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When the good folk at Linux Australia sat down with the organisers of the Australian national Linux conference and decided that Bruce Schneier would be the keynote speaker on the opening day of the main conference, they couldn't have made a more correct decision.

Schneier is a man whose security credentials are impeccable, who's probably the world's top security technologist. At the same time, he can talk about security concepts to a teenager - and the kid will understand exactly what he's saying.

When you realise that this same man is an inventor of the Blowfish, Twofish and Yarrow algorithms, then you begin to understand what the word intellectual means.

In his mid-forties, Schneier is a much less phsyically imposing presence than I thought he would be. But once he starts talking, he just grabs your attention.

He spoke to iTWire soon after he had delivered his keynote, "Reconceptualising Security", on day one of the LCA.

iTWire: Let's begin with a bit of geography and history. Which part of the US are you from? Where were you born, where did you study?

Bruce Schneier: I'm from New York, which you can probably tell by my style. I live in Minneapolis. My undergraduate degree is in physics, from the University of Rochester, New York. And my post-graduate degree is in Computer Science from American University in Washington DC. So that's sort of my academic resume. I started working at the US department of defence in security cryptography and security deployment. Then I worked for a start-up in the Chicago area and then for AT&T Bell Labs, and then in 1991 I set out on my own with Counterpane Consulting which became Counterpane Internet Security in 1999, and was purchased by BT in 2006.

What were you like as a little boy, in primary school?

I don't even know how to answer that question. I was regular, we were the smart kids. I mean, when you grow up in New York City, there are always programmes for smart kids. So they'll put them all in one class or two classes. I always had the benefit of being able to be put in classes for smart kids all through high school.

How did you come to take up physics?

That was in college, and I think I took it because it was what I liked, because it was math, but had real world applications. And that's what I got my degree in. But I always enjoyed it. In security, it was like more of a mindset than anything else. And back then there were hardly any computer science departments. So it was still very, very new.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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