The Human Hacking Field Guide

Shlomi Fish


This document is copyrighted by Shlomi Fish under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License version 2.0 (or at your option a greater version).

Revision History
Revision 113420 August 2004shlomif
Started working on this document after forking the template of an older one.
Revision 114321 August 2004shlomif
Added up to the middle of the "Are you done insulting me?" chapter.
Revision 115222 August 2004shlomif
Added to the end of "I'm just a geek".
Revision 115822 August 2004shlomif
Added to the end of the first IRC conversation ("BETH!").
Revision 116824 August 2004shlomif
Added to the end of "She still is…"
Revision 116827 August 2004shlomif
Added to the end of "Evil HTML E-mail"
Revision 119427 August 2004shlomif
Added to the end of "TRIZ"
Revision 120330 August 2004shlomif
Added to the end of "Divine's Good"
Revision 126630 September 2004shlomif
Added to the end of "'Abandoning' Debian" and fixed many typos and incorrections.
Revision 12802 October 2004shlomif
Fixed many typos, many of which were discovered by Andrew Dexter.
Revision 12845 October 2004shlomif
Added to the End of "RMS is Coming to Town".
Revision 12877 October 2004shlomif
Added to the End of "God Works in Mysterious Ways".
Revision 12899 October 2004shlomif
Fixed many typos reported by Uri Bruck.
Revision 136920 May 2005shlomif
Fixed some typos.
Revision 137327 May 2005shlomif
Finished the document, and spell-checked it.
Revision 137928 May 2005shlomif
Changed "FreeNode" to "Freenode". Also fixed two minor but important typos and mis-punctuations.
Revision 138028 May 2005shlomif
Fixed some missing quotes, courtesy of Freenode's AthlonRob.
Revision 138228 May 2005shlomif
Read the story cover to cover, and fixed many typos I discovered.
Revision 138430 May 2005shlomif
Fixed some problems courtesy of Steve Harris.
Revision 13891 June 2005shlomif
Added another joke to the last chapter.
Revision 141414 October 2005shlomif
Revamped a part in "Divine's Good". Also fixed a lot of other bad phrasing, punctuation, etc.
Revision 141817 October 2005shlomif
Made the "radius" detail much more realistic. (10 km instead of 40 km)
Revision 144305 November 2005shlomif
Fixed the major/minor mix-ups in "God Works in Mysterious Ways".
Revision 144305 November 2005shlomif
Corrected a typo.
Revision 155905 November 2005shlomif
Corrected a typo and changed a word to a variant with more character.
Revision 168509 April 2007shlomif
Corrected a few errors in "Search of Lost Time"
Revision 175209 May 2007shlomif
Revamped the beginning (discussion of how to get into a better college) to make it more believable.
Revision 184115 July 2008shlomif
Revamped the start of the beach scene.
Revision 271007 September 2009shlomif
Revamped the "Committing Adultery in Your Heart is…" part, a little.
Revision 276814 September 2009shlomif
Made various corrections and enhancements.
Revision 300106 October 2009shlomif
Some grammar, and formatting corrections. Changed dot-dot-dots to Unicode ellipses ("…"). Converted a quote to a blockquote.
Revision 313506 November 2009shlomif
Converted the spelling of "Maths" to the commonwealth spelling (which is the standard spelling used for my English stories).

Table of Contents

The Things you do to Get to University
Are You Done Insulting Me?
Are you Done - Part 2
I'm just a Geek…
Hardware Hackers are…
"She still is…"
MIME, POE, XUL and other Beasts
"That would be as Evil as HTML E-mail is…"
"Divine"'s Good
Committing Adultery in Your Heart is…
Man, it was so exciting!
"Raesha - meh ho owmer?"
"Abandoning" Debian
RMS is Coming to Town
"Who will Take a Second Look at it, unless…"
God Works in Mysterious Ways
I can write my own replacement for 'In Search of Lost Time'
Most of our Electrical Engineering graduates cannot…
Hexadecimal Dollar

The Things you do to Get to University

My name is Jennifer. Jennifer Susan Raymond, to be exact. I live in Los-Angeles, in one of those nice neigbourhoods that they always show in movies. I am in my high-school senior year now.

