Archive for the 'English' Category

The Last Ninja Tour is on the road

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

One of the things I have always wanted to do is visit Vienna and attend Ninjacon (previously known as Plumbercon). So when I learned that this years Ninjacon is actually going to be the last one (it will continue as B-sides Vienna, you know, B-sides, the next hippest thing since sliced bread), I had a crazy idea: let’s just drive down to Vienna, stop at some hackerspaces along the way and attend!

As it is with me and crazy ideas, I then stopped thinking and just did it. So here I am writing from a comfy couch in Das Labor. This hackerspace in Bochum (Germany) is my first stop on the way to Vienna, and I must say: not a bad choice at all. But more on that later.

In about an hour, I will be heading out to Kassel where there is Flipdot. From there on to Weimar (Maschinenraum) and Prague (brmlab). And then I will hit Vienna just in time to unload and set-up the audio gear for Ninjacon. Yes, the audiogear. You know how these things go. You plan a quiet vacation, but before you know it your car is full of equipment or fiber or what-have-you. So in this case, the crew at Ninjacon asked if I could bring some audio gear, since that was one of the things they had not covered yet.

So with all the audio gear of the Signal studio (graciously sponsored by Hxx of course) and some borrowed PA speakers I will do the audio at Ninjacon. Great, I won’t get bored then! Luckily, i’m staying an extra day to leave on Monday again. Of course I want to check out Metalab and the city and whatever else Socialhack is going to show me!

From Vienna, it is on to Munich (I hope, haven’t yet heard back from then) and then Stuttgart, where I will revisit Shackspace. Well, that is, visit their new location because they have moved since my first (and also last) visit there about 6 months ago. And then it’s Luxembourg, for that long-due visit to syn2cat. En passant, I will join celebrations of the duke’s birthday (sort of like queensday back home, but with dukes and duchesses instead of queens and princes).

If that’s not enough, after a day of recovery, I’m heading to Charleroi in Belgium to arrive in time for the opening weekend of a fresh new hackerspace by the name of Wolfplex.

So yeah, quite the trip. I haven’t planned much, just announced my arrival at certain dates in certain cities and hope I will be able to find a place to crash. I mean to spend the days contemplating and reflecting. I’m due for a re-evaluation of all my projects, priorites and life. What better way to do so than lounging at all those hackerspaces!

Looking forward to all of it. And I hope I will find a 74HC125N along the way somewhere to complete my USBTinyISP. Stay tuned for updates.

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How I got seduced by the dark side and failed to resist (and a sparkle of hope?)

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

I am not the biggest fan of google. Never was.  I loathe their hunger for information, any information, about individuals. I loathe the fact that they provide a single point of entry to a wealth of mineable information to the us government. I loathe how they have become a synonym for the internet. I was a strong opponent of anything google, and laughed at my friends when they got a google account to personalize their search results. Yet, by now I have become fully integrated in the google network. I have joined the borg. And I am even kinda happy about it.

Just try one for free

It started like so many addictions. You try one of their samplings. In my case, it started with google docs. I don’t remember what my first google doc was. I was participating in some project or the other and someone offered to share a document with me (and the rest of the team). Relucantly, I created a google account (with some feigned name and custom email address to keep up the pretence of anonymity) and went into the document. All went well, we shared information, changed the document collaboratively and that was it.

Yet, after a while, someone on another project wanted to share a document. So I created a new account, went in, and did the rest. Well, after a while I had 20 google accounts for as many documents. It became a nuisance, I had to log out and log in again to get to another document. So I crossed a line. I merged all the documents into one account.

Later, I bought my android phone (the HTC Dream aka G1) directly from the pusher. I created another google account to activate it, thinking I would miss out if I would use the phone without. I know that if you don’t use any of googles services, it is fine not to use a google account on your phone (after some hackery). But I was curious, ok??

