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Security – Passwords

One of the most powerful security tools one can have is also one of the most neglected. A password (a specially set apart group of characters used to gain entrance into a location) can be only as strong as you make it. This “password” (whether in a playful setting where kids allow or deny other children into a designated space or in a top secret government’s or enterprise’s most confidential location) can be easy or hard.

Passwords keep others out of social places or from doing certain special tasks. It could allow someone to change settings on a corporate server, open a special safe, launch missiles, hack a website or other havoc.123456_password_sticky_note

The follow are some examples from a Fox News article regarding bad passwords used by people:

  • 123456
  • password
  • qwerty
  • letmein
  • abc123
  • 111111
  • trustno1

Good security procedures should have requirements for you to change your password at least once a quarter or so. A growing problem with this and other suggested ways to create passwords is that fact that the older one becomes, the harder it becomes to remember new passwords using the guidelines for strong passwords.

ComputerHope.com suggests the following as rules to use in making a strong password:pwdlock

  • Do not use a password that you have used in the past.
  • Try to change the password at least every 3-6 months.
  • Create a password that is at least six characters long.
  • Create a password with both digits and letters.
  • Do not create a password with a family name or family pet.
  • Do not create a password that is your phone number, house number, apt number, etc.
  • Create a password that is not in a dictionary.

My suggestion is to make it a minimum of 8 characters long, minimum use of at least one capital letter, minimum use of at least one small letter and minimum use of at least a number or symbol in it. You can use abbreviations of full words and you could change real words into something different by substituting numbers and symbols. Some examples (please do not use these as others might try hacking with these passwords) of this are:

  • App1eP1e
  • techB0y17
  • Spr17trp
  • UberK@r!

Some businesses and home users might see or use these services as well – SSO (single sign-on) so you log in once and it authenticates you and allows you to access other files/folders or applications and Password safes (an application design to hold all you passwords and either allows you in via a special password to access the others or by using the special password will communicate with the software and automatically add it in for you) that are usually encrypted (hidden and mostly unbreakable).

Home users will want to continue the password rules at home to protect your personal information, data, and finances. I will mention it again another time, but ones home router password should be changed from the default as another layer of protection.

how-safe-is-your-password

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Programming – Basics

Depending on the perspective one knows most about, Programming categories (as presented by Cron.com here) can either be of the OS/System, Application, Gaming, or Web types while others may see them more from a language defined categories like Procedural, Functional, Object-oriented, Scripting, or Logic Programming Languages (see this link for more about Language types) .

computer-programming-language-cornell
In either case, there will be some similar structure with different terms, commands, and usage as well as pros and cons for them all. I would suggest that one find their greatest interest and see how others have used programming (perhaps special languages or group focus) and study these. An example of this is from the excel with business.com site whtutorial5ere they programmed the “Hello World” phrase using several language types. See here for how it looks.

I am still a newbie to Programming, but a few items I have noticed is several tend to use objects, methods, functions, Loops, logic, and more which may be laid out differently but still do similar work with similar results. Another similarity is the beginning and ending of items that many use brackets like { and } or <> and </>  when doing functions.

All this to say that programming at times may look easy, but to get it to do exactly what you want may take some time and effort. Search for the field of programming and /or the language that meets your need, study and practice it.

A few more sites that can help you get started are www.comentum.comThe Hornery, CodeConquest and  khanacademy.org. Please note that there are many sites that can help that I have not listed. Find one that is laid out in a way that you can understand best (search youtube for some of these as well).

 

Networking – Network Devices

A network device allows a computer to communicate to another computer to either give information and/or to receive information or services (within a Local Area Network or into other networks via the “Cloud”).

Understanding what the different network devices are and normally used for will help when working with them. I will list the more commons types and explain their role in getting this communication job done. The first is a Hub.

HUBHUB

This device lives on the OSI model’s first level. It is like driving with bumper cars. There seems to be little guidelines on how traffic flows and allows for collisions to happen frequently (which slows or kill the person “data”).  It runs on a half duplex (like on a walkie talkie where one party talks and says “over” and then the other side starts to talk… back and forth. In a small home/office environment, this device can allow some computers to get by without too much of an issue, but when there are many hubs being used, then the communication starts to breakdown and cause bottlenecks. Hubs are in a way considered passive and dumb (not much intelligence in it). A cousin of the hub is a Repeater which is similar to the HUB except it is active in providing an extra boost to push the data to the next contact point and is usually after a Hub or Switch.

