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April 21, 2014

Dutch Rail’s slow replacement for high speed train keeps breaking down

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 3:14 pm

traxx-roel-hemkesIf you’ve followed the drama with Dutch Rail’s showpiece train Fyra, you’ll remember that they had to replace it because it kept embarrassing them by dropping parts on the rails and by not running as often as one would expect from a regular train service.

The replacement came in the form of Bombardier’s Traxx locomotives. According to Metro, the new train is not without its own problems. Last Friday the paper wrote that a Traxx train breaks down about 4.8 times a day on average. As a comparison, the Thalys, a high speed train run by a consortium of European countries that uses the same tracks, only breaks down once a day.

The malfunctions of the Traxx system are partially caused by a failure to connect the train to its overhead lines. A spokesperson for Dutch Rail told Metro that Thalys trains are more capable of restoring a connection to the overhead lines than Traxx locomotives.

A plan by transport company Arriva to operate an Amsterdam – Brussels connection on the high speed track was flat-out rejected by junior transport minister Wilma Mansveld last October. She sees no reason to take away the lucrative connection from state-owned Dutch Rail.

(Photo of a Traxx locomotive at Amsterdam Central Station by Roel Hemkes, some rights reserved)

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April 8, 2014

Lego creation strolls down the beach

Filed under: General,Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:31 am

Inspired by Theo Jansen’s ‘Strandbeest’ (‘Beach Animal’), Jason Allemann of JK Brickworks has built a creation called ‘Steampunk Walking Ship’ (see video below), entirely made of Lego components featuring several play features, including the functional cargo crane.

“Power and control is provided by the Lego Power Functions system, which includes the remote control, IR receiver, battery box and two M-size motors. The frame, crankshaft and legs are built using Lego Technic elements.”

More Lego stories:

Rietveld Schröder house in Utrecht gets immortalized in Lego

Drug dealer accepts payment in Lego

Lego computer built for Alan Turing’s 100th anniversary

(Photo of Lego by tiptoe, some rights reserved)

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March 27, 2014

Government buys into harnessing electricity from plants

Filed under: Nature,Sustainability,Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:58 am

Chargers

Plant-e , founded by David Strik and Marjolein Helder in 2009, is a spin-off company of the Environmental Technology of Wageningen University. After obtaining her PhD in November 2012 Helder became the CEO of Plant-e, while Strik works as an assistant professor at the university, supporting Plant-e’s research and development one day a week.

On March 12, coinciding with Dutch Arbour Day (‘Nationale Boomfeestdag’), Plant-e signed a deal with the Dutch government to build a plant-driven power plant. The plants will be grown on the Hembrug military terrain in Zaandam, North Holland and will be used for outdoor lighting and charging mobile phones.

Thanks to photosynthesis, a bioenergetic process used by plants to convert light into energy, plants create organic material. The roots of these plants contain bacteria that breaks down organic material, giving off electrons. Plant-e has created technology that captures these electrons as carbon electrons, which can be used directly as electricity.

Just this month we told you about a table that uses plant energy to charge mobile phones.

Watch the promo video (in English):

(Link: www.plant-e.com, Photo of Charging station by Katja Linders, some rights reserved)

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March 11, 2014

Supportless, magical 3D printing of metal

Filed under: Design,Technology by Orangemaster @ 7:42 am

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The Joris Laarman Lab, located in Amsterdam, is known for experimenting and tinkering with the new possibilities of upcoming technology alongside craftspeople, scientists and engineers. Their latest feat includes a technique for large-scale 3D printing of 3D objects made from steel, stainless steel, aluminum, bronze or copper on any work surface that does not require any additional support structures. “The MX3D-Metal method combines a robotic arm typically used in car manufacturing with a welding machine to melt and then deposit metal, to create lines that can be printed horizontally, vertically, or in curves without the need for support structures.”

Back in 2010 we wrote about Joris Laarman’s solo exhibition in New York featuring ‘bone chairs’.

Watch the video to see how it is possible to create metal structures in mid-air, as it has something quite magical to it.

(Links: phys.org, www.dezeen.com, Photo of freeform metal lines from dezeen.com)

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March 4, 2014

Dutch boffins create the world’s smallest drone

Filed under: Design,Technology by Orangemaster @ 3:56 pm

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The DelFly Explorer, the world’s smallest drone, has flapping wings and can fly around by itself, avoiding obstacles, according to developer Guido de Croon of the Delft University of Technology. Weighing 20 grammes, the robot dragonfly uses two tiny low-resolution video cameras, reproducing the 3-D vision of human eyes, and an on-board computer to see its surroundings and avoid crashing into things. It can fly around for up to 9 minutes without needing external control.

Smaller ‘flapping’ drones exist, such as the RoboBee developed by Harvard University students in the US, but they are not autonomous. “The Explorer has its own small lithium polymer battery that allows it to fly for around 9 minutes, while it ‘sees’ with its onboard processor and a specially developed algorithm to make instant decisions.

The drone’s predecessor, the DelFly Micro, was declared the ‘smallest camera equipped aircraft in the world’ in 2008 by the Guinness Book of Records.

(Links: phys.org, www.delfly.nl, Photo of the DelFly Explorer by www.delfly.nl)

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March 2, 2014

Stapel.tv builds video walls with a vintage touch

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 8:54 pm

stapel-tvEvery video wall that the three entrepreneurs of Stapel.tv create is unique, financial news site Z24 writes.

