I thought it would be a nice idea if we could have a question thread where everyone posts an answer where they introduce themselves, talk about themselves a little bit, and tell the community their motivation for participating on this site.

Some SE sites don't have much of a community (in the sense of people talking directly to each other), but unix.sx does have something of one, if only composed of people who hang out in chat, and community should be encouraged - there is never enough of it.

So, unless you are royalty going incognito, step up and tell us all about yourself, and why you hang out here. :-)

  • 2
    +1 Great topic! It's really sad that this is only the second question ever asked here to be tagged /fun :) – Joseph R. Jan 24 '14 at 20:08
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    Isn't it what the about me of your profile is for? – Stéphane Chazelas Jan 25 '14 at 10:34
  • 27
    @StephaneChazelas: Well, maybe, but... your "about me" is blank. :-) – Faheem Mitha Jan 25 '14 at 11:34
  • 3
    What should the incognito royalty do? Is there a thread for us? – mikeserv Mar 22 '14 at 20:24
  • 1
    @mikeserv - can't you use your about your 'about me', even if it is not blank... – Wilf Jun 16 '14 at 21:16
  • 1
    @Wilf - I might have, but after looking at yours, I refuse to play. You've already won. – mikeserv Jun 19 '14 at 8:16

23 Answers 23

Who am I (currently)

I'm a computer engineer who's worked professionally first in electronic design (primarily as a design automation engineer for ~10+ years), followed by a stint in DevOps for 5+ years. I'm currently a Software Engineer working on web technologies, still wearing many hats as DevOps & software development.

My past - phase 1

I grew up with a Tandy TRS-80 (color computer), which initially came with 16K RAM, which we had upgraded to 64K (if my memory serves me correctly). Here's a picture.

                                       ss of coco

Release date:       1980
Introductory price: 399 USD
Operating system:   Color BASIC 1.0 / 2.0 / OS-9
CPU:                Motorola 6809E @ 0.895 MHz / 1.79 MHz
Memory:             4 kB / 16 kB / 32 kB / 64 kB / 128 kB / 512 kB
Graphics:           MC6847 Video Display Generator (VDG)

This computer carried me for a long time. I used it to play games, write BASIC programs and even got into telecommunications with it on BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems).

the main screen

                                    the screen

It had a cassette tape for storing programs, (CLOAD and CSAVE) were the commands. In 7th grade I saved enough of my own money to get a modem (300 BAUD), you had to dial phone numbers by hand and then press a red button to connect.

cassette & modem

                                  ss of cassette          300 bps modem

My past - phase 2

In the summer between 4th and 5th grade (9-10 years old) I got the chance to do 1 week's worth of computer programming on an Apple IIe. After that week I was hooked. I begged my mom to sign me up for another more in depth second week where we wrote little guessing game programs and a State Captiols game.

At the start of 5th grade I was the only kid that knew anything about our Apple IIe that we had in class, so I got tasked with showing everyone else how to use it, loading games etc. Our teacher would let me stay after to use it, and I did regularly. Our school also got a teletype machine, which was my first exposure to telecommunications, which ultimately drove me to wanting to get my own modem and exploring that world more.

Teletype machine (similar to this one)

                                         telewriter

My past - phase 3

When I was in the 10th grade (14-15 yrs.) I got an actual PC (Intel 8088 - I think). It had a cool turbo button so it could run at ~5MHz. I don't know what other specs this system had, it ran some version of MS-DOS (3.3?), since I didn't really know much about such things at that time. I was the only tech type in my family, no one else was into such things, and so I really only had myself to extend my knowledge.

Amazingly the libraries in my city would allow you to check out software. So you could "check out" games, Print Shop Pro, in addition to productivity applications so I did!

At some point I purchased a 2400 Baud modem and started using that with this system as well, again getting into the whole BBS thing that was popular at the time. I'd use Kermit, XMODEM, YMODEM, & ZMODEM, as well as my beloved Telix to connect and upload and download shareware & chat.

telix

                    ss of BBS

This ultimately was the computer that I took to college. I was one of the few people that had a computer in their dorm room when I went. I had a 24 bit dot matrix printer for it too. I think it was me an 1 other computer guy, so I'd use it to explore my college's VAX/VMS (Release 4 or 5). It was also at this time I got exposed to online gaming (VAXMUD).

Gaming was fun but never really held my attention. I was much more enthralled with the computer system itself, so I purchased a VAX/VMS book and began learning the command line interface, as well as, interacting with other users within the system using the built-in chat functions. Yes believe it or not instance messaging was available back then.

My past - phase 4

After my first year I transferred to another university where I was exposed to assembly level programming as well as the Zilog Z80 micro processor. Writing in assembly was probably my favorite activity. We'd create banking applications and write various programs and I absolutely loved writing at that level.

NOTE: We used MASM and debug (manual) which used to be included with MS-DOS.

My past - phase 5

I eventually moved up to a Intel 486DX2 system that I saved up for and got MS-DOS 5 and then 6.22 and Windows For Workgroups (3.11). I then got 2 systems, when I added a 486DX4 that I built myself, for the first time!

At this point I started getting into networking and got my first Ethernet card (10MB 3COM 509). The reason I remember this is because back in the day these cards were ISA based.

                                               3COM 509

You really had to want to make peripherals and addon cards work back then. So you had to play a lot of games with changing the memory addresses and interrupts (IRQs) assigned to your various devices, as well as your COM1, COM2, serial ports, and LPT1 ports. So consequently you got to know your systems very well!

I eventually added a CDROM (1x) (you now how they're all 52x now - this was the first, a whopping 150 KiB/s!). This was also the time that I got the game Myst. Hands down the best game I've ever played!

                                                      ss of myst

My past - phase 6

As a consequence of building my own computers I used to frequent a monthly computer fair (Peter Trapp) in our area to get parts and see what was new and interesting.

                                    ss of show announcement

Well at one of these events there was a booth where they were either giving away or selling (can't remember) CD sets with something called Linux on them. This booth was a Red Hat booth, and I'd gotten a very early edition of RHL.

I then graduated and started my professional career. One of the first things I purchased was a copy of RHL 4.1 (Vanderbilt, kernel ver. 2.0.27). Once I got my hands on this I was always working to get rid of Windows in my personal computing environments.

First I started with servers. I used to have a dial on demand setup that would automatically dial via a 28KBps modem, then a 56KBps modem using a Linux box running diald, any time someone would attempt to surface the internet. I then graduated to broadband and RHL 9. These early versions are when I completely dumped Windows and was using Linux exclusively day to day.

When Red Hat discontinued RHL, I was almost ready to jump to Debian, but then Fedora came out and then CentOS and I stayed. I toyed a bit with Gentoo, Mandrake, Ubuntu, and Debian, but I always came back to my RPM based distros. Many here will joke that I'm the Red Hat guy here, I wear that notoriety with honor!

Recently (2014) I finally jumped from Fedora 14 to 19, and I still haven't been disappointed. Things change, but all in all the bar has always been moving up.

Areas of expertise

I have a very diverse range of areas, in what I would consider having a deep knowledge. These are in no particular order.

Server technologies Security/Auth
  • Kerberos
  • SAML/Shibboleth
Hadoop
  • Zoo Keeper
  • HDFS
  • HBase
  • Hive
  • MapReduce
  • Yarn
Virtualization
  • KVM
  • VirtualBox
  • VMWare
  • OpenVZ
  • libvirtd
  • virt-manager
  • Vagrant
  • Docker
  • Openstack
  • AWS
Protocols
  • HTTP/HTTPS
  • SSL
Languages
  • Perl
  • Bash
  • sed, awk, grep
  • Java/JDK
  • Javascript
  • Ruby
  • Python
Markups Diagnostics
  • Hardware issues
  • Performance issues
  • Networking issues
  • Usability issues
Monitoring
  • Nagios
  • Wireshark
  • A whole slew of misc. tools such as: (ntop, htop, nethogs, etc.)
Desktops
  • GNOME
OSes
  • Linux (Red Hat, Ubuntu, Debian - all versions)
  • Solaris (6,7,8,9, & 10)
  • Windows (Vista, Win7, 2008, 2008R2)

Why I'm here?

If you haven't gotten this from reading my history, acquiring the knowledge of how various technologies work, was at times arduous. This has always bugged me because it consumed enormous amounts of my time in acquiring this knowledge, that once I had, was obvious.

So I liken myself to a lighthouse operator now, trying to help others avoid the "cliffs", by hopefully guiding them through the "safe passage" while making mention of key landmarks on either side as they pass through. All I ask in return is that people in turn "pay it forward"!.

Compliments

This may seem like a dumb category but one day in the chat room @terdon paid me the highest compliment I think one could ever receive:

"The way I see it, Stephane is some kind of mythical, magical creature, Gilles is a wizard and slm is a human paladin."

References

  • 2
    Hi slm. Impressive historical overview. I guessed it was you writing about a quarter of the way through this. :-) – Faheem Mitha Feb 2 '14 at 6:29
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    @FaheemMitha - I'll take that as a compliment 8-). It was fun actually trying to find out about all these old things I used to use. I was amazed at how much of it is still thriving. One interesting thing I noticed was it's hard to find photos of any of the older releases of Linux. I couldn't find any RHL 4 for example or older. I'm assuming the advent of digital photography would be the reason, but there is a bit of a line that cuts things off around years 1999-2000. – slm Feb 2 '14 at 6:29
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    You must have spent a lot of time putting this together. I sort of recognized your writing style, but there aren't many people here who would write something as detailed as this, and some of those would either not answer the question or aren't that interested in hardware. Suggestion: add approximate dates to some of the events your chronicle. After all, what is history without dates? :-) – Faheem Mitha Feb 2 '14 at 8:20
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    @FaheemMitha - I think I spent ~3hrs in researching and writing this up. – slm Feb 2 '14 at 8:30
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    You know you're getting old if you have to spend time researching your own history ;) – terdon Feb 2 '14 at 13:28
  • @terdon - yeah but it was fun trying to recall memories that I hadn't had to in 20 years too. I still cannot remember the name of the computer company that made that 8088 system. It had some MS-DOS desktop app (I think called Omiworks) but couldn't find it. I really wanted a screenshot of that stuff. – slm Feb 2 '14 at 14:28
  • Glad to meet you here on the forum. Very instructive, as always. – samiam Feb 3 '14 at 4:23
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    @slm, If someone reads this "About me" section of yours, they can realize how much passionate you are about Linux :) It is really inspiring to read your "About me" section :) – Ramesh May 6 '14 at 1:53
  • 1
    Kudos for the work, many do not value the time it takes to write a well structured post. – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 27 '16 at 10:55
  • No doubt at all, you are the man. I am very glad that I know one person who knows Linux history more than any one I knew around.And Thank you for sharing – rɑːdʒɑ Mar 6 '16 at 13:46
  • 1
    I would upvote this for the "compliments" section alone. :D – Wildcard Apr 27 '16 at 3:38

I'm a bioinformatician/computational biologist or whatever, with a background in biology and no formal computer/programming training. Like the good little geek I am, I started using Linux some time around 1998 with the now defunct Mandrake. I then moved to SuSE (pre-novell days), briefly into openSuSE and then Ubuntu when that came out. Couple of years later I switched to Linux Mint and from there to Linux Mint Debian edition which is essentially Debian testing with some bells and whistles. I switched to Arch in the summer of 2016 and will probably be sticking with it for a while.

My *nix expertise, if I can grace it with such a lofty title, is mostly on manipulating text and regular expressions since that represents a large chunk of my daily work. I've learnt more about shell scripting in the year or so that I've been hanging out here than I did in the previous 10. My favorite scripting language, and I'm sure this will come as a surprise to the regulars, is Perl. I spend a lot of time on U&L because I enjoy solving short, concise problems: it's fun!

On a more personal note, I am the son of a Greek mother and American father, and grew up in Greece as a bilingual child. I then went off to study in the UK, did my PhD in Barcelona and my post doctoral work in France. As a result, I sometimes get my languages mixed up which is a source of some embarrassment since I tend to be a grammar pedant. When I'm not answering questions here or trying to solve life's mysteries, I play my beautiful Gretsch.

