There were no contributors today, so with no shout outs to do I thought it might be nice if I gave you guys some history on me and my wild life so far. I’m no spring chicken. Already on the other side of 40. I grew up in a small town about 23 miles south of Canada. I’m a product of the great “60′s summer of love” and was abandon at birth by parents. I was deemed a ward of the state and placed into an orphanage. I started getting into computers around 1979 and by the time the 80′s rolled around I was full blown addicted to it. I couldn’t afford a computer in those days, as they were really expensive and you couldn’t do a whole lot with them. But that didn’t stop my love for them. I figured out ways to get access to them and eventually got in a little bit of trouble too.
I would walk to the local computer store and pretty much live there. Every once and a while, if I could scrape together the money I would buy a floppy disk just so I would be considered a repeat paying customer. It didn’t take me long to figure out that you could make a single sided disk into a double sided disk by using a hole-punch at just the right spot on the disk. So no more paying extra for double sided disks helped a lot to a 10 year old with very little money.
I started working at age 11. This was back in the day when you had to get what was called “working papers”. After going through that process, I scored a paper route and was making about $40 dollars a month. That was a lot of money to a kid my age back then. I delivered papers for about 4 years and at age 15 took a summer job at an amusement park making a whopping $3.25 an hour. That was before taxes. Oh how I was surprised when I got my first paycheck and saw how much was taken out. I learned a really valuable lesson that day. Taxes sucked.
Working at the amusement park had it’s perks. It was better than delivering papers, and I got to be around a lot of kids my age. Especially girls.. I met a friend there who eventually became my best friend, as we are still friends to this day. His father had a computer. It was a Dec Rainbow 100 with a staggering 64k of memory. This was like the Holy Grail to us. It had a 1200 baud modem. There really wasn’t anything like the internet in those days. There wasn’t even a local BBS we could dial into. The only local number we could find was for General Electric. We tried for weeks to get into that system. Dialing it a couple hundred times a day. Entering in any word we could think of for the password. In those days it didn’t require a username. Just a password.
So we started doing research on the system. We needed to know what we were dialing into and what could possibly be on the other side. It became a mission for us 2 then fifteen year old boys. We found someone in our school who had a father who worked there. We took (borrowed) his employee phone list and started calling people at random. We eventually found out who the main IT guy was who worked there. Could it be? Could the answer be that simple? We dialed in and entered his last name. Boom.. Login failure, disconnected. We tried again. This time using his first name. Wallah! We’re in! Yep the password to the entire General Electric Mainframe was only 4 characters. MIKE
We looked around, poking our way through the system. Nothing really of interest was there. It was very disappointing. The challenge was over and the prize was dissatisfying. But a couple days later we would have no idea what was about to transpire.
Apparently they had been wise to our attempts and had been logging each one of them. They got the police involved as they were not sure it was some kind of high tech corporate espionage going on. We were rounded up by the police and taken “down to the station”. It was there that a bunch of big wigs from GE and the police started questioning us. I look back at it now and laugh, but back then I was scared shitless. Then the big question came. How were you able to bypass the security? We answered honestly and said we just figured out the password ourselves. The GE guys looked astounded that 2 fifteen year old kids could just guess the password. When we told them what the password was. Their faces all turned red and it looked like poor Mike was going to get a serious ass chewing for being so lax. We were taken home and told to never call the number again, and we didn’t.
A funny anecdote to that story. Fast forward to 1999 and I applied for an IT position there. My interview was with Mike. I was offered the position, and I just laughed at him and walked out.
So now I am 16 and no longer needed “working papers” to get a job. I landed a job delivering prescriptions for a local pharmacy. I would run some poor old woman’s medications over to her house. Collect the payment, and return to the store. I never put 2 and 2 together until a few years later but one of my regulars happened to be Ann B. Davis. Better known as Alice from the Brandy Bunch.
I had finally saved up enough money to buy my very own computer. Well, a used computer anyway. I snatched up a TI-99/4A which worked and did what I wanted it to do. I locked myself in my bedroom learning how to write code for it. The sad thing was that there were no inexpensive storage devices available for it. So every time you would turn it off. All your code was gone. It wasn’t until month later I figured out how to convert my cassette recorder into what later became known as tape drives. I would write games and sell them on cassettes to people all over the world. I took out a small classified ad in the back of “Compute” magazine.
During my school years I was pretty much forced to use an Apple II an then on to Macintosh until Windows 3.11 came out and the IBM clones started springing up everywhere. I had numerous jobs up until then. Mainly calibrating equipment. I even had a short gig at a place that I can only describe as the beginning of the movie “Outbreak” where each level was more secure than the next, and each level was working on something more contagious than the next. You couldn’t wear the same clothes home from which you arrived in. You would show up. Change into a company lab suit. Place your clothes in a air tight box, and go about your work day. At the end of the day you would change out of the company suit, and put on the clothes you wore to work the previous day. Cleaned and decontaminated. I was a really weird place to work.
Early one morning I was working for a company in Durham, North Carolina when one of the bosses came up to me and asked me if I would go to a company they had a contract with in Research Triangle Park, NC and take a look at something for them because the regular engineer was out sick that day. I told the guy. I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m doing. He said it’s ok we just need someone to show up. Make an appearance so to speak.
