White Hat or Black Hat? Computer hacking

Black hat or White hat! Computer Hacking Explained
A Brief History
One might not suspect that the art, or scourge, of computer hacking
was created at one of the havens for technological excellence.

Top Tips to Become a Hacker
Certainly there are many sources of information available that can
give you computer hacking basics. There is actually some misconception
about who a real hacker is. Hacking computers is performed by one who
knows computers very well – even the extra tricks of a computer and
He can easily tweak these according to his needs and become hacker.
This is the way the term was used when Bill Gates was inventing

Those who are often referred to as hackers today, should actually be
called “crackers” – people who do not have unauthorized access, like a
safe-cracker. If you doubt me, and want to know how to be a hacker
then do a search on the term “professional hacker,” and you will find
many professional and legitimate computer training courses being
offered. They are the ones learning the real hacker secrets.
What Are The Basics Needed To Become A Hacker
Everyone has heard of one individual or another that was caught while
hacking computers that belonged to this or that organization. Because
hacking into computers is highly illegal, it should be mentioned that
this article will not mention any real specifics about the subject,
and this author would rather gladly encourage you to become a real
hacker – professionally.

This article, will however, give a brief overview of criminal hackers,
some of their methods, and a few things you can do to make your own
computer safer from hack attacks. Here are those things you need to
learn on how to become a hacker.
• Learn Computers
It should go without saying that the first thing that is needed is to
learn about computers. This means study. A lot of reading is involved
along with just plain old-fashioned learning how to use a computer.
Then, of course, there are the special aspects of computer study. The
places where the tips are learned is often two-fold: a friend who has
access to a computer, and a variety of places on the Web. But this is
also an interesting thing – if a young person has the ability to
learn, and wants to learn can use hacking tutorials- then why not take
the time to learn the right things – things that can earn him a lot of
money in the legit world? Is it possibly that it could be the friend
he has that turns him away from the good?
Hacking Simplified – For Those Who Want to Learn Things From the
It’s quite probable that you have received spam offering a hotmail
hacking guide that will give you the basics on how to become a hacker.
Although it sounds tempting to have the power to know the private life
of other persons, most of these guides and courses are nothing but
scams that are looking for new victims.
If you really want to become a hacker, you need to go to the places
were they gather: a hacking facebook, a hacker’s forum, free hacking
tutorials or even a mailing list. The information is out there. You
only need to go and find it.
Where Can You Get Material on Hacking and Information on Hacking
There are two main sources. The first one is the Internet. You will
have to make a basic query in your favorite search engine with the
word hacker and start looking each one of the suggested sites. Most of
them will only offer you limited tutorials on how to hack (like the
Hacker’s Black book or the Happy Hacker book, which are outdated).
Other’s will give you an useful insight on this world. After some
time, you will find forums were people from around the world share
their experiences.

Do not expect to enter an easy world. The jargon used by a group of
hackers can be quite confusing for any beginner. So don’t feel that
you will never be part of it. Start with the basics and read “How to
become a hacker” from Eric S. Rymond. Although the document is five
years old, it will give you an introductory crash course on were do
you need to start.

The second source is face to face reunions. Get into the internet and
search for any hacker’s meeting in your vicinity. You will be
surprised to find that they meet quite regularly. Of course, do not
expect to find a Matrix kind of reunion. This is serious, professional
people that pay their rent by hacking. Drop by and make some questions
on hacking tutorials.
What Is The Hackers Bible?
The hacker’s bible has two possible sources, depending on whom do you
ask. For some people, it is none other but the magazine 2600: The
Hacker Quarterly. This magazine was created by Emmanuel Goldstein, and
it focuses on aspects of different technologies. For example, it
covers telecommunication devices as well as computers.

The magazine gives to its readers grey hacker’s material. That means
that it gives them information on how to augment the capacities of any
electronic apparatus, such as a cell phone. This neutral posture is
different to white hacking (were a hacker uses his abilities for a
good cause, like detecting the vulnerabilities of a network) and black
hacking (were a hacker uses his knowledge for selfish purposes, like
creating a hotmail hacking guide).

The other Hacker’s Bible is the Jargon File. This document is a
glossary of hacker slang that has been collected since 1975, from the
old days of the Arpanet (the precursor of the Internet).

Is Hacking Always Bad?
Although the history of hacking is relatively unknown to most of the
public, it’s quite interesting to read about it. It doesn’t matter if
you aren’t a computer expert or a system administrator of a big
Computers are as much part of our history as airplanes and cars, and
it should be common knowledge to know how they came to be. It’s the
only way you can understand the effects of computer hacking in our
History of Hacking
Hacking is not limited to computers. The real meaning of hacking is to
expand the capabilities of any electronic device; to use them beyond
the original intentions of the manufacturer. As a matter of fact, the
first hackers appeared in the 1960’s at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT), and their first victims were electric trains. They
wanted them to perform faster and more efficiently. So, is hacking
always bad? Not really. It only depends on how to use it. But it
wasn’t until a group of these hackers decided to exert their knowledge
in the computer mainframes of the MIT.

