DEF CON 30: space walkthrough   Leave a comment

Note:  This is cross-posted to the DEF CON Forum as well as to Reddit, to encourage discussion in the official community spaces.  The original material (with cross-links to the other sites) may be found at my personal blog here.  All content here is my own unless otherwise noted, and does not represent DEF CON or Skytalks in any way.  If there’s something I haven’t commented on, please reach out!


So, I recently had the opportunity to go to Vegas, in preparation for DEF CON 30 and the return of Skytalks to the event after a couple years of COVID-induced absence.  I had the opportunity to walk the new Caesar’s Forum convention space as well as a couple of surrounding spots, including the space where Skytalks will end up landing.  I wanted to share thoughts and impressions with all of you.


To quote the Skytalks backchannel from when I was touring through there…  “Nice convention center you have here.  It’s a shame you booked DEF CON in it.”  The Caesar’s Forum space can really only be described as GORGEOUS.  It makes the Caesar’s Palace conference facilities look almost dated.  This is, bar none, the best space that DEF CON has ever been held in, and there’s potential for a lot, once we get through the first year and the lessons learned from that.  But that’s normal.

Getting to/from the “Main Con”

Caesar’s Forum is roughly equidistant walking time and distance from both Harrah’s and the Linq.  Best case, you’re probably looking at a 3-4 minute walk from the elevator banks in these hotels to get to the entrance to the forum (I’ve walked a fair amount of that).  The good news is that this is (or can be, depending on your route) all air-conditioned space from these two hotels.  The bad news, this was all during “off-peak”, and we didn’t have much traffic along the walking routes.

Overall Movement

Be prepared for a LOT of walking or other movement.  The Caesar’s Forum space itself is best described as “HUGE”, taking 2-3 minutes of walking a brisk-ish pace to walk from one end of the main concourse on the south side to the other.  the side concourses take a minute or two, and this is from walking with no traffic on a leg that’s glitching me right now.  Bring comfortable walking shoes, you will need them.  Be prepared for a lot of walking, even to get food.  (More on that in a bit.)

Add to this, there’s a fair amount of content happening outside of the main Caesar’s Forum space right now.  I haven’t seen final maps so I can’t completely comment on that yet.

Person Transport from Other Locations

This will be a bit nicer — the Monorail stop for Harrahs/Linq is actually very close to Caesar’s Forum.  If you’re catching the monorail from other properties (Flamingo, Paris/Bally’s, etc) you’ll be a very brief walk from the platform to the entry to the convention center itself.  Additionally, there’s an Uber/Lyft stop right outside the “Main Entrance” of the forum itself.  However, don’t try crossing at ground level from the parking garages to this entrance.  traffic is NOT paying attention, and there’s no protected crosswalks.  You will become a target.

Gear Shipping

I didn’t see a FedEx or shipping office at Caesar’s Forums itself…  but, stupid me, I didn’t ask, either.  Be prepared to ship stuff to your hotel and have to haul it into the convention center itself, if you’re shipping stuff.  This will likely have to come through the same human corridors as the normal foot traffic.  For those bringing in Villages, I didn’t have an opportunity to see the loading docks — that’s something you’ll want to check with your main DEF CON contacts.


I don’t know what food/beverage options DEF CON is going to try and arrange for on the con floor.  I hope they do, because I know some people in deep hack mode will not want to burn the time to go get food.  Your closest food options are going to be in either Harrah’s or Linq.  The Fulton Street Food Court in Harrahs, where I presently sit typing this, seems like it will be the best general option for grab-and-go.  Plenty of sit-down options in both hotels, and the Linq Promenade space between Linq and Flamingo.

A personal note here from doing con-ops for years:  every year we (Villages in general, Skytalks included) have reminders from DEF CON not to bring in outside food and beverage.  This generally includes stuff even coming from the convention hotels — this is a cause of how Vegas hotel and conference center contracts are constructed.  We all know people slip stuff in — it happens.  That said, if you’re bringing stuff in, try not to be too blatant about it.  Don’t have a stack of pizzas delivered for the entire village.  Also, expect to meet your UberEats/GrubHub/DoorDash/Bob’s Food Delivery and Bait Shop order outside — they’re not going to be able to bring it back to you on the con floor.  See my earlier comment about the “Main Entrance”.

