Wednesday, March 17, 2010

First blog...

Alright, so I've decided to give having my own personal blog page a go. I am, Sean-The-Electrofreak, apparently.

So lets get my internet handle out of the way. I've been "Electrofreak" on the internet since about age 13 (that was, 13 years ago, by the way).

At the time I didn't even know there was a form of music called "electro". "Electrofreak" was meant to be short for "electronics freak" since I've always been obsessed with electronics and computers since I was a wee lad.

When I was about 11 or 12, my parents bought me a Kosmos electronics kit. It had a breadboard, a bunch of components, a speaker, a analog knob, and a guide with dozens of electronic circuits inside.

I loved it. I spent hours assembling electronic circuits, building short wave radios, sirens, live wire detectors, audio amplifiers, etc. I began to look up more circuits, buying a book of circuitry at Radio Shack. Problem was, I was running out of components.

I got a soldering iron and began to break down various broken (and sometimes not-so-broken) electronics in the house for parts, carefully categorizing them in labeled medicine bottles. My parents probably thought I was crazy, but they let me do what I wanted as long as I didn't shock myself or blow anything up.

Vaguely, I remember building a circuit to detect live wires in the walls, and wanting to improve upon it. I wanted to be able to detect electrical emissions, even those not running through high-voltage wire. I used an amplifier circuit, hooked up to a monster capacitor that I'd looted from my little brother's broken Fisher Price stereo. I hooked it up to a huge coil of wire, and found myself looking at a device that squawked at me whenever I moved. Cool! A motion detector! I wasn't sure exactly how it worked, guessing it had something to do with the electrical field that our bodies emit moving within proximity of the coil. I remember several months later going to some expo in the gymnasium of a high school and walking up to a booth where a security company was demoing its products. I told the lady I'd invented a motion detector; she gave me that fake excited expression and told me that maybe some day I'd come work for them.

Now I work at an international home security company. Hmm...

A few years later, I moved into computers. My cousin was, at the time, one of the lead game developers at Broderbund, working on the "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego" series of games. When I was 14, I went and visited him in San Francisco, where I got to see the office and beta-test some software. I decided I wanted to be a game developer.

By 15, I was coding extensively in QBasic within the DOS environment. I subscribed to some magazine that contained pages of cool programs to write, and I spent a lot of time coding simple games and tweaking them. In High School, I took Visual Basic my junior year and C++ my senior year.

I applied to SUNY Brockport college, and I was declined. I was just about dead average when it came to my grades, but I had a lot of AP credits piled up (my high school Diploma came with Honors). They couldn't give me a reason why they'd declined me, and asked me to reapply next semester. But I didn't want to wait, I applied to MCC and got in.

There, I did well in computer classes, but struggled in math. I've only myself to blame; I asked my Calculus teacher if I could program my calculator (which runs TI-Basic) to do some of the grunt-work for me, given that I was a Computer Science major. She agreed to that and I began to dig myself a hole. I became very reliant upon my calculator over the semester, getting reasonable grades, neglecting homework, and when the final exam came, I flunked it, because you were not allowed to use your calculator on the exam. Whoops.

I repeated the same thing the next semester. You would think I would have learned, but the second time around I figured I'd already taken the class, I knew most of the stuff already, that I would just need to brush up a bit before the exam on my pen-and-paper math. I put my time and energy into my Technical Writing and Java Programming classes, doing well on both (getting a 100% on the Java final exam while walking out early), but I failed Calc again.

Short on cash (having moved in with my girlfriend at the time), I began a full time job and decided to put school on the backburner. It's been there ever since. After that job fell through, I tried running my own computer repair business, but as it turns out, I'm a better tech than I am a business man.

So I went to working for a large corporation. I've been working for nearly 5 years now at a major home security company, as I mentioned before. There I met a beautiful woman, Lynn, that I ended up moving in with, and we had a daughter together, Bianca, who is now nearly 18 months old. Our apartment is getting too small for a growing little girl though, and I realized that I need to do something to ensure that financially, we were going to be able to the offer her the kind of home she needs.

I decided that I needed to get back into technology. I want to finish my degree at some point, and pick up a Bachelors at RIT. I've shifted away from programming a bit; mostly because I see it as an industry far too unreliable due to outsourcing, and because programming can get VERY tedious after the novelty of a new project wears off.

So I started studying networking. I read through a book on the Network+ exam and found it too much like a set of definitions, not much substance. I hopped into Cisco Networking study, picked up a Cisco 3725 router (which I used as an edge router) and joined a project called PeerIX, consisting of a couple dozen network students / professionals connecting their routers together through BGP over an IPSec tunnel via GRE. It was great motivation to get me studying. After about 6 months of study, I succeeded in including my router in the project, even hooking it up to a managed Cisco switch that was mailed to me, for the cost of shipping, from the founder of the project.

The only problem was that my constant work on the router was frustrating Lynn because of the constant internet outages whenever I messed around with something. On days when I was at work and the internet started to act strangely (which ended up being a dying access point), she had no idea what to do to get things working again.

So I unplugged from the PeerIX project for the time being. Hopefully when we get a new set of computer desks, I can set everything back up so that the 3725 works on the inside of the network instead of as an edge router, and Lynn can pretend it doesn't exist.

My ICND1, or CCENT test for my first Cisco certification, is next month. Life has been busy, and finding time to study has been difficult. Some of the stuff I studied originally nearly a year ago is already starting to become hazy, so I'm going to have to buckle down and do some review.

Update: as of June 2010, I work for another large corporation, Unisys, providing technical support to the City of Chicago government and municipal employees (of which there are over 44,000). I am currently the Team Training Coordinator, Team Lead, and S.M.E, and I work with our Account Relations Manager in working to implement new solutions to client concerns. I enjoy my job, though I continue to train myself and work towards getting certified.

Wish me the best of luck. If you've made it this far though this novel, you have my sincere respect.

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