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Sean Mackert

- Passionate about security
- Aspiring red teamer
- Seeking mentorship

4-Minute Read

Google recently launched a new ~6 month (for complete newbies) certification through Coursera called the Google IT Support Professional Certificate that’s supposed to be an equivalent to the CompTIA A+ certification. To get straight to the point, this certification won’t get taken seriously if a) Google doesn’t fix the major issues with the labs in the course, and b) probably still won’t be taken seriously because it’s a $50/month proctored online course.

That said, I threw my hat in the ring to see what’s up and here are some of my thoughts on the course.

The labs are horribly broken and support from Google is lackluster/nonexistent.

The labs use a website called QwikLabs that spawn a temporary Google username and password and an instance running on the Google Cloud Platform. There doesn’t seem to be an issue with QwikLabs themselves but with the way the Google team made the labs– they sometimes didn’t update the score properly, the directions were often contradictory/incorrect/and/or confusing, and the instances were poorly configured and took up to 10 minutes for the start up scripts to run before you could begin working. The biggest issue was that on many labs the scores never synced back with Coursera causing an incomplete grade. This was an issue for weeks after launch and the Google Mentors (as Coursera calls them) continually promised updates coming soon and even stated that they were working when many of them were still broken. Eventually I had to take screenshots of my completed work and submit them to Coursera support to manually update my grades.

This was incredibly frustrating because I would have completed the entire cert within the Coursera free 7-day trial but instead took two weeks of piddling around waiting for the labs to be fixed.

2-Minute Read

Coursera now has an online course for the highly lauded From Nand2Tetris (and a certificate for €44, which is an even bigger eye-roll than the Google IT Support cert) hosted by Noam and Shocken themselves!

At first I felt a little unguided, but I soon put together the pieces they give you and was amazed at how much I began to learn from just doing it. Soon I was creating slightly more complex chips like Mux and even a Mux that can handle a 16 bit bus. Despite each chip edging towards more complexity, the process became much easier, as most of the low level stuff was taken care of by the previous chips.

 They use a watered-down HDL which is nice because I had enough silly mistakes in my thought process already from getting used to functional programming. (I keep toying with the idea of learning Lisp, I’ll take this as a sign.)

So from these basic building blocks, this course aims to take you all the way through making an OS and coding a Tetris clone in it. From Nand to Tetris!

If you have the time to check this out, I would implore you to. Skip the certification, of course. The computer science you’ll learn from this course is worth the €44, but it’s free, so start today!

1-Minute Read

kali linux on AWS

The AWS marketplace link in this post has been updated in 2021 to point towards the newer Kali release 2020.4

There are times when I’m either away from home, having a slow day at work, or my machine’s limits are already being pushed by other processes but I still need (CTF’s get addicting!) to run Kali. Alas the perfect solution has been right in front of me all along! For some time now I’ve been using the AWS EC2 free-tier to host an Ubuntu server running TinyProxy to keep my personal traffic separated from untrusted networks. So why not host a Kali image? Luckily Kali Linux is already an available free-tier OS on the AWS Marketplace! It’s simple as SSH or remote desktop in and now I can feed my new addiction,, during my lunch breaks instead of Arby’s.

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Sean Mackert is an IT professional passionate about security and helping inform others.