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Ask Slashdot: Software For Learning About Data Transmission? 79

bellwould writes "In teaching information tech to a 13-year-old with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), I've found she's wildly interested in the details of data transmission but not programming. We've had limited success with command-line tools like traceroute and tcpdump, but now I'm seeking tips/advice on software that may help her explore and visualize things like transmission protocols." What would you recommend?
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Ask Slashdot: Software For Learning About Data Transmission?

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  • Umm (Score:5, Informative)

    by M0j0_j0j0 ( 1250800 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @09:52PM (#42151119)

    Play data games with a wireshark on someones network, and have fun decoding the packets.

  • Nmap with GUI (Score:5, Informative)

    by aNonnyMouseCowered ( 2693969 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @09:57PM (#42151163)
    Nmap comes with a GUI called Zenmap. If you want to be visual, the GUI has a tab labeled "Topology". There are also self-explanatory tabs for "Hosts" and "Services". It's also a nice way to teach your child about security.
  • start from the top (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:14PM (#42151287)

    A Mathematical Theory of Communication [] by Claude E. Shannon

  • Re:EtherApe (Score:5, Informative)

    by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:19PM (#42151325) Homepage Journal

    Careful with the CamelCase, but [] is a fun real-time connection visualizer. We used that for a lot of network demonstrations.

    The command-line based "iftop" is also really nice to get a quick realtime overview of what's using bandwidth.

    I think she'll have lots of fun with any of the Wardriving software, which would also give you maps.

    For Android, there are a few pretty interesting real-time displays. "Wifi Analyzer" will have her running all over the place exploring wifi signal attenuation. "OpenSignal" is also a cool app I just started playing with that will let you do the same with cell towers, which also shows their location on a map. Also look at "GPS Status" to visualize where all of the GPS satellites are, and what kind of attenuation you'd get from each one's signal with trees / buildings / mountains in the way.

    Have fun!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:24PM (#42151363)

    I'm an adult female with ASD and I, too, was fascinated by data transmission. I couldn't hack school but for a couple decades I was an excellent (and highly compensated) network engineer, I recommend Wireshark and some books: "TCP/IP TCP/IP Illustrated, Vol. 1" by Richard Stevens, "Data Communications, Computer Networks, and Open Systems (4th Edition)" by Fred Halsall, and "Interconnections: Bridges, Routers, Switches, and Internetworking Protocols (2nd Edition)" by Radia Perlman.

    She might also be interested in databases, which is where I went when networking started to get dull.

  • Re:Umm (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zen-Mind ( 699854 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:09AM (#42152005)
    Might want to check OMNet++ as well then, it's probably not as complete, but it's free and you can build your own modules.
  • by Tactical Lime ( 2578731 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:38AM (#42152159)
    This is the way to go. In the beginning was the bit and it was good. Start with looking at CW (Morse code) on a waterfall display, then other modes, these relatively simple modes are the building blocks of almost all after them. Here are some tools to help: [] - MANY web enabled SDR rigs with a java app that includes a waterfall. [] - Virtual Audio Cable software to make audio from previous app available to a lot more apps. [] [] [] - Some examples and basic info.

    This will get the ball rolling in increasingly complex modes of transmission...then you begin to throw in real complexity by going over how some of this good old tech was made into the modern internet. Remember this is where the TCP in TCP/IP came from. If your area has an active VHF packet network that will keep her busy for a few years at least. There is a BBS on the space station she can use too (callsign RS0ISS-11, AR1SS, RS0ISS-3).

    Have fun.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI