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Showing posts from October, 2015

Comparing @OUCisco to @OUCyberSec

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Some of you who follow me (and therefore this blog) may be aware that I curate two distinct twitter accounts @OUCisco and @OUCyberSec. Each attracts an entirely different community with some level of technical crossover.

@OUCisco reaches out to Cisco Networking geeks and students primarily set at CCNA level there are some more advanced outputs during the summer. The twitter account and its other related social media profiles runs in sync with T216 an Open University Cisco CCNA module. It is designed to work with the October to June study calendar of our students - knowingly knowing that there are many others out there who also study the same programme in parallel.

@OUCyberSec runs in sync with our FutureLearn Introduction to CyberSecurity MOOC. It runs for eight weeks around four times a year. Like our @OUCisco offering, the outputs are designed to follow the set study of the module aware that there are many out there interested in the broad topic of CyberSecurity.

At the time of wri…

How smart are you if you have a smart TV?

A conversation with a friendly cyber security expert in the merchant banking sector gave me some food for thought. How smart are you if you have a smart TV? Personally having avoided televisual technology for some considerable time - Mrs Teraknor and I have aquired a couple of ordinary lower specification televisions. Mine acts as a monitor and screen for a games console (which Son of Teraknor often hogs when home raiding our fridge), the other is connected to a couple of well known external WebTV technologies.

What many of you are blissfully unaware of is the reality that these Smart TVs are glorified low end computers - generally a stripped down Linux distribution with a nice graphical interface for navigation, YouTube and various television streaming services.

They still have a full TCP/IP stack (the bit that makes your TV interact with your home network and the Internet). The problem is that these are now being used as crude botnet zombies for DDOS attacks. In plainer english, ha…

Told to write lists ...

I have top ten tips for most top ten tip writers ....Stop it!Stop it!!Stop it!!!Stop it!!!!Stop it!!!!!Stop it!!!!!!Stop it!!!!!!!Stop it!!!!!!!!Stop it!!!!!!!!!Stop it!!!!!!!!!! Apparently lists are the done thing - such was the advice I was given recently. Thinking the quality of the blah I write and the need for some form of considered content. I was a little bemused. 

Lets face it - @CiscoNetAcad is a mind expanding drug ...

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Forget the nasty weed or a chemical high - the experience is short lived. Don't bother with Beer, Spirits or Wine - there are many geeks out there that will tell you that Cisco is the best mind expanding drug there is.

Taking the CCNA (Cisco Certified Networking Associate) is a step into the unknown and a step way beyond all that you thought you could do. You think you know networking - then give this a try. It makes and breaks and has made grown men (and of course women) cry.

Fact after fact, technology galore - making networks talk it is a case of more upon more. By the time you have completed Introduction to Networks - your synapses are fused, what seems like hell is only the start of your head being abused.

As you discover each new technology and manage to get it to work - it does become obsessive as you internetwork. If you do not understand this - ask a Cisco geek or give it a try. It has made careers for many, it is worth it, do not be shy.


Are we getting our password advice wrong? ...

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There is a popular idea that passwords are words; single words, words we can remember. Convention is that they must not be too easy. No associations with the family cat, mother in law or a love long lost. Once we have the word that we can remember, we are encouraged to mess around with it. Website password strength checkers ensure that we add Capitals, num8ers and punctuati_n. For many mortals, like you and I it can be a mega mare.

If you have one preferred word - and we know that you do. You will try out different combinations to make it work.

Your favourite password, like taramasalata can be adapted to:
Taramas_lat4
taraMasa1at_
t@ramAsalat4
... and many other combinations exist - but tell me and think for yourself, is this easy to remember?

We are all, after all creatures of habit. Furthermore we know that many souls will pick a word then simply add digits. This is an easy workaround to the demand from corporate systems security experts that we must frequently change our passwords.

N…

First Social Media analysis of "Teaching by Twitter" with @OUCisco & @CiscoNetAcad ...

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I have been collating analytic data from twitter and Facebook, regarding the impact of the +Open University Cisco social media 'teaching by twitter' endeavour. The results from the last fourteen months are interesting.
The raw data can be seen as ...
MonthTweetsimpressionsvisitsmentions 1 (Sept 14)367251171282112137001543431092400094294851140020523515614200376456147155009740711815400394328125134004314798616100490261072139005634811108347007681011244961184

Experts use internet routers to protect web from Angler malware's lures ...

