Thursday, 26 December 2013

Overview of your Culture / Entertainment Program at the 30c3 Congress

Overview of your Culture / Entertainment Program at the 30c3 Congress

In addition to an amazing fahrplan of talks and a huge array of Self-organized Sessions, there is an awesome culture and entertainment program throughout 30c3. Relax, grab a drink and take in the wonderful sights and sounds.
Peggy tenforward 29c3 4.jpg
Poem: The Culture and Entertainment Program at 30c3,
(download audio / listen here) ^_^
From nerdcore to prose or,
from am-dram to dance floor,
from poetry to DJ sets and more...
In the Lounge our aim is relaxtion and delight,
with chillout by day and party by night.
In Villa Straylight, on the 4th floor high hill,
AI's and humans collide, prosper and chill.
Next up is Wordlounge so pull up a pew,
we've got readings of sci-fi and epic poetry for you
and as if that all was not cultured enough,
there is theater & more, singing robots and stuff.


  • The Lounge has 3 Areas
  • PA System, Multiple Beamers, Couches, Bar, Water cannon, Space Ship, Stage, and much more
  • Daytime: Chill'n'Lounge with DJs, Liveacts, Concerts and Performances. Hang around with great music.
  • Nighttime: PARTY!! A lot of great acts will bring the Lounge to an ectasy!
  • Halle H - ground floor - entrance thru Foyer

1. The 'Main Area'

  • Dictatorship against the revolution! Dance between the police and the protestors!

2. Captain's Lounge

  • Observe the revolution from above, in a fine and golden atmosphere.

3. Chaos Shuttle

  • Enough of all this? Leave the planet and go to space...

Villa Straylight

  • A place high up the hill on the 4th floor where some advanced artificial and human intelligents collide and prosper, relax and chill. Floating through Ambient Art & Dub sounds and visions, filled with maté and spirit and strange creatures.
  • A place to hang out (also in occluded chambers) and chillax.
  • PA, Beamer
  • Villa Straylight, Level 4, CCH Congress Center Hamburg, Germany, Earth, Milky Way
Fri 27 Dec
  • 15:00 – 16:00 Ddj - meetup for #ddj people
  • 20:00 – 23:00 Villa Straylight DJs - vin cent
  • 20:00 – 23:00 vin cent
Sat 28 Dec
  • 15:00 – 19:00 Villa Straylight DJs - gaya kloud
  • 15:00 – 19:00 gaya kloud
  • 19:00 – 00:00 Villa Straylight DJs - kfmw in dub
  • 19:30 – 20:30 Caayari - There will be a theater dance performance on the history of Maté on the 28th 19:30 (
  • 20:30 – 01:30 Kraftfuttermischwerk
Also there will be a daily Maté cerimonial at 15:00 each day and it will host the mighty AI Nekton.
Sun 29 Dec
  • 20:30 – 01:30 Kraftfuttermischwerk
  • 00:00 – 02:00 Villa Straylight DJs - gaya kloud
  • 00:00 – 02:00 gaya kloud
  • 12:00 – 20:00 Barbnerdy
  • 12:00 – 22:00 Villa Straylight DJs - Barbnerdy
  • 15:00 – 15:45 The good, the bad and the data - Handling data in operations: When data became child of an application and started to live life of its own
  • 22:00 – 00:00 EVE Online Roam - EVE Online
  • 22:00 – 00:00 Villa Straylight DJs - Nielow
  • 22:00 – 00:00 Nie Low
Mon 30 Dec
  • 00:00 – 02:00 Villa Straylight DJs - Tasmo
  • 00:00 – 02:00 Tasmo
You find the complete (live) calendar on Calendar. Download the ical here.
  • Strictly non dancable Ambient, Jazz, International and Dub Music.
  • This room is avaliable for Self-organized Sessions


