Barcamp Manchester 2022 – my review

Outside of work, I attended my first technical event since the 2020 lockdown. A Barcamp is a community run conference where the attendees propose the talks they want to present. In past years, I have attended with an intention to speak, and in some cases present several talks.

This a a picture of “the grid” – the cards on the far left are the rooms in which talks occur, the cards on the top row are time slots in which talks were to be delivered, and the rest of the cards were proposed talks.
This picture by Martin Rue on Twitter and used with his kind permission.

The first talk I attended was a talk by Patrick Hurley who was asking people to propose ideas to that would benefit people in the north of England. These will be written up into a book and used as inspiration for projects big and small. Well worth a look!

I missed the next slot, as I was making my way around groups of people I’d not spoken to for a while, but then my next talk of interest was “I’m an AWS Engineer… Ask me Anything (we’re hiring)” by Martin. I didn’t know anyone else from AWS was going to be there, so I went, if only to introduce myself and say hi… Well, one thing lead to another, and then I found myself joining Martin answering questions from my perspective in a different part of the organisation. I loved this session, and I’m really glad to have caught up with Martin, if only because he was such a lovely man and so enthusiastic about everything he was talking about!

After that, I went to the talk about Living in Japan by Fran. This was a quick ad-hoc talk, but totally adorable because it was just completely heartfelt and had loads of questions that were answered with fab anecdotes about life at a ladies-only university outside Tokyo… the questions were really good too!

Over lunch and slot 5, I put together a talk about my boardgame collection, and agreed to co-host a talk about working at AWS with Martin again.

I also found myself in a small talk, hosted by Harper, the 8 year old daughter of one of the attendees, who was very keen to present her first talk. It was a beautiful and well delivered talk about the elements of a pen, her favourite pen and what each element is for. She also fielded questions from the audience with a lot of confidence and spoke with great authority. She was fab, and I made a point of letting everyone I saw know about her talk!

I went to a talk in Slot 6 called “Dude, where’s my meetup” – a slightly confused talk which seemed to be asking “what happened to all the groups that met up in Manchester”, while also not being clear whether it was asking “and who’s going to run them again now we’re all meeting back up” or “why haven’t they restarted” or “what is replacing them” or even “why aren’t the groups which have restarted making more noise about themselves to make them found”… I plugged the North West UK Tech Community and encouraged groups to register themselves on there, and individuals to help clean out older groups that have closed.

I gave my talk on the Board Game spreadsheet I have created, and got a great couple of ideas on categorising the games we have, and whether expansions should be games in their own right, or not. Several people took links away, and I picked up this great alternative version that I could be reusing!

Next up was the conversation with the audience about working at AWS. Lots of really good questions again, and Martin and I developed quite a good raport. I think we’ll be trying to do things like these talks again!

After that session, I spoke to one of the audience members from the AWS session about being recruited by AWS, and then to another person about how they were using AWS. I really enjoyed being part of a conversation about how other people see AWS – I know it’s a lot of my day job, but it was just a nice reassurance that it’s not just something I can do inside my working hours!

Then we had the wrap-up, and there were lots of claps and cheers for the organising team and for anyone who spoke at the event. Great work everyone!

Afterwards, I went to the pub with some people who used to go to Geekup (and it was glorious!) and then made my way home.

All in all, a great day, and I’m looking forward to the next one!

"matrix" by "Jordi nll" on Flickr

I’m on a #Podcast: “It’s a Chat Episode 53 – More! – #TheMatrix: Reloaded”

Yep, they let me back on! And so, following the last recording (probably around November-ish), we recorded the chat that became Episode 53 of the It’s a Chat podcast. Much like the last episode, we talk about things which are connected to The Matrix: Reloaded (and get about 1/3rd of the way through the film), and talk about other stuff as well. I talk a fair amount about the Animatrix and we briefly discuss the game (that I don’t think any of us played).

I reference a series of books which I read, that I referred to as “Sand” but instead actually meant the first book, called “Wool” of the series “Silo“, which I rated 3/5 on Goodreads.

I also draw a conclusion that Agent Smith is actually rickrolling us, four years before rickrolling was a thing.

Featured image is “Matrix” by “Jordi nll” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.

"matrix" by "Dako Huang" on Flickr

I’m on a #Podcast: “It’s a Chat Episode 52 – Red Pill, Blue Pill – #TheMatrix”

A few months ago, I recorded a podcast episode with the “It’s a Chat Podcast” team, talking about The Matrix. We’ve got some subsequent episodes recorded about the sequels, but they’ve not been released yet! The first episode was released today as “Red Pill, Blue Pill – The Matrix“.

“It’s a Chat” talk about films, tv series and even games that were large parts of our lives growing up, including Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and Star Trek.

Listening back to the episode today, it’s clear that I’ve not got any better at stopping the “Um”ing – so… I guess I need to do something about that :)

I’d love to hear your views on my views about the show, so please comment below, reply to the tweet or just message me using one of the links under “Where to find me” on my blog!

Featured image is “Matrix” by “Dako Huang” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY license.

"raspberry pie" by "stu_spivack" on Flickr

Post-Config of a RaspberryPi Zero W as an OTG-USB Gadget for off-device computing


A few months ago, I was working on a personal project that needed a separate, offline linux environment. I tried various different schemes to run what I was doing in the confines of my laptop and I couldn’t make what I was working on actually achieve my goals. So… I bought a Raspberry Pi Zero W and a “Solderless Zero Dongle“, with the intention of running Docker containers on it… unfortunately, while Docker runs on a Pi Zero, it’s really hard to find base images for the ARMv6/armhf platform that the Pi Zero W… so I put it back in the drawer, and left it there.

