11.20.2011

Everyone should have a Hacking Machine

My computing experience and opinions have changed slowly, but drastically over time. I resist change for as long as I can, but when it comes, the change is immensely radical. Many people (including me) condemn this "dive straight in" attitude, as it's bound for frustration and sometimes irreversible damage to the computers. In fact, I have gone through these two problems a more than a couple of times already. The difficulty of reverting determinate situations with Linux is probably one of the reasons many people are hesitant to try it at first. Sure, the LiveCD is one way of playing it safe, but has limitations on speed and extensibility. So what is the best solution to try new things without fear, you ask? Simple, use a hacking machine.

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;

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!'
A friend of mine once said that you can never have too many computers. Though refutable, this claim illustrates the point of a hacking machine. I ran into problems while attempting to multi-boot my main system, and decided after a couple of full HDD formats that master boot records are hella confusing. However, I had the lucky opportunity to acquire my sister's old laptop (6yo) which she thought was broken. Turns out that for a $40 HDD, I didn't have a brand new machine, but I had a fully working computer that I would use as a sandbox for my Linux experiments. In my hacking machine, I've already tried/tweaked the following distros so far:
  • Puppy Linux
  • PCLinuxOS
  • Peppermint OS
  • Arch Linux
  • Lubuntu/Kubuntu
  • Moblin/Meego/EasyPeasy
  • Gentoo (not successfully, though...)
So, why limit yourself with one distribution per year? Use your hacking machine and live up the motto of Distrowatch: put the fun back in computing! There are hundreds of free Linux distributions waiting for a download. Go give them a try!

Nov 2011 by K. Zimmermann
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3 comments:

  1. شركة الطيار تعتبر افضل نقوم بتنظيف الشقق و الفلل بمدينة الدمام بافضل المكينات و الطرق الحديثة حيث اننا كما اننا نعتبر افضل شركة شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
    نقوم بتنظيف الشقق من الداخل جزء جزء علكم ان تتصلو علي شركة الطيار باسرع وقت ممكن لاننا افضل يمكنك معرفة المزيد حول الخدمة شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالاحساء

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