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About me

Hello. I'm David. I live and work in Tampere Finland, but I also have a home in Cambridge UK, where Joanna — my wife and best friend — lives and works.

Me in the Helsinki Art Museum, surrounded by items from Corinna Helenelund's mental balcony

Just like everyone I have many interests, but maths and computing form a consistent thread through most of them. More than anything else I like to spend my time programming as it makes me feel like I'm being both creative and analytical.

I'm a conflicted technophile, because although I love and enjoy technology, I also know that technological progress isn't a positive end in itself. There are many technologies that have had a bad influence on the world. My most serious concerns relate to privacy and end-user control. I'm a strong believer in privacy as a fundamental human right (alongside liberty, equality, self-determination, justice, freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of movement) and am deeply concerned about increasing surveillance, both by the state and by private companies.

In spite of this, I also believe humanity is moving in a positive direction. There are local setbacks for sure, but the overall trend is one of increasing tolerance, wisdom, conditions and freedom. Let's see what happens with privacy in the long run though.

Privacy must be protected by both social and technological means, but software that offers people control is of particular importance in allowing privacy to be upheld in our complex society.

This is one of the reasons I'm a strong proponent of open source software. It provides an important counterbalance to society's tendency towards increasing centralisation and surveillance. But open source offers many other benefits besides. I've been involved in writing open source software since at least the early 1990s, when I used to send in my creations to the *Info section of Acorn User. I learnt so much from reading and making changes to other people's code. The educational benefit of sourcecode can't be overstated.

These are some of the reasons I now work at Jolla on Sailfish OS, a smartphone operating system that runs on commodity hardware with a focus on privacy and user control, and built on top of strong open source foundations (Linux, glibc, mer, Qt, amongst others). I've been a Sailfish OS user and developer for many years, long before I started doing it professionally. I moved to Finland from the UK specifically to work on it. At Jolla I'm a software engineer, so I spend most of my time writing code — much of it open — in C/C++/QML and reviewing the code of others.

My interest in coding goes well beyond the professional and you can take a look at the many tens of open source applications I've written or contributed to over the years on my software pages. I've developed for numerous platforms, using numerous tools and a host of different programming languages. As time goes on, writing code never seems to lose its appeal.

Joanna in the Helsinki Art Museum, surrounded by items from Corinna Helenelund's mental balcony

Before Jolla I spent most of my working life as a university lecturer and researcher. I completed my PhD in Mathematical Model Theory at the University of Birmingham under the supervision of Dr Richard Kaye. I worked for over 15 years at Liverpool John Moores University where I had tenure as a Reader in Computer Security. I then moved to the University of Cambridge as a computer security researcher, where I worked on the Pico Project under Prof. Frank Stajano and was a member of Trinity College.

I've joint founded a couple of university spin-out companies. I was the CSO (where the "S" stands for "Scientific") of Forsigs, a spin out from Liverpool John Moores University commercialising a fast file signature algorithm for use in digital forensics. I was also CTO (where the "T" stands for "Technology") of Cambridge Authentication, a spin out from the University of Cambridge developing software for seamless proximity-based user authentication (logging in to computers and websites using your phone). Unfortunately neither company made me rich, but both gave me good experience.

My PhD work in Model Theory looked at Presburger arithmetic, a clever formalisation of arithmetic that's strong enough to include a lot of what's important about the integers, but weak enough to be a complete theory. My work looked at a particular subset of the (necessarily) infinite models of Presberger arithmetic and the structure of the groups of automorphisms between them (an automorphism is a way of rearranging all of the elements so that you end up with something that essentially acts the same). Because of its completeness Presburger arithmetic has interesting applications in automated theorem proving, but my interest was mostly theoretical.

Last but not least, I also spent some time working in the computer games industry for Codemasters working on Pro Race Driver. I love computer games and especially the way they combine the most exciting aspects of computing: art, graphics, audio, problem solving, efficient code and clever optimisation. What's not to like?

Outside of computing I consider environmental issues, both local and global, to be important. I'm not great at advocacy, but I do try to act responsibly in my daily life. I reduce my carbon footprint by walking, cycling, using public transport, recycling and minimising my consumption. I've been using only renewable energy since 2001. I don't own an electric car.

As a strong privacy advocate, it won't be a surprise to hear that I'm quite a private person. I'm lucky enough to be married to Joanna, my best friend and also the best person in the world. You'll find other details of my private life scattered around this site, but if you really want to know more, get in touch and we can talk.

The photos were taken in Helsinki Art Museum with items from Corinna Helenelund's wonderful exhibit The Backyard on the Seventh Floor.

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