About me

Here's more information about me than anyone is ever likely to want to know:

In a nutshell

I am an Australian computer, maths and science geek. I was born and raised in South Australia but as of 2011 I am living in the San Francisco Bay area (while working at UC Berkeley), with my wife Kirsty. Before moving to the US, I was working on my PhD at the University of Adelaide, while doing web application development part-time for Thirty4 Interactive. Before that I did software development and customer data analytics stuff at m.Net corporation, Australia's leading "mobile solutions" company, which was a very cool place to work (subsequently they have been through various mergers/aquisitions/restructurings and I have no idea what they're like now). Before that I was a high school and then undergraduate student who spent most of his spare time in a bedroom full of empty coffee mugs and a surprising number of outdated PCs running a surprising range of free Unixes.

When I am not doing something related to computers, I tinker with electronics, listen to heavy metal, read science fiction (cyberpunk especially), play RPGs (on the PC, PS2, or with pencil, paper and dice) and enjoy anime and manga. I have a strange fascination with abandoned places, like Chernobyl or Hashima Island, which scales right down to abandoned buildings and cemeteries. I love traveling, but spend a lot more time fantasising about being able to afford it than doing it. I actually got to visit Hashima Island in 2010 - Chernobyl is still on the to do list. I am slowly accumulating some sort of competence at speaking German and Japanese, but have a lot of room for improvement with both. Random on-again off-again interests I circle around include Buddhism (particularly Zen), genealogy, martial arts (particularly iaido) and associated philosophy (e.g. bushido) and meteorology.


I have been constantly fascinated by computers ever since my parents bought a Commodore 64 when I was very young. I have a separate page describing my history with computers which recalls my early computing days as best as I can recall them. These days I work exclusively with i386 machines (though I used to casually collect "retro" machines from the days of Commodore, Atari, etc.), running Unix-like operating systems. My love of Unix started in 2000 with RedHat Linux 5.1 and has continued since then unabated. My favourite systems today are Arch Linux and NetBSD. I am a firm believer in the Unix design philosophy and traditions and stick to them where I can.

I am a self-taught programmer who likes to write code when he can, for both fun and profit. I have varying degrees of familiarity and experience with the languages C, Java, Perl and PHP, but am most proficient and feel most at home with Python. You can download software I've written from my free software page. I am a strong supporter of free software (think "free speech", not "free beer") and all of my software which you can download from this site is licensed under the extremely liberal BSD license.

As for what I actually do with computers, some of my main interests are:


I hold a "vanilla" Bachelor of Mathematical and Computer Sciences (B Ma. & Comp. Sci.) in Applied and Pure Mathematics, and an honours B Ma. & Comp. Sci. in Pure Mathematics, both from the University of Adelaide in South Australia. My main interests were in computational algebra and computational number theory, in particular their applications to cryptography / information security. Just about anything else with relevance to cryptography is of interest too, with the exception of finite/projective geometry, which I inexplicably seem completely incapable of enjoying (and am lousy at). I'm also interested in, but less well-versed in, dynamical systems and associated ideas (like chaos, complexity and emergence), the numerical solution of differential equations, and statistical / probabilistic modelling.

I also hold a PhD in Psychology from the University of Adelaide. My work had nothing to do with what most people think of when they hear "psychology", and I identify much more with the label "cognitive scientist" than "psychologist". My PhD thesis tried to develop psychological explanations for why different languages use different word orders and why the word order of languages change over time. This work involved taking an information-theoretic perspective on language and asking what is the optimal way to convey, over a noisy serial channel, information about a world whose going-ons have statistical structure which is known by both communicating agents.


Anime and manga

I like anime and manga a lot. I tend to be drawn to the more serious stuff, and some of my favourites are Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, Death Note, anything to do with Ghost in the Shell, Hellsing, Last Exile, and anything to do with Patlabor, but I also enjoy a lot of bizarre comedies, like Azumanga Daoih, Excel Saga, Love Hina, Lucky Star and the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. You can find a complete list of what I've seen here.


Most of what I read can be considered science fiction, or more specifically cyberpunk. William Gibson is my all time favourite author, but I also enjoy Orson Scott Card, Richard K. Morgan, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson. I like some but not all Haruki Murakami's books, and I've also read a moderate amount of Russian literature. I especially enjoyed Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle. You can find a list of things I've read here, although I haven't yet taken the time to make it very complete.


I've played video games in some form or another for most of my life, but I've gone through very distinct phases in what kinds of game I play and on what systems. These days I a pretty much only play Japanese Role Playing Games, for the PS2 and more recently the PS3. Some of my favourites are the Atelier, Persona and Tales franchises.

Movies and television

Some of my favourite live action films are Blade Runner, Dr Strangelove, Existenz, Fight Club, Sneakers, the original Star Wars trilogy, and Wargames. I like Japanese monster movies which are so bad they’re good, like anything starring Gamera (everyone’s favourite jet-propelled, child-protecting giant turtle), and also the cult-classic samurai series Lone Wolf with Club.


For the longest time I listened pretty much exclusively to music of the metal genre, but to be clear I hate the rasping/screaming style of singing most people associate with metal. Most of what I listen to can generally be considered to fall under at least one of categories “power metal”, “symphonic metal” or “epic metal”, with a few exceptions. Themes of fantasy and medieval combat are prevalent. Representative bands are Blind Guardian, Dragonforce, Hammerfall, Rhapsody (of fire) and Turisas.

I have appreciated chiptunes for a long time, but never really listened to them regularly or seriously explored them until around 2011.

After I got interested in audio electronics, and in particularl synthesis technology, I did a fairly thorough survey of electronic music and ironically enough learned that I actually really dislike the overwhelming majority of it. But I do like Berlin school stuff (like Redshift and Node), some but definitely not all Kraftwerk, and Yellow Magic Orchestra. I also don't mind quite a lot of ambient/chillout/downtempo stuff (apparently the electronic music ontology is no less full of confusing unclear distinctions than metal).