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Hackerteen Volume 1: Internet Blackout 69

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
stoolpigeon writes "Hackerteen Volume 1: Internet Blackout is an interesting new project, a graphic novel being published by O'Reilly. What makes it interesting is not just that this is a rather new direction for O'Reilly but that this is, to my knowledge, a rather unique publication in that it seeks to educate teenage youth about an array of issues ranging from privacy, free software, security and the impact of politics on personal freedom as it relates to the use of technology. Making topics like that exciting, and understandable to a young person may sound like a tall order, and I think it is." Read below for the rest of JR's review.
Hackerteen Volume 1: Internet Blackout
author Marcelo Marques and the Hackerteen Team
pages 101
publisher O'Reilly Media, Inc.
rating 7/10
reviewer JR Peck
ISBN 978-0-596-51647-5
summary You have a choice: be a victim of the skeezers or be part of the solution. Fight back with Hackerteen!
This book has an extremely interesting background and it is worth taking the time to look at. Hackerteen is not just a name, it is an edutainment program created by the Brazilian company 4Linux. The program consists of distance learning and instructor led classes that allow students to progress through a series of colored belts. Currently the classes are only available in Portuguese and on site only in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Hackerteen site says that materials in Spanish and English are being developed now.

The curriculum, according to the site, arose out of a desire to deal with three problems.
  1. Excessive time spent by young people playing computer games on the internet.
  2. Young people committing digital crimes on the internet.
  3. A lack of professionals who work with networks and computer security.
To deal with these issues they teach, "computer security..., entrepreneurship and hacker ethics." This graphic novel is a reflection of the desire to communicate all of those values through a fictional story about Yago, a high-school junior who transitions from compulsive gaming to becoming a skilled member of the Hackerteen team.

Part of the mission for the book is introducing a wide array of issues and terms to the reader. Often a topic will or word will be accompanied by a footnote with a url for a hackerteen page holding an article containing relevant information. Not all the links are as informational though, with many linking to a graphic without much information. Hopefully these are placeholders for articles like the two that I've referenced here. A number of interesting topics are brought up, and a reader could research them on their own, or they would allow for good discussion points in a teaching setting. The only issue is that sometimes the placement of topics is a bit forced. A humorous example of this is when a teen-age girl who needed help choosing a web-cam, just a few pages later asks her aunt for money to attend a course on the Creative Commons.

The artwork is acceptable. It is at times a bit awkward, at others pretty solid. I think that it as at least as good as much of what I read when I was a teen, probably better than much of it. What is exceptional compared to the illustrated works of my youth are the materials and production quality. The cover is glossy, the colors are vibrant and the pages are going to stand up for a long time. Of course the flip side of this is that quality like this does not come cheap. The cover price is $19.99 and that's a bit steep for young kids today.

I think though that this has the potential to be a useful educational tool. I am hoping that some schools are willing to pick up that cost to allow their students access to this material, but a part of me thinks that may be a bit optimistic. I would suggest that for those of us who may hold some of these issues dear to our hearts, and who are sometimes dismayed at the attempts by many to influence the populace in a different direction, this may be a worthwhile investment. I think buying a copy or two, for relatives, a local school or library may pay dividends in the future. It is quite possible that for many this will be their first introduction to many of the issues presented in the book.

I loaned my copy to a co-worker. He and his kids read it. For them the introduction to Linux, the ideas of FOSS and others were brand new. When he returned the book my co-worker told me that he had never heard of the creative commons and I explained what it was. His boys he said were interested to see how the story would develop moving forward.

It's not easy making issues of freedom and safety exciting. The story is sometimes a bit over the top and the writing is sometimes weak. Internet savvy kids are going to struggle with some of the events, not due to glaring technical problems, but because some of the events are just a bit silly. That said, the options I've seen explaining these topics wouldn't just be 'o.k.' to a teen, they would be downright painful. So should we wait until the kids grow up to start teaching them what matters? I'd say this is definitely worthwhile and hopefully as the series moves forward it will only get better.

I think it is worth noting that while Marcelo Marques is the author, the book does list the full team who created it. They are Hugo Moss (story supervisor), Joao Felipe Munhoz (artist), Fabio Pontes Ramon Felin (colorist), Rafael Kirschner (colorist),and Ricardo Bomfim (colorist).

