Showing posts from April, 2014

Explainer: which phone is most vulnerable to malware? ...

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

As each new computer virus attack or vulnerability comes to light, millions instinctively check their computer to see if their anti-malware application is up to date. This is a good idea and they are wise to do it but a large number of us still forget about their smartphone.

Whether you use Android, iOS, Blackberry or another system, you are vulnerable. On some systems, more than 40,000 pieces of malware exist to infect the computer in your pocket.

While you should not panic, it does no harm to become more aware and cautious.
Should I be paranoid about my Android? Android now leads on smartphones and has around 80% of the total market share. This is accomplished in part due to price and the range of devices that use it as an operating system.

The bad news is that the Android platform has the most malware.

Google does control which apps go on sale on its official Google Play store, but there are many rogue unofficial Google Play sites hosting a col…

Characterisations for @FutureLearn ... Fiction Writing ...

I have just commenced a FutureLearn, MOOC on writing fiction. My home work is to ...
Write a short character sketch – no more than 200 words – in which you concentrate on appearance and any particular mannerisms you noted.
For those who know me, I have written many text books amongst other styles, this is a little bit of a new land.
Warning, I have used some rude words.

Firstly lets try parody
With ears that could have been fashioned by toddlers experimenting with silly-putty. Fiddlesticks was no winner in good looks department. When you ask where to find Fiddlesticks, other elves, would giggle, gesture and then wiggle their clenched fists behind their own perfect pointy ears.
Ugly wasn't a word commonly used in our magical land, but somehow you could imagined that one of the midwife wizards became very pissed off with Fiddlesticks when he was born and started beating him around the head with their sticks.
When you are unfortunate enough to meet this creepy toad, the words from his mouth…

Let your yes be yes ...

I tend to avoid quoting bible verse on my blog, preferring a neutral position in this space. But if you are so inclined, please read Matthew 5:37.

If you believe in the evil one or not, please ...

Let your yes be yesAs well as letting your no be no
If you do not know, unsure etc, say so, it IS NOT a sign of weakness.

Such is my personal intolerance of fickle fey souls.

Wikipedia editors never walk alone: Hillsborough changes can be traced ... from @ConversationUK

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

According to the Liverpool Echo, UK government computers have been used to make offensive comments on the Wikipedia page detailing the 1989 Hillsbourgh Disaster over a number of years.

The newspaper reports that revisions to the page have been made from computers using the government’s secure intranet since 2009. They include insults to Liverpool fans and a comment suggesting that fans were responsible for the football ground disaster, in which 96 people died.

This case highlights the continual issue of trolling and cybervandalism on Wikipedia. It also shows how journalism is using good, technical forensic tools at the disposal of every cybercitizen.
Cybercitizens can be good or bad So many of us use Wikipedia on a daily basis that it is one of the most visited websites in the world. Yet not that many of us really understand how it works.

Wikipedia is based on the principle that the community can create, edit and refine pages covering practically …

Let's not panic like it's 1999 as we clean up after Heartbleed ...

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

Take a moment to jump back in your mental time machine to 31 December 1999. It was the biggest New Year’s Eve for a thousand years. The dawn of a new millennium. But as we prepared to party, the world was also gripped by the fear that digital infrastructure was about to come crashing down around us.

For all we knew, the millennium bug would hit at midnight, causing untold havoc on the computers upon which we had come to depend. Those of us old enough to remember may have felt a similar sense of dread over the past few weeks as we faced the implications of the Heartbleed security flaw.
We were caught in the hype in 1999 and let others dictate what we needed to do. That left us vulnerable to people who wanted to take advantage. We should learn our lesson from that time as we deal with Heartbleed and as we approach the next big security glitch.
The apocalypse that wasn’t The millennium bug, also known as the Y2K bug, was a real issue, a throwback to …

Because it is a fact ...

Does not mean that it is the truth.

I have always been fascinated by trivia, etymology and seemingly unrelated facts. The geek and nerd in my psyche loves this kind of thing.

Take this fact ... in the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy has red shoes, from which an entire cult meme has formed. Yet Frank Baums book depicted them as silver. Why, because as one of the first films to exploit colour, red gave a much better contrast than silver.