  • hey why terdon get more upvote than the other ? – Kiwy Feb 26 '14 at 16:11
  • 9
    @Kiwy 'cause I'm cooler. Obviously. – terdon Feb 26 '14 at 16:15
  • @terddon Obviously indeed – Kiwy Feb 27 '14 at 8:43
  • @Kiwy You need to stop asking questions when you know the answer... – Faheem Mitha Mar 22 '14 at 20:39
  • @FaheemMitha this one was a bit too obvious and I couldn't find the answer :D – Kiwy Mar 24 '14 at 7:44
  • @terdon What field in bioinformatics? :) – dovah Jul 18 '14 at 7:57
  • @Dovah my PhD was on gene prediction (specifically, selenoprotein gene prediction) and I'm now working on PPI networks. You? – terdon Jul 18 '14 at 8:15
  • @terdon I'm still a bachelor student, I'm currently having a summer training in protein mapping. – dovah Jul 18 '14 at 9:13
  • Gretsch link is 404. – phk Aug 8 at 12:32

Who am I?

I'm a 15-year-old in 10th grade (as of this writing) so I don't have a fascinating job to tell you all about. I've always been super interested in technology and programming. My first language was Visual BASIC, but thankfully, I was never quite motivated enough to make a large program in it (especially since I got confused by all the Windows toolkit stuff), so I never really picked up bad habits from it. I spend a lot of my free time reading things on the internet (think GNOME Wiki, FreeDesktop specs, interesting bugs that are linked to in Mozilla lists, Wikipedia, etc). Things in my RSS reader: EFF Deeplinks, Planet GNOME, blog.SE, Defective by Design, the FSF blog and the GitHub blog. I also love Ultimate Frisbee, although recently I have stopped doing that and have been using basically all my spare time for the FIRST Tech Challenge.

I <3 the open internet. I follow Fight For the Future, EFF, and related organizations, and despise all things censorship/anti-net neutrality. I'm anti-DRM because I find it unethical that I have to hand control of my own computer to someone else in order to watch a movie. Honestly, everything I've just said you could find in my bio. Go look at that if you wish I wrote more in this section.

I swear on Meteor.js, Arch GNU/Linux, Emacs, git, and zsh. I use a Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2 (white, no key labels), which has prompted the question "why are you using a keyboard from the 90s?" from many of my friends.

What was my first *nix?

tl;dr: I used Ubuntu for a while, then Darwin, then I used Ubuntu for a couple months before switching to Arch.

(Some background: around the time that my parents decided it was time for me to have a personal computer, so that theirs wouldn't be screwed up when I made mistakes, I really wanted a Mac, but they got me a Vista computer instead.)

About years ago, I was in carpool and noticed that the guy who was sitting in front of me was using something not familiar to me, so I asked him what it was, and he replied that it was a different operating system called Ubuntu. I thought that was really interesting, so eventually I ended up installing Ubuntu Gutsy on my laptop. While on Ubuntu, I picked up some rudimentary command-line skills, but couldn't do a ton (I have a clear memory of being on vt1, killing a process, but having to switch back to Xorg to look up a PID in Activity Monitor [since I didn't know about ps]). I stayed with Ubuntu all the way up until Ubuntu Maverick, as that was the point at which I received an iMac as a gift. From then on, I used OS X, although I always missed GNU/Linux a bit.

While on OS X I solidified a bunch of my command-line skills. However, I never really did anything (comparatively) advanced like I/O redirection or pipes. Then, about a year ago, Steam was ported to GNU/Linux, removing the last barrier to me going back. I used Ubuntu for about 3 months, until I had gotten a sufficient feel for the community to become angry at Canonical (and GNOME). At that point, I went DE-hopping for a while before I finally ditched for Arch (and awesomewm, although about a month ago I made my peace with GNOME and am back on the GNOME Shell train).

I sysadmin a home server as a hobby. It's named steevie, and has been down for about 4 months due to a disk failure (I think).

As a side note, I've also recently become very interested in Plan 9 from Bell Labs. I have an server installed, but the Ethernet card(!) isn't recognized.

Where do I want to take my UNIX skills next?

I believe I'm the only one here who will actually have an answer to this, so here goes. When I grow up, I want to hack on either GNOME, Mozilla, or GNU. Or, I want to sysadmin for one of those guys. More generally, I aspire to become a hacker in the classical sense.

In the nearer future, I want to get better at text processing (e.g. learn regexps, sed, awk, etc.), and just become more familiar with the standard, classic UNIX tools (e.g. find). I also want to become more familiar with the shell, as I still can't do a lot of I/O redirections besides stdout, and I certainly don't have the skills to customize my shell properly. It is also a goal of mine to gain mad Emacs-fu.

Why do I spend time on unix.SE?

I love learning about UNIX history, and a lot of the people here have great experiences from Back In The Day. Additionally, I am undoubtedly still learning, and I soak up a huge amount of knowledge here.

Like I said, I spend a lot of time reading about GNU/Linux stuff on the internet. So I really like the questions that are phrased as "how does * work on the inside"; they're fun to answer and fun to think about.

Also, to be perfectly honest, I am completely hooked on the gamification of Stack Exchange. Getting reputation and badges is awesome.

Finally, Unix & Linux has an amazing community. I had used Stack Overflow before I found this site, and still do, but the difference is that I can't stand the SO community anymore. Mostly because it's so high-traffic. I like the more relaxed pace here, and I really love that you can actually know all the regulars.

  • 2
    this is probably way more than you asked for. but whatever. – strugee Jan 30 '14 at 2:07

Smash it up!

I like destruction. Not in the smash-it-up kinda way, though that can have its finer points, but more as the reverse of construction. I like things broken into pieces - not just broken - because I like to know what goes on inside a thing that makes it tick in the first place. If I'm lucky - and I rarely am - I do get it back together in much the same shape as I found it. But regardless of how successful I am at reconstructing, the chances are always pretty good I'll learn something worthwhile during the destruction.

That, I think, is why I like Unix - particularly Linux. I like to tear it to pieces and hopefully find out in the aftermath what those pieces did. It teaches me a lot about how computers work. It teaches more, better, and faster than any other system I've ever worked with. I really like to learn.

Early days...

My dad still tells the story of my parents' first microwave. I was barely 3 years old. My younger sister was nearly 2. My mother and father brought the machine home and propped it up on the kitchen table. Neither had ever had a microwave oven before. They didn't know really how one would work. They sat there, reading the instruction manual to each other, and generally poking at it. Eventually they got the hang of it and they put it up - but I sat quietly nearby listening and watching the entire time they were educating themselves.

The next morning my father awoke to the smell of smoke. He went into the kitchen and found that I had decided to cook my sister's breakfast for her - froot loops. Spoon, milk, and all. The reflection from the spoon was of course devastating to the microwave after several minutes cooking the cereal. My dad says today that I might not have lived to see my fourth year if Sear's hadn't taken that microwave back. He'll go on to tell you what a near thing it was for me as well when he found my peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the vcr.

My first computer...

I've always liked tech. I like buttons. I like rules. My first experience with computers was around the age of 9 or so, I think. My father invested more than $3,000 (borrowed) dollars into a 486DX33 with a Diamond Viper VESA video card. It had 8 megabytes of RAM, a 128 megabyte hard drive, and an internal USR 9600 bps dial-up modem. The Intel DX chips came with a built-in math co-processor - this was high-tech stuff.

The video card, math-coprocessor, and modem were all very important to my father because he wanted to learn to trade commodity futures - like stock-trading but with soybeans or pork-bellies. He had all the books, and now he could draw up his own charts. Computer-use was not a foreign concept to Dad - he was and is an architect. He had the chart stuff pretty much down pat.

He wasn't very familiar with the command-line though. I think it was DOS 4 we had then, and Windows 3.0. One day he brought home a floppy-disk that was given to him by a colleague for my sake - it was Wolfenstein 3D. That did it. His colleague, I afterward learned, ran a 2-line BBS out of his home, and I was soon a daily-dialing member.

I played Wolfenstein - and it was awesome. Plenty of destruction was had. I also had to configure the high-mem and EGA/VGA graphics settings upon boot - at that time, if you wanted to use anything greater than the first 256KB of your memory, you had to deal with hi-mem.sys and config.sys and autoexec.bat. I learned these things - at age 9 - and it wasn't long before my father was asking me how a thing should be done on the computer.

The devil's party-line...

And the BBSs - I dug up the phone numbers to as many as I could find. I played Trade Wars 2002 and Legend of the Red Dragon - those two were my favorites, but there were others. Also, I eventually learned of and did my best to subscribe to members' only pirate BBSs. My goal was selfish - I wanted to download free video games. But it was at that time that I first got a glimpse of the hacker society, and I first learned that some people thought software should be free.

I used to steal AOL. I would use the free AOL disks you could get pretty much anywhere and use the 100 or so minutes they'd give you for free completely up before creating a new account and ... you know, rinse, repeat. The thing is - I was not yet a teenager, and the AOL sign-up process required a credit card to complete. I had no such thing. But what I did have was some crappy script - which I downloaded from AOL - that would randomly generate me a usable credit card number once in every ten or so tries. So I used that.

Don't get me wrong - I don't condone stealing, not in the way I used to - but there were some involved with those BBSs that did what they did as a matter of principle. Whether or not their principles were a little skewed I cannot say - my impression of them remains to this day only what I could take away at nine and ten years old. But it has lasted.

Pirates!

Another thing I downloaded from AOL was a little program called DisEase. The computers at school were Macs. Mr. Wolfe, my literature teacher, would occasionally reward an especially good book report with a short while playing Sid Meyers' Pirates!. I thought that game was great - but I couldn't be bothered to write a book report. Hence, DisEase.

You see, their idea of security was a login manager called At Ease. If I plugged in my DisEased floppy and rebooted the machine, DisEase would spit out their password - which I guess they all shared. So every spare moment in my eighth-grade year I was playing Sid Meyers' Pirates! - book reports be damned! Though, as I later found out, I could have been editing my report card.

Well, I was just a kid, too, you know. I told other kids. They told on me. I was hauled out of the principal's office one day late that school year in handcuffs. The school district settled with my father - and - maybe because he felt a little responsible, though he shouldn't have - Mr. Wolfe got me my first job at his brother-in-law's garden nursery. And I spent the whole summer working to pay for the IT crew they brought in to me-proof their computer systems. They rejected outright my own counterbid for the work. I spent my 13th birthday that August watering azaleas and day-dreaming of DOOM.

Scholastically...

My teenage years tended to separate me from my geekdom, I think. I never lost track of it, but it was cooler to wire car-audio, or to hit the bong. I did both things. I got my GED at sixteen after the latter thing saw me out of school at fifteen.

I tried college at sixteen and seventeen, but for the same reasons I didn't want to go to high-school, I didn't much want to go to college either. Any class in which I was enrolled and for which the prof kept attendance I inevitably failed. The others, though, I aced. And that's how I squandered my first scholarship, which was awarded me for an outstanding score on the GED in the first place.

It was several years later - while enlisted in the US Army - when I finally tried again at the school thing and met with some success. Today I have an associate's degree in nothing in particular and several it certs - but nothing outstanding.

Professionally...

I worked, pretty much, from age 13 on with few breaks. Restaurants. Gas stations. Garages. No tech. But I would always wind up helping the bosses understand their computers at some point.

Eventually I started selling cellular phones. I did very well. I was always - for the entire year and a half I held the job - the monthly number one cellular salesman in my Ultimate Electronics region. That experience brought me the opportunity to work for my uncle at 321Studios selling wholesale his company's flagship product DVD X Copy.

I wasn't very good at the wholesale thing - there were four of us in wholesale sales, and I was barely 20 years old when I started the job, while the rest were all seasoned professionals. I was the nephew so they would try to help me in the hopes that my uncle would notice - also, I wasn't exactly unlikable. I was fun, if mostly wrong-headed.

Quid pro quo...

In searching for affiliate deals I became an associate of Jim McMahon of MajorGeeks.com. We advertised on his site, offered the shareware version of our product for download there, and he collected commission on any conversions tracked to his affiliate link. He's a very nice guy, by the way - and if you ever get him on the phone he'll likely tell you a longer and much more interesting story than this one.

His was not the only site I landed. Though it was Jim who introduced me to another man, whose name I now forget, who brought up a very interesting point.

He said, "So when I download your software from your website I'm asked to opt-in or out of the receipt of emails from your company promoting your product. But I never receive any emails. I think I could write those emails for you," he said, "if you'll allow me to promote other software alongside your own."

This was curious to me, and I brought it to my boss, who was also intrigued. But he said:

"We don't need that guy! We have an entire Creative Department! We can write our own newsletter!"