Roll forwards a month or so, and I was doing some experiments with Nebula, and only had an old Chromebook to test it on… except, I couldn’t install the Nebula client for Linux on there, and the Android client wouldn’t give me some features I wanted… so I broke out that old Pi Zero W again…

Now, while the tests with Nebula I was working towards will be documented later, I found that a lot of the documentation about using a Raspberry Pi Zero as a USB gadget were rough and unexplained. So, this post breaks down much of the content of what I found, what I tried, and what did and didn’t work.

Late Edit 2021-06-04: I spotted some typos around providing specific DHCP options for interfaces, based on work I’m doing elsewhere with this script. I’ve updated these values accordingly. I’ve also created a specific branch for this revision.

Late Edit 2021-06-06: I’ve noticed this document doesn’t cover IPv6 at all right now. I started to perform some tweaks to cover IPv6, but as my ISP has decided not to bother with IPv6, and won’t support Hurricane Electric‘s Tunnelbroker system, I can’t test any of it, without building out an IPv6 test environment… maybe soon, eh?

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"map" by "Jason Grote" on Flickr

Documenting my Career Path

For something internal at work, I decided to sketch out how I got to doing the job I do today. And, because there’s nothing hugely secretive in that document (or, at least, nothing you wouldn’t already find out on something like Linked In), I figured I’d also put this on my blog… and I think it might be interesting if you’ve written something similar, if you’d share your document too.

I intend to make that a “Living Document” (like I do with my “What am I doing now” and my “What do I use” pages) that I update every time I think about it, and think they need a tweak. So, as a result, I’ve put them over on my “Career Path” page, which is not a traditional “blog post” and is in my sidebar.

Featured image is “map” by “Jason Grote” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.

"jogger" by "Acid Pix" on Flickr

My journey with Couch To 5k

Couch to 5k is a training plan for jogging or running, where you start from doing very little jogging and move up to doing longer and longer extended runs. In the UK the BBC have an app which helps you follow the plan, but outside the UK there are other apps you can try.

Why did I start?

With the exception of the beginning of lockdown (where we were doing “big walks” to “keep our fitness up”), I found myself becoming progressively more and more sedentary. Yes, I’d still take the kids out each day, but I was finding myself more and more stuck in doing the same short walks that they were happy to do. I needed to push myself a bit. I’ve never been a runner, in fact many of my worst memories of secondary school involved being sent out for a run, or doing laps around the field… but Jules suggested I try Couch to 5k.

What am I using?

I’ve been using the BBC One You Couch to 5k app.

Screenshot Image
Screen shot from the Android App listing. While you might see this a few times on your early runs, chances are you’ll not really look at this again.

Following the plan

The first week, I was out, three times, shuffling along for 19 minutes, doing cycles of “jogging” for 60 seconds and then walking for 90 seconds. I felt like I couldn’t possibly jog for 60 seconds, but just keep going as best as I could. More often than not in the first couple of sessions I’d only be able to jog the full 60 seconds, but instead I’d do 30 to 45 seconds. And then session three came along, and I managed the full 60 seconds of the jog, each time! Wow!

The next week was a little bit harder, it’s still three sessions a week, but now it’s 5 cycles of jogging 90 seconds and walking for 2 minutes. Again I had the same pattern, the first session I couldn’t jog the full 90 seconds, but I could usually do 60 seconds, and sometimes I’d make it up to 75… and again, by the third session, I was managing the full 90 seconds for each of the cycles. I still wasn’t feeling like I could do any serious distance or speed, but at least I was going out consistently.

Week three got a bit harder. The three sessions this week all followed this cycle – 90 seconds jogging, 90 seconds walking, 3 minutes jogging, 3 minutes walking, 90 seconds jogging, 90 seconds walking, then 3 minutes jogging. Oof. The first time I did this I don’t think I even made the 90 seconds out of the 3 minutes jogging, but again, by the third session, I had this one sorted!

Week four changed the dynamic a bit. In this week you jog more than you walk. Yes, it sounds hard, but… well, as the app’s voice in my ear, Jo Whiley, says “You’ve done all the preparation for this, you can do it”. I’ll talk about the “Coaches” and the app itself in a bit. This week you do 3 minutes jogging, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes jogging, 2.5 minutes walking, 3 minutes jogging, 90 seconds walking and then 5 minutes jogging. I followed a fairly standard (for me) pattern in this – I ended up not being able to do all of the running on each jog for the first two sessions, but on the third, I could manage it.

Week five was where I struggled the most. A combination of bad weather and, well, a global pandemic meant that I ended up doing this week twice. I quite like the fact that you can re-do individual sessions, or whole weeks of the Couch to 5k app. Anyway, the actual cycles this week are different from each session. It seems a bit hard but on the second time around I managed OK.

So, week 5 session one is 5 minutes jogging, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes jogging, 3 minutes walking and then a final 5 minutes jogging. First time around I did OK with this – I think I managed 5 minutes jogging, then 3 minutes jogging and then 3 minutes jogging. Second time around I did 5 minutes, 4.5 minutes and 5 minutes.

Week 5 session two is 8 minutes jogging, 5 minutes walking and 8 minutes jogging. Oof. I think on my first pass at this I managed 5 minutes and then 2 minutes on the first block and then 6 minutes and walked the rest of the second block. On my second pass of this week I got both sets of 8 minutes, but I was exhausted. It was all good stuff.

