We decided to leave on day three rather than stay on the Monday and leave then. We did not expect the showers to be good this year as they were not great last time and that is all I want to say on the matter :)
Sadly missed breakfast because of this at the great noodle place but waited for them as they were the best food on site. Still got some acid rain however.
Tried to go to the tutorial for knitting and even managed to convince Nikki to go but sadly Nikki managed to grab a seat before me and there were no more places left. This just means she is going to have to show me how to do this later.
Was walking back into the centre of camp and decided to spend some time with 57 North as I knew one of the people there and got to know more. Great people and good conversation. Events like EMF are not just about listening to talks and seeing people make cool things and learning but also about connecting with new and exciting people. Something that always takes me a little while to warm up to as I am not used to being around so many awesome people. During the course of the weekend also met people from Nottinghack and I am going to visit them on their Wednesday open day.
One of the problems of working away from home is not being able to join such things where I technically live but it provides a great opportunity to visit and meet new people in new places. So many times during the weekend someone would ask where we lived and the answer of Nottingham/Falkirk would lead to a confused face.
Grabbed some lunch and had a sit in the dining tent, ended up having a great conversation with one of the speakers. It was her first time doing public speaking and I found sharing an open secret brought a huge smile across her face. Every single time I have to talk I get scared and nervous and I ask myself why I signed up for this in the first place. She was feeling the same and thought it was only her. Turns out she gave a great talk, more on that later.
After lunch and before going to some talks went to the retro games tent, so much fun to be had playing old arcade and console games. I am sure were more productive things I could have been doing and I don’t care. This was pure mindless self indulgence.
Was clearly an interesting talk and I will go and watch the video.
The point of this talk was clearly in the title. Maths provides a precise language to describe and analyse voting systems. Was a great overview of both our current First Past The Post voting system and the recent contender of Alternative Vote and the pros and cons of both. Turns out that both basically suck and while FPTP can elect unpopular candidates AV can remove candidates that gain popularity after getting in.
In the questions someone asked about a system that is mathematically sound, turns out it is too complex for most voters to understand. This is a hard topic and one some of our best minds should be working on. I know in the future we will have help from technical solutions but as the security concerns about the current American presidential election show we are not quite there yet.
As a small side note, the Medium editor seems to not be showing the lovely little red lines under my bad spelling. This sucks as does my spelling.
This was fantastic. He had taken an old 1970s Ford and step by step upgraded it into a modern machine. The start of this was to increase the efficiency, moving it from a three gear auto to a more modern manual four gear as he was a student doing a lot of driving.
Then this pushed him to do a lot more, adding a fuel injection system, a turbo charger and with that adding an Engine Management System called MegaSquirt and a CAN bus. This EMS allows an old car like this to have great new features like Water Injection and Launch Control that are usually only found on top end sports cars. What is fantastic about this is there is also automated testing for the EMS. We have some automated testing in the software development world but it is great to see the same in other fields.
Finally ending with his current work on replacing the dashboard with an electronic RPi based dash and some of the future plans this allows with the 4G/WiFi/GPS dongles attached to it. One of the neat things from this was the power management problem and getting the RPi booted up in time. Typical Linux distros take maybe 20–30 seconds to boot, imagine if your speedo did not start working for 30 seconds after you turned the key. To fix this he has created a custom Linux distro and used a SleepPi to do the power control.
I have played around with a RPi, Arduino and CAN Bus shield before but this work was a million miles away from the playing I have done and has provided some inspiration for what I could be doing.
He has also opened the UKs first open garage. While I have wondered in the past about this as I have never quite had all the tools I needed to do what I want and had to buy them he went and done it, this is awesome. I would love to see more of this and maybe it being a part of Hackerspaces as cars really are easier than ever to maintain, not harder as most people are told.
There was some fail, when taking out the engine to add one of the features found rust and had to have the body worked on and resprayed but this was going to happen with an older body no matter what.
This was the speaker I had met at lunch and the talk did not disappoint. It was great.
Started with a great little video on why we don’t want children to have to have a passport to get into school. This was related to government plans to have schools ensure the nationality of children in our schools. This utterly disgusts me. We should educate any children here, no matter what. Education is a simple right and a requirement of free and mixed market economies. I wish the people making decisions on the future of our country had bothered to read the foundational texts on how it works.
The talk quickly moved to reductio ad absurdum talking about a future where only English born people get into English universities. Then moving on to a quote from Larry Ellison about there being one database in the world, it being an Oracle DB and it tracking everything. In digital rights and movements like EFF and ORG this happens a lot, people present the worst case scenario to demonstrate why a change should not be made. I am not sure I agree with this approach as I think it turns a lot of people off to the argument as they can’t make the mental leap from current day to that scenario even if it is possible.
The talk then moved discuss the data the schools collect, the main point of the talk. It is clear that both schools and parents have no idea what they are collecting and how it is being used. Some of the schools questioned had no idea that the data they collected was centrally collated.
There has been a lot of data collected, it has been handed out to a lot of people including the press who are not audited on their usage of the data and all of this surprises given my experience in government and seeing the audits the people I have worked for have to go through to be able to handle personal data. Something is very wrong here but I would rather believe incompetence than conspiracy.
This campaign has the right idea, first the change has to be in the language, shape the conversation to shape the outcome. Once decisions (laws) are made the tech used is the easy part to change.
There was a real good point I loved the language of. Instead of ‘smart’ systems and cities we should have ‘wise’ systems. Not just collecting data and using it but understanding the consequences of those decisions.
Asking the question about do we want ‘smart’ as in ‘smart cities’ given the data collection and how we are going to have to use the data. This is a data ethics question. Needs to be wise, not just smart.
There was a great question about using DRM to protect our own data. Sadly I have zero faith in this idea. If our biggest media companies can’t use encryption to protect their assets what hope does anyone else have. Even when we bake DRM into the hardware it is not foolproof. The fact is if someone can access data they can copy it and then they have control of how they use it.
For me this discussion and issues surrounding it lead to the basic question our civilisation is going to have to answer shortly, transparency vs privacy. I have been thinking about this for a long time and I will share those thoughts shortly.
Got to see the start of — https://www.emfcamp.org/line-up/2016/292-zebro-building-a-six-legged-robot
Amazing robot that can clearly climb over everything. Want to build one.
Went to go see how Nikki was getting on with blacksmithing. She was having a great time and made me a lovely poker.
The badge this year was far better than last, a lot of lessons learned the best one appears to be to make sure a large team was working on this.
They had some hard requirements, screen, wifi and micropython so anyone could write apps. They managed to make this happen and at the same time made the badge purple :D
This hit the wifi hard and despite having some excellent network engineers at EMF the wifi still did not cope with this but of course they had excellent graphs.
All of the code is on the EMF Github and they are considering doing another run for sale, I hope they do as these are great devices and I can’t wait to have a play when I am not writing up Medium notes ;)
Loads of apps already available and more to come as there is a competition for free tickets for the best app and best hardware modification.
The hardest problem and yet easiest to solve appears to have been money. They did not know how they were going to pay for the badge they had designed and then put out a number to ask for help. The number got floored for two days straight and needless to say they got more than enough help.
Only the RGB LED is broken on the device as it was put on the wrong way around, this will give me a chance to test my new desolder and soldering station at home as will some hardware hacking of this as it appears it should be able to drive either a drone or a robot.
This was the end of EMF for me, well after having a chat with a few other people before going including some of 57 North and our most wonderful and awesome coffee vendor.
EMF Camp is run for fun and not profit and I can only thank the people who did so. I did not spend as much time this event as last helping out but this only means I will do my best to make sure I help in any way I can next.