Fravia: Who I am

From software reversing to advanced web-searching: Old lore for a new science!

The following boring "biography" is tantamount to revealing my real identity to any average stalker, but I don't care that much and anyway I felt this was necessary: it is indeed pretty long-winded, but you are absolutely NOT compelled to read it. The reason of it's presence is that, as all searchers know, evaluating what you find on the web depends also from the "value" of the source you have found. And the value of a source depends a lot from its Author and his real qualifications.
I am fairly old: the middle of my life is behind me. I have programmed software for my own use (either in assembly or in C) since the early eighties, some younger readers were not yet born :-(
The inner working of computer programs (come to think of it: the inner working of everything) has always fascinated me. Behind all the hype and the obvious progress being made in the field of software I have noticed during the last twenty years a clear (and saddening) "involutionary" pattern.
Software programs (software operating systems too, for that matter) are more and more being deliberately "hidden" from their users (as the growing appearance of "Wizards" and automated installation and de-installation procedures attest) and are more and more using "undocumented" functions and performing "clandestine" activities on user machines.

Such covert activities encompass inter alia: It has always astonished me that so few even cared to check such developments, and that virtually nobody fought against them or tried to counter (or retaliate). I conduced a very lonely fight on my own, which started long ago on a Sinclair spectrum and was boosted with the advent of the web.

From 1995 to end-1999 I have created, through a series of avatars, a "first web-approach": a site that tried to push talented crackers (i.e. people interested in breaking software protections, hence eo ipso well above the average -poor- consciousness scheme) into "more general" software reversing activities, not necessarily protection-related, in the belief that the world needs - A LOT OF - people capable of looking inside the little (and poor-programmed) black-boxes that are sold to the zombies all over the planet. My "pages of reverse engineering" had quite a lot of success, I never really understood why.
Probably the right info at the right time. Still unclear about that, but I don't think I really deserved so many people reading my silly ramblings.
Anyway the five years between 1995 and 2000 have been decisive. Microsoft dominance has been broken and the 'hidden activities' performed by many a software application are now more popularly known - thank also to our past work.
Yet I keep meeting public officials in Europe -- even "high" EU-officials -- who are happily using Excel (or the 'public' search engines or the so-called 'free' email addresses, or the "free facilities" that nicht zufällig abound on the web) with their own name and IP, who are browsing around without any proxy whatsoever and who are still completely unaware of the fact that a lot of their oh so 'confidential' data is secretly siphoned into huge databases, most of them located in the States. Thus the results of any research in fieri at the European central bank in Frankfurt will probably be known in the States first and in Brussels later.

In fact sofware reverse engineering is such an interesting and powerful science (some insiders know that it is in part an "Art") that has been now unfortunately - and purposely - pushed into illegality by the commercial bastards and their political lackeys. Too much power for single individuals, where would we land if everyone would be able to understand - and counter - the illegal activities performed by the software they buy and install onto their own computers?

As a consequence, since I respect even laws that are patently illogical and complete nonsense, I have decided to quit the "scene" and close my original experiment.
As a conclusion of a five-year long "software reversing" period I must state the following: Anyway I have slowly -and now definitely- shifted the focus of my interest towards web-searching knowledge and other not very well known "lores" of the web.

I use the non-existing english plural "lores" with purpose. In fact there is such an overkill of "useless" information nowadays, that many real useful "lores" are either half-forgotten, or used by a tiny percentage of the people that would need it, who pass among themselves 'high level' information on places that are difficult to find (and even more difficult to monitor :-)

Despite being a programmer myself, and though having used computers since the late seventies, I am working "in my real life" as a linguist (read translator), expert for all "informatic related" linguistic fields.
Yet my (long) university formation was in the field of the early middle ages written sources exegesis: aka "Quellenforschung". Though not German myself (Gott sei dank :-) I made my post-university Doctorate in Germany where I was lucky to have as Mentor Frithjof Sielaff, one of the very few German Quellenforscher "of the old school" able to survive the last world war (which destroyed definitely the whole school: two wars in fifty years were simply too much... those 'Quellenforscher' that did not die during the first world war, did disappear during the second... so much for german Gründlichkeit :-)

Since being a real linguist and translator allows me to understand quite well - at least passively- more languages that I will ever really need, this asset can also be of some value on a more and more international web.
Let's cut it short: I believe that my software-reverser past, my current real-life activity as "linguist expert in informatic and web-related matters" (whatever that is supposed to mean :-) and my long (and hard) university and post-university formation in "Quellenforschung" do flow together and form a quite relevant base for my personal capability as a teacher for searching lores. I may be wrong, of course, and your criticisms are therefore more than welcome. Hubris should be avoided, by all means, as always.

