Some Words of a Fellow Traveler on The Way

This piece is for those “hacking? how do?”

I am a millenial. Grew up not poor, but never really had the newest and coolest. A lot of hand me down stuff and had a SNES well until PS1 superceded the PSX. (I hope to not come out as some punk ass who thinks he was poor living thug life)

One time, I got the rugrats VHS stuck in the VCR. Looked at it and saw it could be opened with moms tool set.

I was mesmerized by the circuit layout, how it all looked like a small city. And when I plugged it in, it all came to life.

I then opened a radio we got from a yardsale. Then some of my electronic toys over time. Didn’t try to circuit bend or anything, just to check out what it all looked like beneath the shroud.

As I got older, I began to notice the machine my grandpa played his cards on. Can’t remember the brand but in memory, it looked like a generic white computer housing and a seperate, bland baige, monitor. Running Macintosh 🙂 (or was it a macintosh running windows…)

Did a little word processesing, clicking around. He said he paid almost thousands for it, therefore, sorta protective. Paint was fun.

Then my mother got our first household computer in 97/98. From rent a center. Spent hours tinkering with paint. Then one day she couldn’t afford the bill and the thing went away. Christmas of that year, I got a gameboy color. The purple one you can see through. Oh that circuit board…

Then the matrix hit mainstream, Y2K was a thing and the possibility of computer catastrophe was all the chatter.

Then Y2K passed.

So flash forward myself into middle school. By now I owned a PS2 and was deeply into art. I loved drawing stories of the anime I would watch. Trying to get every detail of these machines, like the ones I saw in Gundam. Then mom got our first permament family computer. At first she was liberal with our access. We got AOL, away into the chat rooms I went… Kinda a weird dark area of my geek life. Funnily… Sometimes posing as a lesbian to get into these cyber chats.

Downloading games that allowed me to chat to others.

Then one day, I made a real life friend at school who also lived in the neiborhood. He used to enjoy talking about his forum interactions on this site (forcemonkies.com ?). I was convinced to get an account and pretty soon discovered the term “flame war”.

My first touch of any hacking was when one day my friend came over and logged onto his forum account on our computer. We spent a few hours playing flash vids from newgrounds and atom-films.com 🙂 (“super fly” anyone?)

Then he left. I was still watching videos and wanted to go back in the history to a previous video. I clicked a few too many times and all of a sudden wound up back in the forcemonkies forum. Not only that… I was logged in as my friend! >:)

I did what any good chum would in this situation

“I hereby declare, you all are leotard wearing fucktards. L JENKINS BIOTCH!!!!!! 1337 455 FUCK!!!”

The next day at school, we meet in the library, he jumps onto his account and discovers he’s been demoted and had received a PM in regards to the matter.

I told him maybe my computer was infected with a virus from all those flash games. Not sure if he believed that, but it was all still a good laff.

I then watched the Matrix again, and soon developed this wonder of “what does truly lie beneath the shroud”?

The middle school I went to at the time, hosted a robotics building competition. After school, I’d hang in the tech lab learning how to build a robot out of random shit and actual robot parts (wooden wheels and such). It was interesting learning how to interface with the servos. Learning how to issue commands and read debug data from a censor that detected if it was on a red path or not. Then the Animatrix came out on DVD and the story of B166ER and the war of wars entered my perception. Technology will eventually be what the next wave of evolution will become.

In high school, we discovered bittorrent. And how bittorrent can essentially let you look for almost ANYTHING. Even found a credit card generator! Could have been some nasty malware. I tried using it once but got nervous whent the first mark didn’t work. Then discovered EMULATORS!!!

I also discovered how actually very compact old console games were. I became the cool kid at school who had these floppy discs with like 5 or so games and a emulator. Would toss that bitch into the computer during our computer labs/library time and Donkey Kong the whole time.

Then I met this new friend from El Salvador. He said “you ever play with telnet?”

We found out how to chat to each other using the school network. Just kid n play stuff.

Then my family moved to another state.

I was the outcast again. I got my first job at a pizza joint and saved my money for a 1st Gen Nintendo DS. Got super mario for it, it was fun. But then I discovered this thing called an R4 card. And emulator sites were BARELY coming out with NDS files as the titles were rolling out.

What was truly interesting though was the homebrew community. FUCKING LINUX WAS AN APP FOR THE NDS!!

