I was a NT and Exchange administrator doing contracting work at Excel Data Corp in 1994. I was initially hired to be the internal system administrator and eventually worked my way up to contracting.

Excel had a little RedHat 1.0 server called Merlin that was setup with a Livingston Postmaster and 25 U.S. Robotics Sportster 14.4 modems. Each employee was given a remote login and there was telnet access as well (no SSH yet!).

I was in charge of setting up new accounts. This was done with a shell script I barely understood that wrote directly to the /etc/passwd and /etc/shadow file (I know I didn’t even use useradd or adduser).

To say I was a newbie isn’t enough: I got on irc and asked questions and just typed in commands people told me on #Linux on EFNET! I am so surprised the company wasn’t hacked.

One day Merlin wasn’t working quite right. Some folks couldn’t login. ls /home showed UID and GID numbers instead of names for some users.

I had no clue. The CTO at the time was a guy named Rocky Morgan. An old school UNIX guy that used to work for DEC.

Well he came over and logged into the console and ran one command. If my memory serves it was something like:

#@g%$fw#$e%@#|#$ew%#h%h@#|w$^@#hr%^h#$|^#$gdh#$^

Of course that wasn’t the command but it might as well have been.

The command spit out a couple of line lines…The users who were affected. The command showed the /etc/passwd for those users had incorrect fields. Some how the script I had used to create users broke it. I spent an hour looking at the thing and had no clue. Rocky came over and within 30 seconds showed the problem and how to fix it.

I was so impressed. At that moment I wanted to wield that kind of power. I swore that one day I would be able to write out a long command with multiple pipes and do something useful. I would do it from memory and one day I would be a UNIX master.

Fast forward to 2008. I was working at Pelago. Someone wanted to know if we were getting attacked. The web servers were slammed. I logged in and ran the following command:

awk '{ print plain" "$7 }' access.log | sort | uniq-c | sort-n

The command showed the source ip address and the URI that was getting hit. The output looked something like:

15 141.101.96.66 /careers/meet-the-team/ 
15 162.158.68.149 /_themes/stripe/fonts/ss-gizmo/ss-gizmo.eot? 
15 162.158.76.191 /favicon.ico 
15 173.245.63.186 / 
17 141.101.96.83 /blog/feed/ 
18 108.162.245.146 / 
19 108.162.238.224 / 
19 173.245.63.228 / 
20 162.158.76.5 /robots.txt

It was a nice distribution of ip addresses with legal URIs. We weren’t getting attacked (turns out a famous actress tweeted about our application and we were getting flash traffic).

Now this entire process took me about 30 seconds and it was run using across a fleet of web servers. I turned to the coworker who asked and explained everything looked fine. He had a surprised look on his face and he just said...

“How did you do that?!”

I was the UNIX master:) It took 15 years but at that moment I thought of Rocky and that I had made my dream come true.

I posted a slightly shorter version of this story 10 months ago on Reddit:

https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/31kwyy/whats_your_biggest_accomplishment_working_with/cq2m301

My first real UNIX job was at AT&T Wireless…well lets slow down a bit.

I was a contractor working at McCaw Cellular. I was helping convert their MS MAIL system that ran on DOS to this shiny new product called Exchange. My liaison was a guy name Kevin Regimbal. Next to Doug Hauger (coworker at Excel Data Corp where I worked at the time) probably the most influential person in my life. We had to interface with their SMTP gateway which ran on Solaris and used Sendmail.

I had very little experience with UNIX at this point. I played with Slackware Linux at home and helped manage a dial in server called Merlin at Excel Data Corp. Speaking of Excel Rocky Morgan was another really influential person in my life as well but I will tell that story later.

Okay so here I am doing a contract job and really focused on NT and Exchange. Kevin showed me Solaris and Sendmail and how it interfaced with the MS MAIL system and I was in love. Solaris was so cool! I mentioned to Kevin that I wish I could be a UNIX admin one day (see that was my dream job).

Kevin must have seen something in me because shortly after he was building out his team at the now AT&T Wireless and I applied and got the job.

Kevin taught me everything about being a good UNIX administrator. Kevin was kind and never yelled. He always explained his decisions and even if you disagreed with him you respected him.

Kevin taught me the importance of supporting our customers. He let me known we weren’t working on servers but helping other people do their jobs. If the mail server wasn't working people couldn’t do work and that was the real problem we were solving.

Kevin left AT&T Wireless and went to Amazon. He hired me there as well. I really don’t know where I would be in my career today if it wasn’t for him. Amazon was a lot different than AT&T Wireless. Instead of Solaris it was Linux. Instead of <50 servers for a team of five we had >1200 for a team of five.

Everything changes at scale and automation was needed. Instead of our customers being people in retail stores or business types now our customers were developers and everyone who used Amazon.com.

We had to work closely with developers. We had to understand the impact of their changes. We had to anticipate problems and proactively solve them before outages came. We had to make sure communications between operations and the different development teams was smooth. There couldn’t be a wall between us.

Work at Amazon was easily 100% more intense than at AT&T Wireless but it never seem to get to Kevin. He was always calm. Always supportive. Kevin fostered the relationships between our team and everyone else.

