Monthly Archives: March 2014

Technology + War – Hate + Love =

Robotena: The nurse robot that can move the injured away from snipers on the streets of Syria

The inspiration of the robot is from seeing a man trying to save an injured woman lying in the middle of a street of Aleppo with a long metal pole. She had been shot by the snipers. we have never forgotten the look of desperation on his face trying to save her. Then it clicked, static objects we had been taught from our academic years ‘putting brains to the metal’. This triggered an idea where we started to research the human loss of life, in trying to save people in the battlefield. The results were shocking: sometimes four people would try to save the injured person, but would all die trying from various dangers such as snipers and shrapnel.

The robot works by retrieving casualties via a grabbing system working remotely from a safe distance. The arms will retrieve the injured person and bring him/her to safety for treatment by the field medic, without resulting in any additional human loss of life who most of them are civilian.

[via Robotena]

Press :



Hacker vs. cracker

The word “hacker” gets used in a pejorative sense by journalists an awful lot. Some people think this is perfectly reasonable; others find it offensive, and recommend an alternative term for that meaning. Read on to find out why.

In mainstream press, the word “hacker” is often used to refer to a malicious security cracker. There is a classic definition of the term “hacker”, arising from its first documented uses related to information technologies at MIT, that is at odds with the way the term is usually used by journalists. The inheritors of the technical tradition of the word “hacker” as it was used at MIT sometimes take offense at the sloppy use of the term by journalists and others who are influenced by journalistic inaccuracy.

Some claim that the term has been unrecoverably corrupted, and acquired a new meaning that we should simply accept. This descriptivist approach is predicated upon the assumption that there’s no reasonable way to communicate effectively with the less technically minded without acquiescing to the nontechnical misuse of the term “hacker”. I believe it’s still useful to differentiate between hackers and security crackers, though, and that terms like “malicious security cracker” are sufficiently evocative and clear that their use actually helps make communication more effective than the common journalistic misuse of “hacker”.

I think it’s useful to differentiate especially because there are many situations where “hack”, and its conjugations, is the only effective term to describe something that has nothing to do with malicious violation of security measures or privacy. When you simply accept that “hacker” means “malicious security cracker”, you give up the ability to use the term to refer to anything else without potential confusion.

Both are distinct from people whose interest in technical matters is purely professional, with no desire to learn anything about the subject at hand other than to advance a career and make a living. Many hackers and security crackers turn their talents toward professional ends, of course, and some security crackers got where they are only through professional advancement, but one definitely need not have a professional interest to pursue the path of either a hacker or a security cracker.

A hacker, in the classic sense of the term, is someone with a strong interest in how things work, who likes to tinker and create and modify things for the enjoyment of doing so. For some, it is a compulsion, while for others it is a means to an end that may lead them to greater understanding of something else entirely. The RFC 1392: Internet Users’ Glossary defines “hacker” as:


A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the 

internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in

particular. The term is often misused in a pejorative context,

where “cracker” would be the correct term. See also: cracker.


The Jargon Wiki’s first definition for hacker says:


A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.


A security cracker, meanwhile, is someone whose purpose is to circumvent or break security measures. Some security crackers end up using their powers for good, providing penetration testing services or otherwise making efforts on the side of the angels. Many others use their powers for evil, however, as we are all too painfully aware. Both RFC 1392 and the Jargon Wiki provide definitions of “cracker” that support this use of the term.

Maintaining distinct terms for distinct phenomena is an important aspect of communication, as demonstrated in the incident I described in Managers and technologists live in different worlds, where a company executive and I used the same term to refer to two different things and failed to communicate effectively as a result. When two different phenomena acquire the same label, as in the case of hackers in the classic sense on one hand and malicious security crackers on the other, either something has to give or discussion is bound to suffer from confusion that could easily have been avoided.

The more easily relabeled of the two uses of the term “hacker” is the malicious security cracker: it is not only the more recent phenomenon to acquire that label, but also the one whose meaning is most easily evoked by an alternative term. This is why, when you read an article of mine that talks about malicious security crackers, I use the term “malicious security cracker” — and in an article that talks about hackers in the classic sense of the term, I try to differentiate clearly between these two uses of the term “hacker” before using it myself.

For purposes of clarity when communicating with others about security issues, I recommend you do the same.


[via TechRepublic]