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Archive for July, 2006

Random Chaff

Two completely unrelated things that made me laugh today.

KidsWithPaint

This is what happens when you leave kids alone with a tin of paint. Good stuff!

Pro-life supporter confuses an article from The Onion (from 1999) as real. Hilarity ensures. Still doesn’t understand, posts again.

Source linkys:

Someone at the World Cup shares my sense of humour

Zinedine Zidane nearly snaps Macro Materazzi in half with a headbutt to the chest in the World Cup final last night, then gets awarded player of the tournament. Genius! Speaking of which:

Zidaneheadoff

From b3ta.

Please bang on the keyboard like a monkey

We could do with more screens like this:

BangOnKeyboardLikeAMonkey 

From Friday’s Daily WTF.

Computer Communications exam finished!

I finished my final exam for my degree last Monday evening and that’s it really in terms of classes and exams for my (ordinary level) degree. As with databases, the following chaff can be purged to make way for more crap:

  • OSI Model (Please Do Not Teach Students Pointless Acronyms, an acronym for the 7 layers of the OSI model)
  • TCP / IP Model
    • Physical Layer
    • Data Link Layer
    • Transport Layer
  • Signals
    • Analogue – Amplitude, Frequency / Period, Phase
    • Digital – Bit Rate, Bit Interval
  • Modulation methods
    • Analogue – AM, FM, PM.
    • Digital – ASK, FSK, PSK, QAM
  • IP addresses
    • Classful addressing – Class A, B, C
      • Subnetting
      • Supernetting
    • Classless addressing – CIDR notation
  • Routing tables
  • and other stuff…

I’ll look back on this in a few months and think “What?!”, but I have learnt some practical stuff that I will use. E.g. How subnetting and masks work. Pretty cool actually and very simple, when you know how!

It was a bit of funny ending to the course. I completed the exam and then came straight home, relieved that it was over. I’m not entirely happy with how the module, computer communications, had been run. As I mentioned previously the slides were lifted directly from the syllabus book so we weren’t learning a great deal in class. I found that I had to do a lot of reading myself to get my head around it all.

This last year has been particularly painful. Subjects I was told that I would “piss it” were anything but easy. Motivation has been particularly hard to come by. Which is odd because my first year was the opposite, it was hard work and good fun. I had a year long group project and worked with a couple of chaps who were very highly motivated and it helped push me along, not just for that module, but for all the others. 

Now I’m left with just my minor research project to do, which I am actually really enjoying. The idea with minor research is you pick a relevant topic to the course that hasn’t been covered and go and investigate it. Here’s my minor research proposal:

Whilst the internet has seen the creation of one the biggest changes for mass communication in the late 20th century, its open nature has also meant it is very much open to abuse. I intend to research into what is termed as the Dark Side of the internet.

I would like to investigate these methods of abuse to get a better understanding of their origins, possible motivations and popularity. Example areas to look at would be credit card fraud, invasion of privacy, hacking, spam email, phishing, blog spam, content plagiarism, spy ware, data ransom, viruses, denial of service attacks, the use of zombie computers, etc.

I also want to look at the other side to see what techniques are used to keep these problems at bay and how well they work. Example areas here are email filtering, bayesian filtering, captchas, antivirus software, firewalls, hardening of software, etc.

My intention is not get an incredibly deep understanding of each topic, but more of an overview where I can try to identify common trends and perhaps predict the dangers that lie ahead and what their solutions might be.

I’ve found some great books for it, which I’ll post about after I’ve read them. Part of what I’m trying to do is understand the human element to it all, what motivates people to be devious bastards (other than the obvious cash related, ego induced reasons).

I’ve found that as I research it I’ve already read lots of related articles previously and it’s fun pulling it all together. I might even be able to get a reference to Something Awful in there, with the old Nigeria 491 scam emails!

Broadband Update 2

It’s gone up slightly since last Friday and now seems to match what I was quoted as my max speed when I ordered, at 5.5Mb. And that’s it really. From what I understand there isn’t anything more that can be done due to my distance from the Exchange. Can’t grumble at 600kb a second downloads though!

