CMC at the 2018 Hackers of Planet Earth Conference


Post by joey lopez phd

It’s with great enthusiasm that I am writing about my 2018 HOPE conference adventure with Jeremy Zunker a fellow CMC member.

I had known about the HOPE conference since I was a teenager/early 20’s, it was more lore to me then an actual event in those days. I had seen the 2600 hacker quarterly and I knew a little bit about hacker culture. Over the years my knowledge and enthusiasm for hacker culture grew and grew to the point that in graduate school I had the pleasure of meeting my now colleague Brandon Wiley, one of the founding theorist and practitioners of peer to peer and anonymity theory. We would work on all kinds of hacker projects and because of our graduate program, the ACTLab, run by hacker Sandy Stone we also brought it into the classroom. We even taught an “Extreme Freestyle Hacking” course. Fellow ACTLabber and now colleague Dustin Younse re introduced me into the 2600 group and HOPE as he attending every year.

I will never forget him coming back in the mid 2000’s to talk to us about “hacker spaces.” He told us how they would be all over and we should think about creating one and or labeling spaces we already had as them.

Sure enough hacker spaces took off.

That’s how I met Jeremy, at a hacker space. 10bitworks in San Antonio to be specific. The Collective was working on Converging Texan Cultures, a museum installation for the Institute of Texas Cultures where we wanted to integrate an XBox Kinect with a gesture based projector interface. Sure enough Jeremy popped up when I asked the folks at 10bit if anyone wanted to help. And the rest is history. Jeremy has been a member since helping with numerous projects and outreach ventures. He would come and present projects to courses I was teaching and he even presented on his 3 week trip to China with Mitch Altman where he visited universities, hacker spaces and manufacturing facilities.

Fast forward to this past spring 2018 and Jeremy asked me if I would be interested in attending the 2018 HOPE conference. I had been going through a tough year looking for a job and starting a business with a friend. I told him I was broke and couldn’t afford it.

Well he said he would cover me and so I said sure!

I didn’t know what to expect other then that Jeremy had been to one before and told me his experiences. I applied to speak, but never heard anything. So read over the talks being presented. Other then that I just showed up.

And that’s what I learned HOPE was about, showing up and just engaging with fellow hackers. Finding like minded people and sharing your projects, ideas and enthusiasm.

I was like a fish in water. Jeremy quickly introduced me to some friends he made while on his trip to China. It turned out one them, Scotty Allen had planned to come and just setup a space to hack all weekend. So guess what we did???

We hacked all weekend with Scotty. He actually lives in Shenzhen China and hacks full time. He documents his experience on YouTube (Strange Parts) for all to see which is awesome. He was so kind and friendly, it was amazing! He brought a video microscope and a bunch of iPhone dev boards and other iPhone related peripherals. He also brought a bunch of on die RFID chips and some with antennas and a close range and far range detector. He intent was to have us make our own antennas and see how they match up to commercial ones.

So off to the races we went with myself making a non scientific one out of a paper clip and Jeremy designing a fully scientific one using a yagi attenna calculator. The results were as expected, mine did about 2x better then standard antenna (3” away vs 6” away with the paper clip). Jeremy’s worked 24’ away!!!

But that only tells half the story. Because it wasn’t even making the RFID attennas that was awesome, it was all the collisions with people coming by to see what we were up to that was great. We met people from all over the country doing all kinds of cool hacker projects. From a fellow who had built an IBM mainframe in his parents basement to another who had a hackerspace in Montana and was advocating for LPFM. I even met someone who had made an all 8bit full cover of Nine Inch Nails Pretty Hate Machine, which I bought from him right then and there!

I also went to an awesome talk by Jason Scott, an archivist who works for I will admit I wasn’t ready for his intro about how he had a heart attack and worked through it, literally doing 3 presentations the day before going to the doc and realizing he had to have surgery right then and there in Australia. Having anxiety my body got elevated and I took a break from the talk and came back and felt much better.

As I sat there and continued to listen to his talk I noticed a y’all slender gentleman and what appeared to be his girlfriend getup and start walking about. As he walked he collapsed.

I looked around and no one reacted, like no one, so I rushed over there. His girlfriend said he fainted. He had woken up and said he was ok. I asked him if he was made anxious by the talk and he said yes. I asked him if he had high blood pressure and he said yes. I told him I did too and anxiety and that he was most likely having an anxiety attack but that we should get him checked out. I put my hand on his back and rubbed it to sooth him, which he thanked me for. The med team showed up and helped him out. I stayed for the rest of the talk.

It really solidified my thoughts that it isn’t just me who have these issues but so many others. So if you are reading this and haven’t had your blood work done lately, do it!!!

As we wrapped up the hacking, Scotty mentioned to us that the microscope he brought was going to be given away to a hackerspace. I told him we would love to be thrown into the pot as 10bitworks and sure enough everything came full circle and the next day there Jeremy and I were carrying a video microscope in the subway and checking it on a plane.

The trip was amazing. The people, the journey to teaching this journey. I can’t thank Jeremy enough! Thank you Jeremy!

When we returned… You guessed it! We setup a time with 10bitworks and presented them with the microscope. It was actually a two phase ordeal, Jeremy went and set it up and then on a 2nd Saturday I went and shot us giving it to them and everyone checking it out.

I might be jaded, but 10bitworks is an amazing hackerspace, not because it is perfect, far from it. But because it is a doacracy. If you show up and say “hey y’all should be donning this!” They will respond with an enthusiastic yes and ask you to do it, and genuinely support it.

And I think that’s what hacking it all about, facilitating curiosity amongst an array of various people from various backgrounds.

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