  • PA, Microphones
  • For the first time at C3, we’re dedicating space to a new type of stage, a more intimate stage, a stage for the poets, playwrights, and other types of writers out there! It’ll be a stage for the evenings...when eyelids are heavy with codes, and bellies are heavy with drinks, and lips heavy with stories untold… It’s your chance to express yourself, whether you see yourself as a silver-tongued bard reciting epic poetry and speaking honeyed words from a lost age or whether you’re the strong, silent Boba Fett type who has written sci-fi fan-fic on the side, this stage is for you! If you have poetry to read or some awesome self produced sci-fi audiobook let fALk ( know! There are still some spots to fill on the stage.
  • Other then that there will be nonlive Audiobooks If there are Wordy People at attendance they may contact us ( - would be great to have more live sessions going on here.
where? Wordlounge Room, Level 3, CCH Congress Center Hamburg, Germany, Earth, Milky Way
  • Stage opens daily 20:30 til the last word ist spoken.
  • There will be a Radio Rollplay at 20:30 on the 29th
Fri 27 Dec
  • Wordlounge Performances - this location is not available for self-organized session
  • 20:30 – 20:45 Life Without Life - Room:Wordlounge
Sat 28 Dec
  • Wordlounge Performances - this location is not available for self-organized session
Sun 29 Dec
  • Wordlounge Performances - this location is not available for self-organized session
  • 20:30 – 23:00 ENKIs vergessene Kinder
Mon 30 Dec
  • Wordlounge Performances - this location is not available for self-organized session

Theater & More

where? Saal 2

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Designed, Tested and Built my own Casio F-91W Watch Mount with Velcro Strap

I made a thing.

I made this watch mount because my watch strap had become more zip ties than watch strap! Instead of buying a new strap I decided to design a new mounting system. Feel free to edit this design online / remix for other watches etc: This is my second uploaded design to thingiverse, I would value feedback. Thanks!

Getting Inspired by Buckminster Fuller: freedom, design and resilience in retirement

Last night, I was watching an interview with Buckmister Fuller and I was inspired to stay up late 3D printing PLA and ABS vertices for creating a 50cm diameter geodesic dome. When the final parts had been printed I was exhausted so I collapsed into bed.

Then the next day I thought of an anecdote I read in a Richard Feynmen book (probably surely you are joking Mr Feynman) when as a child working at a hotel he used to put carrots in rows and cut them in parallel in order to save time so I made up a jig to make cutting the A and B struts to length much easier. Having finished printing, cutting and colour coding... I have just built my first geodesic dome out of wood and plastic:
* Diameter: 50cm
* Height: 25cm
* 20 x Hexa-connectors
* 6 x Penta-connectors
* 35 x Long sticks: 154.5 mm (Green)
* 30 x shot sticks: 136.6 mm (Red)

I printed 20 hexagonal vertices (.stl) in white ABS:

6 pentagonal vertices (.stl) in red PLA:

I found these files at and I printed them at 1.33333 scale from the original files (in order to make the vertices accept the 4mm diameter wooden rods I had chosen for the project). I cut 35 long 'B' struts of 154.7 mm and 30 short 'A' struts of 136.6mm. I arranged them in the following pattern in order to make a basic geodesic dome:
Here is a photograph of the finished structure:

Credit and thanks to for creating and uploading the files to thingiverse! I have hung the completed geodesic dome on the wall at the Factor e Farm hackerspace which has become more established during my visit.

I hope the geodesic dome in an inspiration to people and not only a nice decoration but also a symbol of Dymaxion (or doing more with less) and that Buckminster Fuller's principles can be usefully employed in the creative work output of and evolution of the space itself!

I was watching some Buckminster Fuller content in the evenings and I was quite inspired so I decided to transcribe some of the sections:

Buckminster Fuller: The Fuller World - Design Scientist (Episode 1)- @ 21m 00s
"So design then seems to be to me a highly objective, conscious, reconsiderate- a imagination that uses a great number of experiences and integrates the effect of those experiences and discovers principles which operate in the special cases and views those generalised principles and then is not just subjective about them, not just a philosopher about them, but begins to actually apply them and those generalised principles to many specialised cases.
I find the design then also goes into a number of tools all these designs are realised in external actions beyond, outside, of man and they relate to man reorganising his environment and reorganising his environment so that his environment begins to work for him- so the spider can go to sleep and the net keeps on working catching the flies not only which are going to support her but also her regenerative function of producing more spiders and so that these tools then get to be an extension of the internal functions of the living species and which their function goes on even when they're present or not. This is an extraversion of internal functions of the individual and it seems to me then to be a very powerful kind of a capability."
I was also taken by another section of the same video content:

