SXSW 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 11.38.16 AMI didn’t make it to SXSW in 2015, as planned; but, I am going this year! My flight is booked (Delta) and my hotel is reserved (Marriott). If you can’t get a hotel downtown your life will be miserable and the thought of massive traffic jams?… I just cannot and I will not deal with it (even in my own city), so will be doing A LOT of walkingAustin, TX has changed drastically since my time there in 2001 as an intern with Dell Computer and I’m VERY MUCH looking forward to attending this festival for the first time and exploring the city.

So, what will I do? That’s a great question and one I am working on answering. First of all, I am NOT registering. Official badges range from $495 to $1,745 and I have no tolerance or interest in doing that. There are plenty of free events I can partake in and I plan to do just that so I will be 100% #unofficial!

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The festival is divided into 3 portions:

  1. Interactive: March 11-15
  2. Film: 11-19
  3. Music: March 15-20

I will be there for the music portion only so that helps limit/target my research. So, how do you do it? First off, you absolutely must RSVP for a free SXSW Guest Pass – it will grant you access to all of their free events (there are quite a few). After that, you can download the SXSW mobile app (iOS, Android) and have access to information on the go. Spotify (rsvp), StubHub (rsvp) and Pandora (rsvp) all have FREE all-day music events – that’s enough in itself!!! (RSVP for everything now, decide later) SIDE NOTE: Spotify is sponsoring a few SoulCyle sessions and I absolutely requested a bike! There are also “Unofficial SXSWTwitter and Facebook pages you check out. Turn on notifications for ALL associated social media accounts you can find and be sure to STAY IN THE KNOW, Bri Alys Style!!! #superexcited

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Austin, TX resources: TripAdvisor, Thrillist, Zagat, Walking Tours, Travel Channel, Austin360

Encryption

EncryptionToday I watched Eric Snowden’s address at SXSW, transcript. It was a very interesting discussion. One of the more interesting and recurring themes mentioned as a way to protect personal data is called Encryption. It dawned on me that some people may not know what this is, so I’m here to explain!

There’s a whole lot of information that we don’t want other people to see, such as:

  • Credit-card information

  • Social Security numbers

  • Private correspondence

  • Personal details

  • Sensitive company information

  • Bank-account information 

Encryption is the process of encoding (or making secret) information so that only the person (or computer) with the key can decode it (HowStuffWorks). While there are many ways to encrypt information what I want to focus on the easiest way to tell if a website you frequent is encrypting the information you provide. The way to tell is with HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure ). It describes HOW websites should transmit data.

Let me give you an example – You open your browser and head over to your bank’s website, say Chase. When you get to the site, you enter your username, password and click on the button that says Log In.

chase

What happens to the information (username, password) that you entered? How do we make sure that no one can easily intercept (or hack) the data and log in to your account later?? As mentioned earlier, the HTTPS protocol mandates that this information be transmitted in a secure way… For the sake of this post, you don’t have to understand any more details than that!

What I want to focus on is how you can tell if a website you frequent is following the HTTPS protocol. That’s important because if you log into a site that does not use HTTPS, it’s like the equivalent of writing your username and password on a postcard and mailing it for the entire world to see (Slashdot). The simplest way is to look at the browser bar – you know, where you typed “chase.com”. If the site is using one of many encryption methods, you will see https://www.chase.com/ instead of http://www.chase.com/. Go ahead and try it out on your favorite sites…

https

So, you may be asking to yourself… “If HTTPS is more secure, why doesn’t every website use it?” Well, that’s because it’s expensive and requires more processing power (computer hardware). Or you be thinking, “Why doesn’t someone mandate that personal data always be transmitted in this way?” Queue Congress and the NSA! …

I just want you to be AWARE of the situation. If you are asked to make a payment on a website and you don’t see HTTPS in the browser, politely decline! If there’s a new, hot social media site that you want to join that utilizes your personal information and you don’t see HTTPS, think again!

Now, I hate to burst any bubbles, but encryption algorithms CAN BE HACKED. In the case of Target and the recent credit card debacle, they actually were encrypting credit card data and pin numbers. The problem is with the method of encryption they used. And yes, you can combine more than one encryption method to make information transmission more secure. It would be sort of like using a key to lock your doors + having a dog + setting your house alarm before you leave for work each day (yes, someone can still break into your house, but AT LEAST you’ve taken measures to protect your assets.) Just keep in mind that the method and approach is currently left up to the individual business or entity.

Knowledge is Power!

SXSW 2015

ebonyI’ve made up in my mind that I will be attending the South by Southwest, SXSW, conference in Austin, TX in 2015. SXSW is an annual music, film, and interactive conference and festival held each year. I describe it as a myriad of art meets culture meets digital/tech which equals #AllThingsCool!!! Yes, it’s still early in 2014 and yes, this year’s conference is going on as we speak; but, this conference is so large that anyone who has an inkling that they may want to attend should start planning now. The likely dates are Friday, March 6th – Sunday, March 15th (1-week vacation noted). Ebony Magazine has a heavy presence so I’m excited about that, too! (see their popular giveaway in the photo the left)

courtyardThe first thing I know is that hotels will fill up quickly so I do a little research. Because I’m a Platinum Elite member with Marriott, I’m hoping to use that perk to score a room really close to the convention center (#NoDriving). There are 3 possibilities, 1 pretty likely, and all very close to the convention center. Although the Residence Inn provides free breakfast and a laid back environment, I’m not a huge fan of the bedding options, but it could work. The second option, Courtyard, is great because it offers double-beds and may be the key bringing the cost of my trip down (queue room mate music). The 3rd option I note is a JW Marriott opening the same month the conference kicks off. It’s a long shot (and likely very expensive), but what I can do at the moment is place a reminder on my calendar to get the ball rolling (I know Marriott books 52-weeks in advance). Assuming the rate will be $300/night and that I’ll probably stay 6 nights, my cost would be ~$900 (not including tax).

deltaNext, I need to find a travel buddy. Someone as geeky as me, who likes the arts. Hmmm… So, even though I vowed to give up Facebook, I post “Who’s up for SXSW 2015?” and eagerly await responses! In the meantime, I estimate the cost of a flight on my beloved Delta, purchased 3 months in advance for one week (Saturday to Saturday) to be around $350.

Next, on to registration. I note the costs ($995 for Gold), add it to my projected budget and move on. At the moment I can’t say for certain which option I’ll need, so to get remotely close to  making a decision, I locate an online version of this year’s schedule, just to get a taste of the offerings. My plan is to go through the schedule and highlight events that interest me (more on that later). This type of “wishful thinking” is not foreign to me… As a child I’d often grab my mom’s JC Penney catalog, pretend I was rich and make a list of everything I’d buy (clothing, houseware, bedding, you name it)… including style numbers, totals, quantities, colors, etc. Before you give me the side eye – a kid can dream, right??!

Anyhoo… I note a few other useful resources, SXSW’s mobile app and First Timer’s GuideMVMT50, No-Badge Guide and a few tips from local news outlets (Dallas Observer, MyFoxAustin). Comfortable shoes? Duly noted… bring on the shopping!

So yes, I’m serious... I’m going! This is the first of many posts that will track my preparation and eventually,  my adventures in Austin! Stay tuned for my next post and to see how my pre-planning pays off (or not!)