During the 1970’s, a different kind of hacker appeared: the phreaks or
phone hackers. They learned ways to hack the telephonic system and
make phone calls for free. Within these group of people, a phreaker
became famous because a simple discovery. John Draper, also known as
Captain Crunch, found that he could make long distance calls with a
whistle. He built a blue box that could do this and the Esquire
magazine published an article on how to build them. Fascinated by this
discovery, two kids, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, decided to sell
these blue boxes, starting a business friendship which resulted in the
founding of Apple.

By the 1980’s, phreaks started to migrate to computers, and the first
Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) appeared. BBS are like the yahoo groups
of today, were people posted messages of any kind of topics. The BBS
used by hackers specialized in tips on how to break into computers,
how to use stolen credit card numbers and share stolen computer

It wasn’t until 1986 that the US government realized the danger that
hackers represented to the national security. As a way to counteract
this menace, the Congress passed the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,
making computer breaking a crime across the nation.

During the 1990’s, when the use of the internet widespread around the
world, hackers multiplied, but it wasn’t until the end of the decade
that system’s security became mainstream among the public.

Today, we are accustomed to hackers, crackers, viruses, Trojans, worms
and all of the techniques we need to follow to combat them.

Outlaws of Technology! Hacker or Cracker
In order to study the comparison the between the hackers and crackers,
it is important to understand the respective definitions. While
apparently the words hacking and cracking seems synonymous, yet there
exist certain points of distinctions between the two and the meaning
of the words will always be heated topics of debate.
Since the very dawn of the civilization, man’s hunger to attain the
unattainable have went on opening new horizons in almost every aspects
of life, and the technology is of no exception to this nature of
Aims of Hackers and Crackers
The computer hackers actually trespass or circumvent artistically, yet
scientifically into the other computer system with a hunger to know
the programmable systems, how they perform and their internal
structures, while cracking is slight different in sense. Cracking
means to break off the computer’s security system. This is a subject
matter of hard-core science with an aesthetic undertone of artistic
skill that has attracted a few millions of teenagers and young adults
all over the world.
Who Is A Hacker And What Is His Aim?
Delving deep into the concepts, we can compare the hackers and
crackers. A hacker is a person who commits the fraudulent act or the
penal offense of exploring into the other computers in order to know
the details of the programmable system and how they work. On the other
level, a cracker is a person just more secretive as compared to the
hacker. The cracker breaks through the system’s security and proves to
be far more dangerous than the hackers who just quench his or her
thirst by simply discovering the workings of a system.

Hence the crackers can potentially be much more perilous as compared
to the hackers. While it is often believed that the hacking is simply
exploring into the other computer system with an intention to know how
the programmable system works, which is not a fraudulent task unless
any sort of vandalism and theft is done by this, another huge section
stands strictly against the view and look at the act from the view
point of a crime.
Who is A Cracker and What Is His Aim?
A cracker is a technical person who has mastered the art of breaking
systems, often not for acquiring knowledge, by the dint of few
programs and softwares used as tools. They are more interested in the
system’s security without the need of great deal of knowledge, thereby
not benefiting much.

On the other hand, a hacker who cracks and hacks systems is not only
interested in breaking the security of the system but also in knowing
about the system’s details, by which he gains much more than by simply
cracking systems. Unlike a cracker, a hacker generally does not have
intention destroy data maliciously or to steel things.

A cracker who is often termed to be a cyber burglar brings out
significant harm to the network or steels the information like
passwords or credit card numbers. A Trojan is capable enough to
recognize and record even every single keystroke that you make. Hence
even if you do not store any personal or financial records in your
system, the hackers can still be able to obtain the information by
recognizing the keystrokes.
Hacker’s beware: A Crook is Caught One Day or the other
Hackers had broken into the Department of Defense’s computers – again.
With news like this, combined with the fact that other hackers are
constantly seeking to steal people’s identity, send out spam from
innocent computers, and other computer crimes hacking into
unauthorized places,
makes it necessary for illegal hackers to be caught. If you are one of
those who have suffered from a hack attack, then you may be one of
those who say: “I need an IP specialist, to catch a hacker.” This
article will show you some things that you can do.
How Hackers Are Caught
With the fact that Microsoft and some other software companies have
been notified – yes, by hackers, that there are many “holes” in
Windows that a hacker can take advantage of. Microsoft has responded
by attempting to fix the “holes” each time one is pointed out. Then,
it sends out a patch to block hackers from attacking through that
“hole.” Keeping up with the update’s from Microsoft is one way to
close down the problems that exist in the Windows software – though it
is unknown if all such “holes” will ever be known.

Normally, it is rather hard to notice that a hacker has hacked into
your computer. If all he is doing is having a look around, or taking
minimum amounts of data – you really cannot be sure that you are being
hacked. The are some effects of computer hacking, though, that might
tip you off. Here are a couple of ways to detect hackers.
Detecting Hackers
Hackers, by nature are very stealthy. Their ability to gain access to
your computer through the Internet can easily be done without your
knowledge – and most of them seem to prefer that approach. Before time
is spent on being able to detect a hacker, it should be noted that a
determined hacker will not be stopped! They will get in – even to the
Department of Defenses systems!

