Locked Down
Some Russian at Internet provider Hostkey is repeatedly trying to login to this blog. Уважаемый, пожалуйста, прекратите это делать, иначе я свяжусь с Андреем.

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Lynx
Lynx is the good old text-only Web browser for use on terminals. Compile, make and install Lynx with SSL support as follows:

$ curl -O http://lynx.isc.org/lynx2.8.7/lynx2.8.7.tar.bz2
$ tar xjvf lynx2.8.7.tar.bz2
$ cd lynx2-8-7
$ ./configure --with-ssl && make
$ sudo make install

On Mac OS X, Lynx will then be installed at /usr/local/bin/lynx
Happy text browsing on this official first day of summer!

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MusicWhy is it that certain songs are very pleasant to the human ear? Is there a silver bullet to compose a hit wonder? I remember the first time I heard that famous guitar intermezzo in Mike Oldfield’s “Moon Light Shadow”; it was plain bliss. The human brain must have a fascination for certain patterns that appear in successful melodies. Let’s investigate this a bit more.

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GravityThe Dutch theoretical physicist Erik Verlinde will soon publish an article about his new interpretation of gravity. He conjectures that the gravitational force that we experience is the consequence of the amount of energy it costs to move information around: gravity is an entropic force.

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FFmpeg

(updated September 26, 2011)

FFmpeg (http://www.ffmpeg.org) is open source software to record, convert and stream audio and video in numerous formats.

The FFmpeg package requires the following external libraries, which are to be downloaded separately:

  • LAME (Lame Aint an MP3 Encoder), a high quality MPEG Audio Layer III (MP3) encoder
  • FAAC/FAAD2 (Freeware Advanced Audio Coder and Decoder 2), an implementation of the AAC audio compression format.
  • SDL (Simple DirectMedia Layer), is a multimedia library that provides access to graphics, sound, and input devices via OpenGL, and the 2D-video framebuffer.

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World Peace
The Dutch thriving public transport system is used by many to travel to work every day packed like a can of worms, to do mostly civil servant jobs in air-conditioned work places. We share coffee machines, have the habit of shaking hands with strangers, and many people greet vague acquaintances with our famous three kisses on the cheek. Read the rest of this entry »

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IT News 2010
At the end of this year, it’s not the time to look back, but to look forward! I’d even like to fast-forward, to skip 2009, and hereby present my technology predictions for 2010.

e-Health
The Wireless Body Area Network (WBAN) will be introduced, which is a first step towards true telemedicine (m-health). Read the rest of this entry »

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Social NetworkAlthough a recent item in the Dutch newspaper Parool states that in many European countries Internet use has still significantly risen over the last year, in Holland it has decreased for the first time: we have 50.000 regular users less! Holland has the highest percentage of Internet users in Europe, presently about 70% of the total population. This is not surprising because the neccessary infrastructure (ADSL or Cable) is available to nearly all households. So, how can this lack of further growth (or even a small decline) of Internet use be explained?

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Tournedos with mushrooms, baked patatoes and broccoli sounds pretty basic. However, I can be picky about my steak. As you probably know, a steak’s degree of cooking usually is rare, medium, or well-done. In France they serve an additional option called “blue” (or very rare): quickly flip over your steak twice; only for people who are into the blood department. I’m not. My ideal steak should in fact be medium-rare, as I explained to the friendly waitress.

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SmurfsOn New Year’s Eve 2008 the evil sorcerer Gargamel captures 100 Smurfs and locks them up in his completely dark cellar. In there, he removes their white hats and randomly puts each Smurf a hat on from his collection of 10 red and 90 white hats. When finished, he tells them one or more Smurfs now wear a red hat and they have to find out who do, but they have to obey the following rules.

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Internet MeshThat’s what I used to read in some newsgroups during the 90’s. Back then, the number of usenet postings was already growing exponentially. The bad “signal” to “noise” ratio, i.e. rubbish versus useful postings, led to predictions of the imminent collapse of the net.

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MacBook keyboardI’ve updated my list of free recommended applications for Mac OS X 10.4+. So far I’ve found no good reason to run Windows instead of Mac OS X for all daily tasks.

  • AdiumX - free instant messaging application that can connect to AIM, MSN, Jabber, Yahoo, and more.

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Matsumoto Castle (Matsumotojo)Dear readers, I’ve just returned from a great holiday in Japan. Our semi-organised trip went roughly from the northeast to the southwest of Japan: Tokyo, Utsukushi-ga-hara-kogen, Matsumoto, Kiso, Kyoto, Nara, Kurishiki, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Sandankyo, and finally Fukuoka. Below are some of my observations about Japan.

