ASCII by Jason Scott

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Kaminsky!!! —

I got the DEFCON Schedule and browsed it for my location. Point of fact, I got an excellent time-frame: 9pm, Friday. People will have arrived in droves, Dinner will potentially be had, and folks will be open to hearing my stories and suggestions around computer history.

But then my eyes drift to the left, and I see…. Kaminsky!

Dan Kaminsky is a pundit and security researcher, who is a staple of computer security conferences, and who packs the room wherever he goes. And therein is my problem; the potential is that my room will be an anaemic scattering of folks, big fans (which I appreciate) and the occasional drunkard. Kaminsky, meanwhile, will face a room busting at the seams with listeners.

People who attend the DEFCON conferences occasionally get employers to pay for it. (I don’t.) And in doing so, they have to return with useful information other than how many Warpcore Breaches they went through at Quark’s Bar at the Las Vegas Hilton. To that end, Kaminsky’s speech fits the bill perfectly; it covers his latest delves into computer security, is funny, accessible, and looks good on the expense report. So people attend like crazy, and whoever is paired opposite him is screwed.

Now, let me be clear; I mean screwed in the most pleasant sense; Kaminsky is sucking up audience based on reputation and output, not through some sort of flim-flammery or distasteful action. It’s just that this will be the second time this has happened.

Back at Shmoocon the year before last, I gave a talk about the history of hacker conferences. It was a double whammy; Kaminsky in one track, Renderman and the Church of Wi-Fi in the second track, and then little ol’ me. Well, guess what; I had 9 attendees. VERY FRIENDLY ATTENDEES, but still, 9. That and I totally screwed up the recording of my speech, so between everything, not a shining moment.

I actually met Kaminsky under the weirdest of circumstances. I had no idea who he was at all, and didn’t for a long time afterwards. Basically, I was trolling (in the old sense) through DEFCON looking for potential BBS Documentary interviewees. I walked through the convention floor with a sign saying “Ever used a BBS?” This got me about 7 people over two days, who I would have NEVER met or thought to ask. It was a good way to shake things up.

Well, one of the attendees walked up and went “A BBS? WOW!” and we went upstairs to the press room and I interviewed him. It was a year later, while culling through footage, that I heard myself ask what his name was, and him going “Dan Kaminsky!”

Photos from that momentous meeting are here.

I ended up using Kaminsky in the final product; he appears in SYSOPS AND USERS, talking about how far we’ve gotten.

So at 9pm on the first night of DEFCON, it’ll be me vs. Kaminsky again. I actually feel bad for David Gustin, the guy sandwiched between me and Kaminsky, who doesn’t have Kaminsky’s cachet or my Geek Q Score. Someone buy him a Warpcore Breach, please.

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  1. So if I’m both a big fan and drunk, do I get counted twice?

    Myles Long, Rad Man and myself are presenting Saturday at 2pm in Room 101/102. I don’t honestly know how popular the other speakers are that we’re up against but the topics are Tor, hacking firmware, malware, and wireless Internet, which kind of makes me suspect we may be in the 9 attendee demographic ourselves.