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Delays from The Conversation meant that this article took ages to be published - not good really.

It may not be a household name like Microsoft, Apple or Sony, but Cisco Systems is almost the same size. Cisco is the world’s largest supplier of networking equipment such as routers and switches which plug together the various networks that make up the internet. This puts them in the position of being able to use the enormous distribution of their equipment to disable a major ongoing malware attack, Angler.

The Angler exploit kit is software used by hackers to breach and take control of computer systems, known as a tool kit. There have been many such kits over the years, for example in the 1990s the notorious Back Orifice (a pun on Microsoft Backoffice) offered hackers easy to use tools to remotely control Windows computers. Angler is one of the most advanced and widespread today.

Creating a tool kit and distributing it freely on the internet provides expert tools to wannabe hackers – k…

Social Media Gender Participation in @OUCisco

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This is a call for expert opinion - regarding gender participation both in Network Engineering and Social Media.

The above diagram - gleaned from our @OUCisco Facebook Page shows gender and age distribution for the current community. The age distribution is unsurprising and describes the typical Open University Student community. However, the gender participation - notably female is actually lower on our module and within the wider Cisco Academy. This is a domain that has always had unsatisfactory participation.

So my request for some gender participation expertise:

Does the above figure make sense - are we lower, higher or normative for network engineering?What is the typical female participation within social media for science/technology topics?




The utter cheek ...

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Sometimes you have to admire the chutzpah of others - sometimes they take it too far. A former student with whom I am still connected on LinkedIN made contact. Knowing the soul of old and curious that they felt that I should call them - I pursued the matter.



It did not take long - within a couple of hours they were back online.


Having years of teaching experience, there is a knack to telling someone what they need without telling them. Already sensing a piss take - I had to play along.

Lo and behold - really what utter rollocks - and it would seem that this soul has forgotten that I also never suffered fools gladly. Let them hang and let them look - if they want my time I do offer consultancy as do some of my other ex colleagues from the education establishment frequented by this soul. I hope they offer them a much better deal than I was able to offer.



A corporate desire to invent in house systems ...

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I am sure there are many great reasons to reinvent the wheel - after all it can come in so many colours. The shape is the same, the purpose is also the same - yet we can apply the wheel in many different contexts.

Yet it is often in our nature to reinvent the same. Large corporations are expert at doing this - as if not doing so is a sign of collective weakness.

One area that often gives me wry amusement is when corporate wheel wrights decide to replicate something external and free (or low cost) and in the general category of social media. Yet make it all corporate, internal, proprietary and invariably cumbersome. Suddenly all of the integration is gone and the original purpose marred by limited horizons and a idea that they are more than capable of creating a sufficient system.




A plea from an academic, dear student please do not break the rubric ...

There is a perpetual myth that makes academics from our module team sad. Not the one about Unicorns running the Internet - instead it is the insistence of some students that it is okay to break the rubric on the examination - as it is an excellent spread betting technique to guarantee good results.

Please - STOP IT!!!

Tantrum over and here is the informed explanation - firstly if you do not know what a rubric is, it is the rule/guide of the examination paper. We have two sections, Part A, you have to answer all questions. Part B, answer two from the three questions.

So Part A, is straight forward - Part B, you MUST do as asked.

Part B, is worth 40 marks (40%), each question is worth 20 marks. We estimate that you have 35 minutes per question. If you answer all three, you now drop that to 23 minutes. Worse is that often students who answer all three invariable get worse marks per question.

Part of the myth declares that our examinations office will pick out the best two of three - in fact i…

Venn diagram of bulls**t ...

Had a great conversation with a good friend last night who has recently started working for their local authority. After some typical banter - they marvelled at the nuanced corporate speak of their new environ.

Large corporate environments encourage this - a lingua franca of their own making. I find that on occasion I use OU'isms and education'isms along with tech talk. Checking myself and reverting to plain English (at least I try).

