A federal mandate to streamline the process for building out 5G could leave a lot of local municipalities feeling burned.
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One of the things at #WISPAPALOOZA2018 I kept hearing was “I don’t have the time”. Randy Pauusch gives a talk on time management. Why pay attention to this video? Randy Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and he was working against this when giving this talk. He only had a limited time to live and became an expert on time management because he had to.
In 2006 I was hired on part-time for Purdue University. My days would consist of mornings on Campus at Purdue doing I.T. support for the Agronomy Department and afternoons, evenings, and weekends doing support and build-outs for NDWave. We were in the mode of dumping everything back into the company to get to a solid sustainable position. I didn’t really want to go back to desktop support, but the benefits and part-time position helped to pay off bills we had accumulated with MTIN. Purdue allowed me to meet Donnie Payne. Donnie is an infectious personality sort of person. Just being around him motivates you to do things. Purdue allowed me to work with Mac OSX Xserves, cutting-edge Linux servers, and special projects. One of the coolest projects I worked on included remote sensor trailers. We had servers, remote reboots, and had to deal with how to get connectivity out in BFE. Several sites had cellular or satellite uplinks. I was able to apply my ISP knowledge to this project.
NDWave exposed us to lots of rockstars in the ISP industry. JohnnyO and his crew helping with removing feedhorns from a tower is something I will never forget. Sitting outside a hotel with him cooking dinner. Guys like Chuck Hogg, who helped the industry in several ways and is just a plain cool cat. The work alone has opened up friendships which were well worth any long days. Guys like Jay Panozzo, who are not directly connected with the WISP industry, but have their parts. Jay owns Midamerica Towers and is a Man among men. Jay sets the bar for the tower professional.
I continued to dedicate time to Purdue and Ndwave until April 2008. One month before Omnicity took over management of the NDWave network I became a full time employee. Omnicity started out good, but quickly went downhill after a year for me. With all the lawsuits in place that is about all I will say about that.
After being separated form Omnicity I continued to keep my head above water with steady consulting from companies I had helped over the past couple of years. Kenny Johnson at Mooreland ISP and Scott Reed at NewWays were two of my best customers. I truly understood what it was like to be the one the buck stops with. When you have a tower outage at 1AM. the customer does not care except they have no Internet. Early morning climbs to repair Aps in the dead of winter were not uncommon. That is part of what it takes. Being a former owner really helped me connect with what these guys are going through.
Things were slow so I was able to re-group some. I did not mess with much technology except when I had to. I took a step back and concentrated on the activities I enjoyed. I stepped up collecting G.I. Joe figures visited more friends, and generally did non-tech related things. This in itself expanded those I call friends. My mind and soul needed that healing. Then a funny thing happened. I started writing this blog, becoming active on mailing lists again, and generally became interested in the technology again. I started gaining more and more consulting clients and working with more and more networks. Ubiquiti was just starting to come on the scene, Mikrotik was a mature platform, and prices were starting to come down on gear. I remember sitting around 3 years ago thinking I needed to step up what I am doing. It took me up until then to realize I had enough experience and stuff running around in my head to be an expert. I have watched so-called experts screw up even the simplest things.
In the past couple of years, things have really blossomed in the Industry and I have had the pleasure of being a part of some of it. When you look back on this there are certain key points where you take leaps and bounds. Once I was able to step back and further enjoy things that next leap up was taken. This allowed me to open new pathways of thinking too. My confidence soared, my shyness subsided, and life got better. I attribute this to those who have influenced my life, and the experiences we have shared.
Stripping wireless gear off a 120 foot tower in Chicago with Mike Hammett is one of my fondest memories. The work was hard and long, but having the comrade in arms with you to do it make up for it. There is a bond that is formed which last a lifetime. Mike is one of those guys you want to see succeed. I am fortunate to have been in a position on a couple of occasions to help him when it would have been a paid for him to hire it out.
This brings us to present day…
Continued in part 5 (the conclusion I promise)
One night I am sitting in my office wondering what is next for MTIN and I get a call from Steve Narducci in Anderson, Indiana. Steve has this idea he wants to start an ISP. I call up one of my good friends Chris Orr. Chris and I had become good friends out of a chance meeting of him stopping by the office for some thermal Paste. I instantly knew Chris was of the same kind of mold I was. Chris had been hanging out at the office and helping with MTIN for sometime now. Chris is the best *NIX engineer I have ever seen. So I call Chris and ask if he wants to make a little money and so something enjoyable. I think it took Chris awhile to realize I don’t let much hold me back and life is all about going for opportunities or creating ones.
Early one Saturday morning in 2006 Chris, Amber, and I head to Anderson Indiana to hang the first Access Points for what would become ndwave.com. We had been prepping for this for months. T1 line had been ordered, servers built, and equipment ordered and delivered. Little did any of us know we were on the verge of something great. Through a small team we were able to grow to over 1,000 customers under 2 years. Working with NDWave was one of the first times I had the complete package. I had the freedom to shape a growing network and the financial backing to do it. I was as unrestricted as I could get. I felt like I had finally arrived into what I was supposed to be doing. We were working hard and long hours, but it was fun. There is an old saying that goes something like “If you find a profession you truly love, you will never have to work another day in your life”.
During this time I really was able to get to Know Rick Harnish. Rick is the Marlon Brando of the the Wireless ISP world. Rick was eager to share what he knew and help everyone around him grow. Having someone like Rick to have conversations with was a huge asset. He was a major pipeline to the innovation and direction other WISPs were going. Plus Rick is just a plain cool guy.
