CCCamp: 5,000 Hackers Out Standing In Their Field

What do hackers do on vacation? What do hackers do whenever they have free time? What do you love to do? That’s right. But how much more fun would it be if you could get together with 5,000 other hackers, share your crazy projects and ideas, eat, drink, dance, swim, and camp out all together for five days, naturally with power and Internet? That’s the idea of the Chaos Communication Camp, and it’s a once-in-four-years highlight of hacker life.

Held not too far outside of Berlin, the Camp draws heavily on hackers from Europe and the UK, but American hackers have been part of the scene since almost the beginning. (And Camp played an important role in the new-wave hackerspaces in the US, but that’s another story.) It’s one thing to meet up with the folks in your local hackerspace and work together on a project or brainstorm the next one, but it’s entirely a different thing when you’re drawing on hackers from all over the world. There was certainly more to see and do at Camp than you could in a month, not to mention in only five days, and this could be overwhelming. But if you dig in, the sense of community that came from shared effort and shared interests was the real take-home. And nearly everything at Camp should have its own article on Hackaday.

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Hackaday Podcast 033: Decompressing From Camp, Nuclear Stirling Engines, Carphone Or Phonecar, And ArduMower

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams are back from Chaos Communication Camp, and obviously had way too much fun. We cover all there was to see and do, and dig into the best hacks from the past week. NASA has a cute little nuclear reactor they want to send to the moon, you’ve never seen a car phone quite like this little robot, and Ardupilot (Ardurover?) is going to be the lawn mowing solution of the future. Plus you need to get serious about debugging embedded projects, and brush up on your knowledge of the data being used to train facial recognition neural networks.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (64 MB)

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The Tens Of Millions Of Faces Training Facial Recognition; You’ll Soon Be Able To Search For Yourself

In a stiflingly hot lecture tent at CCCamp on Friday, Adam Harvey took to the stage to discuss the huge data sets being used by groups around the world to train facial recognition software. These faces come from a variety of sources and soon Adam and his research collaborator Jules LaPlace will release a tool that makes these dataset searchable allowing you to figure out if your face is among the horde.

Facial recognition is the new hotness, recently bubbling up to the consciousness of the general public. In fact, when boarding a flight from Detroit to Amsterdam earlier this week I was required to board the plane not by showing a passport or boarding pass, but by pausing in front of a facial recognition camera which subsequently printed out a piece of paper with my name and seat number on it (although it appears I could have opted out, that was not disclosed by Delta Airlines staff the time). Anecdotally this gives passengers the feeling that facial recognition is robust and mature, but Adam mentions that this not the case and that removed from highly controlled environments the accuracy of recognition is closer to an abysmal 2%.

Images are only effective in these datasets when the interocular distance (the distance between the pupils of your eyes) is a minimum of 40 pixels. But over the years this minimum resolution has been moving higher and higher, with the current standard trending toward 300 pixels. The increase is not surprising as it follows a similar curve to the resolution available from digital cameras. The number of faces available in data sets has also increased along a similar curve over the years.

Adam’s talk recounted the availability of face and person recognition datasets and it was a wild ride. Of note are data sets by the names of Brainwash Cafe, Duke MTMC (multi-tracking-multi-camera),  Microsoft Celeb, Oxford Town Centre, and the Unconstrained College Students data set. Faces in these databases were harvested without consent and that has led to four of them being removed, but of course, they’re still available as what is once on the Internet may never die.

The Microsoft Celeb set is particularly egregious as it used the Bing search engine to harvest faces (oh my!) and has associated names with them. Lest you think you’re not a celeb and therefore safe, in this case celeb means anyone who has an internet presence. That’s about 10 million faces. Adam used two examples of past CCCamp talk videos that were used as a source for adding the speakers’ faces to the dataset. It’s possible that this is in violation of GDPR so we can expect to see legal action in the not too distant future.

Your face might be in a dataset, so what? In their research, Adam and Jules tracked geographic locations and other data to establish who has downloaded and is likely using these sets to train facial recognition AI. It’s no surprise that the National University of Defense Technology in China is among the downloaders. In the case of US intelligence organizations, it’s easier much easier to know they’re using some of the sets because they funded some of the research through organizations like the IARPA. These sets are being used to train up military-grade face recognition.

