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The Annual Conference for Leading Edge Developers
June 19,12:01 AM-June 21, 2003
MacHack Frequently Asked Questions:
MacHack is a conference run by developers for the benefit of developers. At MacHack, the focus is on actually using cutting edge technologies. You'll hear from and hang out with other developers who work in the trenches.
The 2003 MacHack conference will take place Thursday, June 19 12:01 AM through Saturday, June 21 in Dearborn, Michigan. It still has a decidedly Macintosh spin, but in recent years topics have branched out greatly. Regardless of your platform of emphasis, MacHack will likely provide you with exposure to cutting edge topics in your area of expertise or provide new ideas that you hadn't yet thought of.
Yes, MacHack is legal. It is a legitimate conference for leading edge developers. It is not about breaking into computers, or learning the newest virus writing tips.
No you won't learn how to break into computers and steal stuff or how to write a virus. In fact, some of the people who attend MacHack are the ones who write the anti-viral software. The hacks that come out of MacHack are those that do clever, amusing or useful things to the system software. Hacks which can do damage to data, networks etc. are not welcome at the conference. Of course, the nefarious programmer can always use information to further the cause of evil, but this is strongly discouraged.
History, mostly. MacHack is a name that is rich in tradition and lore. Some amazing software has gotten its birth at MacHack over the last seventeen years. Sure, there has been encouragement to change the name of the conference, but we haven't come up with anything better yet. If you have a better name for the conference that reflects a broader emphasis, by all means e-mail the committee and let us know. Better yet, attend this year and come to the planning meeting to help shape the conference for coming years.
A good question to be sure, and one that we get asked repeatedly. Pick from the following answers:
MacHack is being held at the Holiday Inn Fairlane. The hotel is located at the intersection of the Southfield Freeway and Ford Rd. in Dearborn, Michigan. This hotel, interestingly, serves as an almost ideal location for a conference of this sort. The layout of the conference area provides both the informality essential to the conference "look and feel" and a layout conducive to wiring the conference network.
The hotel is located about 20 minutes from Detroit Metro Airport. For a handy map, check with our friends at Yahoo.
The closest airport to the hotel is Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW, for those of you about to look at Travelocity for tickets). There is also a commuter airport, Detroit City Airport. Detroit Metro has gates for all major airlines, in addition to being a hub for Northwest Airlines.
The best time to arrive is sometime on Wednesday before the conference begins. The conference begins at midnight, Thursday, which is really just a minute after 11:59 PM Wednesday. Don't get confused and think that you can arrive on Thursday. If you arrive on Thursday, you've already missed the keynote.
Don't worry about showing up too early. Take the opportunity to check out the pool and other amenities, because you'll be so busy once the conference starts you won't see them again. Also, early arrivals are always welcome to assist with the logistics of conference setup. This conference is unique and relies on the participation of the attendees to really work.
MacHack ends Saturday evening, like 9-ish, but everyone goes out to the movies afterwards and then comes back to the hotel to eat ice cream. So, you'll be up late Saturday night; and so shouldn't try to leave too early on Sunday because you won't have time to rest. Leaving sometime Sunday afternoon generally works pretty well, although people flying east generally have to leave late morning or early afternoon in order to get back to where they came from before too late.
There is a limousine service called MetroCars. They will meet your plane and deliver you to the hotel. Call them for more information or to make reservations.
Also, numerous cabs are available at the airport and sharing a ride to hotel is usually fairly reasonable.
Of course, regardless of how you intend to arrive, the odds are pretty good that you'll be able to mooch a ride or split cab fare with another attendee.
No, mankind lived for tens of thousands of years without a car, and almost all of the activities at MacHack are held at the hotel, so unless your personality somehow require a car be available you can do without one. There are three strip-malls, a major shopping center, and several restaurants within a mile of the hotel.
However, it's darn handy for some people to have cars for the occasional food run late at night and for ferrying everyone to the movie on Saturday. Preferably these people have an expense account from a big company which hasn't lost more than $700 million in the past year. If you're such a person, you might want to get a car. A big car.
When you exit the airport, take I-94 East to the Southfield exit. Go North on Southfield to Ford Rd. West exit. Exit, and go West to the Service drive. Once you exit you will be able to see the hotel. It nestles next to the Office Depot and the fast food place (turn right at the conveniently placed traffic light) on the service drive in the Northwest corner of the intersection of Southfield & Ford Rds.
