Willem's Blogby Willem L. Middelkoop

Assembling a cargo bike

Setting up the Babboe Big cargo bike

June 25, 2019
How hard can it be to assemble a cargo bike? This posts shares my experience with assembling the Babboe Big cargo bike.

This month our Babboe Big cargo bike arrived, in boxes. The engineer in me thought it was a good idea to assemble the bike by hand. This way I would know exactly about all its parts and fittings, handy knowledge for maintenance. Read along for my experience and some practical tips.

Six months with MCADD

Thoughts and tips on the daily life as parents

June 24, 2019
It's six months since our son was born with MCADD, a good moment to reflect upon the experience of being a parent with some thoughts and tips.

Tomorrow it's six months since our son was born, a good moment to reflect upon the experience of being a parent of a kid with MCADD. This metabolic condition demands special attention on the feeding schedule and preparation for situations when things go different. It's good to share that this has quickly become normal for us, here are some thoughts and tips.

Solo around the Markermeer (211KM)

Tips to prepare, to endure and to enjoy long distance cycling

May 29, 2019
This week I took my bike for a long distance (211)KM ride around the Dutch Markermeer, solo! Read along for practical tips for long distance cycling.

This week I took my bike for a long distance (211KM) ride around the Dutch Markermeer, solo! Unlike participating in an organised event with service, support and company along the way, going solo requires a different preparation, mindset and planning. Read along for some practical tips for long distance cycling.

Dig for dummies

Explaining an highly useful network tool

May 24, 2019
Learn how to use the dig command to query domain name servers to find the source of network problems, IP-addresses, hostnames, mail servers and related info.

When you're building websites, apps or email services you may run into domain names and their configurations. When everything is working as it should, most of this is invisible. But when troubleshooting a domain name configuration, it may be necessary to dig a little deeper... read along to learn how!

The best bike computer app: Cyclemeter

Get advanced ride data with a flexible setup

Apr. 30, 2019
Collect advanced bike ride data using your smartphone connected to external Bluetooth sensors and a steer mounted display.

This month I have intensified my training to become fit for this year's Fietselfstedentocht, a 235KM bicycle ride through Friesland. Over the years I have tested different kinds of bike computer setups: from dedicated (and expensive) Garmin Edge bike computers to no data at all. Eventually I came up with a flexible setup to gather advanced ride data using my smartphone, let me explain how this works.

Search like a pro: Google search operators

Comprehensive list of advanced search operators

Apr. 25, 2019
Read along for a comprehensive list of advanced Google search operators that allow you to filter your search results.

You probably use the world's most famous search engine to find things everyday, but you might not know about some of its advanced search operators. You can use these special search phrases to find things that are otherwise burried in the search results. Read along for a comprehensive list of advanced Google search operators.

WordPress: 10 tips to secure your website

Keep hackers out of the world's most popular content management system

Mar. 31, 2019
A lot of people use WordPress to manage their website. Prevent your site from being hacked using this blog post.

A lot of people use WordPress to manage their website, therefore it's no surprise people ask me to have a look at their site's security. As ethical hacker, I encounter WordPress in different shapes, sizes and states. Some of them are really badly protected against hacks. Prevent your site from being hacked using these 10 practical tips.

Servicing a robot vacuum cleaner

My iRobot Roomba is now running for 8 years and counting!

Mar. 20, 2019
This week it was time for some maintenance on my iRobot Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. Read along to learn how I did it.

Back in 2011 I got myself an iRobot Roomba 555 robot vacuum cleaner to automatically clean my apartment. It's a little circle shaped robot that drives around sucking up dust bunnies. Over the years it has bravely fought the dangers of my apartment... shoes, cables, carpet and belts. It survived and it is still working perfectly! This week it was time for some maintenance.

Understanding the security concerns in shared hosting

Considering open ports and unused network facing services

Feb. 28, 2019
People pay me to hack them, provided I'll explain how I did it. Read along to learn how hackers use security holes to hack your app, webshop or website!

People pay me to hack them, provided I'll explain how it was done, so future hacks can be prevented. As security consultant, I scan for weaknesses in my clients' apps, webshops and websites. Very often a hack starts by exploiting a security hole that is visible remotely. Read along to learn how hackers find security holes and what you can do to secure them.

