Phil is a Hacker

I like to solve problems. I like to find problems that I think I might be able to solve. I describe this as hacking. It's a word laden with many different nuances.

Hackers versus Crackers

Eric S. Raymond has arrogantly abused his position of historian in order to insist that there is only one definition of hacker and only one definition of cracker which are mutually exclusive. This is not only arrogant, but naive. ESR wishes to distance himself from the destructive tendencies of some crackers, and he does this by insulting their intelligence and insisting that they may not use the same hacker moniker. However, he seems to have forgetten what is said under the Jargon File entry for phreaking.

1. The art and science of cracking the phone network (so as, for example, to make free long-distance calls). 2. By extension, security-cracking in any other context (especially, but not exclusively, on communications networks) (see cracking).
At one time phreaking was a semi-respectable activity among hackers; there was a gentleman's agreement that phreaking as an intellectual game and a form of exploration was OK [...]
A few old-time hackers still phreak casually just to keep their hand in, but most these days have hardly even heard of `blue boxes' or any of the other paraphernalia of the great phreaks of yore.
Horse's mouth - hackers and phreakers, which are by definition crackers, overlap.

That said, I'm just a hacker, and have probably done nothing that could be described as cracking.

I remember when I was a middle-man between a company's development team and a compiler vendor, a role that involved condensing bug reports for valid code that wouldn't compile into the smallest example that displayed the compiler's bug. Part of my job was effectively to break their compiler. Is that constructive, or destructive? Hacking, or cracking? Of course, it's destructive by definition, but it was the most efficient way for progress to be made.

It's all shades of grey.

Apart from the script kiddies, that is; they have no merit at all...

Crackers versus Script Kiddies

While crackers, such as Cap'n Crunch and Kevin Mitnick, sometimes display great skill and ingenuity in many fields, the script kiddies are far more worthy of derision, displaying no skill or inventiveness.

But let me once again quote the all-knowing, all-blowing, ESR and his Hacker HOWTO:

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 [...]
roughly translated as "if one person's already hacked a solution, use that".

And if that isn't also the script kiddie ethic, I don't know what is.

Hackers have no right to assert that a quality is good when applied to them, and bad when applied to others.

And the moral of the story is

Don't pigeon-hole. And if you do, don't expect everyone to agree with the criteria you use for pigeon-holing.

So, why the 'Hacker' logo

Because while I think ESR is puffed up, and sometimes an embarrassment to the various communities that he pretends to represent, he's not entirely wrong with what he says.

I have modified the logo in the way that I see fit in the same way that I have offered a different opinion on what is and what isn't a hacker.

For his treatise on what his version of his hacker logo represents, see his original description.

Last updated: 2003/11/26

Another hastily constructed page by Phil Carmody
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