#tf stats for June

Oh czg, you crack me up…

<czg> I’m having h4wtd4wgs for dinner, biff

Links and stuff:

Prey Demo

I concur with the Russian’s comments. Two things impress me about the Prey Demo:

  1. It looked really good and ran at a decent speed given my aging hardware (Geforce 6600GT and Athlon XP 3200+)
  2. It actually made me want to play more!

The opening set piece in the bar was fantastic. I loved how the spaceship started to yank various outside objects skyward and then started on the bar by removing the roof bit by bit. Great special effects.

I felt the whole mutilating and torturing humans was done to death back in Quake 2, but if you consider that Prey has been 11 years in the making I suppose the concept wasn’t so stale back then.

What I really like though is the way the alien space ship environment has been realised. Again the high tech alien style isn’t a new idea, but the whole switching of perspective, position and scale is. Bal nails it on the head very nicely by calling it Escheresque.

The magical Indian powers are pretty neat as well and I loved the puzzle where you had to leave your body upside on a platform on the ceiling (!?) then go into spirit run and go back down to the control room and turn the platform on to move it across the room. It took me a while to work that one out!

The 3D Realms trait of giving your character a voice helps you emphasise with him more than you would say with a mute marine or former Black Masa scientist… Perhaps a headcrab ate Gordon’s tongue? Anyhoo, whether that turns out to be grating by the end of the full game, we’ll have to see.

Now if only I could buy it via Steam instead of actually having to venture outside to the shops for it, it would be ace! Apparently it was considered at one point but it looks like they don’t like it. The whole Triton thing is a no go for me, despite what I said yesterday about downloading games. It looks pretty cheap and nasty to me. It should be out in the shops here on the 14th.

Grrrr Valve!

Why list this on the store front when it’s been sold out for months?

NoHeadCrabs

Coz I really wanna buy one and put it on the cats! They’d so freak out!

EA Downloader woes

Not me personally, but some chap over on the Ars Technica forums. He seems pretty pissed with it since it gave him some grief whilst trying to download and install his free copy of NFL Headcoach, whatever the hell that is. I think his reaction was a bit over the top given it’s just a game and he got it for nowt, but I’m being a bit of a hypocritic since I seem to remember that I went fairly ballistic over a certain task switcher…

Putting that aside though, there was an interesting point raised in the comments that surprised me given the audience Ars has (i.e. techies!), which was that a lot of people don’t like the idea of download only, medialess distribution. Personally, I think it’s excellent idea and one that I’ve pontificated about on numerous occasions. In particular – Steam.

Now I’ll admit that I didn’t start using Steam until a year or so after it launched and so avoided all the fun, which is where the problem child EA downloader currently appears to be. But I like the idea of not having any CD’s or DVD’s for games. I don’t like having boxes and crappy leaflet style manuals littering the place and it also eliminates that oh so fun game of “Hunt the CD” when I want to play something (damn you Battlefield!). When I’m using my computer it’s almost always on the net, so letting it do its internetty check is fine by me.

There are certain products that yes, I would like to have some physical media. Such as Windows, Microsoft Office, development languages, etc. Basically anything that cost over a few hundred quid to buy in the first place. But for everything else I’d much prefer to download it. Most companies make it a fairly painless experience to redownload software because after all, it is in their best interests.

Whilst that’s a slight digression from what was meant, it’s still relevant to Steam (and EA Downloader). I like approach of having an account linked to whatever I’ve bought. It keeps all my games up to date. It removes the need for shortcuts (yay evile things!). I can delete games I don’t want installed, but download them when I like, patched up and ready to go.

How can that not be a good thing? Am I being a bit naive? What do you think?

Blog Post of the Day

Great opening line from Plip’s Weblog:

What an utter pile of wank.

The rest of the post is all .NETTY related, but that made me smile first thing.

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