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Note: there is a list of at the end of this document. Please readthese—twice—before mailing me any questions about thisdocument.

Or, as the following modern Zen poem has it:

If you are paid a salary, the regular rate is determined as follows:

The basic difference is this: hackers build things, crackersbreak them.
I'll assume you have a personal computer or can get access toone. (Take a moment to appreciate how much that means. The hackerculture originally evolved back when computers were so expensive thatindividuals could not own them.) The single most important step anynewbie can take toward acquiring hacker skills is to get a copy ofLinux or one of the BSD-Unixes, install it on a personal machine, andrun it.

You can find BSD Unix help and resources at .

So, if you want to be a hacker, repeat the following things untilyou believe them:
There is perhaps a more general point here. If a language does toomuch for you, it may be simultaneously a good tool for production anda bad one for learning. It's not only languages that have thisproblem; web application frameworks like RubyOnRails, CakePHP, Djangomay make it too easy to reach a superficial sort of understanding thatwill leave you without resources when you have to tackle a hardproblem, or even just debug the solution to an easy one.


I have written a primer on the .

If you already have an account, you can log on using the box to the right.
Back around 1991 I learned that many hackers who have English asa second language use it in technical discussions even when they sharea birth tongue; it was reported to me at the time that English has aricher technical vocabulary than any other language and is thereforesimply a better tool for the job. For similar reasons, translationsof technical books written in English are often unsatisfactory (whenthey get done at all).

The following are examples of how to calculate the regular rate of pay:
Hackers are naturally anti-authoritarian. Anyone who can give youorders can stop you from solving whatever problem you're beingfascinated by — and, given the way authoritarian minds work, willgenerally find some appallingly stupid reason to do so. So theauthoritarian attitude has to be fought wherever you find it, lestit smother you and other hackers.

Develop your appreciation of puns and wordplay.

(There is one apparent exception to this. Hackers willsometimes do things that may seem repetitive or boring to an observeras a mind-clearing exercise, or in order to acquire a skill or havesome particular kind of experience you can't have otherwise. But thisis by choice — nobody who can think should ever be forced into asituation that bores them.)

Don't use a silly, grandiose user ID or screen name.

(This isn't the same as fighting all authority. Children need to beguided and criminals restrained. A hacker may agree to accept somekinds of authority in order to get something he wants more than thetime he spends following orders. But that's a limited, consciousbargain; the kind of personal surrender authoritarians want is not onoffer.)

Don't get in flame wars on Usenet (or anywhere else).

Authoritarians thrive on censorship and secrecy. And theydistrust voluntary cooperation and information-sharing — theyonly like ‘cooperation’ that they control. So to behavelike a hacker, you have to develop an instinctive hostility tocensorship, secrecy, and the use of force or deception to compelresponsible adults. And you have to be willing to act on thatbelief.

It is worth remembering, however, that this was not always so.

To be a hacker, you have to develop some of these attitudes. Butcopping an attitude alone won't make you a hacker, any more than itwill make you a champion athlete or a rock star. Becoming a hackerwill take intelligence, practice, dedication, and hard work.

Younger hackers might find interesting and useful.

Therefore, you have to learn to distrust attitude and respectcompetence of every kind. Hackers won't let posers waste their time,but they worship competence — especially competence at hacking, butcompetence at anything is valued. Competence at demanding skills thatfew can master is especially good, and competence at demanding skillsthat involve mental acuteness, craft, and concentration is best.