Some common things that might tip you off to an intrusion are:
• Lights showing hard drive activity being busier than what your
own activities call for
• Suspicious files left on your computer – often in the Windows
Temp directory with a tmp. suffix
• Obvious tampering – destroyed files, missing files, etc.
• Or, the worst case – someone’s taking money out of your bank
account or using your credit cards (Please note, though, that this
could also be the result of phishing, too – not necessarily hacking)
• Your firewall keeps receives multiple packets from a single
web address and notifies you.
Hackers and Culture? True Indeed!
Hacker culture has existed for many decades, although the majority of
us may have become recently aware thanks to movies like The Matrix.
Nevertheless, hacking culture has been out there, and has been
constantly influencing our society and the way we view the world. From
anime to computer knowledge, hacker culture has, steadily, made its
way to our lives.
What Is Hacker Culture?
Hacker culture is composed by all those experiences and human
manifestations that are related to the exploit of hardware and
software. Right now there are three kinds of hackers. The first and
most known kind of hacker is the black hat hacker, or the individual
who uses his knowledge for obtaining a personal benefit. Usually, it
means stealing information that can be sold in the black market.

The most daring black hat hackers are able to crack bank accounts,
leaving no trace behind. Fortunately, bank security and worldwide
cooperation has been able to place some restrictions and control over
these individuals.

On the other side of the balance is the white hack hacker, a computer
security expert who works with organizations and helps them with their
computer network security problems.

Finally, there are the grey hat hackers. This kind of hackers is
composed by people who walk the thin line between white hat hackers
and black hat hackers. Usually, their tendency will be influenced by
their need of money or their lust for recognition among the hacker
Which Are The Origins Of Hacker Culture?
It could be said that hackers have existed since immemorial times.
Although the Merriam-Webster dictionary portrays a hacker as a
computer expert, in reality, a hacker is any person who looks for
weaknesses in the system and tries to exploit them in their own

Under this definition, Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the
Great, was a hacker. How so? He noticed that there were a series of
weaknesses in the armies of ancient Greece. In order to exploit them
in his favor, he decided to implement a series of improvements to his
own army. As history has showed us, these improvements worked in his
favor and in favor of his famous son.

The same could be said from Napoleon, who noticed that mobility and
artillery could be used in such a way that no army in Europe would be
able to withstand him. Unfortunately for him, he forgot to consider
that logistics were an important thing to consider when he mobilized
hundreds of thousands of men into the Russian Empire.

Table of Contents
Why This Document?
What Is a Hacker?
The Hacker Attitude
1. The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved.
2. No problem should ever have to be solved twice.
3. Boredom and drudgery are evil.
4. Freedom is good.
5. Attitude is no substitute for competence.
Basic Hacking Skills
1. Learn how to program.
2. Get one of the open-source Unixes and learn to use and run it.
3. Learn how to use the World Wide Web and write HTML.
4. If you don’t have functional English, learn it.
Status in the Hacker Culture
1. Write open-source software
2. Help test and debug open-source software
3. Publish useful information
4. Help keep the infrastructure working
5. Serve the hacker culture itself
The Hacker/Nerd Connection
Points For Style
Other Resources
Frequently Asked Questions

Why This Document?
As editor of the Jargon File and author of a few other well-known
documents of similar nature, I often get email requests from
enthusiastic network newbies asking (in effect) “how can I learn to be
a wizardly hacker?”. Back in 1996 I noticed that there didn’t seem to
be any other FAQs or web documents that addressed this vital question,
so I started this one. A lot of hackers now consider it definitive,
and I suppose that means it is. Still, I don’t claim to be the
exclusive authority on this topic; if you don’t like what you read
here, write your own.
If you are reading a snapshot of this document offline, the current
version lives at http://catb. org/~esr/ faqs/hacker- howto.html.
Note: there is a list of Frequently Asked Questions at the end of this
document. Please read these—twice—before mailing me any questions
about this document.
Numerous translations of this document are available: ArabicBulgarian,
Catalan, Chinese (Simplified) , Danish, Dutch,Estonian, Farsi, Finnish,
German, Greek Hebrew, ItalianJapanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese
(Brazilian), RomanianRussian Spanish, Turkish, and Swedish. Note that
since this document changes occasionally, they may be out of date to
varying degrees.
The five-dots-in- nine-squares diagram that decorates this document is
called a glider. It is a simple pattern with some surprising
properties in a mathematical simulation called Lifethat has fascinated
hackers for many years. I think it makes a good visual emblem for what
hackers are like — abstract, at first a bit mysterious-seeming, but a
gateway to a whole world with an intricate logic of its own. Read more
about the glider emblemhere.
What Is a Hacker?
The Jargon File contains a bunch of definitions of the term ‘hacker’,
most having to do with technical adeptness and a delight in solving
problems and overcoming limits. If you want to know how to become a
hacker, though, only two are really relevant.
There is a community, a shared culture, of expert programmers and
networking wizards that traces its history back through decades to the
first time-sharing minicomputers and the earliest ARPAnet experiments.
The members of this culture originated the term ‘hacker’. Hackers
built the Internet. Hackers made the Unix operating system what it is
today. Hackers run Usenet. Hackers make the World Wide Web work. If
you are part of this culture, if you have contributed to it and other
people in it know who you are and call you a hacker, you’re a hacker.
The hacker mind-set is not confined to this software-hacker culture.
There are people who apply the hacker attitude to other things, like
electronics or music — actually, you can find it at the highest levels
of any science or art. Software hackers recognize these kindred
spirits elsewhere and may call them ‘hackers’ too — and some claim
that the hacker nature is really independent of the particular medium
the hacker works in. But in the rest of this document we will focus on
the skills and attitudes of software hackers, and the traditions of
the shared culture that originated the term ‘hacker’.
There is another group of people who loudly call themselves hackers,
but aren’t. These are people (mainly adolescent males) who get a kick
out of breaking into computers and phreaking the phone system. Real
hackers call these people ‘crackers’ and want nothing to do with them.
Real hackers mostly think crackers are lazy, irresponsible, and not
very bright, and object that being able to break security doesn’t make
you a hacker any more than being able to hotwire cars makes you an
automotive engineer. Unfortunately, many journalists and writers have
been fooled into using the word ‘hacker’ to describe crackers; this
irritates real hackers no end.
The basic difference is this: hackers build things, crackers break
If you want to be a hacker, keep reading. If you want to be a cracker,
go read the alt.2600 newsgroup and get ready to do five to ten in the
slammer after finding out you aren’t as smart as you think you are.
And that’s all I’m going to say about crackers.

The Hacker Attitude
1. The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved.
2. No problem should ever have to be solved twice.
3. Boredom and drudgery are evil.
4. Freedom is good.
5. Attitude is no substitute for competence.
Hackers solve problems and build things, and they believe in freedom
and voluntary mutual help. To be accepted as a hacker, you have to
behave as though you have this kind of attitude yourself. And to
behave as though you have the attitude, you have to really believe the
But if you think of cultivating hacker attitudes as just a way to gain
acceptance in the culture, you’ll miss the point. Becoming the kind of
person who believes these things is important for you— for helping you
learn and keeping you motivated. As with all creative arts, the most
effective way to become a master is to imitate the mind-set of masters
— not just intellectually but emotionally as well.
Or, as the following modern Zen poem has it:

To follow the path:
look to the master,
follow the master,
walk with the master,
see through the master,
become the master.
So, if you want to be a hacker, repeat the following things until you
believe them:
1. The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved.