Its like Big Ben, its the bell, not the tower. The tower is currently called St Stephens tower (tho there was a move to rename it the Queen Elizabeth tower). You can hear Ben, you cannot see it, but everyone declares that what they see is ... Big Ben.

Both are facts, but not the actual 'exacting' truth.

Now to make my point. Often in education I encounter many facts, handed down from teacher to teacher, educationalist to colleague. Yet when you scratch the surface, you discover that they have been labouring under some pedagogic myth that belies a somewha…

Barista set to auto ...

My hearing is not great, it has never been particularly good. I suppose I am lucky that way. However whenever I order coffee, a wonderful bean for which I have an undying affection (and addiction), I find that the Barista experience is often set to auto. Consider the following ...

Its noisy ... either steam production or bean grinding makes a considerable noise; make eye contact, please we need these little cues, even if our hearing is goodSo, when the customer makes an order DONT INTERRUPT .... often as I am about to tell them if I would like it in or out, amidst the noise, they want to complete your order for youIf I want a cake ... I WILL SAY SO ... Black coffee is BLACK ... asking if I would like milk with it only makes me want to tell you to F$$K 8FF Rant over, now back to my coffee.

Soothsayers of the Interweb ...

I have little time for future sayers, pundits and soothsayers trying to predict the next big teccie thing out there. Furthermore I am equally annoyed when some fool hardy soul deigns to ask me the same.

Whilst there are publicised developments, nobody knows that the ars technica and technological zeitgeist will be. Chances are it could be something quite obscure. Often these things come in waves.

So, soothsayers of the interweb, please, clutter our feeds less with drivel and offer experience rather than opinion.

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready ...

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay people without needing to know their account number or sort code.

In many respects it is. Paym cuts out the need for a dash to a cash machine. Distance is also not an issue as you could easily top up your children’s bank balance when they are away from home, solving immediate financial dilemmas.

And the main security risk appears to come from user error – the one thing you yourself can actually control.
What is Paym? As of 29 April, customers of nine banks including Barclays, Halifax, TSB and Santander can use Paym. Although each will have their own approach to offering the service, the principle remains the same for all. As long as you have registered your mobile number and the receiver of the payment has also registered their mobile number, you sho…

The silence of Microsoft #heartbleed ... @ConversationUK ...

After seeing an astute post on my recent the conversation article. I have to agree, Microsoft (amongst others) have been very quiet. In fact I would go so far as to say that it is quite an admirable position. As over the years the Open Source community have not been silent in their critique of the many issues the large proprietary software vendors have unleashed via their many products.
Yet, here we are with quite a biggy, something that Microsoft could easily go yah boo sucks at. But instead they remain silent. Why, because whilst they know that they are in a glass house and will refrain from any stone lobbing. The whole issue is doing its own PR work for them.
I am an avid supporter of open source, but I also support a realistic view of the industry. It surprises many when I share that I use Windows, Mac and Linux, preferring the Mac as it tends to require the least effort.
No doubt other issues will be discovered; do doubt that someone will find another hole in a Microsoft operati…

HeartBleed article in @ConversationUK ...

Explainer: should you change your password after Heartbleed? By Andrew Smith, The Open University

If you’re struggling to understand the deluge of information about the Heartbleed vulnerability, you’re not alone. Some reports tell us to change all our online passwords immediately, others warn us that this could do more harm than good. There is a lot of misinformation out there.

It is essential that you do not panic but nor should you be complacent. We all need a good old fashioned mix of common sense and prudence.
What is Heartbleed? On many of the servers and internet web services we use, there is a free and open source security technology called OpenSSL. In simple terms, when you see the padlock beside the web page URL, you have a secure and encrypted web connection that may have been managed by the OpenSSL software.

To date, OpenSSL has worked incredibly well. Network engineers and users like you have been more than happy with the service it has provided. But Google Security and C…

Assessment design ...

I think before you read on, you must digest this confession ... I am a lazy marker; favouring speed rather than time. Before academics everywhere wave their undergarments in disgust. I am not slipshod or inaccurate. I am simply not a fan of marking. It is something that I have always treated as a necessary chore. At one time I would design an assignment for 20 students. I could commit the time and donate the effort accordingly. As the volume grew, one quickly realised that there was a time/cost/numb-brain benefit to getting the right assignment in front of the students.