Damned if you do...

Now my cousin was head of the entire Creative Department and my uncle liked to keep his son busy. There was little chance of my sneaking through my own project. So I quit going to work for a couple weeks. I holed up at home in my underwear reading every article I could digest at webmonkey.com. I did manage to get my cousin's employee - Pete - to do a Photoshopped mockup of what he thought a lorem-ipsum 321Studios newsletter might look like. I took it and dissected it, wrote the material, and wrote the CSS and HTML I was then learning to make it work.

I showed up to work a couple weeks later. I had been missed. My uncle told me the newsletter would go out to our some 500,000 opt-in subscribers the coming Friday afternoon, and I had better hope it worked out because, in the event it didn't, I would need another job.

Well, luckily for me, it was a smashing success! Our web-sales were some 2.5 times their weekend norms. And, of course, those numbers did not maintain - we soon saturated our target audience with weekly editions. I received my own commission for every box sold through my own affiliate link. And, more importantly, I got to keep my job, and now I was the newsletter editor. This was influential to me, because our business was not that of your average software company.

David v. Goliath

You see, our software DVD X Copy was a point-and-click Windows-friendly decss complete product. You could take an encrypted Hollywood disc, pop it in your DVD-reader, feed your DVD-writer a blank disc, click the big, green "COPY!" button and 20 minutes or so later you had a decrypted copy of that movie. Hollywood was not a fan of DVD X Copy.

We were big too - we had our own shelf in Wal-Mart nationwide. International distribution deals, even. Uncle Robert used to fly a helicopter to work. 321Studios did very well for awhile - but it couldn't last.

My uncle was very aware of the possible legal ramifications involved with marketing a post-DMCA software product that subverted commercial encryption techniques, regardless of the encryption's efficacy. My uncle was a ballsy man - he preemptively sued Hollywood. Much of 321Studios' profits were invested in the legal ordeal. From Wikipedia:

Anticipating a lawsuit by the major Hollywood motion picture studios, in April 2002, 321 Studios filed a pre-emptive complaint against eight Hollywood studios contending that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a law that prohibits the circumvention of copy protection technology, violates consumer rights as provided in the Fair Use doctrine of the Copyright Act of 1976. The Fair Use doctrine provides individuals with limited rights to copy certain forms of copyrighted material. The complaint named MGM Studios, Tristar Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Time Warner Entertainment, Disney Enterprises, Universal City Studios, The Saul Zaentz Company and Pixar Corporation as defendants.

After that first edition newsletter, Uncle Robert made it clear to me that, though I would be responsible for ensuring it continued to be an earner, the weekly newsletter's primary focus must be raising awareness for Fair Use. And so, at age 20 and 21 I had the privilege of interacting with and publishing the EFF's Lawrence Lessig among others; I regularly featured news articles surrounding all types of Fair Use issues of the day; I often shadow-wrote Robert's own message to our customers - though he always tailored the message in some way; I sponsored Write Your Congressman campaigns - and interacted personally with a few of them, not to mention publishing their responses when they could be had. It was a very political thing - and it all surrounded the notion of freedom of information. Again, this was influential to me.

This, too, shall pass...

As I've said, though, it couldn't last. What kept 321Studios afloat throughout its costly legal ordeal was its profits from the sale of our product. As soon as the judge ruled for an injunction against our sale of it, 321Studios effectively folded. Though the legal battle was never officially lost, it might as well have been because once we sold off the last of our flagship DVD X Copy product one week following the judge's injunction, there was no hope of maintaining the fight because, from that point on, there was no way to pay for it. And that marked the end of my political career.

Still, I was a wholesale sales agent. And the injunction named only 321Studios. I did have a few regular distribution deals with resellers, which is not to mention a few more very short-term deals I negotiated in that last week we were still legally allowed to sell the software. The way it worked out was we did better business in that last week, than probably we had done in the entire previous fiscal quarter. My commission check for that last week was close to $40,000 - before taxes, of course.

Be All That You Can Be...

So there I was - jobless, barely of drinking age, living on my own in a rented house only a short walk's distance to at least three different bars. I did a lot of walking. Six months later, when most of the money was spent, I knew I had to find another job. I didn't much like the idea of looking, though, and while half-heartedly trying I passed an Army recruiter's office. "I bet," I thought, "they'll give me a job!"

I spent the next six years maintaining electronics and weapons systems on the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior observational attack helicopter for my US Army. I saw the tops of mountains and the business end of a grenade launcher. I lived in Hawaii and Alaska. I flew everywhere. I got a degree on the Army's dime. I got married and divorced.

While taking an introductory Python course I also took a college algebra course. My math class turned out to be repetitive applications of a single formula per lesson. My Python class wound up doing my math class's homework. And it did so in Ubuntu Linux. My first installation of which was - I believe - 6.04. I kept up with Ubuntu until around 8.04 - I think. And then I started experimenting with Debian proper - but not for long. Soon I was tired of the whole Debian backports game, so I played with Crux, then settled on, at last Arch Linux. This was several years ago. It's my goto still today.

I like Arch because I like to tear it apart, and it comes apart very willingly. Not many others do, you know.

I'll edit this some more later, I guess. It's quite enough for now, I think.

  • 4
    Wonderful write up! I love the details and the way your life's story winds around the right for fair use. Terrific read! – slm May 3 '14 at 23:38
  • Engaging read sir. I can pretty much identify with you in some aspects, through due to some strokes of lady luck, my life seems to have been a bit easier. – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 27 '16 at 11:02
  • 2
    @RuiFRibeiro - thats what the upvote button is for. – mikeserv Jan 27 '16 at 11:52
  • Carlton who? I am using my true name. – Rui F Ribeiro Aug 5 '16 at 6:32
  • @RuiFReiro - my bad. – mikeserv Aug 5 '16 at 14:55

I've been using Linux-based operating systems since the summer of 1998, which coincided with the purchase of my first computer. I had used computers for a while before that, but they had been VAX, Suns, Windows and Macs. I think that time was my first exposure to a "real" operating system.

I started with Red Hat 5.1 (version inferred based on the date, I don't remember now), moved on to SuSE 6.2 in the summer of 1999, and eventually to Debian in 2001, having being considering that move for a while before that. I've used Debian pretty much exclusively since then, and in general I count myself satisfied. My one attempt to package something for Debian, namely CCL, has so far not borne fruit. It was rejected by the ftpmasters, who have still not replied to my response. :-(

My background is mathematical, but I've got a PhD in Statistics, and have published a few research papers, though mostly not in Statistics. I really need to set up a website. I've done a lot of programming off and on. My knowledge of things Unix is actually fairly rudimentary, but I'm quite familiar with Debian, so I tend to answer questions about that.

I frequent this site because I have found the Stack Exchange sites useful, particularly Stack Overflow. However, I don't really have very good or specialist knowledge about anything. I've worked across a lot of different areas so I'm something of a perpetual beginner. Plus I'm generally too lazy and/or too busy to put much effort into answering questions. For whatever reason, I tend to find it easiest to answer questions here, and the atmosphere is friendly and supportive, so I do so.

The other SE site I frequent regularly is TeX.sx, which is also friendly. I'm a long time user of LaTeX, though again I know relatively little about it. And of course, everyone uses Stack Overflow, though it is too large to have a community, and I have not found it to be the friendliest of places.

Unix background

I've been working as a unix sysadmin since 1998, when I started as postmaster/spammer killer at one of the three largest ISPs in Sweden. Back then most of our systems were Solaris, with a few FreeBSD thrown in. FreeBSD is still my favourite free Unix.

I stayed at Algonet^WTelenordia^WTelenor^WTelenor Business Solutions^WTelenor for 8 years through multiple reorganisations. During that time the number of emails handled by our system rose by a few orders of magnitude. The qmail servers I started out working with got enhanced by a load-balancer with multiple bells and whistles built in Erlang, which is still the most stable email system I've ever had the pleasure to work with. In addition to handling the email systems, I spent time on pretty much all other customer-facing systems. Since all those systems were of necessity open to the Internet, that meant handling security issues as well.

After that I went to work at one of the major banks in Sweden, where I handled a crucial part of the security systems for their internet banking sites. This was built on HP-UX which I still see as one of the best OSs for security purposes. Their combination of compartments and RBAC made it possible to have a very fine-grained approach to what each single process was able to do and see on the server. Obviously I can't go into details on how exactly it was implemented, but HP-UX Security Containment basics describes the technology (until the next time they rebuild their website and destroy all links...)

After eight years of that, I got tired of doing the same thing and got hired by a consultancy firm in 2013. My first gig for them was with a government agency handling their RHEL servers, looking at the next Redhat satellite, automating things and generally just sysadminning. It was a nice change of pace. After that, I worked at the Swedish Police with their PKI department, which was fun and interesting. I spent most on my time on revocation and OCSP systems. Currently I'm focusing on PKI; I'm working with a client setting up an entire PKI system from scratch, which is a lot more fun than working with a system where you're constrained by decisions made many years ago.

Before that

By looking at my profile you could have figured out that I was in my mid-20s before I got my first sysadmin job. I wasn't one of those kids who grew up around computers - my family couldn't afford it, and it wasn't on my radar at all. I did enjoy the few computer lessons we got at school, though, and generally ended up being the informal TA in that everyone asked me questions before asking the teacher.

My first ~7 years of working life were spent in a few different jobs - shipping agency, translator... During that time, for the first time I could actually afford computer equipment and discovered more and more. I decided that unix sounded like what I wanted to work with, got a day job doing tech support at a phone company (that's internal tech support for their employees, not for their customers) and went to uni night classes to learn basic programming/system design. After that, I got the job at Algonet and have happily remained a unix sysadmin since.

Programming

I'm a sysadmin, Jim, not a programmer. Still, in order to be a decent sysadmin one has to be able to create new tools as needed, so I do a fair bit of that as well.

Like many unix admins of my generation, I started out with shell scripts, perl and some C. (I am really not good at C; I can usually manage minor patches to existing programs but I'm really crap at e.g. memory allocation and other stuff beyond Hello World...)

Perl is my language of choice for most of the things I do as a sysadmin. It's got better data structures than shell scripts, and it's ubiquitous. It's also old enough to have most of its major bugs already ironed out.

I've found that I became a better programmer when I started learning other types of languages. Perl, shell script and C are all procedural languages. Once I started looking at OO languages like Java and, later, Ruby, I got a new way of looking at things. And when I got into Erlang I was completely hooked, and also found that my perl programs got both more elegant and more readable thanks to the habits I learned from using Erlang.

So in the three categories "procedural, OO, functional", my favourite languages are perl, Ruby and Erlang.

Why I'm here

I like solving problems. No, scratch that - I love solving problems. Figuring out why something doesn't work and fixing it is a huge high for me. I also remember all the help I got, from complete strangers as well as from friends, when I started out, and I want to pay it forward. This is why I answer a lot more than I ask, both here and on http://serverfault.com where I also hang out.

This site fills three needs for me:

  • the need to give back what was given to me
  • the need to find new puzzles and to solve them
  • the need to procrastinate while still finding and learning new things

And the chat room gives me a chance to stay in touch with other people with similar interests. What's not to like?

Other stuff

I'm a horse rider; I have a horse of my own. Consequently I have no spare time to worry about. In what little I have, I enjoy crafts (knitting, sewing, weaving...) and playing WoW (Argent Dawn, EU, I'm in the Plainrunners Tribe). I'm married, to a man who used to be a sysadmin and is now a developer/architect. It's nice to be with someone who understands the technical issues I work with; it makes for interesting conversations while driving to work... I live in Sweden, some ways outside of Stockholm where I work.

I've been using Linux since 1996 (I think -- early 2.0.x kernels) starting with Red Hat and quickly switching to Slackware. In the time since then I've used many other distributions and my go-to distro is Debian. I've also worked with AIX on RS/6000, VMS on VAX, Digital Unix on Alpha and SCO before they became what they are today.

I currently have 4 machines, running Gentoo, Debian, Ubuntu* and OS X.

My motivation for being here is to help where I can. Over the years (and increasingly so) when I need to Google something, a SE site pops up that tells me exactly what I need. I've taken a lot from SO/*.SE and felt it was time to give something back.

Currently, I'm a Ph.D. student of meteorology (severe storms and tornadoes). Before that I flew the Embraer-145 regional jet for a regional airline for a number of years. I have also been employed as a programmer on and off over the years.

