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Appeals court rules 10¢-a-page charge for court documents is too high

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 10:12pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

A federal appeals court has ruled that the federal judiciary has been overcharging thousands of users for access to public court records. PACER, short for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is an online system that allows members of the public (including Ars Technica reporters) to download documents related to almost any federal court case. For PDF documents, the site charges 10 cents per page—a figure far above the costs of running the system.

In 2016, three nonprofit organizations sued the judiciary itself over the issue. The class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of almost everyone who pays PACER fees, argued that the courts were only allowed to charge enough to offset the costs of running PACER. Over the last 15 years, as storage and bandwidth costs fell, the courts actually raised PACER fees from 7 cents to 10 cents. The courts used the extra profits to pay for other projects, like installing speakers and displays in courtrooms.

The plaintiffs argued that the courts were only allowed to charge the marginal cost of running PACER—which would be a fraction of the current fees. The government claimed that the law gave the courts broad discretion to decide how much to charge and how to use the money. In a 2018 ruling, a trial court judge charted a middle course. She ruled that some uses of PACER fees had exceeded Congress's mandates. But she didn't go as far as plaintiffs wanted by limiting spending to the operation of the PACER system itself.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Doom Patrol comes back strong with fierce and fun S2

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 9:00pm

Trailer for the second season of Doom Patrol.

Lots of people missed last year's debut of Doom Patrol, a delightfully bonkers show about a "found family" of superhero misfits, because it aired exclusively on the DC Universe streaming service.  Fortunately, S2 also aired on HBO Max, expanding the series' potential audience. Apart from one sub-par episode, this second season expanded on the strengths of the first, with plenty of crazy hijinks, humor, pathos, surprising twists, and WTF moments. Alas, the season finale is bound to frustrate fans, since it ends on a major cliffhanger and leaves multiple dangling narrative threads.

(Spoilers for S1; some S2 spoilers below the gallery.)

As we reported previously, Timothy Dalton plays Niles Caulder, aka The Chief, a medical doctor who saved the lives of the various Doom Patrol members and lets them stay in his mansion. His Manor of Misfits includes Jane, aka Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), whose childhood trauma resulted in 64 distinct personalities, each with its own powers. Rita (April Bowlby), aka Elasti-Woman, is a former actress with stretchy, elastic properties she can't really control, thanks to being exposed to a toxic gas that altered her cellular structure. Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, is a US Air Force pilot who has a "negative energy entity" inside him and must be swathed in bandages to keep radioactivity from seeping out of his body. (Matt Bomer plays Trainor without the bandages, while Matthew Zuk takes on the bandaged role.)

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New Jersey prosecutors drop charges over tweeting a cop’s photo [Updated]

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 8:35pm

Enlarge (credit: Kevin Alfaro / Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

A New Jersey man is facing felony charges for a tweet seeking to identify a police officer. Four others are facing felony charges for retweeting the tweet, the Washington Post reports.

Kevin Alfaro was attending a Black Lives Matter protest in the New York suburb of Nutley, New Jersey in June. He snapped a photo of a masked police officer and tweeted, "If anyone knows who this bitch is throw his info under this tweet."

In a GoFundMe campaign to cover his legal fees, Alfaro explained that he had been "physically threatened" by counter-protesters during the Black Lives Matter demonstration. He was trying to identify an officer who seemed to be friends with one of the counter-protestors, who Alvarao considered a "blatant racist."

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple won’t let Stadia or xCloud into iOS, citing App Store guidelines

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 8:24pm

Enlarge / Androids only. (credit: Microsoft)

Cloud gaming is increasingly becoming a thing, one that lets you play AAA games on a device regardless of the hardware specs. If your device can stream a video, it can probably play Red Dead Redemption on Google Stadia or Halo on Microsoft's xCloud (which is now technically called "Cloud gaming (Beta) with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate"). If your device is an iPhone or iPad, though, you're out of luck. Apple says these apps violate its App Store policies and will not be allowed into Apple's walled garden.

Apple sent a statement to Business Insider:

The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers.

Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.

Apple's App Store pitch is that it has real, live humans personally review each app for safety and quality, giving users a single, trusted place to get all their apps. Apple wants to approve these games individually and let users rate them individually through the App Store. The guidelines Apple cites flatly ban showing "store-like interfaces" on a remote computer and "thin clients for cloud-based apps," which Stadia and xCloud both run afoul of.

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Mass hijacking spree takes over subreddits to promote Donald Trump

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 8:05pm

Enlarge

Dozens of discussion groups on Reddit—including those dedicated to the National Football League, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Gorillaz—were hit in a Friday morning mass takeover spree that used the subreddits to spread messages promoting President Trump.

