Linux Fest North West & Hackers on a Train recap

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I’ve been neglecting my weekly blog post the last few weeks, but I’m back! The last few weeks and weekends have been busy with fun stuff.

The workshop I gave on Data Security for Journalists at the CPJ conference was really wonderful fun. It was great to meet Cyrus and Micah and hang out with them teaching journalists how to use security tools to protect both themselves and their sources. The workshop itself was a great success, with all attendees walking away with both a working knowledge and a suite of tools to help them in their daily work. Feedback after the workshop was really positive as well. All in all a success I’d very much like to recreate again.

The Sunday of that same weekend I attended my first B-Sides in SF. A few Noisebridge folks ended up attending together. The highlight of the day was all of us competing in the CTF that was running at the event. I’ve dabbled in CTF events before, but this was the first one I’ve really competed in before. The Noisebridge team ended up racking up a respectable point tally before the end of the day. It was fun tinkering around trying to break the web-app challenges.

That following Wednesday was the beginning of the Hackers on a Train journey to Linux Fest North West in Bellingham, WA. We left Oakland on Wednesday night on the Coast Starlight Amtrak route. I’d not ever tried train travel in the US before, but was very pleasantly surprised by the experience. It was a thoroughly enjoyable ~22 hour ride to Seattle. We spent the majority of our time in the observation car taking in the countryside and hacking a thing. A very relaxing way to travel. I’d like to travel by train more in the future when time allows.

Linux Fest North West was my first experience of a Free Software conference, and I was really blown away by the community there. The exhibition floor had stands from a bunch of Free Software communities, and it was great getting to chat with folks about their work in Free and Open Source Software. Many had been in the community for a long time, and it was inspiring to see the work they’ve contributed to making this software and community more awesome for folks.

A definite highlight of the weekend was attending a talk by Bradley Kuhn on the future of Copyleft. Bradley is a key figure in the copyleft community, working with the Free Software Conservancy and others to protect Free Software in the world. I was very much inspired by Bradley’s history with the community and his rousing words on the need to defend Free Software and its use in the world on a continual basis. I walked away from the talk with a much better understanding of the Free Software licenses, their history, importance and place in the ecosystem.

In project news, I’ve been dabbling in Rust and systems programming recently, writing a small daemon to handle input from a USB barcode scanner to be used in a book cataloguing setup at Noisebridge. It’s been a refreshing change of pace to write such code, diving into a new language like Rust, and learn a new thing at every step of the way. You can follow my (admittedly slow) progress on Github. Having spent the vast majority of my time writing code in interpreted, duck-typed languages having a compiler to contend with / help guide you is a fun change. I’m finding Rust a really fun language to learn, and in particular the #rust IRC channel to be an awesome community learning resource. All in all it’s making me want to write more learn more about this style of programming.

Given things are a little less busy I’m hoping to get back into the weekly blog schedule. I’ve missed taking the time to write something each week, and don’t want to let the habit die. Watch this space for more.