Open Source

|337 k3y f0r f1r3f0x (that's Leet Key for Firefox)


I was playing around the other day and came across a Firefox extension that gave me a bit of a chuckle. I found it in a article called,"Firefox extensions you DON'T want." At first I thought, "I should report this in my blog (for whatever reason; I have no idea.) Then I thought, "No it's really not newsworthy." But then I started thinking about the possible "why" this extension came about. And then I realized it actually was kind of a good story because it applies to the very core of the open source movement.

You see, to me, the open source movement is about covering needs. Someone, some random coder out there, has a need to fill. Say, for instance, that coder needs to create an application that counts beans but it does so in a such a way to toss out, oh I don't know, random numbers simply because that coder has this strange quirk about random numbers. This need isn't something common, but it's a need that must be filled by that coder. So said coder sets out to create the perfect program to fulfill that need. In the process of doing this, that coder happens to create something really elegant but really niche. Fortunately, this coder applied the GPL to his code so other people could use it (if there happened to be someone out there who needed to count beans in the same way.)

Well someone saw his elegant program and realized he could modify it and make it count beans but without the random number toss AND add a color counter as well. Fortunately for this new guy, the code is open so he can do this.

Two needs filled. And as you can predict it will continue on in the same fashion until one day this quirky little bean counter is counting every kind of bean, in every color, and in every language. That is how open source works. It's the elegant beauty of the communal nature of Linux and open source. It spreads like crazy. So at some point this silly little Firefox extension that takes anything I type and turns it into leet (4ny7h1n6 1 7yp3 4nd 7urn5 17 1n70 |337) will someday be serving a much broader purpose and be used by far more people.

It's the end of 2007. I have written nearly 70 blog entries for open source on Techrepublic. I have hopefully affected people in a way that might make them think of open source in a different (hopefully positive) way. And hopefully the effect I have had on you will spread, just like the |337 k3y 3x73n510n will spread and evolve into something greater than it was when it began.

Happy new year everyone. I hope 2008 is prosperous, joyous, and filled with open source software on all of your PCs.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

17 comments
krg87dzlnj8uu2s
krg87dzlnj8uu2s

Jack Wallen was a key player in the introduction of Linux to the original Techrepublic. Beginning with Red Hat 4.2 and a mighty soap box, Jack had found his escape from Windows. It was around Red Hat 6.0 that Jack landed in the hallowed halls of Techrepublic. mirror- .cilbuperhceT fo sllah dewollah eht ni dednal kcaJ taht 0.6 taH deR dnuora saw tI .swodniW morf epacse sih dnuof dah kcaJ ,xob paos ythgim a dna 2.4 taH deR htiw gninnigeB .cilbuperhceT lanigiro eht ot xuniL fo noitcudortni eht ni reyalp yek a saw nellaW kcaJ

pmcneely
pmcneely

Actually this has more use then one would think. The best use for this is to create passwords that are memorizable but meet complexity requirements.

mail
mail

Seriously. WTF.

brian.mills
brian.mills

Had the functionality that this extension contains been available a few years ago, I would've known someone who could benefit from it. I have a friend who used to write all of his blog posts in leetspeak, and he would spend hours typing things out in plain English and then manually converting it all to leetspeak. Eventually he realized how hard to read it was and how silly it was to do all that work and gave it up. Now he blogs in plain English from his Ubuntu notebook. I agree that the beauty of open-source software is how it can be modified by anyone with some skill and a specific need until it does so much more than the original author intended. I look forward to another year of great Linux and open-source blogs. I've learned a lot from them and hope to learn a lot more. Out of curiosity, where might I find that Firefox extension? I'd like to send it to that friend of mine...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Sometimes it chaffs when you get your fanny kissed by a zombie.

DigitalFrog
DigitalFrog

All that would happen is hackers adding the same piece of code to their cracker programs. It is open source after all, why wouldn't the bad guys use it as well? Since a number of people have noted how awkward it is to read, I would have thought a |337 -> English converter would be more useful

jlwallen
jlwallen

i would think they would say that open source has effected them negatively.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

While your friend's prose style strikes me as counterproductive, I wonder why he didn't use a word processor with autocorrect. He could have set it to replace the alpha characters with numerics as he typed. I'm not sure why one would want a macro do to this, unless your goal is make your communications less effective and reach only the audience willing to try to read it. As far as open source applications, this is a poor example of the potential. This gives the impression OSS is only good for geeky applications with no 'real-world' use.

michaelwstewart
michaelwstewart

A friend of mine shared a web site with me over three years ago that does just that - convert English to leet-speak. I don't remember the URL, but a quick Google would uncover it rather easily. Someone earlier mentioned a friend of theirs who would manually type and convert his whole blog in leet-speak. I'm sure this web site existed back then also. An extension is even more brilliant.

michaelwstewart
michaelwstewart

I think you missed the whole point of the article. The benefits of OSS is the fact that you CAN start out with something extremely 'geeky' and wind up with something very useable down the road for the real-world. Had the Uber-geek not been so geeky, you wouldn't have the benefit of a foundation from which to build the real-world app to begin with. That's where it starts and that was the whole point of the article.

Becca Alice
Becca Alice

Obviously, it gets rid of older people too irritated by it to read it, while being an otherwise harmless way of "acting out against the establishment." The same as any other social fad embraced enthusiastically by tweens, teens and early twenties. It serves its true purpose quite effectively.

brian.mills
brian.mills

I have no idea what is elite about l33t and l33tsp34k, other than making your prose completely unreadable to the untrained eye. As for why he didn't use a word processor with the autocorrect function is probably because he never thought of it. And I doubt he could really read the converted text without reading extremely slowly. I agree that this is a poor example of what OSS is capable of. Perhaps something useful will eventually emerge based on this codebase, but as for now it's not good for much more than a few chuckles. We'll see what the future holds. Perhaps someone will make an extension that makes everything look like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets typed it. But that would be equally useless and marginally entertaining.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You don't need an application to scramble characters for a password. You're better off doing that manually, since you're more likely to remember it if you create it yourself.

ejwells
ejwells

One application that immediately springs to mind is to generate strong(er) passwords. I've used a similar method (manual - not s/w) for a long time: take an easy (for you) to remember word then "l33t" it. While technically this would be no stronger than the "plain English" version, it makes guessing the password harder, especially if the l33t mapping is flexible and includes special characters. I think this just illustrates the whole point of the article... What seems niche (or useless) initially can be freely modified by anyone until it has much wider utility.

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