Last year a friend asked me to check a series of fines he received from France in French (in error), stating he had to pay the maximum fine for speeding even though he never got the original fines, which were for a lot less. Although an administrative mess, at least French speed cameras can read Dutch license plates. It took the Netherlands until sometime last year to be able to properly read French license plates on speed cameras and stop being the laughing stock of French speed freaks.
However, we’re still laughing stock to anyone that doesn’t have a Dutch, French, Swiss, German or Belgian license plate: the software in Dutch speed cameras can’t read anything else. The Dutch government keeps making lame excuses, while other European countries seem to have figured out how speed camera software works.
This also means that Dutch speed cameras don’t fine the notoriously fast driving Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians and Latvians who probably know all this and not suffer the consequences. It also attracts comments about the Dutch ‘paying for everybody’s mistakes’, as it is easier to nail locals for speeding that trying to decipher a Polish or Latvian address and registration that cannot be easily checked on the side of the road.
Speeding is dangerous, and apparently the Dutch government doesn’t feel that road safety is a priority.
(Link: www.flitsservice.nl, Photo by Heiloo Online, some rights reserved)
Tags: fines, France, license plate, speed camera, speeding
The ability to receive information in one’s language is no longer a sufficient reason to hang a satellite dish from your flat when there’s access to streaming through the Internet, according to a court in Amsterdam. Satellite dishes are forbidden in many flat buildings because they are ugly yet homeowners’ associations still have problems forbidding them altogether because telling people to ‘go use the Internet’ has its own problems, one of them being it comes off as xenophobic and possibly racist. Dutch and other Europeans have quite a few channels available to them through cable television, but many other foreigners do not and so they use a dish.
The Internet is also not free, so that’s not a good argument to ban dishes and go against ‘the ability to receive information’ according to European law and human rights. The case in question is about a man who wanted to watch Portuguese-language shows. The law says that if there’s enough information in your own language available on the Internet then you don’t need a satellite dish. I’m wondering what kind of Portuguese? Angolan, European, Brazilian, what?
Who gets to decide what my language would be as a foreigner? The only television station with any Canadian French was TV5 Monde, which my cable provider axed a few years ago and it does suck. Would that mean I am allowed to set up a dish? Would the Dutch government tell me French from France is good enough even though they don’t report any Canadian news? What if I didn’t understand European French? Satellite dishes may be ugly, but they do have a purpose, especially if cable companies continue to cut down on foreign channels. Dutch provider Ziggo is about to axe France 2, which has upset the French community here.
(Link: webwereld.nl, Photo by Kai Schreiber, some rights reserved)
Tags: French, Portuguese, satellite dish
In the village of Nieuwe Pekela, Groningen a five-year-old girl in a playground with a pink tablet traded her tablet with a nondescript stranger for a bag of sweets. After the mother hadn’t seen the girl use the tablet for a few days and asked why, the girl confessed she traded it for a bag of sweets. The girl said she saw her mother selling some of her ‘old stuff’ and followed her lead. Mom was not amused and asked for the tablet back through Facebook, saying ‘that wasn’t the idea’. We don’t know at this time if it was returned.
What’s a five-year-old doing with a tablet (pink, no!) at a playground? Why not actually play and leave the tablet at home? What about not talking to strangers who try to give you candy? That could easily have been a paedophile testing the waters.
The Dutch say ‘van ruilen komt huilen’ (‘trading brings regret’), and in this case, it could have been far worse.
(Link: www.dvhn.nl, Photo of Sweets by Rool Paap, some rights reserved)
Tags: Groningen, Nieuwe Pekela, tablet
Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology together and the University of Central Florida, report in the journal Nature Photonics the successful transmission of a record high 255 Terabits/s over a new type of fiber allowing 21 times more bandwidth than currently available in communication networks. This new type of fiber could be an answer to mitigating the impending optical transmission capacity crunch caused by the increasing bandwidth demand.
The new fiber has seven different cores through which the light can travel, instead of one in current state-of-the-art fibers. This compares to going from a one-way road to a seven-lane highway. Also, they introduce two additional orthogonal dimensions for data transportation – as if three cars can drive on top of each other in the same lane. Combining those two methods, they achieve a gross transmission throughput of 255 Terabits/s over the fiber link. This is more than 20 times the current standard of 4-8 Terabits/s.
(Link: phys.org, Photo by Mephisto, some rights reserved, based on a photo by Daniel Mayara)
Tags: data, data transmission, Eindhoven University of Technology, fiber
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