This is a fantastic summer for hacker camps and I was very happy to make it to BornHack this year. This week-long camp attracts hackers from all over Europe and the mix of a few hundred friends and soon-to-be friends who gathered on the Danish island of Fyn delivered a unique experience for the curious traveller.
The camp takes place at the Hylkedam Danish scout camp, located in a forest amid the rolling Danish famland not too far from the small town of Gelsted. It’s a few kilometres from a motorway junction, but easy enough to find after the long haul up from the UK via the Channel Tunnel. As an aside, every bored cop between France and the Danish border wanted to stop my 20-year-old right-hand-drive Volkswagen on UK plates, but soon lost interest after walking up to the passenger side and finding no driver. It seems Brits are considered harmless, which is good to hear.
Hylkedam is at the end of a long dirt track, which opens out into a spacious campsite with good quality permanent facilities. At a guess it is a former sand quarry or similar as it seems to be set below the level of the forrest, as well as having what appears to be a former railway cutting that conveniently housed the bar.
A wellness area was placed in the forest, including a wood-fired hot tub for a unique experience among hacker camps. There were three camping zones separated by trees, the main site, with noisy and quiet fields on opposite sides of it. With only a few hundred attendees who by no means filled the available space there was plenty of room for expansion here. As one of very few Brits I pitched myself between the Labitat Copenhagen hackerspace village and the Netherlands village, and threw my lot in with my Dutch friends.
A Less Frantic Pace Of Life Means More Time For Important Stuff
The larger camps are very high-energy affairs, in which everyone is busy showing of their work and in which it feels impossible to catch everything. By contrast this smaller camp was much more relaxed, with an emphasis on hanging out and more time to get to know people. My impression was that more of the attendees were from a software or infosec background than a hardware one, so some of the builds such as EMF Camp’s Hacky Racers or CCCamp’s home made trains were absent. This did not detract from the experience for the visitor because there was still plenty with which to keep occupied in the talk schedule, and if that was not enough there were still the sights of Denmark to provide plenty of distraction.
Talks on Physical Keys, Sustainability, and Retrocomputing
BornHack has a full talk programme and videos of each are ready to watch online. There were many highlights for me beginning with [Mike]’s retrocomputing talk which leaves me wondering if I’m more amazed by the depth of his knowledge or the extent of his retrocomputing collection. One of the evening activities was a Hacker Jeopardy event over three nights during which he set a series of retrocomputing rounds, I’m pleased to say that the Hackaday community had educated me enough that I was able to answer most of those that came my way.
[Igor Nikolic] had a much more serious talk subject, that of sustainability in an uncertain future, and how the hacker community can play a part in it. It’s a sobering prospect, that factors such as climate change could significantly undermine many of the things which we take for granted, and that our community’s skills could become useful as a matter of imperative rather than for our personal edification.
[Jos Weyers]’ talk on the ease of duplicating keys from photographs was both entertaining and sobering. Any of us who have spent time around our community’s locksport enthusiasts will know how little faith to place in locks and padlocks, but he gives an extra dimension by taking us through a series of high-profile incidents in which pictures of sensitive keys have been shared with the public. We find that there are commercial services that will store images of your keys in the cloud, and he ends with a warning that we should all be more responsible in how we expose our physical keys. A couple of days later during my trip to Legoland in nearby Hylkedam, I was amused to notice the keys to a ride on the table next to a staff member, where any passing hacker could snap a picture of it.
A seven-day camp has a very different flavour from the shorter camps I am used to, and coupled with the smaller number of attendees it raises the promise of a camp in which you can get to know most of the attendees. I found the Danish way of running a camp to be entirely to my taste, and It’s an event that I’ll certainly consider returning to even though it’s a bit of a trek. It’s as much a relaxing camping holiday in the Danish countryside as it is a hacker camp. Will I see you there in 2020? I hope so!