Hello! My name is ‘usafitz’ and I am an IT professional from all over the U.S. I’ve been all around the world and seen many things, but what absolutely gets my blood flowing are servers and technology. Throughout this blog, you’ll be witness to a brand new journey to which I’ve decided to embark… full-time hacking.
Before I start writing about my journey, i wanted to give some background on what I’ve been up to these past years. At the moment of this writing, I am about to turn forty. Just like most people’s experiences, I’ve had a roller coaster of ups and downs; but there’s always been an incredible drive to keep going and learn more! The center of everything I’ve done has been my love and adoration of servers. I say servers instead of computers because when I look at a machine, my imagination goes wild with what it can accomplish. A computer, in my eyes, represents a simple dumb terminal that becomes a tool to accomplish the goal you set forth. A server is where the real magic happens.
I began my journey into IT at the young age of eight years old. My mom got a Commodore 64 from a family member, and gave it to me without any instruction manuals or direction. She saw it as a simple word processor and intended to type up reports. I saw a world of so much more! It came with the keyboard, and a cassette tape drive, and a few tapes of games with which to play. Needless to say, I popped one in and went to town (yes, she helped). Over the next several years, I learned exponentially about basic code and how the software interacted with the hardware; but that wasn’t enough for me…
Around the age of thirteen, I wanted more. Two of my friends had computers with a CRT screen and a 386 processor. It was pretty bad-ass for the time. We didn’t have the resources to purchase our own, so my mom got with my friend’s parents and made a deal. The next day, she presented me with an amazing, what seemed to be 100 pound, machine of glory! It was my very own 386 with a 2400 baud rate modem and a DOS operating system. It was heaven; and to this day, I remember the feeling of joy as we installed it onto my desk in my room.
From that day on, my online life began. With my modem, and a few resources that a friend gave me, I connected to my first Bulletin Board System called ‘Cyberbase.’ This was an amazing place that offered freedom to say and do whatever you felt. There, I met a ton of people… although, for the first time in my life, I had never seen them face to face.
Upgrades to this type of computer were expensive, and many times for me, unobtainable. To satisfy my cravings to know more, I would often visit my friend’s house, who by the time we were fifteen, had a 486. Inspired by the speed and amazing array of colors, I decided that it might be time to grab a soldering iron and try to put a 486 chip that I had acquired into my old 386… only it didn’t quite work that way. This is one of the many difficult lessons I would learn throughout my life: how to ‘brick’ a computer.
With this difficult lesson, and no way to fix my old computer, I frequented many of my friend’s houses that had much better rigs than I ever could have imagined. The 1 megahertz chip had come out, and a 14.4 baud rate modem was also available, if you could afford them. So like any good citizen, I got a job! The new computers were about $1500, and included a 122 MhZ processor, and a 14 inch CRT display. After raising about half of that price, my mom once again came through and took me on a trip to Sears to buy my first true power house computer.
That computer lasted me through the first half of college. When I was a freshman, I paid quite a bit of money to upgrade it to a 200MhZ processor, and installed my first network card right onto the motherboard. My dorms had just received an upgrade that brought a T1 line into the building, and allowed us to have internet that was actually turned on all the time! It was there that I started understanding that when all computers can talk to each other, it’s both fun, and dangerous!
After college, my first job was information assurance. This was a fancy way of saying that we created accounts on our network, and looked for inefficiencies in our vetting process for new users. That job went by quickly, though; I guess I did great because I was quickly put in charge of network Test and Evaluation where I had a lab of 42 computers and piles of equipment that needed to be tested before we could put it on the actual network. Up to this point, I had been playing around with a ton of software, and didn’t have a good taste for what building a network was all about; but through the people that worked for me, I was quickly building cables, connecting/configuring switches, and writing firewall rules that would later be implemented on the 10,000 user network.
Following that awesome experience, I was put in charge of the help desk. It was no normal help desk, however; it was more of a dispatch that had monitoring systems for the entire network, and big displays that would turn red if something was wrong. I would then analyze the situation, and decide what course of action was needed to remedy it. I always called it the help desk, though, because the higher up people would call our numbers when they had issues. They knew we’d be able to fix it faster than anyone else. I didn’t mind.
For several years following those first few assignments, I delved into managing some contract work which included ground satellite communications systems, operations centers, and surveillance. There was a point somewhere around 2012 that I felt confident enough to start my own company to host webpages and emails for small business clients. I did this to keep up my skills, but also to learn about the new server technologies that existed. Additionally, it allowed me to be directly responsible for systems that went down, and had to be revived within minutes by my hands. There were times that were quite exciting when I was still working full-time at another job, and had to pivot to get a server back to working order. It’s a rush of adrenaline that never gets old!
Since then, I started a second company which concentrates on the infrastructure for small businesses. This includes video distribution, security, surveillance, wifi, firewalls, IPSec tunnels, and more. That new business opened up a different way of reacting to problems. With each issue, I would either visit the client, or remote into the system that I created to fix the issue. In addition, it allowed me to constantly engineer new ways of building and monitoring networks, while being challenged with new scenarios that the clients would like for expanding their business. Research is constant, and relationships are built daily. It’s what I live for.
So at this point, you know quite a bit about me. What you don’t know are my intimate secrets: what equipment do I have in my home lab? Don’t worry, you’ll find out if you keep up with this blog. I intend to write about that as I go through the classes, websites, and research for becoming a full-time hacker. I know I will enjoy this process, and I want to invite you to join me in that joy! If you’re in to the same thing, maybe I’ll see you online and we’ll have a chat.
My name is ‘usafitz’ and I am starting my journey!