One year on the ultimate commuter bike

6000KM in 12 months with Gates CDN/CDX and Shimano Alfine

Feb. 27, 2019
Answering questions from one of the most popular posts of last year, I am reviewing my commuter bike after one year of extensive use through winter and summer.

A year ago I tried to create the ultimate commuter bike, a modified Sensa Cintura with the Gates CDN/CDX carbon belt drive. I received lots of messages from cyclists and commuters from all over the world. From the Swiss alps, France, Italy, Germany, United States and even "down under", Australia! You all wanted to know: how does the upgraded bike hold up?

Born with MCADD

Medium chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency

Jan. 29, 2019
Our son was diagnosed with MCADD days after he was born. We experienced a metabolic crisis but were lucky to be just in time!

Just days after our son was born, we ran into trouble when our little man didn't want to eat anymore. Repeated attempts to feed him failed as he appeared to be too tired to drink from his mother. When we measured his body temperature we were shocked, only 33º Celsius! What followed was nothing less than an incredible emotional rollercoaster!

My first weeks as dad

On the challenges and rewards of being a father

Jan. 24, 2019
Last Christmas my wife gave birth of our son. It's a life changing experience to become a parent. Read along for my (biometric) findings and some practical tips.

Last Christmas my wife gave birth to our son, a little boy that would change everything! It's an incredible experience to become a parent, especially if it is your first kid. It introduces a whole new way of living, having to deal with regular feeding, caring and sleepless nights. Read along for my (biometric) findings and some practical tips!

Business in a bag

Using a waterproof backpack to fit my gear

Dec. 22, 2018
After much testing I have selected a bag and set of cases to fit my entire business, wherever I go.

Over the past few months I have been testing different bags and cases to fit everything I need to run my business. As I commute by bike, the bag needs to be waterproof. The problem with waterproof gear is that it is usually very bulky. I need my gear to be both portable and representative, a challenge worth a blog post!

Do amazing things with a focused mind

Taking an ice bath and swimming in the Amstel river

Dec. 6, 2018
Read about my experience during the workshop I got as a birth day present involving the Wim Hof Method.

Just when the temperature was a low 2° Celsius, I jumped in the Amstel river! While it was nearly freezing outside I went for a swim, just moments after I've taken an ice bath! This post is about the incredible birthday present I got, a workshop involving the Wim Hof Method.

Around town in an electric car

Driving the Smart Electric Drive (EQ fortwo)

Nov. 16, 2018
For one week I drove the electric Smart EQ fortwo in and around town. I found out what it's like to drive electrically: fun!

Earlier this month I drove around town for a week in an electric vehicle, a brand new Smart Electric Drive (EQ fortwo). I used it to commute, for my daily groceries and to visit family, friends and customers. What's it like to drive a fully electric car on a daily basis?

Is the Apple Watch the modern tool watch?

Testing the Apple Watch's usefulness in real life

Nov. 2, 2018
I tested the Apple Watch during my work in Frankfurt this week where I had to go inside an internet data centre.

This week I went to Frankfurt for business. I had to perform maintenance to servers in a data centre. This seemed like a great opportunity to test the Apple Watch's usefulness in real life (other than health and fitness). I wondered, is the Apple Watch the modern tool watch?

Rescuing files from a broken harddisk

Make backups to be safe rather than sorry!

Oct. 16, 2018
Yesterday I helped a young woman with her broken computer containing precious photos, could I safe them?

Yesterday a young woman brought me her laptop, it didn't start anymore and it only showed an error message. It turned out to be a broken harddisk. It startled her when I told her that all data on the disk was lost. She told me it contained precious photos of her pregnancy and young child. What could I do?

Using a budget Android as main smartphone

Comparing a Nokia (€99) with an iPhone (€1329)

Oct. 9, 2018
I switched to Android to find out how good a budget smartphone performs compared to an expensive iPhone.

Every now and then, I switch phones to keep track of mobile developments. As professional app and web developer, I need to know how different devices work in real life. This time I used a budget Android smartphone, making me curious how it would compare to an expensive iPhone.

