May 26, 2011

Finally my tax euros working for me—free wifi on the train

Filed under: IT,Technology by Branko Collin @ 9:28 pm

Once we escaped the Schiphol airport tunnel earlier today, not just did I get to enjoy 5 minutes of free wifi, but Dutch rail was kind enough to tell me where I was, and where I was heading.

March last year the first Dutch Rail train was outfitted with free wifi. By then other European rail operators had already introduced wireless networking on their trains. In the Netherlands, both Arriva and Connexxion managed to get to the wifi grail before Dutch Rail. Arriva’s and Dutch Rail’s implementations are heavily sponsored by the national government.

Tags: ,

January 11, 2010

Dutch railways still has no iPhone app

Filed under: Online by Orangemaster @ 6:03 pm
iPhone beaver

Way back in October 2008, we wrote about the NS (Dutch railways) not being happy about IT student Dennis Stevense kicking their butts and producing a quality iPhone application called Trein’ (‘Train’) for train schedules. Apparently, if there was any glimpse of copyright or database issues, the NS has done nothing about since then except whine that they don’t have an application after all. The NS has legally asked Stevense to stop with his application and he ignored them. What the NS has been incapable of doing since 2008 (or lied about) Stevense whipped up in three weeks.

With all the snow, delays and problems with trains as of late, ‘Trein’ has become very popular, as more and more people own an iPhone and are downloading his application. He even said he received numerous compliments from train staff that his application works better than the mini-computers they use for their work. He also claims he can live off the money he is making from downloads and will start his own business.

(Link:, Photo: Stevenojobs)

Tags: , , ,

April 27, 2009

Anatomy of an ATM skimmer

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 8:39 am

Last December, Paul Wiegmans from Alkmaar discovered an ATM skimming device (Dutch) attached to an NS ticket vending machine (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, i.e. Dutch railways). Being a hacker, he pulled the device loose and photographed it extensively before turning it in to the police. Marvel at the diminutive size of these things!

The Nederlandse Bank estimates that skimming at train stations and banks results in ten million euro in damages per year, reports Algemeen Dagblad (Dutch). The NS told the same daily that approximately two skimming accidents occur per day at its train stations. That’s a rather small amount compared to the number of ATM transactions taking place per day there—200,000.

Update: Meanwhile, Salima Douhou and Jan Magnus of the University of Tilburg claim that skimming would become almost impossible if banks incorporated code that would verify the way people type their PIN codes, reports De Telegraaf (Dutch). Apparently, nobody does that quite the same way, making your punch as distinct as your signature. The article unfortunately doesn’t mention what the percentage of false positives is with this method, and calls the method “almost unhackable”, which in this reality means the same as positively hackable.

(Photo: Paul Wiegmans.)

Tags: , , , , , ,

October 18, 2008

Lesbian couples marry for free in the train

Filed under: Literature,Weird by Orangemaster @ 6:00 am
Lesbian wedding

Three lesbian couples will be married next week on Tuesday, 21 October in the train. The idea of having lesbian couples marry in the train is part of a reading campaign of the NS (Dutch railways) called ‘Nederland Leest’ (‘The Netherlands reads’).

The campaign features Harry Mulisch’s book ‘Twee vrouwen’ (‘Two women’), a book with a homosexual theme, which explains the preference for lesbian couples. The witnesses (best man and best woman) will be known Dutch journalists Annejet van Zijl and Philip Freriks.

The marriages will be held in a special train that will run between the stations of Naarden-Bussum and Utrecht.


Tags: , ,

October 9, 2008

Dutch railways upset about popular iPhone application

Filed under: General,Online by Orangemaster @ 9:47 am
iPhone beaver

The NS (Dutch railways) is not pleased with the Dutch iPhone application ‘Trein’ (‘Train’) developed by IT student Dennis Stevense. The programme fully optimises data from the NS’ mobile site for the iPhone and is currently at the top of the list of applications you can buy in the Netherlands, costing a mere 2,39 euro. A spokesperson for the NS told that the student did not get permission from them to use their schedules and that they plan to release their own application shortly.

The question is whether train schedule information is covered by copyright law. I’ve asked a copyright lawyer this morning and will keep you posted.

UPDATE: Dutch copyright lawyer and photographer Olivier says:

“Not likely to qualify for copyright, but perhaps database protection. The schedules may not qualify for database protection if NS is not able to show that it invested (spent money) in the database, separately from the investment made in the operation of the trains. (The schedule database may be a so-called spin-off from the main activity of making the trains run on time, and informing the NS customers about the schedule.) The spin-off exemption to protection is not always applied correctly though.

Even if it qualifies for database protection, I am not sure that the *app* (and, consequently app maker) would infringe on the database rights, as it apparently only allows the *user* to more easily access the NS database. As far as I know, cases in the Netherlands have always dealt with instances where the content/database from one site was extracted in some manner or fashion to a database on another site.

And then there is always tort.”

(Link:, Photo: Stevenojobs)

Tags: , , ,

December 5, 2007

“Take the day off or be stuck in traffic”

Filed under: Automobiles,General by Orangemaster @ 7:24 am

Hang on a minute! Sure, the kids should get their presents on time for Pakjesavond, the evening before Sinterklaas, which for those new to Dutch culture is in fact more important than Christmas. But seriously, even though it sounds logical, the idea of taking an entire day off from work to avoid traffic has to be messed up. As far as I am concerned, take the rest of your working life off and avoid traffic for ever!

Basically, with the new timetable of the Dutch railways, hailed as nothing less but “chaos”, taking the train won’t get you home on time. The image of a little boy crying because he thinks Sinterklaas forgot him is something I am sure any parent wants to avoid. So you take the car to work, like many people who believe in sitting down when they travel (when trains are full at 140% capacity, you have to stand) and who don’t believe that green guilt trip (pardon the pun) about how if we all took the train, the train would magically improve and become a Disneyland ride. Cycling to work if possible is great, but does not work for everyone.

So picture a small country, a major Dutch holiday and the entire flippin’ country has some 500 km of congestion, almost twice the congestion around Paris a few weeks ago with the public transport strike. It’s not even a strike!

Conclusion: public transport blows more than ever before (Merry Christmas to you to), motorways suck big time and who cares about work? Stay home, your entire country is under siege. But by all means, enjoy the gifts.


Tags: , , ,