

We weren't impressed with this year's Notebook 9 Pen, Samsung's attempt at a high-end ultrabook, but the company will be trying again in 2019. Samsung announced two new versions of the Notebook 9 Pen—a 13-inch and a 15-inch model—that it will show off at CES in January and release sometime in 2019. At first glance, not much seems to have changed in the new convertibles, but upon closer inspection, Samsung has made some changes that will (hopefully) make the new devices worth their inevitably high price tags.

Regardless of how you feel about the blue-and-gold color scheme on this year's Note 9 smartphone, Samsung clearly likes it because the company brought it over to the Notebook 9 Pen. The new device has that navy blue over most of its chassis, and its edges remain the only parts where silver pokes through.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft adds Dark Mode support and more to Office 365 for Mac

December 12, 2018 - 11:09pm

Nate Anderson

Microsoft has released version 16.20.18120801 of Office 365 for the Mac platform, bringing support for a couple of key Mac features introduced in September's macOS 10.14 Mojave release, as well as a number of small features and user experience improvements not related to Mojave.

The headline feature is, of course, dark mode support, which requires Mojave to work. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook all support Mojave's dark theme. Also related to Mojave, you can now use Apple's Continuity Camera feature to insert a photo directly from your iPhone's photos to a slide in PowerPoint.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

ULA chief Tory Bruno on competing with Blue Origin, SpaceX rocket landings

December 12, 2018 - 10:16pm

Enlarge / Jeff Bezos (right), the founder of Blue Origin and Amazon.com, and Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance, display the BE-4 rocket engine during a press conference in 2014. (credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In part one of our interview with United Launch Alliance Chief Executive Tory Bruno, we talked about the company's efforts to develop the Vulcan rocket, its Centaur upper stage, and other projects at the Colorado-based rocket builder. In part two, below, we asked Bruno about the company's collaboration with new space company Blue Origin and its ongoing rivalry with SpaceX.

These two relatively new launch companies have taken different approaches with United Launch Alliance, which was founded by legacy aerospace firms in 2006 to provide national security launches for the US government. Blue Origin has sought to work with ULA, reaching an agreement in 2014 to provide BE-4 rocket engines for the Vulcan booster. But the companies are also competing, amicably, as Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket will also bid for national security launches, and there is some overlap in the commercial market interests.

SpaceX has taken a significantly more confrontational posture toward United Launch Alliance from the beginning, suing to stop the formation of ULA in 2005 and battling for government business in the years since, both for military and civil space missions.

Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A look at the Apple Watch’s ECG, from someone who needs it

December 12, 2018 - 9:55pm

When Apple introduced the fourth iteration of its smartwatch, the big new selling point wasn't a feature we typically associate with a watch or any sort of smart device. Instead, the company added a feature that had only recently arrived in the form of specialized consumer devices: an electrocardiograph (ECG), a device made for monitoring the heart's electrical activity.

But the watch was ready before the software was, meaning an examination of the technology wasn't possible in our comprehensive review of the Apple Watch Series 4. Last week, Apple finally enabled the missing features, and we've spent a few days checking them out.

Basic features

People who haven't used the Apple Watch may not realize just how much it's an extension of an iPhone. This includes the heart-monitoring software, which requires an update to both the Watch and iPhone OSes before it will work. (This caused a small bit of confusion when the software wouldn't launch after we upgraded only the watch's OS.) Once the update is done, the Health app on the iPhone will incorporate any ECG data generated using the watch. On the watch side, the update will install a new app.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Oakland official: “We want to get Americans out of their cars and solve racism”

December 12, 2018 - 9:33pm

(video link)

Oakland is just one of many cities across America that is trying to sort out how it will manage the rapid influx of shared electric scooters on its streets. A new permitting process is being discussed at forums held across the city, with a vote expected within months.

After all, tech startups have sprung up with essentially the same business model: via a smartphone app, unlock a scooter for $1, then pay $0.15 per minute afterward.

Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Take $100 off Microsoft’s Xbox One X console

December 12, 2018 - 9:23pm

Enlarge (credit: TechBargains)

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is a busy one, but we'll highlight a deal on the Xbox One X, which is down to $400 at Walmart.

Microsoft's beefed-up console has been down at that price for most of the holiday season, but it remains a solid discount of $100 nonetheless. While you'll need a 4K and HDR-capable TV to truly take advantage of the device—and while the PS4 still has a larger community—the One X is still a performance improvement over the Xbox One S for those who have already boarded the Xbox bandwagon. Just make sure you plan to play games that actually support its added horsepower, since the cheaper One S is already capable of playing 4K video.

