The process of writing assessments
This portfolio includes thirteen assessments that I have completed during this course. Beginning with a simple exploration into Web development and moving through issues of e-commerce, Web design, security, technologies, and other areas of study, it shows the development of my thoughts and understanding of the Internet on the whole. This discovery process has given me a better view of how the Internet is built and how the Web works, as well as what tools are used for creating it. It has also let me trace my growth in this area, and to find areas where I think I need more knowledge. The experience of searching the Web for different types of information was in many cases as informative as the process of writing the assessments, and a lot of information was presented that is not reflected in this portfolio. Overall, I feel like I have learned a lot from the process.Assessment 1: Web Design
The two tutorials I found for Web design were Dave Raggett's HTML tutorial and the HTML Code Tutorial. I found them through a Google search for HTML tutorials. These two tutorials were very similar, and both had information about forms, frames, and tables. The first tutorial was a text tutorial that discussed how to access HTML that was used to build pages that you were looking at in the browser (Raggett, 2005). It discussed what kinds of tools should be used to write Web pages. It also pointed out that there were special Web editors that could be used to edit Web pages without worrying about the HTML that was required to code the projects (Raggett, 2005). This tutorial stepped through the introductory process of creating a Web page, including titles, headings and paragraphs, emphasis, images, links to other page, and different kinds of lists (Raggett, 2005). It also included links to a second page, which addressed the more advanced parts of HTML like tables, forced line breaks, preformatted text, and other tricky elements of HTML coding (Raggett, 2005). This was a useful tutorial because it presented examples in a chatty kind of way that let me understand how the elements were used in a non-technical fashion. However, its coverage o difficult areas like forms or tables was not very clear, and it was not clear enough for me to really understand it. I used the second tutorial, the HTML code tutorial, to access the information in a more structured way. This tutorial let me go to a specific area that I wanted to practice more, and it included specific items that I could use for practice (HTML code tutorial, 2007). For example, the "Forms" link linked to a page that defined forms, provided a detailed tutorial, and links to specific ways to make the form do something (like submitting the form) (HTML code tutorial, 2007). This was a useful way to learn how to create forms and tables, which was not clear from the other tutorial.Assessment 2: Mall Retailing Sites
The two mall retailing sites that I found were SkyMall and the United Airlines Mileage Plus Mall. Both of these retailers are associated with the airline industry. SkyMall also provides catalogues on airplanes that drive business toward the site, while the United Mileage Plus Mall is associated with the airline's frequent flier program (SkyMall, 2010; United , 2010). They are arranged in different ways. Both of them have a large number of sellers that are associated with them. However, the SkyMall mall is mostly arranged by the type of product that is on offer, and then from that point it is possible to choose a vendor to buy a given product from (SkyMall, 2010).The site does have featured stores, but these are at the bottom of the page and it is clear that the company wants you to search using their product categories. The product categories that are included are home living, electronics and gadgets, health and wellness, apparel and accessories, pet products, outdoor living, auto and hardware, toys and collectibles, and gift shop (SkyMall, 2010). The site does provide customer service and contact information, but customers cannot seem to contact an individual company given the site's structure. New retailers are offered the ability to contact the company to list items on the site, but there is no way to simply join the site and start listing products. The United Mileage Plus Mall is arranged both by category and by stores, with specials highlighted on the front page (United , 2010). However, the mall itself consists entirely of affiliate links to different sites, where customers link through to the merchant's own site and do the shopping there (United , 2010) The majority of the specials listed are specials related to earning mileage points for the frequent flier program, as well. There is no way to join the program in order to provide incentives to United frequent flier members to shop at the site, and there is no indication of what the program actually offers to the sites that are linked except for business links.Assessment 3: Electronic Markets