Folks coming from the East can pick up I-75 North from I-80/90 in Toledo Good news! The major construction on I-75 in the Toledo/ Ohio border area is done! You can avoid downtown, however, by exiting U.S. 24 Telegraph Rd. Go North to I-94, take I-94 East., follow the directions from the airport.
Take I-94 East, and then follow the directions from the airport.
Take your best route to Windsor. Cross into the States at the bridge. Take the Jeffries Freeway (I-96). Take the Jeffries Freeway West to the Southfield Freeway. Go South to Ford Rd. West. From Ford Rd., turn right onto the service drive.
Yes, you can take the train. There is an Amtrak station about a mile from the hotel.
Past efforts have determined that standing in a quiet room, dressed casually, and tapping your heels together three times while repeating "I want to go to MacHack" doesn't work, but you could always give it a shot.
June in Michigan is a lovely month. In the past we've had a scorching heat wave, a year when it never went above 63 degrees F (blame the volcano), two tornadoes (same year, we were evacuated from our rooms twice in two days) with a lightning strike, and 8 other years when the weather was pretty darn near perfect - in the mid 70's to mid 80's, sunny or only mild rain, lows in the high 60's to 70. Bring an umbrella and hope for the best. Ultimately, with the conference running 24 hours-a-day, you probably won't get a chance to notice.
Of course. Do you think any of us would do without their email for that long? We will have a direct Internet connection in the Machine Room and we have been promised (it's in the contract this year) that every attendee's room will have a data port on the phone line. The internet will be available to all attendees in the large lobby, and we have extensive 802.11b wireless coverage in the conference areas.
As with all things, change is a constant. What with the WWDC date changes and economic conditions, you won't be able to bank on using someone else's machine. If you don't already own a Powerbook or iBook, you might want to use MacHack as your excuse to get one. We're working to make some machines available but we won't be sure until it all comes together just how many public access machines there will be. Thanks. -The Management
In general, go to the sessions that interest you. If you're a beginner, try to select sessions which aren't aimed at the hard-core hacker. If you've got a problem or don't know how to get some piece of code to work, go to one of the code clinics. Don't miss the keynote. It's probably also a good idea to hit a few of the Mac OS sessions.
Long ago, back when the Macintosh was young and Color Quickdraw was still a dream, Scott Boyd and Greg Marriott (hereafter referred to as the-guys-that-make-the-rules) decided that a conference called MacHack, which brought together some of the best Macintosh developers, should have a competition wherein the attendees tried to out-program each other, much in the same way mountain goats bash each other silly with those horns on top of their heads. Thus, amidst much grunting and bellowing was born the first hack contest. In short, many tried to write the coolest, neatest, most-impossible-that-can-never-work-but-golly-it-would-be-cool-if-it-could piece of software and show it around during the contest. A vote of attendees, tabulated by the-guys-that-make-the-rules, determines the winner.
Many enter; many demo their hacks on Friday night; and a honored few enter the hallowed registry of MacHack winners.
You can, in general, enter anything you've written in the Hack contest. You must be able to demo it in front of a group of your peers on Friday night; winners are announced Saturday evening after dinner. You don't have to create the hack at the conference, but it's more fun if you do.
We start moving equipment into the Machine Room on Tuesday. If you show up anytime on Wednesday and want to volunteer to help bring up the Machine Room, we welcome your assistance. Registration will open in the Operations Room about 3 PM on Wednesday. The kickoff session for MacHack is at midnight (between Wednesday and Thursday).
Good God, no!
MacHack is attended by the top professional developers in the field, but professional doesn't mean stiff. You can if you want to, but you WILL be abused. At least one person does usually wear a tie. Most people try to blot off the newest pizza stains from their T-shirt before they attend, but even this is optional.
Perhaps. There's always something happening at MacHack, and because of this some attendees have realized that they can get the most out of MacHack if they simply skip sleeping for the duration of the conference. Of course, this has its problems, and occasionally we've had to rescue tired MacHackers who fell asleep face-first in their ice cream at the Saturday festivities, but overall it works for some.
Other attendees have realized that, while sleep is for the weak and the sickly, it's also for the tired, and so these people sneak off and try to catch a few hours between 6 AM and noon, when lunch is served.
Do I need to bring my favorite six volumes of Inside Mac? (What tools/docs are available in the machine room?)
