TAG Bios

These are some of the people who answer your TAG questions every month.

Ben Okopnik

picture Ben was born in Moscow, Russia in 1962. He became interested in electricity at age six--promptly demonstrating it by sticking a fork into a socket and starting a fire--and has been falling down technological mineshafts ever since. He has been working with computers since the Elder Days, when they had to be built by soldering parts onto printed circuit boards and programs had to fit into 4k of memory. He would gladly pay good money to any psychologist who can cure him of the resulting nightmares.

Ben's subsequent experiences include creating software in nearly a dozen languages, network and database maintenance during the approach of a hurricane, and writing articles for publications ranging from sailing magazines to technological journals. Having recently completed a seven-year Atlantic/Caribbean cruise under sail, he is currently docked in Baltimore, MD, where he works as a technical instructor for Sun Microsystems.

Ben has been working with Linux since 1997, and credits it with his complete loss of interest in waging nuclear warfare on parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Chris Gianakopoulos

picture I do embedded software for a living. I work at Motorola in Schaumburg, Illinois, and I design and implement RF networking protocols for a living.

My schooling is a BSEE at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, but I was a nondegreed engineer during most of my career. I have been doing embedded software for about 20 years, and I'm 48 years old.

Networking protocols are what got me interested in Linux. For example, after reading TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1, by Stevens, I had a yearning to experiment with the protocols. Also, I got tired of using Microsoft Windows software on my 486 machine. A 66MHz 486 is sort of fast when running DOS -- Windows 95 brought it down to its knees. Also the Windows games require so much resources! Linux (I use SuSE 6.4) brought new life into that 486.

So I love Linux. I have lots of computers in the house with three of them running Linux (one of them with no keyboard or monitor -- just an Ethernet). I have another machine that runs FreeBSD because I like to see how the various systems (Linux, FreeBSD, even Windows with its protocol stack and Exceed) interoperate.

Physics, electromagnetics (fields and waves), and protocols are the things that I study most. I know the IrDA protocol, I have studied its specs, and I have ported a commercial IrDA protocol stack into more than one embedded system.

I am married with three kids, and I actually see them. When I am not hobbying and working, I actually get some sleep now and then.

Dan Wilder

Dan was born in the late Pleistocene before mortals were permitted access to computers. Raised on a diet of grilled Wooly Mammoth, he wrote his first program in high school, for an IBM 7090 in a language called MAD. Following a meandering career as a sound technician, auto worker, offset pressman, mechanic, roustabout and journalist, Dan went back to college to study Forestry. There, he met his doom in the form of the keys to a room in the cellar of the forestry school containing an IBM 1130, given him by an evil lecturer who became his computing mentor.

Following completion of a degree and extended sojourns as a real-time embedded systems programmer and UNIX sysadmin, Dan gravitated to Linux Journal, where he helps edit Embedded Linux Journal, and plays with Linux systems all day (and more of the night than his dear and patient wife Jacque would prefer).

Dan spends his spare time hiking, reading to his two children, and doing volunteer gardening at their school.

Faber Fedor

Faber runs LinuxNJ.com, a Linux hacking, er...consulting company in New Jersey, USA where people pay him to practice his hobby. Besides teaching Linux around the country, writing code and setting up networks, Faber does occasionally walk away from the computer. During those times he's either sleeping or watching reruns of Star Trek or Babylon 5.

Frank Rodolf

After his first experiences with a Sinclair ZX-80 - with a wopping 1 KB RAM - when in - what in the US would be called - 9th grade, Frank was addicted to computers.

When he first got to play with Linux (an SLS distribution with kernel 0.98.xx), he was impressed, but - having no experience with Unices at all - had no real use for it. Writing applications for small companies and tutoring students in IT-related classes meant using the standard (DOS-based) software.

Things changed when he got a new PC. Now he could play with other OSes on the old PC. Kernel 1.2.10 being available by now, Linux had gotten much more stable and thus much more fun to experiment with. After a short while, Linux was the main OS on the new machine too - DOS being hidden behind a dual boot that was hardly ever used anymore.

After having had various office jobs, Frank accepted a job as Unix system administrator with the biggest Dutch ICT service provider - now, after a merger, officially a French company - in August 1998.

Apart from the standard work - mostly involving Sun Solaris and HP-UX - Frank is responsible for the Linux developments within the group he is part of. This includes making a standard installation for Linux servers, based on Red Hat, kickstart and a lot of Bash and Perl scripts.

At home, when Frank is not on the phone with his girlfriend in NYC or playing backgammon online, he experiments with various distributions, currently using Mandrake on his main machine.

