Saturday, August 4, 2018

A Short Thesis on the Philosophy of 'Thug Life' and Its Effect on Today's Youth.

Written By Eugene D. Watson III
A.k.A. Commiebastard.

In today's youth there seems to be a new attitude toward life and toward situations in that are faced in everyday life. The general malaise has seemed to spawn from the predominantly black ghettos of our modern era. The attitude is one of disdain toward fellow man and a belief that there lives are destined to nothing more than working at a local grocery store, selling drugs or playing professional sports. This attitude is called 'Thug Life', and it is no longer contained to the underprivileged areas of America. In today's generation it has reached into even the richest of communities to infect the youth that inhabit them.
This thesis will focus on four major points. The first question will ask 'what is the 'Thug Life' and what does it philosophy entail'. Secondly, 'What leads a youth to take on the 'Thug Life' attitude? Another question we must ask is 'why would one want to have the 'Thug Life' attitude. And lastly, what can be done to change the acceptance of this terrible mantra in the lives of today's highly impressionable suburban youth.
Since we have already partly discussed what 'Thug Life' is and where it has come from we must now ask ourselves why anyone would want to dedicate there life to such an negative path as this. Critics often state that the idea of thug life is associated with music and/or growing upon in an impoverished environment. Could this be the cause of the 'Thug Life' attitude that is being picked up by today's modern youth? I would have to disagree. Let use the cities of Hampton and Newport News, Virginia as a limited reference. The median household income of Hampton, Virginia is approximately 31,000 dollars. The population spread is a 48-48-4 percent mix, that being 48% white, 48% black and 4% being a part of a race which in not stated. Yet this 'Thug Mentality' seems to be present in over 85% of the youth of the area.
None of these have been exposed to the hardships of the traditional ghettos that we know. There families live in middle and upper class areas. So we ask 'What other factors lead to integration of this attitude in there daily routine. Could it be the music? Hardly. If we try to pin the problem on rap music, we are only looking for an easy way out. Yes, some of the genre does enforce the mentality but is human intelligence so low that it would affect someone's daily routine? I think not. And to blame rap music in general is racist. In rap there are positive musicians such as Jurassic 5, Fugees, and George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.
This rap music doesn't use the 'Thug Life' to sell records. Yet instead they use creativity to define there music. So what else could be left to influence these youth?
One of the main questions that must be asked is 'Is this a fad?' something fashionable to do, or is it a true mental condition. Are these youth doing this to relate better with there friends and to participate in something that there parents are clueless about? Or are these youth truly lacking something that was given to the youth of earlier generations. This is one of the questions we must try to understand before we can fully understand the 'Thug Life' mentality.
So as responsible citizens of our society, we must ask 'What can we do to change this?' Some suggestions from the writer follow.

1. Integrate the arts back into schools. This is one of the few things that I can see that link the 'Thug Life' of the 80's to the thug life of today. Students no longer have an effective way to display there abilities like the used to. The lack of art programs first hit the ghettos and impoverished area of the country because the areas could no longer support them. It has been proven that children who participate in the arts (art, theater, dance), are less likely to ever be jailed in there lifetime. Also the arts stimulate the brain and allow students to use creativity more.

2. We must try to cull the idea that 'It is just the black race who is the cause of this problem.' It's the general problem that parents no longer support them in social activities. No longer to children participate in activities such as 4-H, Boy Scout/Brownies, and Little league. These students don't learn the value of presenting themselves properly in the community.
3. Instill Morals into children. Just general social morals will do. Religion is NOT a necessity, just an idea of how to conduct one's self around others.
These are just a couple of suggestions that should be taken into consideration. Yet there could always be more. But without taking this problem seriously we are allowing a generation of youth to lack the moral abilities to be affective in today's society. I ask myself 'Could I possibly hire an individual who cannot portray him/her self in a positive way, someone who could care less what people think of them or how they are seen in others eyes.' The answer is NO, I would rather much hire an individual who was incompetent rather that someone who is involved in the 'Thug Life'. Yet until we take this problem seriously we will never stop in infestation of our youth.