And then the real killer. Week 5 session three is 20 minutes “non-stop” jogging. So, I’m going to remind you. It took me two goes at this week to manage this. The first time around I essentially managed 5 minute blocks, did what I could for each of those and then walked for anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute between each of them. Not great. Not what the plan said, but… I could re-do it. On the second run through I think I managed 12 minutes and then walked for 30 seconds, and then jogged for the rest of it. Whoop whoop.

Week 6 also had different timings for each of the sessions. This and Week 7 were also a bit of a muddle for me. I was away from my house from the end of week 6, all of week 7 and I was on my main summer holiday break. My children were both interested in coming out for a run with me, so I ended up doing the following sessions over the 9 days we were away (and the couple of days each side of it)!

  • Week 6 session 1 (just me) 5 minutes jogging, 3 minutes walking, 8 minutes jogging, 3 minutes walking and 5 minutes jogging. At home. All generally OK. I don’t recall any issues with this one, but I clearly did have an issue, as I repeated it later in the week
  • Week 6 session 2 (just me) 10 minutes jogging, 3 minutes walking then 10 minutes jogging. At home. Again, generally fine.
  • Week 6 session 1 (just me) repeated for some reason! At home.
  • Week 6 session 3 (just me) 25 minutes along the Abergele sea wall. All OK.
  • Week 7 session 1 (me and Daniel) 25 minutes along the Abergele sea wall. Daniel struggles a bit with pace, so he’d rush off, then stop, then rush off, then stop. We did it OK though.
  • Week 1 session 1 (me and Emily) (60 seconds jogging, 90 seconds walking, cycled 7 times) Good, and better paced too. Emily said she didn’t want to do it again 😁
  • Week 2 session 1 (me and Daniel) (90 seconds jogging, 90 seconds walking, cycled 5 times) OK. Still no better paced, but Daniel also said he didn’t want to do it again.
  • Week 7 session 2 (just me) 25 minutes at home. Felt amazing.
  • Week 7 session 3 (just me) 25 minutes at home. Felt like I’d nailed this distance.

Back home from that break, I got back into it! I did week 8 session 1 last night, it’s now up to 28 minutes and I feel like I managed it with no worries at all.

Apps and accessories

That first week, I hadn’t known what to do with my phone – the first session I was wearing jogging bottoms and had the phone in my pocket – ugh, that was uncomfortable. The next time I had a small bag that went over my shoulder, but it kept rising up and catching me on the throat – that also didn’t work. I tried a small backpack and the phone just kept bouncing around in there and felt really uncomfortable and painful.

In the end I bought a “VGuard Running Phone Armband” from Amazon.

Image from the Amazon listing

I measured my upper arm, and thought it would be tight, but would fit. In the end, I’ve actually started wearing it on my forearm, as I can actually see the display there, and because it’s not quite so tight. I wear wired headphones from my Nokia 6.2 phone which pass under a flap on the side of the case and then goes up my sleeve. I’m thinking of getting some bond conducting bluetooth headphones, as none of the over-the-ear or in-the-ear ones I’ve worn are really suitable for how I jog. Aside from anything I cross a couple of roads when I’m jogging, and while I can do this by vision alone, having an audio cue too would be helpful.

On my other wrist, I wear a Fossil Gen 4 Android Wear based watch.
Image from the Amazon listing

I use this to signal to Google Fit when I start and stop the couch to 5k session, so I can get more accurate tracking of my activities. I upgraded to this during week 6 from my LG Urbane watch, and the new model has in-built heart rate tracking. As such, I get an idea of my heart rate during my jogs now too.

How about the app itself? On the whole, it’s OK. You do a 5 minute “brisk walk” to warm up and another to warm down at the end. Half way around the course, there’s a bell sound, so you know when you’re half way. You get a set of yellow circles showing what stages you’ve completed, and you’re reminded not to do the later stages without having done the earlier ones. Apparently, in the App there are also

There’s a few different coach voices to select from – I chose Jo Whiley, but there are also a few others, most of which I didn’t recognise, except for the comedienne Sarah Millican.

I had some niggles, but they’re not disastrous, for example, around week 2 I had a few sessions where the app would restart itself during the final block of speech, and so it didn’t record that run as having been completed (to resolve this, once I got home, I just put the phone on the side, set it to “running” and then pressed “end” once the timed session was done). On another occasion, the bell sounded, and it re-started the podcast which had been paused for my coach to talk to me about how far I’d gone. Not a disaster, again, as I just paused the podcast again, but a little frustrating!

Talking of the coaches and niggles, one of the later weeks, perhaps 5 or 6, the app indicated that it had failed to download my preferred voice for that week, and asked me to change coach. I picked Sarah Millican, and it was clear that Jo Whiley is much more my style of coach. Jo spends much of her time with you on the course telling you how she found getting started with running, or making suggestions about things to distract you while you’re running. Sarah was very matter-of-fact “You’ve done 5 minutes, well done”, and so on. A few people have remarked that some of the coaches are “too chatty” – Jo probably falls into that category, but I found it just enough distraction to keep me going. Sarah did not work for me! I swapped back to Jo when I got back to reliable Wifi and it downloaded fine! Whew.

I don’t think the app stores any data “in the cloud”, so I don’t think it’s possible to swap over to another phone – I think you’d just need to jump ahead to where you got to, and maybe afterwards go back and let it play through the track for each session to catch up.