If you're not an Xbox fan, though, we also have deals on Razer's DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse, Nintendo Switch games, the Apple Watch Series 3, a bunch of Amazon devices, and much more. Have a look for yourself below.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Was your phone imaged by border agents? They may still have the data

December 12, 2018 - 9:13pm

Enlarge / After arriving from China, Wenhong Chen and Funina Wu, from Frederick, Maryland, are photographed at Dulles as part of the US Customs and Border Protection's newly implemented biometrics system. (credit: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

A new report by the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog has concluded that the agency does not always adequately delete data seized as part of a border search of electronic devices, among other concerns.

According to a new 24-page document released Tuesday by DHS’ Office of Inspector General, investigators found that some USB sticks, containing data copied from electronic devices searched at the border, "had not been deleted after the searches were completed."

Investigators checked an unspecified number of drives across five ports of entry around the country.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

FCC panel wants to tax Internet-using businesses and give the money to ISPs

December 12, 2018 - 9:03pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Christian Michaels)

A Federal Communications Commission advisory committee has proposed a new tax on Netflix, Google, Facebook, and many other businesses that require Internet access to operate.

If adopted by states, the recommended tax would apply to subscription-based retail services that require Internet access, such as Netflix, and to advertising-supported services that use the Internet, such as Google and Facebook. The tax would also apply to any small- or medium-sized business that charges subscription fees for online services or uses online advertising. The tax would also apply to any provider of broadband access, such as cable or wireless operators.

The collected money would go into state rural broadband deployment funds that would help bring faster Internet access to sparsely populated areas. Similar universal service fees are already assessed on landline phone service and mobile phone service nationwide. Those phone fees contribute to federal programs such as the FCC's Connect America Fund, which pays AT&T and other carriers to deploy broadband in rural areas.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Uber was “hell-bent on stifling competition,” new lawsuit alleges

December 12, 2018 - 8:05pm

Sidecar, as advertised on its 2012-era website. (credit: Sidecar)

Sidecar, an app-based ride-hailing startup that folded three years ago this month, has sued Uber, alleging that the dominant rival is "now a monopolist," and as such drove Sidecar out of business.

The lawsuit, which does not seek specific monetary damages, asks a San Francisco federal judge to declare that Uber is in violation of federal antitrust laws and state anti-competitive laws.

Sidecar shut down in December 2015, and its assets were sold to GM shortly thereafter.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

FCC’s robotext crackdown could block legal messages, critics say [Updated]

December 12, 2018 - 7:01pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Towfiqu Photography)

Update on December 12: The FCC today approved the robotext proposal described in this article. Original story from November 21, 2018 is as follows:

The Federal Communications Commission says it is giving cellular carriers added authority to block text messages, saying the action is needed to protect consumers from spam or robotexts. But critics of the plan note that carriers are already allowed to block robotexts and worry that the change will make it easy for carriers to censor political texts or block certain kinds of messages in order to extract more revenue from senders.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's announcement acknowledges that carriers are already allowed to block illegal robotexts. Pai did not promise new consumer-friendly blocking services; instead, he said his plan "allow[s] carriers to continue using robotext-blocking and anti-spoofing measures to protect consumers from unwanted text messages" (emphasis ours).

Despite that, Pai is proposing to classify text messaging as an information service, rather than a telecommunications service. That's the same legal classification that Pai gave to home and mobile broadband services as part of a December 2017 vote to deregulate the industry and eliminate net neutrality rules. The FCC has not previously ruled on whether text messaging is an information service or a telecommunications service.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Transparent solar cell turns edge on and generates its own light

December 12, 2018 - 6:44pm

Enlarge / Solar panels sit on the roof of Google headquarters in Mountain View. (credit: Kimberly White/Corbis via Getty Images)

I love solar energy. Thanks to solar energy, on average, I’ve not had to pay for electricity for the last two years. Just because solar is already pretty good, though, doesn’t mean that it can’t be even cooler. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you transparent solar panels.

This area of research is addressing a couple of places where solar panels could be improved. For instance, it would be quite nice if we could coat windows with solar collectors but still let the light through. And, as a side effect, it may allow us to use each photon of light a little more efficiently. But how should we do that?

Using each photon twice

It turns out that these goals are connected. One of the ways that solar panels lose energy is when the photons have more energy than the solar cell can cope with.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

12 cylinders, 11,000rpm: Aston Martin’s new engine is a monster

December 12, 2018 - 6:30pm

Aston Martin

The world of ultra-high-performance cars is an odd one. Stratospheric prices and tiny production runs mean few people will ever see one on the move; fewer still will experience one from the driver's seat. The relentless march of progress pushes their specs further and further to the edge; 400hp might have seemed more than you'd ever need in the 1970s but would now be barely adequate in a sporting sedan. And these cars often act as harbingers for impending global catastrophe—just look at the timing of the Ferrari Daytona or McLaren F1.

