HillHacks 2015

A little while back, I came across HillHacks, a conference in Dharamshala about “hacking and making in the Himalayas”. I was instantly hooked. It took a lot of scheduling troubles, but I decided to stay for the entire unconference, which started at 23rd May.

Its hard to describe the HillHacks experience in a single blog post. I met so many amazing people from all over the world. Learned a lot of different things. I Had a lot of fun teaching some other things. I helped organize some of the stuff, and managed to stay awake an entire night while participating in an CTF. And on top of that, got to eat delicious food.

HillHacks as an event, was divided into two segments:

  • An unconference (23rd May - 3rd June)
  • Main Conference (4-7 June)

A lot of people had arrived before me at the venue and taken care of the basic infrastructure. We had internet connectivity via two local ISPs. We had IPV6 connectivity via a tunnel in Belgium as well.

There were a lot of fun activities planned everyday: from unicycling to skateboarding and playing Cards against Humanity; it was a lot of fun living with so many strangers and trying to figure out ways to help.

I did a talk on SDSLabs, a quiz for everyone, and an introductory session on CTF contests. We then participated in a CTF organized in Germany as Team HillHacks. On the last day of the conference, I did a [talk][josd-talk] on “The Joy of Software Development”, which is a book I am working on.

For the first time in my life, I met people who actually use BSD. And to make it even more amazing, I met NetBSD Kernel developers, people on the BSD Security Team, and people who prefer OpenBSD over NetBSD (I’d never really cared for the distinction, as a Linux user)

We did a lot of hacks, including running an MPD Daemon and streaming it over IceCast. I also spent a lot of time cubing and teaching people how to solve Rubik Cubes. My times have also improved somewhat as a result. Thanks to trouble, I also learnt how to solve a MegaMinx.

As part of the School Outreach program (organized by the brilliant Tink), we taught kids about Codes and Ciphers, programming, speedcubing and lots of other things. The kids also performed in the final Gala Show giving us brilliant performances in 3 different plays (all 3 schools had their own plays).

I learned a lot of different things: how to start with Kernel Programming, DNSSEC, Retro Gaming. Thanks to a few dedicated volunteers, we even made a 8-inch Telescope that made staring at the night sky so much fun. We had a session on Typography, a story telling session in Malayalam (translated to English on the fly). I even learnt a bit of Emacs.

The list is so long, I don’t think I can do it justice in this single blog post.

The most amazing part was not the technical things, but the community itself. sva would often say that everyone of us has “sudo access on the conference” (geekspeak for full authority). Each of us helped organize it, any way we could. The community got together to setup the stage, tents, network and the entire infrastructure at HillHacks. Zainab even has a blog post on social cooking at Hillhacks.

As I sit here at the venue, it has been 2 weeks of fun and awesomeness here at HillHacks. I leave with lots of memories and hope to be here next year.

If this blog post interests you, be sure to check out hackbeach as well. We are doing a mini-conference around November in Kovalam.

Published on July 20, 2015