*on armhf and I'll be switching that once I have to time to setup a proper cross compile environment

  • I have a cross compiling environment in Linux however it is so much easier to compile small things in my Lamobo R1 with a SSD disk... – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 27 '16 at 13:00

I'm just another geek who got addicted to programming when I was 11. My first languages were JavaScript and then C. Unfortunately on that other OS :(

Somehow I happened to find a career in programming when I was 16. I build windows apps and web apps. While I have a good job writing a giant web app product, it all seems like stamp collecting when I read about how a young Finnish guy wrote an OS that runs half the internet.

I've been meaning to get into the *nix world for ever so long (and eventually into kernel develop or anything close to the hardware). Lack of resources and being on my own made it a hard journey. Finally the time came when I was rejected for a job because I lacked *nix skills I swore I would pick it up, that's when I came here.

A year later today I own OSX, Fedora and Windows (for the day job :( ) I picked up Perl, a little Python and Haskell. I contributed into the Perl Core and Dancer2 (Perl Web Framework). and I'm re-learning C the Unix way now.

The last few months I've tried dabbling with toy OS's. Some Assembly, the Raspberry Pi and the Linux source code. However it has been blatantly hard! :/ Understanding how to interact with hardware, what manuals to read etc have just been daunting.

I don't know what steps to take next, but I know I have a long journey and I'll be programming for a while.

  • what other os?? – mikeserv Mar 22 '14 at 6:38
  • 1
    @mike windows :P – gideon Mar 22 '14 at 14:04

About me

My name's LE Manh Cuong, from Hanoi, Vietnam.

I have not graduated from University yet, and I'm not going to do that. (There are many reasons, but that's another story). In University, I learned about Electronic and Telecommunication. All my knowledge about IT fields came from online learning (Thanks Coursera, edX, OCW) and researching by myself (Thanks Professor Google).

I have worked in IT fields for about 3 years, as a Network Engineer, a System Administrator and a Perl Developer. Now I'm doing a startup with my friend, It's a mobile marketing system. In future, I'm going to become a DevOps Engineer because I love System Administrator as much as Programming.

My first OS was Windows, but I switched to Linux when I got a job as a Linux System Administrator, and I did not know that I have loved it since when.

Everyday, I learn more about Linux, reading papers, documentation, doing some labs, writing some code. Knowing, discovering and explaning how things work, how things can be done like that make me feel great.

Why U&L

My goal is sharing and learning more things about Linux (or *nix), and I feel I got it when I first was here. Reading answers and questions from people (like terdon, slm, Gilles, Stéphane Chazelas and others whom I have not remember yet) is awesome. Learning from community is awesome, too.

Helping people solving problem, get feedback from community, make solution better. This process make me (and people) better.

My skills

I have worked on many Linux distro (Ubuntu, Centos, Arch, OpenSUSE...), some *nix (Solaris, AIX, OSX). Many skills that I have learned to work with them. Some skills that I am good at:

  • Bash (and other *nix shell)
  • Vim
  • Perl
  • AWK
  • Apache
  • Nagios
  • Salt stack
  • Haproxy
  • Thanks for sharing. It's nice to see so many people that are similar minded 8-). – slm Jun 8 '14 at 8:08
  • 1
    Thanks for writing. We don't seem to get a lot of people from Asia here, and I had not noticed anyone from Vietnam before. Though I see you do list Hanoi as your location in your profile. – Faheem Mitha Jun 8 '14 at 9:16

Who I am

I'm an electronics and telecomm. engineer by training. I'm currently pursuing a master's degree in the field (specializing in MEMS) in my hometown of Cairo, Egypt. I also work as a teaching assistant for a couple of undergraduate courses at my university.

When I'm not doing techie stuff, I'm an avid reader of literature and poetry. I'm a big time Lord of the Rings nerd. Give me a shout out if you are/were a fellow member of Entmoot :)

My *nix history

I'm quite a late comer to the *nix world, I'm afraid. My first brush with it was in the early 2000's (2001~2002) when my father bought a computer magazine that came with a Mandrake LiveCD. I popped it in, booted from it, understood nothing and went happily on my Windows way. It wasn't until 2009 that I had a true introduction to GNU/Linux (as well as a very brief stint on a Solaris machine) via RHEL in an enterprise setting. This was during an internship for an electronics company that required me to learn the use of Red Hat (and Perl) for a scripting job.

After the internship was over, I was still reluctant to move my whole workflow over to GNU/Linux. The experience did draw me closer to the free software world, though, and Perl and LaTeX stuck with me in my Windows environment.

It was in early 2010 that I finally made the full leap because I was required to work on some simulation software for college that only worked under GNU/Linux. I switched to a Mandriva 2010 environment based on my TA's recommendation.

When I graduated, I came into contact with a mixed environment of Mandriva 2010 and Mandriva 2011 boxes in the workplace as well as some CentOS (can't remember which version) boxes in the graduate research lab at school.

Since electronics people are not computer/programming-inclined by training or nature1, and since my TA who recommended that I use Mandriva had left school to pursue other things, I was the only one knowledgeable enough to manage the research lab's network of (really ancient) CentOS boxes.

Since then, I have been incrementally learning system administration (and scripting skills) and have found it to be quite an enjoyable, albeit stressful, profession. I have recently revamped the lab with a pre-seeded installation of Debian Wheezy managed by Puppet, which has proven quite robust so far.

On my personal computer, I have used Mandriva 2010, Debian Squeeze, Fedora 16 and Debian Wheezy in this order. I am currently waiting for some free time to try out Arch and Slackware so I can delve even deeper.

Oh, and I also tried out LFS v7.1 but haven't had the time to play with it as much as I'd hoped.

My weapon of choice for most tasks (professional or personal) is Perl.

Why I come here

I was once faced with an administration problem at work and couldn't find suitable Google search terms for it. Since StackExchange sites were always helpful during my Google searches, I signed up here and asked my question and received the correct answer all in less than an hour. I have been a frequent visitor here ever since. First I asked questions then, as my experience grew, I became comfortable answering them as well. I second terdon's sentiment that I have learned more about GNU/Linux by frequenting this site and interacting with people than I ever did by reading.


1With a few exceptions, obviously :)

  • 2
    Nice answer, Joseph. Thanks for writing! – Faheem Mitha Jan 24 '14 at 20:12
  • 1
    Thank you for the question. It was really inspired :) – Joseph R. Jan 24 '14 at 20:13

( I was pointed out that the prose could use some re-reading and correction, I will do so when as soon as I have some time (and feel like doing so, fixing someone else's errors is different))

I'm a General Linguist by education and software developer by trade. I use Linux whenever I can, for specific tasks I use Windows or an Arduino (I prefer the Arduino: less restrictions).

I like U&L as I found answers to many of my questions there or better solutions than I have come up with myself over the years. It also points out interesting (that is of course subjective) subjects that I never thought I wanted to know about in the first place. I don't read the new questions systematically, but being active on the review queues show me a fair share of them.

Some history

I used to play with my brother's slide-ruler (he was a few years older and has a more technical education), and I was fascinated by the electronic calculator I did see at the evoluon. Mine graduation year was the last year that was not allowed to use a calculator for the final exams (the ones before going to university), and I am glad of that, because I think that forced me to learn to be able to do calculations on paper or in my head quickly.

In the final year in school I almost did some programming. But the teacher explained that that would have involved sending pencil marked punch-cards to a university, equipped with a computer to process the programs, and that would have been a week or two round-trip time (this was 1978).

Not until I started studying Mathematics (there was no separate computer science at that time) at Leiden University at seventeen, did I have my first real experience with programming, on a IBM 370 compatible Amdahl system. We, the first year students, had limited resources allocated for our "jobs". This was determined by the job-control punch-cards that you put in front of your actual program cards (in ALGOL 60). I soon found out how to increase the run-time limitations we had to several seconds and to more than 4 pages of printed output. The first program I wrote for my self was Conway's game of life, which got me an official warning when I picked up the output of running the program on the R-pentomino (the output was cut of at 100 pages of folding line printer paper and the admins could not fail to notice this unusual amount of paper output for single job for a first year student). One of the worst things that could happen to you in those days, was that the elastic band that kept the punch cards of your program together, would break.

At University I worked with Algol 68, APL (from which my dislike for the write only family of programming languages), Lisp. I got interested in microprocessors, particularly liked the 6809 architecture: it was the first microprocessor with SEX (an instruction for sign-extending an 8 bit value to 16 bit). I played my first interactive computer game on my friends Sinclair (Timex) ZX80: you would run around a maze trying to find an exit, or until a dinosaur blocked your way and you lost.

I co-founded and chaired the Dutch Hobby-Computer-Club chapter for Motorola 68000 processors. However I did not have the money to buy a full fledged 68000 system like the Apple Lisa. So I settled for a 6502 based BBC Micro computer and wrote a cross assembler in BASIC that allowed me to upload programs to my, self-soldered, 68000 board (with 4K ROM and 4K RAM!). The BBC first had a cassette-tape (some programs were broadcast on Dutch radio that you could record and upload to your system), later a floppy drive (2x100Kb per 5.25" disc. Apart from Basic and 6502 assembler the BBC allowed me to try Forth, BCPL, MicroProlog and Pascal.

I went to University and an early age and that had kept me out of the draft for military service, but by the time I started studying Japanese I was older and should have done that service first. Of course this was found out and I got drafted on very, very, short notice. I was not very happy in the service, among other things because I could not find a place to meditate, like I was used to do every morning. I was stationed at the Tonnet Kazerne military base "'t Harde" where in the classroom next to where I was, an AP-23 mine (which had the colouring of an instruction mine, but was a real one) exploded, killing the instructor and six of my collegues. Afterwards I asked our commander how to get out of the army in an interview, and I was told to apply as an conscientious objector. I applied as such and was back being a civilian within 24 hours. I think they were glad to have one less person with potential trauma to worry about.

I did not make sense too much to continue studying full time, because, as conscientious objector, I would soon have to do public service for 18 months (1.5 times the length of the military service). Public service normally involved something like changing bedding in a hospital or home for the elderly, but I was lucky.

First I landed a temporary job as a Basic programmer and sysadmin on a PDP-11 using multi-user basic under RT-11. I wrote software for pupils to learn basic math and fill out blanks with correct words in sentences. That system was about to be upgraded to Xenix, and I had to program in Pascal (and some parts in C), translating the Basic programs by hand at high speed. At the same time I started to use curses instead of the programmed in escape sequences used to move the cursor on the 6 different (second hand) serial line based CRT terminals we were using. The PDP had 8" floppys for making backups, I still have some adhesive labels for those, if someone needs them.

The software development was a university project and when I told the director I could not sign on for a longer period because of my work as a conscientious objector, he made arrangements so that I could continue to do the same work as fulfilment of that requirement. The software development and sysadmin work was way better than any other work I could have hoped for, but the (prescribed) pay level was about a fifth of my previous pay for the same job. Therefore I worked a bit on the side selling computers. My company name: "Antron", as tacky as it gets, but which I thought a cool name at the time.

By 1984 I had a 300 baud modem at home, and was the only student in our student housing (170 rooms) having a private phone. The modem was hooked up to my BBC micro running Kermit. I continued studying, but combining Japanese with work was difficult. I switched to master in General Linguistics, which allowed me to include courses like "computability" and "formal languages and automata" in my general linguistics master program. Those courses were held at the now opened computer science faculty, the CS students didn't understand why a guy would do such subjects out of his own volition.

Before I could pick-up some speed in my studies again, some friends from my high-school asked me to join a start-up. In that company we instructed students at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam in the use of computers and ran a laboratory for specialised computer usage (with an A0 plotter etc.). I co-wrote a 3D modelling program running on Atari ST and IBM PC AT (Autocad was still 2.5D only). And I modified my Atari ST: it had more available memory (by piggy-backing memory chips, soldering all but one pin to the existing 16 memory chips); it had the processor de-soldered (60+ pins, not so easy) and replaced by it a socket, in which I put a board with the original processor, a PAL based address selector and a 68881 floating point coprocessor; and on the ROM module I installed a modified C't design with dual ISA slots (on a read only bus!). In the ISA slots I had a IBM PGA graphics board.

Our software was in Modula-2 and I rewrote the software floating point library to use the 68881 math coprocessor and rewrote part of the library calling the GEM based graphics driver to redirect to the PGA. That way we could generate images much faster than on a the PC, with significantly larger models (but rendering was still far from real-time).

