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Blog Posts for 2017

December 12, 2017 | 0 comments

Radia Perlman is one the few female Internet pioneers in a field still largely dominated by men.

But, whatever you do, do not call her the ‘mother of the Internet.’ And she wants to make it perfectly clear that she is not a token woman in her field.

“People are very fascinated with this topic,” she says, sounding somewhat perplexed, when asked what it was like to be a woman in technology in the 70s, an era when many women still couldn’t even get credit cards without a husband’s signature.

The daughter of two engineers, “I was always sort of at the top of my school in the science and math thing,” she said. “I always sort of fantasized that some boy would do better than me, and my plan was to fall in love with him.”

When a boy finally did do better than her, she said, she was too shy to even talk to him. But her long list of successes and important contributions make it clear that shy or not, she held her own against boys and men from a very young age.

And, she says, she was not alone.

“When I was in graduate school the second time, my daughter, who was seven, was really proud of me,” Perlman said. “We were at the playground in Cambridge, Massachusetts – the only place this could have happened – and she said to the girl she was playing with, ‘My mommy is going to get a PhD from MIT.’ The other little girl said, ‘My mommy already has one.’ 

She had a PhD in chemistry and we got to be friends.”

November 30, 2017 | 0 comments

Radia Perlman doesn’t like computers. But she’s always been a problem-solver. And computers and software proved to have plenty of problems to hold her interest.

It was only through a series of unexpected and unsolicited opportunities, however, that she even got into the field of computer programming, where she went on to earn renown for solving some of the most vexing problems of early networking and develop a groundbreaking thesis that is still the staple of college curriculum today.

Perlman’s initial aversion to computer programming came in high school, when a teacher signed a few students up for a class at Stevens Institute of Technology.

“After having never had any problem with any class in school (with the possible exception of phys ed), I walked into that class and people were talking about how they built ham radios when they were seven,” she said. “I had no idea what a ham radio was. I certainly couldn’t build one.”

“Then, when they asked questions, they were using fancy words like ‘input.’ I had no idea what that was. I just decided I was so far behind, I would never catch up. And I got nothing out of that class.”

So, Perlman said, she decided to stick with studies involving books, papers and pencils. That is, until she was an undergrad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, when a teaching assistant in her physics class asked her to be his programmer.

“I said, ‘I don’t know how to program,’” Perlman recalled. “He...

November 14, 2017 | 0 comments

Saguache, Colorado, is not exactly the place to start binge-watching Netflix or Hulu. 

The rural community is the seat of sparsely populated Saguache County, Colorado, located about four hours southwest of Denver, in between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountain ranges. 

Using data compiled by researchers at the University of Arizona and Iowa State University, FiveThirtyEight analyzed broadband usage in every county in the country. An estimated 5.6 percent of adults in Saguache County, Colorado, have broadband access, the lowest rate in the country. 

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 39 percent of rural Americans, or 23 million people, don’t have broadband access, defined as the ability to download information at 25 megabits per second and to upload it at 3 megabits per second. As per multiple Pew surveys, rural residents were about twice as likely not to use the Internet as their urban and suburban counterparts. 

With broadband service costing more than triple the rate for similar service in New York City, many Saguache County residents instead rely on slower satellite-based Internet…or simply go without.

In recent years, the lack of affordable broadband access has prompted concerns about the county’s...

October 27, 2017 | 0 comments

In 2012, after leaving his company, Sendmail Inc., Eric Allman was supposed to retire.

But after “a career of telling people to get out of my office so I could get my work done, I got lonely,” he said.

So he started hanging around UC Berkeley again, going to seminars and research meetings.

“At some point they said, ‘you know, we should put you on the payroll,’” Allman said.

So he is now, at least technically part-time, working on data storage and security for the Internet of Things, among other things.

“I am one of these people who gets bored easily,” he said, listing off other things like speech recognition, neural networks, and text processing software that he has also been involved in.

IoT security is of particular interest to him, he said, because there are so many new devices being created. And while many people and companies are aware of the security problems—even building them with known security holes—“no one wants to do anything about it … or they don’t want to pay the costs,” Allman said.

“The fact is, we are building a weapon for somebody else to use against us,” he said. “I’m very nervous about it.”

So what’s the solution?

“We should never put those devices directly on the Internet,” he said. “They should have limited connectivity to do their thing, and go through some kind of gateway.”

If something is connected to the Internet, he said, “you ought to be able to remotely update the software...

October 17, 2017 | 0 comments

As part of a small crowd of early network pioneers at the University of California Berkeley, Eric Allman created Sendmail, which was one of the first mail transfer agents on the Internet and a key component of many email servers today.

Still, Allman likes to emphasize that he was just one of many people behind development of the Internet’s email standards and technology. He says it was only through friendly competition and years of collaboration and tweaks to what began as a mailing system on the ARPAnet that he ended up solving the technological issues that made the later versions of Sendmail in the late 80s and early 90s an Internet staple.

In 2014, he was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame as an ‘Innovator’ for being the first person to make Internet addresses highly configurable by rewriting the email rule technology. He was also recognized for creating Syslog, the de facto standard logging mechanism used in nearly all open systems and peripherals.

His interest in computers began in the late 60s, he says, when he still in middle school in California.

While most people didn’t even know what a computer was then, Allman said he joined an after school program that enabled students to play around with one of the school district’s IBM mainframe computers. There, he said he learned both FORTRAN and accurate typing skills because programming was still done by key punch cards.

It wasn’t long...