Diversen

Guess Who’s Back

Erik No Comments

That’s right. It has been very quite over here the past few months, due to several reasons, but I’m back and I’ll have enough to post over the coming weeks in updates, both from recent items as well as from the past months.

Today I’ll just start with a small list of the most important things of the past few months, but expect more depth in upcoming posts.

  1. I finished my master thesis and so I am officially Master of Science now (already for several months, but still important to name)
  2. I’m looking for an interesting job. Although I like freelancing a lot I do want to develop myself further in a ‘normal’ job over the coming years and maybe eventually become an entrepreneur myself (a typical case of never say never)
  3. And as third and final point, the photography is still going strong, with some interesting images to share, as well as some more gear reviews (for example, the header is a Next-Level selfie, of which I’ll explain more another time)

For today I’ll just keep it to this, but I’ll get back to you in the second half of this week and in the coming weeks with hopefully some more entertaining posts for you.

In the mean time, Enjoy.

Electricity Safety Issues (but in a good way)

Erik No Comments

One of the many things that Grontmij does is measuring a lot of things at the electricity grid within a building. Not only the amount of electricity used and voltage of the system can be measured, but also the more hardcore stuff like harmonics .

The issue with measuring things, however, is that these measuring instruments need to be connected to live wires to be able to measure. And finding a live wire to which you can connect your equipment is quite a challenge, as we found out yesterday.

To see how one of these measurement works we went on a quest to find a place where we could connect this apparatus to the grid. We visited three different places where we thought could do this, but all were protected in such a manner that it was impossible to connect to the system without shutting it down.

Is this a good or a bad thing then? I, and with me my colleagues, think that this is the best. Live wires are dangerous, and so one shouldn’t just be able to touch them by accident when you’re near them.

Only trained people with the right skills should be able to handle this, but still it is the best option to just take off the electricity while working on it. This might be more hassle then years back, but still the costs of an injury or even a fatality are never worth the risk for doing this.

So please, don’t try to do anything with live electricity unless you know extremely well what you’re doing.

Do you have any other nice examples of safety innovations requiring a change of workflow? Share them below!

Fun For Electrical Engineers

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As I was looking up some information about electrical systems I came across this guy’s YouTube channel, and I was triggered by the title of the video.

On his blog you can find an enormous amount of vlogs about electrical stuff, including unboxing videos, but also opening up of electrical machines to see what they’re made of.

Not only a fun, but also an entertaining way to spend some time.

Power Failure Back-up?

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This morning a high voltage power station failed near to Amsterdam, leading to a large scale black-out for over 1 million people.

Not much new there, sh*t happens, but what really struck me (besides the fact that the railways are still failing five hours after solving the problem) was that Schiphol Airport had to divert all incoming flights for not only themselves but also for the other airports in the Netherlands, including Rotterdam-The Hague Airport.

The main issue is that you can not keep a flight in the air for as long as you want. It will run out of fuel sooner or later.

I seriously wonder why they don’t have a sufficient power back-up system at Air Traffic Control to at least make sure that you can safely land the planes at one of the airports. It shouldn’t be that hard and especially for such a vital part of air transport it is an absolute must to have a sufficient back-up.

Anything is possible: batteries, generators, you name it.

What would you suggest to them? Suggestions are welcome in the comments!

Header image: The information sign in the overly crowded bus I took to get home, stating Bus Full, taken a minute after departure. Yes, there were some sad faces at some busstops when we didn’t take them with us.

Saying Farewell

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Sometimes you have to do sad things. It’s part of life, and although it may feel …. (feel free to fill in your own word here), it has to be done.

On the plus side, I got to wear my suit and this somewhat magically viewed appeared to me while changing.

2015-03-19 11.51.52

 

To quote mr. Cruyff, Every downside has an upside.

 

Bringing User Testing to the User

Erik No Comments

Whenever designing something new, it is important to involve the users of your new product. Our National Railways (NS) take this very seriously, when it comes to ordering new sprinter trains.

Right now they offer all travellers the opportunity to test three types of new seats for these trains at the Rotterdam Central Station. Everyone can then vote for it, thereby choosing their favorite one.

NS has promised that the votes of the people will have a significant influence on the final decision, making this a very good example of user influenced innovation.

