There are hackers and there are crackers, and then there are kids who want be like hackers, for all they fantasise is the green terminal in movies where they see a nerd typing a few characters on a terminal, and suddenly the “Access Granted” screen pops up.
Santosh Kumar is no different, an avid chess player for who started his journey rescuing the princess in Super Mario and used cracks and patches when he couldn't do what he wanted the normal way. Born in Raebareli and travelling around the country, as his dad was serving in Indian Air Force, Santosh was a Kendriya Vidyalaya kid throughout his life. Watching his father and brother playing chess and discussing strategies, Santosh quickly developed a liking to the game. Working his way up he went to compete in the South India regionals.
Unlike most techies featured in this column, Santosh started pretty late but caught up soon. Learning most of the way by himself, he taught himself basic HTML from online blogs and started playing around, when his dad got a computer for him. Those days, CBSE used to have a portal to connect all schools and students, which was kind of a social network for them. And when someone defaced it, it got Santosh more interested in computer security.
Santosh thanks Orkut for a large part of his learning, as there were many communities around to learn things like cookie stealing, SQL Injections, and gaining unauthorised access to accounts. The conversation on these threads motivated him to learn and get to the “how” part of the code rather then just copy-pasting the code and using it online. At the same time, he learnt reverse engineering software to see how they work.
But, while doing all this, he also realized that these may not be helpful and came in touch with guys from Free Software Foundation and got introduced to the open source philosophy. Santosh cites a very interesting reason for adopting the open philosophy:
“You pay Windows and it does not benefit my country, the money is going to other countries, with free software at least we are saving that amount.”
While the first part may be debatable as a lot of software is coming from India too, but the part regarding saving money is interesting. I am not sure how much RMS (Richard Matthew Stallman - Father of Free Software Foundation) would accept that as a reason for it.
Though when he is not giving talks on Python or contributing to Mozilla Community, Santosh volunteers with FSMK (Free Software Movement Karnataka) and teaches underprivileged children about programming and use of open source technologies. Talking about his experience with them, Santosh told me when I first met him, “These kids are really brilliant given the opportunity and even sixth graders can learn languages like Python and use it in a nice way.”
Currently Santosh works with Pykih, where he is getting his hands dirty with machine learning and data analytics, apart from going to college.
You can say hi to Santosh here.
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