Swimming and cycling with Apple Watch

Different activities in the workout app in watchOS

Sep. 27, 2018
This month I tested the newest watchOS while swimming and cycling.

This month Apple launched a new Apple Watch series and released an update to watchOS. The focus of the smartwatch is more and more gearing towards health and fitness. This made me curious, how well does Apple Watch work for different activities?

Optimising images for the web and performance

Reduce filesize with jpegoptim, optipng, pngcrush and pngquant

Sep. 26, 2018
Make your website faster by optimising the images. This posts explains how you can do this.

One way to make your website faster is to make it smaller. Not with tiny fonts, but with less bytes! More than half the weight of an average website is because of images. Yet very few people optimise their images for the web and performance, time to find out how much bytes you can safe!

Space travelling from El Teide

Visiting Tenerife's volcano at the Canary Islands

Aug. 21, 2018
On Tenerife you'll find Teide, the world's second highest volcano with extra terestial views and a perfect altitude for stargazing.

This summer holiday brought me to Tenerife, part of the Canary Islands, Spain. It's a popular destination because of the climate, but it's also the home of Teide, the world's second highest volcano (7500 m, measured from the sea floor). The incredible views reach way beyond earth, into outer space, the Milky Way and other distant galaxies.

Google Analytics vs AWStats

Understanding web traffic statistics software

Aug. 20, 2018
Comparing Google Analytics with AWStats to find out where they differ and which is better.

This month I have been working on website statistics, tracking traffic using different technologies. Some of my customers use Google Analytics, others use AWStats, and some use both. Which is better is often debated, but few people really understand the differences. Time to shed some light on the magic of web statistics.

Helping people with free software

Installing Debian GNU/Linux on an old laptop

July 20, 2018
This week I helped a man with repairing and reinstalling his computer with Debian GNU/Linux.

This week a man brought his laptop to the community centre where I help people with computer problems as volunteer. The old laptop wouldn't start anymore and had to be reinstalled. Instead of Windows, I installed a free operating system. I think it is important to tell you how and why I did it.

Enjoy a festival without alcohol

Alcohol-free beer at Rock Werchter

July 10, 2018
This year I didn't drink alcohol during Rock Werchter, leading to interesting observations during the music festival.

Last weekend me and my brother went to Rock Werchter, a multi-day, music festival in Belgium. Over 140 thousand visitors enjoy world famous artists like Pearl Jam, Nick Cave, Artic Monkeys, Noel Gallagher, The Killers and the Queens of the Stone Age. This year I didn't drink alcohol during the festival, leading to some interesting observations...

Removing paint from a bike frame

Uncover the aluminium with chemicals and sanding paper

June 9, 2018
Using dichloromethane and sanding paper I removed the paint from my bike frame to create a minimal, raw aluminium look.

There is beauty in raw, unfinished material that is often hidden with superfluous layers of paint. I like things to be true to the nature of the material. My bike was painted black - not bad - but I wondered what it really looked like from a material point of view.

Creating a minimal iPhone stand

Routing oak wood for a custom fit

June 2, 2018
Today I created a minimal iPhone stand from oak wood. I used a single piece of wood to get it done.

Today I created a minimal iPhone stand from oak wood. While it's much faster to buy one online, I wanted one to fit my phone horizontally, with its case on. I like minimal design, so I opted to machine a single piece of wood to get it done.

Listen to your body

Why I stopped using health and fitness sensors

May 17, 2018
Using health data gathered by sensors and wearables I learned to listen to my body. Now I have stopped using bluetooth sensors all together.

A good customer of mine was once a physiotherapist, he told me about people asking him to "feel their muscles" to tell them how they where doing. "Crazy!" he told me: "I can never feel better than the people themselves, if they only would listen to their body". This caused me to question the health and fitness sensors I use.

Lunch by plane

Flying from Hilversum to Texel in a Tecnam P2002JF

May 9, 2018
This week I went out for lunch by plane from Hilversum to Texel with a good buddy of mine.

This week I was invited to fly along over the Netherlands in a small aircraft, from Hilversum to Texel. A good buddy of mine is a pilot and planned to fly to the Texel island for lunch (and good fun!). The weather was excellent, so packed with my photo camera, I didn't hesitate for a moment to join him for lunch!

