Showing posts from 2014

Progress with Python on @Raspberry_Pi ...

Five days since Christmas and between the festivities, family time and generally eating too much. One has been spending time on my new Raspberry Pi. My plan, was to create a 'echo' server. This is a tool that replies to each packet sent to it. Nothing new here, but something that could be easily utilised in teaching:

Simple Sockets ProgrammingNetworking Fundamentals
The version one code is almost there, I wish to give it a try on some other platforms. But that is for another day. The idea is that a school could easily attach a Raspberry Pi to their network and using a combination of Wireshark and the Python based client, they could create interesting traffic on their network. With the added bonus of not scaring the network manager. Tho, I would bet that some network admins when it comes to encouraging educational development of our youngsters are born scared.

For those who follow my blog, I would appreciate some feedback before plonking this code on the InterWeb. I would like …

There is no secret to blogging ...

The art behind blogging is ...
Think of something to write aboutWrite about itThink of something else to write aboutWrite about that as wellGo to step 1 Sometimes you will have nothing to say, so don't; I am sure something will come. Sometimes you have plenty to say, this is good, consider how you may break it down into manageable quantities. There are many rule-of-thumb guides to article length. From my perspective, if it takes more than 1/2 an hour to write, it is going to take way longer than five minutes to read, then it is too long.
Long entries have their place, for people who have time, most articles need to be less than 800 words and take less than five minutes to read. We are in a 'bite size' medium, many are reaching your blog via their smart things, make sure they can read it.
I often discover readers in all manner of places. I have a reasonable idea of my reach and know which articles have done well and others that take their time. Don't worry about this, s…

Back on the Pi and programming

By no means an expert programmer, it has been some considerable time since I have stretched this muscle. Keen to explore and rediscover some old latent skills. I have been bashing away at my Pi today (pun intended).

Receiving a Raspberry Pi for Crimble; I immediately set about learning Python and refreshing my Linux Skills. Having installed the kit, updated the Operating System and created a comfortable working environment, powering the Pi off of its own USB hub, I was ready. Boxing day fun, here we come.

Getting to grips with the interpreted basics during the morning, working out some of the graphical, objected oriented and casting of types by lunch time. I am already getting my head around some of the nuances of sockets and running multiple shells. Which slowed me down a little.

I have a simple client server socket up and running, deciding that the SimpleHTTPServer object is far too easy.

So, what next ... more sockets then onto GUI components. I will revisit some of the coding pri…

Sprout bombing

I am thinking that there should be a new phrase that should enter the Christmas parlance of British folk.

This is the notion of ... Sprout Bombing.
Namely the noble art of introducing sprouts into somebody's diet without their consent or acknowledgement.
Having acknowledged our son's achievements earlier this year. The Smith family have been hell bent on a mission to encourage our daughter's consumption of the said green vegetable.
After some effort over the last few days. We have successfully dehydrated, powdered and inserted said sprouts into the salmon roulade starter today.
Not only was this a tasty treat; we have a gutted and annoyed daughter as well.
Please parents everywhere if you have children and young or old dislike sprouts. Please feel free to follow our example and commit yourself to a mission of Sprout bombing. Is still plenty of time the shops will have plenty in stock after Christmas.

Unsubscribe for Christmas ...

Earlier this year, I spent a week unsubscribing from junk emails. It was a redemptive experience and lightened the load on my various inboxes.

With the seasonal joy upon us, I have already started receiving emails telling me about the sales from well known retailers. I suppose it is the curse of making online purchases at some time or another.

So ... I have made an important decision, if you email me from this point onwards with the offer of a seasonal sale. I will unsubscribe (or block) your email. Its too much Internet mammon for my liking, opting out and avoiding your sales hype seems the best option.

I have already opted out of three providers in the last hour and will keep it up until the 5th of January. Lets see how many I attempt to block.

This is not the Smith Annual Report ...

There are many ways to deliver the middle class concept of an annual news letter. This is going to be none of them. Do you think the world has changed, where annual digests of our personal affairs are becoming less relevant.

With a combination of Faceweb and the Tweety Bloggersphere, you can form a view of many social media users. While the heady early days have gone, with many social media users now more cautious about their posts. One can easily form a view of the year of some souls (I am no exception).