Buckminster Fuller: The Fuller World - Design Scientist (Episode 1)- @ 23m 34s

"I see then that the design function can go in several important directions- it can go in defensive directions to build a wall around us to protect us where we do not do too much thinking but we simply learn by experience that a certain amount of bulk, a certain amount of physical matter will frustrate anybody trying to approach us and we have then defensive design and this then tends to be contractive to contract the dimensions of our lives. Then there are expansive ones, designs which increase our freedoms designs which give us levers, designs which use the lever or a plurality of levers as fulcrums to make a series of poll vaultings and that would be finally becomes a wheel where there is many spokes and that wheel then begins to increase the areas that we can visit so that this would be then kind of design an affirmative design as an expansive design where man begins to increase the totality of the area of which he experiences and he increases the amount of time of his experiences by accelerating experiences so that he can have the equivalent of the experiences of many many lives all in one life by the acceleration and the reorganisation of the experiences so that he can have the experiences of many men, all that is by conscious design."

Getting out of the Matrix
I felt as though he was speaking directly to me in that by accepting other peoples opinions, views and fears and uncertainties about the world as being some kind of objective truth and not questioning things we don't live free and expansive lives. We don't make plans which allow us to increase the areas that we can visit, to increase the amount that we can experience. Instead we get caught up in security of material possessions, the security of employment and the security of person and irrational fear of other people and other cultures limits experience and this is all a kind of defensive building of walls as we surround ourselves with stuff and all of this tends to limit experience and reduce mobility.
We also have a fear of homelessness that prevents us from going out into the world and experiencing the world and trusting in the kindness of strangers so instead we consent to get jobs and pay rent and most adopt the 9 to 5 pattern of daily life with a predictable life-story arc and mostly the only choices we make are as consumers.

My retirement plan: creating my own living system
In response to Buckminster Fuller's words in that video, my imagination really fired up as I started to think about how I could use design to change the environment around me in such a way that would extend my internal functions and reorganise my environment so that it would work for me... so that it would, in the fullness of time, support me... as I think of my own future, I would like to eventually create a living system, by which I probably mean a forest garden, which I had designed after much studying and having made the tools to make the tools to make the tools.
By going to this level of recursion it would be a bit slower for me but it should scale to work on the general analytical and algorithmic approach and be just as efficient or fast as if I had undertaken the problem as a 'solve for one, once'. As the vision of numerical gardening, open source farming tools and methodologies and building living systems and forest gardens as a long game / long view route to autonomy would encompass and engage many others to also work on the shared problems that we all face and then others might be able to do the same.

I would like to secure the potential for my own freedom and the continuation of autonomy throughout my life rather than follow the life pattern which would seek to build a 'defensive structure' around me in Bucky's words... I also dismiss the pessimistic conclusion that activism or anarchy or 'being liberal' is the preserve of the young and that exploration and travelling is the rite of passage of the young and that slowing down or settling down is the inevitable conclusion or natural trend for anyone trying to have a family life. The truth is that the net closes as we ourselves choose to set the trap and we choose to fall into it. We choose to gradually limit our experiences and slow down. This is in our design as we 'prepare for the future' within the parameters and boundaries that are expected (think: 'build a career', 'saving for your pension'). This sounds like building a defensive structure and slowing down the rate of human experiences. I would rather live several lifetimes worth of experiences as Bucky suggests.

Resilience in Retirement
So why should my priorities change? How would my heart change as a function of age? I would like to exercise my choice and plan ahead for my own future in my own way. I would like to build a structure or plan for resilience in my own future which will allow me to continue to explore and learn and experience more, increasing the area in which I can move- being like the wheel and not the fortress which we supposed was to keep others out but which is actually a cage of our own making and designed to keep us in.

Hackers, Back to the Land
So imagine a process by which land that you want in a place that you like could be acquired. Not competing with any markets, or choosing somewhere trendy... just plain old unwanted / unused land in a country that you like.
Maybe a software agent would take your current bank account or savings or a projection and generate search hits and there would be a reporting feature...

You get lucky one day and then start to tend the land by using natural processes to get the land to become 'regenerated' and then a productive living system gradually over your lifetime and transformed from dead soil or useless land into living soil and a forest garden in which you have planted trees that take 15 or 20 years to grow and can then sustain / feed you.

