Valerie Aurora

Hi! You have found the personal homepage of Valerie Aurora (formerly Henson). I am a writer, programmer, and feminist activist, and a co-founder of the Ada Initiative, a non-profit to promote women in open technology and culture. If you want to contact me about Ada Initiative topics, like women in open technology and culture, feminism, or harassment, please use my work address: valerie at adainitiative dot org.

For those of you born after 1980, a "homepage" is an ancient form of social presence on the web which has been superceded by more structured publishing platforms and social networks (blogs, Twitter, fan fiction archives, etc.). One of the main problems with a homepage was that it was frequently out of date, like this one probably is right now. Consider this page an archive of my past and a collection of pointers to my current active Internet presence. Hope you enjoyed your history lesson!


Valerie Aurora's blog
Valerie Aurora on LinkedIn (only if we actually know each other)
Valerie Aurora's Linux and file system consulting services
Valerie Aurora on Twitter
I am a Facebook and Google Plus refusenik.


Writings

Here are a few things I wrote one time. Google for the rest.

Chunkfs: Using divide-and-conquer to improve file system reliability and repair by Val Henson, Arjan van de Ven, Amit Gud, and Zach Brown. Appeared in Hot Topics in Dependability 2006. This paper outlines a way to divide file systems up into individually checkable and repairable chunks, without putting restrictions on the name space or fragmenting free space. I implemented a prototype layered on top of existing file systems and concluded (1) it can be done, (2) it should be done inside the file system and designed in from the beginning.

Repair-driven File System Design by Val Henson. A generic look at repair-driven file system design, with predictions for fsck times in 2013 and some more analysis of how modern file system design tends to make fsck time even worse. Still valid in the age of SSDs, as we have discovered that the software wear-leveling can lead to absurd latencies.

Linux Weekly News articles I wrote a few articles for LWN on kernel-related topics. I ended up doing a sort of column called the Kernel Hacker's Bookshelf. There's no easy way to link to all of my articles as yet, but you can find my Kernel Hacker's Bookshelf series on the article index page

An Analysis of Compare-by-hash appeared in Hot Topics in Operating Systems 2003 Compare-by-hash is the practice of addressing data by a hash of its contents (using a good strong cryptographic hash like SHA-1 or MD5 - oh wait, just SHA-1) - and assuming that collisions never occur. I thought this was a bad idea, so I wrote this paper.

My current position on the topic is somewhat less extreme; I think that as long as your hash "address space" is not publicly accessible, or if it is publicly accessible and easily changed in response to attacks, then it's okay (though I still wouldn't use it). I wrote an article explicitly laying out criteria for using cryptographic hashes which finally answers most people's questions in one place. It includes a handy visualization of cryptographic hash function lifetime graphs.

HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux This is a HOWTO aimed at men interested in helping women get and stay involved in Linux. If I wrote it today, I would do it differently, but I never have the motivation. The XML/DocBook source is here, so if you want to translate it or update it, please go right ahead! The list of languages it has been translated into (that I know of) is Belarussion, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, Ukrainian, Italian, German, and French.


Linux

A few tidbits related to whatever I've been working on lately...

Some tips for working with User-mode Linux for your enjoyment and edification. This is super useful for doing file system development, among other things.

Union mounts HOWTO.

e2fsck parallelization using a pretty hysterical combination of fadvise(), read(), and blindfolded buffer cache manipulation. It gets about 50% improvement in elapsed time on a RAID5.

64-bit support for e2fsprogs. In progress, needs testing. Now available in the "pu" branch of the mainline e2fsprogs git repo.


Random Stuff

I don't speak to any of my parents or their spouses. Unfortunately we have a number of acquaintances in common so this page became necessary to avoid socially awkward incidents.

HOWTO Negotiate Your Salary and Benefits Did you know you're supposed to negotiate your job offers? If you didn't, you're losing a lot of money. This HOWTO is geared especially towards women.

Women Don't Ask This book changed my life. It describes how and why women ask for less than men - and get less. The sequel, Ask for it, focuses on practical ways to change your behavior for the better.

My LASIK story On July 10th 2003, I voluntarily had my eyeballs burned with a laser. This is colloquially known as "LASIK." I'm pretty happy with the results.

Hiking Mt. Whitney I joined the elite ranks of really dumb masochists by hiking Mt. Whitney in one day.

The TCP/IP Drinking Game Geeks, protocols, and beer.

The Puerco Saga In university, I helped create the Puerco, a simulated microprocessor with 10 instructions.


Links I like

Google's gotta have something to base search results off of, right?

Dude Watchin' with the Brontës by Kate Beaton. Imagine being at a party withe the Brontë sisters. Much funnier if you've read all three of the Brontë sisters (and prefer Anne - read Villette and Agnes Grey and compare with @#@#ing "Wuthering Heights").

The Male Privilege Checklist A lot of people worry about things like affirmative action giving unfair advantages to certain groups of people based purely on their gender, race, etc. I think that's bad too. Unfortunately it has been going on for long before affirmative action, and guess who's getting the unfair advantages? Hint: Not women.

Lobsters A Hugo/Nebula nominated short story by Charles Stross, available for free on-line. A fast, hard-core near future cyberpunk-esque short story centered around Manfred Macx, a venture altruist distracted from his normal business of making other people rich by uploaded lobsters, slashdotting of his glasses, and his psychotic ex-girlfriend/dominatrix/IRS agent. You can read my Amazon review for a little more detail - as if you need more. Charles Stross is my favorite author on odd-numbered days (Vernor Vinge [see below] gets the even-numbered days).

Vernor Vinge's Singularity Paper Mind blowing thinking about the future. I recommend each and every one of his books, but especially A Fire Upon the Deep. (Note that I wrote this back when I thought thinking and writing about the future was a rare and unusual trait. Vinge does it better than most.)

Douglas Hofstadter's "A Person Paper on the Purity of Language" This is a hysterical (ha ha) piece satirizing the defenders of sexist language. You'll love every sentence of it. If you're looking for advice on escaping awkward gender-related writing traps, I highly recommend The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing by Casey Miller and Kate Swift.

Olin Shivers has great advice for graduate students about defending your thesis and automatic weapons. I keep his Acknowledgments taped to my office door (when I have an office).

Rusty Russell's keynote speech for OLS 2003 has a lot of good advice for any programmer working on a project involving more than one person.

Almost nobody knows what the Busy Beaver function is. The Busy Beaver function is an easy-to-understand function which is nonetheless uncomputable. Another way to think about it is that the Busy Beaver function grows faster than any computable function (any function whose output can be computed by a Turing machine, i.e., a computer). Closely related is the concept of Chaitin Elegance.

Donald Knuth finally sells out!


Contact me

File systems and Linux consulting: val at vaaconsulting dot com

Ada Initiative (women in open technology and culture): valerie at adainitiative dot org

Personal (please DO NOT USE for job-related email, e.g. anything to do with women in open technology and culture): valerie dot aurora at gmail dot com

I used to make an effort to respond to all email, but I get a lot of "Hey, just thought I'd say hi!" emails from strangers and it turns out that founding a non-profit is a lot of work.