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MacBook keyboard

After I bought my MacBook last February, I’ve become a serious Mac addict. What Microsoft brainwashing never managed to achieve with slick duo presentations (look Jim it codes itself!) at TechEd, Steve Jobs did. I admit I’ve watched every possible Apple video that can be found in the cloud. From the Mac vs. PC series and iPhone demos to every keynote, speech or interview Apple’s CEO ever gave.

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The faun from Pan's Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del fauno) is a two hour must see movie that has left me enchanted and somewhat sad. It tells the story of young Ofelia, stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer, who survives harsh reality by escaping into a fantasy world. Director Guillermo del Toro shows us how children still have the ability to dream and use magic to make their life (and end) more bearable.

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Do the math before you roll the dice

Every once in a while I have to convince people that statistics is a counter-intuitive and very difficult discipline. Let me give you some intriguing examples that illustrate you should never trust your intuition to estimate probabilities. Remember this article next time you’re tempted to attribute supernatural powers to somebody that knows personal information about you which seems impossible to guess.

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Climate change

Climate change righteously got a lot of attention the past year. Not only by public plea of celebrities Al Gore and Bill Clinton, but also in many scientific journals like Science and Nature.

In other words, our climate is a “hot” topic, it is “in the air” and “on everybody’s (albeit sunburned) lips”. So, I decided also to do my part by publishing the 2006 Climate Logbook, i.e. climate related news items collected from various sources.

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The Cold WarMaarten van Rossem is Professor of American Studies (in Dutch: Amerikanistiek) at the University of Utrecht. He is also known in the Netherlands for his elaborate and witty comments on TV about current political affairs. Last evening Robbert, Micha and I attended his 2½ hour (including a short break) lecture “The Cold War (part I)”.

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Last Tango In ParisBernardo Bertolucci’s “Last Tango In Paris” is this weeks’ special in film cafe ‘t Hoogt in Utrecht. Its lead actor Marlon Brando (1924-2004) is widely considered the greatest movie actor of all time. So there was no way I was gonna miss this one. Going to the theatre for a classic movie beats watching a DVD at home anytime.

Since I welcome contributions to this blog by others, I asked my good friend Robbert to write a review about Last Tango in Paris. So here goes ….

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Saint Basil's Cathedral at the Red SquareGaston and I have just returned from a great holiday (city trip) in Russia. We visited both Saint Petersburg (11 days) and Moscow (2 days). Instead of staying in expensive hotels, we decided to rent apartments which has many advantages: it is cheaper (half the price of an equivalent hotel room), you have more living space, cooking facilities, and it is not so touristic. If you choose well you will really live among the locals.

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A cup of coffeeOccasionally, Sunday afternoon is sacred to me. Then I just sit down in cafe ‘t Hoogt and read a newspaper and do a little writing all by myself. Personnell must have long ago observed I’m here once every couple of weeks and only on Sunday, reading the Saturday paper. I know the small crowd, for example, there is a guy who I always just nod to when I come in, I’ll never talk to him and we both know it.

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Your typical crowded barLast Saturday four friends ate at cafe ‘t Oude Pothuys in Utrecht. After that they all went to ‘t Gras Van De Buren, and later on the singles moved to cafe Hofman. Finally, two of them, Gaston and I, visited the quieter cafe Belgie until 3:00am. We had a good time and enough alcoholic beverages to cloud our judgement. However, Gaston and I later on agreed that going out to crowded noisy bars is a highly overrated experience. Why do we think so?

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Scene from the movie Inside ManIts 7.5 rating at IMDB was a tell tale sign and made Robbert and me decide to watch the movie Inside Man in Utrecht’s Rembrandt theatre.

The storyline of Inside Man (2006, directed by Spike Lee) is at first sight straightforward. Like Ocean’s 11, it is centered around the ever so popular perfect bank robbery theme, but many things are different right from the start.

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WordPress logoToday I changed hosting technology and will continue blogging using Wordpress. It will take some time until I have reinstated all articles from my previous blog (note Sept. 2006: restored two more old articles).

Wordpress’s web enabled editor produces valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional, which is very nice. Furthermore, it separates content, style and functionality, which is a prerequisite for any decent web CMS. Anyway my dear readers, I will be playing around with Wordpress the coming weeks so don’t be surprised if this blog’s look&feel will change drastically from time to time.

