APLawrence.com -  Resources for Unix and Linux Systems, Bloggers and the self-employed

Experience

me



I "do" SCO Unix and Linux.

Programming, training, support, installations, troubleshooting and Web stuff. If I have to, I can do NT and Windows too, but usually only if it's in the context of other Unix work- I'm not very interested in Microsoft work by itself. However, I do the odd script or two and certainly know my way around Windows networks.

I sell and support Kerio® products: Connect Mailserver, Control (née Winroute) firewall, Operator VoIP PBX and Samepage collaboration.

I don't call myself a "wizard" or a "guru". There are such people, but the real ones are few and far between. I would hesitate to use the word "expert", too. Certainly I have some expertise in some areas, but I know there is always someone else who knows more about any given area than I ever will. That's partly because I'm more of a generalist than a specialist (though today, it's tough to be a "real" computer generalist: the field is too broad) and partly because there's always somebody smarter, faster, tougher, bigger, older or younger. Always. In the computer field, it's perhaps even harder to be expert at anything, because everything changes so incredibly fast. Someone may be an expert at version 1.7 of Multi-Prog (whatever that is), but the current version is 1.9, and that's only been out for six months, and 2.0 is already announced, and the reality is that most folks are now using All-Prog version 1.3 instead. So much for experts.

There are, of course, times when I cleverly figure out some nasty problem that a few self-styled guru's have already given up on. I feel pretty sharp on those days. Unfortunately, there are also days when I feel like a hopeless idiot because I just can't seem to get some darn thing to work at all. Usually that turns out to be simply because I did something really dumb early on or completely misunderstood some important concept. Computers have a great ability to teach humility, don't they?

Back around the same time that I learned Cobol, I took a first year accounting course, plus first year Mechanical Engineering. Pretty much of everything I learned in those other courses is still true today, and the knowledge is still useful. Just about nothing I learned about computers back then is relevant or useful. Heck, most of what I've learned and continue to learn about computers becomes obsolete in a year or two anyway. This is a fast moving field.

Most of what I do is pretty simple. Most of whatever it is that you do is probably simple, too. But there is a lot of simple, isn't there? You could probably explain 98% of your work in terms that a 10 year old could easily grasp. I could, too. The problem is that by the time we got done, the 10 year old would have a driver's license, and we still wouldn't have gotten to the 2% that might be a little hard.

I've given classes where I talked for forty hours just giving an overview, a beginner's overview, really, about one release of one vendor's Unix Operating System. None of it's hard. None of it is rocket science, and it sure isn't brain surgery. There's just a lot of it.

That's most of what I have to offer to the nice folks that pay me to do things for them: a lot of basic knowledge, mixed in with a whole bunch of experience, and seasoned with an attitude that we all have our jobs to do, the computer is just a tool to help us do our jobs, and while computers may sometimes be neat and fascinating all by themselves, we shouldn't forget that their primary purpose is to help us do other things.

I sometimes tell people that I really don't like computers. What I mean is that I'm not a computer geek, the latest version of Whatever doesn't interest me a bit unless there is some problem that needs that latest version of Whatever. I don't spend my free time surfing the Net looking for who knows what. I spend my free time doing other things.

Way back in the late 60's I attended the Electronic Computer Programming Institute and learned to use card sorters, wire IBM 402 Accounting machines, write SPS and Cobol code, and all that wonderful stuff. I can't say that I enjoyed Cobol, and the card sorting machines seemed to have a personal dislike for me, but I enjoyed the experience.

After graduating, I found there was a heck of a lot more money to be made selling industrial boilers, so I did that instead. For quite a few years, I didn't even think about computers. I thought about steam pressure, and BTU's per hour, and soot blowers, and water tubes vs. fire tubes. However, eventually I branched into heat exchangers, and it was there that I once again thought about computers, and realized that I needed a Personal Computer.

The problem was that I needed to do some very time consuming calculations to tell my customers just how much money a heat exchanger stuck in their boiler stacks would reclaim for them. I could send data off to a timesharing computer, but that sometimes took weeks. I could sit at my calculator for hours and hours and hours, but that was plainly ridiculous. There had to be a better way.

One night in 1977 I wandered into a Radio Shack, and they had this incredible device on display: a TRS-80 Model One with 4k of memory. I asked the salesperson what he knew about it, and got the answer "Not much" (at least some things have remained constant at Radio Shack). I asked him if I could write programs for it. He didn't know, but thought maybe I could. Having more money than brains, I then handed over $700.00 and took home my very first computer.

I taught myself Basic, and found that I really had 2.9k (yes, k) of memory to work in, and that I actually could write a program that gave me better than 90% of the accuracy of the time sharing computer and it ran in minutes (at a whopping 1.77 mhz, of course). I later learned some Z80 machine language, and wrote a pretty poor assembler in Basic. I wrote some games for my kids, and some more business applications for myself. I had gotten myself involved in a retail hobby ceramics store, so I wrote programs to handle the receipts. Those early computers were pathetic, but they sure beat calculators and slide rules.

