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Hack the Universe!

Shawn Powers

Issue #199, November 2010

This month, we show you how to create black holes, swallow the Earth in a cloud of exotic matter, pummel the very fabric of space-time into nothingness and possibly even divide by zero. If you think you accidentally picked up a copy of Mad Scientist Monthly, fear not. Although I may have exaggerated the details a bit, it's still an exciting issue—the focus is “Hack This”.

Reuven M. Lerner starts things off with the notion that knowledge is power and provides a list of his favorite books for this year. Although my personal tastes lean a little more toward science fiction, Reuven has a great list of resources that should be on every mad scientist's, er, I mean programmer's shelf. Dave Taylor follows up with a solution to a frustrating problem: renaming files. It may seem like a simple thing, but anyone who ever has renamed thousands of files really appreciates the power of scripting. Dave shows how to do it.

The hacking issue certainly makes a few of us nervous, so security seems a wise topic to include this month. Mick Bauer helps us feel a bit more at ease with his continuing series on transparent firewalls. Jes Fraser also helps us test the security of our Web applications with her article on Samurai. Because Kyle Rankin just got back from DEF CON, we're all feeling a bit paranoid ourselves. It's nice that Mick and Jes have our back. Speaking of Kyle, unlike those Internet bad guys full of secrecy and evil, he's willing to share his knowledge with the rest of us. This month, he has a handful of useful hacks he learned while at DEF CON. If you want to stay off the “Wall of Sheep”, you'll want to check out his column.

What hacking issue would be complete without discussing the most complex fabricated system ever developed in the history of mankind? No, I don't mean Emacs keybindings, but rather the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, over in Switzerland. What better way to analyze exotic particles than with open-source software! Carl Lundstedt takes us behind the scenes at CERN and shows how the data is getting crunched in that little-black-hole-creation factory.

If the LHC is a little too large for your hacking appetite, and at 17 miles in circumference, we certainly understand, perhaps Chinavision's Pico Projector is more your cup of tea. Kyle Rankin not only reviews the tiny embedded Linux device, but also covers how he hacked it—and bricked it. You'll have to read the details for yourself, but it's nice to see the elite run into trouble from time to time as well. Add to that Daniel Bartholomew's hack for finding his lost Nokia N900, and we have the small end of the device-hacking covered along with the big end.

For many of us, hacking is much more about programming than it is about soldering irons. Thankfully, Koen Vervloesem shows how to control our desktops with D-Bus. Whether you want to make applications talk to each other or tweak the way programs interact with humans, D-Bus is that back channel you can use to orchestrate the perfect desktop harmony. If you want to take it further and manipulate your computer remotely with a smartphone, Jamie Popkin walks through that process as well.

Things get a little more in-depth as Bryan Childs introduces Rockbox. Sure, most of us know Rockbox as the alternate operating system for a bunch of media-playing devices, but what many don't know is that although it's open source, it's not actually Linux. Why did we print such an article? Well, we figured this month we'd hack your expectations a bit too. Anyone interested in Linux will likely be interested in Rockbox. Check out Bryan's article and see for yourself.

This issue is bound to push you over the edge from intelligent Linux user to evil genius. At the very least, it will help prepare you for a battle against the bad guys. We hope you enjoy the Hack This issue; we definitely enjoyed putting it together for you.

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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