Hacker Beach is International

Welcome to the first blog entry published from Lamu island! It took a while, but we’ll post some more during the next days. Enjoy!

In order to understand Hacker Beach a little better, let me share some fun stats with you. Hacker Beach brings together people from different countries and continents on a tropical island every year in January.

This year we had people from 3 continents and 12 countries join the party:

Kenya 4
Zimbabwe 1
Israel 1
Canada 1
Netherlands 2
France 2
Germany 3
Austria 1
Romania 1
Greece 1
UK 2
USA 3

(Hint: some people haven’t lived in their home countries for quite a while, so if we counted all countries involved we’d end up with a couple more.)

So this sets the bar for next Hacker Beach pretty high. Will we break the record next year?

Update: Turns out our visitors are as international as the participants. In the first 30 minutes since posting this, we’ve had people from 21 different countries on all continents visit the page.

Hacker Beach #2 (Jan 2014): FAQ & Status Update

There was a lot of interest in joining us at the upcoming Hacker Beach lately. But, so far, we didn’t really publish a lot of information that would help newcomers know exactly what’s happening. Especially answers to vital questions like if it’s actually happening, if you can still attend, what it will cost, etc.

So here’s a last pre-beach blog post, hopefully containing everything you might want to know. And if something’s missing, just ask via comment, of course! Let’s dive right into it:

What is this all about?

Hacker Beach is a spontaneous gathering of hackers and like-minded people on a tropical island, taking place every year in January. The upcoming one is only the second episode of Hacker Beach ever, after we had an incredible time on Phu Quoc in Vietnam last winter.

There’s no central organization taking place, except for a special accommodation deal (first time this year, more on that later) and some people blogging and tweeting some updates here and there. Every participant is invited to help with anything. Hacker Beach is not a conference or a sponsored event. It’s merely a lot of nice people hanging out on the same island at roughly the same time in order to flee the Northern winter, work in an nice atmosphere, and enjoy the company of friends and acquaintances, both old and new.

During Hacker Beach, we’ll have spontaneous mini events like talks, community sessions, user groups, and so on, all contributed by the participants. Whoever wants to discuss, present, teach, or learn something is invited to contribute one, or ask for one.

Other than these (optional) mini events, you do whatever you want: work on your normal job, or on open source or side projects with others. Or don’t work on a computer at all, and build a float instead. Your choice.

Who will I meet?

Mostly Web and open source folks. For example Mozillians, W3C people, core people of projects like remoteStorage, Sockethub, and many others, as well as entrepreneurs and startup folks. And let me add: all disciplines are welcome, not only software developers or sysadmins!

I can’t/don’t want to attend during ALL of January. What’s up with that?

The official dates just indicate the general time frame, meaning you likely won’t be alone on the island during that time. You can come anytime and for however long (or short) you want. In fact, some Nairobians will drop by for only a weekend or a couple of days, while others arrive in Kenya in December and leave in February.

Accommodation

Last year, most of us just booked rooms at the same guest house ourselves, but this year we have a bit of a different arrangement, so if you plan to come please contact us on the mailing list or on IRC in #hackerbeach on Freenode.

You can also just book your own accommodation anywhere on Lamu, of course.

How do I get there?

It’s a bit tricky, yet not terribly complicated.

  • First, if you’re not living in Kenya, you book an international flight to Nairobi. Choose a date, time, and route that fits best for you. International flights from Europe usually arrive in the morning, so if you don’t want to check out Nairobi for a day or two, you can continue to Lamu on the same day:
  • Second, book a separate flight to Lamu with one of the local airlines or get a bus ticket there. You need to do that directly on the local airline’s website, and you won’t find these flights anywhere else. Here is our blog post about getting to Lamu!

Visa requirements

For most (if not all) countries you will be able to get a Visa on arrival. Be sure to take some cash with you! It will cost 30 GBP, 40 EUR, or 50 USD. Your choice.