Please let me know how you feel about this thesis and your ideas on the subject.
This writing is property of Eugene D. Watson III and can only be reposted outside of ArsTechnica with my written consent. I can be reached at

In my opinion

 When I post I sometimes add my own opinions to the post but keep in mind one thing > My opinion means absolutely nothing in the real world. The universe, the solar system and the world does Not revolve around my opinions.
 Everyone on this planet believes that they are right when it comes to their views, this is why they live the way that they do > They are correct "in their own minds". It is Only the egotistical fool that believes that others should fall in line with their way of being".

List of Free Online Cooking Classes, Courses and Learning Materials

Free Online Class Info

Free online cooking classes, courses and learning materials aren't commonly offered through public or not-for-profit private schools. If a student completes a free online cooking class, it's for personal fulfillment as he or she won't be able to earn college credit.

Free Online Cooking Classes


  • Cooking Techniques covers topics in fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, desserts, pastries, sauces and pasta preparation. Depending on the category, students may learn how to roast a duck, dice an onion, skin a tomato, fillet cooked fish, knead bread dough, ice a cupcake or skin flatfish.

The New York Times

  • Cooking with The Times offers 39 cooking lessons that cover topics including lasagna, pizza, calamari, side dishes, fish, deep-frying and omelets. Each lesson provides recipes and cooking tips. Some lessons also provide video guides.

Texas A&M

  • Dinner Tonight covers various recipes, including guilt-free chicken enchiladas, apple tuna salad and zesty lemon chicken. Students can also find a number of printable recipes. Videos are typically less than 10 minutes each and include step-by-step instructions using basic cooking techniques.

Delia Online

  • How to Cook features categories that specialize in cooking poultry, meat, eggs, fish, pasta, fruit and vegetables. Each category offers training for various techniques by offering step-by-step instructions that are accompanied by visual references. This website also offers recipes for students to cook after they feel confident in their training.

  • How to Videos show students how to make deviled eggs, grill steak, stir-fry, scramble eggs, cut mangos, roast garlic and freeze cookies. There are over 90 cooking tutorials. Each lesson consists of a video tutorial and description article.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Kitchen Chemistry covers cooking topics such as pancakes, bread, cheese, molecular gastronomy, spaghetti, coffee and meringues. With resources including homework assignments and related readings, this course uses cooking to provide hands-on chemistry training. The required book for this course isn't included for free.

  • Online Cooking Class covers basic and advanced cooking techniques, including cooking meat, using herbs, working with seafood, creating sauces, assembling appetizers, cooking vegetables and using pastry dough. Lessons include written instructions with the ingredients and preparation steps instead of visual guides.

Millennials don’t trust anyone. That’s a big deal.

Millennials aren't, it seems, the trusting type.
Of 10 major societal institutions, just two — the military and scientists — garnered majority support from millennials on the question of whom they trust to do the right thing most of the time. That's according to new polling by Harvard University's Institute of Politics of this most-written-and-talked-about generation, which encompasses those ranging in age from 18 to 29.
The lack of trust in longtime pillars of society among millennials is striking both for its depth and its breadth. No one is spared their side-eyed looks.
The media gets its worst — with 88 percent of millennials saying they only "sometimes" or "never" trust the press. Wall Street doesn't fare much better, with 86 percent of millennials expressing distrust. Congress is at 82 percent. Three in four millennials (74 percent) sometimes or never trust the federal government to do the right thing, and two in three (63 percent) feel the same way about the president.  The Supreme Court, once a beacon of trust societywide, isn't seen that way by millennials, with 58 percent saying they only sometimes or never trust the nation's highest court to do the right thing. Heck, even local police aren't spared; 50 percent say they trust the cops only sometimes or never to do the right thing, while 49 percent said they trust police "all" or "most" of the time.
Now, it's easy if you are not a millennial to roll your eyes at these numbers. What could be more distinctly millennial (or just plain young) than not trusting institutions? After all, Jack Weinberg insisted not to trust anyone older than 30 in the mid-1960s, when the parents of today's millennials probably hadn't even met yet.
But, to dismiss millennials' distrust in institutions is to miss something bigger at work here. Societywide trust in institutions is at or near record lows. Check out this chart from Gallup's annual national, survey on confidence in institutions. (This is the 2014 edition because 2015's hasn't come out yet.)

