Fravia: Who I am
From software reversing to
advanced web-searching: Old lore for a new science!
The following boring "biography" is tantamount to revealing my real identity to any
average stalker, but I don't care that much and anyway I felt this was necessary:
it is indeed pretty long-winded, but you are absolutely NOT compelled to read it.
The reason of it's presence is that, as all searchers know, evaluating
what you find on the web depends also from the "value" of the source you
have found. And the value of a source depends a lot from its Author and his
I am fairly old:
the middle of my life is behind me.
I have programmed software for my own use
(either in assembly or
in C) since the early eighties, some younger readers were not yet born :-(
The inner working
of computer programs (come to think of it: the inner working of everything) has always fascinated me. Behind
all the hype and the obvious progress being made in the field of software I have noticed
during the last twenty years a clear (and saddening) "involutionary" pattern.
Software programs (software
operating systems too, for that matter) are more and more being deliberately
their users (as the growing appearance of "Wizards" and automated installation and
de-installation procedures attest) and are more and more using "undocumented"
functions and performing "clandestine" activities on user machines.
covert activities encompass inter alia:
It has always astonished me that so few even cared to check such
developments, and that virtually nobody fought against them or tried to counter
I conduced a very
lonely fight on my own, which started long ago on a Sinclair spectrum and was
boosted with the advent of the web.
the unashamed spying of the installed software (eventually denouncing it
(secretly) in the background during a web connection): Many recent Microsoft
the gathering (secretly) of information about the user and his choices and
preferences delivering it to commercial oriented bastards for spamming ads or
unsolicited email (web-scripts,
web-search engines and some commercial software)
the modification (without asking of course) of many user-parameters of the operating
system, the deletion or modification or "updating" of user files, the fiddling with
the physical locations of the user harddisk and so on (many protection schemes and many
From 1995 to end-1999 I have created, through a series of avatars,
a "first web-approach": a site that tried
to push talented crackers (i.e. people interested in breaking software protections, hence eo ipso
well above the average -poor- consciousness scheme) into
"more general" software reversing activities, not necessarily protection-related, in the belief that the world needs - A LOT OF - people
capable of looking inside the little (and poor-programmed) black-boxes that
are sold to the zombies all over the planet.
of reverse engineering" had quite a lot of
success, I never really understood why.
Probably the right info at the right time. Still unclear about that, but
I don't think I really deserved so many people reading my silly ramblings.
Anyway the five years between 1995 and 2000 have been
decisive. Microsoft dominance has been broken and
the 'hidden activities' performed by many a software application are now more popularly
known - thank also to our past
I keep meeting public officials in Europe -- even "high" EU-officials -- who are
happily using Excel (or the 'public' search engines or the so-called 'free' email
addresses, or the "free facilities" that nicht zufällig abound
on the web) with their
own name and IP, who are browsing around without any proxy whatsoever
and who are still completely unaware of the fact that a lot of their oh so
'confidential' data is secretly siphoned into huge databases, most of them
located in the States. Thus the results of any research in fieri at the European central
bank in Frankfurt will probably be known in the States first and in Brussels later.
In fact sofware reverse engineering is such an interesting and powerful science
(some insiders know that it is in part an "Art") that has been
now unfortunately - and purposely - pushed into illegality by the commercial bastards and
lackeys. Too much power for single individuals, where would we land if
everyone would be able to understand - and counter - the illegal activities performed by the software they buy
and install onto their own computers?
As a consequence, since I respect even laws that
are patently illogical and complete nonsense, I have decided to quit the
"scene" and close my original
As a conclusion of a five-year long "software reversing" period I must
state the following:
Anyway I have slowly -and now definitely- shifted
the focus of my interest towards web-searching knowledge and
other not very well known "lores" of the web.
- It is in fact possible to transform
crackers into reversers, and it is worth doing it. The evolution of the relevant
techniques and the spreading of
tutorials and "teaching" sites - especially during the last two years - proves
- Some of the most brilliant people
I have met on the web are expert reverse engineers,
and I am honoured to count
among my friends some capable (and some half-mythical) crackers. In fact reverse engineering is the sine qua non for
fighting back in a world that is getting more and more anti-democratic and oligarchic, where money counts more
than knowledge (why?) and where
citizens exist only in order to consume useless gadgets and do and believe
what they are told to, surely not to think on their own nor to co-decide
how things should be.
- It would be very useful to found public "academies of reverse engineering" where
these talented youngsters (and those who aren't so young, the average age of a reverser is between 25
and 35) could apply their talents to "legitimate" and useful targets
- Parallel to the trend to 'criminalize' reverse engineering, the triumph of Linux over Windoze
bears -on the contrary- good omens for the whole software community. It may even be possible, in time,
to escape the deadly Microsoft's embrace and PROGRESS through "open source"
I use the non-existing english plural "lores" with purpose. In fact there is such an overkill of
"useless" information nowadays, that many real useful "lores" are either
half-forgotten, or used by a tiny percentage of the people that would
need it, who pass among themselves 'high level' information on places that
are difficult to find (and even more difficult to monitor :-)
Despite being a programmer myself, and though
having used computers since the late
seventies, I am working "in my real life" as a linguist (read translator),
expert for all "informatic related" linguistic fields.