Being a hacker is lots of fun, but it’s a kind of fun that takes lots
of effort. The effort takes motivation. Successful athletes get their
motivation from a kind of physical delight in making their bodies
perform, in pushing themselves past their own physical limits.
Similarly, to be a hacker you have to get a basic thrill from solving
problems, sharpening your skills, and exercising your intelligence.
If you aren’t the kind of person that feels this way naturally, you’ll
need to become one in order to make it as a hacker. Otherwise you’ll
find your hacking energy is sapped by distractions like sex, money,
and social approval.
(You also have to develop a kind of faith in your own learning
capacity — a belief that even though you may not know all of what you
need to solve a problem, if you tackle just a piece of it and learn
from that, you’ll learn enough to solve the next piece — and so on,
until you’re done.)
2. No problem should ever have to be solved twice.
Creative brains are a valuable, limited resource. They shouldn’t be
wasted on re-inventing the wheel when there are so many fascinating
new problems waiting out there.
To behave like a hacker, you have to believe that the thinking time of
other hackers is precious — so much so that it’s almost a moral duty
for you to share information, solve problems and then give the
solutions away just so other hackers can solve newproblems instead of
having to perpetually re-address old ones.
Note, however, that “No problem should ever have to be solved twice.”
does not imply that you have to consider all existing solutions
sacred, or that there is only one right solution to any given problem.
Often, we learn a lot about the problem that we didn’t know before by
studying the first cut at a solution. It’s OK, and often necessary, to
decide that we can do better. What’s not OK is artificial technical,
legal, or institutional barriers (like closed-source code) that
prevent a good solution from being re-used and force people to re-
invent wheels.
(You don’t have to believe that you’re obligated to give all your
creative product away, though the hackers that do are the ones that
get most respect from other hackers. It’s consistent with hacker
values to sell enough of it to keep you in food and rent and
computers. It’s fine to use your hacking skills to support a family or
even get rich, as long as you don’t forget your loyalty to your art
and your fellow hackers while doing it.)
3. Boredom and drudgery are evil.
Hackers (and creative people in general) should never be bored or have
to drudge at stupid repetitive work, because when this happens it
means they aren’t doing what only they can do — solve new problems.
This wastefulness hurts everybody. Therefore boredom and drudgery are
not just unpleasant but actually evil.
To behave like a hacker, you have to believe this enough to want to
automate away the boring bits as much as possible, not just for
yourself but for everybody else (especially other hackers).
(There is one apparent exception to this. Hackers will sometimes do
things that may seem repetitive or boring to an observer as a mind-
clearing exercise, or in order to acquire a skill or have some
particular kind of experience you can’t have otherwise. But this is by
choice — nobody who can think should ever be forced into a situation
that bores them.)
4. Freedom is good.
Hackers are naturally anti-authoritarian. Anyone who can give you
orders can stop you from solving whatever problem you’re being
fascinated by — and, given the way authoritarian minds work, will
generally find some appallingly stupid reason to do so. So the
authoritarian attitude has to be fought wherever you find it, lest it
smother you and other hackers.
(This isn’t the same as fighting all authority. Children need to be
guided and criminals restrained. A hacker may agree to accept some
kinds of authority in order to get something he wants more than the
time he spends following orders. But that’s a limited, conscious
bargain; the kind of personal surrender authoritarians want is not on
Authoritarians thrive on censorship and secrecy. And they distrust
voluntary cooperation and information- sharing — they only like
‘cooperation’ that they control. So to behave like a hacker, you have
to develop an instinctive hostility to censorship, secrecy, and the
use of force or deception to compel responsible adults. And you have
to be willing to act on that belief.
5. Attitude is no substitute for competence.
To be a hacker, you have to develop some of these attitudes. But
copping an attitude alone won’t make you a hacker, any more than it
will make you a champion athlete or a rock star. Becoming a hacker
will take intelligence, practice, dedication, and hard work.
Therefore, you have to learn to distrust attitude and respect
competence of every kind. Hackers won’t let posers waste their time,
but they worship competence — especially competence at hacking, but
competence at anything is valued. Competence at demanding skills that
few can master is especially good, and competence at demanding skills
that involve mental acuteness, craft, and concentration is best.
If you revere competence, you’ll enjoy developing it in yourself — the
hard work and dedication will become a kind of intense play rather
than drudgery. That attitude is vital to becoming a hacker.

