Roughly translated the Dutch tax office’s motto is, ‘We can’t make it more pleasant, but we can make it easier’, which is often use to preface the exact opposite, as I am about to do.
Some guy’s stepmother dies. Besides coming to terms with the situation, there’s paperwork to be done for the tax office. Many forms have been digitised over the years, but not the one form this guy needs to fill out. In fact, some 140,000 people need to fill out this form every year, but its 27 pages. Our guy says he’ll need to sit down and spend hours figuring it out.
Nope, he can’t send it in digitally. For that one form, he needs to purchase software from one of two publishers who make it for accountants and it costs 610 euro. Our guy is justifiably upset and decides to write to Parliament because sending in most tax forms is usually free. After all the two companies that make this professional software are able to send in their corporate tax forms for free. The tax office didn’t think that people doing taxes for the deceased was a priority, but you wonder why they think it’s OK to force ordinary citizens to buy expensive, almost useless software to fill in one form. Politicians have said they agree, but changing the rules won’t happen overnight.
Tax office cock-ups are a great source of entertainment:
Tax office in Friesland refuses Frisian letter. You can’t talk to the tax office in any other language than Dutch for legal reasons, something we hadn’t mentioned back then.
Tax office tells woman to divorce for benefits. Taxes before bros, thinks the government.
Tags: deceased, tax office
In a fashion/IT edition of ‘Zoek de Nederlander’ (‘Find the Dutch person’), it wasn’t Apple’s new Apple Watch, iPhone 6 or even the band U2 that stole the show at its latest product launch in Califormia, but Dutch IT designer Tommy Krul’s tube scarf, earning him the nickname of ‘Scarf Guy’. Dutch-born Krul is founder and CTO of Super Evil Megacorp in San Francisco and was presenting the new game Vainglory, specially developed for the iPhone 6.
Apple’s on stage presenters are reputed for being casually dressed, and Krul was no exception. For reasons that only the Internet understands his purple ‘infinity’ scarf took on a life of its own on Twitter and Facebook during the presentation. Fake Twitter accounts such as @scarfbro and @purplescarfguy have started up and comparisons to other scarf-wearing celebs such as Gavin Rossdale and Lenny Kravitz (and I would add Benedict Cumberbatch, as himself and as Sherlock) have been made. People want to know if he’s single, but Krul hasn’t provided an answer. All he has said apparently is “I often wear scarves, it’s funny.”
(Link: www.rtlnieuws.nl, Photo of men’s scarf by smittenkittenorig, some rights reserved)
Tags: Zoek de Nederlander
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)
Tags: ALS, Philips, software
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!
Tags: automation, DigiD, government, identity theft, privacy, Waalwijk
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)
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)
Tags: Dutch railways, Internet, trains, Wi-Fi
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.
Tags: dicitonary, Facebook, neologisms, selfie, Van Dale
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)
Tags: dictionary, Van Dale
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.
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)
Tags: porn, pornography
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)
Tags: hackers, hacking, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen