Behind the scenes

Hi. I’m Kevin James.

No, I am not the actor.  I get that a lot though.  I am one of your course authors here at Linux Academy.

Let me say straight out, I love working in IT.  It has taken me around the world and allowed me to meet lots of great people and learn many new things.

I have been working in IT for a little over 30 years and I still love what I do.  It’s a field that continually changes over time and I feel just keeps getting better.  It’s a field that has allowed me to travel and work in other countries and meet lots of people and help companies grow and change over time.

When I first started, back as a student.  I learned how to create programs using cards and pencils (I am so glad that didn’t last long) and then moved to green screen terminals and computers with core memory.  My first computer system I worked with and learned on was a Digital PDP-11/70, which was at the school I attended to learn about computers.

With my first job, I moved onto a CP/M system at a rural school.  Part of the tasks I took on there was to start up the mainframe in the morning. We had to flip switches on the front panel to point to the location in memory the system should start from and then press other switches to start everything.   So much effort compared to current technology.  The large mainframe drew so much power, it saved the school money by turning it off over the weekends.  I then went from being a student to being a systems admin for a different school and managed systems that were running CP/M as the operating system.

This was in country Australia, and I moved from there to the big city.  Well, to me at that time Melbourne was a big city.  Later in life, I would live and work in places like Atlanta and Los Angeles and realize what a big city was really like.

My first job in Melbourne, I worked with Datapoint equipment (don’t worry if you don’t know them. They went out of business long ago), lugging boxes of paper to keep printers fed (9.5 by 11-inch half line blue, which frankly was so boring I still remember them) and changing disk packs and running batch jobs overnight.  Systems were so slow in those days that many jobs could only be run overnight.  If you ran them during the day then the core business (car rental) would run so slow (and possibly corrupt data) that you wouldn’t be able to rent cars to people.

I moved from there to a finance company and started working with IBM System/36, and I was there when they transitioned to an IBM System/38 and then later an IBM AS/400.  PCs were just starting to be used in the company, so I expanded my skill set to IBM PS/2 desktop computers.

Now things started to get really interested.  I moved to a government finance company (they managed state debt) and helped them with their mainframe and servers.  It was here I moved to working on servers rather than mainframe or midrange equipment.  My first file server was an IBM ps/2 running os2.

Then I started working with Windows.

I have made a lot of money over the years from Windows servers.  Oh, I am not disparaging Windows or Microsoft products (well, just a little).  Now I prefer Linux and Unix, but back then I hadn’t started with Linux.

Microsoft is why I started with Linux, though.  I found the Windows server products I was working with were not as much of a challenge as I would have liked, and since I had some experience with Unix I started learning more about Linux.   My first version of Linux was Caldera which is now long gone.

I also have Solaris experience and that started when a company I was working for bought out a pharmaceutical company.  I was part of the team integrating their Windows servers with our own networks and users, and when the boss asked if anyone had any Sun Solaris experience, I mentioned I had been messing around with Linux and Unix and would be happy to see if I could work it out.  That started me on my Sun Solaris experience.  I wanted more Linux, though, so whenever there were opportunities to go down that path I did so.  In those days, I was doing a lot of contract work, so when I wanted to learn new things I would look for a company that could provide what I was interested in.

I knew I liked Linux, but there were many experiences with Linux that cemented my love for the OS and working on it.  I loved how it could do so much with few resources.  For instance, at one time, a mail server I was managing (postfix with pop and IMAP mailboxes) hit a peak of just under 1 million incoming emails in a single day.  Now the normal load for that server was approximately 200,000 emails a day, but there was a spam storm happening and that’s why the high peak.  That particular server, running Debian, had 640mb of RAM and was a 1.4ghz Intel chipset.  It didn’t use more than 300mb of memory or higher than 80% of its CPU during that high email usage.

But that’s what I love working with Linux.  For the last 10 years or so I have been working exclusively (mostly) with Linux servers and the vast majority of that has been with Red Hat and CentOS.

It was through my experience with Linux and Windows that I was able to move to America and work with some awesome companies and people.

Over the years, I have worked on many systems and worked with companies large and small.  The smallest was a retail business with 4 servers and the largest was as part of a team that managed over 900 servers in several data centers.  I have many years of experience over a wide range of software and companies in many different spaces.  I am very happy to be one of your Course Authors working for Linux Academy and bringing my experience and skills to creating content to help you with your own goals, whatever they may be.

At Linux Academy, we love to hear from the students, So feel free to ping me online via community or email.  I am trying to do more conventions so I can meet you, so if you see me at a booth at a convention or show then come over and say hi.  Introduce yourself and let’s chat about Linux and my courses or about the learning experience we provide at Linux Academy or just about tech in general.

That’s it for this blog post.  My name is Kevin James.  Thank you for reading.

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