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DevX Experience: Visiting 36C3

Intro

As part of the DevX program which supports, besides others, visits to relevant external events and congresses Tobias Berger and myself visited the 36. Chaos Communication Congress in Leipzig, Germany.  We are architects from the Transportation Management Development team in Walldorf. The congress is an event organized by the Chaos Computer Club. This years congress motto was “Resource Exhaustion”, as usually referring to both technical (resource exhaustion is a DDOS effect, but also refers to the missing broadband availability in certain regions) and society (I think the reference is obvious…) topics. The event took place from December 27th to December 30th 2019. The event is organized and executed by volunteers (so called angels) primarily.

 

Getting the tickets and DevX approval

As the Congress is very popular buying the tickets is a little adventure: There are 3 time slots where the tickets are sold and you need to refresh the screen and click the right buttons the second it becomes available, otherwise you are on waiting list position 4000 or so. But we managed to get our tickets in time. Getting support from DevX was way easier: We used the application form ( internal link ) and described our targets for the congress and got it approved with the requested budget.

 

Talks

The range of topics covered by talks and the quality of the talks is really impressive. There are 5 tracks in parallel with a program starting at noon and ending 2 am or so, sessions are held in English or German, with translation. A typical set of talks can be seen in the screenshot, the complete schedule can be found here.

It is very often very hard to decide for a talk, because there are event more events available, like hands on sessions, soldering, Arduino programming, lock-picking …

But all sessions are recorded and made available (again by angels), so you can watch them afterwards or in the morning. One very inspiring aspect of the talks is often, HOW the presenters are structurally approaching certain problems. This give inspiration even in cases where the topic itself is not part of the daily work.

Our (very subjective) top 3 Talks are the following:

Bernd

  • Status and lessons learned from the 737Max crashes
  • Two talks about the environmental impact of Software: Here and Here (German, English translation should become available), completed with a status of climate research with a focus on the expected impacts of 1.5K vs rise of average temperature
  • Hacking the PS4 Blue-Ray drive, a real techy one, specifically the used approach is interesting
  • 3.5: Some podcasting lessons learned from some of the top german podcasters
  • Bonus
    • Bonus1: Hacking Brains, about psychological aspects of IT security
    • Bonus 2: How to build a quantum computer at home

Tobi

  • How to Break PDF Security: Nice talk on how to fake digital signatures and how bad hackers hunt for your passwords for encrypted files. Especially the signature faking was spectacular as it frightens how easy it felt for most of the PDF viewer
  • Bahn Mining: A must have for anyone frequently traveling with Deutsche Bahn. D. Kriesel who is an excellent speaker shows his result on a private data analysis project he made himself storing information about all Deutsche Bahn long-distance traffic for one year
  • Getting software right with properties, generated tests, and proofs: Interesting speak about a “QuickCheck” library for functional programming generating unit tests based on function properties rather than implementing examples on your own
  • Bonus:
    • Human Rights at a Global Crossroad: Emotional talk of the lawyer of the Snowden Refugees about human rights and treatment of refugees focusing a little on the asia-pacific area. Includes a very inspiring video call to the special guest Edward Snowden himself who encouraged all of us to “hack” our life back to our control.
    • The Deep Learning Hype: Talk about the issues for science when hyping a topic offering interesting insides.
    • Harry Potter and the Not-So-Smart Proxy War: Theory build on some leaked documents and how to hack the system which might be described in them

Atmosphere

Besides the talks the atmosphere at the congress is always special. The Motto “Be excellent to each other” is really taken serious. A lot of organisations like Open Street Map etc. are meeting at the congress to work together, everybody seems to be busy working on some projects, which is very inspiring and often you find yourself sitting at the congress at night trying out just one more thing…good to know the program starts at noon the next day.

Summary and Takeaways

The congress was very inspiring and we can only highly recommend visiting it, it is a great source of inspiration going beyond everyday problems, but let you look at things with different perspectives. One concrete takeaway for us is that we will start looking into the environmental impact of our own product, based on the wide usage improvement we can do with regards to energy consumption can help to save energy, and after listening to the climate talks this is more than necessary. The first concrete follow up is this idea, which suggest the introduction of a energy consumption trace.

PS: The intro logo has been made with the help of the 36C3 logo generator. Of course also made by an volunteer…

Finally…Some Visuals

And there is a lot of fancy light installations, just build for the 4 days, here are some examples, enjoy them…

 

 

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