It's the day before the hackathon—infrastructure day. For Hackers, infrastructure means power and Internet. The hackathon infrastructure has evolved over the years. Initially, it was Theo's living room, and a laptop acting as a wireless gateway. Needless to say, this approach didn't scale. Today, the hackathon's infrastructure needs are somewhat more significant, hence the 0-day set up ritual.
First, there's Internet. For the last few years, the hackathon has relied on a wireless feed to the hotel—currently, a 9MBit full-duplex connection.. From there, it's fibre to four Cisco switches. The Ciscos (with help from some duct tape, and an inventive aerial octopus-like array of wiring) deliver Ethernet to the available tables, and on each table, hackers have provided an array of mini-switches to deal with their personal connectivity needs.
Once, Ethernet was an ad-hoc kind of affair. Today it's more of an ad-hammer affair; that is, any cheapo mini-switches found chained to other cheapo mini-switches on the hackathon net get introduced to Bob, his hammer, and no apologies. Hackers hate it when their network melts down due to chained cheapo network equipment. So it's wireless to Hotel, Hotel to Cisco, Cisco to mini-switch, mini-switch to laptop.
Wi-Fi works, too, but as evidenced from years past, if you use the wireless as your main connection to the outside world, you'd better have a backup plan. Wi-Fi melts down under load, and the hackathon is a sizable load, even given the mother-of-all Wi-Fi antennas mounted in the corner of the room.
Hardware-wise, you're likely to see just about everything. Of course, each Hacker has a laptop—typically some flavour of Thinkpad, though preferences vary. There are also random stacks of computing equipment in various stage of test and development; a stack of Soekrises here, a stack of routers there. And, of course, boxes of unsupported gear, waiting for someone to pick it up and finish whatever needs finishing.
In short, it's a toy-lovers dream.
Speaking of toys, the toy of this year seems to be the Zaurus C3000—the walkman-sized ARM-based machine that sports a 4GB microdrive, and takes a CF-based wireless card. You can't get them in North America. Of course, there are a lot of developers coming from outside North America. By default, the Zaurus runs Linux, which, after a few minutes work, makes a fine little boot-loader. 3.7 and -current run just fine on the Zaurus. By the end of the week, -current will likely be running a lot better.
It's going to be a fun week.