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#860: RFID, Don't Hack Me, Bro, OSI Layers Overview

 
     
 

Hello all,

Wow…Groundhog Day, and now Daylight Savings is coming up this weekend — spring is rapidly approaching. I, for one, enjoy Daylight Savings time. I like the extra light at night — except when waiting for nighttime activities such as drive-ins to start or trying to put my kids to sleep when it’s bright outside.

A little research quickly reveals that is a contentious issue for many people. Some people feel that implementing DST is an attempt to get more work out of them. People who needed to do things at the same time every day, no matter what the clock says (like farmers milking cows), dislike waking up an hour earlier (clock-time) to get their day started.

My kids go to bed at 8 and sleep until about 6. During DST they stay up until 9 and still have to get up at 6 so we can get ready for our day. They spend several months sleep-deprived!

I have a proposal, though. Since a) we spend almost two-thirds of the year in DST and b) our whole clock time is really made up at this point and has nothing to do with solar time, I propose that we make DST standard time and instead have a special “Winter Time.” It’s not going to change the way anything works, but people might feel more positive about it if they thought they were changing their clocks to make their winters easier. The end of “Winter Time” would be another day to celebrate as a sign of coming spring, not an artificial annoyance to be endured.

Thanks for reading,

Liam
liam@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  RFID  
   
 

RFID or Radio Frequency Identification is a technology that allows wireless communication for devices at close range. When they are activated, these chips send data to a receiver. The data can be used to track and monitor almost anything. It’s an almost universal technology at this point — on one side, hailed as a revolution in data stream tracking, and on the other, named as a sign of the apocalypse by a girl in Texas.

Also in Texas, there is a company called Waterloo Labs where they have a real life Mario Kart track in that uses RFID chips to cause the carts to react in similar ways to the classic video game. Basically, when you drive the track, you pick up the “power ups” by driving over the RFID, and your cart will react the same way it would in the game.

For example, in Mario Kart, if you get a “star power up,” you will go full throttle, and everyone else slows down. If you get this power up on the real-world track, your cart will speed up and everyone else will have their brakes applied and the steering locked to emulate this same effect. Also, for the power ups that are thrown in the game, there is a cannon attached to the carts that you can fire at other carts, causing similar effects.

I thought this was an interesting and non-standard way to use what seems like a basically boring technology.

Here is a great article on this that I referenced when writing this article.

 
   
     
  Don't Hack Me, Bro  
   
 

Almost everything we do online these days involves passwords and security. It’s important to take some steps with your passwords to make them more secure. One simple thing you can do is to change your passwords often. Use different passwords between sites. Try to stay away from common words. A good safe option is to choose four random words.

Below is the Wolfram Alpha “estimated years to crack” and passwordmeter.com score.

Here are a few tips and examples for the password “asteroid”, which as-is has a score of 9.64 days (what it takes to crack it) and 10% (efficacy). Here’s how to make it more secure:

  • Use 133t (elite) speak. Elite speak is changing letters to numbers. Example: “ast3r0id”: 2.497 months, 42%
  • Capitalize letters “Ast3R0id”: 19.74 years, 68%
  • Add special characters “A$t3R0!d”: 714.2 years, 94%
  • Add random special characters “(A$t3R0!d)”: 4.92 million years, 100%

Sites to check your password strength:
Wolfram Alpha
Password Meter

Reference:
PC Mag Article

 
   
     
  OSI Layers Overview  
   
 

In the beginning of networking, when ARPANET was still in its infancy, the collaboration that was necessary to make communication work smoothly between computers was built upon the RFC (Request for Comment) model. In building ARPANET, many of the most talented computer scientists of the time (circa 1969) started creating informal documents to share ideas on how networking should function and how connections should be managed.

To make networking universal and non-proprietary, the OSI model was established. OSI (Open System Interconnection) is considered to be the basis of TCP/IP and networking as it is deployed today. The OSI model consists of seven layers describing the functions and elements of a network and how they should all interact. The seven layers are Physical, Data Link, Network, Transport, Session, Presentation and Application. Each layer plays an important part in how data is sent and received on our networks of today.

The first layer of the OSI model, Physical, describes the aspects of the physical connection, be it voltages over copper to wavelength of light emitted in fiber-optic connections. It is responsible for establishing connections and terminating them too.

Layer 2, the Data Link layer, is responsible for the transmission between network nodes. The Data Link layer of the OSI model has two sub-layers, LLC and MAC. The Media Access Control, or MAC sub-layer, makes sure that the received frame was meant for a specific machine by verifying that the MAC was encoded within the frame. The LLC (Logical Link Control) sub-layer provides the tolerance for running several different protocols on one network medium. It also helps provide flow control as well as error management.

The Network Layer is responsible for the routing of data, logical addressing, datagram encapsulation and it too helps in error handling. Logical addressing in the network layer is based on the IP protocol from the TCP/IP suite. The addressing provided by IP (Internet Protocol) is also used in the routing at this layer.

Layer 4, Transport, makes sure data can be sent reliably from the sending node to the destination. It is at this layer that acknowledgement, or ACK, becomes part of the communication. An ACK is simply the step of the receiving node sending an acknowledgement that it has received the complete message. If no ACK is sent, depending on other factors, the sending node may choose to retransmit the message.

The Session Layer is the 5th layer of the OSI model. The Session Layer controls the timing of transmission and who will send versus who will receive at any given time. It is responsible for the integrity of the connection between the nodes. The Session Layer determines speed of data transmission based on other attributes from lower layers. Depending on the physical connection, it is the session layer that will decide if transmission will be simplex, full duplex or somewhere in between.

Layer 6, Presentation, is responsible for the how the data is encoded. Presentation takes the information from the Application Layer (layer 7) and breaks the data down into ASCII or EBCDIC language. It is the layer responsible for the syntax of the communication, as well as the encryption and compression of the data to be sent over the network.

Lastly, the Application Layer is the function of what you want the network to do. The protocols of HTTP, FTP, SMTP, POP and many others determine what data will be assembled by the lower levels and sent across the network to provide the outcome you plan for.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list of what each layer does, it is because of the RFC and OSI model that these defined layers were developed to regulate and standardize communications over networks.

(Ed. Note: This article was written by our dear friend Jon Spaulding and republished by request. Originally featured in Tech Tails #807.)

 
   
     
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