In the current era, we had to find a new term to even describe these four-wheeled exotics. Calling them supercars no longer sufficed, so now we have the hypercar. A few years ago, McLaren, Ferrari, and Porsche kicked things off with a trio of hybrids, each costing more than a million dollars and each nearing 1,000hp.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Amazon Web Services aims to colonize your network with Outpost

December 12, 2018 - 6:20pm

Enlarge / Amazon's going to need some bigger boxes to ship those Outpost racks next year. (credit: Christopher Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

If you want to know what Amazon's big plans are for Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the most reliable tells is to watch where Microsoft and Google cloud services are gaining traction. At last year's annual Amazon re:Invent technical conference, the big news for cloud customers was Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), a managed container service based on industry-leading Kubernetes—an open source platform championed by Google. And this year at re:Invent 2018, Amazon announced its counter to Microsoft's Azure Stack with a new on-premises offering of its own.

Amazon Outposts, a service scheduled to become available in the second half of 2019, will allow customers to provision physical racks of Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers and have them shipped to their own data centers. The racks will be configured with the same servers that Amazon runs in its AWS data centers; once installed, the racks will connect back to the AWS mothership over the Internet and then can be configured with storage services and virtual machines through Amazon's AWS Management Console. And just as with services hosted in Amazon's own data centers, customers won't own these racks—they'll rent them. The costs and connectivity requirements associated with Outpost have yet to be determined.

Living on the edge

Using Outpost's "edge computing" model has some potential benefits for companies transitioning to the cloud or with large existing hybrid cloud deployments mixing on-site and cloud resources. In his re:Invent keynote, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said that consistency in operations was the primary motivation for Outpost, since customers will be able to use the same Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and control pane with Outposts that they currently use with AWS. But Outpost also guarantees on-demand access to the virtual machines and storage on these systems, whereas in normal AWS cloud usage, customers would have to reserve those services in advance to guarantee on-demand availability. Additionally, customers may be able to eventually run many AWS cloud services locally in their own data center—services that they might currently rely on third-party software for because of performance or security concerns related to using AWS.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Epic opens Fortnite’s cross-platform services for free to other devs

December 12, 2018 - 6:00pm

Enlarge / Players from seven different gaming platforms could be in this shot, and in your game, too!

Part of the massive success of Fortnite has been the ability for hundreds of millions of players to join with each other across myriad computer, mobile, and console platforms. Now, Epic is laying out a roadmap to share that cross-platform architecture with other developers as part of a free SDK that will be rolled out next year.

Epic says its newly announced Online Services SDK will offer "cross-platform login, friends, presence, profile, and entitlements" across PC, Mac, iOS, Android, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch "to the full extent each platform allows per-title." The service is planned for launch on PC sometime in the second or third quarter of 2019, with support for other platforms planned "throughout 2019."

A roadmap announced today laid out the following schedule for features to be added to the free SDK:

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Russian cosmonauts spend nearly eight hours cutting into their spacecraft

December 12, 2018 - 4:10pm

NASA TV

On Tuesday, over the course of nearly eight hours, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev performed an unprecedented spacewalk outside the International Space Station.

The two Russians spent about three hours moving across the station, setting up a workstation from which they could stabilize themselves and cut into a Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station. Then, with an assortment of tools including a knife and pair of scissors, they tore through a wide swath of insulation protecting the orbital module of the spacecraft.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New 17-inch LG Gram laptop weighs 2.9 pounds, has nearly 20-hour battery life

December 12, 2018 - 3:35pm

LG

We're just a few weeks away from 2019's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and some companies are drumming up hype by revealing some new products early. LG is one of them, as it announced the newest devices in its Gram family of thin-and-light laptops. Joining the lineup are a new 17-inch LG Gram, which the company claims to be the lightest 17-inch clamshell on the market, and the family's first 2-in-1 device in the form of the new 14-inch Gram convertible.

The mammoth 17-inch laptop appears to take most of its design from the original LG Gram, which Ars reviewed last year. It looks like a standard ultrabook, with a nearly edge-to-edge display and a slightly larger chin bezel. LG claims to have put a 17-inch display in a 15.6-inch chassis, but it's hard to tell how well that statement holds up through images alone.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Intel promises big boost to integrated GPU, breaks teraflop barrier

December 12, 2018 - 3:29pm

Enlarge / 64 little grey boxes means 64 execution units, up from 24. (credit: Intel)

Intel is promising a huge improvement to the performance of its integrated GPUs. Its generation 11 ("Gen11") GPU will more than double the execution units from (usually) 24 to 64, and in so doing boost the number-crunching performance to more than 1 trillion floating point operations per second.