Why Trump hasn’t been impeached – and likely won’t be

Editor’s note: Removing a president from office is a two-step process. The first step is impeachment. That’s when members of the House indict, or charge, an official with an impeachable offense. Impeachment does not remove the president from office. That only happens if a second step is taken and the president is convicted of the alleged crimes.
Jacob Neiheisel, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, SUNY answers five questions about how impeachment works.
1. What sort of crime can lead to impeachment?
The U.S. Constitution states that the president can be removed from office after being both impeached and convicted for “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Treason is notoriously difficult to prove. For example, Aaron Burr – a former vice president – was caught stockpiling supplies and gathering a force to take over some of the lands that would eventually be obtained through the Louisiana Purchase. And yet, he still wasn’t convicted of treason.
To date, no president has been charged with bribery.
What exactly constitutes a “high crime” or “misdemeanor” has always been open to interpretation, but it is clear that partisan politics plays a role.
Scholars argue that Andrew Johnson, the first American president to be impeached, was targeted because of his “soft” approach to states of the former Confederacy during Reconstruction. The official reason was his violation of the Tenure of Office Act, which was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Articles of impeachment were brought against Bill Clinton for perjury, or lying under oath, and obstruction of justice, but there is little doubt that there was also a Republican desire to weaken Clinton’s presidency behind the charges.
Even Alexander Hamilton expected the process of impeachment to be overtly political. President Gerald Ford put the matter bluntly when he described an impeachable offense as “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”
2. How does the process work?
The process usually begins when a member of the House brings forth articles of impeachment. Last year, five Democrats in the House did just that.
Next comes a vote on the articles of impeachment by the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee can choose to investigate the matter – or opt out, as they did in the case of the Clinton impeachment. The committee can then recommend for or against impeachment. Either way, their recommendation isn’t binding – meaning the House can impeach over their recommendation. The current chair of the committee, Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, is a strong supporter of the president, but he is set to retire in 2019.
Next comes a vote in the full House, with only a simple majority required.
If the House votes to impeach, the case is referred to the Senate for trial. The trial runs much like a criminal case, and witnesses can be called on either side. A supermajority, or two-thirds, of the Senate then has to vote to convict and remove the president from office.
Although two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached by the House, both avoided a conviction in the Senate and a resulting removal from office.
A common misconception is that the Supreme Court plays a major role in the proceedings. The chief justice does preside over impeachment trials in the Senate, but that is the court’s only role.
3. Republicans have a majority in the House and the Senate. Does that essentially make Trump bulletproof?
More or less.
Although it is possible that Republican members of Congress could join with Democrats in calling for Trump’s removal, as we saw happen in the run-up to Nixon’s resignation over the Watergate scandal, today’s polarized political environment makes such an occurrence unlikely absent clear and convincing evidence of major wrongdoing.
While Nixon’s impeachment was likely inevitable, with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 1974, today substantial Republican defections from Trump would be essential to any movement toward impeachment.
Currently, there are 236 Republican House members. That means 22 Republicans would have to join with all of the Democrats in the House to impeach Trump. However, the 2018 midterm election could change this math if the Democrats pick up seats.
The articles of impeachment against Trump might look remarkably similar to those levied against Nixon and Clinton. The articles of impeachment drawn up by Democrats in November 2017 accuse the president of obstruction of justice related to the firing of FBI director James Comey, undermining the independence of the federal judiciary, accepting emoluments from a foreign government and other charges. Any attempt to accuse him of treason is extremely unlikely, in my opinion.
4. If the president is removed, who takes over? What would happen if the vice president was also implicated in the president’s crime?
If President Trump was removed from office, Vice President Mike Pence would be immediately sworn in. In the unlikely event that both the president and the vice president are impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan would become president.
5. Can officers other than the president be impeached?
Absolutely. In fact, 15 federal judges have been impeached, although only eight have been removed from the bench. The most recent example was in 2010 when federal Judge G. Thomas Porteous was found guilty on multiple articles of impeachment by the U.S. Senate. Porteous was found to have accepted bribes from lawyers with dealings before his court.
This story updates a version posted on May 17, 2017.

