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Aug 25 / Greg

Evolution Of An IT Guy

I think everyone gets contemplative at times, do they not? I now tend to get this way around this time of year…for a specific reason. Which I’ll cover later.

I may or may not have spoken about my origins in IT, networking…or computers at all. If I have, suck it up, because I’m going to do it again. Picture it…Texas, 1996…Christmas. A then 15 year old Greg opens a large box to find his very first computer…a Compaq all in one! I just googled and can’t find it, but I can still see it in my mind’s eye. That sweet hunk of beige plastic…it looked more akin to a 1980’s TV. I still remember plugging in the phone cord to the 14.4 modem, inserting the floppy disk, installing the dialup networking setting for the local ISP and installing IRC. 🙂

I know everyone has those great moments in life. I remember the first time I saw my wife, the first time I saw my sons and the first time I got on the internet…hehe. I opened IRC, connected to Dalnet and then made it into some chat room. I remember asking someone where they were from and when they informed me they were from Sri Lanka…I said out loud “wwwoooowww.” I can still remember that feeling of touching the other side of the world…being able to affect something or someone so far away. I think this is the point at which my love of networking was born…whether I knew it or not.

Through IRC I eventually began writing scripts. I remember one in particular would sit and wait for a room reset. Occasionally a room would have all the users get kicked off save for one or two. When you were the only person left, it would make you an admin for the 3-5 seconds when you were the only person there. My script would wait for that event, then it would quickly change the password on the room and boot everyone out the instant they tried to rejoin…hehehe. I admit it…I was a script kiddie. Everyone gets their start somewhere, right?

At some point my highschool was offering the option to get class credit for heading to the local technical school and taking classes. I went and talked to their computer science department. They explained to me that scripting and the logic involved is a key piece of what that program was about. I went for it. This meant that I only had to take two classes my senior year, then go home for an hour, then head to a couple of classes at TSTC. It worked out pretty well. One interesting thing is that I took no classes in networking. It was never even mentioned.

I graduated and got a job working for a soulless employer called UCS (Universal Computer Systems). There we were nothing more than a number and were considered replaceable. Many of us called it UCS High, since it was the place you went and worked until you had enough experience to graduate to a real job. I have to say that it allowed me to build all the requisite skills necessary to get where I am today. I started in the NOC working as a server/phone administrator. We had a ton of server 2000 boxes that had just recently been updated from an NT domain. The phone system was an ancient ROLM system that was the size of about 4 refrigerators stacked together. Eventually, the only network guys quit and I was just finishing my CCNA, so it was perfect timing. Fresh off the high I received from getting my cert, I took over the network. As you can imagine I did a TON of combing through configs and googling what was going on. I immediately began studying for my CCNP. I think withing about 10 months to a year from this point I got my CCNP. I believe everyone should have to earn their way, and UCS forced you to do that.

I really began to hone my MacGyver skills at UCS. We had to do complex things with no equipment and no money…creativity was the only thing left. We also did everything IT, so you learned to do a little of everything. This is a skill I highly value in people and I strive for in myself. Another attribute I admire in people is modesty. I know the more certifications and experience I gain the more humble I become. I can still remember in highschool configuring a linksys router and thinking I was the shiz. I still remember when I discovered port forwarding. I was networking like a boss! Once I started educating myself I realize how little I really know and how much more I wish I did.

I then began work at FIBERTOWN Datacenters. I was and am surrounded by some great people. Some have gone and some have stayed. I make a difference here and I am appreciated here. It’s amazing how a disparate work environment can really change your outlook. I’m now the Network Engineering Manager. I can make a routing change and see it change a route server in Sri Lanka…I’m still touching the other side of the world 🙂 I’ve built entire datacenter IT infrastructures…network and server. But what means more to me are the relationships I’ve built. You’ll notice that I surround myself with people that share these attributes.

JJ came to me by way of this blog. He’s a guy that knew more about radios at age 10 then I will in the entirety of my life…hehe. He works hard and LOVEs technology. He loves to tinker and build. He also cares about people and works hard to do the right thing.

Justin I know via JJ. Any friend of JJ is a friend of mine. Justin is just about the most well rounded WISP consultant I’ve met. This guy flies all over the country and sometimes outside of the country to climb towers and BUILD WISPs. I instantly had a comradery with this kid and I know that I can count on him to answer any of my ridiculous questions. Also, he has an unnatural obsession with G.I. Joe…I’m just saying.

