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My First Computer – At High School 1983

I just realised I started on computer in high school in 1983, 5th Form year (for New zealanders that old to remember forms).  It was pretty close to this model, green screen, tape drive, big clunky keyboard.

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I still have a vivid memory of that class, like I was still there. I got an A+ for that class too.

From there I had a break until 1996, just after “Start Me Up” and The Rolling Stones launched Bill Gate’s masterpiece WINDOWS 95.

I purchased a Pentium 90 – screams that loudly – 90.  It was screamingly fast, well not really, but compared to all the rest….

I loaded up Windows 95 and my recording program only to find the drivers wouldn’t work for my soundcard.

Back To DOS Back To Reality

So I quickly learnt what DOS was, and Win 3.11.

REALLY???

Oh, and I quickly learn’t what a driver was, a batch file, an .ini file and soooo much more.  And I loved it. So much so that I quickly signed up for a computer technician course at my local Polytechnic.

Linux How I Do Love Thee – Let Me Count The Ways

And let me count the times I recompile you.

Now I had an underdog to root for, Linux was the Windows killer, I threw myself into learning everything I could about Linux and how I could replace Windows.  I had it on my desktop, I had it on my server, I had it on my laptop (only the certain one else it wouldn’t boot), I had it running across the network on X Window, I had it NFS mounted, I had it dialling in, I had it dialing out.  I had it made.

Oh wait, let me check the repository and see if the RPM is available for that.

Moving On To Bigger And Better Things

So I got my first network engineer’s job a the local primary school, 50 or so PC’s spread across the school and 16 in the Library/tech room.

Back to Windows 95, lol.

Oh and Windows NT 4 server.

Linux Was Not Dead Yet

I spent my nights working on a Linux server for schools, squid proxy server, procmail email server with (shudder) sendmail, samba for file sharing and ipchains firewall.

I actually did ok with this combo, selling about 30 in to local schools in the area.

So I started my first company NETSOLVE.  Pretty catchy name, installing and supporting networks right through my local area.

Winds Of Change

It was then I had the opportunity to star in something big, real big.  It was called the VLC or Virtual Learning Centre.  This was now 2002 and no-one was doing online learning in New Zealand still.  It was a big opportunity to build both an amazing online learning education platform as well as put all my Linux learning to use.

We ended up with 47 remote sites across the North Island of New Zealand running at least 20 PC’s, a VPN server in each site linked back to my central server room, 30 web servers in a cluster with failover proxy servers, mounted off 1 redundant file system, multiple firewalls and the usual suspects of email servers, file and print servers and supporting over 12000 students in the 6 year period I was in charge.

Mixed Mode Online Learning

As part of my support brief I needed to provide the students with an email address for log on, a remotely accessible network drive to store files on – this was long before Google Apps – and Moodle.

If you are unfamiliar with Moodle, it is a Learning Management System (LMS) and allows you to provide learning resources and courses to students through the Internet.  This is where my background with online learning started, and has continued to this day.

I am extremely passionate about the possibilities of distance learning however I’m fully aware that mixed mode learning, that is, where you have regular contact with a tutor face to face as well as text, video, interactive quizzes and audio content is the most effective way to learn.

A part of the support for students, I also had the opportunity to develop an ISP running from the local telco call collection from the modems through a L2TP connection to a reasonable sized Cisco router and then to various radius/web/firewalls/fileservers/proxys etc and finally back to the Internet through another fibre link. 

All of this on Linux servers.

How The Mighty Have Fallen

Then I switched to Apple

What?  Yep.  I went over to the dark side.  I discovered that all my open source software I was running from source, configing and re-compiling with patches etc was exactly the same software Apple was using.  And doing a damn good job of it.

So I switched.  Most of it all on to a giant Apple RAID array and a pair of X Serve servers.  Some of the little stuff I left on a Linux server like firewalls with multiple NICs etc and the redundant proxy servers so I still had failover.

And it worked.

Long Long Gone

I left that role in 2007 and it was still supporting around 300 students per year.  I have moved on quite a bit from the hands on days of that crazy ride however much of what I learnt still stays with me.

There are not many who still remember programing a modem with AT commands, or writing a batch script to defrag, or breaking out to a DOS shell.  Social media is taking over, online learning is now a big thing and we all take most of the Internet for granted.

As for me, I will always remember those crazy green screens and tape drives, the teacher – who’s name has long escaped me however I am indebted to – and the passion he ignited in me for those 1’s and 0’s.

The King Is Dead – Long Live The King


 

What Am I Doing Now

techomania trainingSo what am I up to now, oh just a few things.  As well as part of the Virtual Marketing Team with Monique Bradley here at Starlight Media House, we are also launching a new, exciting online learning website called Techomania.TV.

Techomania TV is all about teaching you how to master your technology and put it to work for you, your brand and business.  It is targeted to everyone who wants to learn how to DIY technology, Do It Yourself. Learn to master social media, learn to blog, even learn how to set up a web server or website for yourself. 

No more paying big money to “experts” to do it for you, learn how to DIY at Techomania TV through online learning.

See HERE to check out what all the fuss is all about at http://techomania.tv

See ya on the flip side – pete