I'm a huge, huge fan of Andrew "bunnie" Huang. Though I don't think I've ever actually carried through on one of his reverse engineering projects, he and his work have been a major inspiration to me for years. He recently did an "ASK an ENGINEER" segment with Limor "ladyada" Fried of Adafruit that is well worth a watch.
Samy Kamkar created the MySpace worm "Samy" and was raided in a manner not unlike Dade from the epic film Hackers. He does excellent security research and consulting for the public good now, and his YouTube channel has a lot of informative videos.
The CHIP was a $9 computer project on Kickstarter. I bought 2 of them, and the project actually delivered. It's one of the rare electronics projects I haven't regretted funding. I run one connected to my TV at home, and it's surprisingly good. With a wireless combo keyboard/trackpad, it's very convenient. You can use one to run PirateBox - if you're interested in dissemination of information, the PirateBox is a really neat project to look into.
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