More effort during assignment design, equals less time and greater accuracy during marking. I am all for fair and accurate grades, but this must be balanced by my attention span. I am unscientifically inclined towards the view that there is a time period beyond which the mark is devalued when the academic is allowed to spend too much time on any assessment.

So does this help in my role as a SSV ... partly no, as I ref…

Mayhem and Muddle ...

Once upon a not too long ago, there were a pair of sneaky gnomes named mayhem and muddle. As you may guess from their names; when they were left to complete anything important, it wasn't too long before it turned into a bit of a mucking fess.

The problem was, that through their lies, back stabbing and generally being quite loathsome. They had managed to insert themselves up the backsides of any new leaders who came their way.

So when it came to blame, they always managed to find some poor elf to pin the blame on. So much so, that it would often mean that the elf in question would be sacked and have their bell taken off their hat.

Mayhem and muddle were so wily, that when you heard them speak, it was like an angel farting a perfect chorus. So the leaders could only hear the nice words, not the actual bum based coughs that were really being said.

Having read some of my other tales dear reader, you would expect a happy ever after, but sadly not. So wily are these gnomes that they ha…

Gagging the gaggle ...

Some of the best ways to hide your lies is to impose a gagging order on your subordinates. In one organisation I cannot say when that culture came into play, but I note that I am sure it was after I left.
Having the joys of an ‘older’ contract, the terms and conditions meant that I could escape within two months of giving my notice; something that I am still retrospectively thankful for.
Yet when I hear the need to apply a gagging order to exiting staff, one somehow can tell that the brown stuff must be hitting the fan. Different tales do emanate from this once august organisation. I am sure there are some paranoid souls monitoring my posts, remember, I know that you know. But what they have not contemplated is where my most reliable sources lie.

Do BOGOF's encourage waste?

My tip for anybody reading any report from the media is to take the time to check the facts and form an opinion supported by whatever is presented.

My second tip is that even with that evidence, retain an open mind capable of accepting new facts.

Now that the tips are over, read this BBC report, as you may notice its entire focus is on BOGOF. Yet when you read this report, you see that BOGOF is one para out of 200+ ... would you be cynical here, yes, me thinks. There is more on packaging and dates on perishables and the report notes that the BOGOF problem applies to some lines where perishable items are considered.

Well, is that not common sense, after all BOGOF on cola, or meat (which can be frozen) is different than BOGOF on some short life perishables such as salads.

So, if we stop BOGOFs, what is to say that retailers will not come up with another deal ... such as making something half price. That is the cynic in me. But also whilst there is food waste, please do not assume that …

Keep awake it is my presentation at FIA ...

You will need to forward to 38:10

Porn licensing online isn't going to deter the digital generation ...

Porn licensing online isn't going to deter the digital generation By Andrew Smith, The Open University

The UK government and many other interested international bodies are duly concerned about the proliferation of internet pornography. The latest development under consideration is the use of licenses to deter those that host content from allowing underage children from seeing it. It sounds a lot like an old technique applied to new technology.
Parent groups have expressed concern for some time about the lack of regulation for porn and how easy it appears to be for their children to be exposed to inappropriate content, which is fuelling the debate.

The idea of age checks is hardly new, many of us probably tried to get into a local bar when marginally underage with varying degrees of success, depending on the diligence of the bar staff, pure luck and the quality of our fake ID.

While many nations closely regulate underage bar sales and penalise licensees for selling alcohol to unde…

Stranger than fiction ...

“Often the truth is stranger and more entertaining than fiction, after all fiction needs to make sense.”
Ok, so that pithy quote is a mixture of Twain with a smattering of Smith.
But lets face facts, there are many situations we encounter that when we take the time to reflect, we discover that often the truth is more interesting and even more entertaining than anything our fevered literary imaginations could devise.
One of my few talents (if I do possess any) is to harvest disparate facts from disconnected sources and make those unseen connections. Before some of my readership think that I jump to random conclusions, you may be right. But reality is that I tend to be more pragmatic. Applying a simple taxonomy to any gathered information:
Always challenge the source Who is it coming from Do the facts support this Does it make any moderate sense Everything is in a state of quantum flux until there is a definite (meaning something can be both true and false) Cognitive dissonance is allowed Any ne…