August 18, 2010

Russian goes free thanks to Google translation error

Filed under: Online,Weird by Orangemaster @ 11:24 am

A Russian trucker in Dordrecht involved in a bar brawl was released because the summons he received was poorly translated from Dutch into Russian using Google translate. When the trucker was being questioned at the police station, he had a Russian interpreter and claimed to have understood what he had to do, although he never signed the summons.

The Russian interpreter showed up in court, but not the trucker. She was asked to then translate what was written in the summons. Instead of (here I am translating this from Dutch) ‘you are to appear in court on 3 August 2010’, it went more like ‘you have to avoid being in court on 3 August 2010’. In Dutch, ‘vóórkomen’, with the stress on the first syllable, means ‘to appear’, while ‘voorkómen’ means ‘to prevent’.

With Google translate, the Dutch infinitive verb ‘voorkomen’ (no way to indicate which of the two identically spelled verbs you want translated) still today produced the infinitive verb ‘to prevent’ ‘предотвращать’ (imperfective aspect) and not even a hint of the perfective aspect of the same verb, ‘предотвратить’. In any decent dictionary both aspects are given so people can use the right one.

In Russian, if you pronouce the perfective verb ‘to write’ ‘написать’ with the wrong stress, you’re pissing instead of writing, so yes, stress matters.


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July 31, 2010

Even the Google Streetview camera respects Baarle’s Belgian borders

Filed under: History,Weird by Branko Collin @ 12:51 pm

Baarle is a town in the Netherlands … and Belgium. It contains 39 Belgian enclaves on Dutch soil and 5 Dutch enclaves on Belgian soil, and some of them are inside each other, so that you get “this whole ridiculous Russian Doll situation,” to quote New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody duo.

The dashed line you see in the photo above is one of the borders, and as you can see, the Google Streetview car refuses to drive onto Belgian territory. I am not sure why that is, but perhaps it is because Belgian copyright law prohibits the publishing of photos of architecture.

A pity really, because otherwise you could have taken a virtual tour of one of the politically strangest towns in the world.

See also: Murder on the border.

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July 16, 2010

Google to scan 160,000 National Library books

Filed under: General,Literature,Online by Orangemaster @ 11:03 am

Google books has received the green light on 14 July from the Dutch National Library to scan more than 160,000 public domain books from the 18th and 19th centuries. The scanned books will then be available on the library’s website and on Europeana, an online library with six million books. Scanning is going to take years, after which the books will be available again physically in the library. We wrote about the library’s ambitious plans earlier this year.

The collection features a wide range of historical, legal and social works, including Jan ten Brink, author and professor of Dutch literature, tutor of great Dutch author, Louis Couperus and L.A. te Winkel and Matthias de Vries, co-editors of the Dictionary of the Dutch Language.

According to Nrcnext as well as the Seattle Times, there is a worry that by being the sole administrator of all these books as well as turning a profit on them, Google will have too much power over the digital book market. “Our cultural heritage is not Google’s to have,” explains Geert Lovink, a media theoretician, in Nrcnext. He believes other companies can handle some of the scanning and distribution as well, even though he thinks the generally idea is good.

(Links:, and seattletimes)

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August 30, 2009

Alphabet created from Google Earth images of the Netherlands

Filed under: Online,Photography by Branko Collin @ 11:09 am

Over at the Google Earth forums, a user called Thomas de Bruin has assembled a complete alphabet made of shapes spotted in the Dutch landscape by the Google aerial cameras.

He has created capitals, small letters, and all kinds of miscellaneous characters, such as the ten digits and the euro character. You will also find a KMZ file there, so that (if you have a copy of Google Earth installed) you can look up what part of the Netherlands you are looking at.

(Link: Google Earth Blog.)

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July 21, 2009

Vote for the next Google Street View target

Filed under: Bicycles,Dutch first by Branko Collin @ 9:16 am

Google has had a tricycle custom built to take photos in locations that Street View cars and vans have difficulty accessing. They already had the trike take pictures in Italy and the United Kingdom, and now it is heading to the Netherlands.

