How "How to become a hacker" changed my life

software Nov 22, 2020
I remember vividly why I wanted to write code.  I wanted to be a hacker...

When .com was free, people built their websites using frontpage or notepad.
Websites looked very different than now. Blinking texts were the coolest thing you could put on your website, and marquee meant you could have a news bar; static nevertheless, so you need to change the HTML and upload the page using FTP again every time you need something new to show up. I am not going to talk about connecting a database to your website because, frankly, I didn't know what a database is even back then.

Circa that time, WindowsXP was around the corner, I was a recurring guest to internet cafes, and I noticed some websites looked shady, with skull pictures and lists of numbers or passwords. I tried to talk to the people who were using these websites to know what is it. But they didn't help. They just mentioned that they were hackers.

Of course, it was not true that they were hackers -no hacker will tell you he's a hacker, right ?-, I mean, they might use some tools or software - as I learned them later - to crack into someone's computer or steal his mail's password. But they didn't know how to write a trojan or what's a password dictionary. Anyhow, that was how I started to get into the rabbit's hole. What followed was years of doing script kiddy's stuff, using sub7 and prorat, guessing a lot of passwords when it was possible, bombing CGI's, cracking into DB's, and getting credit cards. I lived in a country where there weren't laws against that at all back then.

I knew I lacked something.
I didn't want to use someone else's software.
I needed to write viruses myself. I wanted to know how to write a worm that makes me super cool like Zero Cool in the movie Hackers.
As you can see, I was very young and naive.

One day, I found: How To Become A Hacker, by Eric Steven Raymond.
I couldn't comprehend the whole article. I was merely searching on how to become a real hacker. And that article contained a full section towards that goal.

Basic Hacking Skills

Learn how to program. That was it, I will learn programming languages so I can be a hacker, I didn't know the reason, but programming languages and viruses must be connected. No wonder.

Years later, I forgot about hacking completely being a teenager and living my age, but I was always good with machines. I started learning programming languages in college at some point as I went to study computer science. I started with C# and ASP.NET. Started doing freelancing as a side job and earning money was a good sign that I made the right decision.

Three years passed, and I still felt I lacked real programming skills. Programming can't be a visual studio where I can drop textbox in a website, and that's it. While I respect all that, it just didn't fulfil my inner hungry for black screens and command lines.

By 2014 I started learning Ruby and Rails by contributing to one of the well-known open publishing websites back then, just like medium but for Arabic people. I even wrote about it here.

By 2015 I was already working as a ruby on rails developer in Cairo. Black screens were the norm for me, Vim was the text-editor/IDE of choice, and ubuntu was my distro.
I made it, mom.

Almost 6 Years passed since I made the transition from Microsoft stack to open source. In contrast, Microsoft is now prominent in the open-source world. Back then, it was still lingering on the closed side of things.

From Fullstack Rails developer to Back end to cloud engineering,
my life changed by thinking that programming was connected to hacking. My life changed by reading "How to become a hacker" and falling in love with solving problems.

Ahmad Tolba

micro-services, cloud, site reliability, ruby and go.