The two electronic markets that were chosen were Forest Auctions, an auction site that lets sellers bid on forest products from Victoria, Australia, and eBay, a large electronic market that allows buyers and sellers to sell and buy almost any type of goods. These two sites are very different. Ebay is an international site that is open to anybody for buying and selling (although there are rules on some country sites about having a credit card or PayPal account as well in order to buy or sell) (eBay, 2010). The site offers a number of different ways to sell products, including Buy It Now (where the seller sets a price for the item and waits for someone to purchase it) and the standard auction format (eBay, 2010). It is also possible to buy products from international sellers, which opens up the possibility of buying products from different countries or that are not offered for sale in a given country (eBay, 2010). This site is reputation based, which means that buyers and sellers build up a reputation based on feedback from previous transactions (eBay, 2010). This feedback is what lets other buyers and sellers know that the participant is safe to purchase from (or to sell to) - for example, that they will send out products on time and will make promised payments. This is a significant social media component to the site. In contrast, Forest Auctions is a private auction site, where participants have to apply to the company in order to gain access and the ability to bid on the products (VicForests, 2009). There is only one seller of products, the VicForests state forest consortium from Victoria, Australia (VicForests, 2009). Potential buyers enter bids that specify what type of products they are looking for and the price they are willing to pay, and the forest consortium then selects the bids that it is willing to take (VicForests, 2009). This electronic market does serve the purpose of connecting buyers and sellers, but in a much more limited way than eBay, which offers access to everyone.Assessment 4: Web Software Usage Trends
The NetCraft survey of Web server software trends is current as of January 2010 (Netcraft, 2010). This survey polled 206741,990 sites in order to see what Web software the sites were using and how these were distributed. The survey is conducted on a monthly basis, with changes for January being indicated as the expiration of thirty million host names from qq.com as the company began to make previously public blogs private (Netcraft, 2010). The survey found that the highest market share for Web server software was 53.84%, with around 111.3 million sites using Apache Web server software in January; this was an increase of 7.25% from the monthly figures calculated by Netcraft in December 2009 (Netcraft, 2010). The second most common software provider was Microsoft, with 24.08% of the market (or around 49.8 million sites in total) (Netcraft, 2010). This was a growth of 3.05% of the market share from December 2009. The third most common software package was nginx, with a total of 15.6 million sites using this software (or around 7.53% of the total, an increase of 0.58% from December). The fourth most common package was Google, with 14.5 million or 7.04% of the total number of sites that were polled by this survey (Netcraft, 2010). The only other package that had any significant market share was lighttpd, with only 955,000 sites (0.46% of the market) (Netcraft, 2010). This shows that the current Web server software market is very consolidated, with Apache and Microsoft between them taking up almost 80% of the market on the whole, and only 6.13% of the market belonging to any software package outside of the top five competitors (Netcraft, 2010). This is a long-standing market condition, with Netcraft's (2010) figures showing that Apache has been dominant in the market since mid-1996, and Microsoft holding second place since 1997. Nginx has been falling in popularity over time, while Google only entered the market in 2007 (Netcraft, 2010). Lighttpd has been consistently unpopular, although it is seen in the survey since 1994 (the beginning of the survey) (Netcraft, 2010).Assessment 5: Apache
The Apache HTTP Server Project is run by the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) (ASF, 2009). According to the site, "The Apache HTTP Server Project is a collaborative software development effort aimed at creating a robust, commercial-grade, featureful, and freely-available source code implementation of an HTTP (Web) server (ASF, 2009)." This project uses volunteer developers in order to maintain the open code base of the project, manage bug correction and development of new features and products, and other goals involved in the maintenance of the most popular Web server software without requiring a corporate structure or payment for the software (ASF, 2009).
The project began in 1995, when a group of developers and webmasters came together to maintain and build the abandoned open source NCSA HTTP daemon software (ASF, 2009). This software had been developed by Rob McCool, but was not maintained after McCool left NCSA in 1994, and the software had begun to show some signs of age as it remained without developers (ASF, 2009). A mailing list was developed in order to support the software, and eight programmers began to maintain the software, including making bug fixes and enhancements (ASF, 2009). In mid-1995, the developers began to redesign the code in order to make it easier to maintain and support new features, and released Apache 1.0 in December 1995 (ASF, 2009). The group then established the ASF in 1999 to provide legal support for the project (ASF, 2009).
