Saturday, 24 August 2013

OHM2013 in the Nederlands...

After a pretty groggy drive from Global Gathering music festival in Stratford-upon-avon we arrived in the ferry port of Harwich late Sunday and immediately battened down the hatches ready for sleep and the sailing at 8am. 

The journey was fairly non-descript. We chose the Harwich - Hoek of Holland crossing rather than Dover or Felixstow purley because it was shorter in distance. 6 hours later and we were driving through beautiful Dutch countryside next to meandering canals. Instantly both Kerry and I proclaimed "I could live here", as if thats some sort of acceptance of a place.

Main Big Top lecture hall
The roads were great. Not a hill or even slight incline in sight and what seemed like endless, untouched motorway. It appears to be a fusion between German efficiency and French flair ... but next to a canal. We made quick time up the A4 for 50 miles and I swear there wasn't the slightest crack, bump or repair in the road.

It is nice to see the Netherlands for what it is. Ive only ever seen 'Hollande' through the stoned and hungry eyes of a pot tourist relishing in the fact they aren't criminalised for partaking. But to see the real Netherlands, it's landscape, flora, Industry, everything. Its all so much prettier.

OHM2013 was our destination. A Dutch 'hacker camp' held roughly every 4 years. The acronym stands for Observe, Hack, Make and does well to describe what the festival is about. Technology, software, gadgets, demonstrations, political figures and A LOT of geeks. It was nuts. Its the only place I've seen a guy scripting in Python on his mac sitting next to another guy playing connect 4 by himself. 

10's of Thousands of LEDS
The festival was a big experiment in itself. Every one of the attendees was classed as a volunteer. Everyone at the festival ran the festival. A system was setup online for people to volunteer for different jobs from cleaning the toilets and litter picking to hosting a talk or tweaking the code for the 30,000 individually addressable LEDs around the campsite. The only organisational structure was a relatively small group of core volunteers.

Now this all sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Well, when we pulled in to the festival site I was amazed. There were big top tents just like at a big festival, food stands, LED street lighting, scaffold towers with lazers on, a full blacksmithery.

Static experiment
There were 5 or 6 huge generators to power the whole thing. Every lecture tent had mood lighting, projectors and seating. Campers could run power to their tents/vehicles and there was a 10 G bit internet connection to keep everyone happy, wired and wireless.

Some of the talks were totally lost on me. 'hands on SIM card exploitation' for instance sounded fun but you needed to know how to code in java, C and have knowledge in round rainbow encryption cracking. All things I have no idea about!

But there were other talks on broadly different subjects. There was a wide representation of global whistleblowers and ex-three letter organisation employees speaking on drugs, terrorism, foreign policy and the implications of standing up and speaking against keeping quiet. Many of these people had been on the run from their old agencies and it was interesting to hear their views on the Bradley Manning case that was playing out whilst we were at the festival. 

Light show at night
There was even a very special live video link from Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He spoke for 45 minutes on the state of whilstleblowing, what help was needed, how we can support the Edward Snowdons of this world. 

I was particularly interested in the subjects more pertinant to me like the war on drugs and the damage it has caused as well as the hardware hacking talks using open source hardware such as the arduino microcontroller and the imbeddable linux computer the Raspberry Pi.

We latched on to a particular stand that gave away Melon and Meat Loaf (a sausage type meat with curry sauce) as well as a free .ml domain name. All weekend giving away free food... in the Netherlands!

Careful of the Crocs!
It was a real experience. The people definately made it though. Everyone rallied together to turn a bland field in a recreational ground in to, what felt like, the heart of the maker movement at that moment. 

The Festival was near to the town of Alkmaar and Kerry and I took a cycle in to the town for some groceries. The shear beauty of the place was hard to fathom. Every canal corner had an old windmill on it and I think we managed to cycle 5 miles round trip riding on cycle paths and not the road. 

I very much like the Northern end of the Netherlands. Even if it is a bit windy...


Fablabtruck and makerlab

Laser party

Asterix and Obelix N64 game

1 comment:

  1. Glad you had a great time at OHM2013! I was there for 13 days pulling cables and carrying boxes .. plenty of work to be done. :)

    If you enjoyed OHM you should definitely check out UK's EMFCamp 2014 which will return next summer, after great success in 2012. I'm working on the team there as well.