So all went fine. I had my google docs account. I had my android phone account. I tried to take care and not leave any traces that would link the two together. I would never log in to google from my desktop with the android account and vice versa.

Meanwhile, I was running some web-based groupware suite to keep track of my appointments. This had some disadvantages though: it was clunky to use on my phone. Also, it was a nuisance to have yet another tool to maintain, keep track of security updates and what have you. I mean, an agenda should increase producitivty, right, not get in the way of productivity.

So I made a next big step, I decided I wanted to try google calendar. It came integrated on my phone by default and had a usable interface on the web so I could use it on my desktop as well. So after a few tentative test-runs I switched and decommisioned the groupware suite.

From there, it all went down-hill for me.  I started using google latitude to share my location on my blog during my trip through the US, used google voice to make cheap international calls from the us back home, started using google tasks to keep track of my todo items, initiated new google docs myself and even had a short period where I (unwillingly) experimented with google wave.

Antagonizing realization

But all this time I had stayed far from the one google service that symbolizes, for me at least, the summum of giving up any privacy one has: google contacts. I would not, never, share my contacts with google! But then  I wanted to upgrade my phone to cyanogen mod. Well, I actually had to flash the device because I broke the dalvik cache and it would not execute any app anymore. I had somehow deleted all the permission definitions. I could not even install new apps anymore. With no sensible way to backup my contacts, I started to contemplate the uncontemplateable: google contacts! Because of course, google apps still had all the permissions they needed.

So I broke. Synced my contacts, flashed the device and restored them again. And discovered how convenient google contacts actually is. I am now even looking into integrating google contacts into mutt.

And there you have it. That is the story of how I turned from a decent google opponent into a fully integrated cell of the great google information collection agency. I use google services to organize my life. And I like it.


Now, some people, when they hear I am addicted to google services, sigh “Oh you fool, I can do without just fine!”. Yeah well, that’s nice for them. But those are either the people that are impossible to work with because they always forget what they promised to do by when and need constant reminders to get even the silliest little thing done. Or they are the people with nice unconvoluted lives who generally are not that full of initiative or commitment.

For the rest of us, the people who operate on the same high level of energy as myself, tools like described above are essential to keep track of the many things going without keeping it all in your head and going insane. Some use apple’s crap but most are also on google.

I would love to kick this habit!

But their applications are so damn easy to use. They do what I want, without getting in the way. They are not overly complex. They don’t require me to maintain a server, keep track of security issues with the zillion of dependencies and keep an eye on the hardware. I can access them from wherever I want, on whatever device I want. I get reminders on the desktop and on the phone, so that whatever I’m doing I’m not going to miss an appointment.

Now, I can see a few ways out here. The first would be to reverse-engineeer some of their protocols. This should not be too hard, as it all works browser-based. It just takes time.

Another thing I could imagine to prevent google from looking at your contacts and tasks would be to write custom applications to access those but store everything encrypted. Looking at google tasks for example, I could simply write a desktop application and an android application that both use the same encryption algorithm and key to store each individual task encrypted. I could build an android contacts store to store my contacts encrypted, or on another server. It just takes time.

And oh, I could try and implement the google calendar backend protocol in a relatively simple daemon that would not require lots of dependencies and thus would be easy to maintain. Then redirect calendar traffic from my phone to my own backend server, and use sunbird as a frontend. It just takes time.

And there you have it. Google’s services are there. There is no open alternative for any of those services that is as easy to use, as integrated as googles services, cross-platform and without the hassle of maintaining dozens of packages.

Who knows. Now that I am aware of my problematic addiction, I might work up the energy to start a project to provide a more open alternative with privacy and encryption as the driving design forces, instead of data-mining and dollar signs. A suite where you have a choice to host it yourself, or on community-operated servers. Or perhaps even a non-profit that you pay a little amount towards keeping the software and hardware running for you.

I could see this kick off. Now all I need is a little time (or money so I don’t have to worry about making a living while making this work).