The methodology of the development is the use of a core group of developers (according to Apache, primarily composed of the founders of the group as well as occasional newcomers, and a small group of committers, or developers who can commit changes to the core code (ASF, 2009). The Project Management Committee drives the direction of development for the software (ASF, 2009). Other developers are also involved, who can submit changes to the code base that are then committed by the core developers (ASF, 2009). The software is free because the group wants to see Apache in wide use, because the use and contribution of users to the development of the project is important, and because ownership of basic Web protocols is not a positive thing. The group states:
To the extent that the protocols of the World Wide Web remain "unowned" by a single company, the Web will remain a level playing field for companies large and small. Thus, "ownership" of the protocols must be prevented. To this end, the existence of robust reference implementations of various protocols and application programming interfaces, available free to all companies and individuals, is a tremendously good thing. (ASF, 2009)Assessment 6: IP to Hostname Conversion
The IP to hostname conversion host that was chosen was the network-tools.com server. This site allows for the use of a number of different tools, including ping, lookup, trace, whois, express, DNS records, network lookup, spam blacklist chest, URL decode, URL encode, HTTP headers, and email verification. The tools that were used in this case was the lookup tool, which did both DNS lookup and reverse DNS lookup.
I selected three sites that I use on a regular basis to convert. These sites were news.bbc.co.uk, www.google.co.uk, and www.amazon.co.uk. The site showed that news.bbc.co.uk had an IP address of 126.96.36.199. Converting this back (which only required entering the IP address into the form box) resulted in a host name of oil-vip03.cwwtf.bbc.co.uk. (This shows had some domains use aliasing of their various domains). The second site I tried was www.amazon.co.uk. This lookup showed that the site had an IP address of 188.8.131.52 Looking up the other way (using the IP address), I found that the hostname associated was not found, with the site having an error message of "Error: Host not found". The third site I looked up was www.google.co.uk. The IP address that was returned for this site was 184.108.40.206. When I did a reverse lookup on this IP address it returned a hostname of yi-in-f103.1e00.net! This shows how the host names associated with IP addresses may be masked in order to prevent hacking or other attacks.Assessment 7: Clustering Products
The two clustering products that I compared were both Linux clustering products. They included the MPICH software and the Linux Virtual Server. The Linux Virtual Server is a load balancing and clustering software application that is intended for use with a cluster of real servers (LVS, 2008). The clustering software is designed to make the server cluster appear transparently as a single high-performance virtual server (LVS, 2008). The LVS software can be used either for load balancing, applications servers, or for network services, making it flexible and capable of handling a variety of applications (LVS, 2008). It is also designed for high availability clusters, which is an advantage for Web services, since it will allow users to access the site at most times (LVS, 2008). There are a number of different helper applications that allow for management of the clustering software at the command line, but it is uncertain whether there is a Web front end for the clustering product (LVS, 2008). Like most Linux software, the product is also free and open source, which is an advantage for companies that are seeking to reduce their costs. However, the site does not make it clear whether the software is being actively maintained, which could be a liability.
The second product I looked at was the MPICH2 software package. This software is intended to enable clustering by providing a free and open source portable implementation of the Message Passing Interface (MPI) standard (MPICH2, 2010). This interface standard allows for communication between commodity clusters and across standard clusters as well as proprietary computing systems, allow for expansion and extension of internal networks (MPICH2, 2010). The software has been ported to a number of different operating systems in addition to Linux, including Solaris, Windows, OS X, and others (MPICH2, 2010). The software itself does not create an application or high availability cluster; instead, it enables communications between the different computers in a cluster, which can allow system designers to build the appropriate network and communication structures (MPICH2, 2010). Because of this, it is not as complete a product as the Linux Virtual Server clustering application; however, it does allow for server builds. Thus, this would not be a good application if the goal were to have an immediately running cluster.Assessment 8: Capacity Planning
The capacity planning tools that I looked at were Novell PlateSpin Recon and CIRBA Data Center Intelligence. These two products are intended for capacity planning and consolidation planning in data centre environments. The Novell product identifies loads and resource availability for physical and virtual hosts (Novell, 2010). The software tracks usage of CPU, disk, memory and network utilization in order to identify historical usage of the servers, and then uses a modelling process to identify areas where the servers could be allocated more efficiently (Novell, 2010). It is particularly focused on consolidation of server usage, in order to reduce resource usage and free up more contiguous resources for larger projects; this improves resource utilization and can reduce the cost associated with virtual servers (Novell, 2010).It also interfaces with other network and resource management software packages, like HP Operation Center and Microsoft Operation Manager, in order to provide more robust data and availability (Novell, 2010). The software allows for network simulation in two different ways; it can either identify the most effective configuration of the network using its modelling procedures and historical data, or the user can enter experimental network configurations and can then compare the outcomes of various experiments depending on the outcome of this process (Novell, 2010).
