April 5th, 2007

I love das blinken LEDs!


The Russians are busy building their own satellite positioning system, called 'Glonass' (short for Global Navigation Satellite System). (As an aside, why is it that everyone seems to think that navigation is the only thing you could use a positioning system for...? And I'll bet that the Glonass signal doesn't provide routing information at all -- that will be left to the device!)

An interesting development. Suppose you have a three-in-one system that can receive GPS, Glonass and Galileo signals -- would the overlap in signals increase precision and performance? How do the signals compare? Would adding this new system to an existing GPS chip set increase the complexity dramatically?

Also of interest is that this is a military system, just like the GPS system is. However, it is improbable that both systems will be distorted in exactly the same way at the same time -- which means your receiver would still work in Iran...

Forge your digital signature! The tax office says it's OK!

In the Netherlands, we have a system for digital signatures for every (participating) governmental website -- ranging from cities to the national government. It's called DigID, and it couples your social/fiscal number (ironically now called 'citizen service number') to a username and password.

The way it works is that you enter your CSN, a username and a password of your choice. Through the population register, the system determines who you are and where you live. A (physical) letter is sent to you, containing an activation code (but not the CSN, username or password), which you have to use to activate your account.
Through a series of webservices and redirects, (authorised) websites can make you log in on the DigID website (without them having access to your username or password), getting your CSN as the result of a succesfull login. This makes it 'reasonably' secure for most governmental transactions that can be done digitally. Lots of transactions have to be done in person anyway (such as filing for a passport), and DigID doesn't seek to solve that problem.
Things you can get through DigID are permits to fell a tree, for instance. Often there are costs associated with a governmental 'product', so the chance of someone forging a DigID entry and paying for such a permit in someone else's name is pretty slim to begin with.

The tax office has had filing software for some time now. You can enter your data, calculations are made, and the whole thing is sent to the tax office servers through the internet. Previously, you had to register a 5-number PIN number with the tax office to 'sign' your tax filing. But since this year, you have to sign your tax filing with your DigID.
Getting a DigID takes a few days though (because of the physical letter), and it seemed that people would not be able to file their tax statements in time because they were too late with getting a DigID.

The solution offered by the tax office helpline? Use someone else's DigID to file your tax statement!

I have never heard of a more boneheaded advice. Basically, the tax office invites you to forge the signature on your tax statement. Suddenly, no-one can be charged with tax evasion or false filings -- just let your neighbour sign your filing! Surely you can't expect your neighbour to look over your filing to ensure it's all in order, and surely you can't prosecute people when they never signed something!?

I hope someone gets their ass kicked. If the government starts to circumvent their own security systems, why have security at all!?

First episode reviews

I won't title this entry 'new anime', because I am so increadibly behind with my reviews that some of the anime I'll review can't be considered new! Also, from now on I'll only link to the AnimeNewsNetwork with series descriptions, because they simply have more information than AnimeNfo.

Les Miserables: An anime adaptation of the famous novel/play. Very well animated some great designs, but we found that we had problems stomaching the endless parade of misery in the first episode.

Red Photon Zillion: A retrosub of an SF-series from 1987. Humanity is under attack from some sort of robot-people who ruthlessly destroy human life on many of the colony worlds. But luckily, humanity has received a gift from God(!), the three Zillion laser pistols that are unbeatable! Obviously, our hero becomes the wildcard of a squad of three Zillion-wielding mecha pilots, and saves the day!

Yoshimune is an amusing comedy series, full of anachronisms. It is set in the Edo period, during the reign of Tokugawa Yoshimune, but features things like cell phones, discos and skyscrapers. Pretty zany, full of movement and a simple, clean animation style. Quite amusing.

Byousoku 5 cm, a work by Makoto Shinkai. I've linked to a post containing a link to a preview previously. This must be one of the technically most advanced anime I've ever seen. A lot is done with CGI, but with such attention to detail that it is breathtaking. And it seems that Shinkai has overcome his weakness in character animation, which means the characters also move fluid and the designs are appealing.
The story is about a boy and a girl who both come to the same school as transfer students. They get attached to each other, but she moves away some distance. They write letters, but then the boy will move a lot further away. He travels by train to see her one last time...
Shinkai is a master of the 'small' story, with large human emotions, and this one is another one of his masterpieces.

Getsumen to Heiki Mina is insane. Mina works as an intern for a TV station. Her big chance comes when she has to interview a big baseball star before a game on the moon. But then weird things happen, and an alien lands in the stadium! Luckily, there is a rabbit girl to deal with him, but when she has a hard time taking him down, Mina is recruited by a floating baby to become a rabbit girl too!
It is as crazy as it sounds. Nicely animated, but crazy.

Choujuu Kishin Dancougar: In every war, when all hope seems lost, a giant mecha called Dancougar appears. It protects the weakest party and disarms the winning party, thereby establishing some sort of balance of power. Four people are secretly abducted and brought to a tropical island that turns out to be the base of operations for Dancougar. They are offered a contract to become the new pilots!
An interesting way to put unknowledgable people in the seat of a mecha, but I'm not sure it'll work out any better than, say, Sousei no Aquarion. At least it's very well animated.

Invincible Superman Zambot Three: Mechanical monsters attack the Earth, while a family is digging up their 'inheritance': three mecha that transform to form Zambot Three! Lots of shouting, stupid actions, and kids in giant robots! Ugly to boot.

Master of Epic: The Animation Age: based on an RPG. It's a loose collection of gags (yes, it's a comedy), with some recurring themes. No doubt this is all hilarious if you kow the RPG in question, but it didn't do anything for us.

Moonlight Mile: Fusion is perfected, and it runs on Helium3. As anyone who read Transhuman Space knows, the Moon is full of Helium3 -- reason for some space agencies to unite in order to start mining the moon for Helium3 to fuel the fusion reactors! During this 'gold rush', two mountain climbers vow to get into space.
The series starts off with someone stumbling across a secret base filled with combat robots on the dark side of the Moon, so there is probably some Big Plot -- but we don't get to see any of it in the first episode. Also, every chance it taken to emphasise the virility of the two main characters -- I don't quite know what to make of it. It's certainly not as well-behaved like Planetes.