The conversation moved to common corporate terms (better known as bullshit) and how two different organisations have so much in common. With this in mind, our twisted minds moved rapidly to a Venn diagram of corporate bulls**t.

What terms do you see in your organisation - what common terms do you use that coincides. Maybe its time we started collating these terms?

Copying files - it ain't like what it used to be ...

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I make no secret of entering this profession through the indelicate route of spending anti-social hours on a ZX81 then Spectrum. The image to the right sums up my experiences and the quality technical environment afforded to many in the early 1980's.

Running my own sweaty little piracy ring - we lacked high tech dubbing equipment. Armed with cheap C90 cassettes - we would find ways of copying each others games using "The Key".

Using one cassette player, each block of the came would be loaded into memory before being dumped verbatim onto another cassette. It was possible for one single copy to take anything up to 30 minutes to complete. This was for anything up to 32K (yes kilobytes) of machine code.

Nowadays, I can transfer a gigabyte of data into cloud storage to be replicated across multiple devices in minutes. Stream multi-megabyte videos while downloading a variety of other data formats. We have kind of forgotten the pace and space taken by such small amounts of dat…

Pleased to be 'recognised' as @jisc #jisc50social ...

Rather than blow my trumpet it is nice to let others make noise on my behalf. Yesterday (the 5th of October 2015), news was released that I am considered to be one of the 50 UK Higher Education influencers - around my work with teaching by twitter 

Personally and professionally I am somewhat surprised that the many social media enthusiasts within higher education or education in general has not (as yet) seen this as a route to enhance their teaching and reach.

So .... in a bloggers offer - I would love to work with others and help/support/advise/guide any ideas on using social media for teaching.


#twistedpair academic blogging - how Monty Python and Albert Einstein inform my professional outlook ..

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For regular readers of my blog, I am sure that you are used to my unusual utterances. Occasionally I follow the musings of Prof Steve Wheeler, who does a great job of lateral thinking.

His latest post, explores the idea of how two entirely unrelated and potentially unusual souls could be connected (no matter how tenuously) into a topic covering something clever and critical relating to one's own professional practice.

Being a child of the late 60's Monty Python was already the stuff of legends by the time I was old enough to comprehend their delicious humour. Apart from an off beat uncle who enjoyed singing the Spam song and hearing it on radio once or twice - I finally began to understand the wit of the Monty Python team during my teenage years.

My take on Monty Python is that they are all about lateral thinking - taking the sideways view of an idea. Smacking it with wet fish, singing a daft song then turning it into something worthwhile.

You cannot ever hear the words '…

Ten Years of @CiscoNetAcad with @OUCisco @OUstudents from @OpenUniversity ....

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Do you remember November 2005 - a different era and much has happened since. That year and the particular month in question heralded the entry of the Open University onto the Cisco Networking Academy scene.

With a modest pilot of 273 students - the first presentation of T228 was a memorable experience for all the right reasons. Using version 3.1 of the CCNA - combined with Netlab and Day Schools - the two years of preparation slotted into place.

Having lost count somewhere around the 6000th student mark - we now offer CCNAv5, CCNPv7 and CCNA-Security-v2. Many have gone on and acquired Cisco certifications and/or their degree of choice.

In this time, the Open University has become a strategic member of the UK ASC (academy support centre) community - having the privilege of supporting other interesting and diverse Cisco Academies.

Today a new group of students start - same hopes, desires, dreams and opportunities. Each a part of our journey.

The anachronism of written examinations ...

First lets commence with a pithy (mis)quotation:
Do not limit children to your learning, for they are born in a different time ... Chinese origin  Had a great conversation with a colleague ... we were almost unanimous in our view regarding written examinations. The dated nature of this anachronistic assessment is creating an additional cognitive challenge for students. We sit them in a hall - armed only with pen, paper, lucky soft toy and maybe bottled water. Then we ask them to recall volumes of information and write copious verbiage.

When it comes to examinations, knowledge recall is one challenge - we all suffer from this to some extent. But dear reader of all ages, please tell me when you last had to write considerable amounts of information in reasonable prose using a scribbling implement.

You may wish to try this out - but writing out this blog article onto a sheet of A4 paper using your favourite scribbling stick.

Pauses as I assume you are trying this.

When did your hand hurt? …