17 Animals That Became Extinct In Our Lifetime

 I love animals more than I love people on any day so I'll just provide the link.

The last of his kind, Lonesome George died this weekend in his pen at a research facility. His exact age isn't known, but he was estimated to be over 100.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The life of a polymath

 We all know what "ambidextrous" means and if we develop that skill (Some are born naturally with it) and apply it to our way of thinking times 3, we can increase our lateral thinking to become polymaths. *I really hope that you can grasp what I just said, if not it's ok, my mental "fishing net" was not designed to catch all individuals,

 Light years away from being a systems engineer Chart House restaurants has allowed me to indulge in one of my passions.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

And they're hiring

 Today marks my return to work as a chef for Chart House Restaurants and they're hiring. Chart House offers positions in quite a few categories and it's a friendly and fun atmosphere.
 If you're looking for work or employment as extra income, please take a peek.

Panopticopter: DIY Weaponized Drones

 With bootleg copies of 3D Laser Printed weapons, these things are going to become so cheap and easy to make that our world "is' forever changed right now.

You've probably seen stories about drone strikes in the news. The U.S. military has been using drones (also referred to as "unmanned aerial vehicles" or "UAVs") with mixed success since 2001, when they were first used in Afghanistan. While drones have provided the U.S. military with the ability to perform airstrikes in highly sensitive areas, modern weaponized drones are anything but perfect. In particular, U.S. military drones have been criticized for their lack of precision, leading in some cases to unnecessary civilian deaths.
This is where we come in: we think we can build a better drone for a fraction of the price.
We're DIY Drone Labs, a group of three MIT engineering students who have been experimenting with drones built using open-source components like the Arduino microcontroller and BeagleBoard single-board computer. We think for just a few thousand dollars, we can build a prototype drone that has more accurate image-capture and image-processing abilities than the current generation of drones being used by the U.S. military. What's more, we're working with explosives experts to design an alternative to the Hellfire missiles being used by U.S. military drones. We think we can engineer a new kind of explosive that's capable of performing strikes with surgical accuracy, thereby greatly reducing the potential for unnecessary civilian casualties.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has already expressed interest in our project and the speed at which it is progressing. While the DoD currently has a number of advanced drone projects in development, it will likely be years before any of these vehicles see the light of day and there's a pressing need for more advanced drones in the air right now. That's why we're asking the Kickstriker community for support, so that the three of us (Brandon McCartney, Natassia Zolot and Radric Davis) can spend the summer focusing on the Panopticopter, a weaponized drone that will incorporate everything we've learned from years' worth of experiments. Our goal is to have a working prototype of the Panopticopter ready for testing by the end of summer. Can you help us get there?
Of course, there's something in it for you as well. Check out our reward levels to see what you'll get for helping push the Panopticopter project to the finish line. We're giving away signed schematics, videos of tests performed in our lab in Cambridge, MA and do-it-yourself drone building kits (non-weaponized, of course). As an added bonus for the Kickstriker community, if we meet our funding goal, we will release all of our schematics and source code for the Panopticopter under a Creative Commons license, making it the world's first open-source drone!
Thanks in advance for your support,
The DIY Drone Labs Team (Brandon, Natassia and Radric)

What the Mayan Calendar was really attempting to convey

Mayan End Age 12-21-2012 heralds a New Age of spiritual enlightenment

“Both the Hopis and Mayans recognize that we are approaching the end of a World Age... In both cases, however, the Hopi and Mayan elders do not prophesy that everything will come to an end. Rather, this is a time of transition from one World Age into another. The message they give concerns our making a choice of how we enter the future ahead. Our moving through with either resistance or acceptance will determine whether the transition will happen with cataclysmic changes or gradual peace and tranquility. The same theme can be found reflected in the prophecies of many other Native American visionaries from Black Elk to Sun Bear.”— Joseph Robert Jochmans

“An Apocalypse (Greek: 'lifting of the veil' or 'revelation') is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted.”— Wikipedia
Was the Paraclete (Shakti) sent 1923-2011 or millennia ago to teach, didasko (14:26), remind, hypomimnesko (14:26), testify, martyro (15:26), prove wrong, elencho (16:8), guide into truth, hodego (16:13), speak, laleo (16:13), and declare, anangello (16:13, 14, 15) the full and complete message of Jesus, and empowerbelievers—who receive (lambano), see (theoreo), and know (ginosko) Her—to resurrect themselves and others? 