If you like, you can vote which Dutch locations will get the Street View treatment, candidates include the old Parliament buildings, the Efteling theme park, and the Scheveningen boulevard which sports the only pleasure pier of the country.

(Link: Algemeen Dagblad. Photo of an Efteling dragon by Jeroen Kransen, some rights reserved)

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May 17, 2009

Site convicted for Google’s automatic abstracts

Filed under: Automobiles,Online by Orangemaster @ 1:44 pm

If the case of car dealer Zwartepoort against website has been in the news before, it can only have been as the sort of easily mocked example of how some folks start lawsuits over really anything and everything, no matter how trivial and unwinnable their cases are. But now Zwartepoorte have gone and won theirs. When you searched Google for the company name, you would get amongst others a result from seemingly explaining the car dealer had gone bankrupt. You know the type:

Full name: Zwartepoorte. Specialty: BMW … This company has gone bankrupt.

These abstracts are machine generated. Google takes disparate phrases from a website and combines them into an abstract. obviously feels that the wrong people have been sued. told De Telegraaf (Dutch): “If the search result were to imply or insinuate that Zwartepoorte has gone bust, it would be Google’s responsibility, not ours.” I would take that a step further and say that nobody should have been sued in the first place.

It will be interesting to see what reasoning judge Sj. A. Rullman will come up with to explain her judgment. Meanwhile, I am waiting with trepidation to be sued by BMW car dealers, as I have my own story of the power of Google to tell. The last few weeks of December I got a constant stream of phone calls from people wishing to buy a nice shiny Beamer. My initials are B.M.W., and as it turns out I used to be the first link people would find when they googled for “BMW Amsterdam,” displayed prominently as part of Google Business with a map and a phone number. It got so bad that I stopped answering the phone, and started the message on my machine with the statement that “I am not a BMW dealer.” I must has cost some poor sod a lot of lost business that way.

Update: fixed type “” to “” Thanks, Nico.

Link: Iusmentis (Dutch). Photo by Gyver Chang, some rights reserved.

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December 11, 2008

Googling for Google

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 1:00 pm

“The Dutch don’t know how to Google,” thinks (Dutch). Google has recently published its Zeitgeist 2008, a list of the things people have been googling for this year. The Dutch top 5:

  1. hyves
  2. youtube
  3. marktplaats
  4. google
  5. weer

(Emphasis mine. Marktplaats is the Dutch eBay, “weer” means weather.)

Yes, that’s right, the Dutch google “Google” to get to Google. Don’t gloat yet, as the lists for other countries look surprisingly similar, with the names of typical Dutch sites replaced by local favourites. As Bright points out, these results likely have more to do with “the bankruptcy of the address bar” than with a sudden dumbing down of society.

Here’s a clip from hit British series The IT Crowd called “Never Ever Type Google Into Google”

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August 31, 2008

Dutchman wins Google prize

Filed under: Online by Orangemaster @ 8:00 am

The final phase of Android Developer Challenge I is now complete. Out of 50 teams of finalists, 10 teams received a $275,000 award each and 10 teams received a $100,000 award each. One of the $275,000 winners is Eric Wijngaard with his mobile operating system PicSay.

PicSay allows you to quickly add word balloons, titles, and props to the pictures you have taken with your mobile phone camera. Enhance them further with various color correction, highlighting, and distortion effects, and then easily share them with your friends and family via e-mail, your blog, or photo sharing sites on the web.


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July 31, 2008

Google up against Dutch cleaning machine company

Filed under: Online by Orangemaster @ 8:31 am

Google’s recent announcement to launch Knol, a portmanteau for Knowledge Portal, cannot register the domain as it has been owned by a Dutch cleaning machine company of the same name in Dordrecht, South Holland for years.

The amusing part is that all of sudden Knol’s website is immensely popular, as the world assumed Google owned When I heard of the project, my first impression was that it sounded Dutch, and now I know why. Hilco Knol in true Dutch merchant style was quoted as saying, “It will get interesting if they [Google] come with a six-zero figure since the Dutch tax office will take 52% of the amount that I would get for selling the website name. An offer of a million or more would be much sweeter.”


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