Please note that this page is under construction - it needs updating!
I have been involved with computers since the age of 12 or so, when my parents gave
me my first computer, an Apple II+. I am glad that I started out with
a text-based computer, since I am very text oriented.
Moreover, I have observed that graphical operating systems tend to promote a lack of knowledge of
the real workings of computers.
I was involved with BBSes in my teens, and when I went to college
(at Earlham in Richmond, Indiana),
became heavily involved with
(newsgroups) there. (Try a
search for the username "allens" and hostnames
"earlham.edu" and "yang.earlham.edu" for a small
fraction of my USENET writings from my college days. Some of my views
have changed since then; some haven't.) This was not via the Internet,
but via BITNET;
I accessed it through a VAX running VMS.
Computers and Research
At Rutgers, and prior to that in my research with my father, I have
become involved in the use of computers for scientific research. My own
research will be a mixture of
computer and "wet" lab work. Some of my work in helping set up
and administer/maintain the
Molecular Modeling (Computer) Laboratory
at Rutgers was as a part of my research. Other portions, such as writing the software that takes class
rosters (e.g., for the
Homology Modeling Course),
have been because I support the other scientific and educational activity
that takes place with this laboratory. (This part of what I have done is not actually an aspect of my being a TA
employed by Rutgers University, or for that matter a Graduate Student at
Rutgers University. As one consequence of this, as with these pages, I
retain copyright on all products of said work.)
As a local postmaster for the computer labratory, I had to deal
with spam (UBE - Unsolicited Bulk Email).
I also decided to fight spam because I was on USENET, and on email lists, prior to the
introduction of spamming. Because of spam, I had to remove myself from these means of interaction.
The origins of spam were, at least to
any significant degree, with Serdar Argic (aka Ahmet Cosar, and possibly
Hasan Multu), who was spamming not for a commercial
purpose - one reason why I reject the UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email)
label for spam, as well as freedom of speech/press
concerns with distinguishing spam by
content instead of consent - but for a political one. He posted vast
quantities of material claiming Armenian massacres of the Turks in
1914-1918. Given his behavior, nobody was particularly surprised to do a
bit of fact-checking and find that this is wrong.
I remember the good that was in USENET
(as well as the flamewars et al); I remember the potential, and hate
spammers for ruining USENET.
In the computer laboratory at Rutgers I was also responsible for security of the computers, and
was somewhat involved in computer virus security for the department (due
to that SGIs are effectively immune to worms targeted at PCs and Macs, and
I could thus often spot them when everyone else is getting infected).
Other involvements of computer security without governmental intervention include:
and related areas such as true randomness usable for cryptographic
security. (IRIX unfortunately lacks a satisfactory /dev/random from
which one can get (effectively) true random numbers. Substitutes such as
EGD are, as yet, not as
reliable, secure under unusual circumstances, etcetera as is needed. I
have done some work on EGD, but have had the problem of memory leaks in
- anonymnity, pseudonymnity, and other topics in
- the cypherpunks
- The disruptions of security research, including academic research,
caused by the
(e.g., the Felten
case, the IEEE
censorship (now fortunately retracted), and many others; see
for some further discussion of the DMCA, Hollings' CBDTPA nonsense,
- usage of the DMCA by
to try to silence its critics.
(Note that Scientology has a long
of attacking free speech online, and that, unlike many of Scientology's
critics (e.g., some Christians in Europe and Russia), I have no
particular religious antipathy
toward new religions.)
- The University of California at San Diego's administrators are
forcing student groups to censor what pages they link to in the name
of the so-called "anti-terrorism" USA "PATRIOT"
act; see http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-195323.html.
The link in question is to the
FARC, a group whose ideology
I most definitely don't support (neither do I support the general
ideology of the student groups in question) - but that does not mean
I support limiting freedom of speech/press as a way of attacking them.
(If the US government really wanted to do something about
the FARC, Taliban, et al, they'd legalize drugs, depriving them of a major
source of revenue. Of course, that would also deprive law enforcement
agencies and their employees of a major source of revenue...)
- Cyberwarfare (aka
which is a thoroughly pragmatic reason why increased governmental
involvement (including not only by China et al
but Germany and
the US) in the
Internet's management is a rather bad idea.
My main computer language, as implied by the above, is
Perl. (I am on
BTW.) I am much more of a verbal person than a mathematical or spatial
one, so I get along a lot better with it than I do with C (still less
horrors like Fortran, which some biochemists like my dissertation advisor
still use for some masochistic reason - yes, I'm teasing him with this
reference...). I also don't get along with the forced (and inefficient)
object orientation in languages like C++ and Java. I have a couple of
modules on CPAN, and quite a number of other Perl modules that I have not
yet submitted (mainly due to lack of time, although the lack of a standard
Taint module also doesn't help for some of them).
Other computer resource links are below. Note that I do not necessarily
agree with all - or even almost all - of the viewpoints of the
below-listed pages/organizations/people, nor do I necessarily think that
all the programs linked to by the below are great programs in and of
themselves (although, if the program in question is why the below link
exists, I at least think it's useful for something).
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Except for the image above (found via Google Images), page written by Allen Smith
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I am not responsible for any pages linked from these, except for
those that I have written.
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