I remember the moment I realized the difference between Linux and Solaris. I was working on a server that threw a kernel panic. I was dutifully noting the stack trace and trying to figure out why it had crashed. Was it a bad motherboard? Maybe a disk was failing. Kevin walked over and said “Just reboot it - its Linux”. My jaw dropped. We had Solaris servers at AT&T Wireless that had been running for years. If Solaris crashed Sun could tell us exactly why. I was shocked.

I remember thinking “This Linux fad won’t last…”

Shortly after my last post about which Macintosh programs I still use I am making a change. MarsEdit is out. I also tried Desk PM which kept crashing. I am now using Blogo which I quite like.

I shouldn’t have blindly updated MarsEdit thinking the new version would be so much better. I also shouldn’t have purchased Desk PM but did based on the reviews.

Both MarsEdit and Desk PM didn’t work right, crashed quite a bit, and I couldn’t actually update my blog using them which is unfortunate since that is their main purpose.

Blogo is really great and I am glad I found it. I am not fond of writing in web based editors.

On October 26th of 2010 I posted that I was leaving Apple (2010/10/goodbye-apple). That lasted a couple of years until I went to Z2 and was given a Macbook Pro. I forgot what a joy it was to use an Apple product. I decided I wasn’t going to boycott them anymore. I tend to swing back and forth when it comes to things like this.

Pretty much everything I use now is an Apple product except for my game system which is a Windows 10 based system.

The combination of an excellent GUI and the ability to get a UNIX shell is just perfect. A previous post covered my favorite Macintosh applications and I thought I would revist that post and do an update.

I still use Acorn, Witch, Transmit, and OmniGraffle. I no longer use Path Finder, I have just gotten used to the standard Finder. I don’t use Adium anymore. I use HipChat at work and stopped using a personal IM. I would still use Yojimbo if Bare Bones would update it. For now I typically use the built in Notes application. I switched from MacPorts to Brew due to its non-invasive nature. EnergySavvy is a Mercurial shop so I don’t use Versions anymore. I pretty much just use VIM now so no more Coda and I never read news groups anymore so no more Unison. I don’t have a disc burner anymore so I don’t use Disco either.  Finally I still use MarsEdit and am using it to make this post.

This post is quite late...

I didn’t last long at Unity. I did enjoy my time there but I underestimated the strain of commuting to Bellevue (I live in Seattle). Ultimately I left because of it. I knew I didn’t want to work for another game company. The hit driven nature meant the company would always be chasing their last hit to the detriment of everything else.

It turns out that Leo, the CTO at the time of my hire, used to work at Pelago (up to this point my favorite job by far). Leo had a particular way of working and I almost quit twice in my first month (August of 2014). Ultimately we worked it out. I guess he trusted me enough to keep things running since he left shortly after I started and is now working at Facebook.

UPDATE:

I was concerned about my representation of Leo. Its too short with too little context so I want to give more detail.

First...I loved working with Leo. I consider him a friend. He certainly didn’t leave because of any issue we had. I think he was ready for something new, something bigger and Facebook provides that in spades.

Second…Leo built EnergySavvy up from nothing and made it the place I wanted to work at. Yes we had some disagreements but we really did work them out. I was writing this as a stream-of-conscious post and really that was my biggest memory of starting there and so that dominated it.

So on November 5th I started at Unity Technologies, http://unity3d.com/, after nine months at Z2. I really liked working at Z2 and have nothing but good things to say about them. I left because of the opportunity at Unity. One of the perks is a pro license for their game engine so perhaps I will get around to creating a tower defense game I have been thinking about since I first played Desktop Tower Defense (http://www.kongregate.com/games/preecep/desktop-tower-defense) some 10 years ago or so.

Today is my last day at PopCap.  Monday (2/18) I start at Z2live.  People have asked me why I left PopCap and I think it comes down to me wanting to work for a small company.  I really liked PopCap - I didn't like EA.  EA made three major changes that affected me personally:

1. They let go the culture team

2. They switch healthcare providers

3. They went to bi-weekly paydays

I am sure if PopCap was still PopCap and not EA/PopCap  I wouldn't be writing this post.

I gave up Reddit today. There was a discussion on /r/Games about reviews for the new Hitman: Absolution game. Pretty much everyone was panning it but I am looking forward to it. I made a comment that said I couldn't wait to play and was greeted with downvotes and vile responses. Now this is /r/Games not /r/gaming where you expect trolls and the like. Reddit-quette states that you shoudn't downvote comments you disagree with only those that don't add to the discussion. Well two other folks were also interested in the game and they were also met with downvotes and shitty comments. I can't explain why exactly I felt the way I did but I recently watched the Jamie Kennedy documentary, Heckler, and I learned that some people just like to shit on other people for the fun on it. I decided I wasn't really gaining anything by reading Reddit daily (except maybe being on top of the latest Internet memes) and I didn't want to be shit on by anonymous people. So after six years I deleted my account. I know some would say I "took my ball and went home" but first and foremost I have my own mental health to look after and worrying about what people think of my comments on an internet site is not good for my health. I just don't need it.

I finished The Saboteur today. What a wonderful game. It makes me sad it didn't do better than it did. Pandemic studios who was did the awesome Mercenaries (and the crappy Mercenaries 2) did The Saboteur in 2009. I was able to pick it up during a Direct2Drive sale before Gamefly took over for them. I played for about 40 hours. After then end of the story you can still play the free play missions and collect the rest of the perks. I like that. So if you get a chance check it out!