Let me tell you some things about myself. The first thing is that I'm a honour student. I especially like Maths. Its high school exercises are easy and fun and the difficult ones, which can be found in puzzle books and Maths competitions, are very challenging. I'm also good in other subjects, but Maths is really my passion. Other than that I'm blonde, have a cute face (I don't really consider myself beautiful, but guys seem to think so) and try to dress very elegantly. As a Maths geek, I sure have a social life. Everybody around me seems to like me.

Finally, I should tell about Taylor, Taylor Lawrence. He's my best friend. We became friends when we were in the fourth grade and were both grounded for 4 weeks. We instantly became friends. When we were 12 and we started having, eh, sexual sensations, we started dating each other. Then we both had a crush on different people, and we were relieved when we found out. We decided exploring our feelings would not be a worthwhile goal, and we dated other people since.

Taylor is probably even more popular than I am. Even though he wears prescription glasses, he looks great, and girls almost always agree to go with him on dates. (And sometimes ask him themselves.) One thing he seems to like and I don't is computers. He spends hours on end tampering with his computer at home. Mine, on the other hand, is almost always turned off. I have good hand writing, thank you, so I don't need a word processor. I turn it on only to listen to audio files, do some random browsing in the Internet (either for research, or to kill time or whatever) or play Freecell or Tetris. I think computers are impersonal and boring.

It all started one day when I was attending class, paying attention to the teacher, when suddenly it hit me: I don't have either any special skills and have never really been involved in the community. So, no prestigious college will prefer me over someone else. This has worried me so much that for the rest of the day, I just wrote down what the teacher said in my notebook thoughtlessly, and kept worrying about this issue.

I really want to graduate from somewhere nice where I can be proud of myself, and have the entire world at my disposal. But my entire life I've been concerned only about myself and my friends, trying to become happy, (and having a pretty good success at it), and just doing what school required me to do. I've never really been involved in anything for the community. And I never found it necessary to get any special skills, unless you call hitting the gym twice a week (with Taylor), jogging and biking special.

So I was relieved when I met Taylor that day, when we both finished school.

"Taylor, I'm worried about college." I told him.

"Why?" he said.

"I don't have any special skills and no community involvement."

"Jenn, you're sweet, intelligent and the kindest person I know. Every college will be glad to have you."

"So are most of the other candidates they get, but as opposed to me they do have some special skills and show some community involvement. How am I going to get it by the end of this year?"

"Well, you might as well try."

"Try what?"

"Learning a special skill", he said.

"A special skill? Like what?"

"You could study Sumerian!"

"Sumerian? What on Earth would I do with Sumerian?", I said, unamused.

"Talk to native speakers of Sumerian, of course."

Now I was angry. "They're all dead!"

"OK, ok. How about Latin or Hebrew or Greek?"

"I have enough problems with Spanish, thank you."

"Si, comprendo." Taylor said. "OK, OK", he continued. "I know - why don't you help the poor or whatever. Tutor kids with difficulties."

"Well…", I thought for a moment, "Taylor, you're just making up random suggestions."

Taylor thought for a moment.

"How about if you do something I can help you with and you can relate to and will also be knowledgable. Jenn, what do you say about becoming an open-source hacker?"

From talking to Taylor, I already knew that hacker did not necessarily mean a computer intruder, but rather someone who accomplished things very enthusiastically. So I told him:

"Open-source hacker? You know perfectly well that I'm a computer-phobic."

"Jennifer, you're a computer phobic now, but you can grow to like computers. I mean what are your options? Become an Electronics hacker like Jonathan is?"

Jonathan is my boyfriend, and has been since the start of the eleventh grade. He's the best boyfriend I ever had. He also likes to build machines with wires, batteries, and many other components I can't remember now. He and Taylor have become good friends.

