Fossetcon – Part One

I have been putting this post together for about a week now. At the point that it reached 5 single spaced pages and counting, a friend wisely suggested that I split it in two. So here’s part one.

After searching for nearby open source events I found Fossetcon on the GNOME wiki Travel Allowance page. I was a bit worried about feeling awkward, but a friend agreed to attend with me. I really should not have worried. Fossetcon was amazing and I felt more welcomed than I could have imagined. I often have problems starting and maintaining conversations, but I was a part of more interesting and honest discussion than I could have hoped for.

Day [0]

While asking for directions at the front desk I ran into Bryan Smith from Outreachy who pointed me in the right direction. He also informed me that Outreachy is opening the project up to include all people of color, and that there was a Drupal release party going on at the time.  My friend and I walked along with him to the release party. When we arrived, there was an open source trivia game going on. Paper airplanes were everywhere. It was a great way to start of the conference and it definitely set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Day [1]

After grabbing breakfast, we headed to the keynote speech Free Software and Your Freedom which was being given by Richard Stallman. His proposition that classrooms include reengineering lessons was interesting, though I question how it would be implemented. Recently there has been more focus on including computer science course in general education. That could open up an avenue for the type of education he was endorsing. However, the legal issues that would arise are going to prevent the complete adoption of the kind of lesson plans he was imagining.

On my way out of the keynote, I ran into Marina Zhurakhinskaya. She’s one of the admins for the Outreachy program and I had spoken to her about meeting up beforehand. I seem to have great luck with running into people from Outreachy. We spoke a bit about nervousness, and she reassured me there was nothing to be nervous about. She was giving the closing keynote on Saturday, so it gave me some perspective.

Then came the most difficult part of the conference, deciding which talks to attend. There were a ton of great talks on the schedule, and many were in the same time slot. This is where having a friend also attending the conference came in handy. I was able to go over my friends notes to have an idea of what the other talks were about. Luckily, many of the speakers also put their slides up online.

The first talk I attended was called Secure Peer Networking with Tinc. I have gone over the basics of networking in previous coursework, but that was all on the theory side. A lot of the Tinc presentation was on the practical application and usage that the speaker had gone through. I didn’t completely understand everything the speaker was talking about since I haven’t set up a VPN before, but I have been wanting to try so the talk gave me a starting point for learning to create one.

After the Tinc presentation there was an open time slot for exploring the Expo Hall. I did a quick walkthrough and then my friend and I met up to grab a quick lunch and compare notes. We talked about who was going to see what then headed back to the conference.

I decided to go to Introduction to Node.js. I have used Node before with the programming club at my school, so I had some frame of reference for the talk. The presentation was pretty much an overview about what Node.js is, how it got started, and different possible uses. Some of it was familiar though I wasn’t aware of some of the uses of Node. The speaker had an interesting story about how they were hacking into a FitBit at Defcon and realized that it was running Node.js.

Next I went to Fighting Data Exfiltration with BSD. I will be  taking a course on Network Security next semester, so I was hoping to gain some insight that will be useful in the course. I got more than I asked for. I actually want to speak with the professor about some of the things covered in the presentation, so I’m looking forward to that! This presentation was a nice mixture of practical demonstration and academic overview. It started with a discussion of how security breaches are becoming more and more common, though it could be that we are just becoming more aware of them. It then went on to discuss ways to combat some of the causes behind the breaches by changing the approach towards network defense. Currently, in many cases once an attacker has gained access to one system they have access to the rest of the system due to all of the servers being on one network. The speaker’s system was more segmented making it harder to breach other systems from one starting point. The defense goes throughout the system instead of only having a “crunchy exterior.”

Data Exfiltration was my last talk of the day. Afterward I went to lunch and called it a day. I pretty much spent the night researching what I had learned about online.

End Part One. Part Two will be up soon.

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