In summary

If I was starting again, would I do “Couch to 5k”? Yes, absolutely. Have I encouraged others? Yep. Oh, and am I anywhere near 5k? No, not a shot! I’m currently doing about 2.3miles, which is a little over 3.5k. At 30 minutes, I’ll probably be doing about 2.5miles, which is about 4k, so to get to 3.1miles (which is around 5k), I’ll probably need to be running for maybe 40 minutes? Something like that. Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting close to that! And then, maybe, just maybe, I’ll start looking at doing 10k? Who knows!

Featured image is “jogger” by “Acid Pix” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY license.

The OggCamp '19 grid on Saturday

#OggCamp ’19 – A review and Talk Summary

Firstly, an apology! It’s more than a week after OggCamp. I’m quite aware that this is very very late for me!

About OggCamp for those who weren’t there!

OggCamp is an annual semi-scheduled Unconference. An Unconference (sometimes known as a “BarCamp”) is where when you arrive on the first day, the schedule (also known as the “Grid”) is blank, with a stack of post-it notes next to the grid. You’re encouraged to put talks on the grid, and keep checking the grid to see what’s up next.

OggCamp is a conference which encourages people to talk about Free Culture (Free and Open Source Software, Open Hardware, Creative Commons Content) and other permissively licensed works. It’s also a “Geeky” conference, so games will often appear, they encourage hardware makers to attend, and this year the event also contained “FlawCon”, a security conference, so the event also had a higher-than-usual proportion of Infosec people there!

OggCamp was started by podcasters in 2009, and so there’s usually at least one or two podcasts being recorded. This year, there was a panel session, Linux Outlaws “rode for one last time”, Hacker Public Radio (HPR) were out and about to talk to people at the event, and the podcast I co-host, The Admin Admin Podcast, found a quiet spot to record a show too. Sadly, with the exception of my own podcast recording, I didn’t make it to any of the other recordings I mentioned, as I was attending talks by other people at those times.

Differences, for me, from previous years

Since OggCamp ’10, I was either not at the event (on the years each of my children were born), was running the Talk Scheduling Software; CampFireManager, crewing, or organising the event. This was the first year I managed to get to see talks all day since the very first OggCamp, so that was a big change for me.

This year, Lorna organised the grid, from right in front of it. Except for the welcome and closing talks, I don’t think she left the grid for the entire day both days. In previous years, when we weren’t using CampFireManager, the grid was left unattended, with an occasional drive-by crew member transferring the grid to Joind.In. Talking of which, here’s the Joind.In view of Saturday…


A screen shot of the grid from Saturday. Talks marked with a * are talks I attended.

I went to the “Opening Talk” first. This is your usual “Here’s how to get on the Wi-fi, here’s how to participate, here’s the sort of things we want from you” talk, and was run by Dan and Lorna.

Next up, I saw Terrence and Elizabeth Eden talking about

OpenBenches is a project that records what is on the plaques on benches that people arrange for their relatives, sometimes when they die. I’ve been aware of this project for some time, but never contributed. Until now I thought you had to manually type in what was on each plaque (and I think, at the beginning you had to), but NO, they’re now doing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to copy the text out of the photos.

The talk discussed the statistics of the project, the technology stack and why the project was started. It was just lovely and really well delivered.

Next I went to see Jeroen talking about Self Publishing.

Jeroen first attended OggCamp last year, giving a talk about Mainframes. This year he was back, talking about running a project with a very small community. Before he got to that though, he wanted to talk about self publishing. He endorsed Lulu for paper printing, AsciiDoc and AsciiDoctor to produce the content (PanDoc to convert between formats, if you started with something that isn’t AsciiDoc(tor)) and then Inkscape to create the cover. I asked him if he would suggest anything for eBooks, but he doesn’t create eBooks so couldn’t make any suggestions.

We got a demo of publishing a finished book on Lulu, with a running translation from Jeroen’s native language :) It was a great talk, and very well delivered in 25 minutes!

The front cover of the book Analogue Network Security by Winn Schwartau
The book which inspired my first talk

After that, I gave a late-pitched talk on Time Based Security (TBS). I made a few mistakes here – not least of which was failing to charge my laptop having used it while I was travelling in – so my laptop wouldn’t actually boot… I couldn’t even put up a single slide with my details! Trying to explain the maths around TBS without something to show it is hard, and involves walking around and waving your hands about. I had about 20 people in the room and I felt woefully underprepared.

Because I ended up running much shorter than I expected, I also started to bring in other material from the Analogue Network Security book (pictured above, with post-it-note reference markers for my review) that I’m currently writing a review on. This was my next mistake. So, I mentioned about feedback loops (which about 1/3 of the book is about) and that in the later sections of the book it’s mentioned that this can improve workflow where you need sign-off to complete changes. I mixed up a few terms and it sounded like I was endorsing having changes made without approvals. I tried to pull it back, but not having brought the book with me or having enough experience in vocalising the material… yehr, it was never going to go well. Oh well, I’m hoping to get the review nailed down and then start writing proper presentations on the matter, so I can try and deliver it better next year!

Then… Lunch. Phil, my father-in-law, plus Kian and Cat went to a Chinese Bakery for lunch.

Neil’s talk was my next talk to see; an ad-hoc review of web pages about Repair Day

After I gave my talk, I headed to see Neil give an ad-hoc talk about Repair Day. Neil had a collection of pages he wanted to show off. Neil works with The Restart Project to help people fix their own broken things, not just computers (which is Neil’s area of interest) but also white goods, radios, home electronics, clothes and furniture.

