Monthly Archives: January 2013

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!

Topic of interest: Collaborative Caching and “DocsBox”

We talked about how difficult it would be to sail from Hacker Beach to Darwin (Australia), and the hardest part would obviously be not being within wifi range for two weeks. So that lead to the topic of collaboratively scraping the web, both in the interest of decentralization and resilience, and for offline use of reference material. The English-language wikipedia dump is less than 10Gb, meaning one off-the-shelf hard disk can store reference material 100x the size of wikipedia. This could probably include all the educational material necessary to self-study through primary school, secondary school, and university for all degrees a big university would typically offer.

In particular, I would like to have a copy of Mozilla Developer Network, the nodejs API reference, and StackOverflow for offline use. It is not a good idea if everybody scrapes all these websites just for themselves, so it makes sense to construct a sort of ‘docs box’ that is capable of exchanging data with other docs boxes. We of course talked about the optimal algorithm for updating such a distributed database. 🙂

This morning I had a look and it turns out that at least wikipedia and stackoverflow are available as data dumps over bittorrent. Stackoverflow even provides an rss feed of their data dump torrents. So given that this is already being used for that purpose, our docs box should probably just seed all these data dump torrents. That way, if two docs boxes are put into the same LAN, they will automatically exchange missing blocks from all the torrents they are downloading.

We could set up a Docs Box in each hackerspace so that nomadic hackers can refresh their Docs Boxes efficiently whenever they pass through one. Especially for first-time use, when you need to get a Terabyte of documents onto it, you would just have to leave it plugged in overnight at a hackerspace.

It would also be cheap to donate such Docs Boxes to for instance schools in remote villages, as a sort of combination between the Khan Academy project and the Hole-in-the-Wall project.

Assuming a 1Tb size, we calculated that it would take about a month to create a DocsBox using only  bittorrent client and a standard internet connection. If there is another DocsBox on the same (wired) LAN, then you could probably do it overnight.

Topic of interest: Indie Mesh

On Friday we had some very interesting conversation, for instance: how quadrocopter drones can clamp a coil around a power cable and charge their batteries mid-flight this way. This sparked a discussion about how you could put mesh wifi repeaters into pairs of shoes for inconspicuous camouflage and install them in random locations. We also talked about how you could power mesh wifi repeaters with solar panels. We could build solar-powered wifi repeaters, and use a quadrocopter to drop them on building roofs or hang them from electricity cables.

Another interesting place where we could drop such repeaters would be at sea, at say 100m from the beach. They should then probably point their access point towards the beach at a 2×45 degree angle, and relay to each other to ensure there is a wifi signal all along the beach. One additional directional repeater should be placed near beach restaurants that have uplinks.

It would probably not be too hard to build such a device for around 100 USD (depending mainly on solar panel costs), and you could program them to spend the morning charging their batteries, and then switch on every day at noon until their power runs out.

No Cookie Tuesday

Every Tuesday, for the duration of Hacker Beach, will be No Cookie Tuesday. This means that we get together at a hack table, disable all cookies, and use unhosted web apps instead of hosted web apps. The goal of this is to find out first-hand how usable or unusable unhosted web apps are, and improve them where we can. The official handbook of the No Cookie Crew is at https://unhosted.org/adventures.

You can add Hacker Beach sessions and see Hacker Beach sessions that other people added on http://lanyrd.com/2012/hackerbeach/schedule/

Don’t forget you probably need a Visa for Vietnam

Right, one thing we forgot to write (sorry, Guido!!) in the earlier practical info summary is that Vietnam requires a Visa-On-Arrival (“VOA”) which, despite its name, you have to request beforehand. There are websites that specialize in this service. Most take about 48 hours to email you your invitation letter, which you then have to print onto a slice of dead trees. You will also need passport photos, and US dollars when you land.

You may want to get some vaccinations and some people take malaria pills, although we suspect the pharmafia plays a role in keeping Phu Quoc on the malaria map of some (not all) health services.

