Showing posts from June, 2014

Linux is the quiet revolution that will leave Microsoft eating dust ...

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

Linux, the most widely used open source operating system in the world, has scored a major publicity coup in the revelation that it is used on 94% of the world’s top 500 supercomputers.

Every operating system has technical issues and Linux has not been faultless. But some key technological milestones have been passed in recent years that have made it possible for Linux to quietly assert dominance in the fight for popularity and custom.

Apart from the fact that it is free and has been since its creation in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, Linux has many technological advantages that mean other operating systems just can’t beat it.

Millions of people all over the world use Microsoft operating systems but how many describe themselves as enthusiasts? Linux users are often really passionate about the open source cause and this is boosting uptake. They argue that it is more secure than main rivals Apple and Microsoft, with technical features that win hands down. T…

Shady Parlour

This is a holding page for Shady Parlour until a full page is commissioned

To encourage debate ...

First lob an intellectual grenade and step back to see how the debris field forms.

On Thursday, killing some time as we were waiting for the competitors to finish. I put in a pitch for an article on the pervasiveness of Linux. Penning, on acceptance, before 'end of play' ... this article was ready for release on Friday morning.

By early PM, (GMT) ... the article was republished here and here.

As you can see from both sites, the debate is raging. With the help of the world skills competitors and my friend Kevin Large. Collectively in less than an hour we created a grenade that has encouraged considerable debate.

The irony is that it was the 'Microsoft' day of the competition, where I was writing the article on a Google cloud service (Linux supported), while using a Mac ... go shiny.

I am sure the debate will rage for a considerable time, with detractors and fans on both sides. The reality is, as Swift debated the war over the end of an egg in Gulliver. Geeks will argue…

Teaching by Twitter @BothoTweets for #BothoTED ...

Today I had the privilege of sharing and discussing via the medium of Webex my work surrounding 'teaching by twitter and mLearning on various social media platforms.

If you would like to see the entire presentation, I would advise that you put aside 75 minutes. There is a little preamble, but it gets going within 90 seconds.

I have created an easy shortcut, so you can find the entire Webex session at ...

The slides are now copied to SlideShare, an embedded copy can be seen below.

Motivating young people ...

Working with the @worldskills crowd is always a good thing and surprisingly something that is often missed by the mass media. Focussed on painting a dim view of our youth. Sometimes relegating these international events to the bottom of the hour slot or as local news, good news item. We have seen some of these souls, show us all that they are the best at what they do and proud (very proud) to represent their country.
If your sixteen year old, needs a little motivation, encourage them to go for gold. Medals are out there for carpentry, network engineering and hairdressing, amongst many (many) others.

Dear Diary ... an open letter to those trying to get into my schedule ...

A well defended diary is a great and wondrous thing and at the moment, it seems that it is taking some considerable effort to fend off the last minute notions of various individuals.

So to save confusion, may I offer this helpful guide:

Last minute means you are the one with too much time on your hands, because you don't have many demands on your time does not mean that this isn't the case for others. My schedule often fills up six or more weeks in advance. So tomorrow may be free for you, it does not mean that its the same for me.Don't try and give me appointments without checking my availability. If you are the sensitive type and unable to cope with rejection, this will not be a great experience.Online/remote does work, just ask, but try and become familiar with the technology. I will not be your help desk.Yes, it may be urgent, is this because you or someone else has left it too late.Don't doodle then wait ages before announcing the date. It may surprise you to disc…

Explaining simplex, half duplex and full duplex for network engineers ...

There have been many times when we have needed to explain simplex, half duplex and full duplex.
So, using appropriate engineering terminology, we will explore these concepts in terms of 'taking the piss'.* Simplex ... someone who has the piss taken out of them and is unable to reply. Piss taking operates in a single direction broadcast mode.Half Duplex ... someone who will reply, only when you take the piss. Two way piss taking occurs. But only one piss take can be sent at any time from either direction.Full Duplex ... the ultimate in piss taking. Now both parties can simultaneously take the piss without needing to wait for the other side to stop. Education is something that is best shared, please do give this description to a friend today.

* If you do not know what taking the piss means, ask your best friend, you may discover that they know and will try this skill out on you.

Judging for @worldskillsuk ... the story so far ...

Many who read this blog are aware of my varied posts; sharing not only opinion on the state of UK education, also many other eclectic posts on topics that that my fancy.

