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September 30, 2014

iPads are ‘means of communication’, not computers or phones

Filed under: Gadgets,Technology by Orangemaster @ 9:44 am

In late 2012 a Dutch court ruled that iPads were not phones and that angered broadcaster RTL Nederland because that meant they would owe back taxes to the tune of 323,687 euro on 664 iPads with Vodafone subscriptions given to their employees for Christmas.

RTL appealed the ruling at the time, and yesterday a higher court overturned the decision and ruled that not only are iPads not phones, they are also not computers: they are “means of communication.” The clincher is that the law also prescribes categories of devices that are applicable to be taxed, including “phones, Internet and such communication devices.”

The iPad is a fancy tin can with a string attached to it that is not primarily used to do all your work on, giving RTL a reason to pop open some champers.

(Link: webwereld.nl)

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August 24, 2014

Extending the self into the corporate cloud

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 9:19 pm

interferenceI went to Interference last weekend, a hacker convention run by anarchists in a former squat called Binnenpret. Most Dutch people know the part of the complex called OCCII, a music venue on Amstelveenseweg.

The talks were somewhat similar to what I have encountered at other hacker conventions in the past. If there was a difference, it was that in the Q&As audience members were criticizing language that could be used as a weapon, as a means to disempower outgroups.

Also, the hosts did not appear to serve coffee.

Cory Shores had a talk about post-humanism and spoke about the blind man’s cane. This is apparently an issue of some contention in philosophy: is the cane part of the man, of the self? A blind man ‘sees’ with the tip of the cane after all, his hand being no more than a relay.

A similar extension of the self was identified by Paulan Korenhof and Janneke Belt who pointed out technological differences in the way people remember things, such as remembering a shopping list versus writing one down. They did not further explore the issue of the self, but instead looked at where our shopping lists (and therefore maybe parts of ourselves) end up: in the cloud, specifically in the indexes of search engines owned by international companies.

Earlier this week I mocked visitors of the Lowlands festival in a posting who gave away their privacy for RFID trinkets, but perhaps my commentary wasn’t entirely fair. The Lowlands RFID wristbands do have some value to the user as they extend the self, even if the company behind them is solidly grounded in the philosophy of “if we give you something for free, you are in fact the product”.

See also: the Interference reader.

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August 19, 2014

Protesting free Wi-Fi that doesn’t even work

Filed under: Sports,Technology by Orangemaster @ 3:04 pm

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With a banner that probably made international news because it featured the word ‘fuck’ on it and was written in English, PSV Eindhoven supporters were recently sporting a banner at a game that read “Fuck Wi-Fi, support the team”.

After paying good money to attend a football game, the last thing many fans would be caught doing is staring at their mobile phones. The thing is, free Wi-Fi is great because you can take pictures and post them to social media about all the fun you’re having. You can also throw the score up on Twitter and check if the media has more news on the player they just carried off the field than you would get at the stadium.

Omroep Brabant has claimed that the Wi-Fi connection is crap, which is not good advertising for a tech region made famous by brands like Philips and ASML.

However, many of us in the Netherlands can just turn on 4G and ride the interwebs. Banning something that is free and doesn’t even work seems like a waste of time, but we do get the point that it’s about joining in and not being a douche with your phone.

(Link: www.omroepbrabant.nl, Photo of Football by Bramus, some rights reserved)

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August 18, 2014

RFID bracelets track festival goers

Filed under: Music,Technology by Branko Collin @ 8:11 pm

waldo-lowlands-2008-gabe-mcintyreHave you ever gone to a music festival but got too drunk to remember which acts you saw?

Yeah, me neither, but apparently now there’s a solution. For the price of whatever was left of their privacy, visitors of the Lowlands festival last weekend could get a ‘free’ wristband that allowed them to keep a diary of sorts.

Every time you held the Nedap-developed wristband against a scanning station, the station would register your ID, time and location in order to be able to present you with a slew of data on the spot or afterwards. The data contained the location of both you and bracelet-wearing friends, the bands that played nearby, photos of you and your friends, ‘spotified’ set lists, and so on.

According to the video below by Face Culture, some people ‘hacked’ the system by trying to get into the top ten of the people that scanned their bracelets the most. Other advantages mentioned were the ability to remember the names of obscure bands you saw and not having to trawl through 20,000 photos online before finding yours. One person complained that she still had a sliver of privacy left: she wanted more scanning stations so that she could also see when she had gone for a burger.

A Campign Flight to Lowlands Paradise (its full name) is an annual festival held near Biddinghuizen in the province of Flevoland.

(Photo of Waldo at Lowlands 2008 by Gabe McIntyre, some rights reserved; if only he had worn an RFID tag, you would have spotted him instantly; link: AD)

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August 16, 2014

Rail companies to experiment with lasers against leaves

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 3:54 pm

ProRail is planning to use lasers to burn off the leafy mulch that coats rails in the autumn, Z24 reports.

The experiment is a collaboration between ProRail (network), Dutch Rail (operator) and Delft University of Technology. In another test, suggested by a train driver and also held this autumn, ProRail will wet rails to prevent leaves from sticking to them.

A similar trial with lasers was done in 2006 in the UK. At the time, ProRail felt the technology was not good enough. Industrial Laser Solutions has an interesting article about the technology.

In the autumn falling leaves form a mulch that cause train wheels to slip and slide. As a result, both braking and accelerating go slower, causing delays in the service.

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August 9, 2014

17th century book of watercolour paints by A. Boogert

Filed under: Art,Design,Gadgets,Technology by Branko Collin @ 3:39 pm

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Eric Kwakkel found this extensive 800-page book on how to prepare and mix watercolour paints in an online library in France.

It was published in Dutch in 1692 by one A. Boogert:

He explains how to mix the colours and how to change their tone by adding “one, two or three portions of water”. To illustrate his point he fills each facing page with various shades of the colour in question [...]. To top it he made an index of all the colours he described, which in itself is a feast to look at.

The book is called ‘The Clear Bright Mirror of the Art of Painting’ (‘De Klaerlighte Spiegel der Verfkonst’) and is written in plain Dutch. Unfortunately I keep tripping over Mr Boogert’s handwriting, otherwise I might have treated you to a couple of paragraphs. Due to the nature of the work (three colour printing wasn’t available until the late 19th century), it is likely that the author produced only a single copy. And it’s very cool is that this copy survived.

Shown here are two opposite pages of the index (“blatwijser of regisster”).

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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

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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: www.omroepbrabant.nl, www.omroepbrabant.nl, 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
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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.

(Link: phys.org)

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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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