So I’m off to this place in the RTP. I arrive and are quickly ushered into a lab where this rather large box was on a table. I’m told it’s a prototype of a new Protocol Analyzer and that it doesn’t work. I literally had no clue as to what it was or what it was supposed to do. I open my toolbox and grab a Philips head and start removing the casing. Pulled out my Fluke meter and put on a good show like I knew what I was doing. All of a sudden the lights come on and the internal fan starts spinning. The guys in the room were like “Holy Shit! You did it!” Here was me not knowing what I had done gave a look as though it was nothing. I do this sort of thing all the time. When in reality I did nothing and hadn’t the slightest clue of what I was doing. As I left the guys were still high fiving each-other and cheering.
The next day I show up to work as usual. The bos man comes out to me and ask’s “What the hell did you do down there?” I was like. Thinking I was in some sort of trouble replied I don’t know but they seemed happy when I left. He said “Happy isn’t the word I would use” and that “they want to see me down there again today” So I drive back down to their building in RTP and this time I’m greeted at the door by a guy that looked to be about 300lbs. We went into his office and I sat across the desk from him. He says to me “you know you saved our asses right?” I responded a simple no. At this point he slides an envelope across his desk and asks how happy I am at my current place of employment. I said I was happy and they had room for advancement. He smiles and says. How would you like to come to work for us? I didn’t know if I should open the envelop there or just say thanks and take it and walk out, or what. I thought fora moment and opened it on sight. It was an offer that I couldn’t financially refuse. Being only a year out of college at the time. It was more money than my father was making. So I took the job.
My first week at my new job was basically getting settled in. They found me a killer office with windows. Most everyone else had cubicles. My office had a couch and a fridge. This was a German company so it was customary to have a beer at lunch. The fridge was stocked with heineken and amstel. Both of which I’m not really partial to but who was I to complain. The company had it’s own chef and we would eat like kings. But after a couple weeks I started noticing some changes around the place. Some people were either really nervous or really giddy. Apparently the company which was a publicly traded stock at the time was going to buy back all it’s shares and go private again. This meaning that my stock options I was given when they offered me the job, which would have taken 5 years to be fully vested. Vested overnight. I hadn’t been there 2 weeks and they were already cutting me a huge check. So I did what any normal person would do. Bought my dream house. In cash. Paid in full. A sweet 2 story house on a private lake. I could literally walk out on my second story deck, cast my fishing poll out, and sit in my living-room and fish. This place was like heaven to me. Everyone rode around in little golf carts going from party to party. Very similar to Weekend at Bernie’s. Minus the dead dude.
Here is where it gets strange. With the privatization of the company. Some people were being transferred to their other facility. This meant my boss, my bosses boss, and my bosses boss suddenly disappeared. I was never given a new person to report to. I was never given any tasks. I just showed up and sat in my office all day for 4 years. In that time I was given 6 raises and took full advantage of the company policy that would allow you to get any kind of training you wanted and they would pay for it.
I took classes and became a certified first responder. I got certified in laying and splicing fiber optic cables. I even took scuba diving lessons. I took night courses at Duke University and got my bachelors in Computer Science. It was a dream come true. All day at work I would sit at my desk and write software on my windows95 machine and go to school at night. It was about this time that I married my girlfriend of 3 years. Things couldn’t have been better.
Then the company was got bought by a larger company and offered me to move to Indiana. I’m like Indiana? No freaking way! So I set out to look for another gig. This was now the late 90′s I now found myself with a lot of free time on my hands so I started writing for different open source projects. One was called PostNuke and another called phpWebSite which was taken over by Appalachian State University. That is where I really caught the Open Source bug. I learned more from working with those 2 applications than I did at college.
I eventually landed a job for a large East coast bank working on the Y2K project. That was a lot of fun but it was also a lot of hard work. Everything was hurry hurry, and not enough time. The clock is ticking down. Some weeks you would go into work on a Monday and work solid till sometime around Thursday afternoon before you could go home. I got to travel a lot and see a lot of places that normal people never get to see. Underground server vaults, a pressurized server vault 40 stories high filled with Halon gas. Backup generating systems the size of locomotive engines.
After I saved the world from Y2K my marriage went sour, so I decided to come back up north and started my own local ISP called Kickwire. Eventually going nationwide. Then eventually selling out to Earthlink. My divorce was really hard on me. It took a lot out of me mentally. To avoid alimony, she got the house. I found that writing Open Source code was a great outlet for me. It allowed me to express myself. I feel as though it’s almost an art. The creative juices never stop flowing. Ther are always new things to discover how to do.
That’s when in the fall of 2005 I came across a post, in of all places, a gaming forum, where a couple people were talking about building a CMS that would stand out against everyone else. A couple weeks later Pligg was ramping up. On December 17th 2005 the Pligg.com domain was registered, and we’ve been going strong ever since. Here is what Pligg.com looked like on December 20th 2005.
The last 7 years have been filled with many ups and downs. A couple of my favorite highlights include Pligg being mentioned in the New York Times. Pligg landing on Mars. Pligg was used to calculate which celebrity had the “Best Week Ever” on the VH1 show Best Week Ever. Hugg.com which was bought by The Discovery Channel. Last but not least is OpenDNS using Pligg.
So please do your part by helping Open Source. By contributing to me you allow me to bring all my ideas to the world. And help me pay for some serious ongoing and on-growning medical costs. Don’t forget to check out the Rewards page for helping. And since it is the holiday season. You could make a complete stranger happy by getting me something off my wishlist.
Until tomorrow night