Other than that, if you are reading this, you should totally book a flight now and join us. We are now about 10 people, and many of us will be here for (at least) the whole month of January…

Opentabs

We are using opentabs at hackerbeach. This means that anybody can ask anybody else to tab their drinks and food, or other things we need to pay. This is an experiment in decentralized banking that is both practical in itself (one person goes to pay the bill and just tabs what everybody had), and it is meant to obtain experience with how decentralized banking can work in practice. Ask Basti for the spreadsheet and webform links if you want to participate! 🙂

Phu Quoc 101

As promised yesterday, here’s a short 101 for your stay at Hacker Beach. If you have additional questions, just add them as a comment, and we’ll answer them and/or amend the post.

Cash

If you’re flying directly to Phu Quoc, be sure to get some Dong at your arrival airport on the mainland. The new international airport on Phu Quoc is only open for 2 weeks, and doesn’t have an ATM yet, and the taxi drivers don’t accept USD.

At the ATMs on the island, you can get up to 2,000,000 VND in a single transaction (~ 70 EUR or 95 USD). If you need more, e.g. to pay for your room, just do multiple transactions.

There are 3 ATMs close to Thai Tan Tien (the guesthouse, where the first hackers are staying), all located on the opposite side of the street around John’s Tours.

Getting around

There are loads of licensed taxis on Phu Quoc, colored in light golden and green/white, and sporting a license paper in the front window. They are completely safe to use, not too expensive, and they will rigorously obey their taxi meter. Easy going.

The most convenient way to get around by yourself over a longer span of time is renting a motorbike, of course. As typical for SE-Asia, motorbikes are the default means of transportation on Phu Quoc. Pretty much every place around you will rent them out for about 100-150 K a day. It’s much recommended to purchase gas from a proper gas station in Duong Dong instead of the street-side vendors. A full tank will set you back around 100K. We’ll have another journal entry on traffic on Phu Quoc, but for now just note: there are hardly any traffic rules, so keep to the right hand side of the street, and constantly look out for any moving obstacles.

You can also rent bicycles. One hacker already fell off one, riding downhill with the brakes not working properly, though. So be careful on those as well!

Mosquitos

Apart from a low risk of acquiring Malaria from one of them, they’re mostly annoying as hell. But they will only come out in the early evening and morning, so you don’t need to use repellent during the day. Just don’t forget putting it on at about 5pm, and you should be rather safe. Also watch out for the tons of insects in the air, when riding a bike between 5 and 7pm.

Food

Pretty much every guesthouse and resort along the beach has a beach-front restaurant with decent Vietnamese food. You can’t do much wrong there. When you need a change, try one of the many French places, or e.g. German food at German B (check out the map for recommendations and add your own). In the evening, some places on the beach have barbeques with fresh seafood and some chicken and meat. The most extensive seafood menus are offered at the restaurants on the night market in town.

Power

Power outages are a very common occurrence on Phu Quoc (we’ll also have another entry on that topic). Basically the government will shut off different parts of the island every other day for a few hours roughly between 12 and 5pm. A lot of places run generators during the outages, but don’t count on that being the case every time or during the whole outage. John’s Tours on the main street always has a generator running immediately, so that’s a good place to stay online.

Workplaces

Apart from working in your room or on the patio, we can mostly recommend German B to get stuff done. They have fast, reliable wi-fi, power outlets everywhere, and large tables, where you can comfortably hack with a group of people. As already said, when the power is off, John’s Tours is a safe bet to stay online. When you find more good places for groups of hackers, put them on the map!

SIM cards (Update)

All carriers in Vietnam offer some kind of pay-as-you-go plan with 3G access. The easiest way to get one is buying a TouriSIM e.g. at John’s Tours. It comes with English instructions and an English-speaking helpline, that doubles as a mobile tourist info. It’s 200K (~ 7 EUR / 10 USD), and includes a data flat rate.

Viettel (there are rumors it has better 3G) is a bit tougher as there is no English website. Buy a SIM card for 65K VND, add some more money (instructions on the voucher) and get a data package. For 200k VND you get about 3.5 gig traffic a month. SMS exactly “3G ON” to ‘161’. After you’ve loaded up your dong, SMS ‘MI 200’ to ‘191’.