Masking and COVID

Outside of CON space, expect to see a lot of unmasked people.  This weekend I would charitably estimate masking in the hotel and casino spaces at 10%.  I was going to try and field test my new P100 respirator this weekend, but I found myself unmasking more than not, and just avoiding people.  Yeah, I know, they’re sweaty and uncomfortable.  I’m going to try to do better, since for better or worse, I seem to be a community leader, but I know staying masked for a full day of con (minus food and required beverage) is going to be A Problem.

As (I hope) we’re all aware at this point, DEF CON spaces are a mask-required zone.  I personally support this, thanks to anecdotal data I have from multiple people who attended RSA, as well as other recent tech events.  Those events that seemed to have masking in place had a lower incident rate of COVID coming out of them versus those who did not.  Shmoo appeared to have a near-zero rate out of the ~2000 people attending. (I know there was at least one, because they reported their case to me when they tested positive the morning after I had dinner with them.)

At DEF CON 29, Nikita reports:

While I personally disagree with the idea that vaccines only reduce severity, I can see several other items that would make vaccine cards potentially challenging, and while I’d prefer to have both, if I only have one I’d rather it be just-masks versus just-vaccines, given the anecdotal data.  I still encourage everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t yet.  There’s still time for a double-dose initial vaccination before con and to be fully effective, not to mention boosters!

So, make certain your mask is comfortable for long term wear.  You’re going to be wearing it a lot in the convention space, and possibly outside as well.

Bottom Line

This is going to be a very exciting year for DEF CON.  It’s our 30th anniversary, we’re in a new space, and a fair amount of us may not have seen each other except over screens in the past couple of years.  I’m looking forward to fun, fellowship, and shenanigans, even in the face of COVID.  Hacker Homecoming is honestly an awesome theme for the year.

My thanks to The Dark Tangent, CJunkie, and the entire crew that came out for allowing myself to tag along on behalf of Skytalks.  Good times were had, conversations were made, and livers were crash-tested.

Posted July 1, 2022 by mec in Uncategorized

How the World’s Richest Person Inspired Me to Abandon Big Tech   Leave a comment

Pride in ownership.

Well, it’s been a few years since I’ve been posting here.  It’s time to blow the dust and rust off, and get serious about it again.  And for this impetus, you can thank the World’s Richest Person(tm), Elon Musk.

On 25 April 2022, Uncle Elon solidified his bid for Twitter, in the whopping amount of US$45 BILLION.  This deal had been in the making for a good part of April, with Elon making his usual less-than-adult remarks in his Twitter feed.  CNN quotes him as saying:

Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.

Well, what happens when the digital town squares (plural) are owned and operated by some of the richest people in existence?  Do you truly have free speech then, or are you beholden to the whims of those whose virtual soap box you stand on?  This is not a new problem on the Internet, at least in the post dot-com era, but it is one that has been growing worse.  After starting to break out of digital walled gardens like CompuServe, Prodigy, and the 800 pound gorilla of America On-Line, society has wandered back into the fenced-in electronic corrals of digital land barons like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.  People no longer own media, but rent their music and movie collections from companies like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Spotify.

And these public corporations are using you, and your data as a product.  Look at the stock prices and market capitalizations of these companies.  Are you seeing a cent from them?  Are you paying them anything?  Likely, the answer to either question is “no.”  You, my friend, are now a commodity.  Your cute pictures of your grandchild, your goofy video of your dog looking puzzled at stuff on the counter, are out there, making money for someone else.  Ever notice how once you search for something or comment about it online, that all you seem to get for the next few days or weeks is advertisements for exactly that product or company?  I do.

It wasn’t always like this.  There was a time on the Internet where you weren’t someone else’s product to be advertised to, and sold like a package of meat on some anonymous exchange.  To be bundled up like a sub-prime mortgage and sold for pennies on the dollar to whoever thinks they could make a cheap, and likely ever more sleazy, dollar off of you.  There was a time when there was a pride of ownership in having one’s own space on the web, not a Facebook feed where you were lucky if you could see what your friends were actually posting thanks to some mysterious “algorithm” that always seemed to surface advertisements and posts (usually paid) of “influencers” of stuff that was as likely to piss you off instead of interest you.