In the audience was Stuart Ward (featured later) who also mentioned about running Repair Cafes. After the talk was complete, Stuart posted a collection of links to the Joind.In page for people to find out more for themselves later.

This was my stand-out talk for Day 1. Anna had come to OggCamp last year, and thought there wasn’t sufficient content for people new to Linux, so she proposed, wrote and delivered a blinder!

I went to Anna’s talk next. I went in, amongst other reasons, because thought I would be going in to support someone “new to Ubuntu”, and came out stunned at how well the talk was delivered!

Someone wise* wrote on twitter a few months ago something like “The point when someone new joins your team is when you get to challenge implied knowledge. If they ask ‘Why’ and you have to say ‘I don’t know’ it means you need to justify why you do something, and perhaps stop doing it.”

* Someone in this case means I can’t find the tweet!

In this case, I wanted to know what being “New” to Ubuntu (my preferred desktop Linux distribution right now) meant to people. Anna’s talk was fantastic, and got right to the heart of what someone new to Linux would feel like. She mentions downloading “things” from the Internet, setting them to be executable by everyone, and then running them. She also mentions running everything under “sudo” or as root, and then went into where she found she should put things. This was sprinkled with a lot of appropriate emojis. It was a really great talk.

As an event organiser, I’m always interested in what other groups are doing!

After Anna’s talk, I went to a round-table session about meetup and event organisers. This was inspired by something new that Lorna had organised this year for the unconference schedule. Next to the board, showing what talks were going to be given, was another board asking for talks to be given. Someone had asked for a talk about organising meet-ups, and so several of the attendees who are organisers of local groups came together to give their views on how to start a group, how to motivate attendees to come to your groups, and how to keep the momentum going.

I’m sorry to say that this was one of the weaker sessions I went to over the weekend. Because no-one had really planned anything in this slot, and none of the people running the session were really comfortable in what they were delivering, it was hard to get any points out of the speakers, and there was very little interaction with the audience. This could have been run as a Q&A session from experienced group organisers, or even a round-table… but never mind!

Towards the end of the session, I stood up and asked about whether any groups like TechNW.UK existed in their regions, and asked people who organised groups like this to put pull requests to get their groups added to that website. I hope to see something come out of that!

After I left this session, I went to look at the exhibition hall and the Kids Track room.

In the exhibition hall was the Merch Stand, the grid, two stands that were apparently about musical things – one of which basically had a guitar and amp constantly being used by a very good musician. After that was, The FSFE, Hacker Public Radio. Along the other wall was a lock picking stand from FlawCon, Manchester Grey Hats and InfoSec Hoppers, a telepresence bot and more!

In the kids room were computers, micro:bits and willing instructors! It looked like a lot of fun for kids, but there wasn’t much room! I had a bit of a chat with a few friends I met along the way, before I went to see my co-host, Al, talking about Wireguard.

Al hadn’t expected to be giving this talk today!

Al has been talking about Wireguard a few times over the past year-or-so, and wanted to give a talk about it. He’d planned to propose it for Sunday, but was encouraged by Lorna to talk about it on Saturday. As a result, he hadn’t had a chance to run though the demo he’d planned to give, and it tripped him up at the end of his demo, when the notes he was following mixed up private and public keys at each end… Aside from that, it was a great talk, and made me want to look at Wireguard again!

My final talk for the day was one I didn’t expect to be in!

Kian is a friend of mine from days of old, and when he walked into the room I’d just been in for Al’s talk… I decided to sit in whatever he was talking about. Kian spoke to a small audience about hardware builds he’d done over the years, and the mishaps that had occurred on them. A very entertaining talk, albeit one that I couldn’t really empathise with, as I’ve not done any hardware builds since I did my Radio Amateur Exam. Hearing the story of the halloween pumpkin with eyes that were supposed to look at you was very funny though, and the videos really completed the story!

After the talks were done, I went to get dinner with my co-hosts from the Admin Admin podcast, and a few of the other attendees. After we were done, I went back to the venue, but couldn’t settle as I’d had a headache coming on.

While I was gearing up to leave, I ended up having a good chat with Ben Grubert, who changed my view somewhat on how to deliver a talk. He said that people, particularly those who are very process focused, struggle to explain something that links back to the goal, for example, explaining how to win at a board game. It made me completely re-think how my talk I wanted to give on Sunday would go, and I left soon after that conversation so I could re-write my talk. I’ve since gone on to share that advice with several other people!


A screen shot of the Sunday Schedule. Again, starred talks are the ones I attended.
My hands-down favourite talk from the entire weekend!

At Barcamp Manchester 9, which I attended a few weeks before OggCamp, I missed a talk by Rachel. I saw a picture of one of her slides, and I think I might even have caught the last slide of it… Either way, I was desperately sad that I’d missed the talk, and so encouraged her to attend OggCamp to deliver it. Once I saw she was on the grid, I knew exactly where I was going!

Rachel’s talk did not fail to deliver. I’ve heard from lots and lots of people that they were moved by this talk. Rachel was talking about her life, mostly undiagnosed with Autism, ADHD and depression. She enriched the talk with fun comments, including asking someone to play the part of Romeo from Romeo and Juliet, and then asking him, without having seen the book, why he didn’t know his lines. It sounds quite brutal, but actually, it sets the scene quite well on her life. There’s a fantastic photo of the spectrum of issues related to autism that just keeps having more and more artefacts being added to it.