For our first real walk-through we drove an IBM monitor which was fixed to a 2 meter long board, and shot images with a film camera that was adapted for single shot recording on the other side of the board (triggered by the Atari once an image was ready). After running for 2 days and developing the film we found that the CRT monitor had overheated (because of the cardboard casing that was there to keep the light out) and that the monitor had gone completely off-color.....

During that time (late 80s) I also published my first open source contribution in a magazine (an optimized quick-sort implementation in Modula-2)

We switched to a separate Z-buffer based renderer after I had calculated that with the number of polygons we were handling (we did back to front painting on the hardware accelerated PGA board), that Z-buffer would be more efficient. We needed to store the resulting images, and GIF was selected as there was software from CompuServe to show these images on MSDOS computers with various graphics boards, as well as a program from IBM to show these on their PS/2 systems (which IBM had donated to the Academy). However there was no program to go from software frame buffer to GIF, so I reverse engineered that, with the help of the original article on LZW compression and checking the output against the two viewers that we had. Once that was done I also wrote our own viewer for the special graphics boards that were becoming available for AutoCAD (already at that time the GPU was often more powerful than the PC the board was put into). This was all done in Zortech C++. On the PC we had a minimal program (1.5Kb) to switch from renderer to viewer and back, so the viewing code did not take valuable memory (always at a premium on the PC). I had not been in England that often and I called the viewing program 'shower.exe' as it showed our images. The guy reviewing our manuals had a hard time, as he, as a native speaker of English, had difficulty not to associate "shower" with a bathroom activity.

We tried to speed things up using Transputers and parallel processing at some time, but this was quite difficult. Occam, a nice language with indentation as indication of block structure (like Python), was a far call from C and Modula-2. Things looked much better when I tried the Transputer under Helios (a Unix like OS) on the system Atari developed, but unfortunately that never took of commercially.

The Academy bought two Sun machines, which were fast, except that the FPU did not do square roots (as did the 68881) in hardware. And we needed square rooting a lot in our software for vector normalisation. Since the vectors multiplied were limited in input values because of they were already normalized, I figured out we could use a 1024 entry lookup table of floating point values. which nicely speeded up calculations by an order of magnitude. The Sun machines brought me back to using Unix and I have worked on Unix on a daily basis since then (1990).

The shower program was much wanted by graphic board manufacturers (SPEA, ELSA, Artist Graphics, etc. all with proprietary hardware as well as several VESA manufacturers). That was because we had architectural images that showed very well on their 256 colour graphic boards. Their alternative were dithered GIF images based on photos of scantily (if at all) clad women, not always a good thing to use on trade shows. Adapting the back-end of the "shower" to a new board was a matter of routine after the first few that I did. I used to visit the companies to have access to the latest (unreleased) hardware and had several experiences of managers not believing they work was finished in good cooperation with their engineers within an hour or two.

By now we were using DOS-extender on 386 and while visiting Artist Graphics, the spare time (I had flown to Dublin for 2 days, just in case things would take longer) was put to good use. After adapting the rendering program to map in the Z buffer in the high-memory mapped graphics board space I could see the rendering taking place in real time at an acceptable resolution. This slowed down the rendering slightly, but made it much more easy for us to see where the rendering process went wrong (if it did). Once SPEA found out, they did not want to be outdone by the competition and we got an Intel 860 based board from them, on which we could do the whole rendering, and see the progress and it was faster than the state of the art 386 PC in which the board was inserted.

Our single shot camera was exchanged for a videorecorder (rollback, roll forward, take a single shot, roll back ....) and a targa/vista graphics board (without file format description, but that was an easy one to figure out). Some very nice video walkthroughs resulted from that.

However the technical successes were not followed by enough sales and investor money disappeared as in a black hole. I sold my shares, and decided to use the money to finish my long postponed thesis. For the research I used my 386 machine and dos-extender to run the text analysis programs. It ran in an hour what the VAX machine at the Linguistics Institute could only do in several days (the difference being mainly due to the whole dictionary of words fitting in memory on the 16Mb RAM of the 386, so lookups of word associated codes were much faster than on the VAX where this had to come from disc repeatedly, as it had only 256Kb memory and that shared with the processes the others ran).

At that time I also still had my Atari ST, often used by friends for typesetting papers and thesis'. I had been using LaTeX since the mid 80s. Fortunately laser-printers became available, until that time I had printed LaTeX output on my 9 needle STAR printer, going over each line three (3!) times, I normally switched on the printer in the evening and went to sleep somewhere else if I had to print more than 4 pages. I also helped set the book on Generative Grammar by one of my professors and earned the gratitude of several people by converting Word documents close to the deadline of submission, documents that Microsoft Word would no longer render in any acceptable way (after an image was inserted, or a table of contents requested).

With my thesis finished, I started as manager at the other 3D graphics software company in Amsterdam. The software there ran on SGI Iris, DEC Ultrix and on Sun, later also on HPUX and on Linux (mid 90s). The software was a solid modeller and ray-tracer with all kinds of modules for NURBS, blobs and particles as extensions. I did not program much as a manager but I kept an eye on the process and the revision control system. The program was in K&R C, parts of the interface in TCL and an internally developed functional language called Intercol was used for specification of surface "materials' and also for interactive interface design. When I took over the management of the project, one of the features of Intercol was that there was no normal way of documenting the software by inserting comments (the developer said that if you really needed comments, you could just write a conditional that was never true with a string in the non-evaluated part of the conditional acting as some form of documentation...).

We had 50 DEC Ultrix machines in the basement (an expensive heat source) for parallel rendering, each with 16Mb of memory, but enough swap-space on disc (storage was on the network). Unfortunately the users of the system (some extremely creative art students) did rather want to use scanned images for textures (so they knew what it would look like) than try and write some (Intercol) program that might approached the visual effect of what they wanted. The memory consumption was by these images was huge as our software memory mapped the images and the rendering machine spent most of its time on swapping. My main software development contribution in that time was to write a Targa to tiled TIFF converter and then a caching mechanism for those tiles in the renderer. That way we did not need to read in the multi-megabyte images in memory completely. Because of the way the ray-tracer used the pixels from these images (mostly requiring pixels from the image close to each other) this helped speed things up a lot. This immediately prompted the students to use much finer detail images (read: higher resolution), but fortunately the tiling mechanism still worked out fine for those as well.

Here was also the first time I had to work with HTML in setting up the first website I was involved in (late 1993). Some of my new employees had introduced me to Python (which they had used at the CWI in Amsterdam where Guido van Rossum was begin employed). I liked the design of that language, but did not want a fourth language in our software. So it took a few years before I actually did something with that.

In the mid 90s I spent two years in the USA, where I managed the development of a multimedia database and associated front-end. Warner Brothers, The Discovery Channel and Spielberg (his Survivors of the Shoah project) were among our customers. During that time I was almost exclusively involved with SGI (and IRIX) which was approaching the top of their dominance in the graphics market. I also had my first off-shore development team (to port the front-end to the Mac), with often broken email communication to Bangalore that was not a very successful experience.

After moving back to Europe, I started working in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, (voted best place to live before San Diego and Casablanca). We would work in the morning, have lunch at 2pm, visit Las Canteras beach until five, shower and then work until nine. I was still doing graphics, this time editing and compositing software on SGI. Unfortunately that was only a year of employment to get the development organised.

One thing I will never forget is that we had 10base2 (coaxial) Ethernet at the office in Las Palmas. Twice a week the workstations of the developers could not reach each other or the server because the cleaners would have swiped the floor and touched one of the Ethernet transceivers, breaking the loop. Finding where the loop was broken often took an hour. The company had money for SGI Indigo2 machines but had not invested in a better network, so until we could get something faster I used an unused 10baseT hub (unused because it was 110V for use on trade shows) and telephone cable and RJ45 connectors to hook the machines up and discard large tracts of the cheapernet that had of course become very expensive because of the downtime.

Because the founder of the company was afraid of people remotely accessing our computers and steal the software, we had no internet connection to our desktop like I was used to, and we also had no email. I convinced the owner that the "old" way of doing emails would really be safe enough and one spare Personal Iris system was set up with a dial-out modem to pick up and sent emails. That system was connected to another machine in our network using a serial port. UUCP (initiated from the internal network) was used to communicate the emails. At least that way we could just write and receive emails at our own desk. The revision control system I had set up while I was in Las Palmas, was still operating after 12 years, when I did help the company to upgrade to mercurial.

I would come back to Las Palmas but not after spending two years on something completely different: Applying the lessons learned in the software development process on molecular nanotechnology (there are parallels, as both engineering activities require little in the form of raw material, resulting in less careful design). I invested (and lost) most of my savings on that project, but it was fun. That although Brussels was a dreary place, especially after sunny Gran Canaria.

In Brussels I had ISDN, and set up my first Linux based machine at home as a workstation and router (for my and my wifes laptops). The server was SuSE based, as ISDN was popular in Germany and SuSE had stable ISDN support out of the box.

Also during that time I started developing software in Python, which quickly became my favourite language for non-time-critical jobs. I did part-time development work after my son was born, while my wife was travelling over Europe (helping her customers with ISO 9000 certification, I was supporting those customers with browser and Python based software solutions). I contributed to some open source projects (implemented new string matching specifications in file/magic, packaged the ReiserFS software into RPMs before it was part of the normal distributions). Since then I have made contributions on a regular basis for many a project that I needed to improve for my own use. During that time (1999/2000) I also put a second Pentium III in my computer to calculate the 196 palindrome problem to 10 million places (John Walker of Autodesk fame had gone to 1 million a few years earlier on a Sun machine).

With a second child on its way I moved back to the USA to do some more serious (and above all serious money making) work. I just managed to hit the dot-com crash at the end of 2000, but found another job, had to fly back because of visa issues but finally everything got resolved before the money ran out. I first managed a small development group in Sausalito (CA) making compositing software (used by ILM for the StarWars movies). I was returning to Windows and Mac for development, but I had Linux based machines for revision control. My personal system was a Win98 based Sony laptop, that ran SuSE under VMware. So Outlook Express would read the emails via IMAP from the SuSE based IMAP server. Later I switched to a DELL D800 and ran it natively under Linux with a Windows VM for compatibility (you learn when OpenOffice mangles your bosses Word document).

By 2004 I had set up the engineering in most of the companies 10+ engineering locations in 5 countries (a result of acquisitions). It used replication of compiled libraries, a whole development method around that, remotely triggered builds and tests. The most problematic group was in Germany and I (was) moved there to make sure they got integrated in the process. Unfortunately our company was sold, and the promises for my position in Germany over time were not kept by the new management. Apart from that, the new mother company had 4 engineers for maintaining ClearCase, where I had supported the CVS/cvsup based revision control (later mercurial) for all locations remotely on my own and next to my normal management responsibilities for several products. I certainly did not see it as a career move to learn ClearCase and work on that full-time. Politics started playing up as well as some other indigestible management decisions, so I decided to work as a freelancer again, which I have done since then.

Where I am now

I would say at least 25 of the 30 years I have been professionally involved in software development, I have been working on some sort of Unix or Linux. Initially with csh, then ksh (Sun IIRC), tcsh (on Irix) and now bash. I like the maintainability of Python (I share much of Eric S. Raymonds experience with fetchmail in that respect http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/3882).) and switch from bash to using Python before the quotes and its syntax start to irritate me. I know how to use sed, but never bothered much with awk, essentially because I can do anything that would require awk in Python (I'm not saying Python is better, but I am certainly better at Python).

SuSE was problematic after Novell's takeover, it landed me with inaccessible support pages and all kinds of problems not good for persoal use of Linux, unacceptable for professional use. I attended the Ubuntu delopment conference in Paris (2006) and switched first myself and then the company, 15 machines or so, to Ubuntu. Currently I am running 12.04 (in classic mode) and I am considering switching to Linux Mint full time as I really don't like the direction the default Ubuntu UI has taken.

I never was a full time adminstrator of Unix or Linux, but the last 15 years I did delve into many things U&L related and contributed when possible. ReiserFS, mdadm, LUKS encrypted /home, sendmail, postfix, bind, Apache & mod_wsgi, file/magic, spamassassin, IMAP, all have taken their fair share of my attention (as did several not direcly U&L related projects, such as implementing the ordereddict libary in C for Python).

