|author||Joe Grand, Ryan Russell and Kevin Mitnick|
|summary||Walks anyone through the process of modifying common electronic hardware.|
The authors' explanations of many of the terms and concepts used in the book are very good. For example, the description of "power" on page 20 is the best description of the term that I've ever heard or read. From first-hand experience trying to explain this concept to others I wish I'd known such a lucid explanation -- it explained the concept much better than longer, dryer text would have.
Another positive point to this book is the pace and order of the book. It starts with part one, which is an overview of working with hardware; part two is a collection of hacks that one can do on different devices. If, like me, you never really did any thing with the Atari, you could skip those chapters and still proceed with the book. This book is easy to carry because there the authors frequently provide directions to other resources rather than trying to cram everything into this one book.
Like I said, I'm not too interested in Atari hacking, but the idea presented in this book (in an Atari-centric context) for a standard power connector is good for other things too. This is one of the biggest strengths of this book: The examples themselves are highly specific, but the thinking behind them can easily be generalized.
The first part of the book briefly explores tools that are going to be used later in the hacks and how to use them. However I found it a bit odd that the authors tell you to use a heat gun and heat-shrink tubing, but do not list these items in the tools section.
The fun really begins in part two with the actual hardware hacking. I have never really done anything with hardware before. It seems like whenever I took something apart I could never get it back again, and that those times that I did get something back it would never quite work as it should again. Those experiences have taught me to not mess with things I shouldn't and, this is why I think it's great that part two begins with the ubiquitous and cheap CueCat. I had a couple of these lying around and didn't really care about them so I jumped right in, following the many clear explanatory photos.
Starting with something like this gave me the confidence that I can take stuff apart, and if I'm careful, it will go back again.
The order of chapters seemed a bit odd in part two, though. A book must be arranged in some type of order, and my gut feeling is that it should be by order of difficulty. The second part started off great, going over tools and then the CueCat, but then it seems like the chapters that follow are tossed in at random. This could be from my lack of hardware experience, or that the chapters were designed to be random. This fact really didn't distract from anything though. Just don't expect a linear progression.
I was able to appreciate the integration between the hardware and the software. Hardware Hacking also goes over the software side of the hardware involved.
One of the areas I wish they had given more attention to was in the chapter on the Macintosh where they are hacking a CRT monitor. I believe that the safety warning should probably be a bit bolder, especially considering the earlier, prominent advice about static energy and grounding.
The authors have used part three as a technical reference, including some frank talk about Linux vs. Windows in chapter six. Sure, many people like Linux better, however you have to take into consideration who will be using the system. In a system the whole family uses, it has to be user-friendly enough for the whole family to use.
If changing hardware to better suit your needs sounds like something you would like to try, but you don't know how and are worried about what might happen, then this book may just be able to convince you go for it, along with enough information to make your next warranty-voiding attempt a success.
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