After three years, it’s odd to think back to those few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic morphed from something on the news into an immediate and ever-present threat which kept us isolating for so long. For me, some of the last moments of normality were a trip to the Netherlands for Hacker Hotel, a hacker event in the comfort of a resort hotel. Now three years later and after two cancelled events, Hacker Hotel is back, and I made the same journey to Garderen to hang out for a weekend with a bunch of hacker friends over some good Dutch beer and a lot of bitterballen. Continue reading “Hacker Hotel 2023: Back Again!”
Just a few days ago, MCH2022, a six day long hacker camp in Netherlands, has concluded – bringing about three thousand hackers together to hang out. It was my first trip to a large hacker camp like this, as I’ve only been to smaller ones, and this story is coming from someone who’s only now encountering the complexity and intricacy of one. This is the story of how it’s run on the inside.
MCH2022 is the successor of a hacker camp series in the Netherlands – you might’ve heard of the the previous one, SHA, organized in 2017. The “MCH” part officially stands for May Contain Hackers – and those, it absolutely did contain. An event for hackers of all kinds to rest, meet each other, and hang out – long overdue, and in fact, delayed for a year due to the everpresent pandemic. This wasn’t a conference-like event where you’d expect a schedule, catering and entertainment – a lot of what made MCH cool was each hacker’s unique input.
Just like many other camps similar to this, it was a volunteer-organized event – there’s no company standing behind it, save for a few sponsors with no influence on decisionmaking; it’s an event by hackers, for hackers. The Netherlands has a healthy culture of hackerspaces, with plenty of cooperation between them, and forming a self-organized network of volunteers, that cooperation works magic. Continue reading “Mutually Crafted Happiness: How MCH2022 Happened”
After a four-year hiatus and a cancelled event, it was time earlier this month for British and European hackers to return to their field in Herefordshire. A special field, Eastnor Castle Deer Park, venue for the Electromagnetic Field 2022 hacker camp. I packed up an oversized rucksack and my folding bike, and set off to enjoy a few days in the company of my fellow geeks.
As the first of the large European hacker camps since 2019 there was both an excitement and a slight trepidation in finally hanging out with several thousand people, even if mostly outdoors. The UK has a good COVID vaccine uptake and the camp organisers requested that attendees test themselves before travelling to Eastnor, but after two years of precautions and the pandemic still being with us there’s still some risk to take into account. Happily they were able to strike a decent balance between precautions and event progress, and we were able to proceed with a fairly normal hacker camp.
Plenty Of Talks, But They’re Not Online Yet
Sadly the extensive programme of talks has yet to make it onto YouTube or media.ccc.de at the time of writing, so the section I’d normally devote to them may have to wait for another time. Thus this write-up is more about the social aspect than the action.
Eastnor Castle Deer Park lies in a secluded Herefordshire valley, and the entry is vla a small estate road that treats you to an unfolding vista as you approach, of the marquees and other structures nestled among the trees. The usual queue for a wristband and you’re in, with the minor inconvenience of a trek trough the site to wherever your village lies. This year I was with my hackerspace in the Milton Keynes Makerspace village, next to one of the estate roads at the side of the valley and clustered round a tent with the commendable purpose of distributing free cups of very high quality tea. My tent up, I was ready to tour the site, and renew some friendships after so long apart. Continue reading “Hacker Camps Post-Pandemic, Electromagnetic Field 2022”
As we gear up for a summer in the field, or more accurately in a series of fields, it’s time to turn our attention towards Eastnor Castle in the Western English county of Herefordshire, venue for the upcoming Electromagnetic Field hacker camp. Sadly we’ve got no badge to tease you with, but they’ve released a list of the talks that will fill their schedule. There are so many to choose from, we can only mention a few in this article.
We’ll certainly be taking the time to watch [Russell Couper] describe his electric motorcycle project. He’s no stranger to unusual bike builds, having given us a diesel machine at EMF 2016. Then of course there’s our own [Dave Rountree], who will be hacking the radio spectrum with GNU Radio. Sure to be an interesting talk.
One feature of this camp we’re very interested in will be CuTEL, a wired copper telephone network on the field. We’ll be taking along our trusty GPO 746 to be part of it of course, but for those without one, there’s [Matthew Harrold]’s talk on building a copper telephone network in a field.
Our cursory scan of the list finishes up with [Alistair MacDonald] on how not to start a hackerspace. We’ve seen our fair share of hackerspace drama over the years, so whether this one causes pain for ex-hackerspace-directors or not, it promises to be informative for anyone in the hackerspace world.
As we head into another Northern Hemisphere pandemic winter and hope that things won’t be quite as bad this year, next summer seems an extremely long time away in the future. But it will be upon us sooner than we might think, and along with it will we hope come a resumption of full-scale hacker camps. One of the biggest will be in the Netherlands, where MCH 2022 will take lace at the end of July, and if you’re up to casting your minds ahead far enough for that then they’re inviting submissions to their Call for Participation. Their events are always a memorable and relaxed opportunity to spend a few days in the sun alongside several thousand other like-minded individuals, so we’d urge you to give it some consideration.
If you’ve never delivered a conference talk before then it can be a daunting prospect, but in fact a hacker camp can be an ideal place to give it a first try. Unlike a more traditional technology conference where most of the attendees file into the auditorium, at hacker camps there is so much else on offer that many talks are delivered to only that sub group of attendees for whom the subject is of real interest. So there is less of the huge auditorium of anonymous crowds about it, and more of the small and friendly crowd of fellow enthusiasts. The great thing about our community is that there are as many different interests within it as there are individuals, so whatever your product, specialism, or favourite hobby horse might be, you’ll find people at a hacker camp who’d like to hear what you have to say.
If you’re still seeking inspiration, of course you might find it by looking at the schedule from SHA, the last Dutch camp.
It’s tempting despite news of stubbornly higher-than-ideal COVID infection figures, to imagine that just maybe the world might be returning to some semblance of pre-pandemic normality. Where this is being written we’re a largely vaccinated population long out of lockdown, and though perhaps some of the pandemic pronouncements of our politicians are a bit suspect we’re cautiously able to enjoy most of life’s essentials. Visiting the supermarket and having a beer might be one thing, but the effect of the pandemic is still being felt in our community’s gatherings. BornHack went ahead this summer, but the headline MCH hacker camp was put off until 2022 and the upcoming CCC Congress in Germany is once more to be a virtual event.
But some events manage to put together the right mix of precaution and size. Such was the case with ETH0, a hacker camp which I was happy to attend last weekend.
For Europeans, August is usually a month of blistering heatwaves, day after day of cloudless skies and burning sun that ripens fruit and turns we locals a variety of shades of pink. Hacker camps during this month are lazy days of cool projects and hot nights of lasers, Club-Mate, and techno music, with tents being warm enough under the night sky to dispense with a sleeping bag altogether.
Sometimes though, the whims of the global weather patterns smile less upon us hackers, and our balmy summer break becomes a little more frigid. At BornHack 2021 for example we packed for a heatwave and were met with a Denmark under the grip of the Northern air mass. How’s a hacker to keep warm?