Category Archives: Definitions

What’s startupware?(tm)
The source for all definitions of startupware.

Definition: Hacker

Another software developer question:

I’m wondering if the term Hacker means different things to different people. When most people hear the word hacker what are the first things that come to mind?

Hacker, back in the early days of PCs, originally meant someone who climbed into the internals of technology to make it do more stuff. In hardware, we would take an IBM diskette drive, test what happened with every jumper setting, maybe add a DIPP switch to make testing easier, and then hook up the result to a Texas Instruments 99/4a computer, where it was never designed to go. Or read program files from diskettes in pure binary format and match up numbered commands with programming symbols to make programs that could modify programs, usually to add formatting and fix line numbering. Then, it was all positive, and “no reverse engineering allowed” statements hadn’t evolved yet.

NOW, hacker is used more in the negative sense, like cracker, which generally includes creation of cheat codes, bypassing sections of code for various reasons, and so on.

The way technology words enter the mainstream vocabulary is mostly through television and movies, and Hollywood is nearly as sloppy with tech words as the evening news, so ‘hacker’ is mostly used in the negative sense by most of the mainstream media. But a hacker isn’t inherently evil.

Jerry Stern
Chief Technology Officer,

Incrementalitis: The Un-Upgrade

Sign: New and Improved TechnologySometimes a new edition of a product works well for all the features of the previous version, but for the newly-added ‘reasons to upgrade’, well, they’re just not ready. Windows has had a long set of new features that didn’t work, but were heavily promoted. Windows 7 has clumsy support for touch screens, but that feature works well in Windows 10.

Windows 95 had no Internet support until you also bought the Win 95 Plus! add-on, and that gave you Internet Explorer version 1.0, based on the old NCSA Mosaic software from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois. Now, the internet in Windows generally works without any setup whatsoever.

And going all the way back to 1993, in Windows for Workgroups 3.11, we had “network support”, which worked if you fiddled with the settings long enough for the other computers to declare Bingo! and accept the connection. Networking has become better in subsequent Windows, and now, it works if you don’t mix product ages too dramatically.

While yet-another faster version of what we’re using is generally a safe purchase, it pays to check reviews on new technology. And new tech should come from old names. If the latest, greatest technology is from a good company with a history of good products, I know they’ll get it right at some point. But if it’s a no-name security camera from an Amazon Marketplace vendor shipping directly from the Hong Kong post office, it’s trouble. Such vendors may be OK for a cheap cell phone case, but not for anything that’s complex or new.

Creator’s Update Settings: SmartScreen

New SmartScreen Setting

In the new Creator’s Update for Windows 10, SmartScreen has finally been made less horrible. The old settings were:

  • Off-Let all software run.
  • On-All new software from all sources is evil by definition. It’s not Microsoft, in any case. Delete with no option or recourse. (Or the anti-competitive restraint of trade equivalent.)

The NEW options, now moved into the ‘Windows Defender Security Center’, are no longer blatantly big brother:

  • On-Block the new and different.
  • Warn-Slow down and read the message before deciding.
  • Off–Scary, scary.

OK, I may have changed the descriptions. A lot. But clearly, SmartScreen should be ON for novice users and corporations with a “no software installs” policy, and WARN for users who know WHERE they are and WHAT they’re doing.

Note that the new setting appears TWICE, once as ‘Check apps and files’ for Internet Explorer, and as ‘SmarScreen for Microsoft Edge’. Minus 5 points for inconsistent naming and spreading confusion, but still an improvement.