The Way of the Hacker

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If you are aspiring to be a hacker or a Unix/Linux guru, then you have probably read some of Eric S. Raymond's writings like 'The New Hacker's Dictionary' and 'The Art of Unix Programming'. You may have also visited his website and read some of his articles there.

If you haven’t been to ESR’s site, there are interesting pages there that contain some ‘koans’.

From Wikipedia:

A kōan (公案; Chinese: gōng-àn, Korean: gong'an, Vietnamese: công án) is a story, dialogue, question, or statement in the history and lore of Chán (Zen) Buddhism, generally containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet may be accessible to intuition. A famous kōan is: "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?"

Raymond’s own version of koans entitled, ‘The Unix Koans of Master Foo’ is filled with humor and wisdom that every wannabe hacker should enjoy. Here are a couple of Unix koans that I took from ESR’s website:

Master Foo and the Unix Zealot

A Unix zealot, having heard that Master Foo was wise in the Great Way, came to him for instruction. Master Foo said to him:

“When the Patriarch Thompson invented Unix, he did not understand it. Then he gained in understanding, and no longer invented it.”

“When the Patriarch McIlroy invented the pipe, he knew that it would transform software, but did not know that it would transform mind.”

“When the Patriarch Ritchie invented C, he condemned programmers to a thousand hells of buffer overruns, heap corruption, and stale-pointer bugs.”

“Truly, the Patriarchs were blind and foolish!”

The zealot was greatly angered by the Master's words.

“These enlightened ones,” he protested. “gave us the Great Way of Unix. Surely, if we mock them we will lose merit and be reborn as beasts or MCSEs.”

“Is your code ever completely without stain and flaw?” demanded Master Foo.

“No,” admitted the zealot, “no man's is.”

“The wisdom of the Patriarchs” said Master Foo, “was that they knew they were fools.”

Upon hearing this, the zealot was enlightened.

Master Foo and the Script Kiddie

A stranger from the land of Woot came to Master Foo as he was eating the morning meal with his students.

“I hear y00 are very l33t,” he said. “Pl33z teach m3 all y00 know.”

Master Foo's students looked at each other, confused by the stranger's barbarous language. Master Foo just smiled and replied: “You wish to learn the Way of Unix?”

“I want to b3 a wizard hax0r,” the stranger replied, “and 0wn ever3one's b0xen.”

“I do not teach that Way,” replied Master Foo.

The stranger grew agitated. “D00d, y00 r nothing but a p0ser,” he said. “If y00 n00 anything, y00 wud t33ch m3.”

“There is a path,” said Master Foo, “that might bring you to wisdom.” The master scribbled an IP address on a piece of paper. “Cracking this box should pose you little difficulty, as its guardians are incompetent. Return and tell me what you find.”

The stranger bowed and left. Master Foo finished his meal.

Days passed, then months. The stranger was forgotten.

Years later, the stranger from the land of Woot returned.

“Damn you!” he said, “I cracked that box, and it was easy like you said. But I got busted by the FBI and thrown in jail.”

“Good,” said Master Foo. “You are ready for the next lesson.” He scribbled an IP address on another piece of paper and handed it to the stranger.

“Are you crazy?” the stranger yelled. “After what I've been through, I'm never going to break into a computer again!”

Master Foo smiled. “Here,” he said, “is the beginning of wisdom.”

On hearing this, the stranger was enlightened.

More Unix koans can be found HERE. Hope you will be enlightened.

1 comment

  1. My kung fu is greater than your fung ku.