On U&L I am more inclined to be a reviewer than that I have broad knowledge of U&L issues (maybe that is my managerial role showing itself). I like the U&L atmosphere, and even though I sometimes (necessarily) get corrected by the experts here, I think I make my contribution.

Outside of U&L I am online active on Khan Academy, where I refreshed my rusty math skills ( https://www.khanacademy.org/profile/avdn/ ) and try to keep a good Energy Points and Badges earned score.

I am a board member of the EuroPython Society, that is responsible for the EuroPython conferences.

When I'm not at my PC (it happens) I can be found in the local dojo, training Shotokan Karate (I got my nidan in 2014). If you are stuck in software problem and want some distraction there is nothing like a fist that is quickly approach your face, to get back to reality.

Since I don't watch TV all, that still leaves me time to cook for my daughter (who lives with me) and my girlfriend on a daily basis (and bake bread because the Germans don't know how to do that).

Timeline/location:

1961 -> Netherlands 1994 -> Ohio/California 1996 -> 
Gran Canaria 1997 -> Brussels 1999 -> Gran Canaria 2000 -> 
San Francisco -> 2001 Gran Canaria 2001 -> Sausalito (CA) 
2004 ->  Braunschweig, Germany

My name is Kusalananda.

profile for Kusalananda at Unix & Linux Stack Exchange, Q&A for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems

I'm currently $(( $( date +%Y ) - 1973 )) years old and I work as a government-funded software developer, systems developer, or DevOps engineer in Sweden. I am accustomed to working in very international teams, and my current job involves supporting the larger academic community of bioinformaticians at Swedish research institutions (universities). In the Unix & Linux forum, I seem to be mainly interested in shell script programming and Unix tools, but I also enjoy programming in C and Perl, and Python when I'm forced to it. I quite like meddling in SQL too.

My father gave me a Commodore 64 when I was 13, and later an Amiga 500. I used them mainly for playing games, but also for learning Basic.

The best computer I've ever owned was a Macintosh SE/30 which served me well during the first few years of university in the early 90s. For its time, it was a real power brick in a neat and compact design. I'm terribly sad that I sold it.

During the early 1990's I rapidly progressed though a number of Apple machines while at the same time doing most of my actual programming for classes (mostly in C++ and Fortran 90 at the time) on SUN SPARCstations and SUN Ultra workstations running this Unix thing (earlier versions of Solaris, or possibly SunOS, I'm not entirely sure). I learned to use the system by solving tasks related to my programming assignments, and by testing random commands to see what they did. I never took a "Unix class". I knew how to write a Makefile before I knew very much about shell programming.

My department was a Scientific Computing department, not a Computer Science department, and I started out on a Ph.D. in numerical analysis. Numerical analysis involves solving systems of equations using iterative methods. I soon found that I was more interested in (and better at) the actual implementation of the methods than working out the linear algebra.

For my Ph.D. project I was implementing a parallel preconditioner for the Euler and Navier-Stokes' equations in Fortran 77, using PVM to do the message passing between the four supercomputers we had at the department. PVM (Parallel Virtual machine), for those that may not know, was (is?) a bit like the development test-bed for MPI, the Message Passing Interface.

Being a Ph.D. student in Sweden is a bit different than what's it like in e.g. Britain. You're employed, you have a salary, you have an office, you teach. I taught Object Oriented Analysis and Design with C++ and a bit of parallel programming using PVM and MPI with Fortran 90 and C. I also ran an after-hours help desk in the department's computer lab, helping students with everything from printer problems to sorting out their programming logic.

I enjoyed helping. I enjoyed teaching.

Love and boredom made me quit the Ph.D. and we moved to New Zealand, for her Ph.D. in biochemistry. By this time (2000), I've had a cursory glance at Debian GNU/Linux, but had decided I thought it was too "sprawling" and not "well defined" enough. I ran NetBSD on a decommissioned SUN Blade workstation for a while, while working for a Life Science Crown Research Institute outside Dunedin, maintaining a cluster of RedHat servers and doing general programming odd-jobs for the people there needing it.

Since December 2000 and OpenBSD 2.8 I've used OpenBSD as my main platform. For about 11 years, I did a lot of Perl and SQL for the Ensembl project at the EMBL-EBI and Wellcome Trust in the UK (these places do research in bioinformatics and biomedicine), but I finally moved back to Sweden in 2014 for the position that I'm currently at.

My current setup is a refurbished laptop on which I run OpenBSD-current. Sadly, the keyboard is broken, so I work over an SSH connection from another laptop running Windows 10 (provided to me by my workplace, so I can't change it).

What do I do here?

  • I take an interest in shell scripting and Unix tools questions in general.
  • I (hopefully) write answers that are clear and easy to understand.
  • I learn a lot from people that know more than I do. A whole lot.
  • I get annoyed with GNU-isms (when taken as universal standard) and with people that don't know that there are other Unices besides Linux.

Why am I here?

  • I like helping individuals with getting things done.
  • I get a kick out of seeing someone else learn something.
  • I enjoy short and self-contained problems.
  • I like learning more about things I know only little about.
  • I need to keep my brain working.

Unix systems, in order of preference:

  1. OpenBSD
  2. NetBSD
  3. Linux (Ubuntu, probably)
  4. Solaris
  5. Anything else that looks interesting. I've played around with Minix (but the lack of Dvorak key mappings put me off) and even had a go on the GNU Hurd, and Plan 9 (Inferno), just to be able to say I was there.

FreeBSD has been totally uninteresting to me, but I can't really say why. I like "small" systems, which is why I stick to OpenBSD. I only just recently installed my first FreeBSD virtual machine to have a system to test some of my own software on. Likewise, I keep an Ubuntu Linux system around, but I never really use it. At work, we have multi-user servers and clusters (real and virtualized) running Ubuntu and, I believe, CentOS.

Things I believe I can say I know something about:

  • Shell script programming
  • POSIX tools
  • C programming
  • SQL
  • GNU autotools (autoconf and automake)

My approach to answering questions in this forum (I don't strictly follow this):

  1. Answer the question.
  2. Solve the problem. For example, the question may be about syntax, but the problem is about copying files or parsing a file.
  3. Explain.

Unix-related achievements benefitting others:

  • I helped out with reviving the lost groff sources of the Unix Text Processing book.
  • I maintain the GNU Stow port for OpenBSD. I previously also maintained the Anacron port and some more obscure ones.
  • I maintain a tiny software project I call shell-toolbox which I use for testing solutions to questions on this site.

Other odd Unix-related facts:

  • I run /bin/sh as my login shell.
  • I prefer groff over LaTeX.
  • My five most used shell command are, according to my history file,
    1. doas
    2. cd
    3. ls
    4. make
    5. vim

Recent screenshot


Kusalananda is very much a given name, albeit not my legal name.

I've been using Linux-based systems since '05, I think Ubuntu 5.04 was my first. I remember having it delivered via Shipit on CDs since at the time I used dial-up internet. It wasn't much, but it saved me when Windows broke the day before I needed to print a large homework assignment.

I eventually dumped Windows when I realized I didn't really need it and that my occasional needs were satisfied by running it in a virtual machine.

Since then I have moved to other distros, but I mostly use Debian and Arch Linux and have other systems in virtual machines. Unfortunately those days I don't really have much time to tinker with stuff.

My background is in electrical/electronics engineering, mostly as an embedded developer (not on embedded Linux, sadly, I keep myself to small microcontrollers) and doing some signal processing work on the side (mostly MATLAB, but moving to Python).

I frequent this site since I find its quality to be quite high both in terms of questions and answers: bad questions/answers tend to be eliminated through downvotes and duplicates get closed, unlike quite a few Linux/UNIX forums where the same questions are repeated many times and often get low-quality answers. I found this site when I asked something on Stack Overflow, saw a link to here and got interested.

The other SE site I visit often is electronics.stackexchange, but mostly as a reader since my skills in electronics aren't as good as the skills of other people there.

I guess that's it for now...

I've been using UNIX since 1993 and Linux since June 19, 1995. I was a hardcore Linux user and a prosperous dot-com worker during the late 1990s tech boom. When the dot-com party ended, I went to Mexico to learn Spanish, came back to the US to get my degree, and then lived in Mexico for a few years.

It was just before the dot-com party ended when I started writing my big open source program: MaraDNS. During this time, I let go of my Linux fanaticism while in Mexico and started dual-booting.

As I was getting married, I realized I could not support myself developing open source, so I finished up my open source project (which I still maintain) and am now seeing how I can best monetize my years of Linux and UNIX scripting and development experience.

I am here because of a New Year's resolution I made to only be part of online communities which can help me be more prosperous; I answer here because I enjoy being here and to show to potential employers how skilled I am in Linux and other UNIX clones.

  • 2
    Since you're new I'd like to formally welcome you to U&L. I think you'll find that the ppl here are all friendly and of the SE sites I've frequented this is the one I choose to call "home" b/c they are. You'll also find some of the brightest minds to boot. I read your resolutions and I wish you luck in achieving them. I too have kids and started here for similar reasons, actually at the beginning of last year 8-). I've been on the site a long time but only used it in a readonly mode. Here's to us both continuing to use it in read/write. – slm Feb 2 '14 at 8:45
  • Thanks for the kind words. This is my favorite place in the stackexchange webspace ; it's a good friendly community. – samiam Feb 2 '14 at 12:19

Who I am

What drives me is knowledge & challenge.

When I first started with Linux, the challenge was figuring it out, learning out all the pieces worked. Now, that's become simple, and my challenge has changed to figuring things out that nobody has tried before.
But one component of the challenge that always has been, and always will be, is making things beautiful. There are few things I hate more than an ugly design. When something in Linux is done right, it works efficiently, doesn't easily break, and is easy to understand.

But the challenge thing things extends to more than just computers. I'm quite happy to tackle an ordinary puzzle :-). I've never been a big gamer. I've played video games sure, and I still do (Team Fortress 2), but they're not a big interest.

I've got Linux everwhere. At home I've got a NAS server, a general server, a router, several Raspberry Pis, couple laptops, and a desktop all running Linux (plus an Android phone, and head unit in my car). I stopped using Windows entirely around 2010.

Outside of the computer world, I love the outdoors. I moved to Florida because of the weather. I'm dead serious. I love being warm. I also love thunderstorms, and rain. Then there's the beach as well.
I enjoy kiteboarding, flying stunt kites, and frisbee. I also like hiking, and roller blading. Do a lot of reading too, but what computer geek doesn't.

 

Why I'm here on Unix & Linux

All my Linux knowledge came from the community. Whether it be open source software, a man page, an IRC chat room, or a message board, almost everything I know about Linux came freely from other people. Where I am at today would not be possible without that.

I believe in free knowledge.

So, I want to give that to other people.
But of course I don't know everything, and so I often enjoy solving the problems people post here. So I'm also here to continue my quest for knowledge.

 

My history

I actually had to trim this section down, as it was originally about three times as long, and I decided to spare you :-)

Introduction to computers

I first started with computers back around 1994. It was a Hewlett Packard 486DX 33hz, with a whopping 16mb ram, a 300mb hard drive, and a 28.8kbps ISA modem (add on), running Windows 3.11.
I had used other computers before that, but they were things other people owned, and I never really used them much. But when my family got our own, I was immediately hooked. I just found it fascinating, and wanted to figure out how it worked.

Nothing really spectacular for the next several years. Did a lot of messing around with computers. Parents got me my own so I'd stop breaking theirs. But still using Windows. My first one I built used a 366mhz Celeron.

Foray into Linux

Around the same time I built my first computer (late 1998), my father recommend I look into Linux. At this point I had no clue what Linux was. The only time I'd ever heard of Linux/UNIX was in the movie Jurassic Park when Lex goes "It's a UNIX system, I know this".

So I ordered a Debian CD (yes, I actually mail ordered a CD for a few dollars), and tried installing it. I tried several times actually. All of them complete disasters. It had no friendly installer, just this thing where you selected the packages you wanted to install. I had absolutely no clue what LILO was, and why I'd want it.
In fact it was such a disaster, I gave up and went back to Windows.

Then a couple months later I was at a friend's house, and saw his PC was running not-windows. Turns out, it was Linux, specifically Mandrake. So I got a hold of Mandrake, and tried it instead.
This time it went much better. Mandrake had a nice GUI installer, and I was dropped into Gnome.