By the way, in case you are wondering: I’m not entirely stupid. I do make my own backups of everything I stuff in their cloud.

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HAR2009, the sequel

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

So while everyone is eagerly awaiting news about the ccc camp in August of this year, my mind is already wandering to August 2013. Of course, I am looking forward to the camp and Hx2. And I am somewhat implicated in the organisation of Hx2 (mainly writing texts and handling the financial issues). But I am sort of saving my powers for the sequel to HAR2009, ???2013!

There is no name yet, there is no location yet. Heck, there is no organisation yet. But I know there will be a next edition, and I know Hxx will be behind it.

As with HAR2009, I am already stirring up the fire. Just a little. I mean, seriously, doing such a thing as HAR2009 is an enormous task to take on, and starting just one year before the actual event has proven to be effective yet kinda stressful. Anyway, I am not yet hashing out details such as where the next edition will be or what the name will be. We can sort that out later, can’t we? No, I am still contemplating the bigger picture: what will be the timeframe, who will pull the cart.

With HAR2009 I got help from Fenrir early on. I am very glad Mischa got him on board, as he has proven to be instrumental in getting the job done. I have learned a lot from this seasoned hacker-event veteran. For that matter, things would never have happened had Mischa not been there. Sadly, as things are now, they will not be in a position to take a half-year break from work to concentrate on the event this time. So that leaves me.

Of course, they will be there in their roles as board members of the foundation, but the day-to-day stuff will be down to me. Yet, it is a lot for one person to take on. Experience shows that you need two people full-time during crunch-time. So now a daunting task has been imparted on me: find someone that gets along with me, has a healthy dose of intelligence, a bunch of social skills, is a doer and available full-time for the first half year of 2013. That narrows it down quite a lot.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Sure, let us first enjoy the ccc camp, which is going to be a blast if the signs are any indication. I mean, shit, a hacker space program? But not long after that, the hunt for a location is on! And then, mid-2012 when we have found the most awesome location, we can get down to the details.

I am already looking forward to have the honour of working with such an amazing group of volunteers again. Both the recidivists as well as the greenhorns. You all inspire me to do what I do. Thanks in advance, guys & gals. I love you all!

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Hacker community condemns denial of service attacks, advocates ethical hacking

Monday, December 13th, 2010
PERSBERICHT: 10 december 2010

Hackergemeenschap veroordeelt platleggen sites, draagt ethisch hacken

(English translation below)

In reactie op de recente berichtgeving rondom de aanvallen op
verschillende websites en de arrestatie van een tiener uit de regio
Haaglanden organiseert het lokale hackerhonk 'Revelation Space' in Den
Haag op 18 december 2010 een bijeenkomst over ethisch hacken. Dit met
medewerking van o.a. ICT-jurist Arnoud Engelfriet (adviesbureau
ICTRecht), hacker van het eerste uur Hans van de Looy (Madison Gurkha)
en internet-journalist Brenno de Winter (,

De gearresteerde tiener, die betrokken zou zijn geweest bij de
aanvallen op websites van MasterCard en andere bedrijven die WikiLeaks
tegenwerkten, liet zijn gezicht wel eens zien op bijeenkomsten van de
hackerspace en is een vaste gast op het online chatkanaal van de
hackerspace. Dit is voor de deelnemers van Revelation Space aanleiding
om extra aandacht aan het onderwerp 'ethisch hacken' te besteden.