Medical issues

  • A Yellow fever vaccination is recommended, but not required. It holds for life, so getting one is never a bad idea.
  • Malaria pills are not necessary. Obviously, don’t sue us on that one, just note that none of the people writing this text will take them for a month. That said, it’s never a bad idea to have some as standby, because in the unlikely case you’re infected, it’ll help with the treatment to take them as soon as possible.

Internet

On Lamu, like in most regions in Kenya, there’s only 3G available. But according to people who even spent their company retreats there, it’s good enough quality. You can buy Safaricom SIM cards at the airport in Nairobi, and they offer Internet packages from a few MB up to 100GB. We’ll also buy some backup SIMs for a central router, that we’re setting up in the fort.

So, you’ll need to live a while without streaming HD video all day. And we’ll also have some fun setting up local mirrors for things we need often, like NPM or Rubygems. But Internet access in general is there, and it shouldn’t be a deal breaker for people who need to get serious work done.

LGBT issues

Someone asked about how safe it is for LGBT people to come to Hacker Beach, due to Kenya being known for having conservative views and laws regarding sexuality and gender identity. Frankly, I haven’t researched it thoroughly yet, but in my experience people are just keeping it private there. When traveling the world, it’s always important to respect local laws and traditions, of course, no matter how foolish they are. Let me add that Lamu is a very small island with a lot of international visitors, and it is very secluded, which should make these issues basically disappear entirely. If you have serious concerns, though, please get in touch with us, so we can connect you with LGBT people in Kenya, who can tell you all about it.

Current status

Hacker Beach #2 is a go! We’re all set and everything is ready for action. If the idea appeals to you, and you have time and a budget for this in January, you should go ahead and book your flights to Nairobi now! Don’t worry about the details, as long as you get flights to Nairobi and back, we can sort out the rest with you, if you need any help. Don’t hesitate to ask us anytime, and we’ll help you with anything you’re not sure about!

On a related note: some hackers are staying in Nairobi over New Year’s. If you want to come early as well, you can join us at the Wildebeest Camp.

Flights to Lamu

As most of us will face the question of how to get to Lamu exactly, here’s a short update on that.

All of us, who booked their flights already, will go there from Nairobi, which is the easiest destination for international flights to Kenya. You will usually arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), but most direct flights to Lamu depart from the smaller, regional Wilson Airport (WIL).

There are (at least) 3 airlines offering daily direct flights to Lamu. However, you will have to forgo your favorite booking service and buy your ticket directly on the airline sites. Here are the ones I found so far:

These flights all cost around 200 USD.

Alternatively, you can take buses from Mombasa and other cities, which is obviously much cheaper. Be prepared for a long, bumpy ride! It might be an experience some of you would prefer to boring old air travel, though. If you choose the bus option, we’re confident that you’re enough of an explorer to find out about schedules and tickets yourself.

Some of us will arrive in Nairobi shortly after Christmas, so get in touch on IRC or Twitter, if you’d like to share an apartment or go hacking or spend New Year’s with us (or all of the aforementioned).

Any more questions? Leave a comment!

Updates on accommodation

Hi everyone,

We have some news for you regarding accommodation plans. As promised, we’re trying to figure out something cheap and easy for everybody who’s interested in not booking their own, and thanks to the enthusiastic help of the folks over at sleepout.com, we have a first special offer available for early takers.

l

The house – or should I say castle – is about 10 minutes walk from Shela village. You can read all about it here. It fits up to 22 people, but in all rooms, 2 people would have to share single beds (which are said to be larger than king-size).

So here’s the deal: @bkero set up an Etherpad, where you can “reserve” your room there. First come, first serve. If you want to join the Fort hackers, go there and enter your name:

http://etherpad.bke.ro/p/hackerbeach

Update Jan 8, 2014: Please contact us directly in #hackerbeach on Freenode or tweet us.

(If we get the castle, it’ll probably be one of the hot spots for all of us during Hacker Beach, so if you don’t like that kind of thing as accommodation, you could still go there for hacking and socializing whenever you want, of course.)

