This year we had our annual hackathon in the Austrian Outback in a region called Bregenzerwald. In a beautiful environment, ESR Labs employees gathered into a summer cabin for three days, devoting their time to cool software projects. In Bregenzerwald the scenery is spectacular, and it provides great possibilities for outdoor activities in the woods and hills. The weather also happened to be unusually warm considering the Highland altitude.

The surroundings were of lesser importance, however, because our mission was to dedicate our time to hacking. The essence of the LabDays is to let people stretch their imagination by bringing in new ideas and gather a team to implement them. Optimally the idea is concise enough to be applied in just a couple of days, but it can also be part of a bigger project. At the end of the event, each team should have a result that they can then present to others and have it available for further development. The important thing is that everyone has a chance to work with different people and on different topics than they normally do during their daily work.

Project ideas that popped up included an automated plant watering system, an embedded Web server, a publisher/subscriber framework, a JavaScript visualization for AUTOSAR and a card game running on Android. With a variety like this, there were interesting bits for everyone, and they could pick a task where they could use their existing skills while also learning something new.

Because our cabin was in the wilderness in the middle of nowhere, we also had to prepare the food ourselves. Thus another big topic in the event was cooking. The food was delicious, indicating that ESR Labs might have some future in Catering if we ever go out of software business.

When not coding or cooking, people were having a great time taking part in various recreation activities like biking, swimming, hiking or having a beer.

The place itself resembled a small farm because it was swarming with animals, like ducks, geese, a lot of flies and an omnivorous dog called Nico.

Sometimes the hacking went out of hand and lasted throughout the night, ending up passing out on the keyboard and waking up with a headache.

“I will never hack again.”

Finally, there were the demos. All of them were inspiring, and many projects will be developed further after the LabDays either as a side project or during the next such event. In addition to the nice LabDays T-shirts, people went home with a bunch of mini projects, some of which might even grow to be real projects one day.