December 22nd, 2007

My world

A few days ago, it started freezing in hazy weather. While it will all be gone by tomorrow (we ice-skated most winters on ditches, small canals and shallow marshes when we were kids, that seems to be a thing of the past now), the sudden ultra bright morning sun and cloudless sky combined with the slowly grown crystals made for these pretty pictures. It’s not deposited snow or frozen ice rain. While it is not Alaska, enjoy.




December 21st, 2007

The hariri tribunal

My country, in line with the International Court and the Yugoslavia tribunal, and it’s ambition to become the “judicial capital of the world”, will host the international tribunal investigating the murder on Lebanese prime minister Hariri. The tribunal will be held in a suburb of The Hague (see side note on this entry). This might get interesting, with possible ties to i.e. Syria, Israel, or even more sinister connections.

December 21st, 2007

The Euro

After the 12 original countries (The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece, Finland and Ireland) changing their currency in a massive operation a few years ago, last year Slovenia joined. In January, again 2 smaller states, Malta and Cyprus, will start using the Euro.  320 mln out of the 495 mln inhabitants of the European Union use Euros. Slovakia will probably convert January 2009.

The Eurozone states need to adhere to some pretty strict rules regarding inflation, trade deficit, etcetera, so next to the emotional issue and the release of sovereign interest control, it is not simply a trade of one coin to the other.

December 20th, 2007

The hells angels

Public prosecutors have tried to nail the Hells Angels here several time for serious crimes, but never got compelling evidence straight. The largest case came to an end today (well there will be appeal) as the court threw out the entire case and let the suspects go. Reason? Misused phone taps: In my country, communication between suspects and their lawyers is private. If a suspects phone is tapped, it’s of course possible he calls or is called by his lawyer. The rule is that as soon as it’s clear such a conversation is being tapped, the tapping should be ended, transcripts should bes destroyed and investigators nor the court will be informed about the content. In this case, possibly 900 calls between suspects and lawyers ended up in the case files.

As it could not be unraveled which information could have been used against which suspects for which crimes, aka, which evidence should have been tossed out of the case, the court decided to do the only thing they could, denying the prosecution to proceed with the case.

They judged the severeness of the crimes the Angels were accused of, was of no importance to that decision. The breach of the fundamental right of a suspect to have a private conversation with his lawyer,is undermining the trust in the judicial system. In the ruling words like “serious, massive and repeated breaching of these rules”.

It’s beyond me the prosecution and police did not follow the clear cut rules for such a high-brow case. It is said several members of the investigation team repeatedly asked for the (mandatory) destruction of this material to not hamper the case.

Earlier on the nest: The protection of journalists.

December 16th, 2007

The fearful superpower

Interesting op-ed by newsweek:

(…) Then came 9/11. Ever since the attacks, the United States has felt threatened and under siege and determined to carve out maximum room to maneuver. But where Americans have seen defensive behavior, the rest of the world has looked on and seen the most powerful nation in human history acting like a caged animal, lashing out at any and every constraint on its actions.

At the heart of this behavior is fear. Americans have become scared of the new world that is emerging around them. As long as this atmosphere of fear envelops U.S. politics, it will surely produce very similar results abroad. Washington’s real task, therefore, is to combat such unthinking emotion.

It is really an interesting, and rather short read. Coming from newsweek makes it, I guess, not that suspicous and I can tell you, being a western-world, but not an American, it feels like a rather balanced and recognizable analysis.

December 15th, 2007

The helicopter and santa

Last Wednesday, a Dutch air force Apache helicopter hit a high voltage line where it crosses the “Waal” river, the largest river in my wet, wet country. They made an emergency landing in a nearby meadow, but of course the lines went down, into the river, cutting off 100.000 people from electricity (fridges, heaters, light, the lot) and because of the very complex situation (unusually high poles, an unusually long crossing, the busy river), it took a frigging 2 full days to repair. Add to that a 2 days closure of a very busy river connecting Germany’s biggest industrial area (“ruhrgebiet”) with the largest harbor in the world (“Rotterdam”). Today, comedian Youp van ‘t Hek published this item.

The pilot looked down, overseeing the muddy area and was struck by a wave of melancholy. Strong melancholy. Softly he hummed a tune and his thoughts wandered to childhood images. “December” was the title of the old school image where as a youngster he had been staring at for almost a year. Each time the lesson was boring his eyes were drawn to the crowded drawing. Frozen locks between snow covered, children sledging, ready to make a real snowman with carrot nose, coal eyes, a beautiful hat, a thick scarf around his neck and knots on his belly. Stern skaters with a cake and cocoa, that looked so good he almost smelled the chocolate.

The farms spewed slow smoke streaks and he could see how nice and cozy it was inside. The pre television era. No Internet, a board game, the soft noise of folding clean sheets. In the warm stable the happy cows sighted.

The pilot asked whether he was looking at progress. A jammed A2 freeway, with crawling traffic both ways, the sad new office buildings spewing out bright white fluorescent light. Glass showcases filled to the brim with caddish BMW’s and the plastic road restaurant.

(…) The pilot looked closer now. He could cry, cry over nothing. Cry over the loss. Where was the cold? Where were the skates? The thick sweaters? The snow? The ear warmers? And the opinion of a grandfather to stack old newspapers under your sweater to to say warm? The hot water bottle? The hot stove? The soup on the petroleum stove? The pilot saw car parks full of cars that were all similar. All John Does. In the offices were men. Men in suits. And there were also women! The women looked all alike or wanted to look alike. Women all softly doubting whether to silicone or not.