No more.

My data is my own.  I start now by starting to transition my microblogging (see:  Twitter) out of the Twitter walled garden, and into the greater Internet — something some people call the “Fediverse”, although I’m not certain I like the terminology.  But I can run my own platform there.  My data is my own, and those who want to see what I’m saying can read it, or not.  The Algorithm isn’t going to filter what I say, or who hears it.  Come find me at

I’m going to start posting more long-form content here in the blog as well.  Microblogging is nice for some stuff, but I find myself running long threads of commentary, and maybe that’s not the best for being on a “Micro” service.  It also allows me to start moving my other media-ish content (videos and photos to share, maybe some live-streaming) in house.  And eventually my email relationship with Gmail, 10-12 years strong now, will end.

Am I leaving Twitter or Facebook?  Not right away.  There’s people I know, people I care about, that don’t know how to, or can’t, leave the walled gardens yet.  I need to see what I can do to help them along.  I can probably help others along the way, as well.  This is going to be a building and growth process, not a quick fix.  Not everyone sees the issues the way I do, and maybe I’m wrong in some places.

But it’s time to take a stand, and where I’m starting…  is here.  I welcome you to join me on the journey to a better Internet, and a better society.

Posted June 2, 2022 by mec in Uncategorized

Crossposted from Facebook   1 comment

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST: I’m giving myself a 40th Birthday present. In mid-January, I will be signing off of Facebook, potentially permanently.

As I hit the big 4-0, I realize that there’s a lot in my life that is toxic, and dragging me down mentally and emotionally. Facebook is one of those things for any number of reasons. As such, it’s no longer functionally useful to me. I want association and participation with friends, not innundation of memage and to act as a revenue stream for someone else.

In a similar vein, and related to my statement yesterday, there’s going to be a cull in my friends list over Christmas. If we don’t interact much, it’s very possible I’m going to dropping you, especially if you are in… certain communities. I have a big trust issue in my hacker set of friends now, and I hate to pull the “if you’re not with me, you’re with the terrorists…” but there it is. If you think this affects you, you should reach out and talk.

Those of you who want contact information, I’ll probably leave it up in my profile for a bit. I can’t completely break loose, as I still have to support a couple projects that need Facebook for operational reasons. But I won’t be paying attention to profile tags, and I’ll be shutting off messenger and deleting both apps from my mobile devices.

Even though I don’t use it much anyway, I’m expecting to prune twitter back for the same reasons. It hasn’t gotten quite as toxic yet, at least in some areas… and I really only use it as write-only media anyway.

The plan for the 41st year of Matt?

* Meaningful interactions, not hello-soundbites
* Content creation, not content consumerism
* Keeping people that enrich my life, and dropping those who don’t.

There’s been a quote rattling around in the brain pan for a few days now. It’s appropriate here:

“Sometimes there comes a time when the odds are against you, and the only reasonable course of action is to QUIT!”

Elim Garak is a very smart man. Happy birthday.

Posted December 21, 2017 by mec in Uncategorized

Returning to form   Leave a comment


As I predicted in previous posts, I slacked off.  Not much excuse, and I shall not bore you with details.  However, I have found it interesting to write my thoughts down again, for posterity and in the hope that it brings amusement to some.  Not that I expect that there’s anyone still reading me after a year-long hiatus, you understand.

It’s nice to be back.

Posted March 3, 2013 by mec in Uncategorized

Now there’s a neat idea   Leave a comment


Like a lot of geeks of “my generation,” I am an avid reader of the website Slashdot.  I have been a reader since its early days, and its tagline of “News for nerds.  Stuff that matters.” still resonates with me — even if I don’t always find the content relevant any more.  However, it still does point me at interesting things from time to time.  Slashdot hooked me onto XKCD, a geeky “webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”  Reading XKCD is always fun, and usually interesting, as some of these posts make evident. Some things they post purely as a joke, but that take on a life of their own.

