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August 5, 2014

Philips develops headset that reads thoughts

Filed under: IT by Orangemaster @ 10:54 am

Emotiv

Inspired by the wishes and needs of ALS patients who gradually lose motor functions including their ability to speak, “the Emotiv wireless EEG neuro headset uses sensors to tune into electrical signals produced by the brain to detect a user’s thoughts, feelings and expressions in real time.” The headset addresses two major issues of ALS sufferers, namely regaining the ability to communicate with the people around them (friends, family, loves ones) and regaining control over the things around them (TV, lights, Internet).

Patients’ thoughts are registered by the headset, which passes the commands on to specially developed software in an app or tablet. The information is then passed on to specific devices around the house, as shown in the video below. Dutch ALS patients and associations have responded positively to the headset so far, but there’s no ready-to-use version of it on the market yet.

The video is in English, with English subtitles.

(Link: www.bndestem.nl, Photo: emotiv.com)

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June 11, 2014

Government still misleads masses with digital ID system

Filed under: IT,Weird by Orangemaster @ 11:39 am

For years local governments have been mistakingly pointing tens of thousands of citizens if not more to an advertising agency called Digi-D in Waalwijk, Noord-Brabant instead of to the Dutch national government’s digital identification system called DigID (no hyphen, and ID in capitals), indispensable for filing taxes and other matters nowadays. In October 2012 10,000 people sent their details to Digi-D. It’s June 2014 and the wesbite the agency set up to tell people about this serious cock-up counted 40,805 mislead people on 6 June.

Digi-D the agency has been around since 2002, while DigID started up in 2005. The government’s game plan has been to strong arm the agency into changing its name, but the agency claims that it would cost them 110,000 euro to change their name, never mind lawyering up for something they didn’t mess up. To make it worse, the agency is being forced to store all this data to prove that it is a nuisance to them, but if ever the data leaked, the government would blame the agency for it!

(Link: www.omroepbrabant.nl)

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February 28, 2014

American company brings tiger cubs to Dutch company party

Filed under: Animals,IT by Orangemaster @ 12:39 pm

You get invited to an American IT company’s opening party in Amsterdam smack downtown with food and drinks. You get there are and guests and playing with two tiger cubs, which makes you feel uncomfortable and you call the animal protection services.

Not only was it morally questionable to have the tigers amusing the guests, but apparently their caregiver didn’t have any papers for them, making them illegal to own in this country. On Facebook I’ve read that the tigers were bought from a bankrupt circus, and if that’s true, they should have had some sort of papers, just like anything else the company buys.

An employee of the company tried to diffuse the tiger incident by claiming that their “Manila office finds it to be normal to eat fermented bird fetus known as “Balut”, and our Istanbul office eats sheep intestins known as “Kokorec”, and our European and American offices eat pig, oysters, and other things that our other offices don’t find usual, but we don’t judge each other based on these.” [all typos left in]

Since when does an American company not know anything cultural about the Netherlands? There are thousands of American companies here functioning normally without a circus show at office parties.

(Link: www.parool.nl, Photo of Tiger by ArranET, some rights reserved)

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January 1, 2014

Dutch railways leans on net neutrality law to block sites

Filed under: IT,Online by Orangemaster @ 8:00 am

The Dutch Authority for Consumers & Markets has approved Dutch railways’ move to block YouTube and Spotify which use a lot of bandwidth in order to provide better quality Wi-Fi in some of their trains. Even though the Wi-Fi is free, the net neutrality law force ISPs and telecom operators to ensure access to all types of content, services or applications available on the network.

Much in the same way as Christian Internet access providers let clients filter the Internet to respect religious beliefs, the Dutch railways has blocked certain ‘data-heavy sites’ to avoid Wi-Fi congestion in trains. As long as the blocking is not selective, it is allowed, although one could easily argue that it is selective, as blocking YouTube and Spotify but leaving out Daily Motion and Deezer is indeed making a selection.

A lot of people in the Netherlands already use Internet mobile on their phones and computers and don’t really need the free service, the service is quite slow and probably won’t improve dramatically, and when something is free, many people don’t expect much of it anyways. However, watchdogs are worried about telecoms like T-Mobile who run the Wi-Fi in trains trying getting around the law to suit its purposes. After all, it’s companies like them who tried to up their prices when they started losing major ground to Skype and WhatsApp, and led to pushing through net neutrality laws in the first place.

The Netherlands made international headlines after being the second country in the world and the first European country to embrace net neutrality. The idea of companies chipping away at it will surely be watched very closely.

(Links: www.nieuws.nl, webwereld.nl, www.acm.nl)

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December 17, 2013

‘Selfie’ is the Dutch word of 2013

Filed under: IT,Literature,Online by Orangemaster @ 10:37 am

Another English word has become a Dutch word, as ‘selfie’ has been chosen by the Van Dale dictionary as the Word of the Year 2013. A selfie is a self-portrait taken with a digital camera, smartphone or webcam. A feature of the selfie when taken with a smartphone is that you can see the phone in the picture. The international media is currently swooning over a picture of Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt taking a picture of herself with Barack Obama.

