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The Kyle Rankin Issue (He Wishes!)

Shawn Powers

Issue #186, October 2009

Back when we were creating the editorial calendar for 2009 and decided on “Hack This” as the topic for October, I think our resident Hack & / columnist Kyle Rankin thought that issue was going to be dedicated completely to him. (Either that, or he was a bit worried we'd make him write every single article in the issue.) As it turns out, neither was true. I considered telling him we needed enough content from him this month to fill the magazine, but to be honest, Kyle scares me a bit. So, I saved my joking for this piece.

Just because our Hack Editor didn't write every jot and title this month doesn't mean we won't leave as better hackers. Duilio J. Protti gets us going with low-level system programming, but we don't use an actual system. Thanks to KVM, we learn low-level system hacking on a virtual machine. Virtual machines are so robust nowadays, the concepts and practices will work on a real system too. If software hacking isn't enough for you, fear not. Marco Fioretti shows us some actual hardware hacking with Field Programmable Gate Arrays. You won't need to break out a soldering iron, but it'll just about feel like it!

If all this system hacking sounds fun, but you're worried your proprietary computer BIOS will hinder your skills, Anton Borisov might be just the man you want to listen to. He shows us the ins and outs of coreboot (you may know it as LinuxBIOS). Although flashing the firmware on off-the-shelf routers might be second nature, not too many of us have ventured into BIOS flashing. It seems a perfect fit for this issue.

If you've hacked your computer so that it bends to your every whim, you definitely want it to look cool as well. Sure, Compiz on your desktop will draw oohs and ahhs from the occasional Windows user, but even Linux users will be impressed if you implement Clutter in your programming. Clutter allows you to add rich, GUI interfaces to your applications quickly and easily. Alex Crits-Christoph demonstrates utilizing Clutter's advanced toolkit. In fact, we've got a bunch of programming hacks this month. Reuven M. Lerner talks more about testing with RSpec for Rails, and Dave Taylor shows us some cool (and $RANDOM) Web server tricks.

And, of course, the “Kyle Rankin” issue wouldn't be complete without his monthly Hack & / column. This time, Kyle shows us his secret to fighting spam (and its only slightly more palatable cousin, e-mail ham) preemptively. We all have a handful of “throw-away” e-mail addresses we use when signing up for something on-line, but Kyle uses a different address every single time. So while Kyle shows us how to keep unwanted things out of our inboxes, his buddy Bill Childers demonstrates how to put things we might want (namely Android) in some bizarre places. A few months back when the editorial team was talking about content for this issue, I challenged him to install Android on his Netbook. He rose to the challenge, and not only got Android running on his Netbook, but also on a Windows Mobile phone!

We have a full lineup of articles on other topics as well. Whether you are looking for desktop security tips from Mick Bauer, new product information from James Gray or a rally cry to take over the Internet from Doc Searls, you're gonna love his issue. Heck, even I get into the hacking act with Google Voice. You might be able to get unlimited minutes on your cell phone thanks to a handy little trick with your free GV phone number. So for this month, we all got to be hacks. You can too. And if you become a hacker, don't worry, we won't tell Kyle. We wouldn't want him to get jealous.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for LinuxJournal.com, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at info@linuxjournal.com. Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on Freenode.net.

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