Basic Hacking Skills
1. Learn how to program.
2. Get one of the open-source Unixes and learn to use and run it.
3. Learn how to use the World Wide Web and write HTML.
4. If you don’t have functional English, learn it.
The hacker attitude is vital, but skills are even more vital. Attitude
is no substitute for competence, and there’s a certain basic toolkit
of skills which you have to have before any hacker will dream of
calling you one.
This toolkit changes slowly over time as technology creates new skills
and makes old ones obsolete. For example, it used to include
programming in machine language, and didn’t until recently involve
HTML. But right now it pretty clearly includes the following:
1. Learn how to program.
This, of course, is the fundamental hacking skill. If you don’t know
any computer languages, I recommend starting with Python. It is
cleanly designed, well documented, and relatively kind to beginners.
Despite being a good first language, it is not just a toy; it is very
powerful and flexible and well suited for large projects. I have
written a more detailed evaluation of Python. Good tutorials are
available at the Python web site.
I used to recommend Java as a good language to learn early, butthis
critique has changed my mind (search for “The Pitfalls of Java as a
First Programming Language” within it). A hacker cannot, as they
devastatingly put it “approach problem-solving like a plumber in a
hardware store”; you have to know what the components actually do. Now
I think it is probably best to learn C and Lisp first, then Java.
If you get into serious programming, you will have to learn C, the
core language of Unix. C++ is very closely related to C; if you know
one, learning the other will not be difficult. Neither language is a
good one to try learning as your first, however. And, actually, the
more you can avoid programming in C the more productive you will be.
C is very efficient, and very sparing of your machine’s resources.
Unfortunately, C gets that efficiency by requiring you to do a lot of
low-level management of resources (like memory) by hand. All that low-
level code is complex and bug-prone, and will soak up huge amounts of
your time on debugging. With today’s machines as powerful as they are,
this is usually a bad tradeoff — it’s smarter to use a language that
uses the machine’s time less efficiently, but your time much more
efficiently. Thus, Python.
Other languages of particular importance to hackers include Perland
LISP. Perl is worth learning for practical reasons; it’s very widely
used for active web pages and system administration, so that even if
you never write Perl you should learn to read it. Many people use Perl
in the way I suggest you should use Python, to avoid C programming on
jobs that don’t require C’s machine efficiency. You will need to be
able to understand their code.
LISP is worth learning for a different reason — the profound
enlightenment experience you will have when you finally get it. That
experience will make you a better programmer for the rest of your
days, even if you never actually use LISP itself a lot. (You can get
some beginning experience with LISP fairly easily by writing and
modifying editing modes for the Emacs text editor, or Script-Fu
plugins for the GIMP.)
It’s best, actually, to learn all five of Python, C/C++, Java, Perl,
and LISP. Besides being the most important hacking languages, they
represent very different approaches to programming, and each will
educate you in valuable ways.
But be aware that you won’t reach the skill level of a hacker or even
merely a programmer simply by accumulating languages — you need to
learn how to think about programming problems in a general way,
independent of any one language. To be a real hacker, you need to get
to the point where you can learn a new language in days by relating
what’s in the manual to what you already know. This means you should
learn several very different languages.
I can’t give complete instructions on how to learn to program here —
it’s a complex skill. But I can tell you that books and courses won’t
do it — many, maybe most of the best hackers are self-taught. You can
learn language features — bits of knowledge — from books, but the
mind-set that makes that knowledge into living skill can be learned
only by practice and apprenticeship. What will do it is (a) reading
code and (b) writing code.
Peter Norvig, who is one of Google’s top hackers and the co-author of
the most widely used textbook on AI, has written an excellent essay
called Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years. His “recipe for
programming success” is worth careful attention.
Learning to program is like learning to write good natural language.
The best way to do it is to read some stuff written by masters of the
form, write some things yourself, read a lot more, write a little
more, read a lot more, write some more … and repeat until your
writing begins to develop the kind of strength and economy you see in
your models.
Finding good code to read used to be hard, because there were few
large programs available in source for fledgeling hackers to read and
tinker with. This has changed dramatically; open-source software,
programming tools, and operating systems (all built by hackers) are
now widely available. Which brings me neatly to our next topic…
2. Get one of the open-source Unixes and learn to use and run it.
I’ll assume you have a personal computer or can get access to one.
(Take a moment to appreciate how much that means. The hacker culture
originally evolved back when computers were so expensive that
individuals could not own them.) The single most important step any
newbie can take toward acquiring hacker skills is to get a copy of
Linux or one of the BSD-Unixes or OpenSolaris, install it on a
personal machine, and run it.
Yes, there are other operating systems in the world besides Unix. But
they’re distributed in binary — you can’t read the code, and you can’t
modify it. Trying to learn to hack on a Microsoft Windows machine or
under any other closed-source system is like trying to learn to dance
while wearing a body cast.
Under Mac OS X it’s possible, but only part of the system is open
source — you’re likely to hit a lot of walls, and you have to be
careful not to develop the bad habit of depending on Apple’s
proprietary code. If you concentrate on the Unix under the hood you
can learn some useful things.
Unix is the operating system of the Internet. While you can learn to
use the Internet without knowing Unix, you can’t be an Internet hacker
without understanding Unix. For this reason, the hacker culture today
is pretty strongly Unix-centered. (This wasn’t always true, and some
old-time hackers still aren’t happy about it, but the symbiosis
between Unix and the Internet has become strong enough that even
Microsoft’s muscle doesn’t seem able to seriously dent it.)
So, bring up a Unix — I like Linux myself but there are other ways
(and yes, you can run both Linux and Microsoft Windows on the same
machine). Learn it. Run it. Tinker with it. Talk to the Internet with
it. Read the code. Modify the code. You’ll get better programming
tools (including C, LISP, Python, and Perl) than any Microsoft
operating system can dream of hosting, you’ll have fun, and you’ll
soak up more knowledge than you realize you’re learning until you look
back on it as a master hacker.
For more about learning Unix, see The Loginataka. You might also want
to have a look at The Art Of Unix Programming.
To get your hands on a Linux, see the Linux Online! site; you can
download from there or (better idea) find a local Linux user group to
help you with installation.
During the first ten years of this HOWTO’s life, I reported that from
a new user’s point of view, all Linux distributions are almost
equivalent. But in 2006-2007, an actual best choice emerged:Ubuntu.
While other distros have their own areas of strength, Ubuntu is far
and away the most accessible to Linux newbies.
You can find BSD Unix help and resources at http://www.bsd.org.
A good way to dip your toes in the water is to boot up what Linux fans
call a live CD, a distribution that runs entirely off a CD without
having to modify your hard disk. This will be slow, because CDs are
slow, but it’s a way to get a look at the possibilities without having