Het platleggen van websites door middel van een 'Distributed Denial of
Service'-aanval (DDoS) of op wat voor andere wijze dan ook, past niet
in de ethiek van de hackergemeenschap. Koen Martens, oprichter van de
hackerspace, zegt over de eigenrichting van "Anonymous": "een denial
of service, het platleggen van een site, vergelijk ik met iemand een
klap verkopen als je geen argumenten meer hebt om zijn ongelijk te

Een hacker is iemand met een gezonde dosis nieuwsgierigheid en
creativiteit, die graag uitzoekt waarom dingen werken hoe ze werken en
eventueel op zoek gaat naar zwakke schakels in het ontwerp ervan. Een
ethisch hacker gaat vervolgens op een verantwoorde manier om met de
bevindingen en zal deze niet gebruiken voor persoonlijk gewin. Hij of
zij zal de verworven kennis niet misbruiken. Een ethisch hacker is
zich bewust van de gevolgen van zijn acties en het vrijgeven van de
bevindingen, en zal zich altijd maximaal inzetten om binnen de grenzen
van de wet te opereren.

De uitgevoerde aanvallen op sites als die van MasterCard hebben als
zodanig niets te maken met hacken. Iedereen kan een computerprogramma
downloaden, installeren, op de juiste knop klikken, en zodoende
onderdeel worden van een gecoördineerde  online-misdaad. Er is geen
sprake van creativiteit: er wordt slechts gebruik gemaakt van
bestaande gereedschappen zonder te hoeven nadenken over hoe deze

Hoewel strafrechtelijke vervolging een gepaste reactie is op de acties
van deze minderjarige 'script kiddie', moet ook erkend worden dat
iedereen in zijn jeugd wel eens kattenkwaad heeft uitgehaald waar hij
of zij minder trots op is.

De betreffende jongeman en zijn handlangers zouden dan ook niet moeten
worden verstoten uit de gemeenschap, maar hen zou juist getoond moeten
worden hoe het beter kan. Een van de deelnemers van de hackerspace,
die toegeeft zelf als tiener ook niet altijd stil te hebben gestaan
bij de gevolgen van zijn acties, zegt hierover "Wat voor mijzelf erg
heeft geholpen is contact met echte hackers, mensen met gevoel voor
ethiek. Wij kunnen op het gebied van hackerethiek veel meer voor die
jongen betekenen dan de mensen die 'm opvoeden."

De bijeenkomst zal plaatsvinden op zaterdag 18 december van 12:30 tot
18:00 in Revelation Space, Binckhorstlaan 172, Den Haag. De
bijeenkomst wordt georganiseerd met medewerking van Stichting Hxx, het
Utrechtse hackershonk 'Randomdata' en de Nederlandse poot van
internationale hackerbeweging 2600.

Bijdragen worden geleverd door internet-journalist en hacker Brenno de
Winter (, Webwereld en de podcast De Beveiligingsupdate),
ICT-jurist Arnoud Engelfriet (adviesbureau ICTRecht), hacker van het
eerste uur Hans van de Looy (Madison Gurkha), Jurre van Bergen
(ethisch hacker met bijzondere interesse voor overheidssites) en
Walter van Holst (ICT-jurist bij adviesbureau Mitopics en bestuurslid
van Europese koepelorganisatie van burgerrechtenorganisaties EDRi).

Iedereen is welkom om deze sessie bij te wonen. Ook pers wordt
nadrukkelijk uitgenodigd om aanwezig te zijn.

Revelation Space is een 'hackerspace', en is deel van een wereldwijde
beweging. Een hackerspace is een ruimte ('space') waar nieuwsgierige
en creatieve mensen ('hackers') bijeen komen om ideeën uit te wisselen
en te werken aan projecten. Veel van die activiteiten zijn van
technische aard, en betreffen ICT, computernetwerken, electronica en
hout- en metaalbewerking, maar de bezoekers houden zich ook veel bezig
met, en debatteren over, maatschappelijke vraagstukken.

'Script kiddies' is ICT-jargon voor mensen, meestal tieners, die
gebruik maken van vrij beschikbare computerprogramma's ('scripts') om,
in hun ogen, stoere acties uit te halen. Dat contrasteren wij met
'hackers', die op basis van kennis en vaardigheden creatieve
oplossingen of trucs verzinnen, en met 'crackers', die zich richten op
het (illegaal) binnendringen van computersystemen. Zowel de
activiteiten van script kiddies als die van hackers en crackers zijn
aan continue veranderingen in geaccepteerde ethiek onderhevig.

