Defcon 2019 Adventure

Update: As it turns out I inadvertently published this post too soon but I already got a comment on it. So I’m going to fix what typos I can find and perhaps finish it as a “part 1”. Part 2 coming soon.

The Defcon trip has been an eclectic mix of lines, junk food and sleep deprivation. Which seems about right. Ended up with a lot of t-shirts, which is what I was going for.

I also attempted a minimalist trip going with only two carry-on bags for the whole trip. The whole trip consisting of arriving on a Monday and leaving on a Monday. And this worked except for the minor details of bringing the stuff purchased back with me. I should mentioned I flew this year. The past two years I drove to Vegas. I decided that was a terrible idea so I flew this time.

I think next year I’ll just bring a checked bag. Even if I don’t need it I’ll bring it so I have something to bring everything back with.

I arrived in Las Vegas on the Monday before the conference started. I thought maybe I would need a day to recover and then also an extra day. I’m not sure those extra days helped or not but at least I was in Vegas instead of work.

Defcon started on Thursday. There’s usually this famous long line to get the badge for each year. The badges are usually something unique and special and the line to get the badge is usually super long. The line is actually something of festival atmosphere actually. It actually its own name: linecon.

But this year they changed something so there was no line for the badge. Which isn’t a bad thing. I don’t think I was there until 9am – quite late by line standards – and I just walked up and got it. Defcon is always cash only and no receipt or anything. Just a tradition going back to the beginning I guess. I walked right up and got it. I’ll talk about the badge itself later.

The other line for Thursday is for the Defcon swag store. Where the badge line was non-existent the store line was three hours. I’m not exaggerating either. It was literally exactly 3 hours from the time I got in the line until time I got the stuff I wanted it was three hours.

The line for the store always quite long though. Not sure about 3 hours long but long. I’m assuming if they could improve it they would have by now. Seems like something easy like a big banner that says “cash only” would improve it at least a bit. But that’s obvious enough I can only assume there’s some reason they didn’t do that. Now that I think about it maybe a portion of the attendees would normally still be in the badge line with a portion in the swag line. No badge line means everybody was in the swag line making it longer. Ya, that fits.

I bought some super cool T-Shirts from the swag store along with a couple of pins. It wasn’t a very exciting conclusion to the 3 hour line. Actually I think the shirts I bought are a size too small. Just another reason to lose weight, really.

The next thing I did was try to get into a talk but I was too late getting in line. This was one of the strangest lines/experiences actually. Not sure if there was something going on behind the scenes or what.

So instead of the talk I wanted to see I ended up in the line for “Defcon 101”. This is supposed to be for first timer Defcon attendees but there were some others attending as well. I still have no idea why the line moved so slowly and the little theater area filled up so slowly.

Most of the information included things I already knew or seemed like common sense. I was glad the organizers were going over it though. That seems like a positive thing.

At the end of the talk the people on stage got out the alcohol and started offering to give people “handles” (a kind of online nick name) based some random questions. This was actually quite entertaining as the main star of the talk kept mentioning he was gay and making incredibly inappropriate jokes about himself and his sexuality in general.

Over all this wasn’t a terrible talk but I can see how it may have left some first timers a little put off and wondering what they had gotten themselves into. Especially if they came in late and didn’t realize it was going to be so R-Rated.

I should mention the badge: whereas 2018’s badge was quite large, had touch contacts and ran on 4xAA batteries, this year’s was a small gemstone roughly the size and shape of a hockey puck. Or urinal cake. I’m going to stick with hockey puck.

The normal attendee or “human” version was white along side several other varieties. I went to the official talk about this badge and badges in general to learn more about it. I probably understood some of it. The badge is supposed to be an encouragement to interact with other people and experience as much as possible that Defcon has to offer. The information on finding the right kind of gemstone and getting them in quantity then figuring out how to glue the PCB to it was…interesting.

It uses some kind of “magnetic induction” technology to synchronize with other badges. The goal being to synchronize with all the varieties in all the possible ways.

I don’t think I got very many of those. I got some easy ones like fellow attendees, goons, vendors and work shops but no where close to everything.

Fortunately it took mere hours for somebody to solder some headers in, reverse engineer it and use a badge to unlock everybody else. So that’s how my badge ended up in a winning state: I left it sitting adjacent to a hacked badge for 90 seconds or so and I came up winning.

Also, someone had counterfeited the badge in like 3 hours time. Not sure what the point of that is. It’s not like you would go to Vegas on the off chance this year’s badge would be the kind that’s easy to counterfeit just to get into Defcon for free. That seems uneconomical. Guess it’s cool it could be done though.

I’ll have to finish this in a part 2. It seems like the posts that get published early/unfinished end up with comments and the most views. Not sure what I should take away from that apparent detail.

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