aku-aku: v.. To move a tall, flat bottomed object (such as a bookshelf) by swiveling it alternatively on its corners in a "walking" fashion. [After the book by Thor Heyerdahl theorising the statues of Easter Island were moved in this fashion.] source: LangMaker.com. Aku Aku also has another meaning to the islanders: a spiritual guide.
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CodeCon 2006
Posted by dav at 2006 February 11 12:32 PM
File under: Geek

Today is day three of CodeCon #5, one of my favorite hacker conferences. I think the first year was one day for $40 and Bram's little project BitTorrent was introduced to a crowd of about 50 geeks; this year it is a three day event for $85, Bram is the founder of world famous and VC funded BitTorrent Incorporated and there are over 100 geeks in attendance.

My favorite presentation Friday was on the Daylight Fraud Prevention, a clever system for defeating the folks who launch phishing attacks. Unfortunately it was the first presentation and the con started late so the speaker was told to rush his presentation. He spoke so fast it was complete buffer overflow for me at first, but I was impressed once I figured out what he describing and how comprehensively considered his system was. I also learned a lot about phishing techniques, which can be much more advanced than I had thought.

On Saturday I was looking forward to the Djinni presentation, subtitled "Approximating Solutions to Nigh-Unsolvable Problems--Fast" which was all about approximating answers to NP-Complete problems. In my last company I was responsible for tackling the NP Complete problem of subgraph isomorphisms in the realm of molecular seach. Unfortunately I got distracted at the beginning of his talk so I think I had problems following exactly how the Djinni method worked. I'll take a look at it again later to see how it could be applied to the molecular search stuff I used to work on.

Having telecommuted for about 3/4 of my 12 year career, I found the iGlance presentation impressive. It is a well thought out system for replicating the feel of being just over the cubicle wall from your in-fact remote collaborators. For awhile in my last job I approximated this by leaving an otherwise unused machine in the North Carolina office running an iSight link all day long connected to my California laptop. When folks in NC wanted to talk to me they could just stop by my 'desk' or just wave on their way out to lunch. iGlance is much much more sophisticated, but it's only available on Windows so I won't be trying it out until it's ported to an operating system I use.

In the end, I think my favorite presentation of the day was the Query By Example extension for Postgres. This allows you to specify conditional and ranking parameters when querying an N-featured information space. What that translates to is being able to specify the WHERE and ORDER BY sections of a SQL SELECT statement using a few examples of what rows in the table you like and don't like. This was an entirely new concept to me and I'm not even sure how I could make use of it, but I'm going to enjoy churning it around in my head in the coming months. It also introduced me to some new things to study like Support Vector Machines.

My low point of the day was certainly when I discovered that my ettercap network scan was causing some sort of havoc on the wifi network. This really surprised me as I always do these sorts of scans at conferences just to see how many people aren't using secure communications and post the status to the conference irc channel (for example, here's Friday's scan results that I posted Saturday morning, ettercap log, which were strangely numerous for such a security-conscious audience). I was never aware of it causing problems before, and in fact I'd done it at the last couple of CodeCons as well without incident. I still don't quite understand how it was affecting network quality, but I guess in a way that just underscores my point of publically doing these network scans anyhow; you gotta be careful, because any idiot can run an off the shelf app and scan your unprotected traffic. Still, quite embarassing :)

Today, although it means missing one of my favorite San Francisco activities, Urban Golf, I'm heading back in a bit for day three. The projects I'm looking forward to most today are Monotone, a "low stress, high functionality version control" system, and Rhizome, a s semantic web application stack. I seem to recall that I first ran across the Subversion version control system at a CodeCon, so who knows perhaps in a year I'll be tracking all my projects in Monotone.

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