Off the grid: Working on 100% renewable energy

Collecting, storing and using solar electricity to power my phone, computer and wearables

Apr. 30, 2018
Learning from powering my personal devices using nothing but self generated electricity using a solar panel and power banks.

For the past 10 days I have powered my personal electronic devices (phone, computer, wearables) using nothing but energy collected using a small solar panel. I disconnected all grid-connected chargers. I hoped that by going off the grid, even in such a small way, I would gain insights that enable me to save energy (and money).

Outside the comfort zone: amateur acting

Wearing an heart rate monitor during my debut performance

Apr. 18, 2018
This month I strapped myself with sensors during a little experiment outside my comfort zone: I debuted as amateur actor!

This month I made my debut as amateur actor. I am no Hollywood star, nor do I envy to become one. But I do like crazy experiments and operating outside of my comfort zone often leads to new and refreshing insights. I took part in an amateur drama play and - in the name of science and fun - strapped myself with sensors to measure what happened to my body.

Cyber security: 5 easy tips to protect your server against hackers

Server hardening best practices for Windows and Linux

Mar. 10, 2018
These 5 practical cyber security measures will improve the safety of server, website and data.

This week one of my clients was hacked and asked me for emergency assistance to help secure their server infrastructure. It was a web server that ran WordPress websites on Apache (with PHP/MySQL), including a few webshops with customer data. This hack could easily have been prevented with the following best practices, is your server secure?

Tablet as main computer

Comparing the Microsoft Surface Pro to iPad Pro

Mar. 7, 2018
I have been using a tablet as my main computer for quite some time now. In this blog post I share you my experience on using Surface Pro and iPad Pro to get my work done.

For the past few weeks I have been using the Microsoft Surface Pro as my main computer. It's a modern tablet computer that can be used as laptop with the type cover. With the Surface Pen, it's a versatile PC that works in a lot of different ways. Time to find out if it's any good and how it compares to my other tablet computer, iPad Pro.

Creating the ultimate commuter bike

Riding at 35KM/h with Nexus Alfine 8 and Gates Carbon Drive

Feb. 24, 2018
Creating the ultimate commuter bike by upgrading the Sensa Cintura belt drive bike.

This winter I use a Sensa Cintura bike with a Gates Carbon belt drive as my daily commuter. It's a bike designed to be nice to ride thanks to its sporty lightweight frame. It's also meant to be low on maintenance thanks to the belt drive and Nexus Afline 8 integrated gear hub. After 1800KM in just eight weeks, it was time for some upgrades.

Updating Snake '97

About the challenges of developing a wildly popular game

Feb. 21, 2018
This month I bit the bullet big time: I redesigned the game engine of the wildly popular Snake '97 game. Read about the design challenges in this blog post.

Few years ago my brother threw a beer on my iPhone in an Amsterdam bar. The poor thing didn't like the Dutch brew as much as I do: it died. While waiting for a new phone to arrive, I used an old one that couldn't do anything but texting, calling and... Snake! The idea for Snake '97 was born and this month it was time to update the wildly popular game.

Something the smartwatch will never have: patina

Wear and tear by the hands of time

Jan. 21, 2018
Patina is often neglected when comparing smartwatches with regular watches.

A good friend of mine had an issue with his Apple Watch, the digital crown lost a rubber ring causing the watch to lose its water resistance. Apple made no problem of it and offered to replace his "device". While it solved his problem, it felt painful to my watch lover's ears. It made me realise the one thing a smartwatch will never have: patina.

Lessons from a takeaway plastic bag

My ever increasing antipathy to planned obsolescence

Jan. 8, 2018
How we're tricked into repeated purchases replacing perfectly fine products just for the sake of change.

About five months ago I got some take away food from our local Asian restaurant. They packaged the food and gave me a plastic bag to carry it home. On my way home I was thinking about the bag. Although it has some nice styling printed on it, it's designed for single use only. What a waste... making me wonder: how long would it last if you would use it on a daily basis?

Commuting by bike

One week (240KM) on the VanMoof Electrified S

Dec. 2, 2017
One week on the VanMoof Electrified S E-bike testing it for commuting and comparing it to a normal bike.

