This file from Adra, http://www.mhada.info.

Miscellaneous Topics

(but some quite central), by

Martha Adams

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========= [Hackers vs Crackers] =========

This topic of "Hackers vs Crackers" is large and important to all computers users, but it's outside Adra's topic. For this reason, these following paragraphs only outline it.

The title here, 'Hackers vs Crackers,' points to serious general misunderstanding by most working outside computer technology, and by a few within it, concerning labelling. In its original meaning, which originates at MIT and a very few other such academic institutions, a 'hacker' is an exceptionally able user of the technology who acquired the appropriate knowhow and skills through intense work and study. Nothing is in this origin about intrusive and destructive use of such a resource.

A 'cracker' is, by contrast, a person whose principal interest focusses on intrusive activities and on breaking things. A "script kiddie" is a low-grade cracker who finds resources -- such as scripts -- in cyberspace and uses these for cracker objectives.

The confusion arises because public news media, generally, use 'hacker' indiscriminately for all particular cases. Thus 'hacker' acquires slightly sinister -- and seriously misleading -- connotations. Which raises the question: why do the news media persist in so obvious an error? Are they simply lazy in their work? It has been suggested this wrong terminology is promoted by large computer companies such as Microsoft, which profit from vendor lockin based upon user error and ignorance. This again, is a topic wrong for Adra.

In the following, I provide a small amount of background to support the serious computer user.

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What is a computer? I can say it all in a few words: "A computer is a ruly finite state machine." And with that I've said all there is to say on the topic, except for the details.

Of which, there are a lot of those.

And one of the first of those is, its workings are all internal. You don't see what goes on inside a computer system, except through further systems. Thus practically all a computer does, and what it does it to, and of the results it makes, are invisible, hidden under layers of applied technology. Which technology may serve to bring that invisibility up to visiblility on a computer screen or as hardcopy.

But to understand the details of computer processing, requires work. It doesn't help that computers generally use different number systems than the base 10 systems of everyday life. Thus, who uses a computer, must know something of that technology.

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