May 20, 2019

Dutch students put in quarantine during exams

Filed under: Weird by Orangemaster @ 8:49 pm

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March 22, 2019

Free housing in exchange for all your data in Helmond

Filed under: Dutch first,Science by Orangemaster @ 11:09 am

Binary code

In Helmond, Noord Brabant, there are plans to build a neighbourhood, called Living Lab, where people will be able to live for free, but there’s a catch: they’ll have to give up all their data.

Part of the Brainport Smart District, Living Lab will be the ‘smartest neighbourhood in the Netherlands’ with 1500 homes where 4000 people are expected to live. Their behaviour will generate a huge flow of data and that’s the goal. Basically, you’d be a guinea pig with free housing. Sensors will measure what you do, how you sleep, what you do online and whatever else companies will pay to find out.

Free living for only a year is not very practical, but considering how difficult it is to find a place in this country, I’m sure they will find 4000 people ready to give up their privacy, which is a bit sad in a way.

Toronto, Canada was the location of a similar project called Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. The difference is that this project hit a brick wall when it came to privacy and proprietary rights of the data.

Living Lab is on the edge of what is actually acceptable, which means it’s not out of the woods yet. But again, in a country where corruption is common in the housing market, having a free space to live that’s nice will have people willing to give up quite a bit of their lives. Let us not forget that social media seems free, but many of us are giving away our data there as well.

(Link: Bright)

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April 6, 2018

Commodore 64 chiptune based on Skype ringtone

Filed under: Music,Technology by Branko Collin @ 12:09 am

Helmond based, legendary 1980s home computer composer Jeroen Tel teamed up with LMan (Markus Klein) in February to enter CSDK’s “$11” Commodore 64 chiptune competition.

jeroen-tel-staffan-vilcansThe code $11 does not refer to a dollar amount, but to the value used for selection of the waveform; composers were only allowed to use a triangle wave for this contest.

Tel and Klein elected to take the famous Skype ringtone as the basis for a 2 minutes and 39 seconds long song called Skypeople.

They entered a second song called $11 Heaven, notable for the absence of arpeggios, a type of chord extensively used in the heyday of home computers when these devices lacked sophisticated sound chips that would have allowed for the playing of polyphonic chords. At least the Commodore 64 with its advanced SID sound chip allowed for three notes to be played at once.

Skypeople and $11 Heaven netted the two composers the 1st and 3rd prize respectively.

See also: Chiptune pioneer Jeroen Tel took on the British gaming giants

(Photo by Staffan Vilcans, some rights reserved; video YouTube / HierGibtEsJedenSch****)

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February 21, 2018

Personal computer museum to open in Helmond

Filed under: Gaming,General by Orangemaster @ 11:44 pm

On 17 March, the Home Computer Museum in Helmond, Noord-Brabant will open its doors. At noon, visitors will be able to check out a collection of old personal computers, gaming computers and arcade games. There’s also an arcade cafĂ©, 1980s films, a repairs corner, and more.

Thanks to crowdfunding, founder Bart van den Akker was able to raise the money needed to launch the museum. The city of Helmond also pitched in 7,000 euro for start-up costs and even an annual amount of 3000 euro for the next three years.


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November 20, 2017

Helmond Castle toasts a century of weddings

Filed under: Architecture,Art by Orangemaster @ 4:51 pm


Next year, the Museum Helmond in Helmond, Noord-Brabant will be featuring an exhibition entitled ‘100 Jaar Trouwen’ (‘100 Years of Weddings’), and is asking anyone who got married at Helmond Castle, where the museum is located, to send in some wedding pictures.

Anyone who sends in pictures might be featured in their exhibition. As well as pictures, the museum will also exhibit old wedding dresses to give visitors an idea of the bridal fashion worn from the 1920s until the present day. Send in your pics at

Helmond Castle is the biggest moated castle in the Netherlands. Besides the castle, the world-famous textile company Vlisco that sells wax print textiles in African countries is also located in Helmond.

(Link:, Photo:

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November 11, 2013

How to sabotage freedom of information requests in the Netherlands

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:51 am

Two angry blog posts in as many months show the state of freedom of information in the Netherlands. Long story short, the government wants everybody to be transparent except themselves.

In the past year political blog Sargasso directed 30 or so freedom of information requests at all levels of government. Their report of how they fared (the first court victories are expected next year) reads like a how-to for civil servants—how to sabotage freedom of information requests:

  • Be late in everything you do.
  • Split requests into multiple parts and reject them all separately.
  • Send ten-page-long rejection letters full of legalese.
  • Let the complaints committee reject the inevitable complaints.
  • Once forced by a court of law, redact the information you return to the point of illegibility.
  • Wash, rinse, repeat.