For a few years now, I commute to work using a bicycle. I have lost more than 15KG since I stopped using my scooter. This week I tested a VanMoof Electrified S, an electric bike with an industrial, minimal design. Is it any good? How does it compare to a normal bike? Will an electric bike make you lazy? Read along to find out!

Collecting health data with Biostrap

Wearing a clinical-grade photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor for a month

Nov. 15, 2017
Wearing a clinical-grade PPG sensor for a month to collect advanced biometrics from my wrist.

Most wearables (smartwatches, fitness trackers, etc.) use very basic sensors to capture heart rate. Their signal is binary: just counting beats. Biostrap is different, instead of just checking pulses, it captures a high-fidelity PPG waveform. These waveforms are the same kind that doctors use, making me wonder what I could learn from them!

From tree to table

Designing and creating a night stand

Oct. 23, 2017
Creating a night stand from a raw slab of chestnut wood.

Right next to the house were I was born there was this chestnut tree, sadly it died one and a half year ago. When it was taken down, my brother saved me a slab of wood. I intended to create something from it, a nice "do it yourself" adventure, worthy of a blog post!

Saving a MacBook Air with exploded battery

Don’t try this at home - but I did

Sep. 14, 2017
Saving a MacBook Air with a swollen battery pack.

Last night I had a nasty surprise: my original MacBook Air was swollen due to an exploded battery. I immediately had to take action, for reasons of safety and to preserve this piece of modern computer history. Don’t try this at home, but if you do... read along for some practical tips.

Climbing Mount Etna

Visiting an active volcano on Sicily, Italy

Sep. 2, 2017
Climbing Mount Etna, an active volcano on Sicily Italy.

Last week me and my wife went to Sicily for a little summer holiday. It is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is an autonomous region of Italy, along with surrounding minor islands. It's home to Europe's largest active volcano: Mount Etna. We had a chance to visit this lava spurring monstrosity and it was quite the experience.

Clouds below my floor

Building a little datacenter in my basement

Aug. 31, 2017
Building a little datacenter in my basement utilising a very fast internet connection.

At my home I have this crazy fast optical internet connection. It is a 600MB up and down fibre connection which directly arrives in my home (no copper cables involved). It's like a private internet highway. Reason enough to find out if I could do something to make better use of all this speedy fiber galore...

The day I killed my LAN

Turned off my local network and went 4G only

July 31, 2017
I killed my office LAN and went 4G only. Saves a lot of clutter, energy and money.

Today I called my provider to quit my office's ADSL internet subscription, I don't need it anymore. I have turned off my local area network and switched my workflow onto mobile internet only. The simplicity and savings actually surprised me so much, that I made blog post for it.

Fietselfstedentocht 2017

Cycling the 235KM bicycle tour through Friesland

June 30, 2017
Cycling the 235KM long Fietselfstedentocht through Friesland

This month I cycled the Fietselfstedentocht, a 235KM tour through Friesland. This tour brings you through various Frisian cities throughout one of the most Northern provinces of the Netherlands. The tour was first organised in 1912 and has grown to become legendary due to its history, challenge and popularity; well worthy of a blog post!

Beast of the Green Hell

Driving the Mercedes-AMG GT R

May 31, 2017
Blog post about an amazing AMG Circuit day at the race track of Zolder, Belgium.

This month I received an invitation to join Mercedes at the Zolder circuit in Belgium to drive in "the beast". The Mercedes-AMG GT R, a furious green coloured performance car that gets its nickname from the Nürburgring where it was developed. It was an incredible experience, well worth a blog post!

Smartwatches vs Mechanical watches

Why I still wear mechanical and why smartwatches have potential

Apr. 30, 2017
Why I still wear a mechanical watch and why smartwatches have potential.

Technology has come a long way since the first computer. Smartwatches today are very much an achievement of miniaturisation of technology. I recently used an Apple Watch Series 2 to find out if technology has come far enough to replace my mechanical watch, today I share you my findings.

Repairing a Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP

Chip surgery to play classic Zelda

Mar. 26, 2017
Reparing an old Nintendo Gameboy Advance to play classic Zelda again.

