Turing's Man Blog

Hacking. A way of live?

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Hacking. A kind of attitude one person presents which helps to define new challenges and to find their unique, non-expected solutions. Widely popular in many industries and human activities, “hacking” is having its own, special place in the hearts of IT crowd. However, the term “hacker”, which initially was positive, to some extent is now degraded and definitely misunderstood by wider public due to non-competent journalism and pragmatic marketing, many still remember about its roots. The main problem is not with the “hacking” itself, as there is nothing bad in finding wise solutions and workarounds for demanding issues, but with the object of “hacking” activities.


The Glider: A Universal Hacker Emblem. Inspired by the figure known from Conway's Game of Life



Therefore, if one is using her/his “hacking” attitude to break the law or social rules, to hurt others or manipulate, she/he is nothing more than “criminal”, “sociopath”, “sadist” or “manipulator”. It's obvious. On the other way, when “hacking” attitude is used for creating added value for human and the whole society, it gains highly humanistic and positive meaning. Many used to say - “hacking is a way of life” - and if it's a way of life, one cannot expect the way itself to guide him. All decisions have to be made personally with ethics and morality in mind. It's like with Martial Arts – there is nothing bad in them, but person mastering given art has to decide to follow the code and develop her/his spiritual strength, as well as body and mental health. Once the code is released, Martial Art is no longer “art of living” and became the set of useless – from the self development point of view combat techniques. The same rule can be applied to “hacking”. When used for evil activities to gain the control over something, someone or reach the target, just to satisfy one's ill ambitions, it's no longer positive. It's no longer the “art of living”. This is not the way which is worth to be glorified. It's not the mastery. Just pure evil.


Dojo Kun
Don't mess the guidelines on proper way... [taken from: Wikipedia]



For some unknown reason, today, “hacking” is mainly related to writing code, generally – programming. This stereotype, as all other stereotypes, evolved from generalization and scale effect. Probably most people presenting “hacking” attitude are interested in computer software today. Although, it's worth to be mentioned that at its very beginning “hacking” was not only “code oriented”, but more often it was related to hardware itself or even – challenge itself. This could be the way to solve mathematical, abstract exercise in a positive and smart manner with best possible approach. In fact, nothing has changed today. It works the same way now and then. We have thousands of scientists, engineers, self-taught geniuses (which are even more in “hacker” style than others) or regular people “hacking” on some demanding challenges everyday. Many of them even don't know they can be named “hackers”, they really don't care or don't know the exact meaning of this word and could feel insulted. Mass media created generally negative perception of “hacking”. This stereotype is wrong, as most other stereotypes we have in our culture. We have already told here: it's not about “hacking” in itself, because everything always depends on one's personal decision and all the consequences. “Hacking” can be used for good or bad purposes – you decide. “Hacking” is intelligent, there is nothing bad in intelligence and it can be also used for good or bad purposes. There are many examples in the history of civilization, when intelligent people used their advantage over others to terrorize the society, to gain the target crossing acceptable moral or ethical borders, to satisfy themselves only. There are also many positive examples, of course.


Hackers ahead
... With warning signs on the road... [taken from: Dvorak Uncensored]




In the IT world we have countless number of people, that can be named “a hacker”, are presenting or presented this unique “hacking” attitude to do something good for the society. Of course, such debate cannot be summarized with the ultimate truth – it's not maths. When it comes to individual perception of something, like “hacking”, someone's behavior or widely understood “reality”, we have to accept the fact, that we can only estimate the general truth, this “softly” defined rule on which we rely during classification – really doesn't matter if we use deductive or inductive way to present our conclusions. However, the rule can be considered universal even between different cultures, the results of applying such rule to the reality are highly personal and to great extend unpredictable.