Social media and IT have definitely changed Dutch vocabulary for good. In 2012 we had ‘Project X-feest’ (‘Project X party’), a local word from the name of a birthday party event on Facebook turned into a riot and in 2009 ‘ontvrienden’ (‘unfriend’) on Facebook, Twitter and other apps was the winner.

The Van Dale only started inventorying words of the year in 2007 and before that it was done by companies and blogs only going back to 2003. ‘Selfie’, ‘Project-X-feest’ and ‘ontvrienden’ are social media and IT related, while other words stem from traditional media such as ‘gedoogregering’ (a type of minority government that keeps things quiet) (2010). The crowd favourite at parties is ‘swaffelen’ (2008). If you don’t know it, click to read about it.

(Link: www.volkskrant.nl)

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October 22, 2013

New Dutch words are just English in hollandaise sauce

Filed under: IT,Literature,Technology by Orangemaster @ 12:40 pm

Dutch dictionary Van Dale is considering a bunch of English words as well as translated English words to be included into the Dutch language. The words are often slang that goes mainstream and IT-related words.

    Selfie – Same meaning and spelling as in English, taking a picture of yourself with a mobile phone.
    Shishapen – In English ‘shisha pen’, an electric cigarette, shisha being of Egyptian origin.
    Sukkelseks – Dutch for low-quality sex, although I thought it meant ‘pity sex’.
    Gamechanger – ‘Game changer’, used by politicians and business people.
    Factchecken – ‘Fact checking’, since the Dutch already use ‘checken’ (‘to check’) because it is more to the point than a Dutch construction.
    3D-printer – Again the Dutch use ‘printer’, so this is a logical extension.

In May of this year, words like ‘religiestress’ (‘religion stress’, stress caused by religious beliefs) and ‘chillaxen’ (‘to chillax’, a slang word that combines ‘chill and relax’) were added to the online version of the Van Dale.

And finally words that are actually Dutch: ‘vingerpistool’ (‘finger pistol’, a gesture that indicates you’re shooting at someone) and ‘roeptoeteren’ (roughly pronounced ROOP-too-tee-ren), to give your opinion in a really loud and poorly considered manner.

(Links: www.nieuws.nl, www.rtlnieuws.nl)

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August 14, 2013

The Netherlands is Europe’s top porn peddler

Filed under: Film,IT,Online by Orangemaster @ 4:18 pm

While big European countries like France (0.78%, population 63 million), Germany (1%, population 81 million) and the UK (7%, population 63 million over four countries) host very few porno sites, the Netherlands comes in second place of the world’s Top 10 porn hosting countries, with a whopping 26% of all pages in the world. The Netherlands is only second to the United States where 60% of all pornography is hosted, a country that produces some 66% of all porn in the world, made mostly in California.

Top 10:
1. The US (60%)
2. The Netherlands (26%)
3. The UK (7%)
4. Germany (1%)
5. France (0.78%)
6. and 7. Australia and Canada (0.3%)
8. Japan (0.27%)
9. and 10. British Virgins Islands and Czech Republic (0.21%)

The Netherlands is also way in front of other European countries when counting the number of adult-only domain names registrations, with nearly two million domains for porn. The AMSIX, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, is the world’s largest data transport hub in the world, accounting for some 10% of the world’s Internet traffic. That, and the proven cliché of the Dutch being all liberal with sex, probably makes for an acceptable explanation of its porn-pushing status.

(Links: www.emerce.nl/, www.ibtimes.co.uk, Photo by Mephisto, some rights reserved, based on a photo by Daniel Mayara)

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August 7, 2013

Nijmegen university fights British ban on car hacking research

Filed under: Automobiles,IT by Orangemaster @ 8:00 am

A British judge has imposed a ban in favour of car manufacturer Volkswagen who claims that the publication of research on car-starting codes for luxury cars would be detrimental to their business. Roel Verdult and Baris Ege of the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen together with Flavio Garcia of the University of Birmingham wrote the publication ‘Dismantling Megamos Crypto: Wirelessly Lockpicking a Vehicle Immobiliser. Since Volkswagen and other car manufacturers don’t want all those codes out in the open, they went to court in the UK and won. Oddly enough, much of the information has apparently already been floating around the Internet since 2009 but nobody really noticed until now.

The Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen is not taking it lying down and is going to court to fight the ban. The university claims that the researchers’ aim was to improve security for everyone, not to give criminals a helping hand at hacking into high-end cars. They argued that “the public have a right to see weaknesses in security on which they rely exposed”. Otherwise, the “industry and criminals know security is weak but the public do not”.

It seems to me that basing a security algorithm on secrecy rather than complexity is asking for problems once someone cracks the code, and assuming that that will never happen is not smart. The researchers didn’t do anything illegal yet they got a gag order. Why not comprise with a ban for like 6 months to let the car manufacturers get their act together? And do the researchers really need to publish damaging details to make their point that the security is weak? Stay tuned.

(Links: www.theguardian.com, www.bright.nl, Photo: guusterbeek.nl)

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April 23, 2013

Google search leads to murder conviction

Filed under: IT,Online by Branko Collin @ 4:46 pm

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)

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April 1, 2013

Computer science unpopular in secondary school

Filed under: IT by Branko Collin @ 12:38 pm

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.

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