“The 2012 phenomenon was a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or transformative events would occur around 21 December 2012.[1][2][3][4][5][6] This date was regarded as the end-date of a 5,126-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar,[7] and as such, Mayan festivities to commemorate the date took place on 21 December 2012 in the countries that were part of the Mayan empire (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), with main events at Chichen Itzá in Mexico, and Tikal in Guatemala.[8][9][10]

Various astronomical alignments and numerological formulae were proposed as pertaining to this date, all unequivocally rejected by mainstream scholarship. A New Age interpretation held that the date marked the start of a period during which Earth and its inhabitants would undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation, and that 21 December 2012 would mark the beginning of a new era.[11]"

Wikipedia (Retrieved. February 27, 2013)
1. Robert K. Sitler (February 2006).”The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar.” Novo Religio: the Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions (Berkeley: University of California Press)
2. Sacha Defesche (2007).”'The 2012 Phenomenon': A historical and typological approach to a modern apocalyptic mythology.” skepsis. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
3. G. Jeffrey MacDonald (27 March 2007).”Does Maya calendar predict 2012 apocalypse?.” USA Today. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
4. Hoopes 2011a
5. Hoopes 2011c
6. Hoopes 2011d
7. “2012 Maya Calendar Mystery and Math, Surviving Yucatan.” Retrieved 25 December 2012.
8. “ Miles llegan a Chichen Itzá con la esperanza de una nueva era mejor [Thousands arrive to Chichen Itzá with the hope of a new better era]" (in Spanish). La Nación (Costa Rica). Agence France-Presse. 21 December 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
9. Randal C. Archibold (21 December 2012).”As Doomsday Flops, Rites in Ruins of Mayan Empire.” The New York Times. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
10. Mark Stephenson (2012).”End Of The World 2012? Not Just Yet.” Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
11. Benjamin Anastas (1 July 2007).”The Final Days" (reproduced online, at KSU). The New York Times Magazine (New York: The New York Times Company): Section 6, p. 48. Retrieved 18 May 2009.

Pixel, iPhone, Galaxy, oh my! Why pay a premium when every phone runs the same apps?

When you start talking about a $400 to $600 difference in price, the mystique and perceived advantages of a brand and OS platform look a bit silly when they all run the same applications.

*Do you know what baffles me, the fact that you have a phone that operates at 4G but the person you're talking with only
"thinks" at half a "G" so what's the point?

Ah, that annual smartphone product refresh cycle.
We've managed to merge all of the worst aspects of a secular new year festival with the Super Bowl. We celebrate the bounty of product shipment in the arena of combat, where titans stack up their wares to be judged by the hungry masses and the always-snarky tech industry thought leaders.
The execution of this is practically Roman, with its bread and circuses approach to product release cycles. Thumbs up, thumbs down. Render unto the Twitter feeds. Hunger Games for the technorati.
The latest objects of our obsession are the Google Pixel 2, and the iPhone X.
    And while this cycle is predictable, and the months of product leaks prior to the releases leave nothing to the imagination, some of us still look for innovation where it does not exist, only to find ourselves completely disappointed when the reality sets in.
    With all this anticipation and pre-gaming of the product announcements, it's very hard, nay impossible, to live up to expectations year after year.
    It isn't as if companies like Apple, Google, Samsung, and the others vying for our attention have not been expending resources and enduring long development cycles to make better products.
    They have. There are key quantitative improvements in performance between this year's models and those of prior years. The benchmarks tell us this, as does the spec creep.
    The problem is that the mobile technology has now matured to a certain level where every single product at every single price point is now more than good enough to address every consumers' key needs in almost every conceivable use-case scenario.
    The hardware has now become completely commoditized, and the capabilities of these mobile chipsets and display technology have vastly outstripped the capabilities and functionality of the software applications that run on them.
    tion, the $1,500 PC was overkill.
    For the PC to advance to the next stage of its evolution, two things happened: one was mobility and the move to lightweight portable form factors like ultrabooks; the other was the rise of broadband and ubiquitous Wi-Fi. This allowed more processor- and media-intensive applications to become more commonplace, and the need for more sophisticated OSes to run those applications and make better use of the surplus resources on those PCs.
    Something very similar is happening in the mobile industry right now. Everyone's phones are now so good that it's hard for a consumer to see real improvement over the models from the year or even two years prior.
    My iPhone 6S that I handed down to my wife was already an incredibly powerful and responsive phone. It already did everything I wanted it to do, and so was the 6 Plus I had before it, as was arguably the 5S.
    I upgraded to a 256GB iPhone 7 Plus last year and paid over $1,000 for it. My wife recently took possession of it. I am now using other devices while I wait to get a new iPhone X. More on that in a bit.
    Complete article at >

