Blik op de Weg

Blik op de Weg is a Dutch TV show following the traffic police of the Netherlands. It’s a lot like Police Camera Action in the UK. Through my vague understanding of the Dutch language, I managed to enjoy this week’s episode with a particular focus on tractors.

Among the mix was a 24-metre long tractor (had about four large trailers on the back of it), a 3.8 metre-wide tractor with large metal spikes (!) on each side. Cars and cyclists had to get well out of the way. After the police finally pulled it over, they attached some metal framework around the spikes and let him go!?

The little ‘feature’ of a bloke who’d been pulled for driving a quadbike on the road was a bit odd(I think they’re legally required to drive on the fietspad – cycle path). After the police had a chat, the programme then did a short interview with the teenage driver, including some footage of him showing off his souped up quad, driving at speed (80km/h!) on a cycle path. I’m sure if they did that in the UK somebody would complain about condoning reckless driving or something.

Anyway, Blik op de Weg also has a website, including one section where readers are invited to send in their own pictures ‘from the road’. Here are some of my favourites – I’ve seen a few before elsewhere on the net but some are new and very funny. Although the site is in Dutch it’s still fairly easy to navigate:

* Ok as a Brit I can explain – this sign appears after fords (small rivers that cross the road). It’s usually on the same pole as the ‘Ford’ road sign warning oncoming drivers of the hazard.

A new browser

Now that Firefox 2 is out, I decided to give it a go. A while ago I switched from Firefox to Flock, as it has very nice built-in tools for Flickr and blogging.

The only significant problem I’ve ever had (with Firefox and Flock) has been with the browser locking up for 20 seconds at a time, particularly (but not exclusively it seems) when loading a Flash-intensive page. Downloading a Flash blocker didn’t help, and I’ve trawled the (huge) Firefox bug tracker lists looking for solutions but to no avail.

Fortunately, touch wood and all that, Firefox 2 doesn’t seem to suffer from this problem. It’s a nice neat browser, fairly compact and seems to have a very quick, responsive interface and better loading times.

I can do without the Flickr niceties, so that isn’t a problem. Blogging capability is available using the Deepest Sender plugin (the About page cites ‘Depressed Teen’ as one possible anagram of this. ironic if you’ve even seen some of the blogs on Myspace …)

Odds n’ Sods

Okay, a few bits and pieces in my life recently, but nothing major (or interesting) enough to warrant a blog post. Instead, I bring more useful Windows (and general) tidbits:

  • If you want to bring up the original (read: less bloated) Media Player in Windows, click Start, Run and type mplayer2 then click OK. This was the one that was the main player in Windows 98 I think…
  • If you’re programming using ODBC and the thing is running painfully slowly, check that you haven’t got ODBC tracing switched on. Click Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Data Sources (ODBC) then click the Tracing tab. If it’s on switch it off. ODBC Tracing is phenomenally slow!
  • The progress bar in Internet Explorer is quite often faked and has no bearing on reality. If you’re loading websites (particularly dynamically generated ones) and the progress bar looks like it’s going up at a fairly even pace, view it with suspicion.
    Basically in many cases, websites don’t bother telling the browser in advance the size of the page. If the browser doesn’t know this, there’s no way for it to tell whether the page is almost done, or whether there’s a whole load more to come. So, it fakes it!
  • For a rundown of all the important parts of your computer (including system uptime, network cards, memory, etc.) go to Start > Run, type cmd to bring up the command prompt, then type systeminfo and then Enter. It’ll list a whole bunch of useful information.
  • If you want to drag and drop a file, but you realise immediately that the window you want to drop it to isn’t visible, drag your thing down to the taskbar and leave it over the window you want for a few seconds. The window will pop up and you can ‘drop’. Don’t ‘drop’ onto the taskbar itself; Windows will moan if you do this.
  • More drag and drop: did you know that you can (in many places) drag and drop text. It’s sometimes quicker/more convenient than using the clipboard. If you hold down Ctrl after you’ve started dragging (but before you drop) it’ll make a copy. This is also normally true if you drag and drop files.
  • If you have a tabbed environment (Firefox, for example) Ctrl+F4 will normally close just that tab. Ctrl+TAB will actually switch to the next Tab. Ctrl+Shift+TAB will go backwards!

Second Life

Okay, this laptop can’t deal with the graphics in Second Life, even at a reduced resolution. I’ll have to wait until I get home (3Ghz, nVidia something-or-other, so should be able to cope before I try it properly. My thirty-second impression of Second Life? It’s full of oddly-named people complaining about ‘rezzing’? Clearly a different world!

Annoyance is…

…when you get a text message at 2am from Vodafone telling you your phone has just switched to Orange Netherlands and all kinds of bad things will happen if you stay on this network.

And another text a few minutes later welcoming you (back) to Vodafone Netherlands, where it is sunny, with flowers, birds sweetly chirping, and calls that are very slightly less extortionate.

I have my phone switched on overnight because I use it as an alarm clock, if you’re wondering.

I asked one of the call staff at Vodafone if it’s possible to turn these things off (they would be near the top of my annoyances list, if I had one). She said “oh no, we can’t turn them off”. They’re to warn people who think calling from abroad will be nice and cheap, but if you ever travel into Belgium on Eurostar (for instance) where your phone switches between networks all the time, you soon learn to hate them.

BTW I’m assuming Vodafone NL’s network went down momentarily last night, because the phone certainly didn’t move and it normally gets a decent signal.

Google + Youtube

One of the interesting things that’s naturally been pushed to the back of the headlines is that this announcement comes very shortly after Google have announced an agreement with SONY BMG and Warner Music, and YouTube announced similar agreements with Universal, SONY BMG and CBS.

That’s a lot of content suddenly available for GooTube. Definitely a grade up from your average Shakira spoof video.

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