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The Amazing Boring Blog

By jmgarvin ·
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The First Posting

by jmgarvin In reply to The Amazing Boring Blog

<p>Not much to say here, other than I'm starting a blog here.</p><p>You'll probably see comments on Linux, Microsoft, Information Security, Hacking, and some basic rants and raves that seem to find their way into every blog.</p><p>If you are a teacher, I'm always interested in teaching tips and tricks...and content.</p>

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Sad State of E-Learning

by jmgarvin In reply to The Amazing Boring Blog

<p>Currently, e-learning is a huge fad with institutions of education. Many places jump right into e-learning without much thought as to the overhead and problems associated with it. A huge part of the problem is that technology is seen as a panacea rather than a tool. Usually instructors and sys admins are thrown into the task of dealing with this new "panacea." A major part of the problem is the software.</p><p>I know, sacrilege! I dare say the software makers don't make user friendly UIs!!?? Yes. WebCT, Blackboard, Centra, and even Breeze are hard to use. Why? Because they use their own lingo, strange interfaces, and require the instructors/sys admin to know a specific language to actually use them. Sure they've all included WYSIWYG interfaces, but that isn't the point. The point is that they are HARD to use! Why is it so diffcult to design a decent UI? Do the engineers not even bother?</p><p>So I got tired of it and designed my own. EOTA and New Mexico Tech use it. While it isn't the end all be all, it is a step in the right direction. I'm tired of hard to use software, so I set out to design easy to use software. If you are curious check out my publications on it:<br><a href="http://csdl.computer.org/comp/proceedings/itcc/2003/1916/00/19160043abs.htm target="_blank">http://csdl.computer.org/comp/proceedings/itcc/2003/1916/00/19160043abs.htm</a><br><a href="http://computing.breinestorm.net/technology+institute+department+nmt+edu/" target="_blank">http://computing.breinestorm.net/technology+institute+department+nmt+edu/</a><br><br><p>Or check out my website<br> <a href="http://www.greenbranchcommunications.com/" target="_blank">http://www.greenbranchcommunications.com/</a></p></p><p>What is the solution to bad interface design? I think everyone that is going to design software MUST read "The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald A. Norman. Norman is a genius and fully understand WHY interface design is bad and explains how to improve interface design.</p><p>Now, on to institutions that use e-learning as this magical panecea; STOP IT! E-Learning is just a tool. While it does help decentralize your classroom, it also costs money. Not only that but the 1-12 rule is in full effect with e-learning. That means for every 1 hour you spend for a meat world class, you must spend at least 12 hours for the same online class. Until you are established, it is quite a bit of work to get courses online and running. It is also harder to control the instructor at a distance. Many instructors take on the "hard ***" persona and cause the students many problems. The worst part of it is that many institutions see this as acceptable behavior and keep the instructor!! Training the instructor is key. Also keep in mind your instructors must be tech savvy or they will fail. The students also need an introduction to the LMS or online tool you are using. Make sure to have plenty of tutorials and keep in mind the lowest common denominator. A big thing that many institutions don't have is a 24/7 helpdesk. If your students can't get online or they have tech issues they can't resolve, they won't come back!</p><p>Oh, enough ranting and raving. I got out of that mess because I worked at an institution that didn't understand e-learning. They had the largest enrollment of online students in the state and they couldn't grasp what they had.</p>

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Sad State of E-Learning

by DC_GUY In reply to Sad State of E-Learning

The reason that all IT artifacts are so user-hostile is that they are designed by IT professionals. Even when they solicit requirements input from end users, it's all filtered through the consciousness (and the unconscious) of an IT person.

We're not like everybody else. We prefer working with technology to working with people. We like figuring out how things work. We enjoy being software mechanics. We (well, the rest of you anyway) don't like OS/X because it's like a contemporary auto with a sticker on the hood: Warning, No User-Serviceable Parts Inside.

The other six billion people on this planet aren't like that. They want their computers to be appliances that they can take for granted like their TVs and stoves. And have you noticed how user-hostile those two things have become lately since the design has become engineer-driven? Expect a consumer revolution back to chipless controls. Mark my words, as global prosperity increases and those other six billion people can afford computers, Apple will leave Grungeware in the dust.

