When I was 14 years old my father brought home a Commodore VIC 20 personal computer. For some reason my mind was blow when he typed codes into the computer and the computer performed some form of action. Back in those days the operating system was literally the programming interpreter and you had to write basic code, in real-time, to make the computer do what you wanted. This is how I learned my first programming language, basic.
After the commodore came the IBM 8088 “personal computer”, followed by the 286SX, 386 DX16 and then the 486DX. I was 17 when I built my first computer which consisted of a Cyrix processor and a whopping 50mb hard drive. I couldn’t afford the $260 price tag for Windows 95 and a friend from the computer club at school recommended that I try Linux. Back in those days you had one distribution option, Slackware Linux. Slackware came on 17 3.5inch floppy disks. Enlightenment was my first window manager followed by the K Desktop Environment.
One thing led to another and I found myself the system admin for Vermont’s very first public ISP. At 18 I wrote a bill and materials program to track electrical transformer components for an international electric company. Also at 18 the Department of Homeland security asked me to help out on a child trafficking case where the criminals were using the ISP I was working at. I’ll leave it at that.
At 19 I got permission from my computer science professor to hack into the school’s HP UNIX mainframe as my end of year project. The idea was to complete the last project so I wouldn’t have to attend that class for the remainder of the year. Talking my best friend Ethan into giving me his account password I could easily see the pattern. A mammal name followed by a two digit number. My password was Zibra11, his was Elephant21. I created a password dictionary with every mammal name I could think of along with a digit number ranging from 000 to 99. Back in those days the passwd file on Unix machines was downloaded, but the password was hashed. I wrote a program to loop through every account and also loop through every password in the dictionary I created. I ended up cracking an account called “admin” which was part of the root group. After I reported this to my professor and the school, they kicked me out and banned me from campus. Back then creativity was frowned upon I guess. Apparently the computer professor was wrong to allow such an assignment.
In 1999 I moved to Virginia where I would land a job at the local computer repair shop. Eventually I would network and meet people coming and going from the shop and would be offered a job at a local real estate assessment company. I saved the company 1000’s of dollar in Microsoft licensing fees by switching all the servers to Linux. I also created the company’s first mobile drawing application in Visual Studio (VB).
After working for 3 start up companies during the Dot-Com bubble I ended up working as a contractor for EDS working with Visual Studio. After finding out that I had Linux experience, the company that hired me through EDS would buy me out as a contractor to become a full time employee working as a lab technician. I mainly tested Linux software for large industrial HVAC machines called chillers. In 2003 I would join the Army National Guard as a communications specialist and in 2008 and 2009 I deployed to the middle east to help liberate the people of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After Iraq I worked for a regional cell phone company for a few years as a wireless data engineer where I was responsible for 100’s of Linux servers and maintained the network’s security. The HVAC company would then call me asking me to come back and so I came back as a senior software engineer. I designed software that would eventually drop warranty costs by over 80%, increase software to production times by 200% and created the first every 100% software based simulator which has proven invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to all that I also like investing in the stock market, specifically swing trading, creating my own stock trading bots in Python and writing covered calls on my long term investments.
When the zeros and ones are done for the day you could probably find me at my log cabin working on my goals to living off the land and being more self sufficient. Some call me a prepper, some call my crazy but prepping is my go-to activity when I’m away from the screens.
There you have it, me in a nutshell. 100% nerd.