In May last year an appeals court in Arnhem has upheld a murder verdict on the basis of the contents of the suspect’s browser history.
The court noted (PDF) that the suspect had been searching the Internet, mainly using Google, for amongst others ‘revolver’, ‘pistol’, ‘corpse delivery’ and ‘definition shot in the neck’.
In order to determine under Dutch law whether something is murder or manslaughter, the court must decided if the suspect acted with premeditation. “Following a plan that leads to the death of the victim”, the court writes, “counts as such. The court believes that lawful and convincing evidence exists that this is what the suspect did. He acquired a fire arm, found out how to use it, has looked for ways to make a corpse disappear, has searched on the internet for words like ‘death’ and ‘bullet through the head’ and has contacted the victim shortly before the latter disappeared.”
The suspect was convicted to 18 years imprisonment.
Webwereld reports that its sister publication Computerwereld and two scientists of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have made an inventory of the cases in which the browser history of the suspect made the difference between a murder and a manslaughter verdict. They found at least five such cases. According to Webwereld, this difference can lead to 8 years more gaol time. Suspects searched for phrases like ‘murder without evidence’ and ‘getting away with murder’—oh, the irony.
(Photo by Flickr user nathanmac87, some rights reserved)
Tags: browser history, manslaughter, murder, search engines, Vrije Universiteit
Only 1 in 20 Dutch secondary school students choose to take a computer science course, Webwereld reports.
On average Dutch high schools have one computer science teacher who received their last training ten years ago.
I remember when computer science was introduced at my grammar school in the mid-1980s, the instructors were our regular maths teachers who often did not know what they were doing. The booklet that came with the course was flimsy—I had finished reading it before the semester started and spent the rest of my time programming games. What was worse was that the course was aimed at the few who were interested in programming, even though learning how to use a word processor and a spreadsheet would have been more useful to the majority of the pupils.
Tags: computer science, education, high school
Here is some free advice for our government. If you want the difference between gigabit and gigabyte to be clear, do not abbreviate those words!
A small printing error has made it so that multinational record companies can pump even more of our tax money out of the country, at least in theory. In October last year the Ministry of Justice published a table of copyright levies in Staatsblad, the official government newspaper in which laws and decisions must be printed to become legal. Where the ministry wanted to write ‘gigabyte’, it wrote ‘Gb’, an abbreviation meaning gigabit. When talking about storage a byte typically contains 8 bits.
This means that legally speaking people who for example buy a smartphone with 2 gigabytes of storage would have to pay a higher price.
In practice this will likely not occur. Jochem Donker, a legal consultant working for Stichting Thuiskopie, the organisation that will collect the levies, told Webwereld: “We agreed upon gigabytes, so I find it hard to imagine that parliament suddenly changed its mind. This is probably a capslock error. I expect we will not abuse this.” Several lawyers called the use of ‘gigabit’ “an apparent mistake” (kennelijke verschrijving).
The ministry has decided that it will not correct the text until the levies are up for revision in 2014. “If we had meant gigabit, we would have written Gbps.” Fail! Gbps means ‘gigabit per second’. Later the spokesperson admitted that the ministry had made a mistake. “But it is evident that we meant ‘gigabyte’. The reports of the lower house also say ‘gigabyte’.”
Here is more free advice. If you desperately do want to use abbreviations, for instance because you are printing a table and the columns aren’t very wide, explain your abbreviations in a legend.
Tags: copyright, copyright levies, fail, government, laws, levies, Stichting Thuiskopie
A museum dedicated to the computers of US manufacturer Apple has opened its doors in the town of Ureterp, just East of Drachten in Friesland.
The Apple Museum Nederland is run by volunteers and focuses on keeping Apple computers up and running so that visitors can experience first hand how these machines used to work. The museum is housed at the top floor of a Mac repair shop and is not affiliated with Apple.
On 22 December the museum opened its doors for the first time and it will also be open on 29 December and 5 January. The official opening will be on 16 March, Bright reports.
Macfreak says this is the third Apple museum in the world. The name Ureterp stems from Urathorp and means ‘Upper Village’, as in upstream from the river Boorne.
(Photo: Google Street View)
Tags: Apple, Friesland, museums
Venus, a yacht designed by the late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, together with French product designer Philippe Starck and put to water in Aalsmeer, North Holland has been impounded in Amsterdam. Starck claims that Jobs only paid him € 6 million out of the € 9 million fee he was owed by the Jobs family.
“The entire cost of building the yacht was reportedly about $130 million. The yacht itself is between 230 and 260 feet (80 metres) long.”
According to DutchNews.nl, the boat is literally chained to the dock.
UPDATE: As of 24 December Jobs’ heirs reached an agreement and the yacht has been unchained.
(Link: mashable.com, Photo of Steve Jobs by acaben, some rights reserved)
Tags: Aalsmeer, Amsterdam, Apple, Steve Jobs, yacht
In 2011 Dutch web certificate company DigiNotar was compromised completely by an Iranian hacker, and a report released this week details how it was done.
