I need to preface this by mentioning three things off the top.  After these,
you can decide whether or not to go on reading.

1)I work primarily on the Windows/.NET platform.  It's been that way for almost
10 years now, and for the first few I was rabidly Pro-M$.  Then some good
friends had an intervention and introduced me to the wonders of Linux, Unix,
OSS, and all other manner of goodness.  This opened the door to see what real
hackers were like. See...Microsoft-based Consultants are rarely hackers. They
tend to tow the Party Line, dress in khaki, and wear tailored polo shirts
with their company logo on them. All very clean and santitized. After my
friends had their intervention, and after I saw the light, I wanted to learn
more. I came to this Con to do just that.  2)This was the first Con of it's
kind that I've ever been to.  I came for three main reasons. The first:
It was local. The second: It was cheap.  The third: I wanted to see just
what I could learn about security that was not whitewashed by M$ propaganda.
3)This is my first write-up.  It's in the form of a diary, which I kept day
by day and was going to post on my site. It might be long. It might be silly.

There. You've been warned.

Friday, April 23
After getting up at 4:30am to get the obligitory last-minute-client project
done, I needed fairly massive amounts of caffeine to get my sorry ass in
gear to head downtown to Notacon. By 10am, I was fully caffinated, had cash
in hand, and was ready to head to the con.

Parking, as always in downtown, was a mess. At the hotel, is was $16 a
day. I opted for the Municipal lot, which was $3.00. A longer walk, but hell,
I could use the exercise. The con itself is at the Holiday in on Lakeside,
which is a mere 10min. Walk from the parking lot.

Before the con, I met up with Matt, a web developer who is contracting at DFAS
in the Federal Building, and Arne, who runs his own sceurity auditing firm.
This was a good sign. I was concerned that I would spend most of the con on
my own, drifting from talk to talk, and reading/coding/gaming in between. Not
the case. Everyone here has proven to be extremely friendly.

(As I sit here in the main networking room, I'm listening to two guys comparing
the relative merits of Gentoo versus Mandrake. I cannot remember the last
time I heard a Microsoft-based consultant speak with such passion. Perhaps
that's the problem.)

Attendance, thus far, is sparse, but that is to be expected. Not everyone
can take a Friday off...hell...I was supposed to, but even I worked four
hours so far today. Bah. Bah, I say.

The staff is cool. Everyone is tired, but seems unstressed, or if they are
stressed, their the type of folks who deal with it with humor rather than
anger.  Froggy (the grand poobah) looks like he's been up for at least 36
hours...he glazes over for a few seconds, then jumps into the conversation
once more. He's doing a good thing...Cleveland needs just this sort of thing
to coax the various user groups together. Perhaps this is a first step.

2:30 now. There's going to be a talk on the USA PATRIOT act at three that I'm
looking forward to hearing. After that, it's a non-stop run until about 9pm.
Eric Meyer is presenting two talks, and I definitely want to hear those.

More later.

* * *


This con is a fun thing. I'm home now. The PATRIOT talk was very interesting,
as was a talk called 'Is Privacy an Illusion?' However, the high point was
the two talks given by Eric Meyer.

The first talk, 'Getting Friendly With (X)HTML,' explored the possibilities
of social networks using XFN and XMDP. The basic idea is behind XFN putting
context into linking to your friends using the REL attribute of of the
anchor tags. XMDP is more about defining a personal profile for REL tags
(as I understand it) and using those with your page. Crawlers can read those
links and derive meaning from them. It was interesting, but I freely admit
that I think the whole social networking thing is a fad. Still...it will
spawn something else, and XFN and XMDP provide an interesting bridge.

Eric's second talk really opened my eyes to the possibilities of using pure
CSS for design. My god...go look at the CSS Zen Garden. When I was doing
much more interface work, I tried to make extensive use of CSS, but CSS
is limited by browser compatibility issues. Thanks to some intrepid souls,
those issues are mostly a thing of the past.

Saturday, April 24, 8:30pm

Well, the Ethics of the Hacker was a bust, but so far it's the bummer of the
Con.   The speaker's heart might have been in the right place, but a little
more prep would have been cool. Ah, well. Live and learn, man. Live and learn.

The talk on DEFJAM (Distributed Encrypted File Journaling and Messaging)
caught my attention, and I saw ti as a chance to get in on the ground
floor of what looked to be a really cool project.  I met up with the team
afterwards, had lunch, and talked a bit. When they asked if there were any
Windows coders in the audience, and my hand was the only one to shoot up. I
wonder if I'm the only one here?  If so, that's a damn shame. If more of my
colleagues paid attention to some of the techincal things here, they might
just learn something.

Jason and RaD MaN's talk took me back. Man...it's been years, but seeing
some of that ANSI art took me back to my own days as a SYSOP of a local
BBS. It's amazing how people can make art out of just about anything...gives
me a new respect for the cresativity it takes to elevate a mere IBM printer
to a machine that can play The Bule Danube Waltz. (No. I'm not kidding.)

I killed some time in the network room before Richard Forno's keynote and
just listened to the conversation.  What a blast. What a nice chance from
the typical, run-of-the-mill buzzword marketing bullshit I hear on a daily
basis when doing the client tapdance. Everyone here is passionate about what
they do.  Knowledgable, professional, but not taking themselves too seriously.
It's a nice change.

Forno's keynote speech on the nature of computing and the kind of control
the new licensing issues are are giving the big companies was well worth
my time, but after his speech I found that I wanted to head home and start
Lessig's new book, which has been sitting on my nightstand. With that,
I'm off. More tomorrow.

Sunday, April 25th, 3pm

Major problem with traffic this morning...the marathon made me later, but
luckily, it made Jose Nazario late as well. I didn't miss his talk.

Heh. Whew!  Everyone looked cashed by the end of this thing.  After the
closing ceremonies, I made a point of nabbing Tyger and telling her that,
after she and Froggy come down a bit, I'd shoot them an email about joining
the team this next year to help out.  This is a worthwhile thing. Cleveand
needs something like that. It pissed me off that more locals didn't show.
That needs to change.

It's over, but man...it was fun.  Even though I missed all the after
hours stuff, it was still a good time. I met some new folks, got some new
perspective, and got some ideas on how to expand my own skillset.   All in
all, this was worth it. I'll be back next year.

And so there it is.  Major kudos to the staff, the volunteers, and the
speakers.  Thank you all for going out on a limb and putting together
something like this in Cleveland of all places.  You guys rock.