I’ve heard that she wants to take this talk to more people, businesses and conferences, so I won’t spoil any more of the surprises, but it’s a really powerful talk and I’d strongly encourage anyone to bring Rachel into their environment to hear her talk.

While sitting in Kian’s talk the day before, I missed a session on Ansible Security. I’d made the point, in the morning, of finding Michael from the Matrix Project who gave the talk, and they said that they’d planned to host a “Birds of A Feather” (BOF) session on the Sunday following the feedback from the talk.

I managed to make it to this session, but unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos.

Having been to the meet-up session the day before, I was partially dreading this session, as Ansible is something I’m still very keen on. I needn’t have worried, as Michael managed to control several very chatty people (myself very much included). He managed to engage people but then stop them from going on too much. I wish there was somewhere the people who attended this talk to join to catch up and share knowledge, but… oh well.

Next I went to a talk on the Java Open Street Map editor, JOSM. It was very much a show-and-tell “This is how I use the tool”, but I struggled to follow it, and, sadly left early.

LATE EDIT 2019-11-04: Stuart contacted my on Twitter to apologise for making his talk hard to follow. I wanted to add some extra notes. The problem I had was not with Stuart’s talk per-sey, but more that I couldn’t focus on the subject, and wasn’t sure if I wasn’t in the right head-space for the talk or perhaps I was just hungry. I wanted to become more involved in Open Street Map, and thought I could get a better idea on how to contribute from this talk, but as I said, I wasn’t tracking the content. I walked out more to clear my head than because I didn’t enjoy the talk.

I realised I was getting hungry, so went to Subway for my lunch, and came back refreshed in time to give my second talk.

A screen shot from the talk “Here’s how you win: Secure Scuttlebutt”

This talk was on Secure Scuttlebutt (SSB), a decentralised social media platform. There were about 20 people in the audience, and I had some very sensible questions about the project. At the end of the talk, I’d encouraged three people to give it a try, two of whom fell at the first hurdle, and the third persisted in the bar at the end of the day, and has since connected with me on there. Woohoo!

The talk was a stark contrast to the talk I felt I’d not done justice to the day before, and I felt like I’d really nailed this talk. I’m still exceptionally grateful to Ben who’d pointed me in the right direction for the talk layout the night before.

At the end of my talk, I wandered around a bit – I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to see next, so instead I caught up with friends who also weren’t in talks. I bumped into Rachel, and recorded a quick promo for her speaking career and then saw some friends start a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) game up in the exhibition area!

The first talk at OggCamp about a technology I’d not seen the likes of before.

I made my way to Roger’s talk about Stream Sheets, an Internet Of Things (IoT) connected tool like Google Sheets. It can read content from MQTT, REST APIs and other similar data sources, tweak and convert them, and then publish them back again. All very interesting, although I’m unlikely to use it somewhere any time soon! I was glad though to popularise it with colleagues when I got back to work on Monday!

My last talk attended of the day – Jamie Tanner

Jamie had talked at OggCamp ’18, and I was very glad to see him back at OggCamp this year – particularly on the main stage!

His talk was about self hosting and the Indie Web movement. He talked about why he self hosts, and what sort of content he “owns” when he can (spoiler: all of it!) He not only stores bookmarks in a public blog, but his Google Fit step counter results, his RSVPs to events and … yes, even blog posts. He talked about why he felt that you too should be part of the Indie Web.

After Jamie’s talk, was the annual rafflecast. A laptop was given away, but not to me (boo!) And then I went to record the Admin Admin Podcast.

From left to right, Jerry, Gary, Al, and then Me (with my red hat from Red Hat). Out of shot is Mr Joe Ressington, who let us use his recording gear. Because he’s lovely.

On the way to Joe’s hotel (where we did this recording), I got us a bit lost, and ended up walking us clear across to the Northern Quarter of Manchester. We then had to walk back to just near Piccadilly station, where his hotel was! Oops. The show has since been released, if you want to hear us talking about OggCamp, and guest host Gary.

We went to the Lass O’Gowry pub for a drink before I had to catch my rail replacement bus home, and catch up on some sleep!

And that was OggCamp ’19. The featured image is of the OggCamp Grid on Saturday.

OggCamp are looking for someone to take over the organising in 2020 (supported by past organisers, like me!) so if you’re interested, please get in touch!

FDE Flag by the dock side in Berlin, with a WECC sign in the background.

#FDEConf2019 – My Impressions

Last year, I was very fortunate be selected as a Fujitsu Distinguished Engineer (FDE), and earlier this year I was advised that my membership of that group was renewed (this is not a forgone conclusion – it’s something you need to achieve each year!)

Some FDEs have occasional local meet-ups, but our whole group’s “big do”, when we induct new members into the group, the “FDE Conference” was held this year (#FDEConf2019 on Social Media) at WECC, Berlin.

The FDE Conference spans two days (plus travelling) and this year was no exception. I travelled from Manchester with Associate FDE, Lucy McGrother, and stayed at the Ellington Hotel in Berlin. On arrival, several of the FDEs who were at the Ellington created a chat group on Linked In and organised going out for dinner at the Bavarian Berlin restaurant (which was really tasty!)

I’d already started eating before I remembered to take a photo! D’oh!
I did better with Desert!

The following day, the first “real” day of the event, a few of us caught an Uber to the conference (I’ve never used Uber before, but was very impressed with the UX of it!) where we discovered that a “Uber X” (the bigger ones) for 6 people can’t fix 6 people into! I had my knees around my ears, which was fun!