Just as the current Gen9 GPUs, Gen11 is arranged into blocks combining execution units (EUs) with dedicated 3D hardware such as texture samplers. Gen9 parts have up to 8 EUs per block, and the most-common configuration found in Intel's processors, GT2, has three such blocks for a total of 24 EUs (though there are designs with six or nine blocks, for 48 or 72 EUs). Gen11 has 16 EUs per block and will have configurations with four blocks. It's all these extra execution units that enable that headlining 1TFLOPS performance figure.

The new GPU will use a tile-based rendering approach, which divides the image into tiles that are all rendered separately. This tends to reduce the amount of memory bandwidth the GPU needs, which is valuable in integrated GPUs, as they lack the high-performance memory found in discrete parts. The Mali GPUs designed by ARM, along with Qualcomm's Adreno GPUs, both use tile-based rendering, too.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Intel unveils a new architecture for 2019: Sunny Cove

December 12, 2018 - 3:00pm

OK, it's not all that sunny, but it's a nice picture of a cove. (credit: Neil Williamson)

In 2019, Intel will release Core and Xeon chips built around a new architecture: the chips will add a bunch of new instructions to accelerate certain popular workloads such as cryptography and compression, with the company demonstrating 75-percent improvement in compression performance relative to prior-generation parts.

Since 2015, Intel's mainstream processors under the Core and Xeon brands have been based around the Skylake architecture. Intel's original intent was to release Skylake on its 14nm manufacturing process and then follow that up with Cannon Lake on its 10nm process. Cannon Lake would add a handful of new features (it includes more AVX instructions, for example) but otherwise be broadly the same as Skylake.

However, delays in getting its 10nm manufacturing process running effectively forced Intel to stick with 14nm for longer than anticipated. Accordingly, the company followed Skylake (with its maximum of four cores in consumer systems) with Kaby Lake (with higher clock speeds and much greater hardware acceleration of modern video codecs), Coffee Lake (as many as eight cores), and Whiskey Lake (improved integrated chipset). The core Skylake architecture was unchanged across these variations, meaning that while their clock speeds differ, the number of instructions per cycle (IPC) is essentially identical.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Intel introduces Foveros: 3D die stacking for more than just memory

December 12, 2018 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / P1274 is Intel's name for its high performance 10nm process. P1222 is its 22FFL (22nm, FinFET, Low Power) process, which is optimized for much lower current leakage. As well as the Foveros connection between the compute and I/O modules, the product will use conventional stacked Package-on-Package memory. (credit: Intel)

In 2019, Intel is going to ship chips using a new 3D stacking technology the company is calling Foveros. Foveros allows complex logic dies to be stacked upon one another, providing a much greater ability to mix and match processor components with optimal manufacturing processes.

Package-on-package stacking is already commonplace in the system-on-chip world. Typically, this involves sticking a memory package on top of a processor, with perhaps a few hundred connections between the two. The size and performance of the connections has limited the application of this technique. With Foveros, the interconnect will use etched silicon (just as EMIB does) to enable many more interconnections, running at much greater speeds.

Foveros follows on from Intel's EMIB (Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge) tech. EMIB is found on the Kaby Lake-G processors that in a single package contain an Intel CPU, AMD GPU, and a chunk of second-generation High Bandwidth Memory (HBM). HBM achieves its high bandwidth by using thousands of interconnects between the GPU and its memory, in comparison to the several hundred used between a GPU and conventional GDDR. The Kaby Lake-G chips use EMIB to provide this connection.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The 2018 XPS 13 Developer’s Edition—Have it your way on a “just works” Linux laptop

December 12, 2018 - 2:00pm

Valentina Palladino

It has been six years since Dell first introduced its XPS Developer Edition moniker, which refers specifically to the company's XPS laptop models that ship with Ubuntu Linux (and not Windows) pre-installed. Ever since, Dell has been producing some of the best Linux "ultrabooks" in recent memory.

Ars has already put the Windows-boasting XPS 13 through its paces earlier this year since the device received a serious overhaul in 2018. Dell bumped up the hardware specs, revamped the thermal system, and introduced a new rose and white version, for instance. But how is latest edition of the premier "just works" Linux laptop doing with the added muscle?

Read 30 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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