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 (yet to be approved) 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 at https://github.com/fkooman/html-music-player/

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! 🙂