Jimmy has been a friend of mine for a looong time. He worked with me at UCS. This guy is one of the single most brilliant people I have ever met. He has the ability to take an idea or suggestion and turn it into PHP as if he’s writing out the grocery list. He’s one of the core cacti programmers and he sits on the board. I still remember the day at UCS that I introduced him to cacti…hehehe. That’s right…it’s all my fault. You know how he learned to program? He taught himself to program while he was framing houses…hehe. He’s a good friend, but beyond that, he’s a good person, which I highly value. The only thing about Jimmy is that his sense of humor is terrible. THE WORST PUNs…next to Andrew. I mentioned he’s a gifted programmer, but only if you can motivate him. Often enough money won’t even motivate him. You have to tell him that it is impossible and that he couldn’t possibly do it…then he will knock it out in a half hour or so.
Quote from Jimmy

Greg: You also have a few facts wrong, especially about the learning while framing houses. I learned by programming Z80 Assembly on my TI-82 calculator in High School, and technically I was programming BASIC, VB, HTML, JavaScript, and some PHP/Perl even before that. But getting into Z80 was what really sparked my programming addiction. During school (since I needed a computer to compile the programs) I used to write out my programs in Z80 using pencil and paper, and then compile them by hand (I had the entire Z80 assembly to byte code memorized) and then typed the assembled program into my calculator to run. Those were fun times.

Andrew is a brilliant kid from Aussie Island. That’s right, he talks with a funny accent and his toilet water spins backwards. I met him via my blog also. He’s quite a clever guy…his sense of humor is awful, as is Jimmy’s, but he still seems to make me laugh. I know that he has done plenty of charity work, networking wise, just for the love of it…which most people can’t say about IT. I’m also hoping I get to meet him IRL at this year’s MUM.

Brian is another old school UCS’er. He’s a self taught network guy like me. He also does linux, windows and whatever else it takes to get the job done. He’s also a vegetarian, which I love to make jokes about…he eats healthy and I get new comic material – WIN/WIN. This guys is another one of those hard working jack of all trades that has always taken the time to answer a question when I’m too lazy to use google…actually, he’s my load balancer guy type person.

Rob is another fellow I met through the blog. Rob is out in Arkansas and inspired my banjo wireless picture way back. He’s got the pleasure of working as IT at a high school (which personally sounds really cool!) It sounds cool to me because I think about all the things I could lock the kids out of…hehehe. I don’t believe it is all it’s cracked up to be as his “little darlings” are always doing things they shouldn’t. He’s a network admin for the school, a local WISP and also a talented programmer. Since I have a computer science degree, those who can actually produce useful programs have a place in my heart. Rob still maintains some code that runs a frickin MFG plant! I’ve always loved having puters interact with the real world, so this is like overload for me…hehehe. In the past I would try and call and converse about once a month, but I’m way behind…though a phone works both ways Rob 😉

There’s many more of you out there, but you guys don’t have blogs(Seth, James, Jacob, JR, Brandon, Salsa Dancers), so you didn’t make it to the list :P.

I do this about this same time of year because right about 3 years ago I almost lost my wife. I told myself that I would always take the time to tell my friends and family that I appreciate them and care about them. I know it is so easy to put your head down and work and work….and work. I think it takes something big in one’s life to make them stop and look around.

I challenge you guys (especially the guys I mentioned here) to throw up a post about yourselves talking about how you got started and maybe even talk about the friends, IT related or not, that have made a difference in your life.


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  1. Kristi / Aug 26 2011

    I loved reading this post! This is an awesome shout out to your IT buddies 🙂 You should post a pic of you with your long hair to complete the story 🙂

  2. Greg / Aug 26 2011

    If you send me a picture I’ll upload it….hehe. I wish I had a picture of my old computer…hehehe.
    Obviously you are the most important thing in my life and you pushing me the whole time is what’s gotten me through everything…but you don’t have an active blog either…hehehehe.

  3. Justin M / Aug 26 2011

    Greg, are you going to be at wispapalooza or mum in Vegas in October? I’m planning on going and would like to meet up.

  4. Greg / Aug 26 2011

    I plan on hitting the MUM…Wed-Saturday. Not 100% yet, but hopefully.

  5. Rob / Aug 28 2011

    I didn’t even make the list! I’m crushed I tell ya! I want my little orphan annie decoder ring back now. 😉

  6. Greg / Aug 28 2011

    I wrote this in the middle of the night and knew I would forget some of my peeps. I’ve updated the article. 🙂

  7. iam8up / Aug 29 2011

    I don’t know. Fell in to my lap?