Some social media platforms offer an annual digest feature. What would be more interesting is the amalgamation of a range of platforms per individual and seeing what story this would portray.

Fraping loved ones ...

The act of Fraping, is posting on someones own timeline in Facebook when they leave their Laptop/Browser or SmartPhone unattended. Our son has often experienced this at work, sometimes with hilarious effect.

However, I do wonder what is happening when individuals in a committed relationship do this to each other. Don't get me wrong, I am not particularly po-faced, Shirley and I do engage in healthy marital banter.

But why would you treat someone you are committed to in an undignified way in a public space?

Answers, if there are any.

Thanks to those who ...

Contributed to my little thought experiment ... I do not know if any of you noticed ... I do not normally allow anyone to write on my Facebook timeline.

Most years when my annual entry into this world is celebrated, I get numerous 'private messages' ... instead, wanting to see who would play along with Facebook's Pavlov'esqe prompting I opened my wall at 08:00 closing it at 18:00.

Well done, with my FB friends all alert, 20% responded with a sensible post. 0.5% was a bit too inappropriate and 1% made a suitably witty remark.

It is interesting, the world of social media has changed our celebratory interactions.

Be warned, I do deliver seasonal pre-tweets ;-)

My real professional pleasure ...

Having spent the last few days with some motivated, caring and capable individuals. I have to make a confession ... I miss face to face teaching. But before I get job offers or colleagues at the OU react to the idea that I am seeking new pastures.

I have no intention of leaving my current job, I like it far to much.

But, I do miss face to face teaching. Having worked in education for over 18 years. It is like a muscle that needs occasional exercise and it is nice to take it on a little trip and put it away again.

I must admit that it was fun this week, getting back to teaching some Cisco Instructors CCNA principles.

Partly seeing the grey matter fuse on some of topics. Partly seeing the penny drop. The banter, discussions, sharing ideas and finding different ways to help this subject make sense.

Looking forward to future instalments.

Being stuck with a curriculum mentality ...

At the moment educational opportunities in England are being stifled by a desire to meet the national curriculum. The national curriculum only and nothing else. Well to be fair, this is how it seems in the world of computing and from my own experience of the reluctance of educators.

The challenge lies that there are many areas that the national curriculum does not keep up with developments and changes in the discipline. Nothing unusual, this is a problem for many educators. Yet rather than worry about this we have learned to blend new developments into our teaching.

Yet sadly, we find that many educators; under siege will only deliver what they can because they need to meet national curriculum expectations. Rather than developing todays young people with tomorrows skills.

Why the silence ...

An unerring silence is echoing from one corner of education. After a couple of promises of conversation, commitment and consideration they seem to have disappeared into their own compliance.
Bad news maybe, not for the other three corners. But why the silence.

Counter balanced counter measures ...

It takes time to get your head around our education system in the UK, I am under no personal delusion that I am there yet; but occasionally I encounter something that gives me a little insight into the chaos.

Consider this dichotomy
National benchmarks ... a stick used by Ofsted to create fear for educators who do not come close to the median. Encouraging centres to do everything possible to raise standards and increase grade profiles.National benchmarks ... a stick used by Ofqual to irritate awarding organisations and in turn encourage them to harass educational establishments if they are too high. Encouraging awarding bodies and examiners to make sure they are not too high and reduce grade profiles. Have fun, hope the personal penny has dropped for you as well.

Candy Crush vs Sim City on an iPaq

So a very naughty member of parliament has been caught playing Candy Crush. What a bad person, with all the terrible things that are happening in the world, this has to be one of the worst. Nope, sorry let us scrub that last sentence.

Who hasn't been bored in a meeting, I know that elected representatives have to pay attention but who hasn't been bored in a meeting. We have all been to meetings that are called for the sake of having meetings. Some blowhard drones on or have us listen to cronies wasting time on pointless matters.

Many years ago in a previous role, one endured regular PM meetings on a Friday. Rather than actual fruitful discussions, they often turned into notice giving sessions and an opportunity for some of the weaker more unreliable members of the team to vent their inadequacies (you know who you are).

Around 05/06 having acquired a Compaq iPaq (do you remember the handhelds before smartphones), I had managed to install a version of the original SimCity on my…

My trip by ether to Pennsylvania ... thanks to @psucoil

I am not new to doing seminars by ether, I think this is the third, maybe even the fourth I have done. From the comfort of my own home, presenting to souls some 1000's of miles away. Why not, I presented to three locations in Botswana earlier this year. Able to share my ideas while remaining close to my own coffee supply.