A while back on Slashdot, I caught a link that reminded me of one of the XKCD items that gained life.  The general idea is that you take a trip to a location, derived from a computer-generated interpretation of the most recent opening price of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  Apparently, at one point, a modification of this algorithm produced a location that was near the South Pole.  So, some geeks on the Internet with friends at the Scott-Amundsen Research Station at the South Pole arranged an expedition.  Internet history was made.

Geeky things like this usually end up interesting me.  Geocaching, something in a similar vein, has taken on a life of its own, and I occasionally participate in that.  It’s come up with other things, like verifying USGS markers, visiting whole-integer points of latitude and longitude, and other such silliness.  Some of these tasks are fairly cheap, lots of fun, and very family friendly.  I wish I had more time (and, sometimes, more attention span) to do more of these.


Posted March 3, 2013 by mec in Uncategorized

When you come back, don’t forget to bring the duct tape!   1 comment

Kids these days.

Some days, I begin to wonder if one shouldn’t have a license to procreate.  Was I that poorly behaved going to Wal-Mart?  Would I scream at the top of my lungs continuously because mom moved the cart, or I didn’t get to buy a toy?  Would I go to the restaurant with my parents, smear half my food on the furniture, a quarter more of it on the walls, and then complain that I was hungry?  I hope not, but the vagaries of youthful memory certainly make me wonder.  I certainly know that if I had acted the way I see some kids act in public lately, my parents would have knocked me silly, deservedly so — and wouldn’t have worried whether they were going to lose their kid as a result of disciplining him.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I KNOW that I’m catching parents with kids at their bad days.  I have more than one friend whose children have diagnoses somewhere along the Autism Spectrum, and I understand that.  And really, as curmudgeonly as I may sometimes act, kids can charm the hell out of me.  But I still can’t help but wonder sometimes if modern parents really aren’t capable or willing to deal with their childrens misbehavior — or that they aren’t willing to “suck it up, buttercup” and sacrifice the trip to the movies, or going to the quick-serve restaurant, if their kid won’t fall into line.

It also doesn’t help that society thinks that the government knows how best to raise children, to the point where they will interfere with parental authority, control, and discipline of their children.  I won’t deny that there are plenty of abuses by overzealous parents who can’t control their temper, or see their names on the birth certificate as similar to having their name on the title to property.  However, I can’t help but wonder if the government oversteps its bounds in the name of ‘protecting the child’…  and that the child knows this.  Is there a solution?  I really don’t know.

But I’m considering changing my name to Wilson…  and you kids really need to get off my lawn.

Posted March 3, 2013 by mec in Uncategorized

Well, that was fast.   1 comment


Looking over the very brief summary of Google Analytics that my WordPress plugin gives me, I was somewhat amused by the graph…

The graph I'm talking about. Sorry you can't see it. Just a big spike falling off to nothing.

Also amusing to note:  some of these visits are me logging in to admin the blog or to write.  Also, for the geeks in the audience, the uncompressed TIFF of this image was smaller by about 4k than the PNG.

Ah well.  I’ll get readers, even if it after I’m dead and can’t write any more.  Hey, it worked for Poe, didn’t it?

Posted February 29, 2012 by mec in Uncategorized

Starting? That’s easy. Keeping it going? That’s hard.   Leave a comment


I’ve tried to do several “journal” type projects over the years.  I’ll freely admit, pretty much of them have all fizzled out.  Sometimes due to lack of time to make the effort, but a lot of the time I just don’t have anything to write about.  I’ve noticed that a couple of days into this project, even with a queue of titles, snippets, and ideas — I sometimes think “what am I doing?  I don’t have anything to write about!”

I’ve discovered that having this queue is helping a little bit.  Also having the discipline to keep “finished” items in the queue, so I can give a steady flow of items to my readership, is important.  Other sites I’ve participated in have “starter” ideas, and I might start using those as well.  I might even mix other media in as well – my former schoolmate Sunday over at Extreme Parenthood posted an item to Facebook on a photo-a-day project for March.  I think I might try and do this, it looks like an interesting experiment.  I’ve also had a ping from one of my coworkers to start writing about the technical trials of deploying IPv6 on my home network.  And I know I’ll have other items to post on, too.

