Book Review: The Happy Hacker: A Guide to (Mostly) Harmless Computer Hacking

[The date of publication is not known.]

The Happy Hacker: A Guide to (Mostly) Harmless Computer Hacking
Carolyn P. Meinel
0-929408-21-7, 268 pages, American Eagle Publications
Technical Editors: John D. Robinson, Roger A. Prata, Daniel Gilkerson, Damian Bates, Mark Schmitz, Troy Larsen

My first impression of the book was a make money fast scheme gone wrong. Cashing in on the buzzword of the 90’s, Ms. Meinel runs the word ‘hacker’ into the ground by the end of chapter 1.

Looking past the glaring errors in grammar and spelling, the reader must deal with the constant technical errors, contradictions, and overall lacking ‘style’ the author uses. The book consists of material that has mostly been published on the web in various states (also technically incorrect), and brings no new insight to the subject she claims to teach.

As far as teaching ‘hacking’, I couldn’t find a single quality reference or section that dealt with hacking. Considering the questionable past of the author, the book furthers thoughts that she has no experience as a hacker, security consultant, or anything related to computers at all.

What most people consider novelty ‘tricks’ like changing a Win95 bootup screen, Ms. Meinel touts as ‘hacking’. The continued reference to Windows 95 and lack of Unix information further suggests the book isn’t about hacking at all, rather simple tricks and documented options that can be found in most Windows books.

For those interested in learning hacking, stick to more positive sources. Check out some other security books or online resources. Hacking is not something that can be taught from a book, it is more a state of mind and desire to learn. After reading this book, users can expect to find themselves in a confused state with more questions than they started with. Unfortunately, they find themselves with no more insight on where the answers may be found either.

Page 67: “I make my living asking dumb questions.” Quoted material is straight from the author’s mouth, and seems to be dead on with the technical level of the book.

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