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Thread: i, Hacker

  1. #1
    Regular irick's Avatar
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    i, Hacker

    The hacker subculture is a rather fun one. In its simpelist form is it people who enjoy being playfully clever. It is a mainly online subculture with a long history. I started being interested in it when I first started a real delve into operating systems and networking.

    As a whole it grew out of the phone Phreakers, which were basicly people who figured out the control codes for the AT&T networking equipment. This allowed them to explore the intracacies of the then most complex networking infastructure known to man. They even found and submitted patches for various exploits. Most Phreakers had a strong code of ethics regarding network usage, on the extream side of that were people like Wozniak (a personal hero of mine) who actually paid for all of their call time when exploring the system, but pretty much all of them had a simple rule: don't act with ill intent.

    Technology advanced and with it, so did the culture surrounding it. For the longest time the hacker subculture had been growing in accademic circles with the big iorn installations and the microcomputers. Back then most computers were reserved for mathmatics and other hard science students. The Hackers of those old accademic institutions where mostly from the liberal arts. English majors especially, unrelated to the traditional hard scientists but with a keen grasp of the linguistic structure of early programing languages. Late at night they would sneak into the computer labs and hammer out code. As computers advanced, eventually multiple people could use a single big iorn, as such access became more widespread and the Hacker culture spread with it.

    Then came the microcomputer. It was afordable and eventually networkable. The origens of the popular microcomputer are also extreamly interesting, involving that aformentioned hero of mine. Phreaks and Hackers really made the early home computer and in that wide spread availability those cultures converged. Newsgroups gave wy to BBSes which gave way to the Internet. Through each of these transitions the hacker spirit remained. That playful cleverness pushed the limits and spread with those who exhibited that sort of curiosity.

    I had that curriosity. Alone, for a while, I probed at what I could. An atari 800, an IBM PC, a NextCUBE up until my first wholy mine computer: an IBM Thinkpad. We had dial up at the time, but it was on the family computer. One of my first little pokes at cleverness was figuring out how to log into that account from my laptop. It wasn't trivial in the windows 95 days, and I felt proud. I was eight years old at the time.

    Eventually I discovered newsgroups. It did not take long for me to discover chat rooms, and then IRC. I learned all I could about computers, about networking. I learned all I could about software. I loved it. Much like the furry fandom, the hacker subculture doesn't have a lot of preconspetions because most people you meet are a screen name or an email address. Even though I was a kid, they took me seriously.

    They became my peers and I learned more from them then I ever did at school in a way that was fun. For many people hacker is this sort of security boogyman, or some politically motivated 'hacktivist'. These are perversions of the word for me. Hackers are playfully clever people. They are ethical people. Everyone is touched by this hacker spirit, everyone has moments where they just figure it out and get that joy of discovery that is so central to the hacker culture. It doesn't even have to involve computers. The term originated from the model train club up at MIT! Any feild can have this wonderfully out of left feild or particularly clever bit of innovation. Being a hacker is embracing your curriosity and questioning the world around you.

    My involvement with the hacker culture drove my intellectual curriosity and developed my critical thinking. This is something that is so needed in today's world.

  2. #2
    Regular Ouiji's Avatar
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    I dabble here and there with it, even went to DEFCON a couple times. Everyone can benefit from picking apart the technology they use everyday and actually learning what makes it tick.

  3. #3
    Solifugid Onnes's Avatar
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    I think the extremely rapid expansion of computers has somewhat marginalized hacker culture. There's so many specific domains and applications that the concept of a single culture seems lost. In the physical sciences, we experiment extensively with mathematical methods and data acquisition techniques. But most of us are largely separate from other areas like traditional applications in web development and operating systems. In this sense we tend to be our own world of scientific computing, without much real contact with anything resembling hacker culture.
    Last edited by Onnes; 02-15-2014 at 01:37 PM. Reason: Fixed confusing phrasing

