November 2, 2018

Bitcoins wrongly seized, owner loses big

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 12:15 pm


Last week, Dutch news site wrote about a case from 2014 where the Public Prosecutor had confiscated 712 bitcoins as a result of a man having stolen electricity to mine said Bitcoins. The problem was that the judge could not determine whether the Bitcoins were mined using the stolen electricity or not.

The authorities first found 127 Bitcoins and later uncovered 585 more, for a total of 712 bitcoins. The 585 bitcoins were seized then sold, as it would have taken more effort to keep them then to sell them, a perfectly legal action according to Dutch lawyer and blogger Arnoud Engelfriet. Then again, this point is being discussed at length: why not keep the Bitcoin wallet containing the information and keys to be able to maintain the wallet?

The condition for selling seized things is that ‘their value can be determined easily’, which is not the case with Bitcoins. Selling the 127 was fine, but not the 585 found later because it could not be proven that they were mined using stolen electricity. The value of the 585 Bitcoins had to be paid to the owner, but today they would have been worth about 3.3 million euro, meaning the man is being ‘cheated’ out of a hell of a lot of money. The fact that he is a petty thief doesn’t seem to outweigh the feeling that a lot of money was lost by wrongly selling the Bitcoins.

According to jurisprudence, the value must be determined at the moment of confiscation, February 2014. The Bitcoins to be returned were then valued at the rate one week after their confiscation, €268,46 per Bitcoin, for an amount of €157.179,55.

Should we not care simply because the man was a thief in the first place? Should we be worried that in the future, courts will be slow to determine the value of Bitcoins in cases and have this sort of problem occur again? Shouldn’t we be even more worried about how dangerous it is to steal electricity?

Possibly the weirdest thing we have wrote about Bitcoins the last couple of years is the Dutchman who had a Bitcoin wallet injected into his hand, and a few other things as well.

(Links:,,, Photo by BTC Keychain, 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


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:, Photo of Charging station by Katja Linders, some rights reserved)

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September 30, 2013

Dutch law turns solar panel owners into entrepreneurs

Filed under: Sustainability by Branko Collin @ 8:08 pm

It sounds like a win-win plan for everybody: the government subsidizes the purchase of solar panels for private families who use the panels to generate clean energy and sell any left over electricity to the public utilities.

Strictly speaking, selling electricity is a commercial transaction over which value added tax must be paid. The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed this in a ruling in an Austrian case earlier this year. Dutch junior minister Frans Weekers confirmed last week that the ruling also applies to the Netherlands, Z24 reports. Owning a solar panel and selling electricity to the public utilities automatically makes it impossible, the minister told parliament, “to deny one’s status as an entrepreneur” where value added tax is concerned.

This is problematic for a couple of reasons. Solar panel owners rarely get to see how much they have sold back; the utilities just charge them for the balance. Paying VAT also means you have to start bookkeeping. You can ask for an exemption if you expect to pay less than 1,345 euro a year which also releases you from the obligation of bookkeeping.
According to Vereniging Eigen Huis, minister Weekers considers the judgement undesirable and will ask the European Union for a change in the regulations. In the meantime he will initiate talks with the utilities.

I remember when I started freelancing. I made so little money that the people from the tax office laughed at me when I told them I wanted to register for paying added value tax. The difference between me and solar panel owners was of course that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and saw keeping accounts as part of the cost of entry.

According to Dutchnews earlier this year, “solar panels in the Netherlands produce some 100 million kilowatt hours of power” whereas “Dutch solar panel makers had a turnover of over € 490m in 2010”. A quick calculation using the rates of a local supplier shows that solar panel using home owners lowered their electricity bills by 6.5 million euro in 2012, making the solar panel manufacturers the big winners.

(Photo by Mhassan Abdollahi, some rights reserved)

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September 19, 2012

Weed grower electrocuted in neighbour’s crawlspace

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:58 pm

Two weeks ago a man from De Meern near Utrecht was found dead in the crawlspace of his neighbour’s house.

According to the Utrecht police, the 46-year-old had electrocuted himself trying to steal his neighbour’s electricity. He had dug a tunnel underneath the foundation of both houses. The police had to cut out the neighbour’s floor to retrieve the corpse, which they believe had been lying there for no more than a day.

Parool adds that the man was a marijuana grower, which would explain why he had been looking for ways to lower his electricity bills, as weed growers use high powered lamps.

Earlier this year a 23-year-old weed grower from Oss in Noord Brabant was also electrocuted while working in his marijuana nursery.

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June 22, 2012

Kite Power demo by former astronaut Wubbo Ockels

Filed under: Science,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 11:34 am

Back in 2008 a concert raised money to develop the laddermill, a sustainable invention by former astronaut Wubbo Ockels (shown here), and today Ockel’s Kite Power research group from the Delft University of Technology will be showcasing a wind energy system using kites at the Maasvlakte 2 shore in South Holland.

The Kite Power Team explains that Kite Power is a type of wind energy where a radiographically controlled kite generates electricity. A single cable attached to the kite is pulled and released from the base station every two minutes, spinning a drum that in turn powers a generator. Pulling the kite takes energy, but less than it is generated. The kite can fly up to 900 metres and be used to generate electricity fully automatically, which is its major asset.

(Link:, Photo of Wubbo Ockels courtesy of Emmanuelle)

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May 21, 2012

Two inventions—a charger in a safe, and a power strip in a book (and a bonus invention)

Filed under: Design,Dutch first,Gadgets by Branko Collin @ 11:58 am

Two recent products by young Dutch inventors are all about keeping your electronic gadgets well fed.