And then the pilot saw the reindeer. Seven moose’s made out of lights pulled a cheering Santa Claus. Santa Claus was made from LEDs. A few sheep looked at their watch while they whispered to each other that it is still a long way from Christmas. A horse ran sideways because it had been trained like that, dancing sideways to awful music. The horse cried in silence. His grandfather had pulled a flatbed, his father a plough, and he, he got a gay curly perm in his neck hair because people thought it looked nice. Elastic socks on its ankles and strange hair. Very strange hair.

He thought about his upcoming Christmas diners. He saw a cafe with a Santa Claus attached to the roof. He saw seven cafes with seven Santa Clauses to the roof. He saw eighty Santa Clauses and eighty cafes, and that is when he snapped. He did see the pole, he did see the lines, even if he denied that later. He saw them very clear. He sent his helicopter down. Dexterous and knowingly. This was better for everyone. Tears ran down cheeks. He was crazy. The others were sane. Completely sane.

Yeah, the largest artificial Christmas tree in the world (1000 feet transmitter pole), less than a mile from where I live was lit yesterday too.

Disclaimers: My and googles translation. Not entirely fair use I guess. And he has a way with language, not everthing here is translated cutting corners, the original has those unexpected twists too.

December 13th, 2007

The AMS-IX and Wikipedia

The Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), the largest interconnect in the world (meaning, it connects internet providers, carriers and huge IP centric companies like think Google), donated a 1GB/s port to Wikimedia, the Company behind Wikipedia. AMS-IX is a not for profit foundation, financed on a pure cost basis by the companies they interconnect. The link will add capacity to handle 10.000 requests per second to Wikipedia. At peaks, over 50.000 request arrive per second to Wikipedia. Traffic has doubled in a years time. From the press release:

Amsterdam/St. Petersburg, December 12, 2007 – The Wikimedia foundation, the international non-profit organization behind Wikipedia, and the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) have joined forces for “the good of the Internet.” Both non-profits strive to enable Internet progress and generally improve the user experience.

For the geeks: photo gallery, drool, drool.

December 12th, 2007

The butchers of Sarajevo

Last year, the Serbian general Stanislav Galic, in charge of the siege of Sarajevo (think artillery and snipers, your probably remember the heart breaking photo of the two lovers gunned down by a sniper), got life imprisonment by the Yugoslavia tribunal in The Hague (my country). Today, his succesor in that nasty siege, Dragomir Milosevic, got 33 years. The Serbian administration was heavily criticized by parting main procecutor Carla Del Ponte for refusing to catch the crooks Mladic and Karadzic.

Sidenote:  Believe it or not, the US government signed the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (ASPA) introduced by Jesse Helms in 2002 that OK-ed the invasion of my country should an American soldier be held prisoner here for the international court and several countries were arm-pushed into a bilateral non-extradition to the international court.

December 12th, 2007

The chase (case?) for open standards

The administration is actively seeking the use of open document standards in their systems. Earlier they formally embraced PDF, and now ODF is added to that.

In a rather silly, but predictable response, Microsoft critisized this move openly, stating the state “limited itself by adopting a standard that is hardly used” and “rules out suppliers with a certain development or business model”.

Well. First of all, even while they are the biggest player in this market, who is Microsoft to criticize a (for them) foreign government, who has and is spending massive amounts of tax payers money on their software? Secondly, who put in all their power to push a completely unnecessary and next to incomprehensible own “standard” through ISO, instead of writing a decent plug-in to handle ODF, which, for heaven sake, Sun already did? It’s only the most ignorant people who fall for the argument that the format is favoring or pushing out Microsoft. MS could write that plug in in a rainy wednesday afternoon. The reason they choose not to is exactly the argument they use against using standard formats: it enables users to switch to a better, or cheaper, or more suiting product. As they arguably already have the best product, there is nothing they should fear. Spin, spin, spin.

Related: The city of Amsterdam has finished a study to see if using open source software would be feasible for their most simple straightforward workstations (about 30%). Think Ubuntu, although they used Suse in their study. Turned out it was, worked nicely and stable, and was cheaper in hardware, licensing and maintenance than closed software. The study will be extended to cover more complex workstations.

December 11th, 2007

The world of pictures revisited

Please read this previous post about the placement of pictures in 3D space. Think with me for a moment. This card (I bought one) appears as a standard memory card to your camera.

Eye Fi

The bloody cool thing hunts for open wifi internet access and uploads your pictures automatically to Flick, or Picassa (Google), or Microsoft, Facebook (yeah sure, after the Beacon debacle). And of course the camera adds the timestamp and zoom factor. Some camera’s add already GPS coordinates; I am pretty sure within 5 years that will be a totally standard feature. Give it two more years, and the camera will also add 2 dimensional directional coordinates, in other words, embedded in tags in the pictures is a complete record of where it was taken, where the camera was pointing to and what the field view was. Want to get really paranoia (or realistic)? Count on the camera adding a owner tag (“Jakes Minolta”), but also the camera’s serial number to the photo files. And you still want them uploaded to MySpace? Walmart? Snapfish? Crawled my Google, Microsoft, Yahoo ir IBM? Displayed as seen in that other post? With your name either openly or hidden added to it? I didn’t think so either. The data world is getting scary.

Added: The eye-fi refuses to work on my Konica Minolta Dimage 600.