The slashdot review guidelines describe a 7 as "A good book; better than merely adequate, though not outstanding." The price, short length and acceptable but not great artwork put it there in my mind. I'm 39 and a younger person may not be as critical with the art or writing. It is good, and has great potential for impact. With a little bit better artwork, some stronger writing and if possible a bit lower price point this could be really fantastic. I'm looking forward to seeing how Volume 2 turns out.

You can purchase Hackerteen Volume 1: Internet Blackout from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Hackerteen Volume 1: Internet Blackout

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  • Little Brother (Score:5, Informative)

    by julesh (229690) on Monday June 16, 2008 @01:43PM (#23812997)
    this is, to my knowledge, a rather unique publication in that it seeks to educate teenage youth about an array of issues ranging from privacy, free software, security and the impact of politics on personal freedom as it relates to the use of technology. Making topics like that exciting, and understandable to a young person may sound like a tall order, and I think it is.

    See also Little Brother, a novel by Cory Doctorow that treads similar ground.
    • Re:Little Brother (Score:5, Informative)

      by andrewd18 (989408) on Monday June 16, 2008 @01:48PM (#23813073)
      You can download a copy of Little Brother at no charge due to its Creative Commons license.

      http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/ [craphound.com]
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        You can download a copy of Little Brother at no charge due to its Creative Commons license.
        1. Download a few thousand copies

        2. Sell them for $10 each on eBay

        3. Profit!

    • Re:Little Brother (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday June 16, 2008 @01:50PM (#23813103) Homepage
      Sounds to me like it would not only work well at educating teens, but also many other people. Probably be a good read for anybody who's at all interested in the subject matter, and even those who aren't, as long as they have an open mind about the material.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dc29A (636871) *

        Sounds to me like it would not only work well at educating teens, but also many other people. Probably be a good read for anybody who's at all interested in the subject matter, and even those who aren't, as long as they have an open mind about the material.
        Yes, because the favorite pastime of teenagers is reading books instead of playing World of Warcraft.
        • by sinserve (455889)
          Yes, my nephew would rather read comics than play video games, and his brother has an Xbox 360 AND PS3.

    • Re:Little Brother (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aleph42 (1082389) * on Monday June 16, 2008 @02:06PM (#23813303)
      Yeah, I thouht the same, but it sounds like this one will be less "action" driven. I read little brother, and there's a number of thing it gets wrong IMHO. Anyways, we need books to explain those things, so a second one is still usefull.

      As for "little brother", I think it tries too hard: every boingboing craze is in it, including caspaceine, "freegans" and something which looks like a pro-drug stance (it's targeted at parents, to give to their younger kids; probably not the best place to debate drug legalisation).
      The explainations of technical stuff are generaly well done, but sometimes they are just forced (the whole network of trust thing doesn't make any sense in the story, and takes too long to explain).

      Also, there are a few bad things of bad taste, like having a turkish immigrant talk in broken english, though he has been in the US for 20 years, and the hero (indirectly) calling himself a terrorist at the end, when the whole point is that he suffered from anti-terrorist laws without being one.

      But it still has a huge positive point: it's all GPL (and you can read it for free). So we could even make a better version from this one!
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by stoolpigeon (454276) *
        I'm a fan of Doctorow and have read most of his stuff - working through the overclocked stories right now, and have not read big brother.

        This one does have some over the top 'action' but only in one spot that I can think of off the top of my head - a politician type guy being arrested at gun-point. At a press conference. But knowing Doctorow, Hacker Teen is probably a lot more family friendly in the US. (Not judging either way - just observing.)

        It would be interesting to see if the hacker
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Lennie (16154)
        Creative Commons != GPL
        • by aleph42 (1082389) *
          Yes, sorry for the mistake.

          This book is distributed under a Creative Commons AttributionÂ
          NonCommercialÂShareAlike 3.0 license
          He precises that this means you can remix it.
    • by eredin (1255034)
      Little Brother is a great book (so far). Our family reads together, and both kids (f17, m13) and my wife are absolutely hooked. My kids would like to be a little nerdier than they are (and my wife is the artsy type), and they all just keep asking "is that real? Can you really do that?" It's great to find works that actually cover exactly the topics you want to cover with your kids. Hopefully Hackerteen goes in the same direction. I'll be looking for it.
  • by Kamineko (851857)
    Colorist, are they? They should be ashamed of themselves.
  • What the fuck? O.o this is what the internet is FOR...
  • Yawn (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This perpetuates the myth that teens are the most savvy, computer-wise.

