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An advanced and unconventional hack is targeting industrial firms

Ars Technica - May 30, 2020 - 5:19pm

Enlarge / Binary code, illustration. (credit: KTSDESIGN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images)

Attackers are putting considerable skill and effort into penetrating industrial companies in multiple countries, with hacks that use multiple evasion mechanisms, an innovative encryption scheme, and exploits that are customized for each target with pinpoint accuracy.

The attacks begin with emails that are customized for each target, a researcher at security firm Kaspersky Lab reported this week. For the exploit to trigger, the language in the email must match the localization of the target’s operating system. For example, in the case of an attack on a Japanese company, the text of the email and an attached Microsoft Office document containing a malicious macro had to be written in Japanese. Also required: an encrypted malware module could be decrypted only when the OS had a Japanese localization as well.

Recipients who click on a request to urgently enable the document’s active content will see no indication anything is amiss. Behind the scenes, however, a macro executes a Powershell script. The reason it stays hidden: the command parameters:

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The Vast of Night is an alien encounter film like no other

Ars Technica - May 30, 2020 - 1:38pm

The official trailer for Amazon's The Vast of Night.

AUSTIN, Texas—Everyone kinda, sorta knows the story of The Vast of Night before they even hear of this movie. Filmmaker Andrew Patterson readily admits he partially based his debut feature on a real-life event—the 1965 Kecksburg incident—and even the initial idea that led him to researching Kecksburg struck Patterson as familiar. “I have a document in my phone of three or four dozen single line movie ideas,” he told Ars. “This one said, ‘1950s, black and white, New Mexico, UFO film.’”Ars at Fantastic Fest

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But The Vast of Night ultimately doesn’t hinge on how its plot plays out. This small budget, tightly scoped sci-fi film has wowed festival audiences enough to attract Amazon money largely on its spectacle—individual images you’d gladly frame for the office wall, dialogue that draws you in no matter the subject, sonic flourishes that stick with you long after the credits roll. Talking to the filmmaker after a recent Fantastic Fest screening, it becomes hard to shake the feeling he’ll be managing a much larger studio budget of his choosing in the very near future.

“We knew we were working in a genre that was shop-worn, nothing new,” Patterson says. “We wanted to let people know, ‘OK this is an abduction in New Mexico—we know this story, you know this story. How can we find a way in and do something special, to make something new?' I wanted to make it like the films I enjoy, which are usually about people learning about each other, their dynamics and relationships. So, OK, I want to start this like it’s a Richard Linklater movie… then we get side-swiped into something extraordinary.”

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‘Why I recreated my local pub in virtual reality’

BBC Technology News - May 30, 2020 - 1:10pm
Tristan Cross taught himself how to make the 3D models from scratch by watching YouTube videos.

Everyone’s ordering delivery, but apps aren’t making money

Ars Technica - May 30, 2020 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / Two Uber Eats delivery courier wait outside Mc Donalds fast food in Ghent, Belgium on May 14, 2020. As Belgium takes steps in easing Restrictions, Restaurant and cafe are not allowed to open to customers only fast food and take away is allowed. restaurants and restaurants may not reopen before June 8. (Photo by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

When Luke Edwards opened OH Pizza & Brew in 2014, the Columbus, Ohio, restaurateur thought delivery apps could help his business. His chicken wings and specialty pizzas—the most popular and appropriately named “Bypass,” topped with pepperoni, sausage, ham, salami, bacon, and extra cheese—needed an audience. And he says working with apps such as DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Canada’s SkipTheDishes helped him build a loyal following, allowing him to open two more OH Pizza & Brews, with another location on the way.

But by January 2019, Edwards had had enough. For one, he didn’t think the services were helping his bottom line. “Even though we were bringing in more money, after paying out the commission rates, we were seeing a decrease in net profits,” he says. The drivers were inconsistent, he reports, and sometimes lacked equipment like insulated food bags to keep deliveries warm. Edwards also found it harder to get in touch with customer service reps for the apps, who would sometimes refund customers at the eatery's expense for deliveries he believed had gone well.

“Quickly, I realized [the apps] were good at the search and optimization thing,” he adds. “They were terrible at delivery.” Today, OH Pizza & Brew pays its own contracted drivers to deliver, which Edwards believes saves him money.

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Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro mini-review: A vast improvement

Ars Technica - May 30, 2020 - 12:30pm

The past year has brought big changes to the iPad. First, the branch from iOS to iPadOS—and some accompanying changes to the software—signaled an effort by Apple to make real productivity possible on the platform. Second, Apple introduced trackpad support, bringing a whole new user interface paradigm to the iPad.

The latest product of that particular effort is the introduction of the Magic Keyboard peripheral from the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models. It combines a keyboard modeled after the keyboard peripheral of the same name for Macs—a generally beloved design—with the first trackpad made by Apple specifically for the iPad.

After spending some time with the Magic Keyboard, we’re ready to share our impressions. It’s just a peripheral, though, so this is going to be a very short review. We’re not going to get too much into the software side of things, as we’ve done that in our previous coverage of iPadOS as well as our most recent iPad Pro review. And we’re going to go into even more detail in an upcoming article entirely about working with trackpads and keyboards on the iPad.

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Whoooaaa duuuuude: Why we stretch words in tweets and texts

Ars Technica - May 30, 2020 - 11:35am

Enlarge (credit: Paul Linse | Getty Images)

On Twitter, when a simple ha won’t do, there’s always hahahaaaa, haaaahaaaa, or even hahahahahahahahahahahahaha, indicating you’ve just read the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. (Or that you’re a sarcastic talking raccoon.) These are known as stretchable or lengthened words, and now researchers from the University of Vermont have figured out just how pervasive they are on Twitter, uncovering fascinating patterns about their use.

Stretchability is a powerful linguistic device that visually punches up a written word, imparting a wide range of emotions. That goes for the gooooooaaaaaaal of a soccer announcer, a teenager’s exasperated finallyyyyy, and a surfer’s aweeeeeesome. And booooyare they popular on Twitter. Writing today in the journal PLOS One, the researchers detail how they combed through 100 billion tweets, mapping how often these words are stretched, and how far they are elongated—haha versus hahahahaaaa, for example.

Consider dude and its many formulations. “That can convey basically anything, like ‘Duuuuude, that's awful,’” says University of Vermont applied mathematician Peter Sheridan Dodds, one of the study’s coauthors. On the other hand, “Dude!” is different. “It could be excitement; it could be joy,” says Dodds.

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Microsoft 'to replace journalists with robots'

BBC Technology News - May 30, 2020 - 11:07am
Dozens working on the MSN site look set to be replaced by AI, media reports say.

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