I’m not quite sure how I ended up at 26C3, but I had a blast. From what I gather, the Chaos Communication Congresses are gathering of geeks and utopians (or both), around security, privacy and hacking. And LEDs.
We arrived the night before the start of the conference. We were lucky to have our places in advance, because when we went to retrieve our bracelets, people were queuing up to get their places.
The location of the 26C3 (and a few previous ones) is fantastic. The Berlin Congress Center is a graceful example of 70 architecture of the 2001 welcome to the future category. It’s basically a bloc containing a cylindrical structure – the outside edges are the corridors, the inside disks are rooms. Saal1 (under the cupula) in particular is phenomenal, but the rest of the building has lots of charm too. DECT radio network, which means everyone was walking around with your average domestic chordless phone (DECT radio for those in the know). They even set up a GSM network which didn’t work too consistently, but was way cool nonetheless: instead of vodaphone et al. you had an in-house network which even worked for normal domestic calls ! conference recordings would be available later also made it less of an incentive to try and pile in. The talks I did attend/listen to were fascinating.
One talk I attended was about stylometry, or how you can in certain situation detect who’s the author of a text by the word choice, grammar, etc. Which obviously means danger for whistle-blowers publishing anonymously against an abusive employer or an oppressive regime. The author was trying to ‘attack’ those techniques, by trying pastiche or obfuscation. Another talk was about intelligence support systems, and their use by all kinds of organization. I also followed a talk about attacks on PKI, which is interesting since my current work is all about PKI. Mate is a naturally caffeinated kind of tea leaf from South-America. Club-Mate is a soda version of that, and quite tasty and effective, as energy drinks go.
Then there were all the cool toys ! You could buy kits of electronic circuits to assemble yourself. I bought and assembled the TV-B-Gone kit to switch off tv’s, which worked, and a dotblox64, which lots of LEDs, which doesn’t yet (because of slightly shoddy solderwork). There was a group making helicopters, and a group building and programming LEGO robots to fight against eachother. Geek heaven, or what.