My 'teaching by twitter' idea seems to have attracted a little interest. At ALT-C (in the UK), in Africa and now the United States.

With this in mind, comes an invitation which I will express in greater detail at some other time.

Who would like to work with me and allow me to help them enhance their established teaching programme by the use of social media (and of course twitter).

Over analyse and be doomed ...

Often in my role as a senior examiner I have to deal with queries that are a result of over analysis. In some convoluted leap of intellect, centres and individuals succeed in making life harder for themselves.

If it was not the case that life is already somewhat challenging, I encounter souls who add extra value creating needless effort for themselves. While the rules/regulations must be followed and are there to be enforced (to maintain standards etc), adding complexity seems to be the way for some.

It is as if they would rather embrace difficulty than seeking simplification.

Please, stop it. For your sakes, it puts you in the position of weakness and vulnerability during any verification. In fact it probably affects your pass rate, workload and quality assurance process.

Assessment systems are not designed to be intentionally complex, that seems to be added on later.

Overnight passed 100,000 hits on my blog ...

This may seem as if I am bragging (maybe one is), I am keen to share this for the benefit of other academics who are keen to blog yet seem to be stuck in a mortal coil. The data speaks for itself.

Do I have a large interweb presence, I don't think so. Yet at different events, meetings, social gatherings I encounter interesting anecdotes from souls who read some of my articles. Amusingly they refer to articles that I have to take a moment to recall; not that I am particularly prolific.

If you take a look at the following pretty picture, you can see that the experience is sporadic, some months are good, others not and it takes time to develop a following.

The spike is some work promoted by Cisco Systems to their community, (11,000 hits), the dip was late last year early this year. The recent steady rise and higher level of hits has been as a result of my work with The Conversation. I typically average 2.5K to 3.5K hits per month, some up, some down, this is normal.

As you can see I…

Theresa May's new Big Brother powers won’t help catch more criminals ...

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

Home Secretary Theresa May is giving new powers to the police, which will enable them to clearly identify who is using a computer or mobile phone at a given time. Putting the politics of national security and counter-terrorism aside, the proposed act would force all internet data-providers to retain data, linking devices to users.

Due to be announced before Parliament on November 26, the legislation is in effect looking to track the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of any suspects. This includes, organised crime, cyber-bullies, hackers, terror suspects, suspected child sex offenders and vulnerable people who may be at personal risk.

While this all looks good on paper and might seem like the right move, as someone who has been teaching network engineers for many years, I can see many flaws in this politically noble endeavour.
How does it work? At the moment your computer, smartphone or tablet connects to the internet, it had to make a connection vi…

Introducing Regin: one of the most sophisticated espionage bugs ever discovered

The computer-security firm Symantec says it may have found some of the most sophisticated malicious software ever made. The cyber-espionage bug, called Regin, has been making attacks for many years without being caught.

Most malware – which you are tricked into loading when you access free software, illegal film downloads or pornography sites – wants to spread as widely as possible. It aims to gather data that can be used for malicious purposes, such as holding your device ransom. That is why it spreads indiscriminately. The six-year-old Regin malware is different. It is unlikely to accidentally infect your system, unless the attacker wants that to happen.
The Swiss army knife of malware Regin makes use of multiple stages to complete its attack. Once the victim is duped into loading the trojan application, by sending you an email with an infected attachment, it will download encrypted components needed for the attack. This allows the trojan to be easily adapt remotely, which makes it…

Angry, annoyed and stymied ...

Considering that this news is now a few days old, it has taken me until now to put finger to keyboard. The anger, frustration and sheer annoyance has taken this long to abate.

Sadly out there within national education is a group of souls who are clueless as to how international recognition works within the technical side of the networking, systems technician and IT security specialist professions (to name a few).

Fixated on an anglo isle view of our education system, their perception that certifications from the IT vendors lack value and are contrary to our quaint customs and local compliance.

Currently I am stymied as to what to do next, normally having a good idea of the moves. My tactics have become lost in the maelstrom of the changing education system. Impotent to the indecision that is taking place and seeming to be the only non-vendor voice.