Niet voor publicatie: Voor vragen kunt u contact opnemen met Koen
Martens,, 06-24707813


Hacker community condemns denial of service attacks, advocates ethical

In response to recent press covering of denial of service attacks on
numerous websites and the arrest of a teenager from the metropolitan
area of The Hague, the hackerspace Revelation Space in The Hague, The
Netherlands, calls for a meeting about ethical hacking. Present at
this meeting on December 18th 2010 will be, among others, IT lawyer
Arnoud Engelfriet (legal consultancy firm ICTRecht), veteran hacker
Hans van de Looy (Madison Gurkha) and internet journalist Brenno de
Winter (,

The arrested teenager, who was allegedly involved with the attacks on
websites of MasterCard and other companies that obstructed Wikileaks
activities, was known to visit the hackerspace and was a regular in
the online chat room for the hackerspace. This motivated members of
Revelation Space to bring attention to the subject of 'ethical

Disrupting websites with a 'Distributed Denial of Service'-attack
(DDoS) or by any other means, does not align with the ethics of the
hacker community. Koen Martens, founder of the hackerspace, responds
to the actions of "Anonymous": "I liken a denial of service attack to
slapping someone in the face when you run out of arguments to prove
someone wrong"

A hacker is a creative and curious individual, someone who wants to
find out how things work and perhaps tries to find flaws in their
design. An ethical hacker will act responsibly with the  knowledge
gained and will not abuse this knowledge. An ethical hacker is aware
of the consequences of his or her actions or the sharing of the gained
knowledge, and will always strive to operate within the boundaries of

As such, the attacks on sites such as MasterCard have nothing to do
with hacking. Anyone can download, install and start a computerprogram
and then become part of a coordinated online crime. There is no
creativity involved: DDoS attackers generally use existing tools
without realising how these function.

Although legal action is part of a proper response to the action of
this minor 'script kiddie', it must be acknowledged that everyone has
made mistakes in their youth that they are not proud of.

The young man and his accomplices should not be excluded from the
community. They should be shown a better way to reach goals. One of
the participants of the hackerspace admits that as a teenager he also
did not always consider the consequences of his actions, and explains:
"What really helped me was the interaction with real hackers, people
with a sense of ethics. We can do much more for this young man, in the
context of hacker ethics, than the people who raise him."

The event will be held on Saturday, December 18th, from 12:30 till
18:00, CET, in Revelation Space, Binckhorstlaan 172, Den Haag, The
Netherlands. The meeting is organised in cooperation with the Hxx
Foundation, the Utrecht hackerspace 'Randomdata' and the Dutch chapter
of international hacker collective 2600.

Contributing to the meeting are internet journalist Brenno de Winter
(, and podcast 'the security update'), ICT-lawyer
Arnoud Engelfriet (legal consultancy firm ICTRecht), veteran hacker
Hans van de Looy (Madison Gurkha), Jurre van Bergen (ethical hacker
with a special interest in government sites) and Walter van Holst
(IT-lawyer with consultancy firm Mitopics and board member at European
umbrella organisation for civil rights EDRi).

Everyone is invited to this session. Members of the press are
explicitly invited to attend. Please note that the main language will
be Dutch.

Revelation Space is a 'hackerspace', and is part of a world-wide
movement. A hackerspace is a space where curious and creative people
('hackers') meet to share ideas and work on projects. Many of these
activities are in the area of technology, and deal with IT,
computernetworks, electronics and wood- and metal-crafting. But
visitors also concern themselves with and discuss society in general.

'Script kiddies' is IT-jargon for people, usually teenagers, who use
existing and freely available software ('scripts') to perform
mischievous pranks they perceive as admirable. We contrast this with
'hackers', who on the basis of knowledge and skill come up with
creative solutions and tricks, as well as with 'crackers' who
(illegally) break into computersystems. Both the activities of script
kiddies as well as those of hackers and crackers are considered in a
constantly changing ethics.