Questions?

We hope this was helpful to some of you. If you think we’ve omitted an important point, let us know in the comments, so we can amend this entry. And now:

Hack the island!

Welcome to Phu Quoc

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow hackers,

Welcome to Hacker Beach, episode 1! It’s about time to properly introduce you to Phu Quoc and Hacker Beach in general. From now on, this website will be the central hub for all things Hacker Beach, connecting all relevant information for our un-organized gathering.

In this first journal entry we’ll just give you a few pointers and links, with the next one being a more extensive Phu Quoc 101, containing more detailed information about places and conditions on the island.

Phu Quoc

Most of you probably looked up some general Phu Quoc facts already, so we’ll keep it short. Phu Quoc is the largest island of Vietnam, located in the far South, and actually closer to Cambodia than mainland Vietnam. From Ho Chi Minh city, you can either use a cheap 50-minute flight to get there, or go by bus and ferry, which takes about a day.

Some call the island Vietnam’s attempt to become king of Asia’s beaches, and with a government plan in place, that aims at 2 million tourists a year in 2020, development is going fast. Days before we arrived, the new international airport was opened (only for domestic flights for now), and new streets and resorts and are being built around the island. Development is still 20 years behind similar islands in e.g. Thailand, though, which makes it a nice and rather quiet tropical paradise for the time being.

If you want to know more, just check out Wikipedia or Wikitravel.

Hacker Beach

Hacker Beach came into being, when 3 nomadic hackers discussed their plans for a warm winter getaway over some beers in Berlin. As we all love unconferences and spontaneous gatherings, we thought why not invite more people to stay with us, and elude the frosty temperatures in Europe for a month. So that’s what we did.

We decided on rough dates, registered a domain and Twitter account, and told some people about our plan. But other than that, nobody organized anything until we actually met on Phu Quoc about two weeks ago. Today, we still haven’t planned much, but an amazing flock of hackers joined the party and booked their travels so far (16 attendees on Lanyrd by the time of writing), and we’re anxious to finally meet all of you during the next days and weeks.

Participate, contribute, make it yours!

As you have guessed by now, Hacker Beach is what you will make it! In order to get the ball rolling, and give you guys some tools for participation, we’ve set up a few things, that you can use and contribute to:

Lanyrd / Session Schedule

You can add any type of session or event to our Lanyrd schedule. Plan a talk, a workshop, an introduction to something, a hack night, or even a 2-day hackathon – whatever you want. We also have some plans for all-hands activities, like a day-long snorkling and fishing trip, a bbq party and more. You’ll find those on the schedule as well, of course.

Flickr Group

Add your photos and short videos to our Flickr group, where they can be followed and aggregated properly. Nobody keeps you from instagram’ing the hell out of Hacker Beach, of course, but this will be our (un)official hub for visual content. Hint: go crazy with the RSS feed and build fun stuff on top of it!

Hacker Beach Map

@skddc built a Hacker Beach map app, that works well on desktops, tablets and smartphones. You can fork the app on GitHub and contribute new places in a simple JSON format. If you like, you can also contribute new features (there’s a small idea list in the README). It’s built with leaflet.js, and hacking it is easy as pie.

Twitter

The Twitter account will be our (near-)real-time channel for all news, updates, announcements. We’ll also answer all of your immediate questions there, as well as retweet anything interesting you post mentioning the account.

IRC

Need we say anything about the hacker’s favorite water cooler? Join us in #hackerbeach on Freenode!

This Journal

This journal is intended to be our channel to both you and the outside world, i.e. people not lucky enough to be able to attend Hacker Beach #1. We’ll post everything from summaries of interesting sessions and results of our hacks to small stories about Phu Quoc and life on the island.  Like with all other mediums, you’re invited to contribute! Just register an account and tell us, so we can give you admin rights.

Bring it on!

So now should you know how this all works. We hope you like the idea, and we invite you to make this the best month-long hacker gathering on a tropical island that ever was!

Welcome to Hacker Beach!

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