Skip to main content

The Hacker Inside

In my college years I watched as technically minded friends fell under the spell of computers. They became Weizenbaum's "bright young men of dishevelled appearance". I watched as they immersed themselves ever more deeply in the world of monochrome terminals and multiuser operating systems. They dropped out of classes, they dropped out of social interaction, they dropped out of everything that was not connected to their obsession with thinking machines.

I dallied with this obsession for a while. The proto-internet of EARN-BITNET offered undreamed of possibilities for exploration. I stood on the brink and in truth I nearly fell in but some instinct of self preservation held me back from total commitment. I re-engaged with the physical analog world, I graduated I socialised, I got a job.

Now I use computers in my job and at home just as millions of other do. I install software and run it without really comprehending what goes on behind the scenes. Sure I know a little bit more than the average layman and PC gaming is probably my main hobby but I am not in thrall to the machine. It is a device, a tool.

About once a year though the hacker inside comes out. This weekend that hacker decided to re-animate an ancient celeron based machine by installing Linux.

At a logical level I have no reason to use Linux. It does nothing that I cannot do on Windows and there are many things it cannot do. At some deeper level Linux pushes all the right hacker buttons. Friendly distros like Ubuntu try to fool you into thinking otherwise but you need only scratch the surface to wallow in the joys of the Linux command line. Linux scorns the concept of plug and play. Installing a new piece of hardware is likely to take hours of internet detective work and command line hacking.

Saturday was abandoned to total immersion in Linuxdom. By the end of the day I had a working machine complete with graphics, sound and wireless networking, I even managed to get it to play DVDs (no mean feat).

It was a day of highs, lows and intense concentration as I gave myself over fully to the hacker inside. Finally I felt triumph. I had struggled through and I had overcome. I had build this thing with the toil of my brain.

I owned this machine.

Of course the truth was that the machine owned me. This project had seduced me in a way that fiddling with my window rigs never can.

It couldn't last. Eventually I was pulled back by to reality by my wife's gentle but firm insistence that she does not want a Linux media centre pc hooked up to the wide-screen TV in our living room. I was forced to face reality. My project was wonderful but ultimately useless.

The hacker that had briefly come outside retreated back to my inner depths. It is still there. It will always be there but I am content to keep it locked away for another 12 months or so before letting it out for next years annual outing.


Popular posts from this blog

My First Gaming Mouse: Logitech G300

I bought a gaming mouse yesterday a Logitech G300, here my initial thoughts. What is a gaming mouse?  There are a wide variety of devices available classified as gaming mice but a few features  seem common: 1. Wired rather than wireless: Although some high end models are wireless wired connections are just better and faster than wireless so most gaming mice stick with wired. As a bonus wired mice don't need batteries so the mouse is lighter.  2. High response rate: 1 to 2ms response rate so the mouse immediately responds to input.  2. High DPI. Gaming mice invariable boast high DPI numbers from 2,000 DPI upwards. This makes the device very responsive to the smallest movements.   3. Adjustable DPI . High DPI improves responsiveness but reduces precision so gaming mice generally allow you to adjust the DPI down for precise work such as pulling off headshots in sniper mode. Generally the mouse allows dpi to be changed on the fly by pressing a button.  4. Extr

Android Tip 3: Sharing a Folder between multiple users of an Android device

Android has allowed multiple user logins for quite a while now. This is can be very useful for tablets which are shared by family members. Normally Android erects strict Chinese walls between users preventing them from using each others apps and viewing each others files. This is a useful security feature and ensures your kids don't mess up your work spreadsheets when screwing around on the tablet and should also prevent them from buying €1,000 worth of Clash of Candy coins on your account. Sometimes however you really do want to share stuff with other users and this can prove surprisingly difficult. For example on a recent holiday I realised that I wanted to share a folder full of travel documents with my wife. Here are some ways to achieve this. 1. If you have guaranteed internet access  then you can create a shared folder on either Dropbox or Google drive. Either of these has the great advantage of being able to access the files on any device and the great disadvantage of bein

Portal 2 two screen coop on one PC.

I mentioned before that I intended to try Portal 2 in "unofficial split screen co-op mode. Well split screen on a small computer monitor is a recipe for a headache especially when the game defies gravity as much as portal. However a minor bit of extra fiddling allowed us to drive two seperate screens from one PC. The Steam forums describes a complicated method of doing this that I couldn't get working so this simpler method which worked for me might be of use to someone. 1. First I followed the instructions in this post to get split screen multi-player working: A minor issue not mentioned is that you need to enable the console from the keyboard/mouse options menu I am using keyboard and one wired Xbox360 controller as suggested. Getting the controller to switch to channel 2 was tricky at first but as Chameleon8 mentions plugging it out and in again during loading works. The trick for me was to do the plug / p