Tending the Garden and Watching it Grow
All the while you continue on with your normal life elsewhere in the city or travelling or whatever... but through well timed purposeful, organised planting, sowing, watching and community building it can yield food and fuel. Then your land has more value over time and you then kind of inherit it later in your own life as a living system that will support you and others with fuel and food.
Computational / 'CNC Gardening'
(did I just coin a new term? if so, yay!)
"Numerical control (NC) is the automation of machine tools that are operated by precisely programmed commands encoded on a storage medium, as opposed to controlled manually via hand wheels or levers, or mechanically automated via cams alone."
I would envisage that having acquired such land I would like to make a plan for it and I will have developed (at least a first / rough version) of some algorithmic / computational approach to gardening combined and fused with radical (but traditional) techniques of permaculture and living forests with calculations and site plans that I have made- obviously as a function of climate, soil type, USDA growing zone and local ecosystems etc.

Initial Conditions
Think of it as choosing the best 'initial conditions' for the natural progression and natural evolution and development of a 'living system' which could sustain a family / or a community that I would like to be part of later in my life.

The way I would see it, I would attend the site at various points during my life to gently shape and guide the process but, for the most part, nature would take its course and the land and the system that would be developing there would be largely auto-catalytic and autonomous.
The rate law for the second order autocatalytic reaction
A + B \; \stackrel{k}{\rightharpoonup} \;2B
is the following one
\ v = k[A][B].
The concentrations of A and B vary in time according to
The graph for these equations is a sigmoid curve, which is typical for autocatalytic reactions: these chemical reactions proceed slowly at the start because there is little catalyst present, the rate of reaction increases progressively as the reaction proceeds as the amount of catalyst increases and then it again slows down as the reactant concentration decreases. If the concentration of a reactant or product in an experiment follows a sigmoid curve, the reaction is likely to be autocatalytic.
Onto the next part in the video:
"We can see then how man could develop designs for keeping other men from bothering him by building a prison this would be a constrictive design and then he could design ways of helping human beings as for instance he notices of the great many automobile accidents and in the early days of the automobile accidents we used to put up more and more signs warning people that there's a dangerous area, we sent out more motorcycle policemen and had more traffic policemen. I saw that instead of trying to reform man, you could reform the environment. We could go in for divided highways, we could go in for split level highways, we could go in for appropriately banked turns so that people could get from here to there with great ease, they could be themselves, they would do logical things in relation to their natural physical senses and be able to get from here to there much more rapidly so that would be what I would call such highway design would be what I would call affirmative and 'degrees of freedom' increasing design in counter distinction to the stoplight, the sign which says slow down don't get there as fast, don't have as much life and then the very constrictive design of a prison which you say you are a dangerous driver and you have been a dangerous driver so long that I am going to take away your car and take away your motion and I am going to restrict you even more by saying that you can only move around within one acre here inside the prison so we see the design can, consciously understood, greatly enhance our species and it can be very fearfully used to constrict our freedoms and if not used at all can render us less effective than other species. What really distinguishes man from all other living species is the magnitude of which he has employed the design capability."

Thoughts on the Current Game
I relate to this in terms of how to think about man-made climate change and, in general, how to change the world through invention.
File:Global Temperature Anomaly.svg
-telling people to use less will not be the final solution. There are many many more of us coming.
-telling industries controlled by a capitalist system to turn less of nature into goods will not work. Their game is increase GDP and make 'more'.

A solution?
-use design to create and inform a gentle transition towards the highest energy output (maybe like Nocera's technology) for lowest environmental cost and make this the easiest path for industries to follow. The game here is essentially work to 'change the game' and inspire as many people as possible to do the same and help them to stop themselves working really hard on the wrong problems and make 'better' not 'more'.

Final thoughts from Factor e Farm and introducing a new Hackerspace

I have begun to tidy up my project areas at the Hablab at Factor e Farm, at the Open Source Ecology Project. It is two days before I am scheduled to fly back to Berlin which, by the way, is an enormous distance from here at around 4734 miles away.

I am reminded that over 5 weeks ago I did the same journey to get here and I have experienced and accomplished a lot since then, here is a link to my wiki work log: and a photo of all my finished tickets from our (analogue) scrum board:

Yay for the Hablab!
I would also like to thank everybody that has previously worked on the hablab. I am sure my stay here was in relative luxury compared to when you were actually building the hablab! I saw the videos of its construction and it looked like really hard work!

