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!

Excitement.

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.

Overall

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.

Food

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

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