Day 2: Thursday, 8/9/12
I know, I must not be a complete nerd. I actually slept. I woke up pretty early (I’ll blame being on a different time zone), and decided to go for a run on the beach. Upon first hitting the beach, I saw a stray dog run toward me. I stood still and watching him slowly trot up to my position. I realized that he was friendly, so I let him sniff me. He was wearing a chain, but no tags, so I figured he must belong to someone. Later, I would find out that the Indian reservation just had stray dogs roaming the grounds. Reminds me of some of the islands in the Caribbean.
There was the possibility of a warm shower, but one had to wait in a 30 minute line. Cold shower it was. There was a hose hooked up to a hand sprinkler hanging on a walled area behind the shower building. That’s one way to get clean. Considering it was about 50 degrees outside, the cold water wasn’t too bad. Well, maybe was pretty cold considering the water was close to 35 degrees.
While making breakfast, I noticed another dog roaming around the camp. This one bothered our neighbors across the street. It would give them the big doggy-eyed stare, looking for pets or food. Or both. Once it got bored, it would roam to the next camp. Apparently, these friendly-looking pseudo-strays caused a bit of mischief by stealing food.
With a good running high and a full belly, I walked with my campmates over to the Prime Dome for the start of the talks. A gentleman by the name of Joe Grand opened the day’s talks by giving a keynote on his own life. He started with BASIC as a kid and eventually got into hacking various electronics. He even got arrested for cracking credit cards, although he was later featured on Discovery’s Prototype This! So, crime does pay – as long as you’re a hacker. While the talk meandered a bit, one message did stand out: follow your passion. As an engineer, I found Grand’s speech inspirational, especially the part about being picked up by Discovery for an show about engineering.
The talks for the rest of the day were organized into 20 minute stints. Quinn Norton gave a short talk about Anonymous and the Occupy movement. Considering she is a writer for Wired magazine, Norton’s speech was extremely well thought-out and concise. She compared the two movements and referred to them as a “Stochastic Collective,” indicating that there was no real hierarchy. The lack of hierarchy meant that temporary leaders would rise up in the moment, then disappear after whatever action was taken. Often, this type of non-hierarchical culture clashes heavily with hierarchical cultures, as evidenced by the uprisings in the Middle East, which were sparked by a single event.
Michael Ossmann and Jared Boone talked about their personal project: an open source, wide-band receiver for software-defined radios. Interestingly, they were being funded by DARPA via the Cyber Fast Track program.
At around 3:30, the sun finally came out to bask us in its warm, delicious glory. I attended a workshop dealing with the Robot Operating System. ROS is a massive framework started by Willow Garage at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. It is based around a series of messages sent back and forth between nodes. These nodes could be anything: motors, sensors, computers, etc. A few of us managed to get ROS installed and got a simple “Hello World” program working. This consisted of moving a simulated turtle around the screen with arrow keys or by passing scripted messages. The instructor, Hao, was working with a much larger, and more tangible robot named “McHawking,” which could supposedly roam around, avoid obstacles, and manipulate objects with an arm. We didn’t get to see him in action, though.
I got to be the hero of the class when the ToorCamp Wireless Internet went down (or was ridiculously slow). With my rooted Android device, I setup an ad-hoc WiFi network that was able to broadcast my 3G connection. I had a couple students connect to the ad-hoc access point and download the necessary files. I discovered that tethering my phone to my laptop provided a more stable Internet connection than the local WiFi. I was lucky to have a 3G connection, as it provided my Internet connection for the rest of the camp.
Dinner time! Same menu as the first day: chicken, onion, and bell pepper pan fried and then mixed with baked beans and a side of asparagus. A friend lent me his Snow Peak stove, which worked really well. A single, large Snow Peak fuel canister lasted me the whole trip (cooking breakfast and dinner).
After a good meal, I went back to Hao’s workshop. He lent me his Arduino, where we managed to get ROS to blink an LED on the Arduino. This was a bit of a challenge, because you had to load a custom library into the Arduino in order to send and receive ROS messages. After, I worked on our Baobot project, as I needed to create a few parts for our electronics library.
Then, it was time for bed. The nerd gods must be angry for my lack of willpower to stay awake.