Mostly guys, they liked what they were doing and wanted to share. While at Emerson College in the late 60s I’d often go to MIT and hang out with them. Socially awkward in most cases, they had plenty of time to hack.
The Internet is different today. Computing is different too. I am the rare exception, someone who still builds his own machines–a chore which surely costs more than buying one in a store. To most people a computer is another appliance and they’d no sooner build their own than they’d build their toaster.
Hackers are still around. We’re more hidden now. Names that impress you, like Microsoft or McAfee, leave us cold. Real hackers play with FOSS–Free and Open Source Software.
If you use Firefox and you click deep enough within the menus you’ll finally come to a spot where it’s revealed, “All of the source code to this product is available under licenses which are both free and open source.” Hell yeah it is.
The same freeware philosophy drives Linux and Apache and MySQL. Those three names might not mean much to you, but the Internet is firmly built on them much to Microsoft’s chagrin.
My still-in-design blog is also FOSS. It’s built on WordPress which carries a GNU General Public License.
“The licenses for most software are designed to take away your freedom to share and change it. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software — to make sure the software is free for all its users.”
The hackers are alive and well and supporting WordPress!
Though well documented (and I actually do read the docs) yesterday I ran into a WordPress dead end I couldn’t back out from. There is no help desk to call. My tech support was the WordPress community.
Early this afternoon I shot off a very technical question full of cryptic source code. It concluded, “Can someone give me a hand, please?”
Within ten minutes there was a first response–a request for more info. The conversation went back-and-forth as I better explained the situation. Sometimes the afflicted don’t know enough to even ask the right question! That was me.
“If you can post your complete code (from whichever file you’re doing this in), I’ll show you where to make changes.” A stranger was offering assistance.
I did. He did. The fix worked perfectly! And not only does it work, the fix is well documented so I can learn from it and replicate it later if I need to.
I don’t really know who “t31os_” is or where he’s located. He felt my pain. He coded the fix.
We all have to start somewhere, I’m just a coding hobbyist myself, all self taught, I’m by no means a guru, so no need to be embarrassed.
This is the spirit of hacking. This is what continues to fuel my deep affection for computing.
What “t31os_” is for me I am for others. I’ve done surgery for friends dozens of times making their dead PCs once again reach out for the viruses and porn that got them into trouble in the first place!
If you read the geek websites you’ll see ominous hints that some companies want to throttle FOSS and hackers. We are a threat to their existence, or at least their current profit margin.
In the meantime we’re driven to hack and unlikely to stop.