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
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