Looking Forward To EMF Camp: Teasing Us With A Schedule

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.

At the time of writing there are still some EMF tickets for sale, so if the beginning of your June is free we can heartily recommend it. To get a flavour of the event, read our 2018 review.

Got Anything To Talk About? These Dutch Hackers Want You To Say It To Them

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.

ETH0 Autumn 2021: Tiny Camp Manages COVID Precautions Indoors

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.

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Ask Hackaday: What’s The Best Way To Heat A Tent With A Laptop?

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?

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Something To Look Forward To: MCH2021 Call For Participation

As we stare dejectedly at our screens and consider what might have been during the 2020 summer that didn’t quite happen, here’s a little something to look forward to in a future where the COVID-19 pandemic will with any luck be much less of a threat. We have have had precious little in the way of events in 2020, but the call for participation has been announced for one of the largest planned for 2021. MCH2021 will be big European summer camp of next year, and is scheduled for the 6th to the 10th of August at Scoutinglandgoed Zeewolde in the Netherlands province of Flevoland. It will be the latest in a long line of such events going back to 1989, and with such a track record we know it’s going to be a good one.

We know that among our community are many people who’ll be interested in going to MCH, and that each and every one of you will have some fascinating insights that others would love to hear about. The challenge of the MCH orga is to bestow upon you the courage to stand up in front of your peers and talk about it, and from our experience here at Hackaday we’d say that an event such as this one makes for a very good place to give speaking a try. As always they’re interested in all the cool stuff that comes from our diverse community, but to help you along they’ve suggested a theme. Recent events have it’s fair to say presented a challenge to the world, and in that light they state that “we are especially looking for content that is about our ability to recover from extreme events of whatever nature”. We look forward to seeing you there.

Running A Successful Hacker Camp In A Pandemic: BornHack 2020

You could say 2020 is The Year That Didn’t Happen, or perhaps even The Year That Everything Happened Online. All the international cons and camps have been cancelled, and we’ve spent our time instead seeing our friends in Jitsi, or Zoom.

But there was one camp that wasn’t cancelled. The yearly Danish hacker camp BornHack has gone ahead this year with significantly reduced numbers and amid social distancing, turning it from what is normally one of the smaller and more intimate events into the only real-world event of 2020.

I bought my ticket early in the year and long before COVID-19 became a global pandemic, so on a sunny day in August I found myself in my car with my friend Dani from FizzPop hackerspace in Birmingham taking the ferry for the long drive through the Netherlands and Germany to Denmark.

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Playing The Pixelflut

Every hacker gathering needs as many pixels as its hackers can get their hands on. Get a group together and you’ll be blinded by the amount of light on display. (We propose “a blinkenlights” as the taxonomic name for such a group.) At a large gathering, what better way to show of your elite hacking ability than a “competition” over who can paint an LED canvas the best? Enter Pixelflut, the multiplayer drawing canvas.

Pixelflut has been around since at least 2012, but it came to this author’s attention after editor [Jenny List] noted it in her review of SHA 2017. What was that beguiling display behind the central bar? It turns out it was a display driven by a server running Pixelflut. A Pixelflut server exposes a display which can be drawn on by sending commands over the network in an extremely simple protocol. There are just four ASCII commands supported by every server — essentially get pixel, set pixel, screen size, and help — so implementing either a client or server is a snap, and that’s sort of the point.

While the original implementations appear to be written by [defnull] at the link at the top, in some sense Pixelflut is more of a common protocol than an implementation. In a sense, one “plays” one of a variety of Pixelflut minigames. When there is a display in a shared space the game is who can control the most area by drawing the fastest, either by being clever or by consuming as much bandwidth as possible.

Then there is the game of who can write the fastest more battle-hardened server possible in order to handle all that traffic without collapsing. To give a sense of scale, one installation at 36c3 reported that a truly gargantuan 0.5 petabytes of data were spent at a peak of rate of more than 30 gigabits/second, just painting pixels! That’s bound to bog down all but the most lithe server implementation. (“Flut” is “flood” in German.)

While hacker camps may be on pause for the foreseeable future, writing a performant Pixelflut client or server seems like an excellent way to sharpen one’s skills while we wait for their return. For a video example check out the embed after the break. Have a favorite implementation? Tell us about it in the comments!

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