The second capacity planning tool that I found was the CiRBA Data Center Intelligence tool, which also tracks workload on physical and virtual servers and provides simulation support for management of workload (CiRBA, 2010). The software works with a number of different virtualization servers, including VMWare, Citrix, Hyper-V, Zones, WPARS, and others, making it more flexible than the Novell offering (CiRBA, 2010). It also uses rules-based optimization, where the operator sets a specific business or capacity rule and the server loads are monitored and optimized according to this rule, rather than using a historical monitoring system like Novell does (CiRBA, 2010). These rule sets include business rules, optimization rules, and configuration rules, which are set according to the priorities of the company and the available software (CiRBA, 2010). It can either be used for efficiency management or for reconfiguration management of the existing network structure (CiRBA, 2010). For efficiency management, it uses a variety of different tools that support this function, like VM rebalancing, workload placement analysis, capacity health check and forward planning for capacity (CiRBA, 2010).Assessment 9: E-Wallets
E-wallets are not very popular with consumers because they are difficult to use and, with the collapse of various types of virtual cash schemes, have not proved to be effective - it is possible for consumers to use credit cards or other types of cards rather than the e-wallet service. They are also accepted by only a limited number of businesses, which reduce their usefulness. Click2Pay and Neteller are some e-wallet services that continue to provide services for individuals, either to shield access to bank accounts and credit cards or to use in specific situations, such as paying for goods and services online. Click2Pay allows users to set up a personal account and enter their payment information into the account (Click2Pay, 2010). Click2Pay then acts as a payment intermediary for the individual, allowing them to purchase goods and services online safely rather than using their credit cards or bank details (Click2Pay, 2010). The company claims that it uses high security protocols, with 128 bit security (which it indicates is the highest commercially available encryption), that it uses SSL, and that it stores personal information safely (Click2Pay, 2010). The service allows the user to make payments to merchants that take Click2Pay rapidly, with a single click (the user stays logged into the service and payment information is automatically transferred to the merchant without revealing their identity). Although this service provides some information about its security, it is not specific enough regarding the implementation to reassure me. Another e-wallet service is Neteller, a similar online payment service to Click2Pay. This service offers a number of value-added services over Click2Pay, including a debit card attached to the account (allowing users to withdraw money), allowing users to transfer money between accounts, and offering a points-based loyalty scheme for users that issue points for usage, then allows them to cash in on these points (Neteller, 2010). In this respect, this is more akin to a traditional bank account than the Click2Pay application, which is entirely focused on online payment processing to merchants. However, given the selection of services offered, it is difficult to tell why the users would not simply use their bank accounts instead. However, this service is much more explicit about the security that is in use and what rules it operates under (for example specifying the FSA requirements for trust accounts, as well as the digital certificates in use), and instead of leaving users logged in like Click2Pay, logs users out after a period of inactivity (Neteller, 2010). Overall, this appears to be a more secure system than the Click2Pay system, as well as more useful; however, it's still not certain what elements the e-wallet system offers users that aren't covered by ordinary bank accounts.Assessment 10: Banking Web Sites
Most banks offer online access to their Web sites, and many offer very similar features in these accounts. The table below compares the offerings of two different UK banks, including the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HSBC. The table below compares the offerings of each of these sites' online banking offerings.
This comparison shows that there is not actually much difference between the services provided by the two different banks, and most of the substantive features are the same. For example, most of the services offered are the same or similar between the two banks, with only minor differences (like stationery ordering), which could simply be due to differences in listing minor services and benefits instead of things that HSBC doesn't actually offer. Although the banks offer different security software, they do both offer it. While HSBC offers an online demo, RBS does not; both offer online signup for the services, however. Overall, these sites do not offer any particular reason to choose one bank over the other based on their online banking services, or to believe that one bank offers a substantially better service than the other.Assessment 11: Site Security
The two online sites that I chose were Amazon and Next, which are listed as two of the top UK sites. The browser that I used was Firefox. This discussion showed that Amazon was using a VeriSign Class 3 Secure Server CA - G2, issued to www.amazon.co.uk. The security protocol in use is SSH, using SHA1 RSA 256-byte public key encryption. The site security information also identified two different hashes, including SHA1 and MD5 hash keys. There was relatively other information available for the site, but it included contact information for legal control of the certificate. The information in the certificate also included information about the add-ons that the certificate addresses, the issuing and expiration dates, and the public key hash.