The Story of HabLab: 2011-12 from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

I hope that during my stay I have left it a bit better than I found it (both the Torch Table and the Hablab) and that the next DPVs at the farm will do the same again. We are all giants standing on the shoulders of giants.

There have also been some real highlights of the trip that happened offsite:
Kansas City 2600 Meetup

Dropping in on a Friend 
Funnily enough the surprise was very much on me...

Hammerspace in Kansas City 
Visiting the local hackerspace!

FactorEFarm Hackerspace 
I hope that my time here has been useful to OSE and has been well spent and that the action of setting up a mini hackerspace is generative and makes the space more productive and I hope that the space will continue to exist at the farm and be built on by others.

An Invitation
I would also like to warmly invite all hackers, makers, engineers and others who are interested in working on the project remotely or indeed those who would consider applying to do a dedicated project visit and I am happy to speak to anyone who wants to know more about my experiences while I was a DPV here.

Jan 2014: CEB Press
The next meetup at Factor e Farm will be in January 2014 where people will be working on the CEB press I would be cool to come back out here with a team of Engineers (we need specialists in Electronics, Electrical and Mechnical Engineering- background in hydraulics would be a plus!) and also someone who is dedicated to taking photos, videos and is good at wiki editing / blog writing and documentation / storytelling.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Aaron Swartz Memorial Hackathon

Image of Aaron Swartz by Fred Benenson. CC-Attrib 2.0
Less than a year ago, the death of Aaron Swartz shocked us with sadness. This young man, one of “our own”, gave in to despair and lost the biggest fight of all. His death reminded the activist community of our need to take care of each other even as it woke many in the world outside our community to some of the issues about which Aaron cared so deeply. In the wake of his death, people from all over the world gathered in hackathons to work on some of those very issues, and now we plan to come together again for Aaron’s birthday.

On the weekend of November 8-10, there will be simultaneous hackathons in San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, Boston, Buenos Aires, Berlin and perhaps where ever you are, to celebrate the life of Aaron Swartz by working on projects relating to privacy, open data, open government, open science, or justice. Each location will pick one major topic or project to work on, something highly hackable with opportunities for people of any technical level to get involved. All products produced during the hackathon should be released with an open license. The global event coordinators recommend that videos and text be Creative Commons-licensed CC-By-SA, and code be licensed under the GPLv3.

Each event will start with a mini-unconference of one to two hours in which participants will be able to give lightning talks about the topic that the local event has chosen as its focus. People can present specific challenges related to the local topic, or inform the group about the local project, why it’s important or how it works. Wherever possible, these short talks will be recorded and streamed live so that remote participants and participants at other locations around the globe can see them. Once the talks have been given and the challenges discussed, the hacking will begin.

Normally the advice is that you can’t pull together a decent hackathon in less than a month, but this is different. If you do not live near one of the currently confirmed events, there is still time to organize an event in your area. The event need not be large, and if you don’t have time to find sponsors to feed your hackers, just make it a potluck. This is not a slick event. It is a memorial for someone we lost less than a year ago and a celebration of the activism that we share as a community.

If you are able to organize a local event, big or small, please visit the hackathon wiki page to learn more and contact as soon as you have confirmed your location and time.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

I quit Twitter: @samthetechie

I just quit Twitter at

My digital privacy is very important to me so after the opening talk from @gmc at the Ohm2013 - Observe Hack Make hacker camp, I just quit Twitter. Many people are doing the same today. So please join us. Also, I am about to leave all social networks apart from Diaspora...Feel free to start a debate and ask me why below.

Today is the day, not tomorrow, not next week. I am here to help you to transition to Diaspora and other stuff. Just ask me any technical questions- I am happy to help.

I am also deleting facebook later so, if you *want* to actually stay in touch with me and invite me to stuff then send me an email and also please add me on Diaspora now: ‪#‎howto‬ ‪#‎diaspora‬

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Cryptoparty Handbook for Kindle

cryptopartykindle.jpg CryptoParty Handbook!

Cross-posted from:

The CryptoParty Handbook tries to provide a comprehensive guide to the various topics that might come up while investigating the realms of computer and internet security and is designed to be a practical guide during Cryptoparties.

Get the Handbook

The book is written in markdown and then compiled into various formats. Download it as .pdf .mobi .epub or .md

Don't take any wooden nickels!

