Search the code until you find the part you need to modify.

There is a better way to learn. I call it theincremental-hacking cycle.

Make, test, debug, and your change.

During the first ten years of this HOWTO's life, I reported thatfrom a new user's point of view, all Linux distributions are almostequivalent. But in 2006-2007, an actual best choice emerged: . While other distros havetheir own areas of strength, Ubuntu is far and away the mostaccessible to Linux newbies. Beware, though, of the hideous andnigh-unusable "Unity" desktop interface that Ubuntu introduced as adefault a few years later; the Xubuntu or Kubuntu variants arebetter.

The basic difference is this: hackers build things, crackersbreak them.

Or, as the following modern Zen poem has it:

Since first publishing this page, I've gotten several requests aweek (often several a day) from people to "teach me all abouthacking". Unfortunately, I don't have the time or energy to do this;my own hacking projects, and working as an open-source advocate,take up 110% of my time.

So, if you want to be a hacker, repeat the following things untilyou believe them:

Hackers solve problems and build things, and they believe in freedomand voluntary mutual help. To be accepted as a hacker, you have tobehave as though you have this kind of attitude yourself. And tobehave as though you have the attitude, you have to really believe theattitude.

Now, ask yourself: do I understand this entire program?


Develop your appreciation of puns and wordplay.

To get your hands on a Linux, see the site; you candownload from there or (better idea) find a local Linux user group tohelp you with installation.

Don't use a silly, grandiose user ID or screen name.

The blog is a window on the learning process of a newLinux user that I think is unusually lucid and helpful. The post makes a good starting point.

Don't get in flame wars on Usenet (or anywhere else).

I used to recommend against installing either Linux or BSD as asolo project if you're a newbie. Nowadays the installers have gottengood enough that doing it entirely on your own is possible, even for anewbie. Nevertheless, I still recommend making contact with your localLinux user's group and asking for help. It can't hurt, andmay smooth the process.

It is worth remembering, however, that this was not always so.

Unix is the operating system of the Internet. While you canlearn to use the Internet without knowing Unix, you can't be anInternet hacker without understanding Unix. For this reason, the hackerculture today is pretty strongly Unix-centered. (This wasn't alwaystrue, and some old-time hackers still aren't happy about it, but thesymbiosis between Unix and the Internet has become strong enough thateven Microsoft's muscle doesn't seem able to seriously dent it.)

Younger hackers might find interesting and useful.

Under Mac OS X it's possible, but only part of the system is opensource — you're likely to hit a lot of walls, and you have to becareful not to develop the bad habit of depending on Apple'sproprietary code. If you concentrate on the Unix under the hoodyou can learn some useful things.

Rick Moen has written an excellent document on .

Most of the things the hacker culture has built do their workout of sight, helping run factories and offices and universitieswithout any obvious impact on how non-hackers live. The Web is theone big exception, the huge shiny hacker toy that even admit has changed the world. Forthis reason alone (and a lot of other good ones as well) you need tolearn how to work the Web.