Live As If You Are Already In The Future At Hacker Camp

Live As If You Are Already In The Future At Hacker Camp
Live As If You Are Already In The Future At Hacker Camp 

By Annalee Newitz
Aug 17 2009

Every four years, the Netherlands countryside is invaded by roughly 2500 
people obsessed with technology. Together they build a futurist 
experiment, a massively hacked data network, and a party. Here's a 
gallery of last weekend's Hacking At Random camp.

At first glance, HAR appears to be something like an outdoor rave or 
music festival, with its brightly-colored flags, tents, and ice cream 
stands. Except the entire outdooor area, packed with hundreds of 
campsites, is threaded with ethernet wires that terminate in blue 
port-a-potties. These toilets have been repurposed as computer network 
hubs dubbed Datenklo, German for data toilets. Switches furred with wire 
sit in neat stacks on top of toilet seats, and a wireless access point 
in the roof broadcasts a local wifi network too. As one of the network 
administrators explained to me, toilets are the perfect spot for outdoor 
data hubs . they are weatherproof, mobile, and can easily be locked to 
keep out drunken party-goers. Cables from the Datenklo lead to a hut 
called the NOC or network operations center, and are threaded through a 
window into a series of servers cooled with a portable air conditioner.

It's one of the more nicely-designed computer networks I've ever used, 
and it was set up in less than a week in the remote vacation village, 
called Vierhouten, where HAR was held. The group even laid a kilometer 
of donated fiber optic cable to bring high speed internet to the HAR 
campers' network. If you wanted to set up a server, there was also a 
pretty swank colocation facility located in a tiny hut, labeled ETH0 in 
duct tape.

Elsewhere, a group set up a DECT wireless phone network and sold phones 
with phone numbers usable only in camp. Another group built a free GSM 
mobile phone network, and handed out free phone numbers to anybody who 
promised to test the network, which ran on experimental software and 
hardware. For anybody who thinks of their cell phone as a device 
entirely controlled by Sprint or T-Mobile, connecting to the HAR GSM 
network is like visiting the future. A utopian future where mobile 
phones are run by community networks that offer free services . and 
whose operators live in a tent up the road labeled "GSM" just in case 
you need to ask a question. Imagine being able to control every aspect 
of your phone, including the very network where you make telephone 
calls. It seems bizarrely revolutionary.


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