I was speaking at the event on the first day, so I made my way to my room, only to discover that not only was the venue “HDMI only” (damn you DisplayPort-only laptop!) but also that an update overnight on my blog (to update syntax highlighting I don’t use any more) had taken out the presentation software I was using. Cue running around looking for an DisplayPort/HDMI Adaptor, and then trying to figure out what had actually broken on the site! Oh well – soon sorted!

Welcome speech delivered by the ever enthusiastic Joseph Reger, and then we were off to the “Breakout Sessions”!

The first talk I attended was by Caragh O’Carroll, on Data Maturity. I’d had a bit of a preview of the talk a week or so before the talk was actually given (a dry-run, so to speak), and it was great to hear that I’d literally had 10% of what would actually be in the talk. Some of my suggestions had been incorporated, and the whole room was up and moving around for one piece of the story half way through. It was really energising!

After that, I was on stage. Because Joseph had run over slightly, the speaker in the slot before me had timed his talk to the minute and so overran into the “moving around” block. I was slightly nervous as this meant my timing could have gone out (but as it turned out, I nailed it to the minute!) I’ve written up some notes on my talk already elsewhere on this blog, so I won’t go into too much detail, aside from to add that after I wrote that post, I was told that people were being turned away from the door, so that’s a bit of an ego boost :)

I’d intended next to attend a talk on Microservices Architectures, but unfortunately the room was rammed (it wasn’t even “standing room only” – they’d run out of room for people to stand!) Instead, I went away and spoke to some of the vendors. RedHat were there, dispensing Red Fedora hats to anyone who deposited a “contact card”. Yep, I went for it!

Jon in a Red Hat from RedHat standing in front of the Fujitsu Distinguished Engineers banner
After I received the hat, it didn’t come off… until I got home and my wife’s raised eyebrow suggested it wouldn’t have a long life if it remained there…

I also spoke to Pluralsight, a training vendor I’d previously sidelined in favour of another platform, but who appeared to have a much broader scope of content… so they convinced me to give it another try.

I spoke briefly to SUSE, but more-so because I wanted to find out how people I knew working for SUSE were doing than to find out about what SUSE were offering. I’m reasonably well switched on with SUSE as a project and a company so I didn’t feel like I needed to get much from them. Also, sadly, none of the people who were there knew the people I was talking about, which wasn’t a good start! :)

I also spent a couple of minutes talking to a partner I’ve had reasonably close dealings with, Symantec, and agreed to a conversation in the next couple of months. Again, it wasn’t a long talk, as I knew the product set and context quite well.

The other sponsors had interesting content, but generally didn’t cover areas that overlap with my work or my personal interests, so, while I interacted with them, I don’t recall much of what was discussed.

The last break-out session of the day was Scott Pendlebury and Dave Markham‘s session on “Cyber Threat Intelligence and Dark Web Research” – a cumulative talk on the research they’ve done into various aspects of their jobs in the Advanced Threat Centre. This was a very in-depth talk, covering a large number of subjects in a very short space of time. Several people I spoke to after their talk were very interested in lots of little aspects of their talk… because it touched so many areas!

All Meme’d up, Dave and Scott’s front slide was my favourite one!

There was a closing speech for the day, and then the rooms were re-jigged for the evening games and food. In one room was a big-screen, phone controlled, multi-player “Pong” game (hosted by Piing) and a spin of “Cards Against Humanity” called “Cards Against Complexity” (hosted by Citrix). Both were fun, but what was much MORE fun was the game after Pong – a big-screen, phone controlled, multi-player buggy racing game. The first round, naturally, I won!

Me winning the first round of Buggy Racing. I didn’t manage to achieve *that* feat again! Photo courtesy of Caragh, who spotted me celebrating and snapped it!

Following the games, I went back to the hotel with a couple of the other FDEs (discovering how not-Uber, non-Uber services are), and had a couple of drinks in the bar. Bed and awake for breakfast the following morning.

Day two was about the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and what ideas we, as a company, could come up with to help progress those goals.

A slide from the morning, showing the Sustainable Development Goals

We had talks from three different individuals who are helping to steer the conversation. Neil Bennett, Dr. Leonardo Gheller Alves (link to his latest project) and Thomas Deloison. Our speakers, talking over individual radio channels to tuned headphones, told us about how we could impress them with our projects… and talking of the projects, there were three “target” cities – Berlin (naturally), Bangalore and Tokyo (also, naturally). Each city was prompted to look at three areas of interest – Homes & Communities, Transport and Environment. Each city/interest set was split into three groups (numbered 1-9), each of whom were to approach the subject and come up with a project to solve an issue in their chosen area.

The process, orchestrated by the co-creation conductor – Jo Box, took us on a journey, looking at the city and it’s issues, pushing us into looking at how those issues impact a single member of that city and, then pulling us into how we might help that person improve their lives.

My team, Tokyo 9 (dealing with “Environment”) considered the path of an elderly Japanese lady “Mikika” and thought about what issues she had. We explored the fact that she lived in a “Walk-up” apartment, and probably was concerned with the fates of all of her family (including her own brother, as well as their children and grandchildren). We expanded on that to work out what things in Mikika’s environment would cause her issues, and how we might help to solve those issues… As it worked out, we ended up crossing from “Environment” into “Housing”, as we imagined building a new town on a brownfield environment inside Tokyo, and how that town might be better engineered to support family lives for all stages of life, from rearing children near home, to supporting young adults in their quest for a career, and later to the care and support of elderly family members who might be living nearby.