Not for publication: for details and questions, please contact Koen Martens on +31 6 24707813.

Home Revelation Space Binckhorstlaan 172 2516 BG Den Haag

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Goodbye America

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Miami Beach, the closest thing to paradise I have yet experienced. Sea, sun and shirtless skaters. I have a new goal in life: to live in Miami. Well. Maybe. Anyway, I seem to have messed up my hotel booking, it is from 13th – 14th of December instead of 3th to 4th. A quick call with the booking agency has the matter resolved, albeit in a somewhat more expensive hotel. It is still at the beach though, so I’m not complaining. It is good to have an entire room and bathroom to myself for once!

After dumping my luggage, I take a stroll along the beach. It’s around 22 degrees Celsius, but under the glare of the sun it feels like at least 30. I could live with that, walking around in shirt and shorts in early December. Now, there is no hackerspace in Miami. But, I used to watch a lot of Miami Vice when I was young, so I had to stop by. It’s all there, the palm trees, the wide roads flanked by pastel-tinted art-deco low-rise buildings. I don’t seem to detect any of the vicious crime and drug-smuggling though, but no doubt if I had looked it could be found.

After a good nights sleep, it is time to start my journey back home. Starting with the return of the rental car at Miami International Airport. It is an emotional goodbye. After 8762.8 miles, this car feels like home. In fact, it is the closest thing to home I have had for 6 weeks. It has served me well, never asking for much and always ready to take on endless roads through cold and hot weather. Never complaining when I revved up the engine to swerve through the armadas of crazy Boston drivers or insane New York City cabbies. Thank you Ford Focus with Nevada license plate 402WUM. I shall miss you.

I manage to get through security without too much groping or invasive body scans, and end up having 3 hours to kill. T-Mobile is letting me down again, so I purchase some crappy wifi and check my mail. I feel a bit depressed. It is really over now. I will miss this country. I think I might have fallen in love with it. I had never expected this!

By the time we lift off night has fallen. It is a dark but clear night. Miami is a sea of orange lights below. Soon, the lights thin out into lines demarcating the strip-malls and occasional suburb along the highway. Until it is pitch dark down there. The only light coming from the flash-bulb on the wing and the interior cabin lights.

A 22-hour layover awaits, so I collect my bags and walk out into the cold Washington DC air. I wait for the hotel shuttle. Wait some more. And some more. By now I have seen all of the other hotels’ shuttles 3 times it seems so I decide to give the hotel a call. Should’ve done that earlier, the clerk says “I’ll send the shuttle right over sir!”.

Well, anyway, safely in the hotel room I enjoy the complimentary chocolate-chip cookie as I zap around American television. No Sonic & Knuckles at this hour (I do love that Knuckles character!), but I fall asleep to some family guy and American dad. Forgot to turn off the heating though, which I regret as I wake up that morning with a slight headache.

After checking out I order some lunch in the hotel restaurant. The two handsome young waiters compliment me on my dreads, making my day again! I wish people in Europe would notice the awesomeness of my dreads some more.

It seems the TSA personnel at Dulles International Airport is not really into it. The naked body scanners are all switched off, and apart from taking of my shoes and veering through the metal detector I can go through security without too much hassle. Not even a quick pat-down. Should I feel less secure now??

When the plane lifts off, it is dark again. Looking out the window I see the lights of Washington DC grow more distant as the plane climbs to cruising altitude. I silently say goodbye to America. I’ve had a wonderfully good time down there. I miss it already.

Thanks so much to all and everyone who made this trip possible. Whether it is by putting me up for a night or two, by engaging me in fun activities at the various hackerspaces or just by pointing out fun and interesting things to do. If I can ever reciprocate the favor, you know where to find me!

So long and thanks for all the fish, Americans.

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