Even though the choice is fairly small (3 options), it is already a big step forward involving all users of the train, so not only the train drivers.

So how can you involve all of your users in your innovation process? And try to think further than the normal users; take one step deeper and make it as easy as possible for them to test it.

This will make your users more happy, so give it a try!

Office Wisdom

Erik No Comments

As heard today in the office:

The weekend is longer than the workweek.

It all depends on how you view it, but this man is absolutely right. Keep thinking.

Header image: Jlhopgood on Flickr under CC license

New Challenge

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Today I officially started my masterthesis internship at Grontmij, doing research on Direct Current in the Office environment for ABN Amro.

I’m quite excited that I have the chance to work for them, and I hope that we can make a nice project with good outcome, and that I can graduate with a nice mark of course.

Keep an eye out here for more information (when I can and may).

Photo: Sander Stoepker via Grontmij

Information Sharing Is Caring

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Yesterday I had the last exam of my master degree, and as usual I took the train way before I usually do to make sure that I’d arrive on time in Eindhoven. And somehow faith was playing with me, cause I got stuck at the station of Zaltbommel for over 20 minutes, and nobody knew how much longer it would take.

This happened due to a power failure at the Utrecht central station which caused the train traffic controllers to lose connections with all trains around Utrecht, including my train at Zaltbommel.

The good news of this all, however, was that the conductor of the train opened the doors and was standing out on the platform answering everyones question, and showing everybody the light signal which should become green at the end of the platform. Also, he explained that the computers in Utrecht had gone down, and that when that was rebooted we could continue.

This is, unfortunately, a rare situation with the trains in the Netherlands. Usually, I can find information about cancelled trains on the internet before I hear, let alone see a conductor on a train.

So my point is, we need more of these people on the trains, who can be seen and just show what the problem is and tell the details. People taking the train are not stupid. Sharing what you know brings much more understanding to the people, especially when it is not the fault of the people driving the train.

This is also true for other service industries, where you can usually make things better by providing an explanation. (Not always though, check this article for the entire explanation.)

But still, for every NS employee in the Netherlands, talk to your clients, especially when something is failing for you. We’re not dumb, we just want to hear the problem, after which we can do the math.

Upgrading Your MacBook

Erik No Comments

Last week I finally took the step of upgrading my 4,5 year old MacBook Pro. Although it was working fine for all those years, it had become somewhat slower and the programs all took more space, which lead me to taking of the bottom of my laptop last week.

I replaced the standard 320gb harddrive with a new 500gb SSD drive, and I upgraded the RAM from 4 to 8 GB, making it once again into a racing machine.

The placing of the parts in my laptop was a breeze. I ordered the components, as well as the needed screwdrivers (who thought that you needed a trilobe screwdriver to remove your battery?) from IkFix.nl, the components part of MacRepair, one of the larger Mac repair shops in the Netherlands.

Ordering is really simple, even when you don’t know exactly your type of computer, since they have a handy guide which helps you determine your type, and delivery took just over a day, because I was just late with ordering.

The best part of this shop, however, is that they have a series of instruction videos online in which they show you, step-by-step, how to open your computer, replace the component and close it again. And with the help of that I saved myself quite some money by putting the parts in myself.

So overall I’m very pleased with them, and if I’m ever upgrading one again, I’ll check back at them. Highly recommended.

Just some quick notes about replacing your HDD. Before you take out the old one, it’s a wise idea to copy it to the new drive. I used SuperDuper, which worked perfectly. Beware however, even using a FireWire 800 connection to the external drive it still took about 12 hours to copy the 300 GB, so don’t try to do it on the very last moment.

Also, make sure to run your virusscanner before you start copying. I had some hidden viruses in the spam box of my e-mail, and although they were inactive and hidden away, it still stopped SuperDuper from copying the data. So first run your virusscanner, then start copying your data.

And finally, as a third tip, go find your license key of your Microsoft Office, cause somehow it screws something up internally which means that every time you try to launch it from your new hard drive it will ask for a license key.

Still, overall I’m very happy with the upgrade, and I can recommend it to everyone who doesn’t want to go broke on a new laptop but still wishes to make it go faster.

Header image: Inside of a MacBook Pro Unibody, by Cristoph Bauer on Flickr under CC license.