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Where to learn
Posted by: Praetorian
Date: May 24, 2008 01:36AM

Hello everyone. New here. I found my way here from a book of all things. (Wicked Cool PHP [NoStarchPress]).

I'm really interested in learning... well... everything there is to know about computers, coding, scripting, hacking.. etc etc. I'm moving to Las Vegas in a month or so and I was just wondering if anyone knew of any good tech schools that could get me started, or books you would recommend. Or should I go old-school and go find someone to take me in as an apprentice? heh.

Any info anyone could provide would be greatly appreciated.

I'm David, by the way.

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: rsnake
Date: May 24, 2008 08:29AM

I think some of the older posts on this board and ha.ckers.org are a really good place to start, as are some of the links on http://ha.ckers.org/links.html if you want to do it on the cheap. It's hard to say which books are good without knowing more about your skill level.

- RSnake
Gotta love it. http://ha.ckers.org

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: Praetorian
Date: May 24, 2008 12:32PM

Thanks for the response Rsnake.

My skill level is very much beginner. The only scripting language I know is PHP, which is a start, but I'm far from fluent in it. I know some SQL but I usually just use phpmyadmin. I know a little bit of javascript. I can pick stuff up pretty quickly, it's just hard to find a really comprehensive, step-by-step instruction guide for the stuff I want to learn. Most books tell me certain things, but not everything. I'm always left with at least a dozen questions that the book/website didn't answer. Especially about security. And I'm continually checking the printing dates on books and worrying if they were printed too long ago to be of any use.

Which is why I'd really like to find a tech school or college where I can take classes and have a teacher for quick answers. Or at least find some really helpful text-book-like books.

Sounds like a lot to ask. lol. I'll be happy with anything you can recommend. And I'll definitely be scouring your website top to bottom.

Thanks again.

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: rsnake
Date: May 24, 2008 12:40PM

Take it one step at a time. I know it seems overwhelming (because it is), but the best place to start is with whatever immediate questions you have. And not abstract questions like "how do I hack" but start with easier tactical issues like, "how do I write a function that does X" or "what are the pitfalls with implementing Y". Pick a subject matter that you're interested in and start to read up on that subject in particular.

- RSnake
Gotta love it. http://ha.ckers.org

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: Praetorian
Date: May 24, 2008 12:51PM

That's what I try to do with most books. Read the whole thing through so I've absorbed it, then go back and look for what I want to do exactly. Where I usually run into problems is when I want to think outside the box. Granted I've only purchased 3 books on php, but even after reading all three I'm still fuzzy on certain topics. One thing most books really aren't good at is, after showing me some complicated function, they neglect to tell me what I would use it for. Or they use a non-real-world situation as an example and don't explain how to translate that to any situation.

Well, enough complaining. As long as I can pick your brain I'll start with quick questions.

I want to work with computers. I haven't quite narrowed down where exactly, since I don't know what I'd be good at, so let's just say if I wanted to do what you do. Where would I start? Which skills do I need to pick up?

Thanks again and sorry for the vague questions.

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: rsnake
Date: May 24, 2008 02:21PM

Well that's exactly what I was saying, don't start with something abstract like, "I want to work with computers." Start with something like, "I like software engineering. How do I hone my skills to become attractive to a hiring manager?" Tactical thinking will get you to your goals much faster than abstract.

Without knowing exactly what your goals are, any outsider's "help" would actually be counter productive. If you're suffering from the "I don't know what I want to do when I grow up" syndrome, that's a discussion best had with mentors. If you don't have a mentor, or at least someone that you can bounce ideas off of, get one, quick!

- RSnake
Gotta love it. http://ha.ckers.org

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: Praetorian
Date: May 24, 2008 02:34PM

lol. Okay. I see your point. It's not that I don't know what I want to do so much as I don't know which area to focus on, or where I'd be suited. But these are things I assume I'll learn if I can find a good school and just take a shot-gun approach.

Let me ask you this. A good direct question. I was dabbling with Java a few months back. On the topic of scripting/programming languages, is there a particular set that are better than others? Should I try to learn all of them or focus my attention on a few?

If I'm bugging you with all this let me know and I'll cut the Q&A short. lol. I know you must be a busy person.

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: Gareth Heyes
Date: May 24, 2008 02:43PM

@Praetorian

Focus on what you enjoy and any language can produce something cool

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.";
labs : [www.businessinfo.co.uk]
blog : [www.thespanner.co.uk]
Hackvertor : [hackvertor.co.uk]

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Re: Where to learn
Date: May 24, 2008 02:43PM

Careful when reading books though, many will inadvertently teach you incorrectly or using archaic methods. One such example was when I learned PHP the author was teaching it with register_globals on among other bad ideas. I had to train myself not to do it that way after I learned of how it was teaching me the wrong way. I now always refer to the php.net online manual, most up to date and correct resource for it. So always try an online resource before you choose to settle down with a book, because many times you will find its more in depth, correct, updated and best of free.

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: DoctorDan
Date: May 24, 2008 05:26PM

Divide and conquer! Don't take it all at once. Pick something (or even a few things) to focus on and become comfortable with it. Apply prior knowledge as you learn. You can also focus on topics through a specific lens. For example, you can learn PHP with a concentration on web application security. I say that because here the common lens is often security. Also, don't be afraid to take on a project to apply what you have learned. It is good for experience, and it also causes new questions to arise that will push you.

-Dan

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: Praetorian
Date: May 24, 2008 07:31PM

Thanks for the info and advice everyone. Greatly appreciated.

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: Reiners
Date: May 25, 2008 08:31AM

I'd recommend to just start programming in whatever language you like. Thats the best way to learn because you practice to find solutions for various of problems you will stumble upon. PHP is a good starter in my opinion. once you got the syntax, php.net gives you everything you need.
if you want to concentrate on WebApp security I can recommend "The Web Application Hacker's Handbook" to learn the basics. start writing some tiny webapps (like with PHP) and exploit it to see how different techniques work and how to prevent them.
just my two cents.

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Re: Where to learn
Posted by: Kyran
Date: May 25, 2008 12:22PM

Yup! It'd be a great idea to learn to make and break them at the same time. Make a few web apps, then look at things like the XSS cheat sheet and the WAHH and try to break your own code from the outside and go back and see why it happened.

- Kyran

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