So don’t worry if my face goes slack and I start drooling.  I’m likely just trying to come up with another topic to write about.  Either that, or the last cup of coffee wore off.

Posted February 29, 2012 by mec in Uncategorized

Greetings and Beachside Linguistics   2 comments


In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Picard struggles to master a greeting in an alien language.  The last time it was attempted by a starship captain, he botched it, and the aliens withdrew from contact for decades.  At the end of the episode, Picard delivers it flawlessly, and the alien responds that he is honored to be greeted in his own language.

I recently observed the impact my words have on a global audience.  In the span of 24 hours, my words reached around the world, towards people whose native language I do not speak.  Yet I made it a point to try and welcome them in their own native tongue – or at least that, assisted by Google.  When possible, I try to do this in real life, too.  Why not?  Making the effort to speak even a couple of words in someone else’s language can make all the difference in friendship.  Even if you botch the attempt, you are reaching out to them…  And assuming that a greeting is not syntactically or phonetically similar to a mortal insult, you have little to lose, and the results can be quite rewarding.  My barista at Starbucks is of Russian descent.  A couple months ago, I said “спасибо” when she gave me my drink.  To see her eyes light up, and realize that someone made the connection of her accent and where she lives, was well worth it.  I really want to learn more Russian now, to see her light up like that again.

Of course, then there are the dangers of using machine translation, like I normally am forced to.  Several years ago, working a problem that had no fuctional technical solution within an acceptable timeframe, I became frustrated.  As is my occasional habit to try and vent frustration harmlessly, I pushed something like “Please go pound sand, comrade” into the Google Translate engine, selected Russian, and pasted the resulting output into my email for a humorous punchline…  hitting send without a second thought.  Big mistake.

One of my coworkers at the time spoke Russian.  He responded “You might actually have wanted to say [this],” he said, putting the actual Russian phrase in there, “because what you actually said litterally translates as ‘Please pass the pound of sand, comrade.'”  Of course, this was a moment of great hilarity in my team, and when someone on our team is asked to do something that is annoying, difficult, or technically impossible, my snark, often as not, is “Ask them to please pass the pound of sand, comrade.”

For the record, I should state that I only speak two languages fluently – English, and Bad English.  Anything else is as likely as not to be a mechanical translation, and I apologize in advance if I ask you for sixteen ounces of granulated silicon.

Posted February 28, 2012 by mec in Uncategorized

… with miles to go before I sleep, I might lose my mind before I get there.   1 comment


I live in Montana: a vast, sparsely populated state, where often times the distance between places is not measured in linear measurement but in drive time, where the nearest neighboring cities are multiple hours away, and where the nearest “major” city of any note is a solid day’s drive away.  Obviously, this means that one can spend a lot of time on the road.  Indeed – I just completed a 700 mile road trip over less than 24 hours to repair some failing equipment.

I recently reached a milestone in my car – 270,000 miles on the odometer.  When I acquired this car, it had much less.  Realizing how many miles I’ve spent behind the wheel, it occurred to me how many thoughts I’ve had – ideas, insights, topics for discussion, minutes of sheer joy and moments of absolute terror – behind the wheel.  But it also pains me to think of how many I’ve forgotten.  When one is driving the car, it is not like you have time to stop the car and start writing — at least, not with modern society.  You want to get from Billings to Missoula — more than halfway across the state — in an expeditious manner, so you can fix what’s broken, get sleep, and go home.  You focus on the task at hand, and you don’t always realize what you’re missing, or what you’re losing.  Instead of stopping for a cup of coffee and resting, you get your gas and get back on the road, for there are miles to go before you sleep.

I had the seeds and ideas for this post, along with a few others, during my drive back home today.  I’ve tried to at least plant the seeds, even if I can’t make them grow yet.  But I can’t help wondering how many other seeds I’ve dropped along the way that I may never recover.  Hopefully I’ll find them in time, or their offspring, so I can plant them, and help them to grow.

Posted February 27, 2012 by mec in Uncategorized