Bright reports about the Plugbook by Dave Hakkens, which is a power strip disguised as a book.

The Plugbook contains two outlets and two USB ports and is available in three colours. Dave is still looking for backers over at Kickstarter. He needs 45,000 USD in pledges before he can start manufacturing Plugbooks. Backers get to co-decide on a fourth colour. When the power-strip-meets-book hits the streets, it should retail at 30 USD.

Meanwhile, business news site Z24 reported on a cross between a safe and a charger, the ChargeCase.

Arif Yilmaz and Ersin Cumsit from Zaandam—the ingenuity of its townspeople already impressed Tsar Peter The Great of Russia in the 1700s—are aiming for traditional financing through banks, and will sell a closet with three safes and connectors for all current mobile phones for “a couple of hundred euro”. While the Plugbook is aimed at consumers, the ChargeCase seems to be a product for businesses.

Yilmaz explains: “I have worked in restaurants for years when I was a student. Customers asked every day if we had chargers for their phones, but we didn’t have them. I suggested that my boss would get some, but he didn’t know which type to get because there are many different phones and at that time every phone had its own unique charger.”

“We experimented with speed charging, but that turned out to be very bad for the phones. The ChargeCase does not charge the phone completely, but will let you get by for a couple of hours.”

Production of the ChargeCase in Turkey has commenced, albeit slowly (“it is a very bureaucratic country”), and the first shipment should arrive this week by truck.

If those inventions aren’t enough to get you through the day, check out the multiple bun slicer by YouTube user Idea Ed. The Internet is making fun of him and his inventions, calling them Dutch chindōgu, but I say that it’s better to have invented and built, than to have perfected and never built at all.

(Illustrations: Dave Hakkens and ChargeCase respectively. Video: Idea Ed.)

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August 21, 2009

Turning leftover airplane food into electricity

Filed under: Aviation,Food & Drink,Science,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 10:44 am

Dutch airline KLM is planning to use the leftovers of 50,000 airplane meals to produce electricity. The idea is to convert waste (refuse and food) into oil and then burn in a gas turbine at a new power station on Schiphol Airport grounds. A feasability study is currently being done and a decision will be made at the end of September.

With an investment of less than EUR 10 mln, the power station could process 20 tonnes of waste a day, which is enough to handle the leftover food. The turbine would then be able of providing electricity for 4,000 homes.


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August 9, 2009

Pollster Maurice de Hond too reliable for TV ad

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:36 pm

The Dutch advertising authority has judged a TV advertisement non-compliant because well-known and presumably very impartial pollster Maurice de Hond is pushing the wares of a utility company, reports De Volkskrant (Dutch).

In the ad, De Hond compares rates of competing utility companies, and claims that viewers can make substantial savings. The advertising authority, Reclame Code Commissie, says (largely paraphrased):

Maurice de Hond has been famous for years as an impartial researcher. He (still) has a certain trust with a substantial part of the TV audience. The advertisement uses this trust, because De Hond refers to his own research.

The advertising authority therefore feels that therefore the ad is in violation of article 11.2 of its own code, which states that advertising and other programming must be clearly separated. Since the authority has no legal, er, authority, it can only ask the advertiser to stop broadcasting this particular ad.

De Hond responded on Twitter: “Glad they did not say ‘not reliable enough!'”

(Photo by DJ, TV host, Wikipedian and De Hond’s son Marc, some rights reserved.)

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April 21, 2009

Open Source car

Filed under: Automobiles,Design,Technology by Branko Collin @ 10:14 am

In 2005 the well-known Stichting Natuur en Milieu foundation (Foundation for Nature and Environment) asked students of the three technological universities (Delft, Eindhoven, Twente) to invent the car for the year 2020. This is what they came up with, called the c’mm’n, and the first thing you will notice is that it doesn’t fly. The car that is, not or not necessarily the concept.

So, for the car geeks out there, here are the dirty details (Dutch):

  • Thermoplastic exterior
  • Aerodynamic shape
  • Mega-iPhone-like dashboard that lets you play GTA IV while the auto-pilot drives the car
  • Configurable driver’s seat that makes it impossible for other drivers to seek eye contact
  • Memory foam back seat
  • Active suspension (makes the car stick to the road better)
  • Frame that doubles as a shockabsorber
  • Fully electrical powertrain
  • Optional diesel range extender (the so-called engineering booth makes it possible for you to compose your own car and calculate the effects of your choices)

They seem to have put more thought into the ‘car of the future’ bit than into the ‘open source’ bit—the c’mm’n people still have to decide on the license. I understand that can be a tricky thing but on the other hand even Ford, which isn’t in the business of giving away its products, at least opened up its press photography.

(Link: Source photo:

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December 15, 2008

Revolving door generates power

Filed under: Sustainability,Weird by Branko Collin @ 10:11 am

As if it isn’t bad enough that since they privatized, the national railroad monopolist barely seems to manage to run a train on time, to boot the NS (Dutch Railways) has now resorted to forced labour. Everybody passing through this revolving door helps the Driebergen-Zeist railway station generate a little bit of electricity. According to an enthousiastic manufacturer, Boon Edam, this is the world’s first energy generating revolving door and a breakthrough in “entrance technology.” There’s a word I bet you did not know existed. They estimate the amount of revolutions to be a scientific “gazillion times.”

The electricity thus won is used to illuminate a sign that says how much electricity the door has generated so far.

Link: Forever Geek. Photo Boon Edam.

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