For the next several years, I played around with various distributions. SUSE, Debian (once I knew more, it got another shot), Slackware, & Gentoo. But during all this I was still dual-booting Windows. I still needed access to things that couldn't be done in Linux.
In fact I never gave up Windows entirely until around 2009. There were times when I'd have multiple machines, some of them dedicated to Linux, but I always had a Windows machine around somewhere. Though mostly this was because of work. But we're jumping way too far ahead.

Settling into Gentoo

So we're in 2002 right now. As mentioned, I played around with several distributions, but then I tried Gentoo, and was hooked.

At first I thought I liked Gentoo because it was supposedly faster compiling everything yourself. But eventually I realized I liked it because it gave me control. I liked building my system from scratch, and knowing everything everything that went into it (plus other reasons, but that's irrelevant). This also provided me with a lot of knowledge about how Linux works.

To this day, I still use Gentoo as my primary OS.

Job

I Started my first Linux job in 2007 as a NOC tech. Basically monitoring systems and responding to alerts. Wasn't long before I was transferred onto the UNIX team, and there began my career in Linux.

These days I'm the system architect for cloud.com (division of Citrix Systems). Most of my work revolves around cloud computing, automation, and clustering (high availability, cluster filesystems, distributed computing, etc).

Automation theory

I believe in automating everything, thus I am very fond of scripting. I am fluent in shell script, perl, ruby, and unfortunately PHP (I was young once). I also know enough C to be able to code decently, but it's not something I do often.

I've worked with a lot of technologies. Solaris, FreeBSD, MySQL, Postgresql, Oracle, Bind, Postfix, OpenVPN, StrongSwan, Apache, Nginx, HAProxy, IPVS, IPTables, GlusterFS, Heartbeat, Pacemaker, Corosync, NIS, LDAP, to name a few.
But the things I work with and enjoy the most are:

  • Bash (general scripting, and ZSH for my personal shell)
  • VIM (set -o vi and readline vi mode everywhere!)
  • Puppet (for configuration management)
  • Ruby (more advanced scripting & working with Puppet)
  • High availability (load balancing, automatic recovery, etc)
  • Networking (DOS prevention, WAN routing, VPNs)
  • Virtualization/Containerization (Cloud computing & Docker)
  • 1
    Thanks for writing, Patrick. And no need to make your answer short on our account. :-) – Faheem Mitha May 4 '14 at 20:06
  • Glad to have you here, nice to know your background in addition to your solid answers 8-) – slm May 26 '14 at 23:52

My first computer was running OS/2; I was probably the last one in my class to get one. So as you may already guess I have never used any version of Windows as my regular OS.

My first contact with Linux was buying SuSE 5.1(?). I did not intend to use it; I just wanted to have a look at it because I had heard about it again and again. From an OS/2 perspective that was a "seen, laughed, deleted" experience. Not very attractive to someone who doesn't know what a mount point is (and has noone for asking). I kept on laughing about the Linux desktops for quite a while but became jealous of the process killing capabilities. Then IBM's PowerPC disaster killed OS/2's perspective (maybe just accelerated the inevitable). I switched to Linux at SuSE 7.x and used KDE (SuSE's default desktop.

Later I somehow got in touch with the Berlin Linux User Group (BeLUG) and helped organize the Berlinux 2005, a small Linux fair at the Berlin Institute of Technology (where I was studying management and computer science). Then I lost contact to BeLUG for several years. At that time I started becoming familiar with cryptography (the usage part not the math). For a few years I was very active in a political party and tried to get this party "more interested" in Linux and crypto. Not very successfully as you may have guessed.

Then fate kicked in: I got in contact with someone at BeLUG via Facebook(!)... In autumn 2012 I started giving regular crypto courses at BeLUG. In theory for the general public but IIRC we never had participants from the outside. I created offline mainkeys for my participants. Manually in the console. What a pain (though it didn't really feel like it at that time).

By the end of 2012 I created http://www.openpgp-schulungen.de/ - the first of now several crypto-related web sites by me. This web site should help others to give similar courses (on a high technical level).

Then fate really kicked in: Edward Snowden happened. It took even me several days to recognize the impact of this event. Cryptoparty existed at this point but was a tiny event hardly anyone cared about. Because the Berlin Cryptoparty people did not allow the TV people to shoot at their events, the TV people all came to me... Until then I did not call my courses "Cryptoparty" because I don't like several aspects of the Cryptoparty attitude. In July 2013 BeLUG introduced a weekly crypto course (for OpenPGP and XMPP-OTR) which lasted about a year and has been reduced to an about monthly event afterwards.

I March 2014 I started participating in the regular meetings of Berlin's computer science teachers (twice a year). At the four events in 2014 and 2015 I gave crypto courses there. In November 2014 I started a project (together with the former head of this teacher association) for getting regular crypto courses at schools. Although there were several interested teachers and we met a couple of times this was a complete failure. I consider this very unfortunate because it should be quite easy and very effective to have such (voluntary) courses at schools.

In spring or summer 2013 I created http://www.crypto-fuer-alle.de/. Until today this web site is (to my knowledge) the biggest collection of organizational and technical suggestions for spreading (and improving) crypto. Most of it is in German, though.

In April 2014 I started giving regular crypto courses at Berlin's Free University, mainly for computer science students. With the exception of the first event in a semester (which was part of the introduction events for the new students) we never had a lot of participants. After about a year this activity has heen reduced to one or two events per year.

2014, 2015, and 2016 I was elected to the board of BeLUG. Until 2014 Berlin had Germany's biggest Linux event (LinuxTag) in which BeLUG has been participating more or less from the beginning (in Berlin). After the LinuxTag 2014 several people at BeLUG were of the opinion that this event was not well suited for getting new Linux users. This was not criticism: I am not even sure whether the LinuxTag ever considered this as an important target group. Thus we thought about what kind of event we would like to have as an addition to the LinuxTag. The (probably) first public appearance of this idea was in October 2014 after the LinuxTag had been cancelled for 2015. This was a bit embarrassing for Berlin which made the start of the revolution easier.

On BeLUG's Christmas party 2014 we talked about this with people from Berlin's other big LUG. And on BeLUG's next general meeting (in January 2015) we officially decided to give this a try. At that time not even the name was fixed. This became "Linux Presentation Day" soon after; not very German but we did not want to solve a German problem but a (as we thought) worldwide problem and didn't consider it helpful to use a name which had to be translated.

The basic idea (explained in more detail on the international web site) is

  1. to have lots of quite small (and thus easily and cheaply organized) events so that more or less every group (does not even have to be a registered association) is capable of acting as host

  2. to make so many cities participate in this regular (twice per year) event that we get coverage in the nationwide non-IT media.

There are some nice side effects like we help potential organizers get the necessary resources (people, room, computers) and support them with digital and (free) printed material. Similarly we hel people found new Linux user groups.

This concept really had an impact. We started in May 2015 with 8 locations (limited to Berlin). In November 2015 we had (after many cancellations!) 79 locations in 72 cities in three countries (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, of course). The next event, on April, 30th 2016, will probably have about 100 cities in Germany alone and at least 8 involved European countries (among them the five biggest). Thus I really expect this to become the Linux revolution. We guess that between 1% and 10% of the Windows users is interested in having a look at Linux and can imagine switing to Linux (if it turns out usable). Being mentioned twice per year in nationwide media many more people will hear about Linux and consider having a look at it. I consider it possible that from 2017 or 2018 we may get about 1% of the computer users per year to Linux. 1% does not sound like much and I guess that at least the 1% of Windows users who are most easy for us to get already hate Windows... But 1% means about 500,000 people per year in Germany. I guess BeLUG (with its current resources and organization) can easily help about 100 people per year to install Linux. Compare that to 20,000 per year in Berlin. Thus the expected success may be difficult to handle. Fortunately the adult education centers are very interested in the Linux Presentation Day (and lots of future customers).

After being the one who had the idea I am currently the only real organizer for the Linux Presentation Day for Berlin (i.e. beyond one location), Germany and Europe. So you can indeed say that this is my own revolution... :-) BTW: We have to wait for the real results but a few hours ago terdon became active (after I pointed out the LPD to him in UL chat) which probably just made Greece the next LPD country.

  • Very interesting answer, Hauke. Thank you for writing. But don't forget to add something with regard to "tell the community their motivation for participating on this site". – Faheem Mitha Jan 26 '16 at 2:20

I'm a curious geek that works in IT Systems and network security. I started computing on Windows 3.1 when I was 5, then I switched to Windows 95, then Millenium, and since then I have tried to find a way out of the Microsoft way of mind. Lots of time later I finally found Ubuntu, Centos and now AIX.
I have two university diploma in France (yes I'm French), and I have been actively working for one year now.

I have been around first on Stack Overflow because I was a developer, then I discovered the magic of sysadmin and network security, and so I quit the developer World.

Since I have at the moment one of the most boring jobs ever (working in a recycling factory during summer was more attractive) I try to learn and help the maximum number of persons on the system I like: Linux.

If you want my resume you can have it; it's not hard to find, and if you want to know me better, I'm not on any social network except the professional one and Stack Exchange, which I consider as one of the nicest invention since the sundial.

More seriously, thanks for reading, see you around.

Why I am here

I joined Linux&Unix three months ago mostly because I am a senior sysadmin/netadmin turning devop. I also enjoy technical reading, the ocasional challenge, and learning while helping others.

First years

Through all my life I enjoyed tinkering with computers since my early teens, and nowadays I am a mix breed between a sysadmin, a network admin, and a little of programming.

I started very early in the summer of 1984 with a clone of the ZX Spectrum 48K, the Timex 2048. The ZX Spectrum was a (relatively) low-cost 8 bit machine very popular in Europe, and particularly in the UK. It had a Zilog Z80 processor, that was pretty well known at the time.

tc 2048

Was already writing BASIC when a few months later on joined a technical school, and by xmas time was writing my first Z80 assembly programs. I learned a lot from the inner workings of this machine, and about the hardware, especially from the point of view of an assembly programmer. I still remember with fondness all the MicroHobby Spanish magazines that I manage to get hold in their not-so-regular two week publishing schedule.

After finishing technical school, had a summer course in 1987 about Unix and C programming using HP/UX dumb terminals.

By this time I also bought my first PC/XT compatible computer, an Olivetti PC1. Olivetti PC1.

Life as a programmer

In early 1988, got my first job as a programmer for 3 years in C and x86 assembly in the DOS era, and was always tinkering with stuff. Got contact again with the Unix world using Microsoft´s ill-fated Xenix around this time.

Warming up to English

By the summer of 1989, a Galician mentor I had at work lent me the whole Tolkien collection, and I read it all as my first really serious approach to English. Consequentially, I started using English more extensively. Before that, all my study materials were mostly in Spanish, which is very akin to my mother tongue.

Back to University

Got really tired of the numbing work as a full-time programmer and joined University at day time around 1992. During University always kept having related IT part time jobs, and tinkering with IT. Also bought a 386SX, and shortly thereafter a 486DX, that I used to run DOS and Unix SCO V at home, and later on Windows 3.11, OS/2 and Windows 95.

Done a lot of mischief, including hacking the Unix SCO V server and the Novell services at the University. Also hacked [lots of] games at home. Started also using BBSs and Minitel services at this time.

Erasmus developer project in England

In 1995, started using the Internet at the faculty, mostly HTTP and IRC. Went on as a Erasmus student to England, and wrote in Bristol as my thesis the first emulator for Windows of the ZX Spectrum 48K, and actually the first open source emulator for Windows. That C source code was used as a pioneer concept on Windows for many emulators that followed.

Was also particularly active in comp.sys.sinclair at that time, specially in rather long threads about the inner dark workings of the Z80 processor with Ian Collier.

First Unix sysadmin/network admin job

Upon returning in 1996, I was offered the place of the Unix system administrator of the core services of the Polytechnic Universities of my home town, Porto. I had to pickup on the network administrator tasks as there was not a network administrator. Got seriously hacked in the first year, and there were so many days and night were I was actually forced to learn security on the other side of the fence. Got there my first contacts with firewalls, exploits, security hardening, Cisco, Thin-Ethernet, UTP, switches, Ultrix, Digital Unix, HP/UX, RedHat Linux 4.0 to 6.0, Debian Linux and NeXTs.

at job

Had a life changing interview at the end of my first year of work, in which I was rudely called a clown by not knowing some core Unix concepts, or rather explaining them in a way more convoluted than it was expected of me. Spent the 2nd year, besides working, using up all my waking hours reading every damn book I could find in the University library about Unix and communications, often to the tune of 3-4 books per week.