Someone once summed this up perfectly: The way IT interfaces are built by programmers is the same way the roads in a housing tract would be laid out if the builder had done it. He would pave the bulldozer tracks because they "obviously" represent the traffic patterns.

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Sad State of E-Learning

by apotheon In reply to Sad State of E-Learning

<p style="text-align: justify">I'm actually kinda curious about some aspects of the Green Branch software that isn't discussed on the website (as far as I've determined, at any rate). Specifically:
<ol>
<li>Under what use licensing scheme(s) is it provided?</li>
<li>What are the system and software requirements of the server-side?</li>
<li>What are the system and software requirements of the client-side?</li>
</ol>
Depending on what the answers are to those questions, I may have more.</p>

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Why Don't Schools Teach Linux?

by jmgarvin In reply to The Amazing Boring Blog

<p>It has been my experience with incoming students that very few have been exposed to Linux either in their high school or college. My main question is why? It seems that MS has cornered the market on education as well as desktops! Why do teachers and insitutions spend millions on an untenable position? MS products are expensive. Why don't schools move to FREE Linux software?</p> <p>With Linux and Unix taking about 50% of the server market share and about 2% of the desktop, it would make sense to teach it! The worst part is that too many teachers don't bother or don't care enough to even try! It isn't hard to get students excited about Linux!!! The OS is a little hard to get to know, but once you have used it, it grows on you; kind of like a fungus. </p><p>The thing that really gets me is the total lack of real world exposure these kids get. They are told that MS rules all and Linux is just for hacking. They are told that the only way they will ever get a job is if they get a MSCE or MSCA. While to some exent that is true (you really need to get SOME kind of certification to get a job), it is FUD. The FUD that is flying now is just off the wall. Open Source is insecure. Open Source means IP theft. Open Source is the devil. Steve Ballmer tried to FUD Linux out of existance, but failed. Why doesn't MS come to terms that its OS is problematic and not the best solution for servers and focus on making it the best desktop system the world has ever seen!?</p>

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Why don

It reminds me of my education in EE back in the early 90s. What languages did everyone have to learn? Fortran and Pascal. Even back then, there was general awareness that these languages were obsolete and C would have been a better choice.

My guess is that the reason the university hadn't moved was institutional inertia: they had tenured instructors and a whole infrastructure geared around teaching this course.

I wonder if switching to Linux might be the same deal..in that to provide linux training which coexists with Windows training you have to double your hardware and train a whole fleet of people to operate it. Maybe that's the impediment.

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Why don

by Jay Garmon Contributor In reply to Why Don't Schools Teach L ...

It's also about effort. While I am but a lowly English major amongst techies, I had plenty of friends in my alma mater's Computer Science program. Less than a decade ago, every CompSci student learned two OS platforms, Windows 95, and UNIX (with a Novell Netware local network backbone).

Why UNIX? Because one of our physics professors did a lot of side work for NASA processing radio telescope data, and so he had a lot of UNIX tech donated to the school by the National Science Foundation as part of his grant (or so I was told by my CompSci buddies). UNIX was part of the curriculum because the school didn't have to spend any money acquiring the tech to teach it.

What has this got to do with Linux? Well, Microsoft goes out of its way to discount tech for academic institutions precisely because they know that college is where many students get their first exposure to personal computers, and because they know that colleges are strapped for cash. Linux developers don't offer anywhere near the same outreach programs. Even though the OS is free, nobody is out there doing the work for them, or convincing the school adminsitrators (the guys who sign the checks) to acquire Linux, even if the professors think it's worthwhile.

Setting aside Microsoft's market share dictating that it's software must be taught to aspiring computer professionals, Linux simply doesn't do the guerilla marketing necessary to get adopted by college CompSci programs. Maybe RedHat will catch on, or maybe Novell will start pushing this better, but there is a lot of catching up to do here.