SwitchCisco Switch 2900

This device lives on the OSI model’s second level. It is like your home car. You get in it and follow rules of driving to navigate from one point to another. This device has more advantages to the Hub because each port is its own direct line to another location, avoids common collisions, and communicates at Full-duplex (similar to phones where each end can talk and/or be heard and not needing to wait for a pause to continue). These devices have built in logic that uses M.A.C. (Media Access Control, a unique identifiers also known as hardware or physical address) to know where to find others on the
same network after an initial broadcast the first time around.

Router

This device lives on the OSI model’s third level. It is like leavinCisco Router 2600g home in your car from your main street and hitting a highway. One semi-major road that can lead you to larger expressways or through several other
streets depending on where you need to go. It uses an IP (Internet Protocol) Address and matches a computer’s MAC address to this IP address to help find or deliver to those computers.  This device can be pretty complex in its logic. It has security features, can have governing rules for either parties within the network or regarding those from without trying to get in. Typically this device allows a network to ISP modem and Home Routereach the internet and is sometimes referred to as a Gateway. This device (when acting as a Gateway) will normally connect to a modem that belongs to an ISP (Internet Service Provider) who gets us on to the WAN, the “Cloud” also known as the Internet.

Wireless LAN Controller

This device also lives on the OSI model’s third level. It is used to manage WAPs (Wireless Access Points) that bridge out or allow wireless connection to the network and works with the network Router to assist it to get the data to the right location.

Wireless LAN Controller

 

The Command Line

Today, most consumers will think of Operating Systems as the Graphical User Interface (GUI) most commonly called either Windows 7/8/10, Apple OS 10 (El Capitan/Sierra), or one of several popular Linux distributions in 2016 are Mint; Debian; Ubuntu; openSUSE; Fedora; CentOS; PCLinuxOS; Slackware; PuppyLinux; and FreeBSD (unix-like).*

Yet, at times, it will be good to know how to use the command line OS commands (still used from back in the DOS/UNIX years) if you wish to tweak the operating system as a system admin, want to run scripts or batch files quicker than utilizing the GUI application. I will list several commands that helpful to know and their Windows/Linux equivalents (this will also work in the Apple OS terminal utility).

Depending on which you use, the place where the cursor starts off is called the Prompt and in DOS it may look like a letter follwed by a colon and then a back slash (for example, C:\) while in Linux it is absent of a letter and has other information and ends in a dollar sign (for example, me@linuxbox:~ $).

 

I have listed several sites that give comparison commands for DOS and Linux, what they are used for and do similar tasks (although remember that in linux, it matters if something is capitalized or not and will effect the way it runs or lack of running).

 

Learning how do do the more basic commands is a good start to learning how to run and use scripts. Try some basic things like showing your network connections by using either ifconfig /all in DOS or ifconfig in linux. learning to do a ping command which uses the word ping and an ip address like 8.8.8.8 which is one of several address to reach Google.com. See what it shows you.

*  = here is a website for noting the popularity of linux distributions. It is a good place to check out what kinds are there and you may find several that may draw your interests to check out.

 

Computer Hardware -The Players

Last time with Computer Hardware, we saw that in a simplified view  – the main components are the motherboard (MOBO), Computer Processing Unit (CPU), Random Access Memory (RAM), an slide_4input device – like a keyboard and an output device – like a monitor.

This time we will look at more modern shapes/sizes of computers and ways they are used either in the home or office starting from the bigger to the smaller.

Mainframes

linuxone-640x828In the past, this device acted as a server of sorts and everything was computed on this device where dumb terminals (looked similar to a older personal computer) would interact in it to get things done. They have gotten much more sophisticated and have incredible speed to get many things done (as described in Wired magazine online: https://www.wired.com/2015/01/z13-mainframe/). IBM is probably the most known company for these devices which are still used today.

servers-categoryServers

In some ways,  servers are several regular computers combined together with one main mother board,  redundant storage and power systems while allowing for several CPUs and much larger amounts of RAM, but still exists to provide some service and/or tool to client computers.

 

Workstation/Personal Computer

Some years ago windows-pc51ukgduotylthere was more of a difference
between workstations (group of higher end computers for an office/enterprise) and personal computers for the average home user. Today, even the regular home user can have a high powered system or a less powerful system so they may be quite similar terms now.Some systems may be using a tower set up, a thin client/mini computer, or even a one-in-all — even touch screen ones.

Laptopslaptop1

Computers that allow one to be mobile and still do similar tasks as on a personal computer.

Tablets

These are similar to the laptops except usually without any keyboard, are usually smaller and weight less.

Smartphones

These used to be more phone specific with a few apps and now are more mini computers that allow talking, texting and even video on some.phones5

 

Other Devices

Here are some newer devices which will continue to morph as technology advances (Smart Glasses, VR goggles, Smart Watch, Smart Speaker, Smart TV).

