Hackers of the world rejoice. YouTube channel Tinkernut is here and is over 100 thousand-subscribers strong. With a mix of programming tutorials, life hacks and computer hacks, the Tinkernut channel is every code junkie’s dream.
Tinkernut isn’t only for members of Anonymous and members of the GNAA though; videos like “Candle Powered Phone Charger,” uploaded by the channel’s creator Daniel Davis, guarantee that average non-shadow organization schmoes like you and I can enjoy it also.
Using an advanced programming technique called Gmail on a highly sophisticated programming machine known as a MacBookPro, I talked to Davis about vigilante justice and any future plans he may have hacking into NASA or the FBI. Just kidding, guys … not really. Shhh, they’re listening.
You recently put out your YouTube NextUp collaboration video with Jack of “Cooking with Jack.” How did you guys team up and figure out the idea for the DIY stove you made in the video?
When I first met my YouTube NextUp group, I was nervous about finding someone to collaborate with. There weren’t any other tech-related YouTube channels in my group. The great thing about Jack Scalfani of Cooking with Jack is that he was super pumped about different and unusual ideas that he could incorporate into his cooking show. One video that I had always wanted to do involved creating camping equipment out of junk that can be found around anyone’s house, also known as “Urban Survival” or “MacGyverisms.” Right when I mentioned the possibility of cooking food using a coffee can, his face lit up and the video concept took flight.
Your channel Tinkernut is a mix hacking videos and life hacks. When you started your channel what were you setting out to do?
I have always had a passion for technology and how it can be used to enhance our lives. Whenever I started my video series, it was to serve two purposes. The first purpose was to show people how to use technology to its maximum potential, whether it be through setting up a simple webcam home security system or a cheap smartphone controlled lighting rig. There’s an overabundance of technology in our daily lives that we take for granted and don’t really understand. My hope is to get people to look at technology for the wonder that it is and to not be afraid to tweak it and hack it so that we can extend it’s potential and learn more about it in the process. This brings me to my second purpose: knowledge. As my video series suggests, I love to tinker. Tinkerers take apart things because they are curious and they want to learn how the world works. I love to learn new things, and my YouTube channel not only allows me to catalogue what I learn, but it allows me to share what I’ve learned with others.
You seem to have great working knowledge of tech and gadgets already. Did going to YouTube Space L.A. as part of NextUp teach you anything?
I knew going into the NextUp program that the odds of finding someone else that does tech videos would be very slim, but my intention for attending NextUp was not to enhance what I already know, but to learn more about what I lack. Having a YouTube channel is essentially like running your own business, which means all of the same jobs needed to run a business are also required to maintain a YouTube channel i.e. marketing, finance, management, etc. In my case, since I am the sole proprietor of my channel, I have to wear all of those hats myself. What I have learned most from the NextUp program is how to balance all of the different facets of running a business and still produce great content. I have gotten to meet and talk with other successful YouTubers that were happy to share their techniques and words of wisdom, and hopefully my words of wisdom helped out others as well.
As someone who speaks publicly about hacking, what do you think about the hundreds of hacktivist groups roaming the internet now who are in many ways exacting their own brand of vigilante justice?
There are dozens of definitions for the term “hacking.” When I refer to hacking, I like to go back to its older definition as “a clever or elegant technical accomplishment”. The root of all hacks is to find technologies’ strengths and weaknesses which, by itself, is commendable. The threat arises when a malicious person finds a hack and uses it for malicious intent. The problem of malicious people inflicting harm on others is just as much a problem in the real world as it is in the virtual world. But because the internet is still a vastly unknown frontier, the fear of it is amplified. Why else would the penalty for stealing a CD be 18 months when the penalty for downloading a single MP3 is 5 years? The story of Aaron Swartz should serve as a cautionary tale of this issue. The internet unifies all people globally. Anyone can have a voice and the entire world can hear what is said. If there is an uprising in Egypt, the entire world can know about it instantly. It’s this state of the internet thatscares a lot of governments and political figures to the point where they feel that the internet needs some type of governing body or regulations i.e. SOPA, PIPA, ACTA. But to invoke a governing body over the internet is when it ceases to be the internet (the Chinese firewall is a good example). This is what hacktivists and entities like Anonymous feel they are protecting. I see hacktivists as no different from any other activist group. They all have their extremists. The only difference is that hactivists tend to know more about computers and the internet than the entities trying to impose rules and regulations on it. It is no surprise that those confrontations never end well.
You recently did a video about how easy it is to hack someone’s social media password. What tips can you give us for creating a better password that isn’t 1234567?
The longer and more complex the password is the longer it takes for hacking software to crack it. For instance, a 5-character password consisting of all letters may take a few days to crack, but a 10-character password consisting of numbers, letters and symbols could take hundreds of years! A trick that I use is to think of a phrase, such as “see you later.” Then substitute some letters with their number or symbol dopplegangers. An example would be subsitituting $ for S, 0 for O and @ for a. The resulting password would be “$eeY0uL@ter.” That is considered a highly secure password.
What’s next for the Tinkernut YouTube channel? Any plans to hack into NASA a la Gary McKinnon?
LOL. While I admire the technological knowledge and fortitude of Gary McKinnon, I have no plans to ever use technology maliciously. If I do find a hack, I prefer to show people how they can protect themselves from it than to use it against them. My plan is to try and grow with technology. There’s always something new to learn, and I love to continuously learn. Currently, the thing that has stolen my attention is the Raspberry Pi, a $35 mini-computer. I’ve been learning how to use it in connecting real-world devices such as lights, motors, and even appliances to the web. I am also learning more about mobile technology and how to hack it to make our daily routines easier. And, as always, I am learning new programming languages that I will share with others as I learn them.
About the piece:
Out of YouTube’s thousands of creator channels, 30 promising creators are picked every season to participate in the YouTube NextUp Creator program — a sort of Hogwarts Academy for the very best of the YouTube best. They spend a week training at the YouTube Creator Space in Los Angeles, attending seminars, learning advanced filming techniques and interacting with some of the YouTube greats. In short, it’s a pretty cool honor. Since YouTube thinks they’re worthy, NMR thinks you should know about them.
So we’re featuring the Winter 2013 class of Nextup participants — 2 a day for the next 15 days. Learn about these fresh faces, love their content and then subscribe to their channels, because these are the next generation of YouTube innovators.