Change of e-mail address

Effective immediately I will be reachable at kris (at) instead of my old alias (or in addition to when mail comes online again). The e-mail address attached to my Bugzilla accounts will be changed in the coming days as well.

I will not be rewriting my e-mail address in commit history, but will start committing with my e-mail address from today on.

The Hague has a University??

In a blog post it was mentioned that GUADEC will be held at The Hague University this year. I immediately wondered; does The Hague have a University?? Although The Hague is the political capital of the Netherlands, it does not have a University. Looking at the English website of this “University”, they call themselves “The Hague University of applied science”, with “of applied science” in a very tiny font. And that is the correct name, since it is not a regular, real University. Right now they can use the shorter “The Hague University” even though they are not a University because the name University is not protected by law in the Netherlands. In Dutch the name “hogeschool” or HBO is used for this kind of educational institutes, I hear this is similar to “Fachhochschule” in German.

More and more “hogescholen” in the Netherlands are naming themselves Universities, which I think is a shame and misleading. Why misleading? These institutes are not allowed to hand out the academic BSc or MSc degrees, they can only offer “professional” bachelor or master degrees. Some actually offer BSc and MSc education, but they can only do so by using course material of a recognized University that can actually hand out these academic degrees. In this case, you will not receive a BSc or MSc from this “hogeschool”, but from that recognized University. Pure re-sale of education. Things like this are not clearly stated on their website and might be very misleading to prospective foreign students (who will hopefully look more closely to see what kind of degrees are actually offered). Why a shame? It might devaluate the proper academic degrees that people have obtained at a real University because of confusion and fraud.

Most likely this is being caused by the shitty state of education in the Netherlands. Especially at these “universities of applied science” the focus is on making money and not on providing proper education to the students. (Yes, there are real world examples of this). This focus results in appointing leaders that have no clue about teaching, only about making money. Add to this a secondary school system that has been changed twice or thrice in the last 10 years and is still failing, a system wherein Universities are paid by the number of graduated students but not by quality of education and research, and a constant threat of cutting budgets even further, and you have a recipe for failure. The Dutch government has ambitions to offer the best education in the world, but is falling short due to mismanagement across the board.

The good news is that legislation is apparently in the works to protect usage of “universiteit”, “university” and “hogeschool”.

Taking on a new challenge

During my graduation a new opportunity popped up on my path. After long contemplation I decided to take it on. Since October 1st, I am a PhD student in the Computer Systems group at LIACS, Leiden University. Under Professor Wijshoff I will be working on databases and compiler optimizations. For most of our implementation work we are using LLVM, which is incredibly nice to work with and its future is looking very promising. Exciting times.

I also remain associated with Lanedo, providing expert help and advice.

Privacy took another hit this week

With the introduction of obligatory finger prints in Dutch passports this week, privacy has taken another hit. When applying for a new passport (or identity card), it will be mandatory to provide four finger prints. Two of these will end up in the RFID chip in the travel document. This is due to EU legislation and will be implemented in all European countries.

As an added bonus, all Dutch finger prints will be stored in a central database, accessible by the Police. Scary, considering that the Netherlands has 12 times as much telephone taps on its inhabitants compared to the United States. It has to be noted that the EU legislation does not require this at all!

For a few years now, I have been refusing the enter the United States. Main reason: you are mandated to supply all 10 finger prints at the border. You can easily choose to not enter the US anymore. When your own country starts implemented such unnecessary rules, it becomes much harder. Adults are required to carry ID. You need an ID for getting a job, a house, an Internet connection, almost everything you need in life.

Many people will say: “Who cares? You have nothing to hide, do you?”. Sure you do, I don’t know much people who would write their credit card credentials on their front door, for everybody to read. But this is not the point, it gets scary once the data collected will be used against you. Fraud with finger prints is absolutely not unheard of, the CCC already researched this in 2004. Identity theft will become much easier, since finger prints are stored in the RFID it is easily read out wirelessly. These can then subsequently be faked. People usually try to find a balance between privacy and safety for these kind of things. Since many highly value safety, they have no problem to turn in some of their privacy. The problem with finger prints is that it provides absolutely no safety at all.

An interesting remark I found on this was about access verification based on finger prints. Now that you have to carry your ID with you, with the finger prints on the RFID, you basically always carry your “password” with you. Free to read out from 5 to 100 meters. We can be pretty sure the encryption scheme for passports will be hacked, if it has not been hacked already.

Fortunately, I got a new identity card for travel in Europe last Summer, so I should be “safe” for another 4.7 years…

Finally BSc. And moved to Amsterdam.

Well the hard work over the last 1.5 years has finally paid off. As far as I know I have fulfilled all requirements for my BSc degree (in Computer Science). The new thesis for this turned out to be quite an interesting work dealing with a supercomputer cluster and DNA data (titled “Distributed approaches for discovering unique factors in the human genome”). When you search for unique substrings in DNA data, the amount of data you get in return is quite amazing. Another cool thing was that I finally got to play with MPI.

Right now I am working on the last bits for my MSc degree (did a lot of work in parallel with finishing my BSc already). In one of the last projects I am having fun with SQL parsers and LLVM. LLVM seems very interesting. Hope to have this all done before the summer.

Since my move to Amsterdam I am without Internet connection at home. It is very weird (and actually bloody annoying) to be without Internet at home, and that already for 3 weeks … I hope these people will get their act together soon. Fortunately I am still a student and Universities have pretty decent wireless ;)

A very short introduction to …

Last year I spent more time traveling than ever before. At the start of the year I again found out that using a laptop in economy class is pretty much impossible. So for air travel, I resorted to reading. Another problem showed up: most Computer Science related books I own (except maybe “Refactoring” by Fowler) are also too large/heavy to be conveniently read in economy class. Try reading “Head First Design Patterns” in a plane and you will know what I mean ;).

In a shopping spree trying to find suitable (non-computer science, since I read enough of that for my studies already) books to read on planes I stumbled upon the “A very short introduction to” series from Oxford University Press. These are wonderfully small and well written books available in a wide variety of subjects. The first time I was reading such a book on the plane, the person sitting next to me (attempting to read a newspaper), immediately commented on the convenient form factor of the book. I’ve finished the edition on “Galaxies” and am currently reading the one on “Quantum Theory”. I will definitely be buying more of these, though with my girlfriend finally having moved back from Spain the amount of plane travel will be much, much less :).

To get back to my last blog entry, the attempt to get back into blogging regularly has obviously failed. But we will see how it goes in this new year. I’ve been completely swamped with University work over the last few months; but still the prospects of finishing my degrees before the Summer are standing strong.