February 14, 2016

Chiptune pioneer Jeroen Tel took on the British gaming giants

Filed under: History,IT,Music by Branko Collin @ 11:53 pm

hawkeye-boys-wo-brainsIn the 1980s a couple of famous rivalries were fought out in the media and on the playground: Coke vs. Pepsi, Michael Jackson vs. Prince, Commodore 64 vs. the ZX Spectrum. And if you had the former, Rob Hubbard versus Martin Galway.

During the era of the 8-bit home computer, the Commodore 64 ruled supreme. To this day it remains the best-selling computer model of all time. Part of what made the Commodore 64 great was the fact that its sound chip, named SID, could do more than just produce the odd beep, as it was a fully featured polyphonic synthesizer. In the hurried run up to the release of the computer in 1982, designer Bob Yannes had to make compromises, but the result was still more than competitive. (Yannes later helped make the Ensonic ESQ-1 which did have the features he had originally wanted for the Commodore 64).

Games in those days were often made by and for the British market, and British game music composers were known by name to the public, more so even than the games’ programmers or artists. Everybody had an opinion about which of these composers was better, Rob Hubbard or Martin Galway. Contrarians opted for Ben Dalglish.

And in 1988 the Maniacs of Noise popped onto the scene, two boys from the Netherlands, Charles Deenen from Holthees and Jeroen Tel from Helmond, Noord-Brabant. Deenen was the programming genius who created the machine code sound player, Tel was the composer of numerous tunes such as the theme music for Cybernoid II and Hawkeye (by Dutch software house The Boys Without Brains) and the demo song Kinetix (see above).

In an interview with Tweakers.net last November, Tel said that though he had written hundreds of songs, “all the music I wrote for the Commodore 64 is 750 kilobytes combined when compressed in a RAR file.”

Tel’s attraction for programmable music started with the Casio watch, which had tunes for each day of the week. “I liked the discreteness of it. The discreteness of oscillators. So it turns out this was programmable. Mind blown. This is what I wanted to do.”

Gaming companies knew well how to exploit the teenage heroes that created their properties. Tel said, “you never get royalties. You get a lump sum and that is it. When you make music for films or television, you get paid for the broadcast rights. With games it’s more like, here, have 20,000 euro while we make a billion. And that’s only if you are one of the better composers.”

“I had no business sense, but how was I to know the value of money? What child does? If you had 10 guilders in your hand, right then and there, you were happy. And I was holding 1000 guilders in my hand. I was happy.”

Arriving in 1988 ensured that the name Tel (and that of his colleague, Reyn Ouwehand) was not on the tip of everybody’s tongue. The active life of the Commodore 64 would be another four years, insanely long for any computer platform. People were already getting into 16-bit machines, the first of which, the Apple Macintosh, was introduced in 1984. These new computers had the memory and speed to play long tracks made using samples. Tel nevertheless managed to get his name into the Top 100 List of SID tunes 13 times, twice even in the Top 10.

(Illustration: detail of the game Hawkeye)

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August 21, 2015

Knocking on your phone to exchange your details

Filed under: IT,Technology by Orangemaster @ 3:06 pm

Knock Knock

You meet someone and you want to exchange all your social media details, and that’s a lot of work. Dutch-born David Wyler and his American business partner Ankur Jain, both Silicon Valley entrepreneurs with many accolades, have developed a free mobile app called ‘Knock Knock’ that lets you swap details and instantly follow people. Unfortunately, Google Play won’t let me download it to my Samsung Galaxy to try it out, but y’all go ahead.

The app has received undisclosed investments from British investor Richard Branson, American rapper Will.i.am. and American actor Sophia Bush who can all be seen in the promo video. For reasons unknown – and I have asked – Bush was left out of the Dutch sources of this article as well as Jain, which is very odd.

Knock Knock is apparently the third in a series of similar apps, as Spincard and Bump were first, but are not around anymore. Maybe third time’s the charm.

(Links: techcrunch.com, www.rtlnieuws.nl)

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July 14, 2015

Apeldoorn plans to pay hackers for finding leaks

Filed under: IT by Orangemaster @ 3:58 pm

Need some cash? As of today if you find a proper security leak in the online systems of the city of Apeldoorn, Gelderland they’ll give you 300 euro for it. However, there are some rules to follow to get your hands on the cash.

– You can’t expose or mess around with employee data
– You can’t damage the system and make it inaccessible
– You can’t post any information you find online

If you’re up for the challenge, hit up Apeldoorn with your security leak by mailing them to incident@apeldoorn.nl, I’m guessing preferably in Dutch. You’ll be asked to encrypt your findings and if all goes well, 300 euro and more could be yours. Let the hacking begin!

(Link: www.binnenlandsbestuur.nl)

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June 8, 2015

Google, KLM and government favourites with Dutch students

Filed under: Aviation,Food & Drink,General,IT,Technology by Branko Collin @ 10:09 pm

klm-plane-steven-straitonSwedish marketing agency Universum has been polling Dutch students on who they want to work for after graduation.

A whopping 12,000 students from 32 universities and polytechnics were asked about their career preferences. Major Dutch companies such as Philips, Shell, KLM, Heineken and Endemol were named, but large American companies such as Google and Apple also made their appearance.

Both law and arts & humanities students named the national government as their preferred employer, followed by Google for the former and KLM for the latter. Business students like KLM and Google the best, engineering and physics students prefer Google, followed by Philips.

Compared to last year, TNO, Coca-Cola, IKEA and De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek failed to make the top 5 in any of the categories.

(Link: ANS, photo by Steven Straiton, some rights reserved)

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April 10, 2015

Dutch speed cameras rubbish with foreign plates

Filed under: Automobiles,IT by Orangemaster @ 10:16 am

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)

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February 25, 2015

The Internet doesn’t replace satellite dishes

Filed under: General,IT by Orangemaster @ 12:51 pm

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)

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November 6, 2014

Five-year-old trades tablet for sweets with stranger

Filed under: Food & Drink,IT,Weird by Orangemaster @ 10:16 am


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)

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October 28, 2014

Joint record data transmission over new fiber type

Filed under: IT by Orangemaster @ 7:00 am

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)

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October 15, 2014

Grieving parties must purchase software to fill in tax form

Filed under: General,IT by Orangemaster @ 10:44 am

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.

(Link: www.welingelichtekringen.nl)

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September 10, 2014

Dutch ‘scarf guy’, latest social media trend

Filed under: Fashion,Gaming,IT by Orangemaster @ 2:38 pm


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)


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