Life as a network, systems, and security Consultant

So in 1998, I was hired to work as a network, systems and security consultant in the best purely Portuguese consulting agency at the time. Was placed in a customer that loved my work; actually the customer told to the consulting outlet I was wasted there, in several meetings. That consulting company gave me a lot of training abroad, and I was sent to conferences in USA, Paris, London. Good old times, actually. Got here real experience with Solaris, AIX, HP/UX, OpenBSD, Debian, RedHat, Checkpoint, VPNs.

International Consultant

Offered myself as volunteer for International projects. Went to the first projects in Mozambique in 2000. The first one was performance analysis where I solved an huge nation-wide communication problem in an ISP; the 2nd one was designing and setting up the Internet connection and security infra-structure of the national central bank, where I dealt with Debian, Mandrake Linux, Solaris, Cisco, network design, security and Checkpoint.

Network Administrator

In 2003 went to work in the network team of the largest country-wide data network in my home country, Portugal; was there a year, doubling up as a Unix Solaris/Linux administrator, automating usual and regular network tasks, and setting up IDSs and Nagios.

One-man IT department in the largest ISP of Maputo

An opportunity came up to go to Mozambique as an expat, to keep the cable Internet running in 2004, or it was that much I was told when I was hired. Arrived there to an empty IT department that fired themselves due to a CEO with a very strong temper, and kept the ISP running (almost) single-handled for more than a whole year, until finding people able to give me a hand.

Life as an expat in Africa

Never had so many hats at once: I was the IT manager, the sysadmin, the network admin, the programmer, the DNS/DHCP master, the Helpdesk manager, and the 3rd-4th line of technical support... Learned a lot in the process. Had very good days, very bad days. Managed to get along with the CEO, and whilst the project was supposed to be 1 year, I ended up being there 5 years. Also give an helping hand to the Angola department. In the first 3 years there, I do not have a doubt I was one the best of the country in what touched to systems and communications.

Used for the ISP servers Debian and FreeBSD, and also got my fundaments of ISP inner workings (BGP, others) and large scale services.

Started using Macs

There, also in 2005, discovered OS/X by accident, as my CEO often asked me to fix his more strange problems, and took a liking for it to this day. (I had previous Mac contacts with OS/9). So around 2006, I started using an iMac at work, bought for my personal machine a PowerBook G4, and mandated iMacs as the standard desktops for the ISP offices.

powerbook G4

back home - Freelancer

Went back to my home country in 2009 due to personal reasons. While unemployed I tried to go freelancer working for local cable companies...however had problems getting paid. Did a fantastic jack of all trades job for a local cable company, where singled handed reconfigured their voIP MTAs, their modems, wrote the backend software for controlling the provisioning in the cable network, designed their redundancy system using BGP, and wrote software to capture the customer usage drinking from NetFlow.

Back to academia, as network / system / security administrator

At the end of this spell, I went on to work for a very prestigious local University in 2010 where I was hired for the network team, and after a year was asked to double my tasks as the Senior Linux Administrator..

The environment was quite good as managed to tinker and put hands in a lot of new technology; I also got my skills up to date with Unix/Linux using SuSE and Debian, even got myself certified. Also learnt new things, as Ansible, FreeRadius (EDUROAM), vmware, and so much more. Also had regularly trainees.

Back to the corporate IT world

Now in 2018, went back to the corporate world as a Linux Cloud Consultant working for the major player in the ISP industry in Portugal. Also went again using a desktop Linux machine due to being "given" a corporate Intel notebook. Using AntiX Linux on it.

IT hobbies at home

Nowadays at home I am tinkering with iOS, OS/X, Unix, ARM architectures and OpenWRT. I have got a very interesting home server, a Lamobo R1.

at home

Who am I

Finally to give a final personal touch to this rather lengthy professional oriented post, I am a man in my 40s, have a beautiful blond daughter born in South Africa, and currently have a Philippine wife.

I am leaving my linked.in profile here. I am an open networker, and I do welcome a lot contacts, especially from people on the IT field.

  • 1
    Very interesting answer. Thank you for writing, Rui. Note "changing life interview" is more commonly written as "life changing interview". – Faheem Mitha Jan 26 '16 at 8:36
  • "Was place in a customer that loved my work, and actually the customer told to the consulting outlet several times, I was wasted there." That sentence could be better phrased, particularly the first part. And it should probably read "Was placed with". – Faheem Mitha Jan 26 '16 at 8:37
  • 1
    I will go through the English later on they day, still morning here...often my mother tongue gets on the way. Will add pictures too. Thanks for the comments. – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 26 '16 at 8:40
  • 1
    Added a couple of pictures, will do something later on as the work day is starting here. – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 26 '16 at 9:17
  • Ah the Z80, that was my favorite instruction set. – slm Aug 8 at 9:38
  • 1
    @slm I have to complement this... one of those days. Moved out of academia last year. The Z80 was a nice hobby. – Rui F Ribeiro Aug 8 at 9:55
  • 1
    I originally missed your addition, glad you added it. Glad to see others added theirs. – slm Aug 8 at 9:56
  • @slm added a few tidbits about the current situation. – Rui F Ribeiro Aug 8 at 11:25

Why I'm here on Unix.SE?

You can consider computing on GNU/Linux as one of my hobbies/interests. Especially I'm fascinated with the command-line! And I believe software freedom is ethical. You may know the contribution of GNU in developing Free/Libre operating system and that of FSF in supporting the freedom.

So, Technically+Ethically GNU/Linux became my area of interest and finally computing with GNU/Linux lead me to this community.

Computing History:

  • I used Windows xp up-to 2012, I migrated to GNU/Linux in 2012 with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, then I did my commuting with Ubuntu 14.04 and learnt computing with GNU/Linux at some extent, I am introduced with StackExchange network with AskUbuntu.
  • Up-to Nov-2014, I had not the correct knowledge about software-license like: free-software, proprietary/non-free software. I learnt about it in Nov-'14 and finally switched to Trisquel GNU/Linux 7.0 on 28 Nov.2014.Altogether learnt more about GNU/Linux plus achieved familiarity and enhanced skill with command-line, bash-scripting.
  • Then I became active on Unix & Linux and found/realized this community extremely interesting for me!

Who am I?

I think this may not be helpful to you because I am not a software developer/engineer or a programmer, neither my educational-study nor profession/business is relevant with Unix & Linux (or say computing in general). Actually I am a student of Mechanical Engineering. That's why I started with "You can consider this as one of my hobbies/interests"!

Note: I think there is no need to explain why to choose GNU/Linux & StackExchange!


Visit my computing post at wordpress.

  • 1
    Thank you for the answer. Some more information about your background and what you use GNU/Linux for would be interesting. Also, some information about what you used before your switch. – Faheem Mitha Jan 26 '16 at 8:18
  • @FaheemMitha Done! – Pandya Jan 26 '16 at 10:36

I'm a Newbie in your community.

I come from Germany. Forgive bad english, I never use it outside the school.

50 years old and pensioner without IT background. I had several physical Job's like (storekeeper, detergency), because i had no industrial training.

I bought my 1st computer 2001. After 2 months I switched from Windows XP to Linux (SuSE). Later to Debian.

$ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: Debian
Description:    Debian GNU/Linux 8.6 (jessie)
Release:    8.6
Codename:   jessie

The most time I was learning by doing and out books. Then I discovered Internet. I'm a late bloomer :D

The most time I am active in a German Ubuntu-Forum.

I come here for learning and to train my brain. I am a stroke patient and I think the best way to train is to solve problems and to try learn more.

I hope I have not written any funny stuff. Leo.org is not always helpful

greeting bahamut

  • 1
    Hi Bahamat. Thanks for contributing an answer. This thread hasn't seen much activity lately. Debian is always a good choice. It's what a lot of us use, especially those of us that hang out in the chat room. Which hasn't been very active in recent months, but there's always room for improvement. You could join us in the room - it's chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/26/dev-chat – Faheem Mitha Oct 31 '16 at 15:42
  • Thanks for your invitation to chat – user192526 Nov 1 '16 at 13:08

I am pretty much a beginner to the Linux environment. I started using Linux based systems only after I got a job as a systems administrator in my school. So, I efficiently got introduced to Linux on July 31, 2013. From that time on, whenever I open my browser, I open 3 windows. My gmail account, my school email account and AWESOME-O.

The one thing I like about Linux is there are endless ways to do the same thing unlike Windows. I personally would like to thank my current job which allowed me to explore deep into many things and giving me the much needed confidence. I am not a good programmer in java which gives me creeps whenever I wanted to get an input, though I did most of my school projects in Java. But with shell scripting, I feel the passion inside me asking to explore more and more and thus giving me the much needed confidence.

Off late, it has become an obsession for me to just browse through the questions and read the answers though occasionally I answer some of them. The wonderful thing I like about AWESOME-O is, people are really helpful. I never felt discouraged here. If I answer something wrongly or ask a dumb question, instead of constant downvoting, people actually point out what aspect is wrong in the question and give me constructive criticism, which I feel is a major advantage over other stack exchange sites. It always encourages me to do my research properly before posting something bluntly.

I even have changed my career ambition from looking for a software engineer job to something more of a systems engineer job. I am pretty sure that Linux is the way to go and in the coming years.

My future goal is to contribute at least a package or fix for software bugs in Linux thus giving back something useful to the community which has always given me the best.

  • 1
    Tnanks for writing, but what on earth is "AWESOME-O"? – Faheem Mitha Apr 22 '14 at 16:51
  • 1
    I would like to name the site as AWESOME-O :) It is just a name cartman keeps for himself, when he tries to fool butters in southpark :) – Ramesh Apr 22 '14 at 16:53
  • I see. I missed that pop culture reference. :-) – Faheem Mitha Apr 22 '14 at 16:56
  • Ramesh, are you still at school, or do you have a job now? If so, you could say a little about the job. – Faheem Mitha Apr 22 '14 at 16:58
  • I am still at school only :) I will update it once I have a job :) – Ramesh Apr 22 '14 at 16:59

I m a linux user from 2008 and my first Linux is Ubuntu.

In 2012 I became Ubuntu Member via Ubuntu Forums.

In 2012 I started using CentOS but not much.

Since 2014 CentOS became my main Linux OS as I started my career as Linux System Administrator.

Everyday improving my skills of BASH and Python.

Why I am here

First I want to learn Linux not about one particular type of OS . I want to know Linux core parts.And this is the place to learn.I found so many questions which are awesome and with excellent information.

Next I am happy with my Ask Ubuntu contribution.

So I choose this place as my new home with first preference of learning and next answering what I know.

I am Raja and I am Indian.

Thank you.

  • Hi Raja. Thank you for writing. Can you flesh out your answer a bit? Such as why you are on this site? – Faheem Mitha Mar 4 '16 at 13:35
  • I can't put this in format as I am writing this from mobile chrome browser. – rɑːdʒɑ Mar 4 '16 at 15:46
  • Thank you for the update. – Faheem Mitha Mar 4 '16 at 16:08

My name is Prabhjot Singh, 32 now. I work in a Hospital.

I purchased my first computer in 2007. At that time I had no formal knowledge of computers. I used it for regular desktop work for almost 4-5 years.

I started using linux with Linux Mint 2 years back.For regular work it was good.I don't know why people say you can't work on linux if you don't know commands. I used Linux Mint almost 7 months without using any command. Then I switched to CentOS, I don't know why. On CentOS I learnt about basic commands.

A2017 was a bad year for 32-bit linux distributions. As CentOS 7 for 32-bit was discontinued, then I moved to Fedora.

I joined unix.stackexchange.com because of trivial issues. If I come across some strange thing, I come here to ask it on the main site or in the chat room.

Most of the users are helpful, they ask you about greater details or simply answer your question. Sometimes they answer in a comment. Well, an answer is an answer if it solves a problem. The questions and chat room interactions are very useful for any rung of learners.enter image description here

  • 1
    Cheers! ........ – Tim Jun 17 at 15:48
  • using a 32-bit distro nowadays is not good, since you'll lag behind on security updates. Moreover many apps have abandoned the 32-bit version. x86_64 has been there for more than a decade and pretty much any x86 CPUs you can find in the last decade are 64-bit compatible – phuclv Aug 9 at 6:04

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