 

Here are a few other sites to see/read about new computer devices:

Techradar.com

cnet.com

pcworld.com

Troubleshooting

To understand Troubleshooting, we need to understand that it is a similar idea as that of Problem Solving. The following are some thoughts regarding problem solving found on the internet.7e32aef20300b693a40f5207-819x1024

SRM University offers some examples regarding the need for basic knowledge for solving problems and some problems people face everyday in life.

Examples:
Should I wear casual or formal today?
Should I watch TV or go out to cinema?
What career?
What course?
What shoes?

Everything needs a DECISION AS A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM

 

Source: Problem Solving in Everyday in Life by R.Lakshmi & R.Sarumathi

Some problems are just simple choices (like what flavor of ice cream do I want), but others may either affect us negatively (my car engine light has come on, but I will ignore it … it may just be a ploy from the automobile industry to get more money out of me) or keep us from a benefit (I just got my first job… should I be saving money into a retirement account now or wait until I am closer to my 50’s before starting?).

 

Problem solving is a process that uses steps to solve problems.” Source: https://ccmit.mit.edu/problem-solving/

 

“All problems have two features in common: goals and barriers.

 

Goals – Problems involve setting out to achieve some objective or desired state of affairs and can include avoiding a situation or event….

 

Barriers – If there were no barriers in the way of achieving a goal, then there would be no problem.  Problem solving involves overcoming the barriers or obstacles that prevent the immediate achievement of goals.”

 

Source: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/problem-solving.html

 

The following methods I want to share are pretty common in many disciplines from running a business to solving crimes to diagnosing an illness to even fixing technology issues and so much more.

The ability to solve problems is a skill, and just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get at it.

“Problem solving is the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solution paths, and taking the appropriate course of action.

…Algorithmic strategies are traditional step-by-step guides to solving problems. They are great for solving math problems (in algebra: multiply and divide, then add or subtract) or for helping us remember the correct order of things (a mnemonic such as “Spring Forward, Fall Back” to remember which way the clock changes for daylight saving time, or “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey” to remember what direction to turn bolts and screws). Algorithms are best when there is a single path to the correct solution.

But what do you do when there is no single solution for your problem? Heuristic methods are general guides used to identify possible solutions. A popular one that is easy to remember is IDEAL :

Identify the problem
Define the context of the problem
Explore possible strategies
Act on best solution
Look back and learn

IDEAL is just one problem solving strategy.” Source: [Bransford & Stein, 1993]

In Japanese culture, the “… multidimensional problem-solving approach is common. Rather than just use any solution that solves the problem, they aim for the best solution they can find.

Problem Solving Overview: A3

With this “…the goal is to fit all information related to the problem solving on one sheet of paper… and includes:

A description of the problem
The current state
The goal of the problem solving
A root cause analysis
A progress status
Confirmation of problem solution
Organizational information like responsible parties, date, approval, etc.”

 

Root Cause: 5 Whys

This is an approach used at Toyota where you ask/answer down the “Why?” five times in a row taking a deeper look each time. The main idea is to not consider the first answer as the root issue to better understand the root cause of the problem.

 

Root Cause: Fishbone Diagram

Another name for this is the cause-and-effect diagram. “The aim is to address the problem from multiple different directions, graphically represented by a fishbone. The head is the problem, and the bones are the individual possible causes that are analyzed. The causes can be specific to the particular problem, but in industry, the following are also common” as in the diagram shown below. source: http://www.allaboutlean.com/japanese-problem-solving/ by Christoph Roser

fishbone

Here is an example of this in the cause/effect view

fish-bone1-e1325870956744

source: http://www.squawkpoint.com/2012/01/fish-bone-diagrams-helpful-or-not/

The next time around Troubleshooting, I will seek to give more examples and walk through them.

Security – Protect Yourself

internet-sharing

It would be wonderful to believe that using your home computer for all things “you” (picture files, documents, personal spreadsheets, contacts, family information and etc…), as well as, “sharing” yourself with your friends, family, and the world would require no thought, planning, or protection from evil people.

But, the truth is that we must not be naive. We must learn to be proactive and not get wronged and then be reactive to the reality of security at home, at work, or anywhere else.

Why the need for Security?

Below are some links to info-graphs found on the internet regarding the need to protect ourselves:

Direct Accesshacker-stealing-data-laptop-black-background-55115602

Physical breach – people (family, friend, special someone, or even someone you never met) break into you home/car and steal your information from or with your computer device, you real mail, your physical files, wallets and so on.

Virtual breach – hackers remote into your computer device from an offsite location and remove any/all data possible. Access to your computer mostly done by a virus/malware program.

internet-1593378_1920

Indirect Access

Using a Virus or malware-type program

Examples are Adware, Bot, Bug, Ransomware, Rootkit, Spyware, Trojan Horse, Virus, Worm (from https://www.veracode.com/blog/2012/10/common-malware-types-cybersecurity-101).

Some possible reasons for getting malware are to do direct harm to you, harm to others by means of “borrowing” your computer device and make it a “zombie system,” to gather your personal data (for financial data, basic info ), and for the intent to access your system, or more likely, to sell to another person/group willing to pay for your personal information.

Worst case scenarios – What to do before the hack

Have a literal “Backup” plan for your information on your system. You should always have means to save a copy of your computer OS, software, and data in a good/clean state (free of virsu/malware). You should have a plan to add to the back up periodically as well as test you backup to ensure that it will replace data the gets removed, erased, and/or manipulated.

Steps to proactively protect your data

The physicalb208db5b-d101-4dac-b6e4-0685ad691b1d_1-f97259955fc2bbe92d76c030f01c7088

Keep paper copies safe and secured (perhaps a firebox safe).

Be stingy with your personal information (do not volunteer it unless you know the true identity with whom you will be sharing it with)

Lock you doors on your car/home and keep windows locked.

On your Computer device

Learn how to encrypt your folders and files and how to make a secure connection to web sites. Lock down who has access to your computer devices and/or files by using basic account levels and strong passwords. Understand that even USB devices could contain viruses that could infect your computer device(s). This link gives some tools that can help – source: http://lifehacker.com/five-best-file-encryption-tools-5677725.

On you home Router (if you own it)

Depending on the make/model should have built in tools to either prevent or hinder attacks though it. Using a MAC Filter to limit which devices can access the home network or internet, changing the router default password to something stronger, changing the network used at home (you will most likely need someone with better knowledge of subnets/VLANs to assist); changing the SSID name from the make/model and adding the proper WPA2 security features can all help deter your data from being stolen. This link gives some tools that can help – source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2409751,00.asp.

Internet awareness

Understand that e-mail with pictures/links, programs downloaded, web page links, PDF and other files could be infected.

Use of virus protecting software and anti-malware programs are recommended. Remember if something sounds too good to be true, think twice before clicking, installing, or sharing about yourself or family on social media. For example, do not tell your friends on Facebook that you will be leaving for two weeks and that your home will be completely empty. This could be prime information fo someone to find where you live and help themselves to your data or things.

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Today’s suggested book is CompTIA’s Security+ by T.J. Samuelle . This book is for those desiring to understand the Security topic deeper and maybe planning to take the certification for their professional benefit

Applications and Programming

Use of the terms Application and Programming remind me of the riddle about “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” It seems that one leads to the other and vice versa.

My desire here is not to create a philosophical dialog just to note that they may be inter-related at different times. I will talk about both individually and how they became more of a user tool over the last 32 years or so, but there will be cross over between the two as well.

Applications

Early software

With the main OSes starting to grow, there were limited applications available due to the early restrictions of the hardware. For example, on the IBM personal XT computer, this was the general specs: the Intel 8088 CPU speed (4.77 Mhz), the RAM (128-256 Kbs), the motherboard BUS types and a storage media (IDE, a 10 MB hard drive with either a 3 ½ or a 5 ½ floppy disk drive) which were all quite limiting.

Only one application could run at a time. The ones available for most people were Word 1.0 and Wordperfect 1.0 (documents) and Lotus 1-2-3 (spreadsheet).

Applications now

With the advainternet-of-thingsnces in computer chips, hardware changed by getting faster requiring better means of transferring, calculating, storing and displaying larger amounts of data. With chips getting faster and much smaller, the application of its use has grown and allowing for the next phase for computers in mobile computing (apps) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

 

My categories regarding software:

OS Software Tools

These are applications provided by the operating system used for simple functions like note taking, calculator, clock, basic draw/paint, Internet browser, storage folder browser, media player/viewers, command line access and other system related tools.

Office Suites

These have changed from simple beginnings to larger containers of the basic four and more. The basic four I am talking about are the document writer, a spreadsheet creator, and a slide show creator/presenter.

  • Microsoft’s Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint (proprietary)

microsoft_office_2010

  • Mac’s iWork – Pages, Numbers, and Keynote (proprietary)

 


Linux’s Office – Writer, Calc, and Impress (open source – usually free – and now available for almost any OS)

Desktop Publishing/Graphicsadobe-creative-suite

Adobe Creative Suite – is a group of software that has been around for a while and built with quality. Some of the more know/used pieces are Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, and Dreamweaver with other software for audio and video too.