    Wednesday, August 1, 2018

    Computer networks

    Thank goodness for computer networks! If they'd never been invented, you wouldn't be reading this now (using the 
    Internet) and I wouldn't be writing it either (using a wireless home network to link up my computer equipment). There's no doubt that computer networking is extremely complex when you delve into it deeply, but the basic concept of linking up computers so they can talk to one another is pretty simple. Let's take a closer look at how it works!

    What is a computer network?

    Testing Internet networking at NASA Glenn.
    Photo: Testing a small computer network linked to the Internet. Photo courtesy of NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA-GRC).

    You can do lots of things with a computer but, connect it up to other computers and peripherals (the general name given to add-on bits of computer equipment such as modemsinkjet and laser printers, and scanners) and you can do an awful lot more. A computer network is simply a collection of computer equipment that's connected with wires, optical fibers, or wireless links so the various separate devices (known as nodes) can "talk" to one another and swap data (computerized information).

    Types of networks

    Not all computer networks are the same. The network I'm using to link this laptop to my wireless router, printer, and other equipment is the smallest imaginable. It's an example of what's sometimes called a PAN (personal area network)—essentially a convenient, one-person network. If you work in an office, you probably use a LAN (local area network), which is typically a few separate computers linked to one or two printers, a scanner, and maybe a single, shared connection to the Internet. Networks can be much bigger than this. At the opposite end of the scale, we talk about MANs (metropolitan area networks), which cover a whole town or city, and WANs (wide area networks), which can cover any geographical area. The Internet is a WAN that covers the entire world but, in practice, it's a network of networks as well as individual computers: many of the machines linked to the Net connect up through LANs operated by schools and businesses.


    Computers are all about logic—and logic is all about following rules. Computer networks are a bit like the army: everything in a network has to be arranged with almost military precision and it has to behave according to very clearly defined rules. In a LAN, for example, you can't connect things together any old how: all the nodes (computers and other devices) in the network have to be connected in an orderly pattern known as the network topology. You can connect nodes in a simple line (also called a daisy chain or bus), with each connected to the next in line. You can connect them in a star shape with the various machines radiating out from a central controller known as the network server. Or you can link them into a loop (generally known as a ring). All the devices on a network also have to follow clearly defined rules (called protocols) when they communicate to ensure they understand one another—for example, so they don't all try to send messages at exactly the same time, which causes confusion.

    Permissions and security

    Just because a machine is on a network, it doesn't automatically follow that every other machine and device has access to it (or can be accessed by it). The Internet is an obvious example. If you're online, you get access to billions of Web pages, which are simply files stored on other machines (servers) dotted all over the network. But you can't access every single file on every single computer hooked up to the Internet: you can't read my personal files and I can't read yours, unless we specifically choose for that to happen.
    Permissions and security are central to the idea of networking: you can access files and share resources only if someone gives you permission to do so. Most personal computers that connect to the Internet allow outgoing connections (so you can, theoretically, link to any other computer), but block most incoming connections or prohibit them completely. Servers (the machines on the Internet that hold and serve up Web pages and other files) operate a more relaxed policy to incoming connections. You've probably heard of hacking, which, in one sense of the word, means gaining unauthorized access to a computer network by cracking passwords or defeating other security checks. To make a network more secure, you can add a firewall (either a physical device or a piece of software running on your machine, or both) at the point where your network joints onto another network or the Internet to monitor and prohibit any unauthorized, incoming access attempts.