So; for those who may understand my cryptic musings. Please heed this warning as there has been advice that for a primary qualification, …

Unsubstantiated rumour ....

Well children we all know about rumours and substance and it would seem that this week via an unofficial source, I can share an unsubstantiated rumour.

This rumour, which sadly I have to share is purely second hand and rooted in conjecture. Is ...

That a local college, not too distance from where I live or may have once worked at. Had knowledge of a imminent inspection, 24/36 hours before they had the official notification. More interesting is that the rumour implies they know which subject areas are going to be under scrutiny.

They may be wrong, I cannot say, but I do know that they are now in battle mode.

Lets wait and see.

Reliability and validity in assessment ...

I have just enjoyed a two day course on assessment ... measuring assessment and determining the value of questions within a large population question bank. While some of the methodology explored, related to other styles and levels of assessment. It did give me an interesting and informed insight into some of the madness of our national penchant for examinations. Along with a view that our view (in the UK) is increasingly out of kilter with the rest of the planet.

One of the many factors at play is the question ... is the construct upon which the assessment is based, valid, let alone reliable.

While I have not 'accurately' assimilated this idea and can only, for the time being, run with my own biased viewpoint. It has made me stop and think about:

The sheer volume of assessments we inflict upon the education system. Their accuracy and the notion that now we have compulsory education until 18, the redundancy of the GCSE.How in nearly all educational establishments, the exam seem…

Challenging the idiocy of bureaucracy ...

I really like my job, it could be said that I love my job but occasionally for my current establishment as well as others I have worked with there is a moment of bureaucracy that leaves me in awe.

Recently in the day job, I was approached, asked to complete a series of paperwork activities to review some modules I manage. The paperwork is a little (ok somewhat tedious) and seemed to replicate paperwork already completed over the last two years.

Asking 'are you sure' ... another soul and I were told that this is what is required. Sitting down, using our mutual brain cell, we checked back through each of the modules only to discover (what we already knew), that this format of report had already been completed.

Question raised again, 'are you sure' as 'we can see the not so old reports, here they are'.

No less than two hours later, you only need to complete this 'considerably shorter' extension paperwork.

Erm ... ok, you have twisted my arm.

There is a mo…

Timeless charm ... of innovative educators ...

There is a timeless charm about enthusiastic educators, motivated teachers and capable champions of education regarding young and old alike.

Herein the charm lies, not because it has been decreed, or taught or invoked as a requirement for educators or their educational establishments. I have seen College Principals try to encourage innovation. External initiatives attempt to create an innovative educational culture yet few of these endeavours seem to work.

Why ....

Its kinda easy, its always the people, the combination of personalities and the environment at the time. When all three combine, in education at least you see great things occur. A competitive element helps but in repeated experiences of different educational establishments. Perception that there is a problem and the attitude that is able/willing to solve the problem. Means that we have innovative educators.

I do like the timeless charm of innovative educators, individuals and centres who in spite of their limited resource…

5 away from the magic @OULinux number for @CiscoNetAcad volunteers ...

Exciting isn't it, so close to 168 volunteers and in just under ten days ... I am so incredibly impressed with all of those who have raised their hand and have agreed to be part of this great endeavour.

For the uninitiated; 9 days ago I started putting our requests for volunteers to support a Linux community. Whose sole intention is to support Schools/Colleges and other educational establishments become centres able to teach Linux Essentials to students.

Rather than teach the teachers to teach the subject, they will get access to the material with the cavaet that they must self teach before enrolling students. But as we all know, that is not always possible as we do have those special questions that need clarification.

Enter the community.

All the volunteers have been co-opted as Cisco Academy instructors, they also have the same material and the same benefits. We only ask that they consider offering 30-60 minutes of their time (a week) checking the forums and answering questions…

Multiple choice ...

I am sitting on an airplane at the moment reading XKCD – What IF … Serious Scientific Answers to absurd hypothetical questions. Hitting upon P278 – SAT Guessing. The question “What if everyone who took the SAT, guessed on every multiple choice question. How many perfect scores would there be – Rob Balder”.

In my professional life I have often wanted to ‘force choke’ morons who try and tell me that multi-choice quizzes always guarantee a mark of 25%’. Knowing that the result is a form of compound calculation.

