Over the past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Kernelcon 2019 in Omaha, Nebraska and this conference has become my new yearly pilgrimage. If I never go to any other conferences ever again and only went to this one, I’d be perfectly happy with that. What made it so great?
I didn’t get a chance to attend the morning keynote as the first day, the workshop I wanted to attend started right away in the morning. But I can’t complain all that much because the workshop was fantastic. In it, we assembled an ODROID-GO. Now, this may look like a simple gaming emulator but it’s so much more than that. After installing a few things like the Arduino IDE and some packages that integrate it nicely with the ODROID-GO, we got to tinkering. Click here for the workshop syllabus repository.
Not only did we do these fun little projects, but we also wired up our boards to work with temperature sensors, connected them to a WiFi access point, and reported the temperature data to a server on the network. That’s right, this gameboy-looking device has WiFi on board, and can even connect to Bluetooth. There are so many possibilities!
The conference didn’t have a shortage of hackers doing what they do. One attendee, setup his software defined radio (SDR) and tuned it to the frequency of pagers. What does this mean? It means that this person was able to see all things sent back and forth between these devices since they are broadcast over the air like how any wireless technology is. Unfortunately for some of the patients at local hospitals, their personally identifying information was captured and shown to the world. Let this be a reminder to everyone to take their privacy seriously.
This conference took an interesting approach by not providing food to conference attendees and instead, opted for a lunch break. I think most people could appreciate this as it left lunch plans up to attendees and drove economic incentives for Omaha by bringing business into the downtown area. However; supper and drinks were provided at the after party thanks to sponsors. Along with sustenance, the after party made for a great opportunity for attendees to socialize. Mini-games were held, as well as “Who’s Slide is it Anyways” where participants were assigned a presentation with pre-made slides (unseen by them until the presentation) that were on a wide variety of topics like the History of Bitcoin, Why Sloths are Awesome, and my favorite; Corn. Why was corn my favorite? Because it’s the presentation my co-worker and I ended up giving AND WINNING.
As I mentioned before, I brought my two year old with the second day. Not only did he have a blast picking locks, but he also enjoyed some of the games that were available like the Jurrasic Park arcade game. He wanted to play in the Super Smash Bros. tournament, but we’re not quite ready to compete at the level that the hardcore players were.
Speakers & Presentations
All this, and I haven’t even gone into the different talks by all the great speakers. I know a few wished they had more time, and so did attendees, but there was so much to cram into our two short days. If I had one complaint about the entire conference, it would be that I didn’t get to participate in nearly as many workshops or watch all the talks I wanted to. Decisions had to be made to make the most out of my time but I still managed to see plenty of security focused talks loaded with tips and information about how to become a better developer.
Wrap It Up
At the end of the conference, organizers surveyed attendees to find out what was good, what was not good, where there were hangups, and how people felt overall. I think it was very much appreciated by attendees as everyone who wanted to tell them thank you, was given that opportunity. Prizes for the the after-party games were awarded, along with CTF and the Smash Bros. tournament. Some of those prizes included the Wifi Pineapple (a $200 device), various Arduino boards, and Raspberry Pi’s (a favorite device for hackers). Winners of the CTF were awarded the most coveted prize of all: the Eternal Kernel, a badge that got them free admission to every future Kernelcon. Gasps could be heard throughout the crowd upon this announcement. I’m sure the competition will be ferocious next year.
This is getting to be a very long post so let me just close by saying that Kernelcon was an incredibly well done conference that I can’t wait to attend again. I met lots of interesting people, made some new friends, and learned so much. Big thanks to the volunteer organizers of Kernelcon for putting on one hell of a conference.