Recently I have become aware of the existence of a new zine geared towards hackers and expert programmer. It is called Paged Out! and is freely available from their website. The zine is the brainchild of Gynvael Colwind (probably not his real name) and has so far seen two issues released: in August and November. After playing through the Zachtronics game Exapunks I am amazed somebody has actually set up a hacker zine. It is definitely very old-school.
According to their submissions page they seek articles on programming tricks, InfoSec, reverse engineering, OS internals, retro, hacking and more. Reading through the first two issues I definitely believe they have succeeded. Gynvael and his close colleagues who cooperated have something to be proud of.
Not easy to understand – would you want it to be?
Reading through the magazine is not for the faint hearted. This is not 2600: The Hacker Quarterly in which exploits are made easy to understand with examples and text. In Paged Out! the text is minimal and to the point and the articles rely on the reader to already have a firm understanding of programming and algorithms. In more than one article there are examples written in Assembly. I have only superficial experience with this low-level language and as such felt daunted to even read them. As such not every article is useful for everyone, but at least you can see everything as a challenge to further your own knowledge.
Two very interesting articles
One article in particular that captivated me was by Conor Tyler. In it he explains what a quine is – something I had never heard of. A quine is a program that can print its own source code – not an easy task if you read through the article. It is harder still to use that printed source code as a level for a game – in this case Snake – and have the program compile itself. The idea of a quine is somewhat similar to minifying code. To top it off the source code for quinesnake are printed out at the top of the page!
Another article explains the use of the Barnes-Hut algorithm. The author Emile explains its application in research on the effect of gravity from far away stars. The algorithm can be used to group distant objects together and treat them as one. It may reduce accuracy of computing just a little bit but as the objects are distant the effects are minimal. However, computation should speed up by a factor of several thousand – depending on the problem of course.
Final thoughts on Paged Out!
And so there it is. A new hacker zine. For even a casual hacker there is plenty to read. At over 60 pages neither issue is trivial. I would also like to give a shout to the cover artists – ReFiend on issue 1 and Vlad Gradobyk on issue 2. The covers are gorgeous to look at. The website of Paged Out! mentions they have no particular business model and they do not seek to make a profit. There are a number of non-intrusive ads throughout the magazine.
There is one gripe I have with this magazine. So far I have not been able to print issue 2 due to an issue with the PDF due to a desktop publishing issue. There is mention of this one their site and they are working on a fix. As I like to cover more than just Science Fiction on this blog I will add Paged Out! to the list of things I review on a regular basis. If the rules of time and space hold issue 3 should be released sometime late February.