Our final presentation board
The physical view of our final presentation – what makes up our project?

Sadly, we didn’t win, but I loved being a part of the team. I have to give lots of respect to all my team members, but particularly to Liz Parnell, a recent member of the FDE community and Sean Barker. These were both our voices for the pitches to our fellow Tokyo teams, and also in our final pitch to the judges.

Following the pitches, we went off-site for a walk around (I managed to do some tourist-y shopping for the family and then chatted with some other FDEs at the “Other” hotel) before heading back for drinks and dinner.

During the dinner, I was approached by someone from the RedHat stand, who asked if they could borrow my hat. I was, by this point, the only person at the event still wearing my coveted red fedora. I finally let him borrow my hat, only to find it on the head of Dr. Joseph!

In the latter part of the dinner were speeches from members of the Management Team, essentially reminding us that we’re amazing and need to keep being so great. I subsequently managed to talk to my local management representative – Tim White, with whom I got a great selfie!

Jon Spriggs and Tim White. Jon wears a Red Hat.
Yes, I’ve got my red fedora back by now!

We also saw all the new FDEs and Associate FDEs being inducted in, and also those staff who were awarded for significant internal research papers.

And then, we all had a lot more drinks, and when the bar shut down, we returned to the bar at the hotel, and had some more.

A reasonable handful of us ended up on the same flight back to Manchester the following day, so it was nice to catch up with a few of the FDEs on the return.

I should say though, it took me a few days to recover! Hence, this post only arriving now… so, erm, perhaps that’ll teach me for taking my own vodka to a venue that’s only serving beer and wine? (#ThePerilsOfOnlyDrinkingSpirits)

Nah, didn’t think so! 😁

If you work for Fujitsu, and want to know more about the FDE program, want to become an FDE or just want to know more about what I do for Fujitsu, please get in touch. I’m in the Address Book and I am frequently on our IM system. I’d be more than happy to talk with you!

If you don’t work for Fujitsu, but would be interested, start by looking at the roles available in your region (e.g. via this page). Each region may have a different recruiting tool (that’s big business for you!) but if you spot something and want to know whether it might be the right sort of role for you, you can contact me via one of the options up the top of my blog and I’d be glad to try to help you, if it’s right for you!

Featured image is “Inspiring couple of days in Berlin attending #FDEConf2019” by Paul Clarke.

JonTheNiceGuy and "The Chief" Peter Bleksley at BSides Liverpool 2019

Review of BSIDES Liverpool 2019

I had the privilege today to attend BSIDES Liverpool 2019. BSIDES is a infosec community conference. The majority of the talks were recorded, and I can strongly recommend making your way through the content when it becomes available.

Full disclosure: While my employer is a sponsor, I was not there to represent the company, I was just enjoying the show. A former colleague (good friend and, while he was still employed by Fujitsu, an FDE – so I think he still is one) is one of the organisers team.

The first talk I saw (aside from the welcome speech) was the keynote by Omri Segev Moyal (@gelossnake) about how to use serverless technologies (like AWS Lambda) to build a malware research platform. The key takeaway I have from that talk was how easy it is to build a simple python lambda script using Chalice. That was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to trying some things with that service!

For various reasons (mostly because I got talking to people), I missed the rest of the morning tracks except for the last talk before lunch. I heard great things about the Career Advice talk by Martin King, and the Social Engineering talk by Tom H, but will need to catch up on those on the videos released after.

Just before lunch we received a talk from “The Chief” (from the Channel 4 TV Series “Hunted”), Peter Bleksley, about an investigation he’s currently involved in. This was quite an intense session, and his history (the first 1/4 of his talk) was very interesting. Just before he went in for his talk, I got a selfie with him (which is the “Featured Image” for this post :) )

After lunch, I sat on the Rookies Track, and saw three fantastic talks, from Chrissi Robertson (@frootware) on Imposter Syndrome, Matt (@reversetor) on “Privacy in the age of Convenience” (reminding me of one of my very early talks at OggCamp/BarCamp Manchester) and Jan (@janfajfer) about detecting data leaks on mobile devices with EVPN. All three speakers were fab and nailed their content.

Next up was an unrecorded talk by Jamie (@2sec4u) about WannaCry, as he was part of the company who discovered the “Kill-Switch” domain. He gave a very detailed overview of the timeline about WannaCry, the current situation of the kill-switch, and a view on some of the data from infected-but-dormant machines which are still trying to reach the kill-switch. A very scary but well explained talk. Also, memes and rude words, but it’s clearly a subject that needed some levity, being part of a frankly rubbish set of circumstances.

After that was a talk from (two-out-of-six of) The Beer Farmers. This was a talk (mostly) about privacy and the lack of it from the social media systems of Facebook, Twitter and Google. As I listen to The Many Hats Club podcast, on which the Beer Farmers occasionally appear, it was a great experience matching faces to voices.

We finished the day on a talk by Finux (@f1nux) about Machiavelli as his writings (in the form of “The Prince”) would apply to Infosec. I was tempted to take a whole slew of photos of the slide deck, but figured I’d just wait for the video to be released, as it would, I’m sure, make more sense in context.

There was a closing talk, and then everyone retired to the bar. All in all, a great day, and I’m really glad I got the opportunity to go (thanks for your ticket Paul (@s7v7ns) – you missed out mate!)