If you have 4 choices per question and 20 questions. It is 1/(4^20) [one divided by 4 that is to the power of 20). The result is 9.09495E-13 … this value is a negative exponent. So to see this number in plainer terms you have to float the decimal point to the left 13 times. Making it a probability of 0.000000000000909495 (which is smaller than a 1 in a zillion chance).
Most commercial multi-choice vendor exams offer around 50 questions; the CCNA finals are an excellent example …

A week with @CiscoNetAcad in Barcelona ...

I have to admit to always looking forward to Cisco events, having been to many interesting venues and locations over the years. The community and connections make the event worthwhile. Seeing old friends; educators and academics invaluable.

A moments reflection ...

Asleep the rest, asleep the tears;
Weary our rest, come one thousand years.
Hold the sorrow, belay fear. 
Time comes for all, just hold the precious dear.

Have you ever noticed how life goes through seasons. There is no rhyme, reason; even as someone with declared faith like convictions I know that not all can be attributed to a deity.

Over the last few weeks, we seem to have seen a few friends old/new come on the radar for a variety of life defining illnesses. As well as appreciate what some other dear friends are going through with their own loss or close ones who are ill.

Putting aside the challenges in our lives, something that is the subject of another blog. It always gives a sense of perspective. This is not a first time experience, we have seen this before. But that does not make it any easier, hopefully we a little wiser and maybe able to give a little care.

Creating #Linux Academy incubator for @CiscoNetAcad ... the story so far ..

As ideas go, not only is this a little on the side of madness, it may actually work. After some interesting conversations with a wonderful partner in crime +Nuno Guarda we may have an idea that could grow legs and run by itself.

Via the Cisco Networking Academy programme; there is a new course ... Linux Essentials, that can be delivered by instructors with no prior experience. Before anyone panics, the expectation is that they either have some prior knowledge of Linux or do the decent thing and study the course themselves before teaching it.

What makes this opportunity particularly clever is the course creators NDG have successfully embedded cloud based Linux instances into the online curriculum. Which means for schools, colleges, universities and other educational establishments. There is no need to convince the IT chaps that they must allow them to install all kinds of Linux on their precious systems (not that we are discouraging you from doing this).

Phase one is underway, I am ca…

App to remotely wipe phones leaves police in tech arms race with thieves ...

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

Police play a proverbial cat-and-mouse game with those they pursue, but also with the technology of the day they use. This game of one-upmanship, of measure and countermeasure, sees one or the other side temporarily with the upper hand.

For example, some years ago some UK police forces introduced a device that could read and download data from a suspect’s smartphone. However, more recently it’s been found that phones in police custody are being remotely wiped by their owners. This is embarrassing for any police force, and demonstrates how technology designed to reduce crime can also be used to potentially cover it up.
Tracking tool There are now several different ways to track your smartphone. Apple’s Find Your Phone service helps its customers find their iPhone, whether mislaid or stolen – and this can provide police with useful information about whether a crime has been committed and the possible location of the phone and possibly the perpetrato…

Interpreting data ...

Having a modest, yet comparatively sizeable population on a module. We have enjoyed a very (very) modest increase in numbers. Not the kind to get excited by, but enough to show normal variance within a trend.

I get a call from a well known vendor, we all know who they are. The quite sensible soul is telling me that their data shows we are down.

Really? Trying to fathom what is happening, as our status quo is showing modest improvement. Looking at the figures yesterday and analysing ones own over the last couple of weeks we both came to an admirable consensus.

Their data is meaningless as it seems to be asking all the wrong questions; which the uninitiated would take as fact.

Last year (2013) the OU moved its presentational pattern for Level 2 modules. Which means that we had a module start in Feb and another start in Oct. This year, we ran the module in Oct, as we are now in pattern.

Can you you see the surge and sudden drop. For the OU, when we have double presentations, we still se…

Well its a quality process ...

A very interesting conversation recently with one of many protagonists within the 'IT' scene in UK. Discussing some credit sizing taking place with an awarding organisation ... where the net result will lead to a reduction in funding for many centres based on a considerably reduced guided learning hours calculation.

The kind of thing that kills a qualification, as centres are unable to deliver and therefore offer to our students.

But, for the ultimate insult, apparently coming from one of the consultants ...

... we can be sure that it has been done properly.

