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Hackanooga and "The Final Countdown"


By Glenn Ricart 

I’m in the midst of five dozen geeks furiously working on their computers to the heavy beat of rock music.

To my brain, it feels as though all of the keys clicking are merging into the drum line.  The music is “The Final Countdown,” and it couldn’t be more apt because it’s just one hour before a crowd of more than a hundred people will assemble to see what’s been produced over the past 35 hours in Chattanooga.  It’s all a big hack-fest down here organized by Chattanoogan Kelly McCarthy and the Mozilla Foundation. 

Mozillian Ben Moskowitz takes the microphone to let everyone know the music is not a coincidence.  One hour to demo time.

About half the hackers are locals; half have flown in from around the country in order to participate.  No one is paid to be here.  Rather, everyone has gathered for the community experience of being among like-minded geeks and the thrill of creating new applications on the Chattanooga gigabit network – one of the few places in the country where such an opportunity exists.

Jack Studer runs a speedtest.net and tweets that he’s getting 800+ Mbps. 

The National Science Foundation GENI Project (Global Environment for Network Innovation) has given Chattanooga a “neighborhood cloud” – their own bit of cloud infrastructure with full gigabit access. Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board (EPB) runs the city gigabit network and Chris Posey of EPB did yeoman work increasing the capabilities of the virtual servers in the neighborhood cloud to meet the needs of the geeks.  US Ignite is no longer just about talking …. US Ignite applications are coming alive today.

Despite the furious typing, everyone is calm. 

Everyone has known this time was coming from the kickoff at 6 pm on Friday evening, and the mood is bright. It helps that the city provided healthy meals, and the firehouse across the street rolled out a pancake breakfast Saturday morning.  For the handful that worked the final 30 hours straight through without sleep, our venue stayed open all night, while the nearby “Crash Pad” provided space for power naps.  Chair messages were available Sunday for those with sore muscles from leaning over a keyboard for hours upon hours.

The payoff was the demo session.

 The leadoff demo managed to get real-time data from a Microsoft Kinect and showed they were collecting the data needed to transmit 3D video images using only a consumer device.  Big Blue Button added multi-point video conferencing to their collaboration tool.  Students from the nearby STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) high school took 3D pictures of art and sculpture in Chattanooga and used the gig to allow you to virtually walk around the art work with an iPad.   Another project was a re-invention of public media (like PBS) in which the programs are crowd-sourced from the community; the gigabit allowed for real-time access to the high-def media online.   The projects were all very impressive for 35-hour efforts.

Kudos to Mozilla organizers Will Barkis and Ben Moskowitz, local organizer Kelly McCarthy (whose own Tennessee license plate is “GEEK”), and the many Chattanoogans who contributed to making the city a great hacking environment. 

And, of course, a hearty US Ignite high five goes to the real contributors – the Geeks of Hackanooga!