"Electronics? You know I have two left hands, with these kind of things."

"Jenn, but you're left-handed!"

"So I have two right-hands! Taylor, are we going to argue about semantics now?"

"OK, but Jenn,", and he held my hands, "I want you to better relate to what I'm doing".

"Hmmm…." I said. I started feeling guilt and confusion and lots of other feelings. "Alright. ", I said, "I'll be an open-source hacker. Or at least try to. So… are you going to give me private lessons and stuff?"

"Sure, why not. " he said, "Wait a second! Hold that thought - I think I have a better idea. Come with me." he said, and he went down the hall.

I followed him for a few hallways and then entered with him into a computer lab. There he walked to some figure (looked like a girl) with purple (!) hair.

"Hi!" he said.

"Hiiiii…" I heard an enthusiastic female voice. "Whatcha doing here?"

"Jenn, please come here. Jenn I'd like you to meet Eve Siegel, who likes to be called 'Erisa'. Erisa, I told you about Jenn."

I looked at this Erisa character. Her hair was dyed purple, her face had too much makeup, and her facial expression was horrid. Remember that episode in "Sabrina - The Teenage Witch" where Sabrina transforms herself into a punk? She looked only a bit better than that.

"Hi" I said reluctantly.

"Hmmm… " said Erisa, "a bit too elegant for this school, aren't we. I know your type of girls. Let me guess: you are a honour student, right?"

"Yes," I told her.

"You exercise a lot".

I was becoming worried, "yeah".

"You listen to these girlie bands like NSync, All Saints, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and…"

"Well,", I wanted to say that I did not like NSync much.

"Yes, Atomic Kitten! These babes are the worst."

How does she know that I have all their CDs?

"Furthermore, you're a goody two shoes, never violated any rules, your parents are proud of you, you watch shows like 'Friends' and 'Seinfeld' and 'Sabrina'. Eukh… I hate Melissa Joan Hart so much…"

I could not take it anymore. She seemed to know everything about me, I started crying and left the room to the hallway. I hardly even noticed that everyone in the lab was looking at me.

Taylor went out and came to me. He hugged me and calmed me down.

"Am I as superficial as she describes?" I asked after I stopped crying.

"Jenn, don't take Erisa so seriously. She's a bit of a punk, and seem to have a grudge against the world at large and pop culture in particular."

"Why do you want her to tutor me in hacking?"

"Because she is a girl, so you won't have prejudice."

"She might be a girl, but she doesn't seem like a human being."

"Trust me, she is once you get to know her better. And she gets to know you."

"Can't you find another girl hacker to tutor me?"

"Jennifer… she's the best girl hacker in a 10-kilometre radius and one of the best hackers I know, female or male. She's the best person I can think of."

"Fine," I told him, "I'll give it a shot.". The things you do to get into university.

We entered the room again, and Taylor and I approached Erisa.

"Erisa, Jennifer here would like to become an open-source hacker."

"She?" she made a fake laugh, "what for?"

"To get into a better college.", I said.

"You want to engage in a purely altruistic activity for a selfish cause? Well, I won't be the judge of that."

"Hmmpff," I said.

"Anyway, if you want me to tutor you, it will cost you. My software is free, girlfriend, but my time isn't. 20 bucks an hour. And trust me, I'm almost never this cheap. I'm just doing it as a favour to Taylor here."

"20 dollars is fine, I guess." I told her.

She opened her bag, took out the school's students list, said "Jennifer?", (I said "Raymond"), and checked my address. "Heh", she said, "a couple of blocks from my house." She took note of my name in her PDA that lay on the computer's table.

"Now for some homework. Go to the Internet and read 'How to become a Hacker' by Eric S. Raymond. I'll drop by in two days, and guide you through the installation process of 'Mandrake Linux'. Chicks dig Mandrake, and while I'm using Debian, it'd probably be the best for you."

"Thanks, I said." I took a mental note of the resource, shook Erisa's hand, and left the lab.