Since 1999

Howdy my friend!

HotUnix has been my Internet domain since 1999 and my license plate since 2003 (I am a big fan of FreeBSD and open source Unix tools). And it means much more...

I (bgk) always studied Materials Science for my degrees. However, a graduate-level course in Computing Algorithms that I took in the mid 80s in China really hooked me up. I then worked on atomic-resolution electron microscopic imaging and simulation, and I was thrilled by DEC PDP-11's time-sharing and multi-tasking. I became a part-time PDP-11 minicomputer administrator (as a "reward" to an MS student) after I spent a full summer month looking and fighting for its missing line-printer at the Beijing airport customs and other bureaucracies. I now realize this old concept of time-sharing has turned into Cloud Computing thanks to the Internet.

My fascination with Remote Digital Communications dates back to the early nineties when I went to the US for PhD studies in Mat Sci. I was totally taken by the then evolving Internet and had so much fun exploring (sometimes exploiting) the Bitnet, RS/6000, Unix-to-Unix talk, inter-campus NFS, Usenet, etc. The semi-real-time interactive Usenet newsgroups got me addicted, especially the one and only one in Chinese, Alt.Chinese.Text (ACT), as I once loved writing as a child. Prior to Web 1.0, ACT was the only debate forum and battleground for Chinese-speaking people (mostly students) all over the world except China, with FREE flow of thoughts clashing like never before. Besides being so engaged in debates and interactions, I also spent countless odd hours volunteering to help fellow students on campus connect online (mailing lists and websites). These led to months of continuous sleep-deprived nights on computer/internet while waiting for annealed Silicon/Germanium semiconductor samples to slowly cool down in the vacuum chamber. Physical exhaustion combined with mental over-excitement eventually got me into DEEP health trouble, leading to schizophrenia of UNKNOWN type (the Internet was new, and the Chinese language was foreign, to diagnosing doctors) followed by bipolar (I'm not sure exactly now) depression. Thanks to the support from family, doctors and my professor (!...) in particular, I managed to graduate and tried to carry on. However, my life had become a roller coaster and my career path changed forever.

I was fortunate enough to be able to pursue what I loved after moving to Canada in 1997, and to be exposed to and inspired by some early-Internet talents, in addition to the technologies available to me. These people include TFreak (Dan Moschuk, a co-worker/hacker at GlobalServe who created the first DDoS tool, Smurf), Robert T. Morris (an alumnus/hacker at Cornell who created the first Internet worm), John Sidgmore (CEO of UUNET Technologies), and my genius professor who coded for everything, just to name a few. The first ISP (Internet Service Provider) I used in Canada was GlobalServe Communications, one of the best at the time. Their Unix shell (on FreeBSD), UUCP (for Usenet) and IRC (Internet Relay Chat) services offered me a lot of comfort, and one night at 2am I went to pick up my customer diskettes and saw their servers and racks...soon I became their employee doing tech support.

Not only did I learn finishing each customer on the phone (some were grandparents) within 8 minutes and to their satisfaction (I called this my paid English language training), but I also picked up system admin, shell scripting and CGI (encouraged by the then 16-year-old tfreak's classmate/co-worker). I created my own converter in Unix shell between Hex, Decimal and Octal (with help from a GE employee on Usenet). I then wrote a web-based chatroom completely in shell and CGI, just for the fun of it. Eventually I overcame the dread of installing FreeBSD with a dialup connection after I quit this first job in 1998 (thanks to the help of Mr. Pastircak, another immigrant friend).

More excitement was awaiting me around Canadian Thanksgiving 1998 - I started the dream tech job with UUNET, or Unix-to-Unix Network, the world's first commercial ISP providing the global Internet backbone, and I caught the last golden days of the dotcom boom. I was part of Network Ops and had the unrivaled opportunity to learn all the Internetworking secrets and how-to' the once-in-a-lifetime experience with privileged access (# prompt) on the international backbone Cisco routers. We set up and operated true Internet VPNs, across countries and continents. Every tool or product was on Unix, including the graphic ones! SSH tunneling and port forwarding, and document revision control (co -l and ci -u), were all amazing and exciting...

This dream job also healed me mentally to a large extent (the ultimate healer is my daughter after her birth) and paved my way to the next level of career growth in future years into consulting, client service and cyber security, both in private and public sectors. I always feel lucky I made this practical (albeit difficult) choice of career changes while I was alone trying hard to search my soul and recover my life - With a little self-observation I eventually concluded that, if I spent so much time subconsciously or spontaneously on keyboard typing on Unix shells (I once created an alias for 'elm', 'go back to work', and it only worked for a short while), I should really find jobs that would allow me to continue with this habit, such as sysadmin, netops, or even (ethical) hacking. Now looking back, I actually did have all these jobs at UUNET, Deloitte, etc. during my first 5 years in Canada!

Thanks for reading and, feel free to browse around to see what I am up to. Your comments and feedback are always welcome!

2016/12/15; 2022/09/01 (edited with vi)

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