ESP Biography



ALEX DEHNERT, MIT alum working at Akamai




Major: VI-3

College/Employer: MIT

Year of Graduation: 2013

Picture of Alex Dehnert

Brief Biographical Sketch:

I'm an MIT alum (B.S. in computer science and math in 2012, MEng in 2013) and former ESP adminstrator. I'm now working at Akamai, a Cambridge-based Content Delivery Network.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


CDNs: The Hidden Companies Handling 40% of the Internet in Splash 2015 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2015)
What companies handle the most web traffic? You'd likely guess Google, Netflix, Facebook... household names. However, about 15-30% of the world's web traffic is handled by Akamai, a company that the vast majority of Internet users have probably never heard of. Akamai is what's known as a content delivery network -- a company that offloads bulk traffic (like images or videos) from servers run by household names like Facebook, providing higher performance and availability and letting those companies concentrate on their product. We'll be talking about how CDNs like Akamai work: What makes a request fast or slow? What's the relevance of the cache hit rate? How do CDNs decide which servers should handle which requests? What can a CDN do to accelerate dynamic content?


Regular expressions and finite automata in Spark! 2012 (Mar. 10, 2012)
The field of computability theory covers what sort of functions computers can compute. Two of the simplest --- and most restrictive --- formal definitions of "computation" are regular expressions and finite automata. We'll discuss what sorts of functions they can compute, and which is more powerful.


Splash Contra Dance in Splash! 2011 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2011)
Ever see how they dance in Jane Austin movies? Replace “stately” with “wild,” and the baroque violin with a ragtag string band, and double the tempo and you have contra. Contra is easy to learn and fun to do. Come give it a try with us! Beginners and experienced dancers welcome. It looks something like this:


How Not To Run A Website in Splash! 2011 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2011)
It's 2011, and it's really easy for anyone to set up a website. It's much harder to set up a website that hackers aren't going to take over within a day. We'll look at many of the popular attacks on websites (including buzzwords like "SQL injection" and "clickjacking"), why these problems came about, and exactly how hard it is to avoid these problems.


Copyright: Laws and Implications in Splash! 2010 (Nov. 20 - 21, 2010)
We often hear scare stories about kids who download songs from the Internet and then gets sued for millions. Downloading music and other media is considered by many to be equivalent to stealing. But what is it that the kid steals when he downloads a song, and from whom does he steal it? We would like to think that it is the music itself, but the downloaded file just contains a bunch of numbers that the computer uses to make sound. And why is the fine so high? Surely, the song doesn’t cost thousands of dollars, especially when a CD with a dozen of them costs just a few bucks. In this class, we will discuss the theory behind copyright laws, and what the court cases and battles that go into them are. We will also discuss some of the interesting implications of these laws (such as the fact that 80-year-old Mickey Mouse cartoons are still under copyright).


Tricks with the Memory Management Unit in Splash! 2010 (Nov. 20 - 21, 2010)
The Memory Management Unit of a CPU has the seemingly boring role of converting linear addresses, used in software, to the physical addresses used by the actual memory chips. The MMU is key to much of the functionality of the operating system, though. The MMU makes possible swap and direct memory access to files; helps enforce the user-mode/kernel-mode distinction; and keeps processes separated from each other. We'll go over what exactly the MMU does, and how it is used to implement this sort of functionality.


Scheme in Spark! 2010 (Mar. 13, 2010)
Ever wanted to learn Scheme? Have you heard of functional programming, but never learned any functional languages? Come to our class, and we’ll teach you the basics of Scheme, and how to learn more.


The Unicode Standard 5.0: A Dramatic Reading in Spark! 2010 (Mar. 13, 2010)
In the history of alphabets and languages can be traced the history of man and the development of nations, and in the history of computer encodings of characters can be traced the history of computing and telecommunications. Join us for a journey through the Unicode standard, the standard for computer representation of text, encoding over 100,000 characters from around the world. In the process, we'll also learn the historical context behind the development of various languages, scripts, and pre-Unicode electronic encodings. We'll discuss such topics as Saints Cyril and Methodius, the "loopy" phi, whether Chinese, Japanese, and Korean should use the same character set, the English spelling reforms of George Bernard Shaw and of the Mormons, the letter G, handling bidirectional text, newlines, and the SMALL HIGH DOTLESS HEAD OF KHAH.


Scheme in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
Ever wanted to learn Scheme? Have you heard of functional programming, but never learned any functional languages? Come to our class, and we’ll teach you the basics of Scheme, and how to learn more.


Copyright: Laws and Implication in Spark! Spring 2009 (Mar. 07, 2009)
We often hear scare stories about kids who download songs from the Internet and then get sued for millions. Downloading music and other media is considered by many to be equivalent to stealing. But what is it that the kid steals when he downloads a song, and from whom does he steal it? We would like to think that it is the music itself, but the downloaded file just contains a bunch of numbers that the computer uses to make sound. And why is the fine so high? Surely, the song doesn't cost thousands of dollars, especially when a CD with a dozen of them costs just a few bucks. In this class, we will discuss the theory behind copyright laws, and what the court cases and battles that go into them are. We will also discuss some of the interesting implications of these laws (such as the fact that 80-year-old Mickey Mouse cartoons are still under copyright). (Note: This class will be a re-run of the Splash 2008 class. If you took that one, you probably will be bored).


Scheme in Spark! Spring 2009 (Mar. 07, 2009)
Ever wanted to learn to Scheme? Want to take over the world? We recommend a class in the social studies category. Ever wanted to learn Scheme? Have you heard of functional programming, but never learned any functional languages? Come to our class, and we’ll teach you the basics of Scheme, and how to learn more.


Scheme in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
Ever wanted to learn to Scheme? Want to take over the world? We recommend a class in the social studies category. Ever wanted to learn Scheme? Have you heard of functional programming, but never learned any functional languages? Come to our class, and we'll teach you the basics of Scheme, and how to learn more.


LaTeX in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
Ever tried to type up math, and found that Microsoft Word really is not up to the task? Want to learn a Turing-complete markup language? Liked the look of some of the textbooks you've read, and want to know how they typeset it? The tool most mathematicians use for typesetting math is $$\LaTeX$$, and we'll try to teach you the basics. We'll look at * Writing a basic document without any math * Basic math * Defining simple commands * Finding out more $$ \begin{align} \langle a, b \rangle &= \sum_{i=1}^n a_i\cdot b_i\\ (a+b)^n&=\sum_{k=0}^{n}{n \choose k}a^k b^{n-k} \end{align} $$


Copyright: Laws and Implications in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
We often hear scare stories about kids who download songs from the Internet and then gets sued for millions. Downloading music and other media is considered by many to be equivalent to stealing. But what is it that the kid steals when he downloads a song, and from whom does he steal it? We would like to think that it is the music itself, but the downloaded file just contains a bunch of numbers that the computer uses to make sound. And why is the fine so high? Surely, the song doesn't cost thousands of dollars, especially when a CD with a dozen of them costs just a few bucks. In this class, we will discuss the theory behind copyright laws, and what the court cases and battles that go into them are. We will also discuss some of the interesting implications of these laws (such as the fact that 80-year-old Mickey Mouse cartoons are still under copyright).


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Testing in SPARK (2011)
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Testing in SPARK (2011)
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Please don't approve this either in HSSP (2010)
But don't delete it either. I just spent half an hour trying to figure out why mail wasn't working, before ...