Yet my (long)
university formation was in the field of the early middle ages written sources exegesis: aka
"Quellenforschung". Though not German myself (Gott sei dank :-) I made my
post-university Doctorate in Germany where I was lucky to have as Mentor
one of the
very few German Quellenforscher "of the old school" able to
survive the last world war (which destroyed definitely the whole school:
two wars in fifty years were simply too much... those 'Quellenforscher' that did not die
during the first world war, did disappear during the second... so much for german
Since being a real linguist and translator allows me to understand
quite well - at least passively- more languages
that I will ever really need, this asset can also be of some value on a more and more
Let's cut it short:
I believe that my software-reverser past, my current real-life activity as "linguist
expert in informatic and web-related matters" (whatever that
is supposed to mean :-) and
my long (and hard) university and post-university
formation in "Quellenforschung" do flow together and form a quite relevant
base for my personal capability as a teacher for searching lores. I may be wrong, of course,
and your criticisms are therefore more than welcome. Hubris should be
avoided, by all means, as always.
What is the web of today?
"avoid info overloads", "don't loose your track", "guess names", "feel" the correct
path of investigation. You would
be surprised how important all these fields are when you are trying to dig
some nuggets out of the poor-documented history
of -say- the merowingian nobles :-)
I'll try to explain why, because I believe it is relevant for our searching purposes.
Some researchers have been formed, using special tools, methods and approaches, in order to study and teach a very
specific and "weird" scientific field: "written history sources
of the early middle ages" (600-987). This field is quite different from analogous
"more ancient" or
"more recent" historical font-digging activities: in that specific time-interval people
used (at least in Europe) pergament, not paper and not clay. Pergament is a "funny"
media: it is in fact re-writable! Yup! You can scratch it
-with a stone-
back to white, deleting (almost completely)
the previous writings in the process.
Now, since pergament was also expensive, it
has been used and used again. As a consequence
very few original documents of the early middle ages have survived... imagine
all those silly monks, that - later - have happily
re-cycled valuable ancient sources in order to write down for the thousandth time one
of their boring holy-lives (Acta sanctorum). The original source disappeared and survived
only through small snippets of citation, hidden references, copycatted snippets
elsewhere. The quellenforscher of the early years of last century had to re-construct them,
in an extremely difficult and clever backward approach, reversing the
snippets that have survived.
This happened ONLY in the
early middle ages. For this reason that period can be considered the
"black hole" of our past history... for whole centuries
we know nothing but the NAMES of a couple of kings (but names are -as always- very important per se
go ahead and study
the history of Mercia... see? Keorl, Pybba... they sound like Karl and Pippin don't they? And...
pergament... a terrible story, isn't it? We have far more data about the previous "clay" times...
Will probably happen again now, paper times vis-à-vis bytes times, eh.
See: on one hand almost every friday some "indiana jones" archeologist
falls into some tomb filled with
perfectly conserved terracotta writings, on the other hand
of the late middle ages (the paper, non-pergament, period) are continuously visiting
godforgotten paper-archive in order to write a couple of
completely useless volumes about -say- "Commerce in Lübeck from 1563 to 1566".
About the Longobards (on the third and weirdest hand :-) we have only around 50.000
written words. Once you have gathered and read all of them, you
know as much as any other can know about that period (given or taken a couple of
archeological findings). The problem is
Samo samo applies
when searching info on the web IMO.
to find ALL snippets of
relevant information, some of them being "lost" or "hidden";
- then to collate them, checking their validity and evaluating
them behind all "smoke";
- then to "squeeze"
such meager information - like a lemon - into
a coherent interpretation;
- then - once more - to check if
this interpretation is coherent with the "assumed" picture we have (questioning
this "current established picture" again and again - even and specially
when it looks oh so "obvious").
All "Quellenforschung" lores
and great names like Bresslau,
Holder-Egger, Waitz and least but not last Hofmeister
should actually be well known subjects for all web-searchers, since
the techniques they used are
very often very useful when perusing and digging this giant
library without index and with lost
snippets of information that we call the web.
Thus the teachings about "finding" rare snippets of information among tons
of crap have proved quite useful on a web, which -
you will already have realized - is an Ocean of knowledge... about two
centimeters deep. De hoc satis: You'll judge by yourself.
There is another reason for my activity: I wanted, and still wish
to show in the future that you can create - ON YOUR OWN - a non-commercial site that spreads for
free REAL knowledge. As I have already demonstrated, this kind of "web-snowballs" can
grow quite a lot.
Funny as it may seem, believe me, a lotta people dislike this. Some cannot even understand it, others
understand it much too much... and hate it even more.
"What? Whattf? This guy is
sitting on the web since 1995 without even trying to
make some money out of it? Must be nut! I hate this! Let's destroy this crap or else it risks
developing into another of these silly anti-commercial web-trends!"
Ah! See: this is the best and
only way, imo, to counter the
commercialisation of our society... and of the web. Give freely and demonstrate at the same time
that only giving has any sense at all... Virtute duce, comite fortuna!
But that is not enough! Retaliate we must: See: "they" take and pocket
our data, our lives, our
rights, our hopes, our feelings and our chances just in order to squeeze some money
out of that. Should we allow it? No! Let's answer back. Let's try to destroy the very
roots of their
Ok, ok: I know I have no chance, and I know I'm fighting on the last beach against
the coming tide. Na Klar. But I'll go down
with my sword in my hand. Numquam mens exitu aestimanda est: eheh! Besides, I am not alone!
Take the weapons you want to use - you'll
find some valuable ones on my site - and join me: we'll lose together - and have some fun
in the mean time... :-)
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