You should always check the fingerprint of downloaded files using commands like sha256sum and compare the resulting hashes against hashes provided by other sources. So if you spread the news about the book, please spread the hashes as well!
The following handbook files have been hashed using sha256sum as a post build step after make install is run on the handbook source code, the results are:

Get the Saucecode

Writing the handbook is a group effort. For collaboration github is used. Although primarily used by programmers, github provides a very comfortable editor for markdown. Just register, clone the handbook repository, edit it and file a pull request (it is really not hard, just try it out).

Tell us what you think

Please submit bugs, issues, ideas and comments here: github

CryptoPartyHandbook for Kindle

We are thrilled to announce that the Cryptoparty Handbook is now Kindle-friendly. Please download .mobi .cover.jpg and metadata.opf and place all three files into your Calibre Library.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Optimised Companion Planting / 3D Gardening Simulations

Updates (13/8/14):

The Effect of General Computing on Gardening?
Increases in the availability of general computing and processing power allow computers to be used to solve everyday problems where perhaps it was not considered necessary or required beforehand.
For quite a while I have thought that there must be a way to leverage available data online, 3d modelling software and information about companion planting relationships to help generate suggestions for gardening.

Garden Sim!
So whilst I have been experimenting with the following ideas whilst thinking about generating optimal planting strategies for gardens, I am not setting out to make the next version of Garden Simulator. But then again, I don't know what I am missing because I have never played it but come to think of it, I would rather actually do some real gardening, I mean- you cannot eat simulated fruit and vegetables which is, after all, the motivation for all this!
Given that general computing is ubiquitous and there is a lot of data available, it is worth investing some time to develop or experiment with simulation techniques even if only to generate new and interesting questions or spot opportunities for generating valuable insights for gardeners though a more targeted application of simulation for hard problems related to gardening / producing food effectively.

Simulation Overload?
It is important to realise the limitations of simulations. A professor in robotics once told me about the complexities in accurately and analytically modelling the motion of a moving rover with wheels taking into account wheel slippage and changing friction between different surfaces (not always clean, dust changing frictional constants etc). In the end it is just not practical to model the movement of the rover in this way and it is more beneficial to spend effort designing error-correcting feedback loops based on data from inertial navigation units (INUs). So at some point, simulations break down and become meaningless.

Empirical vs Analytical
Of course there is a lot to be said for adopting both empirical approaches and analytical approaches to this (and all) problems and the fact that there does exist analytically optimal solutions, does not diminish or replace the importance of 'local expertise' or other empirical bodies of knowledge. The problem is that 'local expertise' is not always available to be interrogated and expertise not always free.

One of the most important things that a new gardener can do is connect with other (local) gardeners and share information for mutual benefit, but when just starting out it does not hurt to have a starting point like a computer-generated plan for a new vegetable plot rather than just a blank canvas. Then once you have this 'template', what better way to fill in the details that to consult a gardening 'hivemind' like stackexchange:

Here are some of the things I have been experimenting with in pursuit of these ideas:

What does the solution look like?
Firstly, the desired solution is a list of viable plants and some graphical representation of their optimal arrangement given some arbitrary input conditions.

It is important to think about about which factors might be significant in terms of the productivity of the garden which is, effectively, an artificially created natural system. Obviously the plants need the right weather conditions and nutrients in order to thrive and be productive which limits the selection of which species are sustainable i.e. require the least intervention / effort in order to be viable. In order to address this we often read gardening books or talk to neighbours in order to generate suggestions about what might work and what might not work.

A lot of the fine detail and procedural knowledge gets left out of this process and we often end up with single solutions or a collection of disparate facts about gardening but not a complete system design / arrangement. I.e. nothing that is really actionable.

I think it is important to establish the overall picture then pursue knowledge about its constituents in the proper context which means coming up with a plan or, at least, the beginnings of a plan before trying to leverage expertise on a specific topic.

We can intelligently select plants that are going to thrive in a given geographic area and a given time of year by looking at the shared results of trials from those who have tried before us. To the left there is a map showing the south east of england with a number of crowdsourced (variously around 8 to 9a) gardens which are in a particular USDA Hardiness Zone. This is a geographically defined area in which a specific category of plant life is capable of growing, as defined by climatic conditions, including its ability to withstand the minimum temperatures of the zone. Links to USDA Zone Gardens on myFolia:
1 2 2a 2b 3 3a 3b 4 4a 4b 5 5a 5b 6 6a 6b 7 7a 7b 8 8a 8b 9 9a 9b 10 10a 10b 11 11a 11b 12 12a 12b 13 13a 13b 14 
To the right is a temperature scale of hardiness zones, showing the average annual minimum temperature in degrees Celsius. The main factors determining average minimum temperature are elevation, latitude and proximity to the coast.