The hijacked accounts had tens of millions of combined members. The 148,000-member subreddit Supernatural, dedicated to the TV show by the same name, was emblazoned with pro-Trump images and slogans. Reddit personnel have since restored the moderator account to its rightful owner. The image above is how the subreddit appeared when the takeover was still active. The takeovers came five weeks after Reddit banned /r/The_Donald, a leading forum for fans of the president, and hundreds of other unrelated subreddits for violating recently rewritten content rules.

Reddit personnel published this post captioned, "Ongoing incident with compromised mod accounts." Reddit personnel then warned that moderator accounts were being compromised and used to vandalize subreddits. It asked moderators of affected subreddits to report them in responses. At the time this post when live, the list of reported subreddits included:

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

What is Tencent?

BBC Technology News - August 7, 2020 - 6:50pm
The Chinese firm's investments include Fortnite, Tesla and Universal Music - but it's under fire in the US.

Facebook Removes Trump Post For the First Time

Slashdot - August 7, 2020 - 6:45pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Hackers are defacing Reddit with pro-Trump messages

ZDnet Blogs - August 7, 2020 - 6:37pm
BREAKING: Massive hack hits Reddit.
Categories: Opinion

Trump declares TikTok, WeChat “national emergency,” preps bans

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 6:12pm

Enlarge / If the Trump administration has its way, these logos will be scarce inside the US in a few weeks. (credit: Ivan Abreu | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

The White House's campaign against the China-based developers of popular apps escalated dramatically in the last day, as President Donald Trump declared both TikTok and WeChat to be national emergencies and said the administration will ban or curtail their operations in September.

Trump late Thursday signed a pair of very similar executive orders "addressing the threat" allegedly posed by TikTok and WeChat.

"The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," both orders read. "The United States must take aggressive action against the owners" of the apps "to protect our national security."

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

HS suspends teen who tweeted photo of hallway packed with maskless students

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 5:14pm

Enlarge / Photo from North Paulding High School, tweeted by student Hannah Watters on Tuesday, August 4. (credit: Hannah Watters)

A 15-year-old high school student who posted a viral photo of a crowded school hallway says the school suspended her for five days for allegedly violating a social-media policy. But the school has since backed down and lifted the suspension.

Hannah Watters, a student at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, posted a photo to Twitter on Tuesday, noting the "jammed" hallways and "10 percent mask rate." Her tweet received 1,800 retweets and 4,500 likes. She also posted a 10-second video of a hallway at the 2,000-student school and says she was suspended around noon the next day.

This is what it looks like even with split dismissal. pic.twitter.com/erCA2lhOUb

— hannah (@ihateiceman) August 4, 2020

"The policies I broke stated that I used my phone in the hallway without permission, used my phone for social media, and posting pictures of minors without consent," Watters said, according to a BuzzFeed article. Watters called her actions "good and necessary trouble"—an apparent reference to a John Lewis quote—saying she is worried about the safety of students, faculty, and staff as the school reopens despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New study models ways of emerging from a pandemic lockdown

Ars Technica - August 7, 2020 - 3:54pm

Enlarge / Testing and contact tracing may be essential for exiting pandemic lockdowns. (credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

As the scale and threat of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, researchers who trace the spread of diseases were pretty unanimous: to buy us time to develop a therapy or vaccine, countries needed to implement heavy-handed restrictions to limit the opportunities for the virus to spread. Experts painted frightening pictures of huge peaks of infections that would overwhelm local hospital systems if lockdowns weren't put in place, leading to many unnecessary deaths. For countries like Italy and Spain, which were already in the throes of an uncontrolled spread, reality bore these predictions out. Peaks rose sharply in advance of restrictions but fell nearly as sharply once they were put in place.

But those same models also predicted that ending the restrictions would put countries at risk of a return of the virus a few months later, forcing governments to again decide between strict restrictions or an out-of-control pandemic in the next step of a cycle that would repeat until a vaccine or therapy became available. Those countries now have a somewhat different question: are there ways of controlling the virus without resorting to a cycle of on-and-off lockdowns? For countries like the US, which implemented restrictions briefly, erratically, and half heartedly, such that peaks haven't been separated by much of a trough, the same question will become relevant if we ever get the virus under control.

A new study by a large international team uses epidemiological models to explore ways of keeping things in check while allowing most of the population to resume a semi-normal life. It finds that there are ways of handling restriction easing, but they require a combination of an effective contact tracing system, extensive testing, and a willingness of households to quarantine together.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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