This month Nintendo released the Switch with Zelda "Breath of the Wild". The new console received positive reviews. The new Zelda game is amazing and can be played on-the-go, thanks to the portability of the Nintendo Switch. But it its hardly the first Nintendo device that features the mythical kingdom of Hyrule with Link and princess Zelda. I found an old Gameboy Advance, perfect for playing classic Zelda games... but it was in need for repair!

Programming on Apple Watch

Serious about crazy experiments

Feb. 16, 2017
Programming with VIM over SSH on Apple Watch using a bluetooth keyboard

Over the past years I have been no stranger to crazy experiments, but this time I really wanted to push it into the extreme: programming on an Apple Watch. Would it be possible to actually write code on such a tiny device? Why even bother? This post is about the case for crazy experiments, and why you should try too!

iPad Pro next to my primary machine

Using it with Apple Pencil as a creative powerhouse

Jan. 30, 2017
Using iPad Pro with Apple Pencil next to my computer to form a create powerhouse

I wanted see if I can find something better than my old fashioned pencil and paper that I use for designing software as professional developer. I knew iPad Pro from my test last summer, figuring out if it could replace my primary development machine. While it may not be able to completely replace my thrustworthy ThinkPad, it turned out to be a totally different story when it comes to paper.

One year of cycling

GPS recording an entire year of bike rides using Garmin and Strava

Dec. 31, 2016
GPS recording an entire year of bike rides using Garmin and Strava.

One year ago I started recording all my bike rides, including commutes, short grocery trips and long Gran Fondos. I equipped my bicycles with Garmin Edge computers that recorded location (GPS), speed, cadence and my heart rate. I covered more than 7683 kilometers during 320 hours of riding. It's time to review all the data and share some photos I took along the ride!

Being a volunteer in Amsterdam-Zuidoost

Computer support in the local community center

Nov. 21, 2016
About my work as volunteer in the local community center in Amsterdam Zuidoost

After realising how lucky I am as an healthy, well educated, young man with a solid income, I wanted to do something for other people as volunteer. It just so happens to be that two years ago I received a flyer in my mailbox from the local community center: they were looking for someone with some knowledge of computers. A very interesting journey was about to begin!

Harvesting boredom to let creativity flourish

using the Punkt MP01 dumb phone

Oct. 1, 2016
What does it mean for my state of mind and creativity if I am no longer be constantly connected to the Internet using a smartphone.

Smartphones are everywhere in the modern society we live in today. Through our 4G and WiFi connections the internet is just one tap away. In fact, it is so close that it feels like a natural extension. But is this wealth of information all good or does it have a downside too? It seems like an interesting experiment to go app-less for a while and solely use a dumb phone.

Batavus Champion bike from 1978

restoring retro glory with some help from the Internet

Sep. 3, 2016
Restore the retro glory of an old bike from the 70s using the internet.

Almost a year ago I bought an old steel racing bike from 1978. I wanted to figure out if using a bike to commute worked for me. It did! I used it to ride more than 1000KM before I decided to get a modern road bike. Now, almost a year later, I decided to put the powers of the internet into good use: to bring the bike back to its retro glory!

iPad Pro as primary computer

testing iOS as primairy development platform

Aug. 15, 2016
Is the time right to use an iPad as primary development platform to get some real work done?

The lack of physical clutter, distracting branding, or blinking LED's makes the iPad Pro a textbook example of minimal design. My despiction of distraction explains my interest in using the iPad Pro as only computer to test if it is up to the task. Is Apple's latest effort on iOS enough to enable it to do serious development work?

Cash is king, or is it?

The wallet- and cash-less experiment

July 15, 2016
Is the time right to ditch the wallet?

Very often I see men carry a wallet filled with plastic: multiple debit and credit cards plus a bunch of loyalty programs and membership cards. Then, some even top it off with stinky paper money and sticky metal coins! It made me wonder if I can free up one pocket by ditching the wallet?

Building the blog... in style!

Developing on a 20-year old computer with 16MB RAM and Windows 98

June 23, 2016
Find out if it is possible to turn a computer from the 90s into a modern development machine.

One must be a bit crazy to come up with the idea to build a blog (as in: actual programming) on an old 486 laptop with just 16MB RAM. I happen to be that crazy: I took my very first laptop from the 90s and decided to find out if it was possible to turn it into a development machine.