Hack Day London 2007

June 16th, 2007 by Alistair MacDonald Leave a reply »

Today I am at Hack Day in London. This in it’s self is against the odds as I traveled down yesterday when the A1 was closed at Catterick and I needed to improvise on local roads, but that is another story.

The purpose of Hack Day is for a group of geeky programmers and the like to get together, attend a few seminars and then spend a day coding software together and create something exciting. I have joined Thom’s team to control a blimp by using online voting. I am working on the server end that collated the votes and passes them to the blimp’s PDA controller.

The day has not gone overly smoothly. The first problem was that a rogue p2p wifi network called BTOpenZone that was propagating on Windows laptops and causing problems. This was apparently fixed, but then there was a big bang, skylights in the roof opened, and the rain started coming in. What had happened was the building was struck by lightening, the fire control system was triggered (and partly fried) and the smoke vents opened automatically.

We were okay for a short while, but when a second shower arrived the power needed turning off and we needed to move in to the entrance hall. While here we started to mashup some code. A while later we were able to return, but the wifi started to fail as bits of the hardware died because of the power surge. For reference I have now used BTOpenZone twice and it has failed dramatically both times so I am now calling it BTClosedZone. This lack of connectivity is why, and this might seem a little weird, I did not code server in PHP but wrote a full HTTP server in Pascal. Look, it works, it’s secure, and it was created without the need of an SQL server (that we could not download) or online reference (that we could not access).

Anyway, it has been an interesting day and although nothing has gone to plan the Yahoo and BBC teams (who are running the event) have done a stunning job.

Just a final note for now. While I was writing this the blimp’s tether broke and we needed to retrieve it from the roof of Alexandra palace. Fortunately with two smaller balloon, a length of string and some tape we were able to retrieve it.

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