I loaded linux and porn on that fucking DS and thought I was lord hack. Going to school, getting on the wifi and looking up answers on this DS to all the tests. Got around the network firewall using DNS (not even cell phones had this capapcity, remember????). Learned how to network map.

Then one day, while I was playing with a coke machine to try to get some free soda (could never figure it out though), this fellow student came up from behind me and asked what the hell I was doing. The screen on the coke machine was in some sort of menu state. “Trying to hack the machine” I said bluntly.

He then laughed and pulled out his PSP, showed me that he was playing some old school games on it. Had a library of games.

“Pffffft… Emulators? I’ll see you, and raise you my linux DS!”

Whipped it out and showed him my homebrew selection. There was even a VOIP app on the DS! Showed him a chat room with dudes from china just talking to each other. Then the connection stopped. Even though my wifi radio was on, it was not getting internet.

“No internet access” my new friend said.

“Yeah, WTF”.

“My PSP is blocking your signal”, he said with a smug face.

I was so excited to meet another hack. We became friends, he rolled with a very alternative set. He said, if you wanna hack, you got to be able to sit and write code.

“What should I start with?” the golden question rolled.

“HTML is a good place to start”.

Because of all the school I was missing, my grades began falling behind. My mom barred me from the computer. She then discovered my DS and took that away too.

Then one day at school, I discovered the site: hackaday.com

This was when the Altoids Mint Box MP3 Player was all the rage.

I can’t remember the project, but in one of my web diggings, I found this project that showed me how to make a live Ubuntu disk.

Oh shit.

Burned that fucking thing and it was like keys to the goddamn city. Loading that CD on the family computer when mom was away was wizard.

I have to admit… That first time I did that, it was the most tantric fap session ever.

So now I felt like a hack, but what do these skills mean???

I told my hacker friend about my Ubuntu exploit. “Pffft, really man? Thats nice…” I finally was able to hang out at his house, he was running Slackware.

He liked my enthusiasm and said that I should read up on Kevin Mitnick.

I have to say, that was the first adult book I ever read, outside of electronics manuals.

Reading about Captain Crunch, exploits on darpa net. That dude who got caught by NASA and claims the aliens they are hiding. How Mitnick runs his own security firm. ALT2600…

Eventually, working at that pizzeria led to me being to get my first laptop. Got an Texas Instruments rig. I haunted ALT2600 pages, reading further on other peoples exploits. Phreaking mainly, from what I remember. Downloaded my own copy of the Anarchist Cookbook. Not that I would do anything with it, I just thought it was funny that it was soo taboo.

We moved across the country again. New highschool, more alienation.

My DS was now practically a laptop. Running Opera Web Browser,linux, playing my movies and music. At this point, high school was really hard to care about. Before I dropped out, I went to two different schools. The last school i went to, they had a Mac lab. Played with OSX Snow Leopard and developed my BASH skills. Threw brew repos on some of the machines and put in my own backdoors. I even phreaked a bit with the existing pay phones. Got the cops sent to the school when one day I played tones back into the receiver. One time I got a few quarters discharged and then a ATT rep called the box and asked if my call got dropped.

Then i dropped out of high school and was transient for some years.

I developed DJ skills and would play records for cash. Saved up for a powerful laptop and ran VirtualDJ at the clubs. Learned how to not only spin, but wire sound systems and eventually worked my way up to setting up MIDI, lazer shows and operating 24×24 foot LED screens and making graphics for them.

Running music promotions and learning what bars near the college were best to throw a show at for some good cash.

Then the drugs began getting tangled up. Ecstacy and acid were flooding the party scene. This new term for electronic music, coined EDM, spread and all these fake raver kids mixed in the scene. The heavy MDMA use caused me to loose my grip on things and for a time I went junky status.

Selling plasma for yack and booze. Not giving a fuck. Things got so grimey, for cash I dabbled in the dark arts…

When I moved into this sketchy neiborhood, I became the guy you could take your computer to “unlock my forgotten password”. This hood was also located near a major military base. One day this laptop came in. Same thing “I forgot my password”. I decided to run a quick a scan and found these files. Classified manuals of equipment and machinery from the era of GW’s invasion of Iraq.

“Cool” I thought. But then I had gotten this weird feeling deep inside.

Then one day, some how, I came out of my grungy drug stupor and thought “there has got to be a better way”.

