Welcome, this is a little about my journey from a curiosity in technology, to a hobby, to a career.
Technology has always fascinated me from an early age, starting simply by understanding VCR timers and spending a couple of hours with a new car radio1 when given the chance, becoming the go-to family member for consumer electronics.
A catalyst for where I am now was in 1997 when my home got its first PC2. The reason for the purchase was for me to type up homework essays, but inquisitiveness soon took over and I wanted to see what else a computer could do. An example was spinning up the included Windows 95 setup CD, where a whole game (Hover) and music videos were found.
This expanded in 1999 where I experienced the then craze of logging on to the internet3, which confirmed my choice in taking IT as a subject for my GCSE qualifications. Being online and finding info from personal websites prompted me to create my own and discover a new world of coding, albeit basic html via Front Page and hosting via Yahoo GeoCities. An added guestbook (as was the time) via Lycos finding popularity found peers helped me in a role helping design a new school website.
A new home PC4 in 2000 meant my original was now spare, combined with an internet upgrade to “always on” cable DSL (albeit 64kbps from then NTL) first piqued my interest in networking and servers.
While moving onto to study computing and electronics at college in 2001, my hobby saw me expanding to utilise my first PC and the DSL connection to create my first home server using NT Server 4.0. As this was my first step into networking, I quickly realised the need for a router5 along with a hub/switch. A goal for setting up a home server was to host a website for myself and a friend, using Classic ASP to load dynamic content to give our sites an edge over the free webspace providers. This later aided my education as I was using my site to upload work from college to home, a crude early version of cloud storage and better than 3.5 inch floppy disks.
College education finished in 2003 and not wanting to move onto university, my part time job in retail turned into a full-time career. A role in stock control of a major supermarket chain kept me entertained, becoming a user of server terminals and via PDA’s helped my technical curiosity tick over while being able to manipulate data to fine tune stock levels kept my mind active.
During this time my hobby idled, only a slew of low-cost ex commercial PC’s and modest increases to internet bandwidth depending on where I was residing kept the interest alive. By now all makeshift servers were running Server 2003.
This stagnation continued until 2012, where discovery and purchase of the HP Microserver6 gave a resurgence to my hobby, being able to rely on a new machine with storage options opened new scope to learn about RIAD and add local file serving in addition to web. Plus combined with the launch of the Raspberry Pi, added media playing to my home via OSMC.
In 2016 my retail role was made redundant. Not wanting to continue further in retail I took the chance on redundancy over alternative offered roles and explore a career that better fit my learning interests.
Following a stop-gap role at an energy provider, in 2017 and with some trepidation I accepted a role at a small company dealing with IT but with a goal to specialise in cloud VoIP, not knowing how I’d fit in.
This was an “in the deep end” introduction to an IT support role, but ultimately was a fulfilling experience to be presented with real world issues and overcoming them, with the more obscure resolutions making it into this blog. But also, highlighted the importance setting things up right first time and explaining the importance of cost lines to customers. Upskilling in Windows domains and servers was a valuable experience.
It was the VoIP side that was of the most interest, which to me was essentially a large network distributed over the internet to various types of connections. It was fascinating getting involved in this from the basics of how contention and QOS impacts the endpoints, to the detailed investigations involving the structure of the SIP protocol.
As the company runs its own servers to host the PBX’s, it was a chance to explore the wider picture. As part of an infrastructure upgrade it gave me greater exposure into the enterprise level, from configuring Fortinet routers and switches to VMware vCenter, vMotion and Linux servers (RHEL) used to support the PBX’s.
At home and in order to bring myself up to speed as fast as possible, I upgraded to a to used real server9 and added an Asterisk PBX via a FXO gateway to create a trunk via my analogue line to test ideas an simulate scenarios. In 2018 I got a chance to modestly refine my setup with the purchase of my first house which naturally included running ethernet around the home and other infrastructure improvements8.
The last 6 years have been an incredible learning experience where I’ve had the chance to experience my hobby from the other side along with taking on a whole new experience of VoIP which I really find fascinating.
Now, I’m looking to really dive into a specialism and become a master of a subject rather than a jack of all. VoIP continues to give me the intrigue to learn more but in my current role it seems to have reached a level where the company have reached complacency in its technical ability. I’m looking for new approaches to the technology that gives me a new perspective and new ideas on how to get more involved.
VoIP with its combination of networking and servers really sparked a long set interest I have, although should a similar combination present itself, I would be eager to transfer my skills and open myself to new worlds.
1: 5000 RDS EON unit in a ’96(P) Ford Escort.
2: Byte Patriot P133. Despite the P133 model name, it was a AMD K5 133mhz, 16MB SD RAM, 1.2GB IDE HDD, 1MB Graphics card.
3: US Robotics 56kbps external modem with serial to PC interface.
4: Advent (PC World brand) 600mhz, 128MB RAM, 20GB IDE HDD, nVidia TNT Riva2 32MB graphics.
5 Netgear RT311, added after a Netgear home networking kit that included 2 PCI network cards and a DS104 hub.
6: HP Microsever N36L, 4GB RAM, 250GB HDD boot and 2x 2TB RAID1 drives for storage. Later joined by a Microserver N54L, 8GB RAM, 1TB drive boot, 4x 2TB 2x RAID1 for storage.
7: Dell Poweredge T420, dual Xeon E5-2420, 64GB DDR3 ECC RAM, 4x 3TB SATA RAID5, 1x 3TB SATA, eSXI 6.5.
8: Draytek 2927ac, Netgear GS726TP, Unifi AC-Pro.