Hcpp 2023

I didn’t quite anticipate writing about this particular post. It started as me wanting to write down a list of everything I should bring with me when I travel for future reference. I however have found myself in a spot where I am quite taken aback by an event, and feel for the sake of my future self I need to write down my current thoughts to reflect on at some point.

I do have a partial feeling this post will be one of those posts that won’t be finished. I have a lot of posts which I begin to write with the best intentions, but the thoughts around what I intend to type are not fully formed and are difficult to put into words. This is why a lot of my posts are not actually as intellectual as I would like. I mentioned before when I decided to stop doing the 100 days of offload challenge that I stopped because I want to write posts that actually mean something and posit original thoughts.

If you didn’t know, for the last few days I have been at a hacker conference in Prague called HCCP. I went with some Dutch friends, and I am going to be brutally honest I did not imagine much to come from this. Don’t get me wrong, the whole concept of this (which is 100% anarchist) appeals to my anti-government ideals, but I very rarely actually find people who I feel a kinship with. Even at my job my colleagues just aren’t as into technology as me, because to them it is a means to get paid. This means that most of my kinship for this topic is found online, and I always seem to forget what it is actually like when I meet people who share the same values and interests as me. A room where anti-social nolifers who all run old thinkpads with GNU-Linux distros is the norm, where pentest gear is treated as a given - this is my kind of room

I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience, I have learnt a lot in the short time I have been here. I wanted to write this down.

I need a travel checklist

This has less to do with HCPP and more to do with my travelling as a whole. I have always been a disorganised mess, but generally, I have had people to fall back on to cope with this. I want to fix this. I intend today or tomorrow to write a post of all the things I need to prep and bring when I go on a trip (this post will be one of those “this is for me” posts, and since those are becoming a genre on this site ill probably make a sperate section for them).

This has become apparent on this trip because I forgot

  • Toiletries (including toothbrush, body wash)
  • Charger cable
  • EU to UK plug adapter
  • Shorts
  • Padlock

It is also becoming increasingly apparent to me that I need to invest in a travel router. I and currently starting to self-host things on-prem, and being the security-conscious person I am I am reluctant to open up ports on my network. I want to create a router that I can connect my personal devices to, and it routes all of that traffic via VPN back to my home network. This is something I want to address before my next trip.

We cannot win - that is ok

This comes from the talk from Cody Wilson, where he was discussing how he is fighting a losing battle to keep his “illegal” STL files online. Cody is the person who put up the original Liberator VII 3D printed gun file and is seen to be the person who is the figurehead of the 3D printed gun movement. Being an English person who is into guns is somewhat of a taboo so I don’t talk about this often, but I am a fan of 3D-printed guns and the disruptive effects they will have on the state. Because of this, albeit silently, Cody Murphy has been somewhat of a hero for me. Getting to shake his hand at the end of his speech was truly a privilege.

During his speech, he said that he cannot win, but he needs to keep going. He described how this all started with him wanting to keep a single file online, and in doing so he started the “defence distributed” company. This company got attacked, and now he is attempting to keep both online. This ends up spiralling where he is fighting to keep everything afloat, but he also says “We cannot win”. The enemy is just too powerful and too persistent, and while we can play cyber guerrillas they are in the real world kicking down our doors and unduly arresting us (see Tornado Cash for an example of this)

We cannot win - but we only truly lose if we give up. Things are changing, and we are causing change. The way we win is not by getting the mass liberalisation of DIY gun manufacturing, nor is it by converting all of the planet over to using XMR or BTC. We win by slowly but surely ensuring the tools to fight back are prolific enough that when someone does want to pick up the torch, it is there.

I need to join or make a hackerspace

It is quite hard to get across to the average person how deeply alone I actually feel. I have people around me, but I don’t have peers. I don’t have people who I think understand me. I am in no way saying I am special, I am not narcissistic enough to actually believe no one else is like me. These people are difficult to find, however.

Mitch Altman was one of the speakers and is surprisingly someone who I had heard of before this from a channel called StrangeParts. I was introduced to the concept of hackerspaces from this channel, and since this point have flirted with the idea of joining one. Mitch Altman’s speech, along with my Dutch friends encouraging me to do so, has convinced me I am at a point where this flirting needs to be converted to actually setting up a date.

The happiest points in my life have been when I am with a group of like-minded peers, and hacking away at whatever odd project we are working on. Be it a discord bot to help porn addicts track their abstinence streaks, a brainf-ck interpreter, or creating a blackjack game at a Python code dojo. I want to do these things more often, and I owe it to my own happiness to facilitate these changes.

