CryptoParty Durham wiki snapshot

Our meeting on 21st Oct 2014 is going to be a cryptoparty. This is a snapshot of the organising wiki page, taken from on 20th.

CryptoParty on October 21st, 2014

Welcome to the organising page for the Durham CryptoParty.

Book your place now ← This will not record anything about you other than what you write in the form. You can use a pseudonym.

Please book yourself a place if you intend to be there on the night in
any capacity, so we don’t overcrowd the room. If we get fully booked
we’ll think about putting on another event for anyone who we couldnt’
fit in.

There is no charge for attendance. We have been given free use of a room
on the understanding that we will be buying drinks at the bar which is
open from 7.30PM.

What is a CryptoParty?


Attend this CryptoParty to learn and teach how to use basic cryptography tools. A CryptoParty is free, public and fun. People bring their computers, mobile devices, and a willingness to learn! CryptoParty
is a decentralized, global initiative to introduce the most basic
cryptography software and the fundamental concepts of their operation to the general public, such as the Tor anonymity network, public key
encryption (PGP/GPG), and OTR (Off The Record messaging).

CryptoParties are free to attend, public, and commercially and politically non-aligned. (see the guiding principles)

Who should come?

Anyone who wants to learn about, or share their skills about, basic
cryptographic software. That means the kind of program that can keep
your personal information private, if you use it properly. So if you
don’t like the idea of strangers looking at your personal things, and
you use a computer, this is for you.

Who is organising this?

The event has been instigated by some members of Durham Linux User
Group, however the event is open to users of all computer systems. We’re
offering this event as a service to the community, because we think
it’s important that people should be able to protect their privacy (it
is a human right, after all) and because it’s fun 🙂

We are also reaching out to some other local groups in the hope of
involving them. If you have knowledge of a non-*nix system and are able
to help people use simple encryption tools on it, please make yourself
known (use an alias if you like) in the volunteers section below.

What should I do before I come?

This website you’re reading now has loads of useful information on it. Have a look at the documentation
and see what you make of it. If you find it easy, you can come along
and help people who didn’t find it easy. We can all learn something from
each other.

Keysigning session

We will be holding a keysigning session at the cryptoparty. This helps
us to build a Web of Trust both amongst ourselves and with the wider
online community.

To take part you will need to:

  • before the signing (preferably before the party to streamline things on the night)
    • generate a private PGP/GPG key – if you do not already have one.
    • send the key fingerprint to The following GPG command outputs the information that you need to send.
      • gpg –fingerprint <Your_Key_ID>
  • At the party.
    • be prepared to identify yourself/your key.
      • Typically we suggest that you bring yourself and two forms of photo ID.
      • However some people choose to only
        prove that they have control of a key and not to tie this to a
        government recognised form of ID.
      • See the examples under Keysigning policy for what options are generally used.
    • verify the ID of others at the party. We will be using the list based method. Copies of the keysigning list will be available at the party.
  • After the party.

More GPG & keysigning reading

Now the organising section…

Nobody is in charge so dive in and make it happen. You see those little
gray words that say “Edit” to the right of this? They are talking to you
kid. Also the thing at the top left that say “Edit this page” is also
talking to you, the difference is that does the whole page at once.

Go on… if you don’t do it, maybe no one will… and if you’re not sure
just edit the Q&A section and put in a question then check back
later to see if someone answered it.

What we have

This is what we’ve got:

  • Venue: Classroom at the Durham Amateur Rowing Club
  • Time: 7.30pm to 10.30pm
  • Desk space and chairs for up to 30 people
  • Plenty of power sockets
  • wifi
  • projector with VGA input if anyone wants to show stuff to the group
  • “break out” space in the bar
  • parking for cars and bikes. and boats for that matter.
  • level access for those with mobility problems
  • Real ale

What we need

Can you help us source these?