    Yes, copying and pasting all those tricked-out HTML layouts on your MySpace page and downloading from iTunes == "amazing hacker"
    • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Funny)

      by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Monday June 16, 2008 @01:58PM (#23813213)
      *sigh*. If I had a dollar for every time some teenager asked me for "codes" or "script" to pimp out their MyCrap page I'd be a millionaire. When I was that age I used a real browser... like Lynx. Now if I could just get them to stay offa my lawn...
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Ever consider doing it? Most of 'em will pay you that dollar, or ten, or twenty, or fifty at the least.
        • by lmnfrs (829146)
          You could also try giving them slightly buggy code for free with a disclaimer stating they must fix it.

          You never know what a little push like that could accomplish.
      • by Noren (605012)
        You should try NCSA Mosaic rather than lynx, it has a lot of nice features, like the embedding of images within text! I expect everyone will use Mosaic soon, as it's obviously better, so we can put this whole browser controversy to rest.{/1993}
  • Not to be picky, but the quality of those drawings really leaves a lot to be desired...
    • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday June 16, 2008 @01:55PM (#23813175) Homepage Journal
      You aren't being picky- they will have to ramp up the quality in that area if this thing is going to go anywhere.
    • Those drawings are made by 1337 haxorz! how dare you question their quality! You will be getting teh haxed soon!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Vectronic (1221470)
      But, I thought that was the "in thing"... like iKea and iPods... simplicity over clutter...

      But glancing at the cover, it seems to mix 3 different styles of anime...

      I'm not sure how "animated" it is, but im hoping that it isnt all comic, I think it would be better if you had like 3 pages of comic/story, as sort of an introduction, and then a page (of 0mG all text) that goes into depth about the subject.

      Personally, I don't really see this "going anywhere", I think it would make a better web-comic than a book/
      • It is all comic - graphic novel is what they are calling it. It's a bit short for the term novel, in my mind, but there are no pages with just text - it is all animated.
         
        It is a bit preachy at times, not as bad as it could be though. I don't think the vocab would be a big problem for younger kids, though I think the primary target is probably younger teens. In fact my 8 year old daughter thought it was awesome, but didn't really understand all that was going on I think.
  • With this and Doctorow's new book, I'm beginning to wonder if teens even know about F/OSS (or computers in general). In all seriousness, we have this stuff that gives them simple bites of what is going on (here is the latest, new free software and why it is a good idea to use it), but it worries me that we aren't really teaching them how things work.
    • They have to get an introduction somewhere. I'm so immersed in all this stuff - that I forget how many people have no idea. I had a college student this week-end ask me what Linux is.
       
      My concern is that people like that wont know about O'Reilly either. But maybe stuff like this will help bridge that gap earlier on. I would really love it if schools, libraries, etc. picked up on this book.
      • by Miseph (979059) on Monday June 16, 2008 @03:15PM (#23814129) Journal
        Yeah, but there really needs to be better introduction to the basics. It's very hard to talk new tech with somebody who can't differentiate between files that are on a local (hard) drive, removable media (cd, SD card, thumb drive) and somewhere on the internet.

        I work in a 1-hour photo lab, and I shit you not, I've heard of people insisting that the pictures are "right on their computers" only to find out that they are, in fact, on some internet photo site. Then they usually have the gall to yell at my coworkers and I for making everything so difficult and giving them incorrect information, rather than owning the fact that we gave them the correct answer for the information THEY provided, which was (charitaBly described as) faulty, and that if they had half of a clue what was going on with their own stuff the problem likely would have never come up in the first place.

        I'd much rather explain to somebody what Linux is and why it's awesome to a person who can successfully store and retrieve documents from a thumb drive on multiple computers than have to explain why a CD-ROM drive can't burn a CD to somebody purporting to be tech savvy.
    • no, its the adults to read these books who are :)
    • by rrohbeck (944847)
      Since most of them are on teh intertubes these days, you'd expect that the average level of know-how is much lower than back in the days when only scientists and 1337 folks were online.
      That doesn't preclude the existence of some that are knowledgeable of course. But I sometimes wonder why it is that the majority on /. seem to be old farts (like me, cough cough) these days.
      Maybe today 1337 is to know HTML and Excel formulas?
  • by schwaang (667808) on Monday June 16, 2008 @01:55PM (#23813177)

    [this is] a rather unique publication in that it seeks to educate teenage youth about an array of issues ranging from privacy, free software, security and the impact of politics on personal freedom as it relates to the use of technology.