What are we to do about this? Unfortunately what’s done is done, but we do have options moving forward. Be careful of how you license images you upload — substantial data was harvested through loopholes in licenses on platforms like Flickr, or by agreeing to use through EULAs on platforms like Facebook. Adam’s advice is to stop populating the internet with faces, which is why I’ve covered his with the Jolly Wrencher above. Alternatively, you can limit image resolution so interocular distance is below the forty-pixel threshold. He also advocates for changes to Creative Commons that let you choose to grant or withhold use of your images in train sets like these.

Adam’s talk, MegaPixels: Face Recognition Training Datasets, will be available to view online by the time this article is published.

UbaBOT Mixes Up 50 Cocktails To Quench CCCamp Thirst

[Steffen Pfiffner’s] tent during the Chaos Communication Camp is full of happiness delivered by something greater than alcohol alone. He’s brought a robot bartender that serves up a show while mixing up one of about 50 cocktail recipes.

The project is the work of five friends from Lake Constance (Bodensee) in southern Germany, near the borders with Switzerland and Austria. It started, as many projects do, with some late night drinking. The five were toiling to mix beverages more complex than your most common fare, and decided to turn their labors instead to robot making.

Since 2012, the project has gone through five revisions, the most recent of which the team calls Uba BOT. Delightfully, the cup tray which moves left and right on the front of the machine is connected using a strain gauge. This provides a way for the robot to sense the presence of a cup to avoid dispensing ingredients all over the bar itself. It also provides a feedback loop that verifies the amount of liquids and volume of ice added to the cup. Once everything’s in the cup, a rotary milk frother lowers itself into position to stir things up a bit.

A Raspberry Pi is in control of eighteen pumps that dispense both liquor and mixers. The team is still trying to work out a way to reliably dispense carbonated mixers, which so far have been a challenge due to over-excited foam. The software was originally based on Bartendro, but has since taken on a life of its own as these things often do. The first time you want a drink, you register an RFID tag and record your height, weight, and age which keeps track of your estimated blood alcohol content based on time and your number of visits to the robot. The firmware also tracks the state of each ingredient to alert a meat-based bar attendant of when a bottle needs replacing.

Join us after the break to see an explanation of what’s under the hood and to watch Uba BOT mix up a Mai Tai.

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Hello: A Mini Badge For CCCamp

Badgelife culture is our community’s very own art form, with a plethora of designs coming forth featuring stunning artwork, impressive hardware, and clever software tricks. But sometimes a badge doesn’t need a brace of LEDs or a meme-inspired appearance to be a success, it just needs to be very good at what it does.

A perfect example is [Gavan Fantom]’s Hello mini badge. The hardware is fairly straightforward, it’s just a small square PCB sporting a LPC1115 microcontroller, 8Mb Flash chip, piezo speaker, and an OLED display. Its functionality is pretty simple as well, in that it exists to display text, images, or short animations. But the badge hides a very well-executed firmware that provides a serial terminal and zmodem file upload capability as well as an on-device interface via a small joystick. Power comes from a 500 mAh lithium-polymer cell, for which the badge integrates the usual charger and power management hardware.

There’s a variety of possibilities for the badge, but we’d guess that most owners will simply use it to display their name with perhaps a little animation. A bit of nifty processing of some video could perhaps get something approaching watchable video on it though, opening up the entertaining possibility of displaying demos or other video content.

[Gavan] will have some of the Hello badges at the upcoming CCCamp hacker camp in Germany if you’re interested, and should be easy enough to find in the EMF village.

CCC 2015: Moon Robots, Data Destruction, And An Epic Thunderstorm

Chaos Communication Camp 2015 is over, and most everyone’s returned home to warmer showers and slower Internet. In this last transmission from Camp 2015, we’ll cover the final two days of talks, the epic thunderstorm, and give a brief rundown of the challenges of networking up a rural park in Brandenburg.

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Chaos Communication Camp 2015: Badges, Talks, And Culture

The Rad1o Badge

The rad1o badge is this great standalone HackRF clone, and great hardware hacking platform. On Day Two and most of Day Three, people were divided largely into two camps: those simply having fun with GNURadio and the software-defined radio (SDR) side of things, and those modifying and adding to the rad1o firmware to get the various peripherals up and working or simply make sweet animations.

