Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2011 5:46 pm

Re: Learning computer fundamentals

Mon Dec 12, 2011 8:29 am

I searched the forum and was surprised this hasn't been mentioned. Steve Gibson, a computer/security guru, and Leo Laporte (of TechTV fame), have a weekly podcast called Security Now. They go over security news and introduce beginners to concepts like certificate signing, cryptography, and fundamentals of the internet and computing. There's a 6 or 7 episode series in which they "build" a computer by explaining how it works from the ground up. Starting with transistors and then going to logic gates and then on to the stack and operating systems. Now that we're not gonna have our Pi until next year, I think this might help some pass the time and learn something new.
That's the page where the archive of the podcast is hosted. Episode #233 is the start of the "Let's build a computer" series. There's a host of other topics some here might be interested in also on that page. Steve is the real deal. He coined the word "spyware" back in the day. He has a host of free utilities on his corporation website, such as Shields up, to test your open ports on your machine, and also a high entropy random number generator, for making those perfect passwords. The only thing not free on his site is Spinrite, a hard drive recovery and maintenance utility that he wrote in assembly!
Check it out if you wanna. It's highly informative, and maybe learning something will help pass the time until we can hold the Pi in our hands :)

Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:52 am

Re: Learning computer fundamentals

Mon Dec 12, 2011 10:01 am

I would take anything he says with a pinch - wait, no, a bloody truckload of salt. I'm not familiar with the specific podcast you mention (and it might be full of perfectly good facts for all I know), but in general, the kindest thing one can say about Gibson is that he's controversial. Some go a few steps further, up to "SpinRite is 80% hype, 10% dangerous, and 10% real substance. Likewise Shields UP!" [1]. The wikipedia page [2] about him and GRC is worth checking out, especially reference 8 [3]. You're welcome to make up your own mind - just don't forget, this is the guy who foretold the end of the internet at the advent of WinXP...

[1] http://radsoft.net/news/roundu.....3,00.shtml
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....rogrammer)
[3] http://radsoft.net/news/roundups/grc/

Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2011 5:46 pm

Re: Learning computer fundamentals

Mon Dec 12, 2011 10:24 pm

I will agree he's somewhat of an alarmist, taking the approach that if something is possible to be exploited, then it is actively being exploited. Conversely, I decided not to listen to his advice about disabling EXE execution from PDF files, and now my netbook has been compromised. Some "clickjacking" scheme where everytime I click a Google link, I get redirected to some baloney I don't even wanna see.

I think Leo Laporte helps even his personality out a bit. The podcast is informative, but after reading your links, I can see your point of view. He really explains things well, although it makes my girlfriend go to sleep :) . I usually skip the first ten or twenty minutes of the show where they are discussing the latest security vulnerabilities, because I agree with you that it's not something that 90% of users need to worry about. If someone won't patch their bad software, there's not much you can do about that. Thanks for your input, I reread my OP and it did sound like I work for him or something.

Disclaimer: I don't work for Steve Gibson or GRC, I'm just a satisfied listener of the podcast

Posts: 50
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2011 4:56 pm

Re: Learning computer fundamentals

Mon Dec 12, 2011 10:58 pm

having studied network computing for my degree and part of which was security. I now work in IT and these issues come up quite often. security holes and vulnerabilites are exploited very well by the people who know how to. As for the end user, knowledge is power, find out what you want to know and use it. security is always a trade off between usability and protection. on my windows machine i generally don't have much extra protection and have not had a virus or problem for a long time but i'm not as ignorant as the general public.

Posts: 26
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2011 10:30 pm

Re: Learning computer fundamentals

Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:46 pm

I don't know about this Gibson fella, or if he's controversial or not, but being taught how a computer works from the ground up is very, very enlightening.

I studied a course at uni that taught exactly this, and it was hands down the most interesting one i've taken so far. We never delved into transistor-level stuff though, but that might not be necessary unless you're gonna design electronics. We got to learn how to build gates, adders, counters etc. and suddenly, we had all the knowledge needed to construct a simple 8-bit computer.

By the end of the course we knew how to program a 6809, both in machine code and assembler. Once I even managed to debug a program only by looking at the (raw bit) memory dump!

We had these lab setups where you could plug in modules like an ALU, registers, memory etc. Is there any software that replicates that kind of stuff? If so, that software would be a very nice addition to have for the Pi.

If there is nothing freely available (preferably under a non-restrictive license) maybe it would be worthwile to hack something together? I'm imagining a gui-based thing where you could knock together gates and interconnect them to form logic networks or building blocks. Hell, you could even make a game out of it, you'r not allowed to use blocks that you haven't "unlocked" by building them yourself :).

It sounds like somthing you might use "spice" for, but i was thinking more along the lines of a tutorial with a reference for looking stuff up.

Return to “Staffroom, classroom and projects”