    What makes a network?

    To make a network, you need nodes and connections (sometimes called links) between them. Linking up the nodes means making some sort of a temporary or permanent connection between them. In the last decade or so, wireless connections have become one of the most popular ways of doing this, especially in homes. In offices, wired connections are still more commonplace—not least because they are generally faster and more secure and because many newer offices have network cabling already in place.
    Netgear PCMCIA laptop wireless card
    Photo: If your laptop doesn't have a network card, you can simply plug in a PCMCIA adapter like this one. The adapter has a network card built into it.
    Apart from computers, peripherals, and the connections between them, what else do you need? Each node on a network needs a special circuit known as a network card (or, more formally, a network interface card or NIC) to tell it how to interact with the network. Most new computers have network cards built in as standard. If you have an older computer or laptop, you may have to fit a separate plug-in circuit board (or, in a laptop, add a PCMCIA card) to make your machine talk to a network. Each network card has its own separate numeric identifier, known as a MAC (media access control) code or LAN MAC address. A MAC code is a bit like a phone number: any machine on the network can communicate with another one by sending a message quoting its MAC code. In a similar way, MAC codes can be used to control which machines on a network can access files and other shared resources. For example, I've set up my wireless link to the Internet so that only two MAC codes can ever gain access to it (restricting access to the network cards built into my two computers). That helps to stop other people in nearby buildings (or in the street) hacking into my connection or using it by mistake.
    The bigger you make a network, the more extra parts you need to add to make it function efficiently. Signals can travel only so far down cables or over wireless links so, if you want to make a big network, you have to add in devices called repeaters—effectively signal boosters. You might also need bridgesswitches, and routers—devices that help to link together networks (or the parts of networks, which are known as segments), regulate the traffic between them, and forward traffic from one part of a network to another part.

    Understanding computer networks with layers

    A typical computer architecture linking the hardware to the applications via the BIOS and the operating system.
    Photo: Computer architecture: We can think of computers in layers, from the hardware and the BIOS at the moment to the operating system and applications at the top. We can think of computer networks in a similar way.
    Computers are general-purpose machines that mean different things to different people. Some of us just want to do basic tasks like word processing or chatting to friends on Facebook and we couldn't care less how that happens under the covers—or even that we're using a computer to do it (if we're using a smartphone, we probably don't even think what we're doing is "computing"—or that installing a new app is effectively computer programming). At the opposite end of the spectrum, some of us like modifying our computers to run faster, fitting quicker processors or more memory, or whatever it might be; for geeks, poking around inside computers is an end in itself. Somewhere in between these extremes, there are moderately tech-savvy people who use computers to do everyday jobs with a reasonabe understanding of how their machines work. Because computers mean different things to different people, it can help us to understand them by thinking of a stack of layers: hardware at the bottom, the operating system somewhere on top of that, then applications running at the highest level. You can "engage" with a computer at any of these levels without necessarily thinking about any of the other layers. Nevertheless, each layer is made possible by things happening at lower levels, whether you're aware of that or not. Things that happen at the higher levels could be carried out in many different ways at the lower levels; for example, you can use a web browser like Firefox (an application) on many different operating systems, and you can run various operating systems on a particular laptop, even though the hardware doesn't change at all.
    Computer networks are similar: we all have different ideas about them and care more or less about what they're doing and why. If you work in a small office with your computer hooked up to other people's machines and shared printers, probably all you care about is that you can send emails to your colleagues and print out your stuff; you're not bothered how that actually happens. But if you're charged with setting up the network in the first place, you have to consider things like how it's physically linked together, what sort of cables you're using and how long they can be, what the MAC addresses are, and all kinds of other nitty gritty. Again, just like with computers, we can think about a network in terms of its different layers—and there are two popular ways of doing that.