A few years later, I went to work for Tandy Corp as a Customer Support Rep in one of their computer centers. I learned about 123, and Wordstar, and Model III Profile, and then they started selling these Xenix machines.

I couldn't understand one thing about Xenix, but I knew it was something far better than TRS-Dos or even the pathetic MS-Dos that was just starting to come out. It beat CPM hands down, and I had to know more. Books were scarce in those days, and I was many years away from having an Internet connection, so the learning process was slow, but I eventually learned enough that I felt I'd be better off on my own, so I did just that.

Since then, I've never stopped learning. My strong points are trouble shooting and innovative solutions to vexing problems. I sell primarily time: I will sell hardware and software but mostly it's just time.

If you need a SCO Unix/Linux consultant or programmer, I might be the right person. If not, thanks for stopping in, and be sure to check my listing of other consultants.


CERTIFICATIONS:
MCSE (Electives: Exchange, IIS) 
Sun Competency 2000 Enterprise Certified
SCO Advanced Certified Engineer
Citrix Administrator


EXPERIENCE:

1997 - Present
A.P. Lawrence Consulting. 

1994 - 1997 Senior Engineer/SELECT SALES, INC.
Installation, training and support for Unix, NT, Citrix.
Classroom and ad-hoc training for customers and SSI staff in Solaris, SCO, general networking. Telephone and on-site support for Sun (SunOS and Solaris), SCO (Xenix, 3.2, Release 5), Digiboard, Multitech, Cisco, AST,Compaq, Acer and Wyse. 
TCP/IP, E-Mail, HTML, Perl, TCL, etc. 

1983-1994 Owner/LAWRENCE & CLARK, INC.
Services provided by Lawrence & Clark, Inc. included both on-site and telephone assistance with software and hardware problems, installation and customization of operating systems, installation and training for off-the shelf software products and operating systems, as well as custom programming in C, Visual Basic and 4GL's. 

1981-1983 Computer Support Rep/TANDY CORPORATION 
Provided user information and technical support for all software products (operating systems, languages and applications packages). Involved assistance in initial system design, installation, startup, and on-line problem solving. Trained and educated Tandy Corporation and customer personnel in specific applications packages (word processing, accounting, communications). 

1978-1981 Owner-Manager/MARSHALL'S CERAMIC WORLD 
Wholesale-retail hobby ceramics supplier. Computerized point-of-sale system. 

1975-1978 Salesman/Applied Engineering Company
Sold large turnkey gas systems throughout New England.

PUBLICATIONS:

"Getting Wired - A Guide to Serial Communications", SCO Magazine, November 1992 

"A Device Driver Expedition", SCO Magazine, January 1993 

"Converting Model II Basic Programs to Xenix MBasic", Advanced Computing Magazine, January/February 1984 

"Converting Data Files", Two/Sixteen Magazine, November/December 1983 

Various articles in Boston Computer Society PC Report 

A.P. Lawrence.com
 

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© Tony Lawrence







Mon Feb 28 00:52:31 2005: 90   anonymous


Hi, Tony, How are you? Long time no see. This is Wade and hope you would still remember me from Select Sales Inc.. I was searching information on how to change EIDE drive model string on google.com and it let me to your website. I guess you are still doing the same old stuffs - Unix support/programming. Same here. I wonder if you know how to change a hard drive model string.

I wish you the best.

Regards,
Wade




Thu Mar 22 09:05:18 2007: 2927   skyzen


I am quite surprised by your articles and how you perceive things...
Keep up the Great Work....

Cheers,
Skyzen



Sun May 16 23:44:24 2010: 8602   Rich

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I just left one of those big computer companies after 20 years, it was a great place and time to work and grow up. I've headed back to the indie consultant life (been 2 weeks now), and I stumbled upon your site while learning about Kerio Connect for a client project. I have to say, I am honored just to be here. :)

I was delighted to read that you started with a TRS-80 Level I 4K in 1977 as well. I used to run to Radio Shack after track practice, grab the manual, and teach myself programming (that was a very nice owner who let me, I bought a Level II from him in '78). Graduated from there to some college, Radio Shack work, and then a CSR in the Portland Tandy ATSO (I imagine you know what that means) with filePro, Xenix, Wordstar, all that. Interesting, similar start. We have diverged more after that! :)

Anyhow, blah-blah. Just wanted to say hi. I really appreciate your straightforward, unpretentious commentary and technical meanderings. I recognize "the gift", and it's very nice of you to share it with us all. I'm reading through your "Pssst" and Troubleshooting eBooks this weekend, good stuff.

Sorry for the length, just got excited to find a true practicioner. Thanks again for the memories and for your model of conducting business with excellence and remaining humble.

Rich



Mon May 17 00:37:47 2010: 8603   TonyLawrence

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Heh -Area Training and Support.

It was the ATS that caused me to quit The Shack. They were dragging me out of my store to do support for other store's customers but would only pay me commission on my store's sales. I thought that was just a tad unfair :-)

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The three chief virtues of a programmer are: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris. (Larry Wall)

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