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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!

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