Great People and Culture at 34th Chaos Communication Congress

If you’ve been to a Chaos Communication Congress, you know the feeling — the strange realization after it’s all over that you’re back in the “real world”. It’s somehow alienating and unfriendly in comparison to being surrounded by computer freaks, artists, hackers, activists, coders, and other like-minded individuals over the four days of the Congress. A hand-written poster by the podcasting center read “Endlich, normale Leute” — “At last, normal people” — which is irony piled on irony but the sentiment is still right for certain strange values of “normal”. Normal hackers? You’d probably fit right in.

We cover a lot of the talks from the Congress, because they’re first-class and because you can play along at home, but the real soul of the Congress is people getting together, making something temporary and crazy, talking over their common plans, learning new things directly from one-another, and simply having fun. Here’s our chance to give you a little of the other side of the Congress.
Continue reading “Great People and Culture at 34th Chaos Communication Congress”

34C3: Ultimate Apollo Guidance Computer Talk

While it might not be as exciting as the Saturn V rocket itself, the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was one of the most important developments of the entire Apollo program. While comically underwhelming compared to modern hardware, the AGC was nothing short of revolutionary when it was developed in the 1960’s. Before the AGC, the smallest computers were about the size of a refrigerator and consumed hundreds of watts; both big problems if you’re trying to pack them into a relatively tiny space capsule with limited resources. Not only did the AGC get humanity to the Moon and back, but it also redefined the state of the art for microcomputers, paving the way for the desktop systems of the 1970’s.

That said, the design and operation of the AGC is downright bizarre to modern eyes; it comes from a time of limitations we can hardly fathom. With this in mind, [Michael Steil] and [Christian Hessmann] put together “The Ultimate Apollo Guidance Computer Talk” for 34C3.

This hour-long presentation walks viewers through every aspect of not only the AGC itself, but how it interacted with the Saturn V rocket and the overall lunar mission. Even if you aren’t enough of a vintage computing aficionado to appreciate the complexities of core rope memory, the presentation gives a fascinating look at the gritty details of one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

Though very slick and easy to understand graphics, [Michael] and [Christian] break down the alien world of the AGC. Even if a lot of this part of the presentation goes over your head, just listen for the sounds of laughter or applause from the audience: that’s when you’re looking at something really off-the-wall.

Of particular note during this presentation is the explanation of how the astronauts actually interacted with the AGC. The AGC’s display and keyboard (referred to as DSKY) may seem rather obtuse even to those who used to hack on a VT100, but [Michael] and [Christian] explain how it’s not quite as complex as it seems. Comparing the input and output of the DSKY with what we would see on a more contemporary command line interface, the presentation makes the case that it’s actually a very straightforward way of talking to the computer.

There’s also a complete breakdown of the different phases of the Apollo mission from launch to landing, explaining what the AGC would be doing at any given time. The DSKY is overlaid on actual footage from the Apollo missions, giving a unique perspective as to what the astronauts would see on their computer during iconic moments such as stage separation or lunar touchdown.

If this presentation has you hungry for more Apollo-era computer technology, we’ve covered plenty of projects to keep you occupied. From building a replica DSKY to leisurely paging through the printed version of the AGC’s source code.

34C3: The First Day is a Doozy

It’s 5 pm, the sun is slowly setting on the Leipzig conference center, and although we’re only halfway through the first day, there’s a ton that you should see. We’ll report some more on the culture of the con later — for now here’s just the hacks. Continue reading “34C3: The First Day is a Doozy”

Hackaday at 34C3

It’s that time of year. While the rest of the Christmas-celebrating world sits around and plays with the toys that they got out from under the tree, German nerds head off to the biggest European hacker con: the 34th annual Chaos Communications Congress, running Dec. 27th through 30th.

The CCC is both a grandparent among hacker cons, and the most focused on using technology to improve the world and bringing folks together. (The “communications” in the name is a dead giveaway.) This year’s motto, “tuwat!” is slangy-dialecty for “do something!” and is call to get up off the couch and use your super-powers for good.

If you can’t get over to Leipzig to join us, you’ll be able to read our extensive coverage starting up shortly after the opening ceremonies, and probably stretching well into 2018. And since the CCC media folks manage to stream every talk, hackers all over the world can follow along live. Most talks are in English, so get together with folks in your hackspace and have a video night!

