|Born||30 August 1952|
|Died||3 May 2009
|Known for||Knowledge Searching
Francesco Vianello (30 August 1952 – 3 May 2009), better known by his nickname Fravia, was a software reverse engineer and seeker known for his web archive of reverse engineering techniques and papers.
Fravia as Francesco Vianello
Graduated in history at the University of Venice in 1994, Fravia had a masters degree in history and philosophy in 1999. He was passionate about studies in arts and humanities and was aiming to build a collective knowledge on the particular subject of learning and Web-searching as an art.
He was known to speak fluently in at least six languages: German, Italian, French, English, Finnish, and Spanish.
Being an expert in languages, and having had a professional career in complex translation management, Fravia had great skills in writing and communications and abilities as a searcher.
Fravia as Fravia
He was focusing on privacy and created the myth of Fjalar Ravia (aka fravia+, aka msre, aka Spini, aka Red Avenger, aka ~S~ Sustrugiel aka Pellet) to protect from hostile seekers.
At least two distinct phases of his internet public work can be identified.
- The first, from 1995 (starting date of his internet presence) to 1999 was related to software reversing, software protection, decompiling, disassembling, and deep software code deconstruction.
- The second, starting in 2000, where the first stage left off, was focused on an (apparently) entirely different field: Internet Knowledge search. In February 2001 Fravia made a conference at the École Polytechnique in Paris about The art of information searching on today's Internet.
First Period: Reverse Engineering ("Reality Cracking")
In the first period Fravia's attitudes were extremely provoking and anti-corporate. He focused against software protections, content copyright, and software patents, actually pushing people to actively work to crack every kind of software protection, whenever possible. The steps for cracking software protection were in many cases published on the website, in the form of essays and Old Red Cracker's lessons.
Fravia asked, as a safety precaution, to the community to remove from the web every copy of his old site (www.fravia.org), corresponding to this period, because "The idea was to convert young crackers [...] The experiment worked only in part, hence the decision a couple of years ago to freeze that site". Nevertheless, some mirrors still do exist.
Probably one of the most important and significant papers of this period are related to reality-cracking, i.e. the capacity of the seeker to decode the hidden facts behind appearance. Many people were influenced by these readings, and after many years consider these teachings among the most important of Fravia's legacy.
However reverse engineering a legitimately bought program and studying or modifying its code for knowledge was claimed as perfectly legal by Fravia at least in the European Union under some restricted conditions.
Second Period: Web Searching ("Search Lores")
The transition between the two phases occurred after realizing the growing importance of Internet search engines as tools to access information wherever they are. According to his vision access to information should not be restricted, and he was battling for a true openness of web information contents. He fiercely criticized the huge amount of useless and false information available on the Internet, mostly offered as commercial propaganda for building unnecessary needs in a population of stupid and brainless consumers.
Since October 2000, Fravia got in touch with Richard Stallman at a LinuxDay event in Milan to which they were invited by a common friend. This meeting induced Fravia to start exploring and helping free software and free culture.
After that moment, he realized the importance of Free Software Movement, and appreciated the purity of Stallman's ideas about software and copyright ethics. Over the years Fravia converted to GNU/Linux, and was lately using Ubuntu.
Some message boards, accessible from the link section of the searchlores website, with the posts produced over time by many of his e-friends or students, are a clear sign of the relevance and strong influence that Fravia had on many people, actually contributing to consistent changes in their stance and vision towards life and knowledge.
In the second part of his works Fravia explained how the content is structured today on the world wide web and the difficulties of finding relevant information through search engines because of the growing number of ads  that search engines promote today.
It is not easy to identify clearly which were his more important contributions: either the reversing or the searching.
Reading the many contributions to the community messageboards accessible from his searchlores site, many will try to carry on his efforts.
Fravia has been described as an inspiration for many hackers and reversers, a friend of the founder of the CCC Wau Holland, and a motivation for Jon Lech Johansen to understand the inner workings of computer programs". Johansen commented in a blog post that Fravia's site was a goldmine during his education as a reverse engineer.
In his later years, he moved from software reversing to free software and searching the web further. His website has been described as the meeting point of the people who wanted to search the web deeper still.
In September 2008, Fravia stopped updating his site and holding conferences, after being diagnosed with and receiving treatment for squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil, which unfortunately metastasized.
Fravia died suddenly on Sunday, 3 May 2009 at the age of 56.
Notes and references
- Stallman, Richard (2002). "On Hacking". Retrieved 2008-03-16.
- Peikari C.; Chuvakin A.: Security Warrior, O'Reilly, page 11, "+Fravia, maintained a motley web site known as +Fravia's Pages of Reverse Engineering. In this forum +Fravia not only challenged programmers, but society itself to "reverse engineer" the brainwashing of a corrupt and rampant materialism. At one point +Fravia's site was receiving millions of traffic hits per year, and its influence was widespread."
- Tommaso Dorigo (2009) "Farewell, Chicco!" on Scientific Blogging
- PDF (61.8 KB)
- Fravia (2006) "Websearching, the sublime art"
- Fravia (2005) "Fjalar Ravia", fictional biography on Searchlores.org
- Fravia (2001) Six parts workshop on "The art of information searching on today's Internet"
- Fravia (1999) "Please help me to close the mirrors" on Internet Archive
- Fravia, "Searching problems, web problems: Ethical problems"
- Fravia, et al. (2009) "Reality cracking, an introduction"
- Fravia (1998)"Is reverse engineering legal? Why we crack"
- Fravia, "Searching problems, web problems"
- Fravia (2001) "How to search the Web volume, diameter and structure"
- Chaos Computer Club Events Blog.
- Jon Lech Johansen (2006) "Reverse Engineering", on his blog (retrieved on 2009-05-05)
- Fravia (2008) Illness
- Fravia (2009) Illness, update
- Online Obituary, on the home page of Searchlores.org
- Francesco Vianello, Gli Unruochingi e la famiglia di Beggo conte di Parigi. (ricerche sull'alta aristocrazia carolingia) // Bollettino dell'Istituto storico italiano per il Medioevo 91 (1984).
- Francesco Vianello, Università di Padova, I mercanti di Chiavenna in età moderna visti dalla Terraferma veneta.
- Francesco Vianello, PDF (4.27 MB)
- Fravia's website (European mirror)
- Fravia's Real Identity (European mirror)
- Fravia's fake auto-biography (European mirror)
- Fravia's farewell (April 2009) (European mirror)
- Fravia at ccc congress 2005
- Fravia at ccc congress 2002
- Last known mirror of the original "reversing site"
- Video of a Fravia conference presentation at Recon 2005 in Montreal
- Video of a Fravia conference presentation at Recon 2006 in Montreal
- I have seen the ICE age, by Malay