July 26, 2014

Dutch Rail may not block porn on free Wi-Fi in trains

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 5:27 pm

free-wifi-on-trainTech mag PCM has discovered that Dutch Rail is blocking certain porn sites on their free Wi-Fi network on the train.

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (formerly OPTA), which polices Internet access providers, has confirmed that blocking porn on the train is illegal. Dutch Rail appeared unaware what exactly it was they’re blocking: “We’ve taken over the system from T-Mobile, the company that managed our network until March 2014. At the time of the transition they determined for us what filters were needed to keep the network functioning smoothly.” Dutch Rail promised yesterday that it will look into the situation.

As we wrote earlier, Dutch Rail is allowed to block certain services to keep their network running smoothly. PCM points out that the way the train company does this for sites like YouTube is by only blocking the videos, but you can still view the comments. Porn sites however have been blocked entirely, PCM writes. Sites such as TorrentFreak have been blocked as well. Contrary to what the name suggests, TorrentFreak only offers written news articles.

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July 24, 2014

Dutch robots made the RoboCup 2014 semi-finals

Filed under: Sports,Technology by Orangemaster @ 11:06 am


Just like the Netherlands did in Brazil during the World Cup, the robot team from the Eindhoven University of Technology have made it to the semi-finals of the RoboCup 2014, the World Cup for robots, also being held in Brazil.

Eindhoven had a difficult game against China this past Monday when all five robots on the field decided they all wanted to be goalies. After a reset of the robots, the designated goalie did its job and Eindhoven won 3-0.

Later today Eindhoven will be playing the final against I have no idea but not China or Japan, after scouring the Internet and the official but not updated RoboCup site. I will update you as soon as Twitter works its magic.

This picture was taken at RoboCup 2013, which was held in Eindhoven where they lost against China, proving that the world is indeed round.

UPDATE: Here’s the schedule for the final.

ANOTHER UPDATE: They won the final, congratulations!

(Link:,, Photo of RoboCup2013 in Eindhoven by RoboCup2013, some rights reserved)

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July 11, 2014

Data storage speeds up by a factor of 1000

Filed under: Science,Technology by Orangemaster @ 11:23 am
Binary code

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology and the FOM Foundation have recently presented a new technology that potentially allows data to be stored 1,000 times faster with ‘spin current’ using ultra-short laser pulses.

Data is conventionally stored using magnetization, making bits 1 or 0, but the limits of this technology have been reached, and researcher Sjors Schellekens of the Technical University of Eindhoven says that it’s time for new data storage technology.

The ‘spin current’ is able to cause a change in magnetization, which is 1,000 faster than what is possible with today’s technology. The new method has also been hailed as step towards future optical computer chips, which Eindhoven University of Technology is now working on thanks to a Dutch grant of close to 20 million euro.

In 2009 The University of Twente was on to something in the same field with spin polarisation achieved at room temperature, which also sped up the reading of a hard disk.


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June 29, 2014

Surfbook patent struck down in US court

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 11:21 am

mark-zuckerberg-elaine-and-priscilla-chanEarlier this year Facebook was sued by American patent trolls Rembrandt IP, allegedly representing the deceased Jos van der Meer.

Van der Meer’s heirs claim that the Dutchman invented the concept of Facebook in 2001, calling it Surfbook. The Register reports that an American jury disagreed in no uncertain terms: “the Eastern District of Virginia jury decided that the patents were “shabby” and shouldn’t have been granted”.

In 2001, a full two years before Facebook was founded, Van der Meer had patented things like keeping a personal diary on the web. Damning evidence indeed if you squint your eyes for a moment and forget that Geocities was founded in 1994 and the word ‘weblog’ was coined in 1997.

On its website Rembrandt IP writes: “[our company] undertakes a rigorous diligence process to investigate all intellectual property it considers for enforcement actions. [...] Due to the high level of internal resources needed to complete this in-depth process, we are very selective when determining which opportunities to consider.”

Did their process fail them this time around or did Rembrandt IP expect to lose? Given that they started a lawsuit in January against another tech giant, Apple (PDF), a reasonable person would probably forgive me for thinking that they start these cases for the publicity it generates. (I am not sure how effective a strategy it is to lose your cases).

See also:

(Photo of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg by Elaine and Priscilla Chan, some rights reserved)

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June 25, 2014

Apple looking to hire native Dutch speaker

Filed under: Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:29 am

Always wanted to make your mark in the IT world? If you’re a native Dutch speaker, you could become the voice of Siri, Apple’s speech-powered personal app. For people like me who don’t use iPhones and prefer Android phones, many of us heard about Siri from American TV show The Big Bang Theory, as Dr Rajesh Koothrappali takes a bit too much of a liking to the female voice of his phone. At the end of 2013 Apple had made Siri both male and female, but not for reasons of gender equality.

You’ll need much more than just a nice Dutch voice for this software engineering job, but it does sound like a nice challenge. I’m surprised they did not specify Dutch or Flemish as European companies usually do, which is a bit sloppy on their part and could go wrong if they do use a different accent and try to pass it off as standard Dutch. A Surinam accent would be cool though, but like I said, I use an Android phone.

(Link:, Photo by William Hook, some rights reserved)

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May 23, 2014

Shock blog Geenstijl crowd sources Dutch EP vote count

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 12:50 pm

geenpeil-geenstijl_nlThis week elections are being held for the European Parliament, a body that has become a serious democratic institution since the previous elections as a result of the Treaty of Lisbon. Yesterday it was the Dutch and English’s turn to vote. The voting will last until Sunday in the rest of the union and because of that the Dutch government has forbidden municipalities to publish their tallies until then.

Shock blog Geenstijl decided to crowd source its own exit polls based on actual vote counts.

