A portrait of Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann as an older balding man, clean-shaven, wearing a suit jacket and tie.

“Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.”

A selfie of the author, a middle-aged man with short black hair, beard and moustache.

Hi, I’m Rob.

During the day I’m the CTO at Figure.NZ, a non-profit that makes open data useful to people who don’t know what open data is.

In my spare time, I provide technical direction for charities and other groups who make the world better. I don’t know how to make the world better, so I try to stand quietly behind people who do and push.

A ironic screenshot of the Internet Setup Assistant from Mac OS 9, an obsolete computer operating system. It asks "Would you like to set up your computer to use the Internet?"

In previous lifetimes, I worked in banking, security, and software development, but the systems engineering, telecommunications access, and cryptography I used to care about have all brutally converged into the horrifying jackpot timeline we’re now living in. Sorry about that.

Nowadays, I can help you with product development, infrastructure, and engineering management, provided you’re not trying to make the world any worse.

A small black cat with large yellow eyes staring at the camera.

I have a strange cat called Bernard. He’s a rescue and had a rough start in life, which means he now cares a lot about enforcing rules. He is also part owl.

A very large black dog with long shaggy hair sits on a grassy lawn. A purple ring toy is visible under his left elbow.

I also have a giant dog called Gus. Gus is a Black Russian Terrier, and weighs about 60 kg. He’s a retired show dog and was adopted from an Australian breeder.

Despite the name, Black Russian Terriers are not actually terriers: in real life, he most resembles a Briard or a Bouvier des Flandres. He’s an enormous, lovable fool.

A white Mastodon logo on a dark purple background.

Mastodon is currently the best place to find me. I don’t really use anything else. If you see me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tiktok, Telegram, Signal, or Twitter, it’s probably fake.

Isaac's Law: All software rots, even if you do nothing.

I came up with this for a conference talk a long time ago, back before COVID ruined everything, and it’s still the most important thing to understand before you waste money on technical stuff.

Are you the old guy in the photo?

No. The guy in black and white is John von Neumann, seen here railing against the use of arithmetical pseudo-random number generators. 90s me thought having a domain name that was both unpronounceable and a cryptographic in-joke would be hilarious. There’s a whole back story about a misused PRNG nearly killed the modern web, but much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.

Are you the automagic guy?

No. A long time ago, I wrote some standards documentation and registered some ports using an automagic.org email address, but I’m not that guy. He’s pretty cool, though.

Are you the anti-Google guy?

Not really, no. A long time ago, I wrote a satirical parody of Google’s weak-sauce justification for their WebKit fork and shared it with some friends. It got more traction than anyone expected and angered a lot of people.

Do you know anything about port 9802 or webdav-src-ssl?

Yes. I did the original system port registration for webdav-src-ssl (WebDAV Source over HTTPS). I no longer contribute to the standards process, and the modern Internet just uses the worst programming language in the world to encapsulate all forms of human- and machine-readable communication in untyped serialised arrays over HTTP anyway, making other network protocols pointless. Stop living in the past!

Can I buy your old Twitter handle?

No. I still use Twitter for the occasional DM, at least until that idiot manages to break it.

Are you the Paramount Residential Mortgage Group?

No, and I can’t help you reach them. If I wanted a mortgage, I’d look for a service provider who took care to keep my personal information private.

What’s your email address?

Email hasn’t been a reliable way to reach me since late 2000, thanks to the Paramount Residential Mortgage Group.

Can I buy your domain name?

Absolutely not.

I need to write this term paper and I was wondering if…


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