The second site that I looked at was NEXT. This site sells a variety of goods, including clothing, shoes, home goods, sports goods, and electricals as well as flowers and wine. The site's security certificate indicated that the site was issued with an SSL Server certificate issued to www.next.co.uk by VeriSign Trust Network. The certificate indicated that the site uses SHA1 RSA 256-byte encryption, and it also included SHA1 and MD5 hashes for the site. The certificate was issued on 27-JAN-2010, and is due to expire on 26-FEB-2012. The certificate did not address the level of information that was provided in the Amazon certificate.Assessment 12: Email Marketing
The two companies that were selected for comparison of email marketing services were Mailworkz and Lyris. Both of these companies are about the same size (with around the same number of customers) and provide application-based email marketing services, instead of Web services based products.
Mailworkz company was founded in 1999, and currently has approximately 10,000 customers in different industries and services (Mailworkz, 2010). Mailworkz has a number of different types of mail services, including Broadcast (the mailing list manager), Zebratracks (email marketing and feedback tools), EZTracks (advertising services including pay-per-click and email marketing tools) and Blacklist Monitor (which monitor spam blacklists for its clients) (Mailworkz, 2010). They also offer two additional services, SimplyCast (an email campaign manager that includes tracking, list management, and other services) as well as Ezlistz (a services that allows for simple building of email list services) (Mailworkz, 2010). These services are based on a software package rather than an online service, and are run from the user's computers (Mailworkz, 2010). The products are offered as free download trials, and require user and password access. The company does not provide any pricing information on its site, and did not respond to requests for price quotes on the products.
The second company that was examined was Lyris, a company that provides email and Web marketing management products (Lyris, 2010). The company has been in existence since 1994, and also has about 10,000 customers (Lyris, 2010). The company offers a variety of products, with Lyris ListManager being its main email marketing software package (Lyris, 2010). (Like Mailworkz, these products are based on application software rather than Web services). Lyris ListManager includes services like an HTML editor, personalization and targeting tools, list management tools, and real-time responses to the email campaigns that are sent out (Lyris, 2010). There is also an additional tool that could be used in this case, called EmailAdvisor, which provides analytical information for the email campaigns that it conducts (Lyris, 2010). The software also provides services that allow the email campaigner to manage the marketing campaign, in order to increase the delivery rates of the emails involved in the campaign (Lyris, 2010). The site lists the license levels that are available for the software, with a free level allowing for a capacity of 200 emails in a given list, ranging up to an Extreme license level, which allows for unlimited email (this is very high given that the next level, the Diamond level, allows for two million emails) (Lyris, 2010). However, the site does not disclose how expensive the packages are.Assessment 13: Global Companies
The two companies that were chosen for comparing their management of their global sites were Toyota, a global automobile company, and Tesco, a British-based grocery and consumable goods retailer. Toyota asks for the visitor to select the appropriate country on the first visit, and then it stores a cookie that provides localization information. The site then displays models, specials, and pricing information that is appropriate to that country. The countries that are offered are only those where Toyota sells automobiles, and the models are restricted only to the models that are available in the country. In order to compare models, I selected the UK, identified the models that were offered, and then cleared the cookies it set and reselected the US - the company offered different models (and obviously prices). The site offers a link to the global corporation, which provides information about the global company and investor information but does not provide any information regarding the vehicles for sale.
The second company that was examined was Tesco. Tesco has international operations in a large number of countries, including Asian countries, the United States, and some countries in Europe. However, the visit to the site redirected to the UK site, offering access to UK facilities such as grocery delivery, wine, entertainment and books, and clothing. The site clearly identified the ISP location that I was accessing it from and redirected to the correct country site. Clicking through required the visitor to input a postcode in order to look at products available. There was no obvious way to access other international sites. The company did have access to a central corporate site, which provided information about the company as a whole, like Toyota's site. However, there was no other sign that there were international sites that might be associated with Tesco in other countries than the UK. Thus, while Toyota allows visitors to select their own country sites, Tesco uses a transparent method that just redirects the user to the correct site. This is much easier for the user, but doesn't provide the user any opportunity to compare sites or services.Bibliography
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Article name: The process of writing assessments essay, research paper, dissertation