  • Snacks
  • Signage
  • Some old, cheapo USB flash
    drives to give away TAILS on. Anyone know where we can get some, e.g.
    some promotional ones that got overproduced?
    [TAILS needs at least
    4GB, or 8GB with a persistent volume, so old drives are likely to be
    far too small. We could easily set up TAILS for anyone who brings along
    their own USB drive.]
  • Relevant campaign stickers


In advance
Role Volunteer
Make some witty, attractive promotional materials who has dem skillz please?
Add good ideas to this wiki page all
Contact interested local groups all
Make some signs (A4 should do) to direct people to the right room who has access to a printer at work?
Bake a cake #1 mark will make one
Bake a cake #2 biscuits (session cookies?) olly
Pump out social media & other links & invitations pointing to this page all
Publicity and Inivitations

All of us should be inviting people and groups, however if one of those
people gets multiple invitations it would make us look like some dodgy
spam-lords. Which we aint. So record here when you invite someone. If
you’re thinking of inviting some people, check here first to see if
they’ve already been invited.

  • Durham Uni computer society
  • Durham Uni pro-bono lawyers
  • DU librarians
  • Durham student union activities
  • Durham Palestine Educational Trust
  • Durham Free Software Skillshare project
  • Transition Durham
  • Open Rights Group
On the night

I think the main plan is to hang loose and show each other cool stuff.
However if lots of people turn up needing a basic overview of a topic,
it would be cool to have a 5-minute presentation prepared, would it not?
There are slides already on this wiki for us to use. Could folks nominate themselves here / add your offer to the list, or take one of these:

Role Volunteer
PGP basics Olly
PGP keysigning Rich M
Simple TOR usage with TBB mark
OTR Dan + someone else? Alice and Bob?
Hard disk encryption several of us know how to use dmcrypt?
Mac go-to person Helen
Windows go-to person Rich P

Questions and Answers

please add Q/A depending on what you have

Q Will the cakes be stored in a CryptoPantry?

A No, nor will they contain keys.

Q I have a 3D printer which can dispense solder paste. Can I use it to render my key into icing on top of a cake?

A You should definitely do that. Use a clean syringe though.

Q Who should attend?

A Anyone who wants to learn or share how to use simple encryption tools

Q What should I bring?

A Bring a portable computing device if you want help to use it

Learn to program the DIY way

Starting this week, some of Durham’s Free Software Skill-Sharers will be learning to program together. We’ve formed a small study group which will have face-to-face meet-ups for peer support, and we’ll be keeping in touch by email as well.

At the moment we’re open to more people joining in – if you’d like to give it a try, join in the conversation on our mailing list (read the archives to see what’s happening, then subscribe and post a message to the list). This is completely free of charge, but comes with no guarantees; we’re just some people doing it because we want to.

We’re going to be learning a language called Python, using a book called “Learn Python the Hard Way” which is available for free on the internet. The name is inaccurate – the author is just making a point that you need to practise in order to get good at anything. It is suitable for people who have never programmed before.

With the new national curriculum, kids have to learn to program in school from a very young age, so this is an opportunity to be able to help your grandchildren / children / buddies / self with your homework (depending on how old you are), or just to be able to say, “Aha, let Grandma show you how I’d do that in python”.

People give many different reasons for learning to program (also know as learning to code) including:

  • self-directed learning looks good on your CV
  • it could lead to higher study or employment in IT
  • it enables you to make your own programs which work just how you want
  • you learned how to program in BASIC on the BBC Micro and you want to know what’s changed since then
  • it teaches problem-solving
  • it provides a way in to an understanding of the world of information
  • it is a creative act that demands no other justification

We’re just starting now, so it won’t take you long to catch up… just start at the beginning of the book and let’s see where it leads us…

Time to share that free (software) love

In February, I met a bloke in a local bookshop who was bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t find out what was going on in his area, because he didn’t have a computer. There used to be some in his local library, but they broke down. I was surprised at first – everyone I know uses computers every day – but this man was from a generation that relied on leaflets and newspapers to find out what was going on. He couldn’t afford to buy a computer, and also he’d need some help and a few pointers to get started. So we talked about getting an unwanted computer and installing a free OS on it. And as we spoke, we figured out that the time was ripe for this sort of thing.

Some of us have been banging on about the merits of free software for so long that it can get to feel like we’re always going to be a minority. Perhaps we get so familiar with trying to convert skeptical users of proprietary operating systems to join us in our eccentric linuxy ways, that it just feels like it’s always going to be like this. But what if external factors coincided in such a way that fairly suddenly, it made much more sense for Windows users to switch to desktop GNU/Linux than ever before? And it became easier for volunteers to put working machines in the hands of people who otherwise wouldn’t have any? Would we be ready to push at that open door, and grow the desktop-user numbers in our communities exponentially?

Here are a few things that have happened recently, which I’m going to suggest conspire to create just such a moment of possibility. Firstly, consider that a lot of people are seriously skint at the moment, so buying a computer is going to be difficult. Secondly, there are loads of computers knocking about that used to run Windows XP, which as of last month reached the end of its support life, so there should be lots of people looking for a new operating system; they might even have heard that the new versions of Windows are very different and unpopular with many ex-XP users; likewise, there’ll be lots of machines getting decommissioned by organisations that won’t install a new OS. Thirdly, open formats are gaining acceptance, so the days when people are expected to do simple tasks with proprietary formats (docx for example) could soon be over.

If you combine all of that with the things we’ve been talking about for years; all the social, technical and environmental benefits of running a free operating system; it starts to sound like this really could be a significant moment in the uptake of GNU/Linux by ordinary, non-technically-minded folks. I’ve talked to a lot of people over the last couple of months about how we can work together to make this happen.

Looking around, there are these amazing things already going on:

  1. NELUG – a great bunch of helpful, knowledgeable and highly skilled linux users
  2. Transition Durham – a network of people and groups who (amongst other things) are interested in re-use and recycling, planned carbon descent and building resilient communities
  3. Durham Community Support Centre – who are working with a lot of digitally excluded people, and are interested in education

So, we had a meeting on April 24th 2014 to sort out how we could work together and make something good happen. Here are a few of the key points to come out of that.

  • We agreed that the model of skill-sharing without hierarchy, as pioneered in the Escuela Moderna and subsequent practice was a good fit with the ethics of free software and community education. This means that people can both learn and teach, and are encouraged to do both. The idea of a gift economy was also mentioned, as being a community-reinforcing aspect of free culture.
  • We recognised that we were a diverse group of people with some common interests but also some differences, and for that reason it was important to set up a project that was autonomous, so we can benefit from association with the three organisations listed above, without anyone feeling that they need to belong to organisation x,y or z to participate. We want to be open to all-comers.
  • We talked about who we would like to attract as participants, and decided to target beginners who needed help either getting a machine to run a free operating system, or using free software applications. We could also signpost people to other organisations, e.g. user groups, and resources, e.g. free online courses.
  • We agreed to work towards holding our first event on Saturday, July 26th 2014 from 10am to 3pm at Durham Miners’ Hall. They have wifi.
  • We’ll work up an evolving document (see this skillshare proposal) to introduce what we’re doing and why, and propose a loose structure for the first event.
  • D. volunteered to design some posters/fliers, with some help on the content
  • We noted that a lot of our target group won’t have regular computer access, so we’ll need to reach them through off-line means, e.g. suitably positioned posters & fliers, via other groups, word of mouth, etc.

Progress since then…

  1. M. and B. have been to the Miners’ Hall and checked out the room – it is suitable for the kind of session we have in mind. Also, we’re helping the Community Support Centre (in the same building) to get some old XP machines running Linux Mint, for use by their visitors.
  2. Because we agreed to be autonomous from the three organisations above, we need our own blog, although there’ll hopefully be a lot of cross-referencing with this one you’re reading now. So M. has set one up provisionally (domain to be discussed and mapped later)