So, here I am, back with Kevin, the training manager for IT Networking, Judging for the next round of hopefuls making the journey towards World Skills at Sao Paulo. As ever I am impressed by the attitude and determination of these young adults. In spite of the oft bad press tomes like the Daily Mail tarnish this generation with. The reality is that out there, we should be proud of the many focussed, dedicated and motivated people the next generation produces.

In spite of our best efforts to screw up their opportunities at an educational and political level they seem to survive and more importantly thrive.

At the moment, after day one it is neck and neck between Bartoz and Richard. Two souls from different parts of the UK who are determined to be their best and try to be even better.

Some proverb once declared that ..…

100% mobile coverage is a pipe dream – even with national roaming

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

Mobile phone providers should introduce national roaming, Britain’s Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced. The purpose: to enable full mobile phone coverage across the UK, bringing signal to those black spots where you lose it.

In the same way that you can switch provider when you travel abroad, you would be able to switch to an alternative network when yours is not available. This sounds great, but it won’t bring 100% mobile coverage across the UK.
Free roam? Our phones coupled with the technology provided by mobile networks are continually working to establish which mobile mast offers the best signal, as well as the network availability of each mast (for example, how many other people are using it). If your mobile phone is using a mast that has fewer connections and you travel closer to one with more connections, your phone will remain connected to the original mast, so long as the original signal remains within reasonable bounds, in ter…

Would you compromise your computer for one cent an hour? This study says you might

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

There are many tales in literature over millennia about people selling their soul to a malevolent deity for the right price. But at least it’s usually a good price. Recent research has discovered that we are willing to compromise our computer for no more than one cent in income.

The researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University CyLab who carried out this work, tempted users by into downloading and, in many cases, actually running a Windows application on their computer. After they had agreed to take part, they were told that it was for an academic study but were given very little other information about the application. The application pretended to run a series of computational tasks and paid those who installed it one cent for every hour it was left running.

Even though a participant’s machine would give them a pop up warning when they started the download to tell them that this application wanted higher level access to essential security servi…

More bleeding changes to vocational education ...

Every time a government announces a new type of vocational qualification, kittens die, another unicorn appears and I would like to go into a frenetic rage.

How many are there? How many have we had? I have been working in education for a mere eighteen years and lose track.

Who remembers, GNVQs, old style NVQ's, AVCE's, Advanced Diplomas, Diplomas etc. Some like the BTEC have survived, but its hard work as the qualification that was known in my youth is not the qualification currently available

We also have different vocational qualifications in my field, that may be meaningful to 'England' but not the rest of the world. ITQ, procom, Cambridge Techs, iPro's, City and Guilds and their predisposition to change their four digit numbers.

Yet what does industry want ... students with vendor certifications. Yet in our island'esque view of the universe we think that maybe we can be better than the rest of the planet. Wakey wakey, in this word, we do not rule the waves,…

Digital Blah Blah ...

I hate it when people put the word digital in front of concepts. In order (in their mind) to add a more technical element to what they are doing.

Digital marketing, digital communications, digital technologies. Yes you are all guilty.

Take a look to the right, you can see in the pretty picture the exact meaning and reason why many technologies have the digital moniker.

Yep, digits are fingers and in computing, we only use two. I was tempted to use an image with a single digit inflected to my readership. But, preferred this image, having more meaning to a wider audience as well as being marginally politer.

So, please, if you want to use digital in front of some new idea you have. Or when technology is involved. Please remember that there are many teccies out there, myself included who will be mentally sharing our inflected digits.

Personal karma police ...

If you need to discover some new music in your life, I strongly suggest Radioheads seminal album ... OK Computer. If you need a track, then focus on Karma Police.

I am sitting in the car as I type this entry. My thought, there is only one is that pervades much of what I do, is the prevailing belief that much of what we do often relies on the inactions of others.

Full semi-circle ...

When an organisation hits the skids, I think it takes considerable time for it to develop the momentum to create a return velocity. Listening to some very recent conversations, I am of the view that for some organisations it will be a long time coming.

I have to think back to when I started in teaching, c1996. Now what seems like a lifetime ago (which it would be for an 18 year old born in 96) ... I entered a newly merged department with next to zero traction or reputation. Paired with a group of disenfranchised electronics lecturers who would rather do their own thing. Than collaborate with the new kids on the block.

Within three years, the electronics souls were decimated, denounced and decanted into the engineering department as the computing team kept on growing. There is more to the story, but flick forward to 18 years later and we have a teaching team the same size as the original cadre back in 1996 and merged into a construction, engineering and computing meta-department.

Do y…

21.5 years fatherhood experience and still learning ...