It is time for me to start to practise what I preach

I feel I am quite good at this in general. I think a lot of people look at me and my relationship with technology as someone with undue paranoia. This is perhaps true and is even perhaps an example of the obsessive nature of (Nietzsche’s obsessive thinking). I however will say that I feel me defending and protecting my right to privacy is foundational to my worldview and even who I am as a person. This event has pointed out two things to me however

When a person has a 3D-printed gun that the government does not know about this is an example of being private. Posting online that you have a 3D-printed gun that the government doesn’t know about is an example of compromising your privacy for the sake of people thinking you are private. If I encrypt my drives but tell people what is on them anyway, then what is the point of encrypting them? I build my persona around a concept, and when that concept lies tangential to the persona, I will eventually find myself at a point when I need to choose between the person and the concept. I would rather not have the persona at all, and just not put myself into this position - easier said than done. In other words, I need to shut up and just enjoy the concept.

The other thing is that I need to start actually using crypto. I’m not a crypto bro by any means, I only really support two coins (XMR and BTC). I own BTC and I use a hardware wallet and all the stuff you are meant to do, but I don’t spend it. From going to this event, it has made me realise that I want to spend it. I want to start using crypto for what it was meant for, to be a currency. I don’t want to be a dragon sitting on top of my crypto horde (horde is a push, I don’t have that much). This is going to become easier because I have found a small no-KYC hosting provider whom I want to support and see grow. I also now have a new Dutch friend (I really seem to be amassing them) who I can purchase these things from rather than going through exchanges.

I have a better understanding of my politics

So I have had a tricky relationship with various political factions as time has gone on. I feel I have matured into a fairly sensible centrist position, with a leaning toward a liberal mindset. I will one day write about me being eaten up and shit back out by both the alt-left and alt-right pipelines, but this is not the post for that. What I did realise from this talk is that within different scopes of a wider social context I take different political leanings.

This came about from Mitch Altman’s talk (as did a lot of my revelations apparently) where he talked about finding “his people”. Mitch Altman is a self-confessed leftie and therefore follows the basic mindset of this position: share, give, and lift others up. I take this position within the scope of “my people” i.e. people I care about. However outside of “my people” I take the opposite approach of building defences, and lifting myself/my people up.

This is obvious in hindsight because as I have begun to see society as more and more ill I took the view “I cannot fix the world, I can only fix my corner of it”. With that view, I worked on helping the people I cared about but completely neglected wider society. I take the right-wing view for everyone outside the group, but a left-wing view for people within the group. What I have noticed is that within both of these cases, my place on the political matrix remains sternly in the liberal camp. This reminds me of a meme I saw once with someone saying how their mother is Stalin outside the house, but Ron Paul outside the house. I think it is normal to have different PPE approaches for the different relationship scopes you have.

RMS is right to ask people to call it GNU + Linux

This is definitely one of those revelations which I did not expect to ever have, but to combine his talk with a blog post I read this morning I have come to understand something. Linux, while awesome, in isolation is functionally useless. It is the inclusion of the GNU core utils and all the work they have done that makes Linux useful. The argument can be made that Linux needs GNU more than GNU needs Linux, given GNU technically has its own kernel (albeit in an early development state).

At one point in my life I thought when RMS was saying the “GNU + Linux” thing, it was him trying to claw back a sense of relevance. I know now that for me to think that is very offensive to all the work the free software foundation has done. The fact of the matter is that RMS has shaped the world of tech in ways that I think it is hard to appreciate unless you are willing to do the research. That is the tragedy here - that you need to do the research to discover this.

For all of his quirks and peculiarities, RMS is a highly highly intelligent man, and the work he has done should not be included as a footnote to Linux. I am however aware that as time goes on I am becoming more and more of a cliche within this community - I run Arch, I use a Thinkpad, I dislike systemD, and I try and use free software when I can. I mentioned in an earlier part of this post about how the persona can corrupt the important and this comes into play here - do I support these thought concepts because of my persona? Do I also not want to support all of these things because of my persona? Then of course this also plays into the Plastic Powers speech, where Cody Wilson says there is a certain type of historical retrospective where you catalogue and get so focused on the granularity of it that you lose track of what is important.

I care about this community - I care about this technology. I want to see it succeed and do well, but I also want to maintain my individuality. In the absence of knowing what to do, do what is right. I should call it GNU-Linux so I am going to attempt to do so.


A general purpose blog for me to braindump anything I might be thinking about. Please dont hesistate to reach out if you have any questions