Showing posts from September, 2015

Hackers have finally breached Apple's security but your iPhone's probably safe (for now) ...

Cyber security experts recently discovered that the almost impenetrable Apple App Store had been hacked. While cyber break-ins have become routine news for many companies, Apple has long prided itself on providing technology for its phones and tablets that was incredibly secure.

This was done by controlling how developers – the people who create your apps on your device – not only create their code but also upload it on to the app store. Steve Jobs ensured that Apple would check each app before it entered the marketplace, as well as the developers themselves, and the firm has enforced tight controls on what the devices could access.

This meant that Apple mobile products arguably were (and probably still are) the most secure you could buy. However a new attack dubbed XCodeGhost has done a great job of undermining Apple’s otherwise strong security.

The attack method used was cunning and, in a technical sense, impressive. Rather than attack the devices or the App Store, the hackers com…

If a social media network goes down - IT IS NOT the END OF THE WORLD ...

Did you like the shouty use of capitals in the title of this post, I was also tempted to use three exclamation marks!!!

I like social media, it is a fantastic tool - but please, please and another please - there are more important issues in this mad world we have created than the issue that a large social media platform has temporary short outages.

While teccie and interested in what may be the cause - it is not in my view so important that it would become a preeminent conversation on other social media platforms.

It is a nuisance - there are worse and more pertinent issues.

It is not the end of the world, please for those whom it may concern - I direct you to other issues happening out there and feel that they are by far, more important. Facebook will fix their problem and we can all find other ways to communicate in its absence.

Web Conference Skills ... a 101 for everybody ...

Dear educators and employers alike - we have been using web conferencing technology for at least ten to fifteen years. It works - the bandwidth is now great, most souls have webcams, microphones and technology able to cope. Yet many users still struggle - why?

I have my own biased and cynical view - based on often using the technology for training (delivering) and staying in touch with others. Some souls thrive - others strike me as having come to grips with the telegraph now having to deal with this new darn fangled telephone.

Appreciating that some souls have less experience than others, it is all about practice, experience and a little know-how. Which is why I feel (strongly) that students should experience online communication - via any means while learning:
That connection is not instant - prearranged meetings must be attended early to be on time. If, not attended on time, as you will be late.That if you have not used the system before - install the software - or allow ten minute…

Software Fit for purpose

A recent conversation triggered a memory of some work I did around fifteen/sixteen years ago.

It was the start of the academic year - for induction we were expected to use some diagnostic software. Unsurprisingly it did not work - as it was incompatible with the novell infrastructure in use.
As this test helped apportion support and key skills level. With staffing and timetables affected by this - we were up a well known creek sans paddle.
Enthusiastic and desperate to solve the problem - we manage to get a copy of the diagnostic questions and reverse engineer the answers.
That weekend, before the induction week and much to my wifes dismay. I set about coding a javascript version - understanding that at that time this was as close to interoperable as we could get.
Armed with floppy disk (yes that was all that was needed) - I arrived at work on the Monday did a quick dry run and we were up and running assessing around 900 students across the campus.
A considerable amount was spent on …

Collective annoyance ... a sideways view of the @OpenUniversity #location review

This post is supposed to be partly witty, if not, complain if you wish - the author may use it in future articles. 

Academics on the whole are uncooperative buggers ... independently minded, easily distracted and always asking questions like - "why" and "what the f**k". It is an acquired discipline, it does not come easily and readily to all - we do daily mind gym sessions to hone our mutual embuggerance.

It takes great skill to get multiple academics to agree - its easier to herd kittens with a little red dot, than get our ilk voicing a unified opinion.

We are approaching two weeks post location review announcement and still, some of my colleagues are spitting feathers. Some are typically calm souls who would keep their counsel - yet to see them so utterly peeved does strike me that there may be something amiss.

It is as if something cherished as been taken, slapped, stamped on then hurled back at us. Defying any form of intellectual process, consideration or even…

If you have nothing to say - then say nothing ...

I do not believe in reporting for the sake of reporting. No more than I agree with making up waffle in educational quality documentation for the sake of being seen to contribute. Yet in a world that seems to be seething under a mass of mindless paperwork. I must marvel at those who seek to look for more qualitative waffle. Rather than any valid, viable (and meaningful) qualified contributions.

When will the revolution come - where we escape the mindless repetition of paperwork? I can see some viable ideas taking shape within the Government Digital Service. Yet, this is taking time and is focussed on a limited scope of influence. Which, to be fair is prudent as their administrative encumbrances are not going to be solved overnight.

So - dear universe, if you see me saying no - refusing to complete an administrative monolith. Chances are, you have been asked to ask me to regurgitate nothing - something I see no value in doing.