I tried cleaning up my act, quit doing hard drugs and tried to be a functioning member of society.

My first job as a member of society was selling cars.

During this time, the cars were just coming out with these computer systems. Fords had microsoft products in them. My techiness made it easy to sell all the bells and whistle and the customer had this confidence in me because they could call me for “helpdesk” support.

Then one day I had an argument with the Sales Managers, they wanted me to sell more. As if 6 cars a week wasn’t enough!!! It pissed me off. It made me hate money.

I left the dealer ship and bought $10,000 worth of weed (by the way, this is a red state).

I got a copy of Kali, learned VPN and TOR and all that funderful stuff. I was connecting good grass to the city and dispersing to all the dealers. CREAM at the top.

I did this for a while and was able to live off the life style. It was cool as shit when I would go to the other end of the city, or even the next town over, and some of my product was being sold. Felt like a king pin but no one but my crew of salesmen knew what was going on.

Then I got robbed and had a near drug OD. The robbery left me with a deficeit in product. It happened when I chanced doubling up and got half of that on credit. I paid my dues and got out the game. Met a wonderful woman who looked passed all that and helped me recover.

During my recovery, I got a job at a tech repair shop. Eventually I got my first raspberry pi. Working on all the devices gave me so much experience. Reworking boards, phone repair, laptops, gadgets… All kinds of tech. It was like receiving college credit and being paid for it.

However, he exploited my talents to the brink of my sanity. He undercut all competitors to get all the market share. Eventually, I was fixing 10 or 15 ipads and iphones a day while trying to run and train a crew of interns. INTERNS!!! “uuuh, whats a linux????” “Oh shit! a terminal”, what kid, they don’t show you DOS in your A+ class???

Eventually the stress was too much. I said “fuck you!” and left and started my own IT path.

My first customer was a guy who had an Audi with a faulty LCD screen in the instrument panel. He said NO one in town wants to do it and that he could mail off the part for $600 but that he’d be without the instrument panel the whole time.

I told hime I’d do it for $350.

Shit was the first time I ever sweat yo. Taking apart that instrument panel was like taking apart a watch. And de-soldering the goddamned screen without damaging contacts! A quarter ounce of weed later, mission accomplished. AND I was honored with a joy ride because I had to calibrate the instrument panel 🙂

When I got $500, I was sold on IT. “I can do this” I said to myself.

I started advertising all over craigslist. Got all these small time gigs and building skill. With that raspberry pi and started teaching myself linux and IO and coding. Mainly anything related to serial and robotics, as interacting with these devices makes coding really fun. Like my robot days in middle school. I got work from an engineering PHD, he gave me this project to hack the serial ports of these gas sensing devices. He wanted to save $600 on the proprietary cable and try to make our own serial solution. We got VERY close. He funded all the mad science, I even got an oscillscope and a variable bench top power supply. In the end, we needed that fucking cable. It had a special RS232 chip.

Then one day, I got my first big account. Some national tech company from Florida needed a guy to troubleshoot a network for a hotel. After that successful gig, they found out that I can also troubleshoot Analog, PBX, and IP phones. And from there, my career took off. Installing computer and POS systems for fortune 500 companies. Configuring routers and switches, pulling miles of cable. SOMEHOW, even qualified for DOJ (dept of justice) work. Mind you, even though things got real grungy in my life, never once was I ever arrested!

Now I’m somewhere on the west coast providing support to small businesses. Installing some very high tech rigs using open source and thus saving my clients money. Installing managed networks. Meeting millionairs… The advent of robots is also an exciting part of what I do. Because I studied IO on a raspberry pi and robotics experience, I also work on CNC and 3D printing machines. The future is now!

I haven’t maliciously used a piece of tech since my grunge years. I happily provide the best service at the best cost and people love my solutions. Its some times still magic. Its also really cool how we now live in the future. All these technologies and methods that have matured. The fact that I can now run halo on linux. Apple watches that give us Dick Tracey tech.

And by the way, I never went beyond a quarter semester of college. Or any other formal tech education. The only thing certifying me is my N+ Cert, and that was obtained by watching networking videos on youtube.

This was to sorta offer some insight on the topic of what makes a hack… I am no guru, I admit, I absolutely do not know it all. But this very essential perspective is essential. Because… To hack is to not stop your wonder and utilize mans most advanced tools.