Arnt Gulbrandsen
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2017-05-16

I give up

The newspaper yesterday drove me over the edge. I admit it: The word hacker hasn't been usable for someone like me for a long time, I just didn't want to admit it.


A long, long time ago I had a keycard that didn't do what I needed. The keycard system was a compromise between what the organisation needed and what the keycard vendor could deliver, and it was mostly okay. Not 100%.

With my usual luck, one of the exceptions turned out to apply to myself. I couldn't get all the access that I needed while also being locked out of everything else. But I'm a hacker, so I poked around a little and made myself my own card, with enough access. Problem solved.

I didn't hide the card (you could see that it was homemade) or keep it a secret. I didn't push the card into the face of anyone who would feel duty-bound to object, but keeping it secret would be wrong, so I didn't. And I didn't use the card to go anywhere I shouldn't, either.


Many hacks are rule violations in one way or another.

No rule is perfect. A rule that tries to be perfect grows unmanageably complex, which is a failure in itself. Good rules are simple enough to remember and understand, and that means that good rules will mishandle some cases, and breaking the rules can be right. Sometimes. But if you can't be open and forthright about a particular rule violation, then I intuit that it's not one of the justifiable violations.

That applies to hacks too. If they have to be secret, they're very likely wrong. But not because they're hacks. Being a hack doesn't make something wrong. Being unjustifiable makes it wrong.

A justifiable hack is the complement of a good rule.

I may still have the mentality, at least I wrote the preceding paragraph with conviction. But yesterday something clicked and I gave up on the h— word. The word has been used for too many unjustifiable acts, over too many years. Sigh.