About Me

I’m Soren Bjornstad, otherwise known in some circles as “scorchgeek.” I am currently a sophomore at St. Olaf College. I’m good with and enjoy working with computers, which I hope you’ve figured out if you’ve been around this site, or I’m going to have to put you on the “The Bleeding Obvious” page at Rinkworks’ Computer Stupidities (an excellent site, by the way).

Here’s something I did a little while ago, called “Myself in 100 words, with no revision”:


I:

  • am interested in & enjoy everything
  • enjoy helping & teaching people
  • love thinking
  • have a love affair with both gadgets and paper
  • am constantly annoyed by my ability to start scores of unfinished projects
  • have a mental list of things I would do “if I had infinite time”
  • write way too many things, most of them mostly for myself
  • am never satisfied with what I know
  • understand more xkcd every time I read it (this actually says something about me, I think)
  • enjoy memorizing things
  • have probably created duplicate items
  • actually feel like I had enough words to use.

Also of note: it’s exactly 100 words. I’m a stickler for detail!

My room at home looked like this a litle while ago.

On my computer I enjoy playing NetHack, writing technical articles and working on websites, typing, studying using spaced-repetition software…okay, I’m going to need some more inspiration besides a list of my web pages. I also do mundane things like email, Facebook, homework, and tracking finances. Besides NetHack, some computer games I enjoy (and play semi-regularly) include Battle for Wesnoth, OpenTTD, FreeCiv, and SimCity. I dabble in programming as well; mainly Python and shell scripting, but I’ve played around a bit with C as well (oh, and QBasic when I was younger—please don’t count this against me!).

I use the Linux operating system on my computer. While I somewhat agree with the philosophy of the free software movement, I don’t use Linux rather than Windows because of it—I’m not entirely against proprietary software. (In a nutshell: I love the idea of free software and think it’s great that it’s around, and I’d love to see good free software options for everything, but I don’t think proprietary software is intrinsically evil, and I think there’s plenty of room in the world for both.) Rather, I find that Linux fits my style of computing better—it doesn’t try to hide things from you, it puts you in full control. And of course, the command-line is orders of magnitude better than anything Windows has, and I love command-lines. (Seriously, is there anything more open-ended than “soren@computername$ “?)

I work with Windows sometimes too. I don’t use Macs regularly, but I can find my way around and often solve fairly complex problems on them. I don’t have anything against Macs (and I own an iPhone), though I think they’re somewhat overpriced.

Speaking of which, I need to get a really silly anecdote out. I think I was in eighth grade, though it might have been ninth, and I was briefly talking with someone about computers. I think he (I’ll say the person was male, though I remember nothing whatsoever about his identity) asked what type of computer I used—anyway, somehow I mentioned Linux. He asked what it was, and I told him. He said that I was “making things up,” and that he didn’t believe that Linux existed. I looked at him for a moment, then quickly left to laugh and wonder…for I had seen exactly this anecdote on Computer Stupidities and never believed it possible…until that moment:

  • Me: “What about Linux? Or FreeBSD or another alternate OS?”
  • Friend: “They don’t exist.”
  • Me: “Try www.linux.org.”
  • Friend: “You made them up.”             (original page)
When I’m not using a computer, I also enjoy reading, playing the violin, keeping notes for myself, and many other things which I rarely get a chance to do during school.

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do after school; I feel rather like there are about fifty things I would be happy doing, only not always as a full-time job. I am planning to major in computer science. At least I have plenty of options.

I get asked to help with other people’s computers a lot. I don’t mind that much, except when people do things like this. Sometimes it’s fun to be the one who figures out that the problem is something stupid and say, “You’re plugging the USB plug into an Ethernet port” (this happens extremely easily on laptops, as they’re right next to each other and USB connectors fit perfectly in Ethernet jacks), or “Umm, you didn’t plug it in.” (None of my experiences can match “Renamed: iPod Please Touch the Frigging Screen“, though.) Sometimes I get into business working with more involved problems.

My favorite technical problem has to be the time when a member of my church came to me with really random problems: Skype and audio weren’t working and the system was locking up occasionally. He dropped off the laptop at my house one Saturday morning, and I fiddled with it all morning to no avail. Then around noon, it suddenly started working perfectly again, and nothing I could do would make it stop working. So I returned it (charging him $30 for three hours of fruitless troubleshooting and one very magical fix). The next day he called me again and said it once again wasn’t working. I arrived at his house; he was gone but his wife was home. The system worked perfectly. I hung around and worked on her computer until he arrived, whereupon he sat down at the system and the problem occurred. We switched seats and it worked for me. We started making jokes about the computer only liking me (and with good reason!). It was lucky that at this point the lightbulb went on and I realized that every time we’d switched, the system had gone on battery power or been plugged in. It turned out that the battery was flaky and causing all sorts of random instabilities, and replacing it fixed the problem.

Some people, including me, would call me a bit paranoid. I use encryption and whatever security techniques are available, along with a unique password for all 60+ websites I visit. Besides paranoia, I also call this “being careful” and “being smart.” And I have a good reason for the passwords—twice I’ve accidentally typed my password into a chatroom or other live internet posting, thus requiring me to spend the remainder of my afternoon running around changing passwords. Now I can just change one password and I’m fine. If you use GNU Privacy Guard (GPG) or another form of PGP, you can get my public key here, or you can find it on a keyserver under “Soren I. Bjornstad”.

You can download my resume here.

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