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On the eve of Def Con, the hackers conference that takes place in Las Vegas, thousands of hackers gathered in the Netherlands for “What the Hack”, an informal hoo-ha where programmers and developers gather to discuss both emerging technologies and ‘dubious’ ways to develop around those technologies.

Someday, I hope to have the time to attend either Def Con or What the Hack, not because I’m a programmer – I have nothing more than a cursory understanding of coding languages – but simply because I have a great affinity for those people who can make dumb boxes sing.

And, as we move into a time where corporations apparently will have more control over the ways we use our technologies, I rest a little easier at night knowing there is a dedicated group of people who want to ensure that the rest of us have options.

For example:

I love Microsoft. Okay, that’s not exactly true. I loathe Microsoft. But I love Microsoft products. The company is large enough that it can create innovative, networked devices that ALMOST work if you can just find the one right path towards usability.

Of course, that’s not what I like about MS. What I like is that there are tens of thousands of programmers, scattered around the world, who are working to make MS products work better. It’s one of the main reasons that I’ll never use any Apple products (in fact, when I can afford it, I buy Mac products and then dispose of them simply so others won’t be subjected to a world that is all style, and no substance).

If this ‘dubious’ developer network didn’t exist, there is absolutely no way that I would have an HP Windows Media Center computer with the XP operating system at my house. However, thanks to that group, I have tremendous flexibility with my digital entertainment. In other words, I can record and move all of my files – music, movies, television, pictures – with no hassle.

So, thank you, Def Con. Thank you, What the Hack. And, thank you, ‘dubious’ programmers. Keep up the good work.

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