Sunday, June 06, 2004


For reasons that will become clear during this entry, I'm writing this at 12:15 am on Monday morning. I'm very, very tired so it might not make much sense. I got up at 5am and packed my stuff for Notcon. I decided to wear black combats, my bright pink Shonen Knife t-shirt(signed by the band) and a black suit jacket. I couldn't find a suitable hat to wear.

Richard picked me up at 6am and we then collected Henry, Hannah and Tristan. I was kind of nervous about the journey because Richard had never driven with a car full of people and therefore if we had to break suddenly we'd probably all die. Dying in a car with some wannabe skript kiddies is not how I want to go.

Notcon consisted of two series of talks running concurrently. I stayed downstairs throughout the event as I couldn't be bothered to move. Also, most of the good talks seemed to be downstairs. Note, I haven't include links here, just go to if you want to find out about any of the talks.

The first talk was on how geeks organise themselves. It wasn't really groundbreaking stuff; geeks write big lists of stuff they need to do, they use email *a lot*, and they have various information feeds coming from the Internet. From this I learnt three things: firstly, I should be more organised with my to-do lists. There's so much stuff that I plan to do, and write on a list only to lose it later. Secondly, I should write far more emails, possibly even return to writing mass emails although the whole point of this blog was to get away from that. Thirdly, I should get broadband at home and spend more time surfing the Net, something I used to do a lot but haven't done much for the last six months.

The were a series of talks on hardware hacking:
The first concerned a clock running off a prawn and mayonnaise sandwich. The dude had got a load of prawn and mayo sandwiches, attached three sensors to them and measure how various properties changed as the sandwiches aged. Attaching a fresh sandwich to a BBC model B microcomputer and giving it the data allowed one to tell the time. The Reverend Rat, a hacker from London gave a very brief talk on his mega power blue tooth. Essentially he had got a Bluetooth dongle and attached an amplified antennae to it, allowing it to transmit and receive 35 miles or something. Very cool if you want to own someone's mobile while sitting on the other side of the city to them.
An amazingly geeky guy gave a talk on Sinclair Spectrum hacking. Seeing streaming video on a Specky is enough to make most geeks very excited.
A couple of guys gave a talk on camera phone hacking. They had devised a way of using object recognition software with blue tooth camera phones so that you can use your mobile as a remote control. It was very cool.

A guy from the BBC complained about his bosses who thought Interactive TV should be able to work in the same way as the Internet.

My favourite talk was by Brewster Kale, a guy who's trying to archive all the world's knowledge. As a side project he set up a load of bookmobiles that traveled round India giving away free books. The books were scanned in at libraries etc. and then accessed by satellite by the bookmobiles. A book mobile would turn up at a village and the kids would come and print and bind their own book. It struck me as such a beautiful project, bearing in mind that lots of the kids had never owned anything before, let alone a book.

There was a panel discussing copyright issues. It wasn't all that interesting. There was a guy from the EFF on the panel who basically won most of the arguments, even when he was in the wrong.

I was surprised that I even enjoyed the talks on business stuff. One talk was about what to do if you suddenly became an IT manager, the other tried to explain why projects usually fuck up. There was a series of talks on blogging. The best was by Tim Ireland, who has been writing a blog of Tim Yeo, a Conservative MP. He encouraged everyone to write a blog of their MP. I'll do one for my MP as soon as I'm a bit more organised.

The team behind gave a talk on politics on the web. It was to launch their new site, which is a website that provides convenient methods of searching Hansard, the official minutes of the Houses Of Parliament.

Two guys who are helping to make the film of Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy gave a crap talk about how things were going. It was crap because they couldn't actually tell us anything as they had signed confidentiality agreements with the film company. The film looked crap anyway. On the way back through South Kensington tube station we saw a BT Internet pay phone that had crashed. Windows XP had got a stop error. We took pictures...

While driving back to Norwich we stopped at a service station. I ate something crap and expensive. Henry took photos of some adverts for wireless. In the service station was a large TV showing BBC24. I watched it for a bit and saw a TV advert for Japan with Koizumi, that Japanese prime minister trying to attract people to his fucked up country. He is a twat. Got home late, knackered but very enthusiastic about my future. This is the year of Karamoon.

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