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World of Goo is Epic Game Store’s next freebie—and all PC owners will get HD update

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 7:53pm

Enlarge / The Goo is back! And free! And updated for existing owners! Everyone wins, we think. (credit: 2DBoy)

As has become a regular occurrence lately, Epic Games announced another solid free video game coming to all of its Epic Games Store (EGS) users, which has so far been an every-two-weeks promo for the relatively new storefront. And again, as has become a regular occurrence, the news came with some confusing crossover with Steam, the mega-ton retailer that EGS is not-so-subtly taking on.

Friday's announcement confirmed that the award-winning puzzle game World of Goo, which launched in 2008 on PC and the Wii before reaching other platforms, will become an EGS freebie starting May 2. Users will have a two-week window to log in and claim a copy of the game (which currently retails for $10 at Steam and other digital-download storefronts).

Shortly after Epic's announcement, a PC Gamer report clarified one key detail: this version of World of Goo includes a significant "framework" update with an emphasis on higher resolutions. However, that report didn't answer if that update was an EGS exclusive—the kind of update that would require the game's existing fans to log into a second storefront and claim a free copy—or when exactly its Steam equivalent will get the update.

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McAfee joins Sophos, Avira, Avast—the latest Windows update breaks them all

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 5:26pm

Enlarge / A colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of an Ebola virus virion. (Cynthia Goldsmith) (credit: CDC)

The most recent Windows patch, released April 9, seems to have done something (still to be determined) that's causing problems with anti-malware software. Over the last few days, Microsoft has been adding more and more antivirus scanners to its list of known issues. As of publication time, client-side antivirus software from Sophos, Avira, ArcaBit, Avast, and most recently McAfee are all showing problems with the patch.

Affected machines seem to be fine until an attempt is made to log in, at which point the system grinds to a halt. It's not immediately clear if systems are freezing altogether or just going extraordinarily slowly. Some users have reported that they can log in, but the process takes ten or more hours. Logging in to Windows 7, 8.1, Server 2008 R2, Server 2012, and Server 2012 R2 are all affected.

Booting into safe mode is unaffected, and the current advice is to use this method to disable the antivirus applications and allow the machines to boot normally. Sophos additionally reports that adding the antivirus software's own directory to the list of excluded locations also serves as a fix, which is a little strange.

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Facebook fights to “shield Zuckerberg” from punishment in US privacy probe

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 5:07pm

Enlarge / Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaving the Merrion Hotel in Dublin after meeting with Irish politicians to discuss regulation of social media on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Federal Trade Commission officials are discussing whether to hold Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally accountable for Facebook's privacy failures, according to reports by The Washington Post and NBC News. Facebook has been trying to protect Zuckerberg from that possibility in negotiations with the FTC, the Post wrote.

Federal regulators investigating Facebook are "exploring his past statements on privacy and weighing whether to seek new, heightened oversight of his leadership," the Post reported, citing anonymous sources who are familiar with the FTC discussions.

"The discussions about how to hold Zuckerberg accountable for Facebook's data lapses have come in the context of wide-ranging talks between the Federal Trade Commission and Facebook that could settle the government's more than year-old probe," the Post wrote.

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The future of high-speed computing may be larger CPUs with optics

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 4:50pm

Enlarge (credit: FreeGreatPicture)

Contrary to current trends, the CPU may get bigger in the future. Yes, the size of CPUs are larger today than they were in the past, but they also pack in more transistors. The future may involve larger CPUs but with a much lower density of transistors. Why? Because of optics.

The idea of purely optical computers—and hybrid electronic-optical computers—is not new. But a set of recent advances is the first time I’ve thought we might be entering an era where some functions beyond long-distance communication will be handled optically.

Have you seen the light?

There are two properties of optical computers that make them attractive. The first is that they are naturally fast: light pulses travel at (yes) the speed of light. And when light switches light—the optical equivalent of a transistor—it happens very fast (think femtoseconds, which are 10-15 of a second). These two properties combine to make optical computers much faster than electronic computers.

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Gearbox’s Pitchford: Steam may be “a dying store” in 5 to 10 years

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 4:28pm

Enlarge / "You can't get us on Steam, and that's a good thing."

Earlier this month, Gearbox drew some ire from Steam-loving Borderlands fans by announcing the next game in the series, due in September, would be exclusive to the Epic Games Store on PC. In a massive tweet thread earlier this week, though (helpfully collated in this reddit post), Gearbox founder and CEO Randy Pitchford defends that decision and highlights what he sees as the long-term positives that Epic's competition with Steam will bring to the industry.

While acknowledging that Epic's platform currently lacks many quality-of-life features available on Steam, Pitchford pointed to Epic's public road map for adding many of those features before September's Borderlands 3 launch. In fact, Pitchford sees the game's impending release as a "forcing function... that will, in turn, make all those features available on a faster timeline than otherwise possible... If I were to bet on this... Epic will inevitably surpass Valve on features and quality of service."

Pitchford acknowledges that publisher 2K and developer Gearbox could have hedged their bets by releasing on both Steam and Epic. But he added that he feels the entire industry will be better served in the long run if Borderlands 3's exclusivity can help make the Epic Games Store competitive with Steam. (The sizable investment Epic has made in paying to get exclusive content on its store probably didn't hurt, either)

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Get a look at Android’s browser and search ballots for the EU

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 3:58pm

Last year the European Commission ruled that Google had illegally used Android to dominate search. Last month the European Commission gave Google feedback that bundling Chrome with the OS was also frowned upon. This week Google is implementing actual software changes to Android. The company has created a Windows-style ballot system which will encourage users to actively pick alternative browsers and search engines.