    Perhaps you'd be interested in Cory Doctorow's Little Brother [craphound.com]. [Free PDF download or buy the dead tree version.]

    It was written for da youth by the editor of Boing Boing, someone steeped in the issues of personal freedoms and identity in the Surveillance Age. Here's the Purblisher's Weekly article. [publishersweekly.com]
    • by maxume (22995)
      If you are going to refer to *the* editor of Boing Boing, Mark Frauenfelder is probably a better choice than Cory Doctorow. Doctorow is a contributor.
      • by schwaang (667808)

        If you are going to refer to *the* editor of Boing Boing, Mark Frauenfelder is probably a better choice than Cory Doctorow. Doctorow is a contributor.

        Fair enough.
    • by Ocker3 (1232550)
      perhaps you'd be interested in the first comment about this review, posted 12 minutes before this one?
  • ...sol [Connection reset by skeezer]
  • Oh please. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LullySing (164221)

    3- A lack of professionals who work with networks and computer security.

    There's plenty of those people around. PLENTY of em. They're all being offered shitty frontline tech-support jobs.

    The computer industry does need smart people, that is a point i will always concede. But what they WANT is warm bodies to fill positions most of the times. There is a lot of smart people that actually went in computers, only to be destroyed by an industry that always seeks to benefit from education and technical know-how

    • by T3Tech (1306739)
      Veering a bit off-topic but - This is part of the reason I'm self-employed. Although it's not a whole hell of alot better, at least I get to do more work that actually lines up with my qualifications than I do dealing with cleaning virus-ridden windows machines, diagnosing why there's no display or interweb connection, etc.

      There are too many that expect to pay US$15-$20/hr for a networking or security specialist and offshore it's not too difficult to find talent that will glady accept that, no questions,
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      It makes it worse when a guy that actually went ahead and got himself an education makes less an hour that most forklift operators.
      So? If you're worried about the money, stop whining and go and get a forklife licence.

      Being clever and hard working does not guarantee you a future of wealth and happiness.

  • A Young Hacker's Primer.
  • Am I the only person who thought the title sounded like a pun on "Halloween" at first?

    I'm looking forward to the third book in the series, which will be totally unrelated to the first two, but will educate the reader on how to replace the nation's children with an army of robots.

    / Obscure
    // Oops this is not Fark....
    /// I don't care!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There's also Authoritas: One Student's Harvard Admissions and the Founding of the Facebook Era [thinkpress.com], which should be of interest to teens applying to college. It talks in depth about issues of privacy and computer security. The sources are available on-line.
  • Funny, they have an example [hackerteen.com] of the "binary junk" that Microsoft Office documents are composed of... except the excerpt is from a .PNG file, a perfectly well documented and open format. pHYs is the physical dimensions chunk and IDAT is the data chunk, AFAIR.
  • All these are grammatically incorrect: semi unique, partially unique, rather unique, almost unique, nearly completely unique, halfway unique, uniquish, uniquey, ...

    http://www.mckinnonsc.vic.edu.au/la/english/Grammar/index.htm [vic.edu.au]

    "Superlatives cannot be qualified. Something is 'unique' or it's not. It can't be the "most unique" or "quite unique." "

    If you don't agree, and believe the word 'unique' means the same as the word 'rare', then pray tell what word do you use to mean a thing that is the only exam
  • But I always feel weird when this happens, because unless I check thoroughly, the original material will end up being the same thing. And I'm too lazy to check :(

    but it's always a neat feeling when you see a phrase (or a book title) and feel like a world suddenly opened up where only you can see it.
  • I thought the project sounded quite interesting, but then I clicked to read more and saw this:

    1. Excessive time spent by young people playing computer games on the internet.
    2. Young people committing digital crimes on the internet.
    3. A lack of professionals who work with networks and computer security.

    Sorry, but it's failed already. Approaching the problem by suggesting teens favourite pasttime is somehow wrong and a problem is idiotic to say
    • by famazza (398147)

      I'd argue point 2 is rather interesting too, could it possibly be hinting at the download of MP3s, movies and the like?
      In Brazil very few consider downloading MP3s and movies a crime, it's easy to find policeman buying pirate products. You can buy unauthorized copies of any CD at any corner and pay 1/3 the price of a regular CD (about US$ 3). When they (from Hackerteen) say about avoid youngs to commit crimes they are talking about phishing, and internet scams.

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