The blog called its readers to go to the polling stations and stick around for the count. Geenstijl claims that 1,378 volunteers went to the stations to witness the public vote counting. The volunteers managed to collect tallies representing 15% of all the Dutch votes.

The results are largely similar to that of the exit poll held by Ipsos for state broadcaster NOS and in line with predictions from February. Centrist party D66 (Lib-dem) is cautiously predicted to be a winner whereas extreme right-wing PVV did not deliver on its land-slide victory promise and may even have to give up one of its four seats. My personal favourite, the Pirate Party, appears to have fared better than in the recent national elections, but the 1% or 2% of the votes they seem to have received probably won’t be enough for a seat in the EP.

The European Commission threatened the Netherlands with legal action if the country were to show a love of democracy and transparency by publishing the results before Sunday and had asked Minister Plasterk what he thought of Geenstijl’s intended stunt. Plasterk uncharacteristically told the EC he saw nothing wrong with citizens using their democratic right to be at the polling stations to witness the count.

See also: Voting booth ‘stemfie’ to be contested in court

(Illustration: screenshot of

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May 18, 2014

Dutch spaceman Wubbo Ockels dies

Filed under: History,Sustainability,Technology by Branko Collin @ 2:16 pm

wubbo-ockels-jens-nielsen-pdFormer Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels died earlier today in Amsterdam as the result of cancer, NRC writes.

Ockels was born in 1946 in Almelo. In 1985 he spent 7 days in space on board the US space shuttle Challenger which made him the first Dutch astronaut.

In the late 1980s Ockels’ reputation took a dive when he caused havoc with private air planes. On 5 December 1989 his plane taxied to a runway in Lille, France, when an Airbus came in a for a landing. The Airbus totalled Ockels’ plane, but curiously everybody got out alive.

Back on the ground Ockels became a professor of air and space technology at Delft University in 1992. He used this position for a great number of sustainable inventions. Together with his students he worked on projects that often involved converting wind energy into electricity, such as a laddermill and an energy-neutral sailboat. He also worked on the Superbus, bringing the speed and aesthetics of Formula One to the world of public transport.

Ockels’ daughter Gean published the book De Zeven Levens van Wubbo Ockels in 2010 (The Seven Lives of Wubbo Ockels). By then he had escaped death five times. And although he had allegedly tweeted he would cheat the grim reaper for a sixth time in combating cancer (“I am Wubbo Ockels, the strange geezer who always finds a way out”), he succumbed to his illness this morning.

(Photo by Jens Nielsen who released it into the public domain)

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May 3, 2014

Measuring rain with smart umbrella invented by Rolf ‘MacGyver’ Hut

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 11:32 am

umbrella-55laney69Rolf Hut from Delft University of Technology wants to turn umbrellas into devices that help scientists measure rain, BBC reports.

Apparently measuring the old fashioned way using rain gauges has become too expensive. Dr Hut’s umbrellas will be outfitted with a piezo sensor stuck under the canvas to measure vibrations caused by falling rain and with Bbbluetooth capabilities.

The inventor told BBC: “Eventually every umbrella would come with this technology, or at least premium umbrellas would. And if you wanted to be involved, the moment you opened the umbrella, it would start sending data to your phone which uploads it to the cloud.”

It strikes me that there are all kinds of statistical problems with this idea. You’d first need to know when owners use their umbrellas. Some people may stay in during heavy rain regardless of whether they own an umbrella or not, some will use umbrellas in drizzles, some will use umbrellas in the sun.

In fact for a moment I thought this was a belated April Fools’ joke, especially considering the ‘uploading rain to the clouds’ comment above, but apparently the umbrella was presented in a Pooh bear prototype form to the general assembly of the European Geosciences Union which took place last week.

Dr Hut says on his university profile web page that his colleagues have dubbed him the ‘MacGyver scientist’ for coming up with innovative ways of measuring weather using off-the-shelf technology.

(Link: Bright; photo: 55Laney69, some rights reserved)

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April 30, 2014

Kickstarter kicks off in the Netherlands

Filed under: Film,Gaming,Photography,Sports,Technology by Orangemaster @ 9:55 pm

On Tuesday April 29 crowdfunding website Kickstarter now features a page for the Netherlands. Before then, Dutch residents with good ideas had to register their project through another country like the United States. Since then, about 30 new project ideas have popped up on the Dutch page, while the rest are projects that were around when they had to circumvent the country issue. And just like in other countries, Kickstarter takes 5% off the top when and if projects achieve their financial goal.

One of them was more fun than anything else: the ‘Fish on wheels’ (on Kickstarter). Other projects include lots of board games, music, tech, film and inventions.

Tip to the lightbulbs: please let someone check your English if you want to be taken seriously.

(Link:, Photo of Lightbulb by Emil Kabanov, some rights reserved)

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April 28, 2014

Philips sells home entertainment division to Gibson

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 10:10 am

Dutch electronics giant Philips has taken the last step in shedding its home entertainment division.

None other than the equally iconic American manufacturer of guitars, Gibson, has decided to take over the division, after an earlier attempt to sell the division to Funai from Japan allegedly failed. Gibson will be paying 135 mln USD for the business and will be paying separately for being allowed to continue using the Philips brand, Z24 writes.

The Philips home entertainment division excludes the television division, which Philips already sold to TPV from Taiwan in 2012.

When Philips was still a manufacturer and not just a brand, it invented things like the compact cassette, the CD, the ghetto blaster and even electronic music. More recently spin-offs operating from Philips Hi-Tech Campus (formerly known as Natlab) were working on e-paper displays. The company remains active in lighting, home appliances and medical equipment.

(Photo of the first Philips colour TV from 1964 by Philips, used with permission)


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