A wise friend once shared ... as parents we are amateurs, our children do a great job of helping us to bring them up. Being a Father is clearly no exception.

I cannot recall my first fathers day with Jeremy, it would have been in 1993. He would have been nine months old. Nor with Victoria, this would have been 1996 (which was a very challenging year). But what I do know is that being a father has not been a default skill, learning as one goes along.

Having never had a role model I could refer to with pride. You have to make it up as you go along and decide on what kind of father you would like to become. There is no rule book nor manual, you go for it and hope that within an eighteen year window you may get something right.

Both of my children are now adults with whom I like to think that I get on quite well. Naturally they may have a very different perspective. But as they try out adulthood, I know that I am still learning.

Via Siri ...

Okay I'm sitting here in the boredom at the moment. Having to wait for my daughter and she goes into the doctors surgery.
So I have been practising with Siri for some time. Getting used to my style of clear speech. Getting used to it not always recognising my west country drole.
So far in the last two paragraphs have only needed to make two very minor edits. As well as adding some punctuation. Not bad methinks!
So do I think voice recognition technology has moved forward, yes I think it has.
I sometimes send tweets, I occasionally make notes. Each using the voice recognition tool within my Apple iPhone.
But to add caution the back ground noise must be low. I have had to switch off the stereo in my car and hope that the children playing nearby don't make too much noise.
So far I've managed to do all of this with out typing another word.

Facebook Chat session on 'passwords' with @OpenUniversity ...

To say that it was chat maybe a misnomer, but putting this aside. It struck me that the session I completed with our communications colleagues today. Created an interesting experience, gave me an insight and also stimulated my thinking in this area.

For the uninitiated, you can see the entire conversation here.* Apologies for the slightly disjointed nature of the PDF, as I tried to capture the entire facebook session.

As you can see, we had a multitude of threads all discussing different password issues. From the very very teccie to the most basic (and no less important) of questions.

So, for the analysis, lets go for a pros and cons approach:

Pros ...
it was enjoyable, I was impressed at the level of engagement, once the chat 'got going'.many threads, many conversations, we had to call a halt at 75 mins, having gone over the published 60 mins.interesting questions and equally interesting themes and opinionsworldwide audience, noticed some players from around the world involve…

From 'IT' to 'procom' now 'digital industries' ...

Sometimes I think the founding principle of some national bodies is to ensure that frameworks are as meaningless as humanly possible.

After a meeting today with different vendors around a table. It became apparent that there is in draft form a new set of national occupational standards. Principally in the IT practitioners domain, they have incorporated cyber security (which makes sense) and digital marketing.

Now did you pause at the last two words of the previous paragraph?

Yes; I am not kidding, digital marketing. Or using Twitter, Facebook, Google Adwords stuff like that.

On one hand the framework has penetration testers and network engineers along with programmers. Then we see a set of framework role centred around social media.

Check it here, I am not kidding. Its on the right hand side of page 9.

So ... in a field that deals with technologists, people who make systems work and probably work for defence, telecommunications and support large infrastructures. We have a group of ma…

Ownership >= Leadership ...

Well another once great member of the vendor community has bit the dust. Why, because the owners have moved on and those promising participation in their wake. Lacked intent, interest and maybe the ability.

The real shame is that somewhere that once delivered three digit numbered programmes and was part of the old NTI initiative. As well as being a seen entity in the worlds of Cisco, CompTIA, Apple and Microsoft. Is clearly unable to offer their students these opportunities.

New students will not know what they can no longer have.

Ironic, has our friend Google, shows that they are still advertising courses in these subjects.

New leadership, does not mean ownership; I think that ownership is often more effective that claimed leadership.

Vocational ...

Much to my annoyance, I witnessed an academic disparage some much needed technical (and industry) skills; describing them as vocational. Sadly, a word which I think is the epitome of how technical discipline should be done in academia was for them, a word that meant that it was not in their mind of the right academic standard.

Three reasons, why I think that 'vocational' is a great word and of a suitable academic standard:

Students need skills; higher skills, advanced skills, discipline based skills, whatever you want to call it. Skills is at the core of vocational and vice versa. Degree students, must develop other disciplines such as critical thinking. But if they cannot 'do'. They may be of little use in the computing or telecommunications sector. It is not difficult to convert skills into critical thinking tasks. It is at the core of what the industry wants, but in many universities it is sadly seldom what we give them after three or more years of undergraduate stu…

Two weeks to stop Gameover Zeus: what you need to know

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

It’s little wonder that computer experts are warning that computer users could be experiencing “notification fatigue” after the past few weeks.

