• Tuesday , 22 August 2017

Iconic Linux debate sparks an open source career

Code Canyon

In 1992 I started working for the Tandem Computers subsidiary in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was part of the team that started Tandem’s operations in Brazil, and at the time I was the one and only techie in the group. Tandem was later acquired by Compaq, and now it’s the NonStop division inside HP.

At the time, Tandem manufactured and sold a high availability Unix System, the NonStop Integrity. It ran a customized version of AT&T’s Unix System V Release 4.0, and used a Veritas file system, which is quite similar to what we have today with LVM (Logical Volume Manager).

My newest daughter, Ana Luiza, was born in November 1992, and we had an Integrity system installed in the city of Belo Horizonte, a two-hour flight from Sao Paulo (not including the time needed to get to the airport in the Sao Paulo’s nasty traffic). Every time I needed to install something new or help the customer with some issue, I had to travel to Belo Horizonte. And, at the time, due to internal security policies, the customer wouldn’t open a modem dial-up line into the facilities.

So, I asked my boss to buy me a license of SCO Unix so that I could perform some testing before I traveled to the customer site and, by doing so, save some time and stay close to my family. Because SCO Unix cost $5,000 USD in Brazil at the time, my boss told me it would be a lot cheaper for me to keep traveling.

Fortunately, in the first half of 1993 we established a satellite link with Tandem’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. From there, I was able to telnet into our own Integrity systems and do some config testing and debugging before going into our customers. I was also able to telnet into some public servers, mostly inside the University of California, Berkeley. From there, I entered the wonderful world of USENET, Gopher, and Veronica!

I started searching for a Unix-like operating system I could install on my laptop. I had heard about MINIX from Andrew Tanenbaum, so that was my starting point. I could never get it to work on my laptop, though, so I ended up in the discussion group comp.os.minix. There I stumbled upon the famous argument involving Linus Torvalds and Dr. Tanenbaum. I gave Linux a try, and from then on it became part of my life!

In 1997 I left Tandem (Compaq) and found an ISP. Two years later, I was heading the IT department of Univates, a university center in the South of Brasil. There we developed several free software systems, such as SAGU (an academic ERP) and GNUteca (a library loan and administrative system). In 2003, I helped found Solis, the first free software co-op in the world. I told the Solis story in Linux Journal in 2004, and the co-op is still very active and has generated several spin-offs.

Believe it or not, Linux even landed me a consulting job for Microsoft. From 2006 to 2009, I headed the Brazilian Open Source Development Nucleus. Basically, I coordinated the development of several free software tools. Microsoft only required they would also run on their platform. This means Microsoft was paying me to develop free software, which was quite fun!

Today I mostly work as an agile coach and trainer. Since 1997, the only time you’d see me using an OS other than Linux was when I was using other peoples’ computers.

My Linux Story

This article is part of a series called My Linux Story. To participate and share your Linux story, contact us at: open@opensource.com.

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