Given a set of input conditions like location, time of year, available soil types, soil pH, there must exist multiple optimal solutions to make the 'best' use of arbitrary amounts of available garden space. This result could be derived from comparing and contrasting all available gardening advice in published books and scientific literature about edible plant species (analytical) or it could be derived based on reports on what has worked and what has not worked from thousands of crowdsourced trials (empirical).

With sufficient levels of computing power and sophisticated techniques for making use of all that distilled knowledge, we can begin to provide optimal, informed, solutions to simple questions which are meaningful to people.

Why? Human beings need to eat!
What? should I plant? (plant species)

How? do I plant it? (plant spacing, techniques, techniques, particular details, tutorials and guides),
Where? perhaps somebody else technically owns the land but you can collaborate and share to make it possible to grow food.
When? gardening calendars can be drawn up to orgnise and plan.
Who?  Once list of plants is established it is possible to link to available crowdsourced data and also a network of people in order to help realise the intention of growing those plants. Seed swaps can be organised, information exchanged between people. Land / effort can be shared for mutual benefit.

Scraping Data about Plants with urllib in Python
Having generated a list of potential viable plants based on USDA zone, we can start to query datasets in order to get data about individual species.

Getting data about carrots:
values = {'query' : "carrot" }
data = urllib.urlencode(values)
version = choice(user_agents)
headers = { 'User-Agent' : version }
req = urllib2.Request("", data, headers)
htmlText = urllib2.urlopen(req).read()
soup = BeautifulSoup(open(htmlText))
#need to parse the response and 'click' on first link in the results
Xpath to that top link: /html/body/div/div[2]/div/div/div/div[2]/ul/li/h2/p/a
which gives this: "plants/9-carrot-daucus-carota-subsp-sativus" path which should be combined with the base URL: "" to give this link:

Then we need to scrape again, this time to targeting the plant data we are interested in.

Xpaths can be used to assist scraping:

name:      /html/body/div[2]/div[2]/div/div[2]/h1

latin name:    /html/body/div[2]/div[2]/div/div[2]/h2/em

height:    /html/body/div[2]/div[2]/div/div[3]/div[5]/div/form/ul/li[4]/label/span

width:    /html/body/div[2]/div[2]/div/div[3]/div[5]/div/form/ul/li[4]/label[2]/span

Once we have scraped all the data about plants we are interested in, we can then use that data to generate crude representations of the plants in 3D to assist geometric optimisation, identification and general arrangement:
cylinder(x, y, z, d, h, common_name, latin_name) {x,y,z} is the position in space.
cylinder(0, 0, 0, 2.5/2.54, 15/2.54, "orange", "Carrot", "Daucus carota subsp. sativus")     cylinder(15, 50, 0, 100/2.54, 120/2.54, "purple", "Rosemary", "Rosmarinus officinalis") cylinder(115, 100, 0, 120/2.54, 90/2.54, "green", "Courgette", "Cucurbita pepo var. cylindrica") cylinder(215, 150, 0, 50/2.54, 150/2.54, "red", "Tomato", "Solanum lycopersicum")
cylinder(315, 200, 0, 100/2.54, 50/2.54, "orange", "Potimarron", "Cucurbita maxima")
cylinder(415, 250, 0, 90/2.54, 30/2.54, "darkgreen", "Melon", "Cucumis melo")

generating cylinders with Python in Sketchup, representing mature plants based on crowsourced data scraped from myFolia
Understanding this problem at the appropriate level of abstraction given the techniques and the data available is required to actually provide something practically useful. Not all data is available (yet), not all manipulated variables / factors have as significant an output on the overall performance / output of the system and some intentional tweaking of the physical or chemical environment can take place in order to support an otherwise unsustainable but, nevertheless, desired species.
Whilst the last comment might seem like an endorsement to use fertilizers and automated irrigation systems, it is important to recognise that inventions ranging from clothing to central heating and insulation in homes have allowed species (homo sapiens) to thrive in unlikely places which would otherwise be inhospitable for us.