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IP Tables and the teaching of them

by jmgarvin In reply to The Amazing Boring Blog

<p><b>IPtables and Webmin</b></p><p>I've given up teaching IPtables. What's that you say? "But how do you setup a Linux firewall without IPtables!?" Easy, I've simply migrated to Webmin.</p><p><a href="http://www.webmin.com" target="_blank">Webmin</a> is a great tool to learn how to setup IPtables without the overhead of teaching bash scripting! The nice thing is that Webmin is your all in one tool. You can setup sendmail, qmail, NFS, etc right there in a simple one stop shopping web interface.</p><p>The nicest thing is that the students learn far more about firewalls and statefulness using Webmin than they do struggling to make their bash script work! They tend to pick up on the issues of NEW, ESTABLISHED, and RELATED connections pretty quickly. Not only that, but it makes it easier for them to migrate to setup a Firebox.</p> <p><b>Basic Linux Commands and a Basic IPtables setting</b></p><p>Ok, so you are looking for some basics on Linux and Linux security. Let us start with some simple commands.<ul><li><i>ls</i> -List everything in the current directory</li><li><i>ls -lah</i> -List everything in the the current working directory including hidden files (a) in a long list (l) with human readable sizes (h)</li><li><i>pwd</i> -Lists my current working directory</li><li><i>cd</i> <path> -Changes Directory to the given path. eg cd / takes me to the root directory.</li><li><i>du -h</i> -Disk Usage in the current directory with human (h) readable sizes</li><li><i>df -h</i> -Total Disk Usage (Disk Free) in human (h) reable format</li><li><i>pico || nano</i> -This is a text editor you probably want to get. Pico comes with Pine and nano is a pico clone. I like nano, but whatver.</li><li><i>emacs&</i> -Run Emacs in the background (keep the command line in your term)</li><li><i>less</i> -show the contents of a file and allow scrolling</li><li><i>grep <string> <file></i> -search a file for a specified string.</li></ul></p>Ok, so now we want to look at the contents of /etc/services. So less /etc/service. You can also grep smtp /etc/services. So you can see what service your port runs on. Another file we want to keep in mind is /etc/sysconfig/iptables. This contains our firewall information. To see what your current firewall config is: less /etc/sysconfig/iptables.</p><p>Now that we have a clue about our system and basic Linux commands. We need to move on to securing our box. Keep in mind in Linux always have a local interface (lo). Our network cards are typically named eth*. So network card 1 could be eth0 and network card 2 would be eth1. We also need to know some commonly used ports:<ul><li>21 FTP</li><li><i>22 SSH</i></li><li><i>25 SMTP</i></li><li><i>53 DNS</i></li><li><i>68 DHCP</i></li><li><i>80 HTTP</i></li><li><i>110 POP3</i></li><li><i>143 IMAP</i></li><li><i>161 SNMP (Intranet Only)</i></li><li><i>443 HTTPS</i></li></ul><p>On Monday, we'll start setting up our firewall and learning a little bit about bash scripting! We'll also download and install webmin so that we can easily configure our IPtables to fit our needs.</p>

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IP Tables and the teaching of them

by apotheon In reply to IP Tables and the teachin ...

<p style="text-align: justify">I notice you make reference to the /etc/sysconfig directory in this. Unfortunately, that directory is not a part of the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard, and as such is not a universally used convention in Linux filesystems. I rather suspect that you have been using a Red Hat derived Linux distribution for your dealings with iptables configuration, as I believe that the Red Hat family of Linux distros is the originator of that particular filesystem quirk. I know, at least, that the Fedora systems with which I deal in the Wikimedia datacenter have the /etc/sysconfig directory, and that my own Debian systems (Debian being a much more Linux Standard Base compliant distribution) do not.<br />
<br />
It might be helpful, when composing online Linux howtos and tutorials, to make notes about what distribution you're using. This might save some confusion, as referring simply to Linux might leave some thinking that you're referring to Linux in the generic, or Linux Standard Base compliant distributions in particular. Just a thought.<br />
<br />
In any case, I'll probably be following along with your tutorial stuff in this blog of yours. It looks like it'll be useful.</p>

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IP Tables and the teaching of them

by root.operator In reply to IP Tables and the teachin ...

This may just be the tutorial ive been waiting for. I have set up
Webmin before and even tried to set up the IPTables stuff - but even
with a ton og google I still need help.<br />
<br />
Ill be keeping tabs on your blog.<strong><br />
</strong>

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