The report, written by security auditors Fox-IT and published by the state last Monday, shows that the hacker managed to get access to Diginotar’s public website, which had already been hacked in 2009. In fact, the defacements from that year were still online when the hack was discovered in August 2011, security.nl reported at the time.
According to Webwereld, Fox-IT’s report reads like a how-to for pwning a badly secured system. The hacker installed a shell on the web server, which must have been easy to do, as the still online defacements showed the way. DigiNotar had a firewall between its public network (which it called the Demilitarised Zone) and its segmented internal network, but it also had a long list of exceptions in the firewall. The certificate servers were also attached to the office network of DigiNotar, so that the hacker could use the standard MS Windows Remote Desktop tool to create false certificates.
Just another day at the office for an experienced black hat hacker.
Techworld reports that the DigiNotar hack was mainly used to attack Gmail users in Iran. DigiNotar declared bankruptcy in September 2011. The company’s certificates were heavily relied upon by the Dutch government, but also by Google.
Web certificates are a means to tell your browser that the website you are visiting real is the website it claims to be. This is useful for online banking and so on.
Tags: certificates, DigiNotar, Dutch government, hackers, hacking, security, web sites
On 28 October, one year after the death of Apple’s mastermind Steve Jobs, a yacht he designed together with French product designer Philippe Starck has been put to water in Aalsmeer at the docks of royal shipbuilder De Vries. It apparently took six years to design.
The yacht is called Venus, it’s almost 80 metres long, the outside is made of lightweight aluminium with three-metre-high windows and is powered by seven iMacs. Other features include a Jacuzzi, a huge sun deck and a bridge full of mac screens.
The Jobs family had planned to sail around the world with it, but now the yacht will be shipped to the United States.
(Link: www.automatiseringgids.nl, Photo of Steve Jobs by acaben, some rights reserved)
Tags: Aalsmeer, Apple, Steve Jobs, yacht
Not only does the new cookie law confuse Dutch website owners, but the Dutch government who came up with it can’t be bothered to adhere to it either. Their argument is that they don’t need to follow the rules because the cookies are not being use for commercial purposes. Watchdog Opta disagrees and says that cookies can only be placed without permission if it impairs the functioning of a website or if it cannot offer certain services.
The cookies used on the government site Rijksoverheid.nl are used to keep statistics, and therefore OPTA says they are a no-no. The government has conveniently failed to provide a counter-argument.
This definitely fits the description of “Do what the preacher preaches, but not what the preacher does”.
(Link: www.nu.nl, screenshot: the Telegraaf cookie banner)
Tags: cookie law, cookies, government, websites
Maxime Verhagen, Minister of Economic Affairs, has written a letter to evangelical Internet access provider Solcon that their filtering system does not run afoul of the Dutch net neutrality law that was recently passed by the Senate.
Solcon provides filtered access to the Internet for clients who do not want to be exposed to values other than Dutch Reformed ones (the Dutch Reformed Church is part of the Protestant Church).
When the law was passed, Solcon threatened to sue the state, although it first wanted to talk to the minister. According to Computable, Maxime Verhagen has now sent a letter (PDF) to Solcon telling the provider that the way it has set up its filters, with clients being in full control of switching the filters on and off, and clients not getting to pay less for filtered access, does not violate the law.
Back in May I outlined three conditions that I felt could guarantee net neutrality while at the same time allowing providers to filter. They were 1) the provider should offer an unfiltered service no more expensive than the unfiltered one, 2) the service should get equal prominence in advertising, and 3) users should be allowed to switch between these services at no cost. Given the nature of Solcon, a provider with evangelical rather than profit seeking goals, my second condition is obviously of less concern, so this seems like a good decision.
The tricky bit for lawyers of more profit-motivated providers to decipher is whether the minister’s answer now leaves ways to sell filtered Internet access to clients without giving them a straight discount. The minister does not single out Solcon in his letter, but speaks of ‘Internet providers’ in general, and though his second condition seems to suggest that he will not allow the use of rate differentiation to lean on clients, the fact that he explicitly mentions lower rates seems to leave room for other forms of enticement or coercion.
Tags: Christian values, filtering, filters, Internet, internet access providers, laws, net neutrality, principles, providers, proxies, values
Jeroen van den Bos and Davy Landman from the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), a world-renowned scientific research institute specialised in mathematics and computer science, built a LEGO Turing Machine for the CWI’s exposition “Turings Erfenis” (‘Turing’s Legacy’) in honor of Alan Turing’s 100th birthday this year. The institute is known for creating the popular programming language Python, which is used by Google, while cwi.nl was one of the first national domain names ever issued in the world. The CWI played a pioneering role in connecting the Netherlands to the World Wide Web.
Enjoy the short documentary below and in true nerd fashion, you can read all about the making of this documentary by Andre Theelen right here.
“Alan Turing was an English mathematician who was highly influential in the development of computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of “algorithm” and “computation” with the Turing machine, which played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer,” say Wikipedia.
LEGO Turing Machine from ecalpemos on Vimeo.
(Photo of Alan Mathison Turing by Garrettc, some rights reserved)
Tags: CWI, Lego, World Wide Web