Linus Torvalds
... And "pure goodness" :-) [taken from: LWN.net]


Therefore, please excuse my very personal list of hackers, both related to computer hardware, software or any other fields of human activity. I'll enumerate 8 examples in an unordered list, only positives, as I'm not interested in criminals which used their “hacking” attitude for wrong purposes (they deserve silence). Here it goes – if you don't agree these guys can be considered “hackers”, I think we can at least accept the fact that they are a solid part of hackers' mythology:

1) Alan Turing (23 June 1912 - 7 June 1954) – mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, the pioneer of computer science and artificial intelligence. Between many achievements he is mainly known for two concepts: Turing's Machine and Turing's Test. On the basis of work presented by Polish cryptanalysts (see below) he provided several insights into breaking both the Enigma machine and the Lorenz SZ 40/42.
1) Henryk Zygalski (15 July 1908 - 30 August 1978), Marian Rejewski (16 August 1905 - 13 February 1980), Jerzy Różycki (24 July 1909 - 9 January 1942) – Polish mathematicians and cryptologists who broke the cyphers used by Nazi-Germany in Enigma machine before the World War II and then worked in cooperation with French and British intelligence. Shortly after Nazi-Germany attack on Polish borders, they have been evacuated from Poland.
1) Dennis M. Ritchie (9 September 1941 - 12 October 2011) – computer scientist, inventor and father of - beloved - C language (K&R C) and - which is a direct result of this achievement – original Unix operating system. He was cooperating on both projects with his long-term colleague Ken Thompson.
1) Jordan K. Hubbard, a.k.a JKH (born 8 April 1963) – co-founder of FreeBSD project, long-term open source software developer. Today working for Apple as a Director of Engineering of Unix Technologies. It's enough to mention FreeBSD influence on MacOS X, but first we should remember about FreeBSD inheritance from AT&T UNIX via BSD UNIX.
1) Linus Torvalds (born 28 December 1969) – Finnish software engineer and hacker living in the USA. The father of Linux kernel and software version control system – Git.
1) Nicola Tesla (10 July 1856 - 7 January 1943) – Serbian inventor who lived and worked in the USA, mechanical and electrical engineer. Involved in or author of many achievements on which we rely today – from commercial electricity, through electromagnetism to wireless communication and the radio. Enough to mention that he obtained about 300 patents and his person inspired fiction writers so much, that according to some legends, he was responsible for confidential military experiments related to time travels and teleportation.
1) Steve Jobs (24 February 1955 - 5 October 2011)an American businessman, inventor, charismatic leader and one of the pioneers of the personal computer revolution. He was co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple Inc, but was also involved in many other significant business initiatives, like for examplePixar Animation Studios, later acquised by Disney. He was also involved into once in time very famous and revolutionary NeXT computer platform, which is also known for popularization of Objective-C language.
1) Jacek Karpiński (9 April 1927 - 21 February 2010) Polish pioneer of computer engineering and computer science. During World War II he was a soldier of Batalion Zośka of Polish Home Army, awarded multiple times with a Cross of Valour. Among the others he took a part in Operation Kutschera (intelligence) and Warsaw Uprising of 1944 when he was heavily wounded. After the war he became a developer of one of the first machine learning algorithms (his "perceptron", according to some sources, was 2nd machine worldwide in its times which was implementing techniques for character and image recognition). He received UNESCO award in 1960 and studied for 2 years at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, USA. In 1971 he designed one of the first minicomputers, the K-202. Because of the policy on computer development in the People's Republic of Poland, belonging to the Comecon that time, K-202 was never mass produced. Karpiński later was repositioned by the communistic government and became a pig farmer. He received a passport in 1981 (what is really interesting, this is the year of infamous War State introduction by communists fighting with growing social opposition, mainly Solidarity movement). Thanks to that he emigrated to Switzerland. He also founded the Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence of the Polish Academy of Sciences in the early 1960s, before he was repressed for political reasons. Unfortunately, communistic Poland didn't value his genius because of politics and lost many opportunities to take technological advantage. On the other way, it's highly doubtful that People's Republic of Poland could offer anything for such a genius with all the political and economical limitations. From this perspective, honestly, he had better opportunities on emigration and maybe this was the main reason he received a passport without any troubles (??). However, he came back to free, democratic Poland in 1990 and continued his work until death. I hope one day he would be appreciated to the extent appropriate for his genius mind. I'm sure he will inspire forthcoming generations of - not only Polish - computer engineers, computer scientists and all IT related professionals.

Why 8? Well, 8 has very special meaning in the IT world. We can leave 10 for other purposes next time :-)

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