Google outlines the new ballot system in a post on its official blog. Pictures show two new setup screens in Android, one shows the currently installed search engine (usually Google Search) and offers to install alternatives like DuckDuckGo and Qwant. The second screen shows the currently installed browser (Chrome) and offers alternatives like Firefox and Edge.

Rather than make these screens part of setup that would be shown to new users only, Google says "These new screens will be displayed the first time a user opens Google Play after receiving an upcoming update." The browser and search pages each show five apps total, including any apps that are already installed. Google notes that the app selection will vary by country, and that new apps "will be included based on their popularity and shown in a random order." There's also going to be a new prompt in Google Chrome, which will encourage users to pick a search engine.

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Toyota leads $1B investment in Uber’s self-driving tech

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 3:21pm

Enlarge / Uber has been using Volvo XC90 hybrid SUVs as R&D platforms. Soon, we can expect these to be joined by Toyota Siennas. (credit: Uber)

On Thursday, news broke that Toyota, Denso, and the SoftBank Vision Fund are investing heavily in Uber's autonomous driving operation. Together, the three companies will put $1 billion into Uber's Advanced Technologies Group: $667 million from Toyota and Denso, with an additional $333 million coming from SoftBank.

"Leveraging the strengths of Uber ATG’s autonomous vehicle technology and service network and the Toyota Group’s vehicle control system technology, mass-production capability, and advanced safety support systems, such as Toyota Guardian™, will enable us to commercialize safer, lower cost automated ridesharing vehicles and services," said Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota executive vice president and president of Toyota’s in-house Connected Company, in a statement sent to Ars.

It's actually not the first time Toyota has opened its wallet for Uber. In August 2018, the Japanese OEM signed a $500 million deal to integrate Uber's autonomous tech into Toyota Sienna minivans, which will operate through Uber's ride-hailing network at some future date. That followed an earlier investment of $300 million in 2016.

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Anti-vax parents lose in NY court, face steep fines for not vaccinating

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 2:50pm

Enlarge / A sign warns people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg on April 10, 2019 in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a state of emergency and mandated residents at the center of the outbreak to get vaccinated for the viral disease. (credit: Getty | Spencer Platt)

A Brooklyn judge on Thursday rejected the petition from five anonymous anti-vaccine mothers who attempted to block the city’s recent vaccination mandate amid the largest measles outbreak the city has seen in several decades.

And the city wasted no time enforcing its upheld order. As the judge made his decision Thursday, city health officials doled out the first penalties to violators, according to the New York Times. Officials sent summonses to the parents of three children for failing to vaccinate the children even after city officials determined that they had been exposed to the dangerous viral illness.

Measles is so contagious that up to 90 percent of unvaccinated or otherwise susceptible individuals who are exposed will become ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles’ extreme contagiousness is due in part to the fact that once it is launched into the air from a cough or sneeze it can remain airborne and infectious for up to two hours. Any vulnerable passersby who breathe in the virus or touch contaminated surfaces can pick it up.

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The Dirty Truth About Green Batteries

Slashdot - April 19, 2019 - 2:15pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Facebook’s auto-captions for a recent launch video are hilariously bad

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 2:10pm

An Antares rocket built by Northrop Grumman launched on Wednesday afternoon, boosting a Cygnus spacecraft with 3.4 tons of cargo toward the International Space Station. The launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, went flawlessly, and the spacecraft arrived at the station on Friday.

However, when NASA's International Space Station program posted the launch video to its Facebook page on Thursday, there was a problem. Apparently the agency's caption service hadn't gotten to this video clip yet, so viewers with captions enabled were treated not just to the glory of a rocket launch, but the glory of Facebook's automatically generated crazywords. As of Thursday morning, 86,995 people had watched the Facebook video.

Some of the captions are just hilariously bad. For example, when the announcer triumphantly declares, "And we have liftoff of the Antares NG-11 mission to the ISS," the automatically generated caption service helpfully says, "And we have liftoff of the guitarist G 11 mission to the ice sets."

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Unexpected protection added to Microsoft Edge subverts IE security

Ars Technica - April 19, 2019 - 1:20pm

Enlarge (credit: Brian Smithson / Flickr)

A researcher has uncovered strange and unexpected behavior in Windows 10 that allows remote attackers to steal data stored on hard drives when a user opens a malicious file downloaded with the Edge browser.

The threat partially surfaced last week when a different researcher, John Page, reported what he called a flaw in Internet Explorer. Page claimed that when using the file manager to open a maliciously crafted MHT file, the browser uploaded one or more files to a remote server. According to Page, the vulnerability affected the most recent version of IE, version 11, running on Windows 7, Windows 10, and Windows Server 2012 R2 with all security updates installed. (It’s no longer clear whether any OS other than Windows 10 is affected, at least for some users. More about that in a moment.)

Below this paragraph in Page's post was a video demonstration of the proof-of-concept exploit Page created. It shows a booby-trapped MHT file triggering an upload of the host computer's system.ini file to a remote server. Page's video shows the file being downloaded with Edge.

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