But even if you’re feeling overwhelmed following the Heartbleed bug and security breeches at eBay, you should take some simple steps to protect yourself from Gameover Zeus if you use Microsoft Windows.
Why two weeks? Gameover Zeus is an extremely sophisticated piece of malware uncovered by a huge international investigation. A criminal network has a botnet, or a distributed network of computers, all working together. Your computer could be part of this distributed system without you knowing it. You may have inadvertently downloaded a trojan turning your computer into a zombie or you may have clicked on a link or attachment in an email that looked legitimate but was actually a route for the trojan to be downloaded.

Once your computer is compromised, it works as part of a large hive (the botnet) to infect o…

Dullsville ...

In a struggle to find the dullest place on the planet, I may have hit gold dust with an old industrial town in Lancashire. With a dingy atmosphere of a welders armpit. It seems to be in a state of detritus that took hold in the 1980’s and hasn’t relented.
Currently sitting as an external for a local higher education establishment. I can see why they have succeeded in maintaining the bottom of the pile in my discipline. With the academic organisation of a bag lady, they never seem to know what they are doing and when it must be accomplished.
Kind of like a shambolic chaos engine, with none of the sci-fi charm a itinerant time lord could lend to the plot. What is sad is that they believe that they are doing their students a great service.

Four steps to a simpler, safer password system from @ConversationUK ...

By Andrew Smith, The Open University

Several high-profile security breaches have, of late, got many people wondering about their passwords.

It would be great news if I could tell you a perfect sure-fire system to manage your passwords; the reality is that you have to make your own choices. Many of us struggle to remember one password, let alone many, so changing passwords often makes life a little difficult. But if, like many others, you feel like it’s time to start again, there are ways of doing it right. Think of it as your new password ecosystem.
1. Rank your accounts Step one of your new password system involves grouping the different online accounts you have according to their importance. You should rank your accounts according to the importance of the activities you carry out on the different sites.

Social media accounts, for example, might have a ranking of one, and cloud services such as dropbox or iCloud, a rank of two. Sites on which you make purchases, for example Amazon o…

Soothsaying an examination methodology ...

Careful does it. This blog post is about exam papers, but nothing will be discussed regarding any particular paper.

What has amused and maybe concerned me is the significance a group of students are giving the historic trajectory of some of our exam papers. Based (I assume) on the assumption that we have a methodology for designing our exam paper questions. In some soothsaying prediction they are trying to decipher what questions may appear in the examination.

Sorry ... we don't actually have any method. The learning outcomes are clear, thats all we use to guide us. I am aware of some students who have admitted in the past to having tried this method then wonder why they have had to take a resit paper.

The exam papers are designed to draw on your full knowledge of the content of any given module. To focus on historical assessment topics is a misnomer and best avoided as new questions will appear that should (we hope) surprise you if you have fallen for this tactic.

Students who d…

More Pishfizzle ...

So ... googled it, now after creating this word, I can see the following ...

So my humble request is to start putting this excellent word into use. If you are unsure of its meaning, please go to the original entry.

Lets get a new word into the Oxford English Dictionary.

Pishfizzle ...

Pishfizzle : the act of talking a load of rubbish, tosh and *ollocks; when you are quickly fading from glory in the eyes of the public.

A classic example of Pishfizzle in action can be seen in this FE Week article.
Examples in common speech or writing may include: Did you see Sir Whathisface uttering a load of pishfizzle in that article last week.Mate, that sounds like pishfizzle, shut up and accept you lost the game.The ex-primeminister has not yet understood what pishfizzle their speeches are.

Until today, there was no mention of this word via Google. Unless another source has a record of this term. I think I have dived in with a first mention and a etymology. Now, all we need to do is start using it when referring to specific people.

Fahrenheit 451 ...

If there is a sci fi and literary classic worth reading, is Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. A world where the fire brigades sole purpose is to burn books as they are now considered an evil in this future world.

The film itself is from the 1960's, the book 1951, it may seem a little dated; but somehow the ideas resonate. While we do not have book burning and on the whole most texts are given the light of day. Using the democratic notion that anything worth reading will find its own momentum without the help or hinderance of any government.

But, when it comes to education, it may be true that Gove does not want to remove 'to kill a mockingbird'. What is becoming increasingly apparent is that the notion of choice for awarding organisations, schools and teachers alike is becoming hampered by a top-down Government keen to declare a hands off methodology whilst tinkering in a very hands on way with some of the detail.

Please, if you ever get the chance, read …