A hacking machine is a smaller and less powerful computer in comparison to your main system, and that can be used to actually hack into stuff, though this is optional =)
What kinds of computers fall in this category? Netbooks surely do, and so do older hardware, Desktops and Laptops alike. In short, it's a secondary less powerful system which you wouldn't be afraid of breaking, should something happen.
You may be asking yourself "So, in order to try free software I need to shell out money? What a paradox!" The answer is maybe. Chances are you still have that six-year-old rig sitting somewhere in your basement, or a friend wanting to dispose of his computer. Or maybe you were already thinking about buying a netbook anyway. So spending the money is not completely necessary, keeping in mind that the hacking machine will be a test driving device, a literal hacking machine (in the sense of tweaking the shit out of your system). There are some great points in using a secondary machine to test and tweak things out;
- It allows you to easily grow a completely independent environment to test. Partitions in a hard drive can also do this, but are more complicated to manage (labeling the boot sections is a bitch) and are not immune to a complete wipeout.
- It allows you to use both computers at the same time (depends on portability) without the performance loss of emulators. This is useful when working on non-defaulting installations, such as those of minimalist distributions (Arch, Gentoo), in which you may need to look into documentation.
- It makes solving determinate problems easy - if something has gone ugly, just format the whole disk! All the things that matter are in the main system anyway... If you on the other hand mounted a partition in your main hard drive, the process is not as pretty. Good luck identifying the right partitions among the sea of 'sdas' and 'sdbs!'
- Puppy Linux
- Peppermint OS
- Arch Linux
- Gentoo (not successfully, though...)
Nov 2011 by K. Zimmermann