Dealing with all of these things takes time and money, of which the state possesses infinitely more than the average citizen or reporter.

Sargasso also noted that they had no troubles at all with FOI requests for non-sensitive subjects (e.g. how many restaurant permits does a city have). Only once they started digging into things like the presumably fraudulent past of the former mayor of Helmond, Fons Jacobs, did they run into a wall.

In August the Retecool blog made minced meat out of the argument that the fines governments have to pay for refusing to perform their legal duties were too high and the result of systemic fraud. Both the Vereniging Nederlandse Gemeenten (Association of Dutch municipalities) and Minister of the Interior Ronald Plasterk had argued as much.

Retecool (a not always SFW blog) pointed out that many municipalities only had to pay one or just a few fines in 2012 which hardly points to systemic abuse. The few cases where abuse seemed real ended up before the courts who had no troubles finding for the municipalities when the facts warranted it. The city of Eindhoven (200,000 inhabitants) paid the highest amount of fines of any place in the Netherlands. The 119,060 euro in fines they paid last year were for all requests they failed to process in time, not just FOI requests. Retecool contrasts this to the severance packages the city handed to its former employees, which was 150,000 euro in just the first 9 months of 2012. The blog contrasts Eindhoven’s fines with the cost of The Hague’s new year’s party, 125,000 euro in 2013. Sounds to me like the fines may not be high enough.

See also: No fees for freedom of information requests says Dutch Supreme Court

(Photo of the closed city of Severomorsk in Russia by Sergej Shinkarjuk, some rights reserved)

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May 4, 2013

Copper thief electrocutes himself

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:30 pm

Last Friday a man accidentally electrocuted himself in an abandoned building on Mierloseweg in Helmond, Noord-Brabant, the police believe.

Friday morning a citizen told the police that there was a fire on the premises of a vacant business. When the fire fighters arrived, it turned out there was a man on fire! Although the fire was extinguished, the man died.

During an investigation detectives discovered several copper wires near the corpse that they suspect the man had cut loose. The police believe the 26-year-old man from Beek en Donk had tried to steal the copper from the company’s high voltage area and had accidentally created a short circuit which caused the fire.

According to Wikipedia copper theft is big business in the Netherlands. Rail manager ProRail loses about 10 million euro a year due to copper theft. In 2007 a copy of Rodin’s Le Penseur was stolen by copper thieves from the garden of the Singer Museum in Laren.

(Photo by Johan Wieland, some rights reserved)

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November 10, 2012

Teenager from Helmond buys ticket to space

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:36 am

Last Sunday Rowin Hellings (18) from Helmond near Eindhoven bought himself a ride on a suborbital space flight.

The flights were being sold as part of a sales promotion by German consumer electronics chain Media Markt. In 2014 Hellings will be flying aboard an XCOR Lynx rocket plane. His ticket was sponsored by his parents and cost 73,333 euro, according to Eindhovens Dagblad.

Although Media Markt charged the regular price for the flight, they padded the purchase with 6,600 euro worth of consumer electronics.

Earlier this year Sabine van der Sluis (33) won a flight on the Lynx as part of a loyalty scheme promotion, AD wrote back then.

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October 19, 2009

Football cup that any team can win

Filed under: Sports,Weird by Branko Collin @ 8:34 am

The Helmond Cup is an unofficial football championship grafted onto official competitions. The team that beats the last champion in an official match becomes the new champion, so that you get a chain of champions across many unrelated competitions.

It was founded by the Huisman family from Hillegom, avid fans of Helmond Sport, a club that has yet to get out of the Dutch second division. Since it was founded in 2008, the Helmond Cup was won and held shortly by teams from the Netherlands, France, Ukraine and Spain. You can it follow its travels at the Ajaxtalk forums.

A similar cup is the Unofficial Football World Championships, founded by Scotland fans when Scotland beat archnemesis England, who were then the real world champions. Currently, the Netherlands hold that trophy, although we might lose it next month when playing Italy in a friendly match.

(Photo by Wikimedia user Carolus Ludovicus, some rights reserved.)


September 17, 2008

Amphibious bicycle: GBO’s Di-Cycle

Filed under: Bicycles,Design by Branko Collin @ 8:26 am

Dicycles are nothing new, and if you count styrofoam treadmills neither are floating dicycles. But I have yet to see something like GBO’s bike path hogging concept, amazingly called Di-Cycle, which can do both.

This true amphibuous bike won Helmond’s GBO the Brabantse Spelen design competition in 2005. Unfortunately, the design has never left the conceptual phase, but fortunately you can still go gawk at it at the Fiets exhibition that runs until October 5.

See also: Bike your house around.

Photo by Designhuis / Patrick Meis. Via PSFK and a long string of other design blogs.

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