Review: The Hardware Hacker

31 July 2018
book hardware hacker

The Hardware Hacker

I was recently suggested the book The Hardware Hacker: Adventures in Making and Breaking Hardware written by Andrew “bunnie” Huang, an electrical engineering PhD graduate of MIT. Andrew has lead numerous hardware projects and spent plenty of time reverse engineering and hacking on electronics.

The book is a fantastic collection of Andrew’s blog posts, interviews, and stories put together as an insight into the business of hardware production and hacking of hardware. This book is not a textbook or manual into how to accomplish hardware hacking. Instead it is a compendium of insights from Andrew’s extensive knowledge and experience. While technically deep about electronics in parts the book is an easy read.

Andrew is a major figure in the fight against laws that prevent end-users from modifying purchased hardware. The point is made that today many look at technology as a black box that cannot be taken apart or even understood without extensive technical know-how. Further more, laws like the DMCA, prevent interested individuals from digging into hardware and researching how hardware could be improved. This discouragement results in a loss of innovation as an industry acts like a walled-garden controlled by only a few big names.

My favorite part was his firsthand experiences into Chinese factories and technology markets. Reading how detailed and complete the available options are at the markets was stunning. Further, he shares his vast insight into how various factories setup for manufacturing, when human labour is and is not involved in the production process, and how the facilities themselves operate from prototype to production.

Finally, in the last chapter, Andrew looks at the H1N1 virus and compares it to a computer virus by using standard command line tools. In doing so he analyzes DNA sequences and demonstrates patching our own genome is one more example of Andrew’s passion of taking things a part to understand how things work.

Anyone looking to learn more about hardware development, the process itself, or wishing to understand the ‘hacking’ mindset should pick up this book and give it a read.

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