I’m Back

I’ve returned from AgoraFest. I consider this year to be successful. Although we changed venues for the third time this year’s venue; the Buffalo Ridge Resort in Gary, South Dakota; was probably my favorite. It had more modern facilities than our original location, Villa Maria, and wasn’t as rustic as Turtle Creek Glen, which we used last year.

There were fewer overall presentations and workshops, which was actually a good thing since we didn’t have to deal with schedule conflicts. Obviously my presentations were of the highest quality but the other presentations I attended were also very high quality. Part of the reason the quality of the presentations has increased is because us presenters are finally get somewhat competent at presenting.

I’m glad I prepared for the worst weather since I was tent camping and the first two nights got damned cold and it rained during the last night. If you’re going to camping, be prepared to deal with any type of weather because the weatherman doesn’t know what he’s talking about (it wasn’t supposed to rain at all according to the forecast), especially here in the Upper Midwest.

Even though it’s a lot of work, I’m looking forward to beginning plans for next year. Fortunately, we shouldn’t have to be as rushed since this venue worked out well enough that I expect we’ll just use it again (part of this year’s delay was finding a venue that was more palatable to some of our city dwellers who aren’t used to the “hardships” of camping).

CryptoPartyMN Meeting Tonight

For those of you who don’t know, CryptoPartyMN is a group that focuses on teaching individuals how to utilize secure communication tools. We meet every other week and host a few hands-on workshops each year. With the sudden concern about privacy as it related to Internet Service Providers (ISP) tonight’s meeting will discuss Virtual Private Networks (VPN).

If you’re interested in learning about defending your privacy against your ISP please feel free to join us.

AgoraFest 2016

I’m happy to announced that AgoraFest will be happening for the fourth straight year in a row. It’ll be at the same place, Villa Maria, during the same weekend, September 22nd through the 25th.

For those of you who haven’t heard of AgoraFest (which, realistically, is probably a majority of you) it’s a small yearly festival for celebrating, discussing, and participating in agorism. I’ll post more about it as we get everything solidified. Suffice to say, I will be giving a few presentations on technology as it pertains to agorism.

AgoraFest’s Mesh Network

AgoraFest happens at Villa Maria, which is a retreat in Frontenac, Minnesota. There’s a lot of things to like about the location but Internet connectivity isn’t one of them. For the most part the only Internet accessibility is in the castle. None of the cabins have Internet connectivity and you’re out of luck getting it via your phone unless you have Verizon.

Because we’re modern day agorists we want Internet connectivity. After all, how else can we use Bitcoin or quickly look up the spot price of silver and gold? To solve this I was charged with creating a mesh network.

Mesh networks, for those of you who don’t know, are networks where each node is capable of connecting directly to every other node. The advantages of this kind of setup the lack of central failure points. It also allows you to expand a wireless network as far as you have nodes.

Commotion Wireless is a firmware built on OpenWRT that aims to make setting up mesh networks simple. I loaded this firmware onto a series of Ubiquiti NanoStations and PicoStations. The NanoStations are directional and have an advertised maximum range of five kilometers and the PicoStations are omnidirectional and have an advertised maximum range of 500 meters. Both are outdoor rated so weather conditions such as rain don’t require us to shutdown the network.

In all we used four NanoStations and five PicoStations for the setup. With this setup we were able to extend the Internet connectivity at the castle to all three cabins and a tent we setup for flying drones and launching model rockets. Speeds weren’t great because the Internet service at the Villa isn’t fast but we managed to get a reliable connection spread across a pretty wide area.

Setting up a mesh network wasn’t only a good idea technically, it helped demonstrate the feasibility of mesh networks to attendees. I gave a talk about mesh networks at AgoraFest, which included my overarching plan to get networks to establish mesh networks and eventually interconnect them to bypass centralized Internet service providers. In other words I want what Guifi has accomplished in Catalonia. Obviously that will take a great deal of convincing, resources, and effort but there’s no better place to find a group of willing people than AgoraFest.

CryptoParty On August 30th

I don’t have much for you today because I spend my evening at a meeting hammering out the final details of an upcoming CryptoParty. On August 30th CryptoPartyMN will be hosting a CryptoParty at the Hack Factory. We’re still figuring out a few final details but we will be discussing public-private key cryptography, Off-the-Record (OTR) messaging, full disk encryption, and Tor for certain. We may cover other topics as time permits.

For those who don’t know these events are meant to be hands-on. You bring your laptops, tablets, and phones and learn how to utilize secure communication tools. Hopefully I’ll see a few of you there.

CryptoPartyMN Meeting Next Tuesday

As some of you may be aware I’ve been working with a group of individuals on an initiative we call CrytoPartyMN. The idea is to have an organization that meets regularly to help people learn how to use secure communication tools. So far we’ve held two CrytoParties and have been trying to regularly hold meetings every other week. Next Tuesday we’ll be having a meeting at the Wedge Table (it’s kind of like the Wedge Co-op but with sit down space, you still have to dodge hipsters on fixies to get there though).

During the meeting we’ll be discussing our upcoming CryptoParty slated for the second or third weekend in August (depending on venue availability and such). If you’re interested helping with the event feel free to stop by. The meeting starts at 18:30 and we’re usually there until the place closes down.