Part 1 (Friday)
July 18, 2008:
After driving for 7 hours to NYC from Southern Maine in a 16 mpg SUV packed with people, food (we’re cheap), and computer gear, we finally arrived in NYC late Thursday night. We didn’t stay at the Hotel Pennsylvania this time because the rooms were an outrageous $450./night when I got around to booking, but stayed at the Affinia Manhattan which was one block away. At $350./night with 2 bathrooms, a living room, a separate bedroom and, most importantly, a full kitchen, that hotel is now my favorite in NYC. Although it was right next to a police dept. and fire station with sirens going at all hours which added poignant staccato to the perpetual taxi horns, it seasoned our noisy NYC experience.
In accordance with true computer hacker form, the conference (thankfully) didn’t start until 10 AM every day and went past midnight. Arriving at the conference on Friday morning was, for us, like going to a family reunion. Seeing friends from all over the world and being surrounded with like-minded and similarly-attired computer geeks instantly made me feel comfortable. Sometimes the media portrays computer hacker conference like it’s a meeting of criminals getting together to take down civilized society, but in actuality, the cracker contingent is negligible; in fact, at HOPE and Def Con, if the conference attendees or organizers find out that script kiddies are messing with the hotel’s or conference’s stuff, they counter-attack or just throw them out.
Most of the attendees whom I’ve met at these conferences are the smartest people I know. They generally are not socially inept and, on the contrary, people just walk up to me and say, “Hi, my name is…(insert cool hacker handle here).” And I don’t think they are so friendly just because I’m a girl hacker.
Ok, so maybe it’s part of it, but that’s cool because there is nothing more awesome than a mysterious guy with a hacker handle like “Obsidian” with black spiky hair, wearing all black, carrying some totally cool technological device (that he built!), and with an IQ that could sear through any encryption and, some women might say, their better sensibilities. HOPE and Def Con conference are like hacker girl heaven—THOUSANDS of brilliant men are there with very little competition. C’mon girls…these guys are HOT. You’re missing out if you write off these sexy-in-a-geeky-way guys because, if you’re lucky like I am, you’ll marry one and never lack the type of cool tech discussions and attraction that rivals the thrill you get from watching a great action adventure/spy movie or snowboarding, fast, down a mountain--they are fast and furious.
Besides the “coming home” feeling most hackers have at this conference, there is not another type of conference I attend (certainly not legal topic ones) in which I’m riveted to my seat. Getting me to willingly sit in a non-ergonomic chair for days at a time is something that only a good hacker conference can do. I find myself skipping meals and forgetting to answer my cell so I can go to presentations uninterrupted from mid-day until midnight—the presentations were so great this year.