The other recommendation so far is the Pwani Guest House, where at least some of us will most likely stay before Jan 6. Hopefully that one is more flexible and could accommodate last-minute hackers for example.

Also, an accommodation provider in Lamu posted a comment on this site, and, in their own words, they “would love to have some hackers come and stay”. Maybe someone can check it out and get more details and maybe even a second special deal? You do know that everybody is both participant and organizer of Hacker Beach, right? ;)

On a last note, some of us will stay in Nairobi for a couple of days until Jan 1. More news on that soon. (Or join the IRC and ask about it.)

So, let’s go and fill up a castle, folks!

Hacker Beach #2 is a go!

It’s going to take place in January 2014 on Lamu island in Kenya – a quiet and beautiful retreat in East Africa.

Apart from this blog, we use Lanyrd for the attendee list, Twitter for short announcements, and a mailing list for the details for participants.

We’re also hanging out on IRC in #hackerbeach on Freenode.

As always, everybody is invited. Join us for a month of relaxed hacking on an island paradise!

That was fun! :)

The last survivors on Hacker Beach island (namely “the Swedes” and me) finally left yesterday. The whole thing was just such a good idea! I listed the participants on https://twitter.com/hackerbeach/following so we remember our twitter accounts next year. We discussed the Philippines and Brazil as options, or we could do a Pirates in the Caribbean theme.

The whole event was just very well unorganized. :) Great to meet all you guys!!

Our Vietnamese names

At German B the waitresses have switched to giving each of us a separate bill in a plastic cup. I asked them what it said in Vietnamese at the top, and she started laughing saying it means “Duck”, while pointing at my DuckDuckGo T-shirt. Sebastian translated his new “Rau Cao” nickname with his phone to mean “High Beard” (probably meaning tall guy with a beard), and Dominic turned out to be called “Hair Trends” as his new Vietnamese nick. If you find out your own German B bill nickname, add it in the comments. :)

HTML Music Player

Just for fun and relaxation after working mostly on writing unit tests and refactoring my PHP remoteStorage implementation, updating the PHP OAuth 2.0 server code, and exploring a proof of concept for some stuff at work, it was time to do something fun. Especially with no-cookie Tuesday coming up!

I’m annoyed with music players already for quite some time. There are some good ones available on Linux, but for Mac OS the only player that I can stand is Songbird. But it is slow to use, and well, it doesn’t look that great…

After experimenting with HTML 5 video already years ago in various projects, it was time to write something that is actually usable and ties together all the stuff I’ve been working on so far. So why not create a music player in HTML, JS and CSS using remoteStorage, the Unhosted approach to developing applications and leveraging OAuth to protect the resources. It was a perfect integration test and obviously uncovered some bugs in the server side remoteStorage code.

The features of the player so far are the ability to play music from a directory, automatically skip to the next song at the end of a song and keep playing the directory while you navigate through the directory structure. The UI currently looks like this:

html-music-player-screenshot

There is a lot to be improved for sure. For one the ugly audio tag controls should be hidden and something custom, better fitting the rest of the interface should be used. Some other features need to be worked on: only listing files with a content type that the current browser can play, i.e.: show MP3s in Google Chrome, but not in Firefox, show Opus in Firefox, but not Google Chrome, etc. This would probably need modifications to the remoteStorage protocol though. An other great feature would be to have the ability to create and use playlists, that should not be too hard though with the current architecture.

If you are interested in working on any of this, you can find the code here.

Barbecue Party on Tuesday, Jan 8

We’ll have a barbecue party tomorrow night at Oyster Club, a windsurfing place and bar, down in the South.

The fun starts at 6pm, but it’s also a nice place to be in general, so you can go there in the afternoon already, if you like. You should notice, that there’s no wi-fi there, though. (But some hackers bought mobile data plans with gigs of traffic included today. Just ask @bkero.)

We can now add venues to sessions on Lanyrd, by the way. So if you added something already, edit the session details to include your planned location.

See you all there!