  4. #4
    My experience with hacking has never gone beyond that of a code-kiddie. I view trying to pick apart or understand the inner workings of computers beyond a practical level to be pointless since the technology changes so much and there's always someone out there with knowledge and experience dedicated to the craft who's shared their stuff with the world. Why try to re-invent the wheel? Also if I did want to learn how to hack systems I would inevitably do so with ill-intent. Breaking into homes and cars, that's scary but certainly within my skillset. Into computers? Not so much on both accounts.
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  5. #5
    Regular irick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TeenageAngst View Post
    My experience with hacking has never gone beyond that of a code-kiddie. I view trying to pick apart or understand the inner workings of computers beyond a practical level to be pointless since the technology changes so much and there's always someone out there with knowledge and experience dedicated to the craft who's shared their stuff with the world. Why try to re-invent the wheel? Also if I did want to learn how to hack systems I would inevitably do so with ill-intent. Breaking into homes and cars, that's scary but certainly within my skillset. Into computers? Not so much on both accounts.
    This may sound heavy handed, but this is out of genuine concern both for your individual growth and for the popular portrayal of this subculture.

    Hacking is not bypassing security. You can hack a security system, and you can hack a jelly donut. Explicitly bypassing security just for the sake of bypassing security is not hacking, nor is it part of the hacker culture nor its ethic. Hacking is solving a problem in a creative way, whether that be jelly being squeezed out of a donut or trying to get get an encrypted ebook to work on a competitor's device. In all forms of hacking you create a solution, if you explicitly create a solution in order to facilitate malicious and illegal acts, that is not hacking. It is not being playfully clever. That is being a clever criminal.

    Note, some people would argue that any slightly iffy activity makes you a criminal. I won't argue this, it's black and white thinking: but you need good ethics. You need to respect your peers. You can stick it out at the man/system/etablishment/<metaphor for powers that be here> for all he/it/she/they do(es) to hold you back, but if you are out there indiscriminately lashing out you are in some serious need of a moral compass alignment.

    In the computer security circles you will hear about hats. Black, Grey and White. I'm opposed to the classification of these people as hackers, because in the context that it is discussed the focus is so narrow that it cuts out nearly all of the programing subculture. These are computer security professionals, they may also be hackers on the side. Black hats do what they do for personal profit in an illegal way. Grey hats do what they do for the hell of it, legal or not. White hats do what they do in a legal way, profit and not. Any way you slice it, you can be a great computer security professional, but make no mistake: if you throw ethics to the wind and go abusing any little tidbit of knowledge or tool you find you are acting as nothing more than a bully.

    Intent makes the world of difference. Better yourself always no mater the path you lead so that you may make this world a more pleasant one to live in. Working to the detriment of your fellows is a waste of your time and only leaves a foul odor to remember you by.

    As for learning the ins and outs of computers: not everyone needs to. If you lack the skill or inclination to learn about how a computer works, then apply yourself in another field. The important thing is to find something you enjoy, life is too short not to.

    Quote Originally Posted by Onnes View Post
    I think the extremely rapid expansion of computers has somewhat marginalized hacker culture. There's so many specific domains and applications that the concept of a single culture seems lost. In the physical sciences, we experiment extensively with mathematical methods and data acquisition techniques. But most of us are largely separate from other areas like traditional applications in web development and operating systems. In this sense we tend to be our own world of scientific computing, without much real contact with anything resembling hacker culture.
    *shrug* I don't think so. I'm but twenty two and my experience in college has been that the hacker culture is pretty well and alive. We live in exciting times, our cultures are globally connected and technology is advancing at a rapid pace. Never before has so much information been available to so many. Curiosity exists in all fields, as does cleverness and playfulness. Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity was a wonderful hack on the peer review system and the particle physicists in particular have done to free up their findings from the normal lock and key of paywalls and professional societies. The freedom of knowledge and the freedom to seek knowledge are core concepts to Hackerdom.

    Be a renaissance man. Dip your toe into the waters of other fields. As Heinlein put it: specialization is for insects. In what time was it easier to gain scientific literacy? Though now fields are so deep it would take a lifetime to master any one, building up a basis of knowledge that is useful cross discipline is not. Look at the rapidly evolving field of cognitive science, for instance. It spans the humanities as well as the hard and soft sciences. Though it is easy to get far into one field as to lose sight of the others, it seems to me just as easy to cast a curious eye on the advancement of all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ouiji View Post
    I dabble here and there with it, even went to DEFCON a couple times. Everyone can benefit from picking apart the technology they use everyday and actually learning what makes it tick.
    Defcon is a lot of fun, I have to admit. I'm recently really excited about the prospect of common and cheep 3D printers, programmable embedded systems and the open culture movement. I can't wait to see the sort of advancement we'll see when someone can throw together a prototype with minimal effort and use pretty much the same techniques to actually go to market!
    Last edited by irick; 02-16-2014 at 01:22 AM.