NDWave really established my credibility in the ISP world. I had been looking for that recognition for quite awhile. Folks like Michael Pelsor, & Debbie Seal would be added to the “family”. These are folks who I consider friends to this day. It was like TCTC all over again. We were on the leading edge of this Wireless ISP wave. The technology was becoming easier to use and more affordable. This meant the average person could now afford reliable service delivered via Wireless. We were growing into areas where there was no broadband. It was kind of like the Wild West gold rush. There were weeks NDWave was putting up 3-4 towers. I was getting to work with Mikrotik, Cisco, Tranzeo, and some other manufacturers. Life was good. We had a fiber feed, rack space at a Premier data center, and got to play with other cool toys.
Then Omnicity comes along and things change yet again….
Being hired as a tech support tech at tctc.com would forever change my life. It was like being shown who was behind the curtain. All of a sudden this world of T1 lines, modem banks, and DNS servers was before me. I couldn’t soak up enough of it. It was here I met some of the best people I have known in my life. Guys like Robg, Robr, John “Land”, and Jimbo. We became a sort of dysfunctional family. We were at the head of the wave as the Internet and personal computing exploded. We were truly among a very small group of people doing technical support for an ever-growing ISP. During that time businesses did not have I.T. departments, there were very few consultants, and very few people had done any of this before. We were being looked to because we were the closest anyone had to experts. This caused us to be on the leading edge of the World Wide Web boom. Our close-knit group became close because no one else knew what we were talking about. All of us looked at what we were doing as more than a job. It was a lifestyle. Like anything in life, things change. The small telephone company was sold to TDS Telecom and I saw the writing on the wall. The culture we had developed was coming to an end.
Shortly after leaving TCTC.com I stated my own dial-up ISP on a shoestring budget. My dad was one of my biggest supporters in this venture. Without him I never would have been able to do it. Sadly I lost my father in 2001. This meant we needed the extra income to survive. I applied for a job at Lafayette School Corporation as a Macintosh Specialist. Here I meant some people such as Eric Thiel. Eric is the Zen Master of the computer world. From Eric I learned the ability to relax when it came to solving technology problems. My term at LSC was similar to the culture at TCTC. We were a small group on the cutting edge of integrating technology into the day to day operations of the teachers. Things others take for granted were new at that time. Using PDAs with wireless cards to take attendance, implementing Gigabit Ethernet, and PC automation were some of the fun things we were doing. It was during this time I learned a lot on how I wanted my professional life to be. I was working for a Boss who had serious issues. He would what I would consider your “typical I.T. stereotype”. He made my life miserable. Part of it was me seeing the wasted potential in myself. It was here I knew the ISP business was my true calling.
At the same time I was at LSC, my ISP business (MTIN.NET), was branching out into being one of the first Wireless Internet Service Providers in the area. We hung our first piece of wireless gear around 2003. I never had enough money to truly expand like I wanted to. During this time I met Amber. Amber was the best thing to ever happen to me. Quickly she became a true partner in everything we were doing. She was spending her weekends helping me keep everything together. Our typical weekend would be me on a grain leg installing or trying to keep equipment up with her at the bottom plugging in stuff. We were both working full-time jobs and trying to make a go of the ISP. Many days I would get home from my 9-5 job and be working on MTIN things until 11 or 12. The next day would be a full repeat of that. MTIN did computer repair as well as the ISP thing. The computer repair business kept the lights on, but also further showed me the ISP side of things is what my true calling was.
When another WISP came into the area it was time for myself and MTIN to morph yet again. That’s where meeting Steve Narducci changed it all….
Continued in Part 3
I published this several years ago, and was lost on a previous blog. I found it while archiving things tonight and figured it was time to re-post and update in the end.
My buddy Greg Sowell recently wrote an article on his Blog about the “evolution of an I.T. guy. It was on of the best articles I have read in a long time. It inspired me to write this article. I am thinking this will probably be a 3 or 4 part article on my history in the computer/I.T. field.
My mom bought me my first computer, a Texas Instruments TI-994a when I was about 7 years old. We had very little money but she managed to get her hands on one. I had a game called Parsec which I would play for hours on a small black and white tv screen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZgFAgmJkiE . Her and I would spend hours taking turns on this game. Those times are one of my most cherished memories I have.
From there I graduated to a Commodore 64. My best Friend Shawn Hackett and I would spend hours drooling over the newest games at Hills department store. We would also spend hours copying games from other people and users groups. During that time 5 ¼” floppy disks would be passed around user groups to trade games between the members. Games like Druid, Wasteland, Whirlybird, and Jet Set Willy would have an immense influence on our young lives. To this day they were so much a part we still joke about the humor and enjoyment we received from the games.
The commodore would stick with us until around 1992-93. This is the time I received my driver’s license. One night I was on Purdue campus just exploring around and came across a computer lab. No one questioned my being there so I just sat down at an Apple Macintosh. On the desktop was an icon labeled Netscape Navigator 1.0beta. Little did I know clicking on that icon was a life changing experience. In front of me popped up something called a search engine. I started typing in things I was interested in. Anything from Star Trek to weapons to cars. I remember sitting there that first night for hours seeing all this information at my fingertips. I would spend all my free time going to that computer lab. I would spend my time printing off tons of things and taking them home to read. This was one of those moments in life where you reach a higher level of consciousness. When I actually enrolled at Purdue I was able to gain several “shell accounts”. This opened up the doors to things like ytalk, html coding, and shell scripts. All of my free time was still spent in the ever-changing computer labs in the basements of various buildings.
It was during this time my dad helped me buy my first Apple Performa. It was running Macintosh OS 7.0 and had a 14.4 baud modem. I immediately signed up for tctc.com dial-up Internet. I was one of their first Macintosh users which expanded my understanding because I had to do things very few others were doing. It was during this time I found the world of IRC. This chat system spawned many long lasting friendships I still have to this today.
One day I saw a posting for a job opening at TCTC. Little did I know this was about to change my entire life…
Stay Tuned for Part 2