I like playing with computers. Professionally, that's all I really want to do.
I've been playing with computers since 5th grade. My family bought an Apple Mac Performa 577 and I couldn't get enough of it. I bought huge books all about how the software worked, I downloaded all sorts of things from AOL and then the Internet. I just had to play and learn.
In high school I attended a vocational program for computing. Most people thought it was odd I'd that I'd attend vocational school as I had good grades and took honors courses and that just wasn't something that people thought went together. I loved it. I'm so glad I went to vocational school. Everybody should go. Learning the basics of a trade is invaluable further on in life. And yes, basic IT tasks are basically a trade these days, that's what we learned (A+ certification, installing Windows, putting together computers, basic networking, etc).
I used to be a die-hard Apple fan. I bought the first G4 Yikes! tower from our local Apple reseller in high school. I had read about the announcement of this model and just had to have one. I spent my entire savings from working that summer to get it. I got the 400 MHz one, before they downgraded the lowest model to 350 MHz. I felt special. 66 MHz PCI graphics! Yeah! :)
Apple gave me a free copy of OS9 because I answered a lot of questions on their online support forums. This was huge for me. I didn't have much money but I really wanted OS9. Getting a free copy built a ton of loyalty for me.
I then bought the OSX beta. It was slow as balls, but that was OK because I was on the cutting edge.
In college I played with a lot of Linux but still had my G4. I went to opening day at the Crossgates Mall Apple Store in Albany, NY. I got a free t-shirt and that built even more Apple loyalty. I couldn't afford buying updates to OSX, so I installed Yellow Dog Linux on the G4 and it became my NFS server for my music collection.
I then went on to built computers and install Linux on them. One winter when I came home for the holidays I literally had 8 computers packed in mom's minivan. It was awesome. I built Gentoo Linux from stage 1 on a 200 MHz Pentium system. It took days. It was so much fun. I ran Return to Castle Wolfenstein demo servers off my laptop and built my first ever computer from scratch just so I could play the demo on Linux. It was an amazing learning experience. I learned that the motherboard I got had a newer chip set that didn't have support built into the Red Hat 7.2 provided kernel for the IDE controller, so it got stuck having the processor clock everything in and out in PIO mode. The hard disk performance was atrocious. So I learned to build kernels.
Fast forward about a decade. Now I work at a big Fortune 500 company writing .NET software, playing with RFIDs and smart cards, and soon I'll be diving into some Verilog. I'm basically an engineer who does DRM for physical things, but I can't really go into the details. It's interesting, but I want to get back to playing with computers and especially Linux. Up to the beginning of 2010, I was designing and building an embedded XML-RPC server in C++ for a PowerPC board and the desktop Java app to control automated board testing. That was a cool job for the technical things, but the business side of things seemed to be turning for the worse and I jumped to the division I'm in now.
These days, I want to play with embedded Linux. It's cool. It runs a whole ton of stuff. It's inexpensive and there seems to be a real dearth of quality people out there who know what they're doing with it and are willing to share that knowledge for a reasonable price. I want to become one of the people who knows what they're doing and then teach other people those same skills. Along with my continued interest in many things related to computing and Linux, this is my inspiration for writing a book about embedded Linux and for wanting to help with the Cross Linux From Scratch project.
11 December 2010