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On the evening on Day Three, this all changed. [iggy] managed to get the HackRF PortaPack library ported over to the rad1o badge. We’re excited about this code because it lets the radio and microcontroller sides of the badge work together, and that means things like a standalone SDR radio sniffer with waterfall plot (pictured here picking up WiFi and Bluetooth signals) is feasible. Using the badge as a standalone transmit and receive platform can’t be far away. Things are starting to get really cool with the rad1o, and there’s still two days of camp left.

Meanwhile, on the SDR front, there was a packed house at the GNURadio workshop last night, and there’s going to be a repeat on Sunday since it was so popular. The Munich CCC has a great SDR scavenger hunt going on currently, and [Sec] and [Schneider] from Munich gave their talk on eavesdropping on the Iridium satellite pager system with a twist at the end: a live demo of decoding the pager’s beacon signals inside the tent, run on custom software and the rad1o badge.

Talks

We attended Internet Archive’s talk on how they’re getting along. If you don’t know the IA, they run the Wayback Machine, have preserved a bunch of old-school video games, and are currently running a large-scale book-scanning project. High points of the talk include the story of their legal self-defense against an intrusive National Security Letter, and the background of their workaround that lets them loan out books even when they’re still under copyright.

At the same time, [Will Scott] gave a talk on open proxies. Thanks to the saved talks, we watched both. A lot of computers out there (accidentally or otherwise) allow people to proxy their data

[Lieven Standaert]’s talk on prototyping is a great summary of a bunch of tricks and tips that he’s learned by shepherding students through some fairly ambitious design projects. He’s got a complete lab with CNC mill, laser cutter, and 3D printer and the focus of the talk is on how to use these various tools together most efficiently, playing to each of their various strong suits.

shot0001[Tarek Loubani] gave an inspirational talk “3D Printing High-Quality Low-Cost Free Medical Hardware“. Basically, he looked into stethoscope designs, and re-engineered a 3D printable version. All of the tech in stethoscopes is in the housing design and its shape, and they’re relatively expensive, so it’s a fantastic low-hanging fruit. Watch the talk if you’re thinking about doing some good with your 3D printer. (Not that printing out owls with top hats isn’t important for the world…)

If you’re looking to upgrade your DIY electronics manufacturing capabilities, [hunz]’s talk on “Pushing the Limits of DIY Electronics” is worth a look. As the cool parts get smaller, the DIYer faces a number of new challenges, from thin traces to reflow soldering of BGA parts. A great tip: some board houses offer free SMD solder stencils, and it can be easily worth it to order up a single-sided PCB from them just to get the stencil. He also got into the design side of DIY manufacture, including a discussion of transmission lines that we found helpful.

Here are two more talks that we probably don’t need to tell you are cool: space hacking and combat robots. Need we say more? Both talks are introductory and general, and if what you need is a little encouragement to get involved, you’ll find it here.

Life in Camp: Kids and the Lake

OK, we’re not going to lie: it got hot over the last two days. Like, really hot. One of the nicest features of camp life, then, is the lake (or the lakes, because there’s another one just outside the camp that’s larger and a bit less popular). If you’ve already caught up on your sleep, and your hacking projects are in a good place, or if it’s just too hot to work, nothing beats a dip in the cool water. Heck, even if you’ve got hacking to do, take a swim break for an hour. After all, that’s what makes Camp special.

IMG_20150815_145833Finally, we were surprised how kid-friendly Camp has become this time around. The accommodations for the still-too-young-to-hack are pretty amazing. From a petting zoo to a gigantic Lego-filled tent, to the nearly full schedule of finger painting and kiddie arts-and-crafts, you’d have almost as much to do at Camp if you were five as if you were twenty-five. Time passes, and even hackers don’t stay young forever, and it’s fantastic to see the community taking care of the next generation. Plus, the kids seem to love it.

Going On

Again, with so many things going on at Camp, it’s hard to keep up with everything. Look through the archived talks and see what strikes your fancy. If you find something you like, post up in the comments.