|: PhreakNIC 9 Writeup :|
So, how do I begin? Like I said on the website, the lead up for PhreakNIC was much easier than Notacon this year. T-shirts got done early, my DVD burner and Adobe Encore both co-operated to let me get a good run of DVD's finished ahead of schedule, it was a generally fun week. The only bad thing was that Zach wasn't able to make it :(. I even had time to organize a raffle and my AS/400 to draw more attention to my table. I decided I didn't need the Toshiba T-1000 that I've had for about 7 years and never used, and I also made a pile of all of my old Token Ring hardware that hasn't been used for nearly as long. This was organized into two raffle items. The TR hardware included an 8 port MAU, an IBM TR test kit, and nearly a dozen TR adapters (3ISA, 3PCI, 2PCMCIA, and a MCA adapter) and misc. cables and balun's.
Now, the AS/400. I thought since this is the quintessential hacker-con it might be fun to bring my 400 so people could hack away on it and have some fun. If you don't know, an AS/400 is completely different from any other computer system made. It's heritage is from older computers made by IBM in the mid to late 1970's. It's hardware and software are completely proprietary, although this has changed in later years. Terminals are connected with a co-axial cable called twin-ax. It has two center conductors and an outer shield. It's heavy duty and well made, no stray line noise here. It runs a protocol called 5250 to talk to terminals, in fact you need a telnet client that speaks 5250 to talk to a network connected 400.
I acquired my AS/400 several years ago while I was in school. It's a 9401-150, one of the first PowerPC based units. It's the smallest one commercially sold by IBM, although IBM used to make a briefcase sized unit (CISC based) for use by salesman to take on-site to new customers. Anyway, it was a couple years before I could use it because I couldn't ever get the terminal that came with it to work. A friend gave me a twin-ax terminal a couple years ago and I could finally get to play with it. Well, I finally got my other terminal working a day before PhreakNIC. It used an external VGA display, this time I tried several different displays until I found one that was compatible. So, now I have a 'public display' and a private one I can use to monitor user sessions with. I laminated some command sheets and brought the admin guide so people could actually have a chance at learning something.
So, I arrived about 11:30am Friday at the Day's Inn at the Coliseum. I met Droops and crew standing under the drive-through awning, we didn't initially recognize each other because we both had grown beards since Notacon. Cool, in the first few minutes I've already met some friends and I know I'm not alone. I go ahead and load up my wheel cart with the 100+ pounds of gear and roll on into the gaming room and setup. Great, we're all set.
It's pretty quiet and I miss the key-note and most other talks, but that's ok, Jason Scott and Froggy wander in and talk to me a bit. I'm a little bemused watching Jason count up weight watcher points from an MRE. It's pretty quiet, but finally Droops, PonyBoy, Irongeek, and IceKnife (and others) wander in and sit down at my table. Jason Scott finally wonders over and rearranges my table layout without provocation. I'm never one to turn down advice, he relays a story of having worked in marketing for a period. It must have helped, the weekend turned out to be more profitable than Notacon despite it feeling otherwise.
Droops has a nice Western Electric handset wired up to his cell phone. And it almost looks like we are ready to record an episode of TWAT radio, but it never happens. Droops invites me to go out get liquor and some mexican food later, I finally pack up the table and set out on some down-town adventure.
Around 6pm or so we go out to some magical liquor store in down-town Nashville. It's a pretty large store with probably the largest bottles of alcohol I've ever seen. We oogle a little and finally decide on our poisons of choice. We go back to the hotel for a while and wander a bit. The 'BBS Documentary Drinking Game' starts at 9pm, I wander in and watch as Jason is showing off the HPAC movie. Man if only I had his marketing skills, haha.
After HPAC finishes, the Droops crew go down and wander down to the gaming room to watch the start of Drunken Dance-Dance-Revolution. They have a hand-held breathalyzer to make sure participants blow a .8 BAC before their turn. That's a terrific game idea. I'm staying dry though tonight since I've got one of the larger transport vehicles in the group and will likely be tonights driver.
