Saturday January 27th

Sparklecon 5

Hello from Sparklecon 5.

  • My yearly commute to Fullerton. My beloved poke place closed (I visited for the past two years for Taro snow and Poke), but otherwise, pretty much the same area. I even got some ramen to take home with me.

What is Sparklecon?

  • It’s an event that is put on by 23b, a staple of the Hacker community.

But you’re not a Hacker..or are you? (Please don’t haxx me!)

  • Yes, that is true. I am not a hacker. However, I consider these people to be some of my very good friends, and the community is part of the reason I got into programming in the first place. They’re a sister organization of my Hackerspace, and I try to support them when I can.
  • Also, they taught me a lot of the little bit I know about how computers work. Understanding file systems, how authentication and crypto works, which helped me to start to ask questions and to understand a bit more about computers. I took my first Metasploit, crypto, PHP, Assembly workshops at my Hackerspace. I SSH-ed into my first box there. I learned a bit about how raytracing works there, which got me excited about C and making things in C++.
  • These people are the real deal, and I think regardless of how you find your way to computing or computers, it’s good to be around these people because they fill in so much knowledge. They’re the real deal and a great community. I think it’s inevitable if you want to understand how things work and your mind works like that (in an analytical or creative way) to find yourself at a Hackerspace. You learn so much. The grungier, the better!
  • Also, my Hackerspace even taught a workshop on Emacs, which should be coming around again soon. I you know of anywhere (school, boot camp) that does that? Yeah..neither do I.
  • And they charge next to nothing for it (it’s pretty much snacks-money). The guy who runs it says he pretty much does everything in Emacs, now :D

So..what happens at Sparklecon?

  • It’s a mix of presentations put on by people in the community, and then things like robot battles, PCB-soldering, drone-flying, tesla-coil demos, video-game playing and other such things that people in the general maker-scene like. It’s fun and I came back energized.

Generally in the Hacker community

  • People have handles, so they often don’t use real names.
  • They also like their privacy.
  • They also are a good judge of whether you have an earnest interest in being a part of the community, and if so, are really helpful and welcoming.
  • They’re pretty good at figuring out if you’re full of it and at its core respect is based on meritocracy (ie put in a lot of time, get really good, and you gain respect). No hand-waviness and no shortcuts.
  • The general vibe is libertarian, and people come from all walks of life. They don’t care, as long as you have what we all generally have in common (love for computers, making things, hardware, software, problem-solving, games, etc).

Talks today

  • I went to one on Electric Trains, another on Machine Learning, another on Projection mapping, another on Crypto, and one on Impacket (which I totally do not understand, but it helped that it was in Python).
  • I also met a bunch of people who were interested in everything from C, Rust, Erlang, Go, Perl, Python and yes; Haskell.


Projection Mapping

  • Tim works for Apple and showed us some work he does in 3D projection mapping.

  • He showed us a bit of Modul8 and Maya and how he uses it for Projection mapping on a couch. Interestingly, his friend was into computational linguistics, so we had a chat about that.


  • We have a wicked audio set-up every year. This is a part of a live audio DJ who plays (we had about three this year). It involves a bunch of wires, a motor, among another things. I should credit him, but I can’t remember his name! Apologies!

PCB Soldering

  • This year the task was to make a radio transmitter/ receiver. So a bunch of people were soldering parts. My friend, Benson, got his to work and we were listening to random stations via his headphones.

Recycled components

  • This is artwork by CP. These are recycled boards and components used to make art.

  • This was continued in a trend where people made kilts, bracelets, and armour from laptop keyboards, and all sorts of things. I think someone made a headpiece, also.


  • People were making robots and stuff with a plethora of legos available. You could pretty much build whatever you wanted. Oh, and there were tools and there was hot glue (and soldering irons).

Hammer Jenga

  • So there is this other conference later in the year (ie Memorial Weekend), and you can win a free ticket by winning this game, which is a huge version of Jenga, where you hit the blocks out with a hammer. There is a fair amount of strategy and pressure in the game, as the blocks were not on level ground, you have a bit of wind to compete with, and the judge’s taunts (thanks DG :D), and blocks that have split so much in the past that they are taped together (not a good idea to knock those out! They’re referred to as “Danger Blocks” and often costs a person the game). You knock the block you pick off, and once you commit to it, you have to knock that one out. After you do that, you place that one on top and hand the hammer over. You can only knock out blocks at least three levels from the top. You play against a person in a round until the tower falls, and then the winner goes to the next round. The person who won the first ticket was “Girl” :D.

  • Oh, and the photo was taken just seconds before the entire tower fell :(

Other random stuff

  • CP made a phone booth that was really really cool. People were taking photos in it, and there were some interesting things, like a baby’s body with cameras on top.

I assume

  • This is a chip-tune maker.

All in all

  • A really fun time, and great catching up with everyone. Even though I’m pretty green, it really feels like they see you as one of them, which is nice. So I got some great advice in terms of direction and all of that, for the next part of my life. A lot of these people work for large companies in Aerospace, DoD and the Tech community, so the advice they have to offer is very much advice I respect. They basically think that I have the ability to make a solid transition into the industry, based on the way I think and my interests.
  • I was recruited by a company (that I don’t care to work for (but it’s a huge company)) via an event, and one guy I spoke to for a good 40 minutes about machine learning straight up told me how the company would probably try to do it, and what he thought of them (which like me, wasn’t very positive). Good engineers care more about working on interesting things, and he didn’t think the company had much to offer besides the promise of their name (which no one in that community, or myself is impressed by at all). He literally said “half the people there will be wow-ed because it’s X company, and they’ll probably show you some thing to try to impress you, but they haven’t done jack in innovating, and they don’t care about the growth of their developers”. Nuff said.
  • I guess it takes time and I need to up my proficiency in general, so we’ll see. But we have a lot in common; for example. you won’t find UX/ UI people in this crowd, and it’s not something I’m interested in at all. The people at this event aren’t into magical frameworks du jour or any of that, also, which I like (I guess that also happens to programmers with maturity). And speaking of UX, has anyone ever met a mature/elderly UX/UI designer? I honestly, thinking about it, haven’t. I’ve met mature back-end programmers before who make a great living, interestingly. I’ve heard about the Human Interaction concentration, which is requiring Master’s and PhD accreditation and is based on Cognitive Science, with some UX/ UI, but a lot of the UX/ UI people I have known tend to be younger.
  • A lot of these people tonight are either hard back end people, crypto, networking or use some kind of high computing or verification software daily. They don’t BS around and they have a lot of experience.
  • One of my concerns was that doing a boot-camp would be a frustrating experience for me, because the focus would be on syntax and a shallower understanding of CS. At the same time, I have thought that it may bring me up to speed on polishing my skill-set. I can do that for free, but it would take me time, and I’d have to be willing to wait that out. And they all said yay to Master’s; they like that plan and think I’m more than capable and that it would be a great fit for me. I keep hearing that over and over by people I really respect.
  • Somehow, though, I still don’t quite have the confidence in myself. I guess I should just shut up and sit my GREs and apply first, and not make that judgment on myself.


  • Since I figured out how to download the files, I’m thinking of doing this assignment for my Nanodegree in Julia. So I think I’ll spend tomorrow working on that. Then sadly, I’ll have to focus on Python for the rest of the week until my sailing trip

And..that’s that!

Written on January 27, 2018