If only some of my former students could program a system like #volkswagen ...

You may think that this post is disrespectful to my many former students, some of whom are now very experienced and capable programmers. But, there was a time when they were struggling with basic concepts, types of loops and why brackets are meaningful.

We have to face it, while there is considerable and probably deserved furore over the Volkswagen emissions scandal. You have to look at it from a computer science perspective - that was some nifty programming. It took the inconsistent data to catch them out, not the coding itself.

It is every programmers dream to write a system back door and/or adaptation that conceals some elements of a system. I am sure some of you may have done it, I could not possibly comment. Here, a large international car manufacturer that uses computer systems to control their vehicles and employ very capable programmers. Has accomplished what many geeks only desire and what I would have hoped for in many of my former students when they were submitting their c…

Conformity - be there a slow death upon ye ...

Conform and die. It is not difficult - the more you strive to fit your view of the model of the world that others impose on you. The quicker a slow death will be upon you (dichotomy intended).

Good academic practice is in my experience a collection of rebels collaborating on common causes. Independent thinkers perceiving new opportunities and ideals and then exploiting that.

Rebel is an oft misunderstood term, being rebellious may mean that you resist authority - often when it is needed. It is more likely that those in authority do not know what is needed and only carries out what those in power feel is the right thing ... irrespective of the impact.

We could agree with changes that take place - or see that it is entirely foolhardy and choose to selectively rebel and attempt to change the perceived status quo.

Back to good academic practice - many who read this (and are involved in education). Have you ever found yourself having to run against the popular belief in order to ensure th…

Publicly sharing my ideas for @OUCisco @CiscoNetAcad #periscope sessions ...

Rather than leak out one session at a time, I am formulating ideas on what to cover this academic year. Using the democracy of the crowd via the Internet (hello all) ... Please retweet, post, share etc and encourage others to offer suggestions.

My plan is to run a series of technical periscope sessions, using the Cisco Academy Packet Tracer Network Simulator to cover a range of first principles subjects. Just before the summer, I tried some experimental sessions ... now for the real deal. My plan is to offer a sequence of CCNA topics that will include the following:

Cisco IOS show and tellIPv4 addressing basicsStatic routes - the duct tape of the InternetVery basic routing using RIPv2Redistribution of static routes into EIGRPOSPF - a single areaOSPF - multiple areasWildcard masksAccess Control ListsDot1Q the basics for normal peoplePacket Tracer MultiUser - unlocking potential Please using the comments below, suggest more - no promises but ideas are always great. As periscope is broad…

Losing our presence - how the latest @OpenUniversity #location "consultation" is utter madness ...

After reading a considered write up from colleague Ray Corrigan and support from Cory Doctorow I feel that here is one decision from our senior management, that for the first time in seven years made me wonder about the state of mind within the Open University (OU).

One of the primary reasons I joined the OU is that it was a organisation I could get behind - irrespective of its many eccentricities. It's mission to enable whomever that tried; to reach for higher education - this was something I could easily get behind.

We do need to look at how we use the different offices - but to cull them in such a manner and looking at the outcomes of the location analysis. Strikes me that whomever was given the job - did little to review each location and approached this from a purely numerical perspective.

Having worked hard to develop a community of Cisco Academies, Vendor interests and interventions in the Computing and Network Engineering teaching communities. I have used these different …

#Facebook are to introduce a 'dislike' button - how could that possibly go wrong? ...

If you follow me, you know that I am a seasoned user of most things social media having had a facebook, twitter, linkedin-a-gram account since a very long time. Social media can be a great way to stay in touch, people share, express ideas and learn from each other.
It can also be a place where tempers flare, opinions accelerate in heated exchanges and ideas are often taken the wrong way. 
Democratic cyber space is great.
So - liking or hitting favourite for something on social media shows approval, or acknowledgement. Therefore cold logic dictates that a dislike button would work in the same yet opposite manner. Where sad, human issues can be acknowledged with the use of an emotionally correct button. 
Then we all stop and remember - social media does not offer the subtlety of the real (non virtual) world. Actions we consider inappropriate in daily life often play out in the space offered by social media. There has been considerable press on this over the years and I reckon we may be…

Sick rota ...

In some organisations the sick rota is as equally cherished as who gets to kiss the bosses derrière. Everyone gets a go, it should be fairly shared after all not everyone needs to spend too long puckering up for another go on the derrière merry-go-round. The same applies when it comes to the sick rota - everyone needed a little time off, on the company clock - it just had to be managed fairly, or so you would think.