Hmmm, the Titanic was built properly, lets think what happened?

Will an inspector call? ...

Over the last few days more than one source has shared that a certain local further education college is expecting ofsted to appear. Now this could be conjecture, it could be rumour but considering recent national press coverage ... I am left wondering if they have been tipped off. 
There are connections to a specific academy in Norfolk, it wouldn't take a detective genius to join the dots. Where ... I could be wrong and nothing happensThis is speculation ... based on other ofsted visits in the areaThey have been primed, with some aforethought into the sequence of the other visits to give them time to prepare Let is wait and see

Bigger than Heartbleed? Bug in bash leaves millions of web servers vulnerable ...

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

A first and quite reasonable thought readers may have will be to wonder: what is bash?
When you use a computer you probably interact with it through a point-and-click, visual interface such as Windows or Mac OS. More advanced users or specific tasks might require a text-only interface, using typed commands. This command line program is known as a shell, and bash is the acronym for Bourne Again SHell (a successor to the Bourne shell, written by Stephen Bourne – that’s geek humour right there), known to everyone as bash.

So what you need to know is that a shell is essential, and that bash as the most common shell in use is installed on pretty much every machine that runs a flavour of Linux or Unix. That includes Mac OS X – which behind its shiny desktop is a Unix-based operating system too.

What has systems administrators hot under the collar right now is the discovery by Red Hat, a firm that produces one of the long-established distributions of Lin…

Greed + Arrogance != good combination...

In the past 12 months I've been busy at work. Quietly liaising with different partners within Cisco Academy programme. Working to secure and ensure the future of the Cisco day schools at the Open University.
Sadly this means for some centres they're not going to have their contracts renewed. 
One tends to be very patient giving different centres many opportunities. Forgiving of mistakes forgiving of misunderstandings and appreciative of the organisational pressures they are under.
But when you see the arrogance and mismanagement of all day schools. Silly attempts to overprice, overcharge and undersell. Mucking on their own staff around who are also our Cisco instructors. And making the mistake of trying to tell us what is what.
So with pleasure we have two new Phoenix organisations; I am sure will give excellent service to Open University day school students. Also one centre that is just oblivious to the fact that they have totally lost the contract.

The real @CiscoNetAcad heroes can be found @suitcasemedia ...

One of the wonders of working with the Cisco Networking Academy programme for too many years, far too indecent to mention. Is the diverse souls who want to reach underserved communities. Today I had the privilege of meeting Suitcase Media. A community based company whose sole purpose is to teach the homeless computing skills.

They are starting on the journey of becoming a CCNA academy, they already have the tools and two souls who already have their CCNA certifications. As we quietly boot them into instructor mode, I think that today the UK has gained an invaluable member of the academy programme.

As a Cisco ASC, the Open University is pleased to be able to support unique organisations like Suitcase media.

The @OUCisco Netlab sitting in Venables ...

Somewhat of a hidden gem, many are unaware of the Netlab system that sits in our Venables Server room supporting 600+ students at any time. Netlab is a collection of commercial grade routers and switches set up in a remote lab. So that our students get get 'real' hands on experience during our Cisco modules.

The video is no longer than three minutes, filmed and edited on my iPhone. So no real production values applied here.

So here is the plan for @OULinux ...

First become an enthusiastic advocate of education ... check, been doing this for eighteen years.

Second ... allow someone to ignite an idea that using ones reach, we could enable Linux education in a wide range of educational establishments. Fell for that one. Check.

Then, create a community structure that could be self sustaining ... its on the way, check, but lets refine.

Finally find a large collection of enthusiastic volunteers who would support each other as well as this community of educators who for many will never have used Linux before. Next stage, it is on the way, you may want to look here.

Eventually, ensure that these centres and others may grow in process. Fingers crossed.

Connected computing offers a new life for blind people, and job opportunities too ...

By Andrew Smith, The Open University and Iain Murray, Curtin University

There are many examples of individuals with different disabilities who excel and accomplish much in their lifetime, rendering physical or mental attributes meaningless – consider Stephen Hawking, Stevie Wonder and Helen Keller, among many others.

But certain tasks and careers are more or less suited to some disabilities than others. Thankfully Ray Charles could sing and compose without his sight, but if his natural talent had been as a sportsman then the world may have not seen him rise to fame. Today’s technology offers many new possibilities, not least the opportunity to work in the information technology field itself.