What is the web of today? "avoid info overloads", "don't loose your track", "guess names", "feel" the correct path of investigation. You would be surprised how important all these fields are when you are trying to dig some nuggets out of the poor-documented history of -say- the merowingian nobles :-)

I'll try to explain why, because I believe it is relevant for our searching purposes.

Some researchers have been formed, using special tools, methods and approaches, in order to study and teach a very specific and "weird" scientific field: "written history sources of the early middle ages" (600-987). This field is quite different from analogous "more ancient" or "more recent" historical font-digging activities: in that specific time-interval people used (at least in Europe) pergament, not paper and not clay. Pergament is a "funny" media: it is in fact re-writable! Yup! You can scratch it -with a stone- back to white, deleting (almost completely) the previous writings in the process.
Now, since pergament was also expensive, it has been used and used again. As a consequence very few original documents of the early middle ages have survived... imagine all those silly monks, that - later - have happily re-cycled valuable ancient sources in order to write down for the thousandth time one of their boring holy-lives (Acta sanctorum). The original source disappeared and survived only through small snippets of citation, hidden references, copycatted snippets elsewhere. The quellenforscher of the early years of last century had to re-construct them, in an extremely difficult and clever backward approach, reversing the snippets that have survived.
This happened ONLY in the early middle ages. For this reason that period can be considered the "black hole" of our past history... for whole centuries we know nothing but the NAMES of a couple of kings (but names are -as always- very important per se go ahead and study the history of Mercia... see? Keorl, Pybba... they sound like Karl and Pippin don't they? And... :-)
Pergament, pergament... a terrible story, isn't it? We have far more data about the previous "clay" times... Will probably happen again now, paper times vis-à-vis bytes times, eh.
See: on one hand almost every friday some "indiana jones" archeologist falls into some tomb filled with perfectly conserved terracotta writings, on the other hand all historians of the late middle ages (the paper, non-pergament, period) are continuously visiting godforgotten paper-archive in order to write a couple of completely useless volumes about -say- "Commerce in Lübeck from 1563 to 1566".
About the Longobards (on the third and weirdest hand :-) we have only around 50.000 written words. Once you have gathered and read all of them, you know as much as any other can know about that period (given or taken a couple of archeological findings). The problem is Samo samo applies when searching info on the web IMO.
All "Quellenforschung" lores and great names like Bresslau, Holder-Egger, Waitz and least but not last Hofmeister should actually be well known subjects for all web-searchers, since the techniques they used are very often very useful when perusing and digging this giant library without index and with lost snippets of information that we call the web.

Thus the teachings about "finding" rare snippets of information among tons of crap have proved quite useful on a web, which - as you will already have realized - is an Ocean of knowledge... about two centimeters deep. De hoc satis: You'll judge by yourself.

There is another reason for my activity: I wanted, and still wish to show in the future that you can create - ON YOUR OWN - a non-commercial site that spreads for free REAL knowledge. As I have already demonstrated, this kind of "web-snowballs" can grow quite a lot.
Funny as it may seem, believe me, a lotta people dislike this. Some cannot even understand it, others understand it much too much... and hate it even more.
"What? Whattf? This guy is sitting on the web since 1995 without even trying to make some money out of it? Must be nut! I hate this! Let's destroy this crap or else it risks developing into another of these silly anti-commercial web-trends!"
Ah! See: this is the best and only way, imo, to counter the commercialisation of our society... and of the web. Give freely and demonstrate at the same time that only giving has any sense at all... Virtute duce, comite fortuna!
But that is not enough! Retaliate we must: See: "they" take and pocket our data, our lives, our rights, our hopes, our feelings and our chances just in order to squeeze some money out of that. Should we allow it? No! Let's answer back. Let's try to destroy the very roots of their pathetic "weltanschauung"!

Ok, ok: I know I have no chance, and I know I'm fighting on the last beach against the coming tide. Na Klar. But I'll go down with my sword in my hand. Numquam mens exitu aestimanda est: eheh! Besides, I am not alone! Take the weapons you want to use - you'll find some valuable ones on my site - and join me: we'll lose together - and have some fun in the mean time... :-)
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