    The OSI model

    Perhaps the best-known way is with what's called the OSI (Open Systems Interconnect) model, based on an internationally agreed set of standards devised by a committee of computer experts and first published in 1984. It describes a computer network as a stack of seven layers. The lower layers are closest to the computer hardware; the higher levels are closer to human users; and each layer makes possible things that happen at the higher layers:
    1. Physical: The basic hardware of the network, including cables and connections, and how devices are hooked up into a certain network topology (ring, bus, or whatever). The physical layer isn't concerned in any way with the data the network carries and, as far as most human users of a network are concerned, is uninteresting and irrelevant.
    2. Data link: This covers things like how data is packaged and how errors are detected and corrected.
    3. Network: This layer is concerned with how data is addressed and routed from one device to another.
    4. Transport: This manages the way in which data is efficiently and reliably moved back and forth across the network, ensuring all the bits of a given message are correctly delivered.
    5. Session: This controls how different devices on the network establish temporary "conversations" (sessions) so they can exchange information.
    6. Presentation: This effectively translates data produced by user-friendly applications into computer-friendly formats that are sent over the network. For example, it can include things like compression (to reduce the number of bits and bytes that need transmitting), encryption (to keep data secure), or converting data between different character sets (so you can read emoticons ("smileys") or emojis in your emails).
    7. Application: The top level of the model and the one closest to the user. This covers things like email programs, which use the network in a way that's meaningful to human users and the things they're trying to achieve.
    OSI was conceived as a way of making all kinds of different computers and networks talk to one another, which was a major problem back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, when virtually all computing hardware was proprietary and one manufacturer's equipment seldom worked with anyone else's.

    The TCP/IP (DARPA) model

    If you've never heard of the OSI model, that's quite probably because a different way of hooking up the world's computers triumphed over it, delivering the amazing computer network you're using right now: the Internet. The Internet is based on a two-part networking system called TCP/IP in which computers hook up over networks (using what's called TCP, Transmission Control Protocol) to exchange information in packets (using the Internet Protocol, IP). We can understand TCP/IP using four slightly simpler layers, sometimes known as the TCP/IP model (or the DARPA model, for the US government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that sponsored its development):
    1. Network Access (sometimes called the Network Interface layer): This represents the basic network hardware, and corresponds to the Physical and Data link layers of the OSI model. Your Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection to the Internet is an example.
    2. Internet (sometimes called the Network layer): This is how data is sent over the network and it's equivalent to the Network layer in the OSI model. IP (Internet Protocol) packet switching—delivering actual packets of data to your computer from the Internet—works at this level.
    3. Transport: This corresponds to the Transport layer in the OSI model. TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) works at this level, administering the delivery of data without actually delivering it. TCP converts transmitted data into packets (and back again when they're received) and ensures those packets are reliably delivered and reassembled in the same order in which they were sent.
    4. Application: Equivalent to the Session, Presentation, and Application layers in the OSI model. Well-known Internet protocols such as HTTP (the under-the-covers "conversation" between web browsers and web servers), FTP (a way of downloading data from servers and uploading them in the opposite direction), and SMTP (the way your email program sends mails through a server at your ISP) all work at this level.
    A practical example of the TCP/IP model of networking and how it relates to the Internet.
    Artwork: The TCP/IP model is easy to understand. In this example, suppose you're emailing someone over the Internet. Your two devices are, in effect, connected by one long "cable" running between their network cards. That's what the green Network Access layer at the bottom represents. Your email is transmitted as packets (orange squares) using the Internet Protocol (IP), illustrated by the orange Internet layer. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) oversees this process in the blue Transport layer; and, in effect, TCP and IP work together. At the top, in the Application layer, you sit at your computer using an email program (an application) that uses all the layers below.
    While the OSI model is quite an abstract and academic concept, rarely encountered outside books and articles about computer networking, the TCP/IP model is a simpler, easier-to-understand, and more practical proposition: it's the bedrock of the Internet—and the very technology you're using to read these words now.
    As we saw above, higher levels of the basic computing models are independent of the lower levels: you can run your Firefox browser on different Windows operating systems or Linux, for example. The same applies to networking models. So you can run many applications using Internet packet switching, from the World Wide Web and email to Skype (VoIP) and Internet TV. And you can hook your computer to the net using WiFi or wired broadband or dialup over a telephone line (different forms of network access). In other words, the higher levels of the model are doing the same jobs even though the lower levels are working differently.

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