There was a time, quite some time ago, when I worked elsewhere - here the sick rota was something to be abused. You could set your calendar by specific team members. Seemingly oblivious to the needs of the team, each keen to get their slice of the sick rota without consideration to others.

One soul, was predictable - it did not take much for them to have a dose of the airs or suchlike. Knowing what additional 'contract' work they did. We soon observed a pattern that mysteriously coincided with assignment marking deadlines. After all, they were not the only soul wo…

Yes - using #facebook for @OUCisco and @CiscoNetAcad is work ...

Yes, I am lucky and yes, it is true, often when I explain to polite company that as part of my job I choose to use facebook and it is broadly supported by my employer. I encounter general gestures and reactions of disbelief - especially among some of my facebook friends.

I can easily speak on education - for other industries, you know your marketplace and the community and will be able to decide for yourselves.

Here is a world where I can semi-automate an educational experience and utilise the tools and affordances of social media. From browser to smartphone, from automatic to real time. Both works for me and the community I curate.

So using the semi deadly 'so' of blogging - So, how do you think that you could incorporate social media into your professional practice as an educator. Are you doing this, yes or no? If yes, I am interested to learn how? If no, why not and can we (as a community) look at ways of being some help?

Seeing the development opportunity at #altc ...

Quick blog article in the space between sessions at ALT-C ... for the uninitiated that read this blog feed around the world. ALT-C is the academic conference of the UK based Association of Learning Technologies which takes place annually in the UK.

While there are many MOOC's, short courses and curated content - has anybody considered how we may create a MOOC equivalent via social media. I make no secret of the fact that I have been discussing at this conference and previously last year at Warwick the idea of teaching by twitter as a way of enhancing content. What about using twitter (or facebook/linkedin), a smattering of automation and plenty of human intervention to create a short course.

Lets stop and think - what would it be about? How long should it last? What depth should it take? Equally important, which is the best platform and could we explore some of the technologies and interventions described in this mornings keynote by @jonathan_worth.

Assuming that we could easily …

The idea of McDonald's etiquette ... within a MOOC ...

Is there such a thing as 'McDonald's etiquette' and what does this tell us about education?

Assuming that many who are reading this have visited a McDonald's at least once in their lives. Or if they are lucky enough to have avoided such an establishment at least know of such places. There is an albeit very basic etiquette at these establishments.
How one queues, places the order, eats and disposes of cartons fits into this etiquette - how many napkins to take - stealing sugar and using the latrine etc its all part of the deal. As well as identifying other customers, your prejudices and where you prefer to sit all add to this idea.
We all know how long we can cope in a Maccy D's and also how often we should eat in such an establishment.* 
As some elements of education become commodities and convenient. We decide how we wish to dip in and consume knowledge - some MOOC's are detailed others are like sushi simply tickling your palette. 
There is almost an etiquett…

Seagull Task Management ...

Seagull's do get bad press, often deserved; there are always seaside tales of an individual gull or a flock, parading around, squawking their mindless cacophony, stealing food or defecating on hapless holiday makers. As well as fighting amongst themselves.

Fridays seem to encourage a certain class of co-worker or business associate from other organisations. In a fit of Gull'ish squawk, come swooping in and mimicking the behaviours of their feathered fiends.

Often assuming some misplaced authority - they dish out work they want at the last minute because their own management is of little note. Shoving out an email, with requisite flapping attachments - they absolve themselves of any moral imperative.

Occasionally - in a unique combination of this phenomenon and sods law - they do this before you are about to take a vacation.

Having had my fair share of Seagulls over time, experience has taught me that often they are easy to ignore. The feathered variety does not like a smack …

Listening to your children ...

There is something nice about the transition from teen to adult when suddenly your children make sense; even more that they do know stuff - plenty of stuff and are good at what they do.

I know this is obvious and it is nice to see them in action, doing their professional thing. It becomes worth listening to them as they have much to say.

Rules, Rules, following Rules ...

There are rules, then there are the followers of the rules - often with aplomb, style and a lack of imagination. As senior verifier I have the privilege of arbitrating appeals and assessment decisions. This is an infrequent occurrence - most centres accept decisions, written or verbal.

Yet of the many that appeal, it is incredibly rare that I would uphold their appeal and support their claim. The majority of those who appeal, have gotten it wrong, often badly wrong then get tied up in their own misunderstanding when putting together their complaint.

The issue is - because they did not 'get it' in the first instance, they are in the situation that they now face. Worse is they try to cite rules that do not match the situation (nor do we actually know of) - while attempting to make their case.

When it comes to verification, Occam's Razor applies. Rather than taking the route to simplicity, they are set on trying to make the process more complex than it is.