    When I was 10 I built my first PC (5×86 Pentium) with Windows 95. Man was that a fun toy – 4GB hard drive that I never managed to fill. Tinkered with it, played online, just enjoying it.

    Went through high school just nerd’ing out, not doing anything specifically. Then a few weeks into ITT taking the CNS (Computer Networking Systems) course for a mere 3 days (12 hours) a week I was bored out of my mind. Went to work fixing PCs.

    Just like Clifford Stoll, I was recycled. We started doing VoIP.

    Left them and started a company, some stuff in between and now doing fixed wireless broadband. Heights never bothered me, and it sure is cool working 200 feet above everyone’s head!

    It was always my goal to have a network. Any kind of network. I always imagined it would be in one building or maybe a campus, never expanding hours between ends! I guess I was just in the right place at the right time learning the right stuff with the right people.

  8. Greg / Aug 29 2011

    Word. I never knew I would be doing networking…I sure knew I loved it, though. 🙂 Why is it everyone I know has been in the game for so long…I feel like such a newbie around you fools.

  9. WAYLIFE / Aug 31 2011

    Awesome shout out…. too many of us are caught up in the tech and not the people that make it happen with us. As a former NE turned CIO turned full-time musician, this is heart warming to say the least… Working with teams of REAL people are the key to any successful career!


  10. Greg / Aug 31 2011

    Thanks again 🙂 I’ve found that people are the most important thing in my life…the other stuff is just distractions.

  11. Rob / Sep 1 2011

    Much gooder now! You can keep the decoder ring a lil longer my friend. 😉

    I liked your write-up bout me. I’ll give just a bit more background that might be interesting to any other I.T. geezers. My first interaction with a computer was a Tandy TRS-80 in high school if that gives away anything. I used fortran and punch cards in college. COBOL was some of the first “serious” programming I did on the side as I went through college to be a wildlife biologist. Go figure. My first I.T. work was working on an AS/400 system for a conveyor manufacturer. Along in there somewhere, this new OS came out called linux and I started rolling my own Slackware(early ’90s). Somehow IT involved a bit of everything there so I ended up learning VB, C++, SQL, html, perl, php, javascript, and bits of everything in between too while messing with linux in my spare time. My next “gig” Greg listed was/is my quote to order system for another conveyor manufacturer. It’s quite a bit more than that as it handles the billing and invoicing as well as shipping and last I checked, all the applications together totaled about 300,000 lines of actual code. About all it doesn’t do is the ERP side of the manufacturing and that’s only because it interfaces with an old HP-UX that generates the BOM and part orders for the factory. About the same time in there, a friend of mine wanted to start an ISP. I probably still have some of the old original serial cards and dial in modems we used to get by on the cheap to start. That’s since evolved into mostly a WISP with all dialup access removed in about 2005. That gets us close to present where I’m now the asst technology coordinator(fancy name for network admin) for a medium sized school district. Lots of other little things in there here and there and I still do quite a bit of programming and scripting. Never have taken the first class about computers or programming either! 😀

  12. Bobby / Sep 8 2011

    Awesome reading.

    Regarding Jimmy…so what you’re saying is…if someone were to tell him that there’s no way he’ll ever finish CactiEZ 0.7…that it’s obviously impossible…he’d do it?

  13. Greg / Sep 8 2011

    10-4 good buddy. You have to also make it seem like a challenge and elude to the fact that it would be impossible.

  14. Jimmy / Sep 8 2011

    Its not that I am waiting for a challenge, I’m just waiting for cacti v0.8.6h to be official so that I don’t have a ton of people asking if I am going to be re-making it “again” to update it to the latest version. A little waiting now saves me 5k emails later.

    Greg: You also have a few facts wrong, especially about the learning while framing houses. I learned by programming Z80 Assembly on my TI-82 calculator in High School, and technically I was programming BASIC, VB, HTML, JavaScript, and some PHP/Perl even before that. But getting into Z80 was what really sparked my programming addiction. During school (since I needed a computer to compile the programs) I used to write out my programs in Z80 using pencil and paper, and then compile them by hand (I had the entire Z80 assembly to byte code memorized) and then typed the assembled program into my calculator to run. Those were fun times.

  15. Bobby / Sep 17 2011

    You can’t really win that fight at this point anyway because people will probably complain that it’s based on Centos 5 rather than 6.

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