2023 Hackaday Supercon: Cory Doctorow Signs On As Keynote Speaker

As if you weren’t already excited enough about the speakers and events that will be part of this year’s Hackaday Supercon, today we can finally reveal that journalist, activist, author, technologist, and all around geek Cory Doctorow will be presenting the keynote address on Saturday morning.

Cory has always been an outspoken supporter of digital freedom, from helping develop OpenCola in 2001 as a way to explain the concepts behind free and open source software, to his more recent work at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He’s made his novels available for purchase directly from his personal website in DRM-free file formats, and he’s even developed a habit of releasing some of them for free under the Creative Commons license. The hacker ethos is strong with this one.

Over the last year, he’s been particularly vocal about what he calls Enshittification — the inevitable decay of any online service where the users are, whether they realize it or not, the product. It’s a concept that’s perfectly exemplified by the ongoing slow-motion implosion of Twitter, and Reddit’s increasingly hostile treatment of its community. Cory explains that one of the signposts on this particular journey is when user-created tools, such as web scrapers or bots, are banned by the powers that be. Reverse engineering, especially when it can uncover a way out of the Walled Garden, is strictly forbidden.

Luckily, there’s a way out. Cory will be delivering his talk An Audacious Plan to Halt the Internet’s Enshittification and Throw It Into Reverse, not only to those who will be physically attending Supercon, but to the entire Hackaday community via our live YouTube stream of the event. It’s a presentation that’s critically important to an audience such as ours — while nearly anyone with an Internet connection can appreciate the problem he’s describing, hackers and makers are in a unique position to actually do something about it. Following the principles Cory will detail in his talk, we can build services and networks that actually respect their users rather than treating them like the enemy.

It Won’t Be Long Now

By the time this post hits the front page of Hackaday, there will be slightly more than a week to go before several hundred of our best friends descend on the city of Pasadena for Supercon. We recently unveiled the Vectorscope badge, dropped two posts listing off all of this year’s presenters, and offered up a list of fascinating workshops. The stage is now officially set for what we consider, as humbly as possible, to be the greatest gathering of hardware hackers, builders, engineers, and enthusiasts in the world. Check out the schedule and plan your Supercon ahead of time.

Tickets for the 2023 Hackaday Supercon are, perhaps unsurprisingly, completely sold out. But you can still add your name to the wait list on Eventbrite, which will put you in the running to grab any returned tickets should somebody have to back out at the last minute. Failing that, there’s always 2024.

Featured Image: Copyright Julia Galdo and Cody Cloud (JUCO), www.jucophoto.com/, CC BY-SA 2.0

Books You Should Read: Red Team Blues

Martin Hench really likes playing on the Red Team — being on the attack. He’s a financial geek, understands cryptocurrency, understands how money is moved around to keep it hidden, and is really good at mining data from social media. He puts those skills together as a forensic accountant. Put simply, Martin finds money that people want hidden. Against his better judgment, Marty does the job of a lifetime, and makes an absolute mint. But that job had hair, and he’s got to live through the aftermath. It turns out, that might just be a challenge, as three separate groups want a piece of him.

Red Team Blues, a work of fiction by [Cory Doctorow] about cryptocurrency, trust, finance, and society as a whole. When [Doctorow] offered to send us a copy to review, we jumped at the chance, and can give it a hearty recommendation as a fun and thoughtful tale. The moral seems to be that while everyone plays the sordid finance game, the government should really work harder to disentangle the mess, but maybe we would do better if more people opted for integrity. There is also a real point to be made about the dark side of cryptocurrency, in that it enables crime, ransomware, and money laundering on a global scale. For all the pluses for privacy and anonymity, there’s some real downsides. The characters spend most of the book wrestling with that dichotomy in the background.

The book took something of a moralizing turn just over halfway through. Which, depending on your viewpoint, you’ll either really appreciate, or have to hold your nose a bit to get through. But the suspense pulls the reader through it, making for an overall enjoyable read. As an added bonus, you might end up with a better mental image of how the pieces of digital privacy, finance, and the real world all fit together.

The book has all the fun references to Tor, Signal, Bitcoin, and computer history you could want. And the central MacGuffin is an interesting one: a cryptocurrency that runs on proof-of-secure-enclave, eliminating the ridiculous power consumption of proof-of-work schemes. All of this with some rich Silicon Valley lore setting up the background. Our conclusion? Two wrenches up.

Tearing Down The Boss Phone

Poke around enough on AliExpress, Alibaba, and especially Taobao—the Chinese facing site that’s increasingly being used by Westerners to find hard to source parts—and you’ll come across some interesting things. The Long-CZ J8 is one of those, it’s 2.67 inch long and weighs just 0.63 ounces, and it’s built in the form factor of a Bluetooth headset.

A couple of months ago Cory Doctorow highlighted this tiny phone, he’d picked up on it because of the marketing. The lozenge-shaped phone was being explicitly marketed that it could “beat the boss”. The boss in question here being the B.O.S.S chair—a scanning technology that has been widely deployed across prisons in the U.K. in an attempt to put a halt to smuggling of mobile phones to inmates.

The Long-CZ J8 is just 2.67 inch (6.8cm) long.

I wasn’t particularly interested in whether it could make it through a body scanner, or the built-in voice changer which was another clue as to the target market for the phone. However just the size of the thing was intriguing enough that I thought I’d pick one up and take a look inside. So I ordered one from Amazon.

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Cory Doctorow Rails Against Technological Nihilism; Wants You To Have Hope

I was skeptical about a two hour block allotted for Cory Doctrow’s keynote address at HOPE XI. I’ve been to Operas that are shorter than that and it’s hard to imagine he could keep a huge audience engaged for that long. I was incredibly wrong — this was a barnburner of a talk. Here is where some would make a joke about breaking out the rainbows and puppies. But this isn’t a joke. I think Cory’s talk helped me understand why I’ve been feeling down about our not-so-bright digital future and unearthed a foundation upon which hope can grow.

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Cory Doctorow Rails Against The Effect Of DRM And The DMCA

If you weren’t at [Cory Doctorow’s] DEF CON talk on Friday you missed out. Fighting Back in the War on General Purpose Computing was inspiring, informed, and incomparable. At the very lowest level his point was that it isn’t the devices gathering data about us that is the big problem, it’s the legislation that makes it illegal for us to make them secure. The good news is that all of the DEF CON talks are recorded and published freely. While you wait for that to happen, read on for a recap and to learn how you can help the EFF fix this mess.

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Welcome To The Petacentre

[Cory Doctorow] obtained access to a few data centers that deal in petabyte storage. The demand for data storage and processing doesn’t show any sign of stopping. It’s especially relevant when people need the resources to manage not only things like Google searches, but also email, customer transactions, and in the case of CERN, physics calculations. [Doctorow] drew an interesting conclusion from his experiences with the data centers; any innovation that the petabyte centers work on will eventually drift on down to the ordinary user, in laptop or desktop innovation. The petabyte center is easily duplicated with materials that are available for purchase to the average computer user; the only obstacles are price and space.

[via Boing Boing]