to do anything drastic.
I have written a primer on the basics of Unix and the Internet.
I used to recommend against installing either Linux or BSD as a solo
project if you’re a newbie. Nowadays the installers have gotten good
enough that doing it entirely on your own is possible, even for a
newbie. Nevertheless, I still recommend making contact with your local
Linux user’s group and asking for help. It can’t hurt, and may smooth
the process.
3. Learn how to use the World Wide Web and write HTML.
Most of the things the hacker culture has built do their work out of
sight, helping run factories and offices and universities without any
obvious impact on how non-hackers live. The Web is the one big
exception, the huge shiny hacker toy that evenpoliticians admit has
changed the world. For this reason alone (and a lot of other good ones
as well) you need to learn how to work the Web.
This doesn’t just mean learning how to drive a browser (anyone can do
that), but learning how to write HTML, the Web’s markup language. If
you don’t know how to program, writing HTML will teach you some mental
habits that will help you learn. So build a home page. Try to stick to
XHTML, which is a cleaner language than classic HTML. (There are good
beginner tutorials on the Web; here’s one.)
But just having a home page isn’t anywhere near good enough to make
you a hacker. The Web is full of home pages. Most of them are
pointless, zero-content sludge — very snazzy-looking sludge, mind you,
but sludge all the same (for more on this seeThe HTML Hell Page).
To be worthwhile, your page must have content — it must be interesting
and/or useful to other hackers. And that brings us to the next
4. If you don’t have functional English, learn it.
As an American and native English-speaker myself, I have previously
been reluctant to suggest this, lest it be taken as a sort of cultural
imperialism. But several native speakers of other languages have urged
me to point out that English is the working language of the hacker
culture and the Internet, and that you will need to know it to
function in the hacker community.
Back around 1991 I learned that many hackers who have English as a
second language use it in technical discussions even when they share a
birth tongue; it was reported to me at the time that English has a
richer technical vocabulary than any other language and is therefore
simply a better tool for the job. For similar reasons, translations of
technical books written in English are often unsatisfactory (when they
get done at all).
Linus Torvalds, a Finn, comments his code in English (it apparently
never occurred to him to do otherwise). His fluency in English has
been an important factor in his ability to recruit a worldwide
community of developers for Linux. It’s an example worth following.
Being a native English-speaker does not guarantee that you have
language skills good enough to function as a hacker. If your writing
is semi-literate, ungrammatical, and riddled with misspellings, many
hackers (including myself) will tend to ignore you. While sloppy
writing does not invariably mean sloppy thinking, we’ve generally
found the correlation to be strong — and we have no use for sloppy
thinkers. If you can’t yet write competently, learn to.
Status in the Hacker Culture
1. Write open-source software
2. Help test and debug open-source software
3. Publish useful information
4. Help keep the infrastructure working
5. Serve the hacker culture itself
Like most cultures without a money economy, hackerdom runs on
reputation. You’re trying to solve interesting problems, but how
interesting they are, and whether your solutions are really good, is
something that only your technical peers or superiors are normally
equipped to judge.
Accordingly, when you play the hacker game, you learn to keep score
primarily by what other hackers think of your skill (this is why you
aren’t really a hacker until other hackers consistently call you one).
This fact is obscured by the image of hacking as solitary work; also
by a hacker-cultural taboo (gradually decaying since the late 1990s
but still potent) against admitting that ego or external validation
are involved in one’s motivation at all.
Specifically, hackerdom is what anthropologists call a gift culture.
You gain status and reputation in it not by dominating other people,
nor by being beautiful, nor by having things other people want, but
rather by giving things away. Specifically, by giving away your time,
your creativity, and the results of your skill.
There are basically five kinds of things you can do to be respected by
1. Write open-source software
The first (the most central and most traditional) is to write programs
that other hackers think are fun or useful, and give the program
sources away to the whole hacker culture to use.
(We used to call these works “free software”, but this confused too
many people who weren’t sure exactly what “free” was supposed to mean.
Most of us now prefer the term “open-source” software).
Hackerdom’s most revered demigods are people who have written large,
capable programs that met a widespread need and given them away, so
that now everyone uses them.
But there’s a bit of a fine historical point here. While hackers have
always looked up to the open-source developers among them as our
community’s hardest core, before the mid-1990s most hackers most of
the time worked on closed source. This was still true when I wrote the
first version of this HOWTO in 1996; it took the mainstreaming of
open-source software after 1997 to change things. Today, “the hacker
community” and “open-source developers” are two descriptions for what
is essentially the same culture and population — but it is worth
remembering that this was not always so.
2. Help test and debug open-source software
They also serve who stand and debug open-source software. In this
imperfect world, we will inevitably spend most of our software
development time in the debugging phase. That’s why any open-source
author who’s thinking will tell you that good beta-testers (who know
how to describe symptoms clearly, localize problems well, can tolerate
bugs in a quickie release, and are willing to apply a few simple
diagnostic routines) are worth their weight in rubies. Even one of
these can make the difference between a debugging phase that’s a
protracted, exhausting nightmare and one that’s merely a salutary
If you’re a newbie, try to find a program under development that
you’re interested in and be a good beta-tester. There’s a natural
progression from helping test programs to helping debug them to
helping modify them. You’ll learn a lot this way, and generate good
karma with people who will help you later on.
3. Publish useful information
Another good thing is to collect and filter useful and interesting
information into web pages or documents like Frequently Asked
Questions (FAQ) lists, and make those generally available.
Maintainers of major technical FAQs get almost as much respect as
open-source authors.
4. Help keep the infrastructure working
The hacker culture (and the engineering development of the Internet,
for that matter) is run by volunteers. There’s a lot of necessary but
unglamorous work that needs done to keep it going — administering
mailing lists, moderating newsgroups, maintaining large software
archive sites, developing RFCs and other technical standards.
People who do this sort of thing well get a lot of respect, because
everybody knows these jobs are huge time sinks and not as much fun as
playing with code. Doing them shows dedication.
5. Serve the hacker culture itself
Finally, you can serve and propagate the culture itself (by, for
example, writing an accurate primer on how to become a hacker :-)).
This is not something you’ll be positioned to do until you’ve been
around for while and become well-known for one of the first four
The hacker culture doesn’t have leaders, exactly, but it does have
culture heroes and tribal elders and historians and spokespeople. When
you’ve been in the trenches long enough, you may grow into one of
these. Beware: hackers distrust blatant ego in their tribal elders, so
visibly reaching for this kind of fame is dangerous. Rather than
striving for it, you have to sort of position yourself so it drops in
your lap, and then be modest and gracious about your status.