Breaking the Problem Down Further
  • 3D representation of the plants (ranging from simple cylinders with a radius and height, to complex and detailed 3D models).
  • 2D geometric optimisation algorithms and constraints
    • strategies to ensure optimal plant spacing
    • implications for maintenance, access to work on and tend to plants
    • best adherence to companion planting relationships:

    • reduction of monoculture / simple rows and drills of the same type of plant (as far as I know we dont tend to find neat rows of plants in nature, certainly not dense islands / clumps of only one type of plant so this cannot be optimal).
    • model as charged particles which attract and repel each other?
    • model as a free body diagram / series of interconnected springs + masses f = kx ?
  • which plants should be selected based on nutritional / aesthetic requirements of the gardener?
  • implications of the geographical location of the garden?
    • compbined with the time of year:
      • hours of daylight per day.
      • path of the sun over the garden.
        • local objects which shade the garden like trees or large shrubs
      • local climatic conditions and weather forecasts.
        • average rainfall and its distribution of rainfall throughout the year?
        • frost risk?
  • which other plants complement those selected / suggested?
    • which provide provide each other with complementary macronutrients?
      • rate of deposition of nitrates via nitrogen fixing nodules on roots (e.g. legumes)
  • which are responsible for localised inhibition of pests or other competing species of plant?
  • which provide competition for macronutrients, micronutrients?
  • Effects of size of plant and shadow casting / root growth of plants over their lifecycle which affects the casting of shadows and nutrient uptake and therefore have implications about orientation of the plot to the path of the Sun and inter-plant spacing.
  • desired ratio of species based on yield per plant
Having considered some or all of the above at varying levels of abstraction, it would be useful to output:
  • a diagram showing optimal spacing and juxtaposition of plants in the form of a 3D representation of the planting bed.
  • which can be exported in 2D Top / plan view.

  • A list of plants and planting schedule for reference in the garden.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013 Backup

Last night one of our members emailed the cryptoparty mailing list to say that the website was unexpectedly down. The site currently displays the text "Suspended due to spam."

It is a shame that people looking forward to attend cryptoparties this week who had publicised links to the website for their events will find that they are now broken.

Several members from the community, including myself, periodically scraped the website in order to ensure that everyone's contributions were not lost. My scrape was made with:

wget --recursive --no-clobber --page-requisites
--referer="" --user-agent="Mozilla/5.0 (Windows;
U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/20070725 Firefox/"
--random-wait --html-extension --convert-links
--restrict-file-names=windows --domains --no-parent

Current List of mirrors/backups: (site as of 3rd June 2013) (site as of 21st May 2013) (backup, archived)*/ (several snapshots over time:)

Saturday, 16 February 2013

How I got my Copy of Cory Doctorow's Homeland

I recently read Cory Doctorow's new book Homeland on my kindle and I would highly recommend it along with it's prequel, Little Brother.

Obtaining my (paid for) copy from in mid February when it was not available in the UK was not exactly intuitive shall we say...
From what I could tell, it appeared that there were country-specific restrictions in place at the time (around mid Feb) and buying the kindle version (for digital delivery) from the UK did not appear to be possible which made no logical sense to me. So, presuming that this was merely an error, I set about racing my friend Luke to try and find a hack/workaround to download the book even though it was 'not on sale' here yet. Or to put it another way: hell hath no fury like a geek in pursuit of their next Doctorow fix.

1. Change .torrc to use USA only tor exit relays. (Please note that this is a temporary hack and definitely not a good configuration for long-term usage on tor) :p
2. Register an American postal address (despite digital delivery) on I now live in the Whitehouse apparently:
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
United States
Phone: +12024561111
3. Change my Kindle's 'location' to USA.
4. Buy book as per normal.
5. Request file download and then load it on to the device through 'Calibre' so that amazon could not fiddle with my kindle/locale/etc remotely (i.e. no wifi on kindle).
6. Oh and just to be sure the book would not disappear like the somewhat ironic case of 1984 being remotely removed from 1000's of kindles.
7. I then rooted my kindle and intentionally borked the phone home features so that it cannot be remote controlled anymore. I like to err on the side of security by design not by policy. There is more info about kindle mods/hacks here.

Luckily it is now easier to get Homeland on your kindle: