Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Hacking Manifesto

The Conscience of a Hacker (a.k.a. The Hacker Manifesto) is a small essay written January 8, 1986 by a hacker who went by the handle (or pseudonym) of The Mentor (born Loyd Blankenship). It was written after the author's arrest.

It is considered a cornerstone of hacker culture, and it gives some insight into the psychology of early hackers. It is said to have shaped the hacker community's view of itself and its motivations. The Manifesto states that hackers choose to hack because it is a way for them to learn, and because they are often frustrated and bored in school. It also expresses the satori of a hacker realizing his potential in the realm of computers.

To this day, the Manifesto acts as a guideline to hackers across the globe, especially those new to the field. It serves as an ethical foundation for hacking, and asserts that there is a point to hacking that supersedes selfish desires to exploit or harm other people (like black hat crackers/hackers), and that technology should be used to expand our horizons and try to keep the world free.

\/\The Conscience of a Hacker/\/

+++The Mentor+++

Written on January 8, 1986


Another one got caught today; it's all over the papers. "Teenager Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal", "Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering". Damn kids. They're all alike.

But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950's techno brain, ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him? I am a hacker. Enter my world. Mine is a world that begins with school. I'm smarter than most of the other kids. This crap they teach us bores me. Damn underachiever. They're all alike.

I'm in junior high or high school. I've listened to teachers explain for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. "No, Ms. Smith, I didn't show my work. I did it in my head." Damn kid. Probably copied it. They're all alike.

I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it's because I screwed it up. Not because it doesn't like me or feels threatened by me. Or thinks I'm a smart ass. Or doesn't like teaching and shouldn't be here. Damn kid. All he does is play games. They're all alike.

And then it happened. A door opened to a world. Rushing through the phone line like heroin through an addict's veins, an electronic pulse is sent out. A refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought. A board is found. "This is it. This is where I belong." I know everyone here even if I've never met them, never talked to them, may never hear from them again. I know you all. Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They're all alike.

You bet your ass we're all alike. We've been spoon-fed baby food at school when we hungered for steak. The bits of meat that you did let slip through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We've been dominated by sadists, or ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us willing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.

This is our world now. The world of ‘The Electron’ and ‘The Switch’, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good. Yet, we're the criminals.

Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for.

I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can't stop us all. After all, we're all alike.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eyes Wide Shut

I should have been asleep by now. There is an important class tomorrow. But fortune favors the foolish. Or so I presume. I have not come to believe otherwise. However, I must narrate this story. It’s like a butterfly. If I let it slip now, I will never be able to capture it. I must not create a ruckus. The room-mate has just stirred in his sleep. We must all listen in silence. And with patience.

I had just brushed my teeth and decided to call it a day when a strange train of thoughts was set into motion. It must have been the research I did for my quiz. I think I studied a bit too much about Kubrick. He got me intrigued. His strange persona and an even stranger way of confining it to celluloid. I had to see it for myself. There was no other way.

I did the needful. And when I did, I was simply stunned. The theme of A Clockwork Orange has to be called a landmark. I don't think anything else would suffice. It forced me to contemplate about such possibilities. Can extreme violence, christened ultraviolence, turn a person into a coward? Then came Eyes Wide Shut. It floored me.

The movie showcases an entirely different world. A world where there is a single emotion – lust. No other feeling comes in the way of this overwhelming passion. Love is not the magic word anymore. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is one primal instinct – the need for sex and physical satisfaction. Remember all those songs about promises and devotion that we grooved to? Well, they don’t hold any water anymore. Not in this make believe world anyway. Or is it not that fictional after all? Has it been lurking around in the corners ever since the dawn of civilization? Ever since we decided to curb that impulse and hide it away under the guise of civilization?

It would be interesting to discuss both sides of the argument here. But instead of arguments, I just have some more questions. And questions can not be confined to categories. Are human beings incapable of fidelity? Is the basic instinct too overpowering to be curbed? Can LOVE do it for us? Or will there always be suspicion lingering in our minds? Is it only the masculine gender which is more prone to such fantasies? Or is the fairer sex an equal culprit?

We might do a romantic take on things as well. We might say that i>Love makes a person less mortal and more divine. It is responsible for making us rise above these vile emotions. It makes us find heavenly bliss in mortal eyes. But then again, isn’t the supreme act of love sex itself? How do we distinguish between the two? Romantics might differentiate. Cynics might align them in the same row. I will refrain from giving my opinion. It is liable to be prejudiced.

I think, in the end, it’s all about a decision. Do we seek pleasure or happiness? Do we seek to keep giving in to our primal instincts, again and again? Or do we shun the lust for that ephemeral pleasure, put on the garb, and stake our claim to keeping the human race civilized? Do we choose to shut our eyes or keep them wide open?

It’s just the way I am feeling. Everybody has the right to disagree with it. I guess I must start devouring the masters from now on. There has to be something about the way they capture their ideas on film. I wouldn’t have been floored otherwise. Full Metal Jacket coming up Sir. Next on the menu are Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On Comments

Why do decent posts end up with just one or two comments while crappier ones end up having as many as ten?

I am not taking offense. Just curious.

Friday, September 07, 2007

On Fiascoes

Yeah, the exams have ended. Not that they ended the way I had thought they would. Screwed up some of them (or was it all of them?). But, you are not here to read about fiascoes, are you? You are here to read about the good things in life and how people manage to triumph over all odds. Right?

Ok. So let me tell you an anecdote. A story about a boy who was definitely not named Siddhartha. Any resemblance is purely and strictly co-incidental. Now back to our story. This boy was filled with brilliant ideas. He was what they call, a "genius". Of course, at that time, he was too humble to believe the same. I think he was very correct in doing so. Best not to put ideas where they seem out of place.

On we go. He kept hitting back at whatever hit him. He had the will and strength to succeed. He had the chutzpah to dream big. But then somewhere down the line, the confidence began to waver. The will began to falter. The iron was hot and the hammer struck at the wrong time. It knocked the wind out of him. The demon of fiasco slithered down his throat and settled at the very bottom of his gut. It became a parasite, feeding on what kept him going.

But it would take more than that to actually defeat him. Or so he thought. Little did he know that the effect had already started to sink in. He could see the results but was too blind to notice the reasons. Ah! This is getting depressing, is it? We must add a hint of spice to our little anecdote. Or else, like all predictable stories, our audience will leave the theater - disappointed and hurling profanities.

But before the spice, comes the anti-climax. The time when everything seemed to be at logger horns with him, our boy. Hours flitted by like nothings. Opportunities passed by like graceful girls giggling on the street. No one seemed to notice the struggle within. Even he pretended to ignore it, thinking that it was all meant to be. Thinking that it was meant to be taken in stride. The very effort of it turned his guts inside out, leaving him as hollow as a, let's say, dementor.

But then, we needed our spice, our sting in the tale. Something stirred up inside our Boy. He realized he was not meant for great things. But he was not meant for mundane things either. He had a talent and letting it go in vain would certainly earn him HIS chide. He gathered his scattered belongings - the friends whom he had turned over to the demon inside of him. He tried cutting at the roots of the poison ivy inside him. The effort left him exhausted. He wondered if the entire rigmarole was worth the effort. He lost sight of his beacon, more often than he kept track of it.

But, I presume he hasn't given up yet. He continues to falter. He's more human than me or you. He continues to try. Often succeeding, more often failing. I hope he never gives up hope. For Hope is the best of things. For Hope is the worst of things.

In the meanwhile, loudspeakers blare in the vicinity at the highest decibel levels. People get their long-needed hair cuts. Men of Wisdom indulge in senseless ramblings they call bakar. Some complain. Some ridicule. Some chuckle. I sit and try to etch it all down. For you, my dear. For Him. For posterity.