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The beginning

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 USENET (newsgroups) there. (Try a Google search for the username "allens" and hostnames "" and "" 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.)

Spam Fighting

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.

Computer spam cartoon


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 Perl.)


My main computer language, as implied by the above, is Perl. (I am on CPAN as ALLENS, 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 Perl 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 (send mail to actual -at-, with CSS web design by Liora Engel-Smith. I am not responsible for any pages linked from these, except for those that I have written.

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