Most Macintosh related technical documentation is available in the machine rooms, including copies of the most recent developer CD's. A lot is of course available on the Web as well, and with a net connection... Well, you get the idea. Bring anything that you consider to be absolutely essential to the conference, though, just in case. CD-ROMs are handy for this.
In short, probably. With changes in economic conditions and the timing of WWDC relative to MacHack this year, there aren't large numbers of machines available for the Machine Room. We'll be working to make some public access terminals available, but there's no way of predicting if the machine you need is going to be available when you need it. If you have a laptop/Powerbook/iBook, bring it. Otherwise, this year's MacHack might be a good excuse to buy that aluminum lunch tray.
Writing a complete hack at the show is tough unless you have a clear idea of what it's going to be when you walk in the door. I solve that by bringing all the code I've ever worked on and reusing heavily. Be aware that it's traditional for Hacks to be put on the conference CD with complete source, so you probably don't want to put anything proprietary into a hack (unless you're willing to buck tradition and not distribute the hack). If you do bring any source code that's proprietary, drop the money for PGPDisk. It's good security, and that way if your PowerBook or HD gets stolen, you just lose the hardware.
Don't stress too much about writing a hack. There are sessions during the daylight, and there are lots of folks who want to work on hacks, but either don't have an idea, or have realized that their hack is Far Too Big to get done in time. Teaming up with such folks is a good way to get into the action, and you probably learn more that way than working by yourself. I strongly recommend teaming up with someone your first year.
As for coming up with ideas, there are a few classes of hacks. Glam hacks look cool. They often win. Hacks that don't demo well seldom win, even if they're incredibly cool. Hacks that actually have some value usually lose votes for being "useful". In 1997 there were a whole slew of MacsBug hacks for some reason. Because there were so many, none of them did very well, even though a couple were pretty cool. You can't predict that kind of thing ahead of time, but you might be able to spot it by listening to folks in the machine room and lobby. I generally try to bring two ideas to MacHack. One "useful" hack that's going to teach me something (and maybe turn into shareware), and one "stupid" hack that's just for fun.
Look at the winners from previous years on the MacHack website for ideas. I generally look at cool new technologies from Apple, since QuickTime is often a source of glam hacks.
There are some folks who just hang out and socialize. Dave Polasek has been doing more and more of that the past couple years. While the hack show is a high point of the conference, it's not the only thing there.
There were no Apple representatives at MacHack 1. For MacHack 2, Apple sent one person. A sweet, gentle, young, new hire named Jordan Mattson. After the first day of the conference, Jordan became very tired of answering the same questions over and over in the hallways. He proposed to have an "Apple Feedback" session where he would take questions from the audience and try to answer them as best he could. So we put him up in front of the room with a microphone. We also put a very big person with a baseball bat at the table with him. Jordan took questions and wrote down things to take back to Apple for over 4 hours that night. Because of the imprecise nature of the English language, every single strange, unusual, stupid, great, or otherwise policy or pronouncement that Apple had made in it's history became the fault of the person in the front of the room. "Why did you do .....?" Because Jordan was the only Apple person in sight, everything was, de facto, his fault. After that Apple sent more and more people to MacHack, so no one person ever since has had to take the flack that intensely. But of course, everything is still Jordan's fault.
When the "Where's Waldo" craze was at its height, the T-shirt for MacHack was a schematic of the hotel and the events during MacHack. Waldemar Horwat had been in charge of the paper's track at MacHack for several years and was a natural for the person to be looking for.
The original Macintosh used a Motorola 68000 processor. Each instruction that the processor could execute was assigned a number. Well, for future expansion options, Motorola didn't assign every single number to an instruction. Specifically, every instruction that began with hexadecimal "A" was unimplemented. If you gave such an instruction to the processor, it wouldn't know how to execute it, and would throw an exception that the operating system would have to handle.
The clever Mac OS programmers used this mechanism as a space-efficient way for applications to "call" into the operating system. The application would load registers and/or build up the stack, and lay the "trap" instruction which would force the operating system to take control. The OS would figure out what's going on, Do The Right Thing™, and gracefully return control back to the application.
After the hack show, the-guys-that-make-the-rules headed over to Duke's Hardware, a great old-tyme hardware store, to buy cheap (sub-dollar) trinkets to "award" the hack show contestants. The greatest award is the A-Trap award, which is a Victor Rat Trap turned upside down. The "V" becomes an "A" -- thus the physical embodiment of the critical A-Trap implementation.