The last day of the Megabit Bar which was always lively at any hour of the day or night.
Day 15. I can't believe it went by so fast. As someone who really doesn't spend a lot of time camping out in tents, you would think these four days would have been somewhat of an ordeal for me. Well, thanks to Hanneke and Sasja who got me a really cool tent that didn't let a drop of water in the whole time as well as Mike and Redhackt who helped to put it up, I never felt uncomfortable. Of course I never actually got a whole lot of sleep since everyone really had to leave their tents once the sun started hitting them in earnest as the temperature would get really hot really quickly. But I've found that only a few hours of sleep a night is just fine if what you're doing during your waking hours is interesting. I actually feel a lot better, stronger, etc. after spending time in a place like this.
Despite the fact that this is the last day, I see no major indication of people wanting to leave. Not entirely, anyway. I'm sad to see so many of the people from America I was hanging out with wanting to get to Amsterdam even before the closing ceremonies at five. But everyone's threshold is at a different level. The place was absolutely packed for the very last session.
The closing ceremony was where Rop basically spent a bit of time telling the story behind the conference, its various setbacks, highlights of the weekend, and of course thanking all of the unsung heroes who made it happen in the first place. I'm sure a lot of us don't realize just what goes into these events. And probably even fewer realize that despite all of the success, the conference will probably lose money in the end. But if it's not a disaster, then it is an unqualified success. That was the tightrope that Rop and others had been walking for quite some time and it sure seemed like there was no question which it wound up being.
In the public relations arena, there was no doubt at all. While the mayor of Boxtel had initially expressed some reservations about letting the event take place at all, the resulting publicity actually wound up helping get people to attend. And once it had actually taken place, the owners of the land publicly said that they wished they could get rid of all of the other events they hosted and just have this one a dozen times a year. There were apparently no incidents, no disruption of the nearby community, and a great feeling that arose from the hacker occupation of the fields. Not even the Christian Youth camps that occasionally use this space evoked such praise.
Despite all of this, Rop expressed a desire to have future camps on the other side of the nearby border with Germany because of the difficulty and bureaucracy involved in the Netherlands. I can't believe how things have apparently changed over such a relatively short period of time. Hearing someone describe this country as being harder to organize a hacker conference in than even the United States left me wondering if maybe our own countries just seem more difficult and that we're dealing with a "grass is always greener" thing. There's no question though that what they have accomplished in Germany is truly awe-inspiring. The Chaos Computer Club has real political clout which has evolved through decades of hard work and dedicated people. If a threat of any sort of bad legislation becomes apparent, these are the people who will use their abilities to stop it. But I still think it's wrong to simply go where this battle has already been effectively fought. We need to use the CCC as inspiration to do it ourselves where we are now. Like Rop said, borders are just lines on a map and are quite arbitrary. But they can also be used to inflict great harm upon people and to control populations. Leaving them to do this in an area where many of us exist just doesn't feel right. But whatever is decided, I'm sure we'll have great fun the next time around.
One of the best things I witnessed was the huge number of people who chose to donate the remaining plastic currency that was still in their pockets into the bins at the front of the room. They would have been exchanged back into "real" money for anyone who wanted it. But after hearing of some of the hardships being faced, dropping whatever was still in your pockets into a bin seemed like the only thing to do for many attendees. Plastic never sounded so good.
A good number of people stayed behind to help with the cleanup which is a very necessary part of the operation. I wish I could have been one of them but I have to continue heading eastward tomorrow which leaves me only a single night in Amsterdam. As the operation on the iRiver device turned out to be a failure, I was now facing a real crisis in the production of future editions of "Off The Wall" which needed to be resolved as soon as possible. I really am pissed off at iRiver for selling such defective crap. It's not an isolated incident based on the number of identical stories I read about on the net. The hard drives just apparently die without warning leaving you completely fucked. Fortunately, Redbird has agreed to lend me his iRiver which hopefully won't pull the same crap. Next time I'll attach an external device to an iPod to accept a microphone input or use a smaller USB device with no moving parts. This remains the only technical problem I've experienced. All of my other hardware is functioning great.
We flagged down the shuttle and got a ride to the train station. All of the predictions (from Americans naturally) of a massive traffic jam at the end of the event turned out to be completely untrue. People just weren't that eager to leave. We wound up in the same vehicle as John Gilmore, whom I hadn't seen or talked to the whole weekend. (John, for those who don't know, made our whole fight against the MPAA possible by covering our legal bills through the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He had been giving some talks at the conference.) Once we got to the station, we all tried to figure out how to use the Dutch ticket machine.
I've experienced frustration before but this is the sort of thing that will quickly drive anyone out of their mind. Seven of us were gathered around this big yellow machine which was the only means of buying a train ticket. But you couldn't use a credit card or bank card, at least not any that were used in the United States. The Dutch smart cards were accepted but none of us had access to those. The machine took cash but only coins and we simply didn't have enough. There simply was no solution, something I've known about for a number of years. I don't understand why they have such a crazy system. We wound up all riding with no ticket to the first transfer point where I went to the ticket office to buy tickets for everyone and wound up with a one euro penalty for not using the machine! Ironically, nobody asked for our tickets on either train.
I'm profoundly upset that I'll only get to spend a single night in Amsterdam due to my having to leave for Berlin tomorrow. It's always so pleasant here. We spent time wandering the streets and looking for food. I think we're all quite tired after a long weekend and I suspect we'll sleep quite well tonight. I hope there's time to do something tomorrow before I leave on my next leg.