Frank lives in the Netherlands.

Guy Milliron

picture Guy grew up in SillyCon Valley (San Jose/San Francisco Bay area) where frequent road signs say Intel, HP, Apple, etc...

Starting at an early age of 10, when Guy took the 27" console television apart one afternoon when the parental units were busy elsewhere, they learned to keep him at bay with his own personal electronic components. It started with a Radio Shack 200 in 1 electronic test kit. Quickly he grew into computers (Apple ][ series - TTL chip sets). Guy entered into an electronics course at school, but was more capable of teaching the course than the teacher. So he was given run of the class to do whatever projects he came up with.

After high school, Guy joined the working people. He worked in IT/MIS for such companies as Adept Technologies (Robotics), Micro Focus (COBOL), Apple, Ibm... His interests in hardware quickly grew into interests in software too. Reading any technical book about any OS, he quickly learned about DOS, Win, OS/2, MacOS... Taking him to a new job title, OS Tech. He heard about Slackware Linux. Obtained a copy, never really thought it would take off and shelved the project.

Guy operated a FidoNet based BBS for many years. Always trying to get more out of the computer by trying different operating systems. Connectivity really interested Guy.

Continued life working for various Microsoft based companies (QualComm, Stac Electronics). Until one day in the late 90's, he heard about Red Hat Linux. Once again, obtained a copy, installed it... and promptly deleted Windows (much to the annoyance of the people in his household). Ended up buying more computers, one specific to Windows for those less apt at Linux, but kept playing with Linux.

Today, Guy runs Red Hat Linux on several systems offering dns, webhosting, email services... to small businesses. (He also has one Windows machine,) He also also, operates a taxicab and karaoke hosting business in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Heather Stern

Heather got started in computing before she quite got started learning English. By 8 she was a happy programmer, by 15 the system administrator for the home... Dad had finally broken down and gotten one of those personal computers, only to find it needed regular care and feeding like any other pet. Except it wasn't a Pet: it was one of those brands we find most everywhere today...

Heather is a hardware agnostic, but has spent more hours as a tech in Windows related tech support than most people have spent with their computers. (Got the pin, got the Jacket, got about a zillion T-shirts.) When she discovered Linux in 1993, it wasn't long before the home systems ran Linux regardless of what was in use at work.

By 1995 she was training others in using Linux - and in charge of all the "strange systems" at a (then) 90 million dollar company. Moving onwards, it's safe to say, Linux has been an excellent companion and breadwinner... She took over the HTML editing for "The Answer Guy" in issue 28, and has been slowly improving the preprocessing scripts she uses ever since.

Here's an autobiographical filksong she wrote called The Programmer's Daughter.

Huibert Alblas

Huibert Alblas is my real name, but everybody has been calling me Halb since the day I moved from Holland to Germany. After spending 5+ years on University (mostly hanging around on campus) "studying" math and physics to become a teacher, I was finally asked by a small .com to work for them, doing what I was doing all day anyway (programming, Linux, Windows, hardware support (a little bit) and overall messing around with computers). In the evenings I teach Wing Tsun (kung fu) 3 times a week or sit in my favorite cafe, drink Weizen (2 times a week), or practice playing guitar and writing a songbook with campfire songs in LaTeX.

Jay Ashworth

Jay has been a Unix geek in some fashion or other since the local Radio Shack Computer Centers had to password-protect their Xenix 1.2 machines *specifically* to keep him out of them, almost 20 years ago.

Since then, his administration skills have improved to the point that people actually *pay* him to take the root passwords to their Unix (and, increasingly, Linux) boxen and fix things for them. And his writing skills have, hopefully, improved enough also that he can hold his own in the Chain^WAnswer Gang.

He is also, in no particular order, a professional driver, a voiceover artist, a karaoke and background vocalist, a photographer, a graphic artist, a network and applications designer, an amateur (and lazy) pundit (baylink.pitas.com), and in no particular order. He kibitzes on the HylaFAX project, helps out the Suncoast FreeNet (on those rare occasions when something breaks), and produces lots of Public Access Television (www.accesspinellas.org), a hobby he's indulged for 13 years now.

Jim Dennis

Jim has been using Linux since kernel version 0.97 or so. His first distribution was SLS (Soft Landing Systems). Jim taught himself Linux while working on the technical support queues at Symantec's Peter Norton Group. He started by lurking alt.os.minix and alt.os.linux on USENET netnews (before the creation of the comp.os.linux.* newsgroups), reading them just about all day while supporting Norton Utilities, and for a few hours every night while waiting for the rush-hour traffic to subside.