  6. #6
    Incredible how marginalized the term is, at first glance when I read the title I thought "oh shit, somethingīs gonna roll" then took the time to read the entire post and I thought "oh, fascinating". Glad to read not every hacker is a "hacktivist" and that the term isnīt just reserved to computers.

  7. #7
    Regular irick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AineCleine View Post
    Incredible how marginalized the term is, at first glance when I read the title I thought "oh shit, somethingīs gonna roll" then took the time to read the entire post and I thought "oh, fascinating". Glad to read not every hacker is a "hacktivist" and that the term isnīt just reserved to computers.
    I don't really have any beef about hacktivists in general, it's just kind of offensive that they've been branded as such. For some reason we need special words for <verb/noun> on a computer. Being a hacker may make you inclined to be an activist, I don't know, but I do know that DDOSing and hijacking poorly secured databases has very little to do with hacking. It may involve being clever, it may even be somewhat playful, but it's like saying that because some athlete use their skills to commit daring capers that we now need to call them professional curling crooks.

    It is the state of things, however, that for some reason we decide to criminalize curiosity. I can pretty much get where some of the hacktivists who are just advocating better security are coming from. By hiding behind Anonymous they don't have to deal with the fallout of making a misstep or even just communicating the issue to a company or agency. All around the world, people can get arrested because they do a Google search and some idiot forgot to properly update their robots.txt. They make the horrible mistake of alerting someone and suddenly they need a scape goat.

    That mentality has become so pervasive. Our subculture used to thrive on sharing information, now just figuring out someone has a problem and reporting it to them (not even public disclosure) can land you in jail or with a hefty fine. Companies spin their actions in such a way that the name of our whole subculture has become synonymous with cyber-crime (another on-a-computer verb). It's something I feel strongly about, especially because the values I see hacking it are nothing but good.

  8. #8
    I'm not really sure what you're trying to say but I think you're a little too philosophical for someone who's into the technological equivalent of jury-rigging. You seem really irked at the idea of people using their abilities to their advantage, while at the same time advocate being "playfully clever", which from your context seems like being that guy who's smug about using their abilities and knowledge. I've "hacked" quite a lot of stuff in my day by your broad and rather strange definition, but it was all out of necessity. Some for good, some for bad.
    Last edited by TeenageAngst; 02-16-2014 at 05:38 AM.
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  9. #9
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    To say that hacking beyond what's practical is pointless is to say that innovation is pointless. Without hackers and tinkerers, we wouldn't have had the Apple computer, we wouldn't have had Linux (and thus Android), etc. Those "someone(s) out there with knowledge and experience dedicated to the craft who's shared their stuff with the world" are the very definition of hackers who go far greater in-depth and who get to know the ins and outs of systems beyond what is practical. That's the domain of engineers; Hackers, at least by irick's definition (and mine) are future engineers.

    Quote Originally Posted by TeenageAngst View Post
    Also if I did want to learn how to hack systems I would inevitably do so with ill-intent.
    This statement is both terrifying and very telling about your personality. This actually reminds me of the arguments super conservative Christians make against atheism because without someone constantly watching them, what's to stop them from doing terrible things (in other words, morality comes from God and the godless are without)?

  10. #10
    I like to style myself a hacker. I've done lots of little things to work around limitations and bend technology to my will. Most of it benign, some of it not. I used to be part of the iPod modding scene (under a different name) and wrote a utility to let a person manually delete and resize images from the firmware. That was fun and harmless. I've also written a crack for Minecraft, with the goal of not just rewriting the launcher (to make it an actual challenge). That was also fun, and not quite so harmless (not that it matters, since I never updated it to work with the new launcher and let my SSL certificate expire).

    Right now I'm poking around to see if I can optimize an algorithm to squeeze every last cycle out of an old, underpowered CPU, just to say I did.

 

 

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