Network engineers are the plumbers of the internet, setting up and configuring network equipment such as routers and switches which ensure that data is carried swiftly and surely from one side of the world to other. They spend most of their time studying a text-based terminal, the command line int…

Words of wisdom ...

If you are ever stuck for something smart to say, consider the following poem ...

On the Ning Nang Nong  Where the Cows go Bong!  and the monkeys all say BOO!  There's a Nong Nang Ning  Where the trees go Ping!  And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.  On the Nong Ning Nang  All the mice go Clang  And you just can't catch 'em when they do!  So its Ning Nang Nong  Cows go Bong!  Nong Nang Ning  Trees go ping  Nong Ning Nang  The mice go Clang  What a noisy place to belong  is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!! 

Spike Milligan, 1968

The keys may be on your fingertips, but that doesn't mean biometric locks can't be picked ...

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

How can we ensure that someone is who they say they are? How can be sure that the person in our system, both digitally speaking or physically in front of us, is who whom they claim to be?

You may think that a good password is the answer, but with so many ways to break into a computer system these methods are clearly not always effective – as can be seen from the unfortunate hacked celebrities whose naked pictures were strewn across the internet recently, or the Oleg Pliss ransomware that locks iPhones until the extortioner is paid. Even a combination of a good username and password may not be enough.
An organic alternative to passwords What about biometrics? This technology uses human physical attributes as locks and keys, such as fingerprints, iris scans or, as is now suggested, the veins in the human fingertip, making them highly individual ways to identify one user from another.

Using biometrics is not especially new. For example, while the lik…

Seems that I need to educate a new batch of calendar hogs ...

In the last couple of hours, I have needed to extract a couple of presumptuous souls from my work calendar. Without asking, checking or looking at some of the tools available in outlook, they have created meetings assuming that I may be available or on campus.

Fortunately I do have control over my schedule and a level of autonomy based on a pragmatic view of what I can (and cannot) do at the behest of others.

Stuck in the Middle ...

Many of you may know this song by Stealers Wheel ...

Being quite insane, I have always used it as the basis for teaching subnetting ... a technology that we used to organise networks in IP version 4.
So, for networking geeks everywhere ... I have adapted the lyrics; you can hear the song, now can someone work with me to create a soundtrack that could go viral.
Well I don't know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain't right,
I'm so scared the network isn't there,
And I'm wondering how I'll ping the next hop o'er there,
Networks to the left of me,
Hosts to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you.

Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you,
And I'm wondering what it is I should do,
It's so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place,
1's to the left of me, 0's to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Well you started out with nothing,
And you're proud that you're …

There will be @CiscoNetAcad superheroes at @RNC_official ...

Have you ever started a conversation that seemed like a good idea and soon becomes very interesting and then evolves into a fantastic opportunity.

Since chatting with our Cisco contact, Nuno earlier this year, the conversation and opportunity has rapidly developed. Managing to acquire funding, resources and a world expert to boot.

Together we are building the first Cisco Networking academy for the blind in the UK and maybe even Europe and Africa. You may be impressed by this, who knows. But, let us be sure of what is truly impressive.

Iain Murray of Curtin University and I are working with a team of fantastic educators and technical experts. The staff at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford are some of the most wonderful souls you could ever meet. Watching their commitment, care and dedication is a wonder to behold and something to learn from.

Ok, my latest @ConversationUK article was a bit of a surprise ...

At the point I write this entry, my article on the iCloud hack, is ticking past 390,000 and still pulling in a few hundred readers a day.

Written in response to a request from one of the senior editors, it was hastily penned while I was attending the keynote at ALT-C. The keynote was worthwhile, but I must admit the time was spent in the cloud quickly shifting out the core content behind this article. So best not ask me about the detail of the message.

Having written around 28 articles, my best to date reached over 50,000 with some notable contributions in the 20's, 30's and 40's. Nothing is less than four digits and the lowly articles in the 1000+ readers still attract minor interest.

I have a colleague in my faculty with whom there is friendly banter, we have been edging past each other in the leader stakes, until now. But, to be fair, if it was not for their kindness and integrity, I would not have been introduced to writing for the Conversation.

So, if you are an acad…