Jim has also worked in other computer roles, and also as an electrician and a crane truck operator. Jim has also worked in many other roles. He's been a graveyard dishwasher, a janitor, and a driver of school buses, taxis, pizza delivery cars, and even did some cross-country, long-haul work.

He grew up in Chicago and has lived in the inner city, the suburbs, and on farms in the midwest. In his early teens he lived in Oregon-- Portland, Clackamas, and the forests along the coast (Brighton). In his early twenties, he moved to the Los Angeles area "for a summer job" (working for his father, and learning the contruction trades).

By then, Jim met his true love, Heather, at a science-fiction convention. About a year later they started spending time together, and they've now been living together for over a decade. First they lived in Eugene, Oregon, for a year, but now they live in the Silicon Valley.

Jim and Heather still go to SF cons together.

Jim has continued to be hooked on USENET and technical mailing lists. In 1995 he registered the starshine.org domain as a birthday gift to Heather (after her nickname and favorite Runequest persona). He's participated in an ever changing array of lists and newsgroups.

In 1999 Jim started a book-authoring project (which he completed after attracting a couple of co-authors). That book Linux System Administration (published 2000, New Riders Associates) is not a rehash of HOWTOs and man pages. It's intended to give a high-level view of systems administration, covering topics like Requirements Analysis, Recovery Planning, and Capacity Planning. His book intended to build upon the works of Aeleen Frisch (Essential Systems Administration, O-Reilly & Associates) and Nemeth, et al (Unix System Administrator's Handbook, Prentice Hall).

Jim is an active member of a number of Linux and UNIX users' groups and has done Linux consulting and training for a number of companies (Linuxcare) and customers (US Postal Service). He's also presented technical sessions at conferences (Linux World Expo, San Jose and New York).

A few years ago, he volunteered to help with misguided technical question that were e-mailed to the editorial staff at the Linux Gazette. He answered 13 questions the first month. A couple months later, he realized that these questions and his responses had become a regular column in the Gazette.

"Darn, that made me pay more attention to what I was saying! But I did decide to affect a deliberately curmudgeonly attitude; I didn't want to sound like the corporate tech support 'weenie' that I was so experienced at playing. That's not what Linux was about!" ( curmudgeon means a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man, according to the Merriam-Webster OnLine dictionary. The word hails back to 1577, origin unknown, and originally meant miser.)

Eventually, Heather got involved and took over formatting the column, and maintaining a script that translates "Jim's e-mail markup hints" into HTML. Since then, Jim and Heather have (finally) invited other generous souls to join them as The Answer Gang.

John Karns

I first heard of Linux around 1994. Shortly thereafter I bought a copy of Yggdrasil, which had kernel version 0.99 if I recall. One could either install it to hard drive or run it directly from the CD.

Until 1987, I worked as musician full- and part-time. My preferred musical idiom is modern jazz - John Coltrane, Mile Davis, etc.

Graduated 1983, Lawrence Institute of Technology (now Lawrence Technological University), Southfield, Mich. B.S.E.E.

First personal computers: Commodore 64 w/ TV as monitor, and Apple ][+.

1983 - 1985: field engineer with Wang Laboratories. Bought my first PC from them, an 8086 (16 bit XT style), with 256k RAM, 10MB hdd, and monochrome graphics in 1984.

Worked in an electronics shop and freelanced as programmer approx 4 yrs. Picked up some networking and RDBMS experience in an industrial IS dept., approx. 5 yrs; then more freelancing.

Since early 1998 have been implementing LAN's (Linux-based, of course) and setting up a distributed RDBMS for an educational institution in Bogotá and other parts of Colombia, South America.

Karl-Heinz Herrmann

picture I'm a physicist. Right now I'm working in a research center in Germany, and am enjoying my good fortune in having mostly Unix machinery around me. I started out with Linux as it made the leap to 2.0.0 and have been running my home PC under Linux since then.

Mike Ellis

Mike works as a Research and Development Engineer in Surrey, England. His first experience of Unix was in 1990 at the University of Kent in Canterbury (UKC) where he also came across Linux in 1992. He has been running Linux systems at home and at work since 1996, starting with Slackware 96, although he now tends to prefer RedHat. He spends as much of his work time as possible writing code for Linux and Solaris, although unfortunately most of it is commercially confidential. Having learnt a lot from other people, Mike hopes to repay some of the debt by contributing to the Linux community through TAG. He also regularly contributes to C-Vu, the bi-monthly magazine produced by ACCU. Non-computing activities include Juliet, flying light aeroplanes and target shooting.