The Hacker/Nerd Connection
Contrary to popular myth, you don’t have to be a nerd to be a hacker.
It does help, however, and many hackers are in fact nerds. Being
something of a social outcast helps you stay concentrated on the
really important things, like thinking and hacking.
For this reason, many hackers have adopted the label ‘geek’ as a badge
of pride — it’s a way of declaring their independence from normal
social expectations (as well as a fondness for other things like
science fiction and strategy games that often go with being a hacker).
The term ‘nerd’ used to be used this way back in the 1990s, back when
‘nerd’ was a mild pejorative and ‘geek’ a rather harsher one; sometime
after 2000 they switched places, at least in U.S. popular culture, and
there is now even a significant geek-pride culture among people who
aren’t techies.
If you can manage to concentrate enough on hacking to be good at it
and still have a life, that’s fine. This is a lot easier today than it
was when I was a newbie in the 1970s; mainstream culture is much
friendlier to techno-nerds now. There are even growing numbers of
people who realize that hackers are often high-quality lover and
spouse material.
If you’re attracted to hacking because you don’t have a life, that’s
OK too — at least you won’t have trouble concentrating. Maybe you’ll
get a life later on.

Points For Style
Again, to be a hacker, you have to enter the hacker mindset. There are
some things you can do when you’re not at a computer that seem to
help. They’re not substitutes for hacking (nothing is) but many
hackers do them, and feel that they connect in some basic way with the
essence of hacking.
• Learn to write your native language well. Though it’s a common
stereotype that programmers can’t write, a surprising number of
hackers (including all the most accomplished ones I know of) are very
able writers.
• Read science fiction. Go to science fiction conventions (a
good way to meet hackers and proto-hackers) .
• Train in a martial-arts form. The kind of mental discipline
required for martial arts seems to be similar in important ways to
what hackers do. The most popular forms among hackers are definitely
Asian empty-hand arts such as Tae Kwon Do, various forms of Karate,
Kung Fu, Aikido, or Ju Jitsu. Western fencing and Asian sword arts
also have visible followings. In places where it’s legal, pistol
shooting has been rising in popularity since the late 1990s. The most
hackerly martial arts are those which emphasize mental discipline,
relaxed awareness, and control, rather than raw strength, athleticism,
or physical toughness.
• Study an actual meditation discipline. The perennial favorite
among hackers is Zen (importantly, it is possible to benefit from Zen
without acquiring a religion or discarding one you already have).
Other styles may work as well, but be careful to choose one that
doesn’t require you to believe crazy things.
• Develop an analytical ear for music. Learn to appreciate
peculiar kinds of music. Learn to play some musical instrument well,
or how to sing.
• Develop your appreciation of puns and wordplay.
The more of these things you already do, the more likely it is that
you are natural hacker material. Why these things in particular is not
completely clear, but they’re connected with a mix of left- and right-
brain skills that seems to be important; hackers need to be able to
both reason logically and step outside the apparent logic of a problem
at a moment’s notice.
Work as intensely as you play and play as intensely as you work. For
true hackers, the boundaries between “play”, “work”, “science” and
“art” all tend to disappear, or to merge into a high-level creative
playfulness. Also, don’t be content with a narrow range of skills.
Though most hackers self-describe as programmers, they are very likely
to be more than competent in several related skills — system
administration, web design, and PC hardware troubleshooting are common
ones. A hacker who’s a system administrator, on the other hand, is
likely to be quite skilled at script programming and web design.
Hackers don’t do things by halves; if they invest in a skill at all,
they tend to get very good at it.
Finally, a few things not to do.
• Don’t use a silly, grandiose user ID or screen name.
• Don’t get in flame wars on Usenet (or anywhere else).
• Don’t call yourself a ‘cyberpunk’, and don’t waste your time
on anybody who does.
• Don’t post or email writing that’s full of spelling errors and
bad grammar.
The only reputation you’ll make doing any of these things is as a
twit. Hackers have long memories — it could take you years to live
your early blunders down enough to be accepted.
The problem with screen names or handles deserves some amplification.
Concealing your identity behind a handle is a juvenile and silly
behavior characteristic of crackers, warez d00dz, and other lower life
forms. Hackers don’t do this; they’re proud of what they do and want
it associated with their realnames. So if you have a handle, drop it.
In the hacker culture it will only mark you as a loser.

c/o  ashishgoyal01@yahoo.com

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