Leader of Birmingham.pm [pm.org] and a CPAN author [cpan.org]. Co-organised YAPC::Europe in 2006 and the 2009 QA Hackathon, responsible for the YAPC Conference Surveys [yapc-surveys.org] and the QA Hackathon [qa-hackathon.org] websites. Also the current caretaker for the CPAN Testers websites and data stores.
If you really want to find out more, buy me a Guinness
The conference began with a talk mostly about radio direction finders. To anyone who had never heard of the doppler effect to simulate a radar, or didn't have a basic grasp of direction finding, then this talk would have probably been very interesting. However, for myself there was nothing here I hadn't learnt when I joined GEC nearly 20 years ago.
The next couple of talks could have been more engaging if they had any depth to them, or any degree of real relavance to the audience. The first covered how easy it is to recover files from hard disks even though you think you've deleted them. Very much preaching to the converted. The other was a look at creating a hidden file system with the EXT2 directory tables. While this may be of interest to those who really have something to hide, I sincerely doubt any of the assembled are of any real concern to the authorities.
After a break for lunch, we returned to hear a talk on porn. Well in actual fact it was really a talk about how the Google image search tool is really quite good. Featuring mostly school-boy tongue-in-cheek humour, it was quite a pointless talk. If this is what we had been waiting for, as was commented on seeing as the man from the BBC had left, then I really was at the wrong conference. To his credit the speaker didn't use slides or any kind of visual aid, which really would have sunk the depths. Although it was supposed to be light-hearted, I couldn't help but feel it was misplaced.
The single most engaging talk of the event was up next. A guy from UK Broadband explained how 3G worked. With JJ in the audience offering tidbits from the Vodafone perspective, it had the whole audience rivetted. It seemed to generate the most discussion afterwards too, which can't be bad. I certainly have a better grasp of it all works now.
The next talk also caught my interest, and was concerned with breaking one-time pad encryption. Although fairly trivial when you think about it, it did serve to highlight that although reliable encryption with one-way pads is virtually unbreakable, assuming the programmer is going to make a mistake or not encyrpt correctly, can open up the encyrption to exploits. An interesting talk.
Running for home, the last talk was with a locksmith. Not with computer locks, but traditional padlocks. He explained a little of the history and the different types of locks, along with many examples he'd brought along. The ways to approach lock picking, and some of the tools used. Again while the talk had a modicum of interest, I was a little at a loss to see where it fitted into the Brum2600 idea.
All in all, it was an interesting day out, and for five pounds it wasn't like I felt I had been cheated or anything. The conference itself was very well attended, and even got a spot on the TV, so there is definitely interest out there. However, I was expecting a few talks more orientated to hacking and networking, such as packet sniffing, hacking protocols, among other things, but alas there was none of that. Perhaps I might do one about email next year for them. I'm sure Matt and Rich can give me some pointers to cover, and I'm pretty certain it would be a darn sight more relevant that picking padlocks!
Read the reports at BrumCon IV.