Mike Martin

I got introduced to Linux through Red Hat 5.2 in April 1999, and rapidly got involved in the movement. I'm definitely not a guru but I know a lot about configuring systems, both individual and as a part of NT networks. I got involved in The Answer Gang because I saw quite a few answers regarding RH that were not quite right (ie they were related to known RH issues that I was aware of), so in the spirit of co-operation decided to get involved. I'm currently running the beta version of Red Hat and am actively involved in a local Linux users group (LUG).

Mike ("Iron") Orr

picture Mike is the Editor of Linux Gazette. You can read what he has to say in the Back Page column of each issue. He has been a Linux enthusiast since 1991 and a Debian user since 1995. He is SSC's web technical coordinator, which means he gets to write a lot of Python scripts. Non-computer interests include Ska and Oi! music and the international language Esperanto. The nickname Iron was given to him in college--short for Iron Orr, hahaha.

Neil Youngman

Neil is a contractor, specialising in C++ programming on Unix and Linux. He has degrees in Computer science and Next Generation Computing. As of April 2002, Neil has, like many other British Contractors, been "resting" for longer than he would like to admit. He is, however, making positive use of his time and skills as an IT Volunteer with Victim Support and Leonard Cheshire.

Neil has worked on a wide range of systems from the control system for the British Gas national grid to video servers for the Home Choice video on demand service. He first programmed computers in 1980 with his school General Studies class, which was allowed access to a mainframe at The National Institute of Oceanography, programmed in Fortran on punch cards.

A computer science degree followed at Queen Mary College, London, then Neil worked for Logica for 3 years before taking an MSc in New Generation Computing at Exeter University.

The next 5 years saw Neil researching parallel simulation algorithms at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, initially on transputers and subsequently on SPARC based parallel systems. Since leaving RSRE, Neil has mostly worked freelance and has worked on financial data feeds, video servers and virus scanning proxies.

Neil first used Unix at college in 1982 and started working on Linux in 1996.


My real name is Udo Pütz. See, unpronouncable to most english speakers and therefore I go by my old C64 computername. I've been studying physics here in germany (quite close to Karl-Heinz) and now kind of work in a laser-lab at the university. I've been brought to Linux via a friend who helps me a lot, and since I don't have to help him I joined TAG to help others. Since I use debian and like it very much I'm also quite active in debianhelp.org. I know my way around the internals already pretty good, but in programming matters I'm still a newbie and since I couldn't find some good pointers on the net I started www.linux-programming-newbie.org to tell others who are in the same situation what I have figured out so far. For entertainment I like to watch movies, but since dvd drives are kinda loud I wrote a tool called vobcopy to rip them to disk and watch them from there. That's about it.

Thomas Adam

I write the recently-revived series "The Linux Weekend Mechanic", which was started by John Fisk (the founder of Linux Gazette) in 1996 and continued until 1998.

I was born in Hammersmith (London UK) in 1983. When I was 13, I moved to the sleepy, thatched roofed, village of East Chaldon in the county of Dorset. I am very near the coast (at Lulworth Cove) which is where I used to work.

I first got interested in Linux in 1996 having seen a review of it in a magazine (Slackware 2.0). I was fed up with the instability that the then-new operating system Win95 had and so I decided to give it a go. Slackware 2.0 was great. I have been a massive Linux enthusiast ever since. I ended up with running SuSE on both my desktop and laptop computers.

While at school (The Purbeck School, Wareham in Dorset), I was actively involved in setting up two Linux proxy servers (each running Squid and SquidGuard). I also set up numerous BASH scripts which allowed web-based filtering to be done via e-mail, so that when an e-mail was received, the contents of it were added to the filter file. (Good old BASH -- I love it)

I am now 18 and studying at University (Southampton Institute, UK), on a course called HND Buisness Information Technology (BIT). So far, it's great.

Other hobbies include reading. I especially enjoy reading plays (Henrik Ibsen, Chekov, George Bernard Shaw), and I also enjoy literature (Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin to name but a few).

I enjoy walking, and often go on holiday to the Lake District, to a place called Keswick. There are numerous "mountains", of which "Great Gable" is my most favourite.

I am also a keen musician. I play the piano in my spare time.

I listen to a variety of music. I enjoy listening to Rock (My favourite band is "Pavement" (lead singer: Stephen Malkmus). I also have a passion for 1960's psychedelic music (I hope to purchase a copy of "Nuggets" reeeeaaall soon).

Copyright © 2002, the Linux Gazette Answer Gang.
Copying license http://www.linuxgazette.net/copying.html
Published in Issue 81 of Linux Gazette, August 2002