Chaos in Bristol
Germany’s Chaos Computer Club (CCC) is one of the longest established (founded 1981) and most influential organisations dealing with the security and privacy aspects of technology; and its links with Bristol are growing.
Back in the autumn, Si, a good friend of Bristol Wireless and a couple of friends decided it would be worthwhile trying to establish a ‘Chaostreff’ (or ‘Chaos Meeting’) here in Bristol. Chaostreffs are Jim and your scribe from Bristol Wireless. According to the CCC website, Chaostreffs ‘are looser meetings of hackers who sympathise with the CCC’. Chaostreff Bristol will tonight be holding its regular monthly meeting at the Hillgrove Porter Stores in Kingsdown. Well done Si and everyone else for keeping them meetings going (and thanks for not clashing with Dorkbot Bristol for once! Ed.) – a first for any place outside the German-speaking world.
Just before Christmas when the rest of the country was settling down the torpor that characterises that part of December, Bristol Wireless had a visit from Elmar ‘mcfly’ Lecher of Darmstadt, who’s the CCC Board member responsible for local groups, who was paying a visit to Chaostreff Bristol after an earlier abortive attempt when his car broke down at Ostend. 🙁
Over hot drinks (Bristol Wireless’ coffee got a good review), we introduced Elmar to the work of Bristol Wireless and compared our experiences to those of the various Freifunk projects in Germany: the major city networks mentioned – Hamburg and Berlin – seem to be making steady progress with mesh technology. Freifunk also takes the Bristol Wireless news feed for its global news service.
Elmar gave us a fascinating rundown of some of CC’s recent work, lots of which is of international importance. For instance, CCC members have been able to crack every voting machine ever presented to them, but more of that anon.
Other aspects of CCC’s work of particular interest to UK citizens in the light of privacy and technology are RFID chips and biometrics. Germany already has chipped passports and Elmar let us examine his (no, we couldn’t discern the chip by feel…). He keeps it in a tin foil wallet that has been developed by CCC (see photo). Strangely, HM Government seems to be interested in this aspect of CCC’s work: why else would the British Embassy in Berlin have ordered 100 of the tinfoil wallets? (Seems too few for a population of 60 million! Ed.)
Last week chatting to mcfly on IRC, he stated CCC needed a press release translating into English urgently. A team of 4 from the CCC Translate group – two of whom were in Bristol (Si and yours truly) – set to work via IRC and email, finishing the job in a matter of hours. You can see the finished result here.
Finally, we’ve had an invite to go to Easterhegg 2008 in Cologne, billed as a ‘cuddly CCC event with about 200 participants’. There should be a chance to meet the Freifunk folks there, talk about the translation project and give me something else to write about.