Finally midnight rolls around and we pack in to head out for taco's. My carload consists of: Droops in shotgun, Phiber and LowTek Mystic in the 2nd row, and IceKnife and someone else I can't remember (tehbizz or Irongeek?) in the back row. Droops is an excellent navigator I must say, which is good because I can't navigate worth crap. So two car loads of people arrive at this taco place that's open until 1am with 40 minutes to go. It was superb food, very excellent. After gorging ourselves we re-organize carloads into the 'go home and sleep' group and the 'go out and get into drunken trouble' group. I partake in the later :). So we drive around a bit and park, then LowTek spills his entire coke from the taco place in my back-seat floor. Thanks! Just kidding LowTek, I am only thankful it was only coke that made it to my floor that night... and then we hit up several down-town bars and make general asses of ourselves. We get back around 3am I think.
So, it's 1pm Saturday and I finally get up. I didn't drink last night but I feel like it. I was a little sick the last couple days anyway. I don't know it yet, but I missed the Delorean computer setup at 10am and other cool things. I wander around a bit and find some tylonal at a nearby gas station. I setup the table again and surf the interweb a bit. Not much happened until later in the evening.
I had the raffle at 5pm on Saturday, I yelled out the room to announce it. IceKnife lost most of his ticket stubs and bought some more. Some other folks bought batches of 5-10 tickets so this looks to be a very profitable operation :). People paying to take away my old junk, what a business plan! I finally start the drawing, Froggy offers to be the independent/unbiased drawer. Well, the same guy won both items, he was the last person to buy tickets too. I kinda felt bad for the folks that didn't win, there where a bunch of people interested. Then Froggy offered free stickers to anyone that didn't win as consolation prizes, how cool is that?! (He was setup next to my table selling Notacon shwag) Anyway, the guy that won was a member of the St. Louis 2600 meetup so it sounds like he was going to spread the hardware around for many people to enjoy. That was cool and worth while then.
I'll start my little rant about my 400 now. Well, only 4 people even sat down and logged into the system. I was offering a free t-shirt and DVD to anyone that "hacked it". A couple guys actually had OS/400 experience and where able to change the password and profile description, so I gave them free DVD's for trying. I suppose like all things that flop, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I figured a few more people would be interested in playing on it since this was a hacker-con. But oh well, while only 4 people played with it, many more stopped and talked to me about their old AS/400 memories when they used to work with them. So I suppose it full-filled it's purpose.
Well Saturday night I didn't feel very good again, so I took a nap for a couple hours. I lost track of everyone I knew, and missed out on going to eat sushi. Around 10pm I made it up to see the 'Decessus rant' that seems to be largely popular. It starts out as a well organized rant against DNS politics and spirals downwards into American freedom. I spill out onto the smoking deck attached to that room with the Droops crew and watch crack-heads meet up 9 stories below us on the street. Finally the rant winds down and the 'Miss PhreakNIC' contest begins. Tehbizz's girlfriend wins in the 'naughty nurse' outfit they procured from HotTopic. Later on PonyBoy and myself wind up in tehbizz's room with Miss PhreakNIC and have some intellectual discussions. We wander back into the game room for the network switch discussion and Phiber tries to sell me some high end Cisco gear. I shed a tear as I turn him down, I don't need more idle gear sitting in my computer room. General groups of conversation form and spread like Conways game of life until there are only one or two colonies remaining. Dcoder tries to reason with a totally drunken guy for a few hours on life and politics while a dozen or so folks listen in (I belive this will end up on BellCore Radio via PonyBoy). Finally an outburst from a guy in a cowboy hat breaks this group down to very basic parts. I dont know if this guys is drunk and pissed off, or genuinely interested in a moral discussion. An hour or more later we break off further and I go to bed. It's about 4am I think.
I drag myself up around 11:30am or so and pack my junk back into the truck. Most everyone I met or knew has already left for home. I catch up with a few folks like Astetix and the Digium guys (Makers of the Asterisk opensource PBX). Matt talks to me a bit and gives my an 'ixy' VOIP adapter, sweet! He invites us to their campus in Huntsville, AL, so maby some time soon we'll do a road trip down there for a show.
Well, that's way more than I intended to write about the weekend. It was a great time, I met a lot of cool people I only knew as handles online, I only wish I had brought a real camera. I was going to try to rely on my Sony HC-30's photo capabilities, but it takes really crummy stills. The video is good, but the stills suck. And I got a smigent of video with the VX-2000, but not enough to do much will. It will end up somewhere though, don't worry ;).