[I'm headed out to Cleveland for Notacon 3 this weekend, and I'm
hoping to see some InfoSec News subscribers in attendence! - WK]
Cool Cleveland Preview - Notacon 3
While Cleveland's business community struggles to find ways to attract
technically advanced young people, for the third spring in a row a
motley gang of hundreds of computer hackers are coming to Cleveland to
attend Notacon. This is Cleveland's own computer hackers' conference
and one of only a hand full of hackers' conferences (cons) nationwide.
Notacon 3, to be held this April 7 through 9 at the Lakeside Holiday
Inn in downtown, is directed by Jodie and Paul Schneider the
mom-and-pop proprietors of FTS Conventures conference organizers
operating from their Lakewood home.
Attending Notacon is to gain snatches of graduate-level education on
the cheap between snatches of laughter. The audience challenges some
ideas in a humorous free-for-all that seems light years from grad
school. At Notacon "class clowns" openly question some presenters and
sometimes the presenters get the last laugh on the clowns. Tickets at
the door are $100 for the Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon
Last year at Notacon 2 Paul Schneider told the Saturday afternoon
crowd of mostly of men in their 20s and 30s, "This is about bringing a
world of people together to help each of us have a chance to be the
center of attention."
Richard Forno of Washington D.C. is the keynote speaker on Saturday
and he has been the sole keynote speaker in three years of Notacon. He
is an information assurance specialist who served as chief information
security officer for Network Solutions and InterNIC, two entities that
have been central to the operation of the Internet. Now a consultant
to research organizations, he is author of the 2003 book "Weapons of
Mass Delusion: America's Real National Emergency," among other more
In 2004 at Notacon 1 Forno described corporate digital security as
"theaters of illusion." "The self-serving (security and anti-virus)
industries are telling us what's best for our society, and us," he
said. "It is not in a major software vendor's economic interest to
Forno is not the only industry-and-government-indicting presenter or
attendee at Notacon. Even so the broad base of topics covered at
Notacon provides little political dogma. Forum topics include art and
music with presenters Laurence Gartel (aka the "father" of digital
art) of Boca Raton Fla., and prominent digital musician Joe Canto (aka
"Computo") of Los Angeles, plus Cleveland's Cascading Style Sheet guru
A sample of forum titles: Ethics of the hacker; Brain-computer
interfaces; Practical web based multimedia content management systems;
How Microsoft is going to die; Building communities in self
destructive environments; Computers without hardware, programming
without coding; Patch management in a Windows environment; Why your
computer guy sucks; Photography, a short skewed history; and
presentations on various technical and political aspects of open
source code, Linux, computer security and digital privacy.
Attendees last year seemed to think that Notacom 2 provided useful
connections. "I'm here to find talent," said Paul Bragiel, a video
game developer from Chicago Ill. "We have small meetings of hackers
with only 20 people in Chicago. There is no convention of hackers near
this scale in Chicago."
"Notacon has a good 'signal-to-noise' ratio," said Irish Masms an
information manager for a defense contractor near Las Vegas. "Bigger
conferences are so well known that many people go to be hip and they
don't know what's going on. Most people here know something."
"I'm too old and stupid to know when to quit," said 70-year-old
Richard Baum a retired biomedical engineer from Parma and likely the
oldest person at Notacon. "I don't like hanging out at a retirement
home listening to people complain about their aches and pains."
Mr. Schneider said a total of $10,000 was invested to kick-start
Notacon three years ago. The show is produced with the help of 17
volunteers. Ms. Schneider said "when we founded the business we
decided we wanted to call this new project 'NotACon' because we wanted
to pull away from the technical focus of the standard 'Hacker Con' and
instead showcase the social aspects of human networking and the
artistic uses of computers."
To the Notacon staff and many attendees the Schneiders are known by
their online "handles": "Froggy" (Paul), and "Tyger" (Jodie). Both
graduated from Case Western Reserve University where they now work.
"Froggy" grew up "all over Greater Cleveland" and graduated from North
Royalton High School.
"Froggy" attracted "Tyger" to Cleveland. While a high school student
in Traverse City Mich. Jodie joined the Traverse City FreeNet. This
linked with Cleveland FreeNet (the granddaddy of all FreeNets, a
prominent precursor to the direct Internet access we have now). In
Internet Relay Chat in 1995 she met Paul. They maintained a
long-distance relationship through the Internet and telephone calls
until 1999 when, partly to find better employment and broaden her
education options, she moved to Cleveland.
Continuously throughout the conference the Notacon "midway" room
features wall-sized video "shoot 'em up" interactive games while lines
of hackers at tables ply laptop computers. A favorite Notacon attire
are "con" T-shirts.
Saturday night loosens up with a variety of entertainment including a
techno audio and light show lead by a crew of DJs and musicians from
around the East and Midwest. Last year this drew an evening crowd of
stylishly dressed Clevelanders attired in something other than
Sponsors include Internet services firm N2Net of downtown Cleveland,
Rentech Solutions of Cleveland, Sybex technical publishers recently
acquired by John Wiley & Sons Publishers of Hoboken N.J., the Hacker
Foundation of Stanford Calif. and Bawls Guarana caffeine drink made by
Hobarama Corp. of Miami Fla.
After launching a mom and pop hackers' conference and staging a small
number of other tech-intense events, the Schneider's are charged up to
make more high tech connections happen. For more see
LayerOne 2006 : Pasadena Hilton : Pasadena, CA
Infomation Security and Technology Conference