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Rose'sSaturday late afternoon. Sanne, Robbert and I drove to Arnhem. Rumour has it the Rijnkade houses a variety of interesting restaurants. Since temperatures were sub zero, we didn’t hesitate long to pick one. It seemed we had stopped in front of Rose’s Lounge. One peek inside had us collectively crying out: this place looks very wrong, very kitsch! But in we went anyway, curious and ready for adventure.

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The IslandYesterday, I saw the movie The Island starring Ewan McGregor as Lincoln Six Echo, and Scarlett Johansson as Jordan Two Delta. Lincoln and Jordan, like many others, live inside a seemingly perfect hightech institute, safely hidden from the contaminated outside world. Occasionaly, there is a lottery and the happy winner is allowed to go to The Island, the only place outside which is not contaminated.

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Intelligent DesignIntelligent Design (ID), an alternative to Darwin’s Evolution Theory, is big in the Dutch press at the moment. According to its proponents, research reveals nature is constructed in such an ingenious way that there must be an Intelligent Design (a God) behind it all.

ID has many followers in the USA. In the Netherlands, there is a small group of protestant scientists (amongst them one Opus Dei member) of various disciplines that support ID. Our minister of education, Maria van der Hoeven, spoke with two of these proponents and now promotes the ID discussion with the idea to unify scientists of different backgrounds.

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IT NewsI had a dinner discussion with friends about the upcoming last stage of our current oil-based (fuel, materials) economy. By 2030, oil supplies will be nearly finished thus the price of oil will rise sky high. I hope we can eventually switch to a clean hydrogen based economy in which hydrogen fusion will only yield harmless Helium gas, and hydrogen burning just plain water.

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Burgess-Dunne Years ago, I bought a little old book with the mysterious title “An Experiment with Time” (1927) written by a certain J.W. Dunne. I found it by chance in a second hand bookshop. At that time, I scanned its content quickly with the intent of reading it more carefully later. Now I’m halfway through (it’s no easy read) and its contents baffles me. Could this book, obviously written by an intelligent man, have been overlooked? Could the author’s Theory of Time, make any sense? J.W. Dunne was, as I soon found out, a true Homo Universalis, a very versatile man who has been an inventor, a writer, a soldier and an accomplished aeronautical engineer. Why did we never hear about the man?

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Der UntergangThree Dutch film buffs drove to Kleve, Germany, to watch the fall of the dictator. We (Robbert, Maarten and I) arrived two hours before the start of the movie so we could enjoy large German beers and a perfect Schnitzel in the restaurant (annex Bierhaus) next door. Der Untergang tells the story of the last days of Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) in his hide-out, a bunker in Berlin. It is told from the perspective of Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge (1920-2002).

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The sky over Berlin was mostly clouded and rainy last week, but I nevertheless enjoyed my stay. I found East Berlin having more of a distinct atmosphere than West Berlin, which I think is — apart from the well-known beautiful spots — a normal large European city.

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BrainLast tuesday I attended a lecture about consciousness by Bas Haring, a Dutch A.I. researcher, philosopher, and author of the book “De ijzeren Wil”. What follows are my comments and additions to the contents of his talk.
Haring started with the question: “what is consciousness”? The French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) already wondered if we can be really sure that we (and the world around us) exist.

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DOS PromptI’ve recently found out about ADS (Alternate Data Streams), an obscure feature of the Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 file system NTFS. Because NTFS was designed to meet POSIX compliance, streams (”files within a file”) can be added to any file or directory.

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Nano tube” … ultimately, in the great future, we can arrange the atoms the way we want; the very atoms all the way down!”
Richard P. Feynman - There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom (talk at Caltech, Dec. 29, 1959)

The other day, my colleague Robbert and I attended a lecture about nanotechnology by Prof. Dr. Cees Dekker (Delft University of Technology). Nanotechology is the technology to display, manipulate and measure single atoms and molecules. “Nano” refers to the nanometer (nm), a unit of spatial measurement that is one billionth of a meter.

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The Voynich manuscriptThe Voynich manuscript is a 235 page medieval mystery that has attracted USA government crypto-analysts and nutcases alike. Named after antiquarian bookshop owner Wilfrid M. Voynich (1865-1930), a polish emigrant who came to London in 1891, the manuscript has baffled some of the world’s brilliant minds. Wilfrid Voynich discovered the mysterious manuscript, which is written in an unknown language or cipher, in the Villa Mondragone, a Jesuit College near the Italian town Frascati.

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