Instead of clicking together countless similar LED screens the three friends from The Hague use old-fashioned CRT TVs, each screen a unique set.

Dave Seth Paul told Z24: “People hire us because they tire of the same-old state-of-the-art LED screens. Old TVs have a certain charm.”

The company uses old sets they get from friends or that they buy off Marktplaats for ten euro a piece. So far they’ve collected 60 TVs which enables them to build a vintage video wall of 6 by 2.5 metres. The units are driven by tiny Raspberry Pi computers.

For the Leiden International Film Festival a gate of TV sets was built by Stapel.tv (the name means Stack TV), each set displaying on of the movies shown at the festival. In front of the screens a small living had been constructed.

(Foto: Stapel.tv)

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February 14, 2014

Fish drives itself in a small tank on wheels

Filed under: Animals,Design,Technology by Orangemaster @ 2:39 pm

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Made possible by Studio diip in Leerdam, South Holland, a goldfish is able to swim in a small tank on wheels and drive itself around the room. It can swim towards something shiny and the small tank on wheels will go in that direction. The device is powered by a camera and computer vision software, putting the goldfish at the wheel. We’re also told that the fish gets to go back to a normal tank after going out for a spin.

Although not a proper comparison, it does remind of a cat on a Roomba.

(Photo of Goldfish by angs school, some rights reserved)

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January 5, 2014

Colourized X-ray still lifes by Arie van ‘t Riet

Filed under: Art,Photography,Technology by Branko Collin @ 9:38 am

tulips-arie-van-t-rietArie van ‘t Riet is a medical physicist who became an artist by accident.

My Modern Met writes:

One day, his colleague asked him to take an X-ray of one of his art paintings. It was a thin object and van’t Riet had never done something like this before, but as he said, “it worked.” This got him thinking about what other kinds of thin objects he could X-ray and flowers came to mind. He started with a bouquet of tulips. The analog image, or the silver bromide X-ray film, resembled a black and white negative. It was digitized, inverted, and then selectively colorized in Photoshop. “And then some people told me that’s art,” he humorously states, “and I became an artist.”

Many more amazing colourized X-rays can be found at the My Modern Met article linked above and at Van ‘t Riet’s own website.

(Link: Boing Boing)

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December 19, 2013

Guys from Utrecht hook Apple’s Game of the Year 2013

Filed under: Gaming,Technology by Orangemaster @ 11:07 am

Screen shot 2013-12-19 at 10.51.55 AM

Two guys from Utrecht, Rami Ismail (25) and Jan Willem Nijman (23), created the game app for iPhone and iPad Ridiculous Fishing that has been chosen as Game of the Year 2013 by Apple. The game was based on a film they saw about overfishing tuna. The main goal is to avoid catching fish on your line. If you do catch some fish, then you have to reel them all in and eventually you get to shoot them in the air.

They had months of struggling with other game studios copying and remaking their originally free game, but after eating noodles for four months and going for gold, Ridiculous Fishing took off and both guys are now rich, making 12,000 euro a week, and sometimes 30,000 to 50,000 euro a week. The game costs 2,69, it is selling like hotcakes and there will be an Android version one of these days.

(Link: www.ad.nl

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December 3, 2013

Google breaks privacy laws, Dutch watchdog says

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 3:26 pm

privacy-jeff-schulerBy not informing its users about what data it collects and by not asking for permission, Google is breaking the Dutch data protection act, privacy watchdog CBP said in a press release last Thursday.

In 2012 Google changed its privacy policy. The American Internet giant started combining the private data it collects from its users across all its services.

The investigation shows that Google combines personal data relating to Internet users that the company obtains from different services. Google does this, amongst others, for the purposes of displaying personalised ads and to personalise services such as YouTube and Search. Some of these data are of a sensitive nature, such as payment information, location data and information on surfing behaviour across multiple websites. Data about search queries, location data and video’s watched can be combined, while the different services serve entirely different purposes from the point of view of users.

Internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet points to a peculiarity of Dutch privacy law that says you have to ask users for informed consent. It’s not enough to say ‘this is how we deal with your privacy’, users should be able to understand what is going to happen and say ‘no’ before it happens. Also, Google shouldn’t say what they could do with your data, they are obliged to say what they will do with your data.

Apparently Google tried to defend themselves by claiming they do not collect personal data, they merely create profiles. CBP quotes Google’s own CEO Eric Schmidt back at them who once stated: “We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” Google’s chief Internet evangelist (and Internet co-inventor) Vint Cerf said two weeks ago at a privacy and security workshop of (of all people) the US Trade Commission (40 minutes into the video): “I would not go as far as to simply, baldy assert that privacy is dead. [...] But let me tell you that it would be increasingly difficult for us to achieve privacy. I want you to think for just a minute about the fact that privacy may actually be an anomaly.”

Engelfriet concludes: “Google of course believes the criticism is invalid and uses a barrage of marketing language [...] to keep dancing around the issue. And that is all that will happen. I don’t see what kind of effective measures CBP can take to make Google fundamentally change its ways—which is a pity, because this is one of the most substantial reports CBP has issued in a long time.”

(Link: the Register; photo by Jeff Schuler, some rights reserved)

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