Other known software – GIMP, Inkscape, Corel Draw/PaintShop Photo Pro, and more.

3-D Modeling

AutoCad, SolidWorks, Blender, Autodesk Maya, SketchUp and more.

Audio

Audacity, Garage Band, and more.

Software Programming

Their are many that either give a simpler graphical builder to the more complicated and robust  with several language types that may or may not get mixed to create something new or simply a web  page.

integrate-analytics-with-cm

Other

A few other miscellaneously known (including from the internet/Web 2.0) that vary from paid to free and work on regular computer and/or mobile devices:

screen-shot-2016-08-01-at-11-37-29-pm

 

 

Networking: An Introduction

What is a network?network-resized-600

Two or more devices (some are desktops, laptops, cell phones, servers, routers, switches, and firewalls) with network capable components (usually a NIC – Network Interface Card) connected to one another (physically or wirelessly) to share resources. An example of one many people use is the “Internet.”

 

Why do we need a network?

We need a network to make life easier. What I mean is that it is an inconvenience to try sharing a file or information with another co-worker who could be in a different location (table next to you, in the next building, in the next town, or across the world) or even to print something on the printer down the hall.Mind Map

We are a socially communicative people (even though several of us might be more introverted than others). Examples of this might be how people use email, online game play, news online, watch a movie/youtube, or just perusing information that is important to them on the internet.

 

map-w-2009-83Brief background history795659

I am starting with the idea of the pony express, morse code, and the telephone. Each of these had at their foundation the need of sharing information from one location to another.

One did it through physically sending someone via pony to deliver the information physically across land. Another sent information through interconnected wires on poles that were placed along railroads tracks as they were being built and required the use of by-means-of-the-universal-bell-system-the-nation-may-be-promation from one point to another. (a device that utilized a tapping-type language called morse
code. The last of the three borrowed the wire idea and used another device, the telephone, to actually send analog communication of speech. (Note: for more information regarding what analog is and the difference between it and digital, try this web page analog-and-digital.)

There may be earlier examples of this not mentioned here. I am just trying to layout a picture of the early beginnings of networks.

mapsmaller
During the “1960s-1970s: ARPANET: Commonly thought of as the predecessor to the Internet and created by the US Department of Defenses Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA)” (source: http://www.newmedia.org/history-of-the-internet.html)… shows us another leap into a framework of more modern, but limited internet. From here technology improves, devices go from larger to smaller, wires are almost everywhere, and more people have more affordable access to communicate through the modern Internet.

 

More to come

  • Network devices and NOS
  • Different types of networks
  • The OSI model

Today’s suggested book is How Networks Work by Frank J. Derfler. This book not only seeks to simplify the topics to get a bigger picture of the meaning, but also incorporates art work to illustrate the point.

Operating Systems: An Introduction

Just to make a little distinction between the BIOS/EFI ([Basic Input Output System/Extensible Firmware Interface] which I will cover more with Computer Hardware) and the main OS (Operating System) that people run their application(s) or commands on/through.

Many people have opinions on operating systems. Some are very loyal to only one brand while others are open-minded to see the benefits and cons of the different options.

The main three OS (there are many, but in my opinion, all fall in the three) are Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Mac OS, and the third I will label as Unix/Linux. Each one has history, evolution, and were proprietary from its beginning.

  • UNIX / Linux – developed in the late 1960s for use on Mainframe computers and internet servers. Several variations/distributions have branched off this type, including the Linux OS which I hope focus on most from the family. The main name to know for Linux is Linus Torvalds.

version_7_unix_simh_pdp11_emulation_dmr 14_de_marzo_de_1994

 

  • Windows OS – DOS (Disc Operating System) was bought by Microsoft which they modified to become MS-DOS which would lead to Windows 1.0. The main name to know for Windows is Bill Gates.

cmwindows1-0jul15a

 

  • Mac OS – introduced more of a GUI (Graphical User Interface) desktop (closer to more modern user interfaces we see today) when it first started instead of a command line interface or similar look to Windows 1.0. The main name to know for Mac OS is Steve Jobs.

mac-os-8-6

I will suggest that knowing them all (from at least a fundamental perspective) benefits you personally (or your company too) and will serve as tools for the many problems you encounter. For example, which OS is better at utilizing graphics, more robust running servers, not as affected by malware or can provide a strong organizational path for applying group policies and such. Sometimes all three will have really good software for a job and the difference may be it the details of output, cost, or friendly interaction with the user.

Next time, I will take a look at introducing the topic Networking.