And if you are in Leipzig, be on the lookout for [Elliot] who will be wandering around, attending workshops, and writing down as much as possible. Show me something cool, rave about a particularly good talk, or just say “hi”.

Fairy Dust clipart courtesy [sonoftroll].

33C3: Works for Me

The Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) is the largest German hacker convention by a wide margin, and it’s now in its thirty-third year, hence 33C3. The Congress is a techno-utopian-anarchist-rave with a social conscience and a strong underpinning of straight-up hacking. In short, there’s something for everyone, and that’s partly because a CCC is like a hacker Rorschach test: everyone brings what they want to the CCC, figuratively and literally. Somehow the contributions of 12,000 people all hang together, more or less. The first “C” does stand for chaos, after all.

What brings these disparate types to Hamburg are the intersections in the Venn diagrams. Social activists who may actually be subject to state surveillance are just as interested in secure messaging as the paranoid security geek or the hardcore crypto nerd who’s just in it for the algorithms. Technology, and how we use it to communicate and organize society, is a pretty broad topic. Blinking lights also seem to be in the intersection. But on top of that, we are all geeks. There’s a lot of skill, smarts, and know-how here, and geeks like sharing, teaching, and showing off their crazy creations.

Continue reading “33C3: Works for Me”

33C3 Starts Tomorrow: We Won’t Be Sleeping for Four Days

Possibly the greatest hacker show on Earth, the 33rd annual Chaos Communication Congress (33C3) begins Tuesday morning in Hamburg, Germany. And Hackaday will be there! Contributing Editor [Elliot Williams] is taking the night train up and will be trying to take it all in for you. The schedule looks tremendous.

If you can’t make it, don’t fret. There will be live streaming, and the talks are usually available in preliminary edit for viewing or download just a few minutes after they finish. It’s even cooler to watch the talks with friends, though. Every hackerspace with a video projector could be playing along, live or after the fact. Pick some cool talks and have a “movie night”.

elliot_williams_head_2_square_fuzzIf you’re going to be in Hamburg, and you want to show us something cool, tell us that something is NOTAHACK!1!! in person, or even just say “Hi”, we’ll be wandering around from talk to talk and session to session just like you, only with a backpack full of Hackaday stickers.

If there’s anything you think we should see, post up in the comments. If there’s enough call for it, we’ll have a Hackaday meetup once we can figure out a good time and location. Bring us a cool hack, and we’ll document it on the spot! Our DECT phone number is 2475.

Hackaday Links: December 4, 2016

The Chaos Communication Congress is growing! Actually, it’s not, but there may be an ‘overflow venue’ for everyone who didn’t get a ticket. There’s a slack up for people who didn’t get a ticket to 33C3 but would still like to rent a venue, set up some tables, stream some videos, and generally have a good time.

Need to test a lot of batteries? Have one of those magnetic parts tray/dish things sitting around? This is freakin’ brilliant. Put your batteries vertically in a metal dish, clip one lead of a meter to the dish and probe each battery with the other lead of your meter.

Pravda reports the USS Zumwalt and HMS Duncan – the most technologically advanced ships in the US and Royal Navies – have turned into, ‘useless tin cans due to China’, with ‘Microchips made in China putting the vessels out of action’. Again, Pravda reports this, so don’t worry. In other news, someone found a few USB drives in a parking lot in Norfolk, Virginia.

Here’s how discourse goes on the Internet. Someone does something. Everyone says it’s stupid. We wait a few days or weeks. Someone posts something on Medium telling everyone it’s actually okay. Public opinion is muddled until the actual issue being discussed is rendered technologically irrelevant. For the newest MacBook Pro, we’re currently at stage 3 and ‘it’s kind of great for hackers’. Now if only we knew how to make USB-C ports work with microcontrollers…

If you have a Prusa i3, here’s a free gift: a Spitfire. The files to print a remote control, 973mm Spitfire Mk XVI are now free for Prusa i3 and i3 Mk 2 owners. Why? Because it’s cool, duh, and [Stephan Dokupil] and [Patrik Svida], the guys behind the Spitfire and other 3D printed RC planes, are also in Czech. Now all we need are Czech roundel stickers.