[long (meandering) reply alert! ]
I am at a loss to understand why so many people are interested in hacking this beautiful multimedia device and thereby destroying it.
Possibly because you associate "hacking" with breaking into things and other destructive behaviour?
Sadly the mass media seem to think that "hacker" == "criminal", to the point that recently a judge in the US... well, read this: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/23/hacker_seizure_rights_case/
We, the good sort of hackers
have other names for the sorts of people that like screwing up stuff. "Cracker" is the name of choice. The other names we use can only be represented here by lots of punctuation symbols.
There is nothing cool about running botnets, trashing people's data, pwning websites, and stealing password lists. Those people aren't hackers, they are w%$@&*s. Oh look, punctuation. Get the point?
I personally feel that they should concentrate on making maximum use of it because they have already spent $300 for acquiring it.
By way of example, consider Cyanogen for Android phones. It is a hacked tweaked and generally kick-ass version of Android. Of course you probably need to run exploits and do some ugly hacks to get around the manufacturer-imposed lockouts; but the flip side of the coin is demonstrated by looking at my phones. I have three Androids (yearly contract renewal = new phone time). The first, a Moto Defy
is running 2.1 with no
updates available. The Xperia Mini Pro
(cute keyboard) is running 2.3 with a "you're on your own with no way to revert back to 2.3
" version of ICS if you can figure out how to install it; and my current phone, the Xperia U
(nice phone, shame it is hobbled with only 4Gb onboard) is running 2.3.6 with the same conditions if you want to go to ICS. Certainly they are STILL
being sold TODAY
with 2.3.6 onboard and the current version of Android is what? 2.anything is practically Paleolithic!
Truth is - for many companies, once a device has been made and is in the shops, it is forgotten. They have your money, so where is the incentive to care any further? Better to put effort into The Next Best Thing instead, right?
Enter the Hacker. Not the guy on in the movies that sucks chupa-chups and wrecks stuff for the lulz, but somebody who sees a device and wants to set free its potential.
Because that is what true hacking is - to take something and see how far you can take it.
I will give you an example. Back in the '80s and early '90s it was quite common to write "demos" on home computers (Archimedes, Amiga, etc) which would do all sorts of fancy tricks with music and video. Depending on your age, you might have seen these already.
A guy way smarter than me has done a low-resolution demo with cheesy music that sounds like something from the Sega Master System. What raises this to Utter Awesome
is that it is being done on a 20MHz microcontroller. The music, the sound generation, the RGB video, all are created in real time by an ATmega88.
Video here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNCqrylNY-0
Website here - http://www.linusakesson.net/scene/craft/That
is a righteous hack
. To squeeze something impressive (not only generating a stable VGA signal, but doing all the other stuff as well) out of a chip more likely to be used in smart washing machines. Okay, maybe 20MHz is OTT for a washing machine, but the point still stands.
Personal hacks of mine that I did as a child - my IT teacher really hated Greensleaves
. So hack #1 was to take a classroom full of BBC micros (if you are American, think of a better Apple II) and write a program that would run in the background and use the network to synchronise to have each machine (picked randomly) play the next note. When the tune was finished, replay it as a canon (how people sing "row row row your boat").
I bought myself a week's worth of detention for that stunt, so hack #2 was to raise the bar and send patterns of dots to the dot matrix printer to get it to change pitch as it printed to play something approximating Greensleaves. Oddly enough, I didn't get detention, I got made an admin. Win!
Around Y2K I was involved with a company wanting to progress from an ancient DOS-based stock system to one that worked under Windows98. The problem was, the old stock system had no way to export the data in any known format. Written in some sort of compiled BASIC, the internal file format made no sense at all and the people who wrote the software wanted £1000 for a module to export the data. The exorbitant costs of add-ons is part of the problem.
"I'll have it done over the weekend", I said.
"I'll give you £250 if you do", the boss of the company said.
So... On Thursday afternoon... First, I removed the harddisc from the PC and connected it to the IDE port of my A5000 (RISC OS) computer. Then I connected a second harddisc of the same type (a standard Maxtor of a capacity something like 203Mb) and I used a simple program to sector-copy from one drive to the other. Actually, my A5000 had 4Mb onboard so I copied in 2Mb chunks.
The original harddisc went back, and the cloned harddisc went into an old AT. Then, I made some wires and wrote some software. The first wire was a parallel port to parallel port cable. The second was a cross-over serial cable. I used my A5000 again because RISC OS made it easy to drop down to hardware level to control the parallel port directly.
Here's what I did. I fired up the annoying software on the AT with the cloned harddisc and I instructed the software to print a full inventory. In this mode it would output hundreds and hundreds of pages of data to the printer. And it did so, with my A5000 faithfully acting like an Epson dot matrix printer. The serial port went from my A5000 to the W98 box. The W98 box was running HyperTerminal which was receiving a file from the modem using the Ymodem protocol. The modem? Actually, that was my A5000 faking being a BBS connected to via a modem which it was also pretending to be.
The nitty gritty was that as each pageful of rubbish came from the DOS software, it would be assembled as a page of stuff in memory, then picked apart to extract the various items of data required. These would be turned into CSV format data and written to a buffer. When there was more than 1K in the buffer, it would be sent to the serial port as the next Ymodem block.
I didn't do it over the weekend. I did it on Thursday night, stayed up until 4am (!), had it ready for Friday morning. All imported into the Windows database (Access? I forget the name) and checked manually entry by entry against the DOS data.
Boss bloke was so impressed, I got an extra fifty. But, to be honest, I didn't do it for the money. I did it partly because the attitude of the developer of the DOS software annoyed the hell out of me, and partly because everybody thought it would involve reentering everything as there was clearly no way to get the DOS package to work with the rest of the world. But, then, I don't tend to think like normal people, I'd figured this possibility before I even made my offer and... it worked like a charm. If only all my projects were that effortless!
More recently? I like living in the interrupt handler, there is just something really pleasing about ARM code and the low level stuff is the most interesting of all. My paid job is working on a production line for a crappy wage. This nerdy stuff, I do for fun. I haven't really done any cool hacks in a while. Just don't have the time. I blame having internet. After all, just spent half an hour writing this for nobody to read. It's more a reminiscence for me 'cos it is winter and cold and that sucks. I love taking my netbook out in the summer and cutting code while gently swaying in a hammock with the oak and the greengage above me, their leaves keeping the sun out of my eyes. Ahhhhhh.....
But now it is December. I get up before the sun has risen and I come home after it has set. And did I mention it is cold? <sigh>
I would like to remind him that being a software engineer does not mean that he can hack anything.
Most people who call themselves "engineer" aren't.
Most people who call themselves "hacker" aren't.
Oh, and referring to the post near the top, it is amazing how many people misquote and say "Curiosity killed the cat", as if it is a warning. The longer version, non-authoritative as it seems difficult to trace the origin of the quote, is: "Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back
". I believe whoever wrote that full version definitely has a hacker mentality.
Edit: Ooops! That was 23rd November 2010
. Oh well, call it Putin-style lateness.