I recently got laid off from work and decided to write about it.
I call this one “What All I Have Done for the Company” article.
So here I am…sitting writing…putting my thoughts on paper about what I have done for a company that I worked with for the past five years.
As I get my thoughts together I am realizing that it’s really challenging to put into words on paper what all you have accomplished for a company in a five year span.
Let me begin by detailing my transition into the company and what I discovered once I was employed and go from there.
It was February 2003, and the company I was working for Irvin Automotive, a Takata company, was moving its location to Acuna, Mexico. I had a choice to either move to the border town of Del Rio, TX or find another job. I chose to find a job local to me at WACO Construction Company, Inc.
WACO was not only into general construction, but the sawmill industry as well. That was the main staple of work they were doing at the time and at present.
They build turn key solutions for the sawmill industry as well as do upgrades to existing sawmills nationwide.
Before I came to WACO, they outsourced all of their computing needs to a local computer shop. I think they quickly realized that more money was spent doing this
than there would have been if they had just hired a tech to be there all the time.
When I first came to WACO in March of 2003, I came into a computing environment of about five workstations and two servers. Most of the workstations were running Windows NT workstation 4.0 with a few running Windows 2000. The servers were all running Windows NT server 4.
All of these computers were sharing a single dial-up connection to Dixie-net.com, a local internet service provider.
The users were set up using a non standard email naming convention, which consisted of the three letter initials of their name. They were using pre MS Exchange mail server software, MS Mail which comes with NT Server 4. Their mailbox names matched that of their phone extensions. This was setup in a way that if anyone were to leave the company, the next person would simply sit right there in the same users spot and pick right up where the last person left off, horrifying from a Systems Administrators perspective.
They were lacking proper network shares setup with the proper permissions and login scripts, no website to advertise to the world who they were and how to get in touch with them, they were backing up data, but were using some old archaic software using tapes labeled by the days and not storing them offsite. I’m sure I am forgetting some other details that will surface later in this article.
Ok so what all have I done for WACO?
Well the first thing WACO wanted from me was to build a website. I had begun work on the website prior to taking the job. I already had a preliminary one built and had one working by the first week on the job, hosted at their ISP Dixie-net.com.
Here is what their site looked like when I arrived.
NOTE: I am using the waybackmachine internet archive to try and show you the progression of sites. Sometimes the images were not always cached to the internet archive and you may see grey squares where images are supposed to be.
May 18, 2001
July 21, 2003
July 30, 2004
Nov 27, 2006
After setting up a website, I quickly decided that we should get rid of the ISP account with Dixie-net.com and go with a local cable company for faster internet and host all of our own needs, like our website, our own mail server and file hosting.
It was aggravating to say the least when it comes to working with Dixie-net for hosting and email. I felt we needed to control ourselves and it was easily doable.
First I needed to get some of the workstations and servers up to speed. I quickly commandeered a room to call the server room and moved the two existing servers into this room. I got with my previous CDW contacts and ordered a new server that would be our web/mail/ftp/backup server. Once this server arrived I setup
Windows 2000 Server on it as well as upgraded the other two servers to Windows 2000 Server. Installed veritas backup software, and began to make login scripts for the users so that when they logged on to the domain, they would have a shared directory and a home directory for network storage mapped to them easily accessible through “My Computer”.
After setting them up properly on a new Windows 2000 domain with the proper file shares and permissions, proper services running like dhcp, dns, this was starting to come together as the solid network that I hoped it would, and it did indeed.
Time out- just think about this for a second, I mean before, they were not logging into a domain at all. All users logged in locally to there pc and they were mapped to the servers main drive for a share to store files on the network, which was allowing anyone and everyone unrestricted access to the servers main drive. This was terrible!
Once the servers were up to date, several of the workstations needed upgrades so I quickly upgraded the Operating Systems, memory, and other hardware needs. The upgrades went as planned, all clean upgrades by simply backing up all user info to a network share, scrubbing the computers and reloading them bare metal,
then restoring the users data.
Once I completed the setup on high-speed broadbandwe became a lot more productive.
At this time some of the WACO execs had ideas on software they wanted to use, for example MS Exchange for email and Internet Information Server for our web services.
I took this opportunity to open their world to more robust software, free software also known as open source software, software that didn’t cost $15,000 just for email!
I introduced them to Apache web server (cross-platform software) for web services, and Xmail (cross-platform software) for our mail server needs.
As of February 2008, Apache had 50.93% of the web server market share. Since their inception in 1995, Apache has always been above and beyond Microsoft which currently only holds a 35.56% market share. Many people frown upon free software, but they do not fully understand the power of free software. They often feel if they are not paying for it that it can’t be good. That there will not be any decent support for it in case it’s needed. Contrary to that belief, there are people out there that willingly help out on forums and such, and often the support is far greater than any costly phone call.
I could go on and on about free software, its benefits, and how protected you are in using it. That could be a new article in itself. Just remember that Windows is closed source and you really never know for sure if its phoning home, and Linux and the Mac alike are open source and they have very few if any virus threats or incidences.
Ok so moving on, after I had the server running Apache server and Xmail server for email, we were now really rocking and hosting on our own.
This coupled with high speed internet increased productivity tremendously. We were now able to point customers to a website for info about our company, setup as many emails as we wanted for jobs, sales, or anything we wanted on a whim. We had our own spam control and could monitor the logs of mail coming
and going in live action. No need in wondering about an email that may have been lost somewhere in transit on a remotely hosted server. We were in control.
We could host files quickly and easily to share with clients, which was particularly important for the company as it often shared AutoCAD drawings with clients as they collaborated on jobs. On some jobs working with sawmills that were in remote places, the ever increasing need to have internet would pose a problem in these areas where it was unavailable.
Since most if not all the locations did not offer cable or DSL, the solution was satellite internet. I became a licensed DirecWay installer so that I could setup and move the satellites from location to location without voiding any warranty.
Here are some of the installs I completed for the company to allow them to remote back into the office from the most remote places.
This allowed our remote office locations to connect back to our home office via vpn or ftp, to transfer files back and forth and stay in touch with the office through email easily.
For the road warriors, I set them up with cellular data cards to communicate
from their laptops.
WACO had two other companies at the time, Pro-Fab, and Phoenix Pipe and Supply Company. I supported these two companies as well. Hosted websites and email for them at our home office on our new server. I configured routers at each of these locations and allowed them to vpn into our network.
One of the WACO companies Pro-Fab, had specific needs at times. They had an oxy-acetylene cutting table called a burny table that could cut any emblem you configured it to cut. Often the files that were needed as instruction for the table were made at our home office and it was a real chore to email the file to the users at Pro-Fab and they know where to put it on the server there for the burny table to be able to call it up.
This is where I shine. I made an email address for them to mail the files to and the mail server would parse the file, get the attached file from the email, ftp it over to the server at Pro-Fab, and from there the server would copy it into the directory on the server that it need to be in for the burny table to call it up and cut the emblems or logos out of steel.
There were many times at WACO where I did such scripting ideas and solutions to provide efficiency.
I wrote many scripts to manipulate Windows 2000 operating environment for the users. Scripts for manipulating emails to send certain PDF documents we subscribed to over to folders by date. Also to archive all email as was mandated in 2005 by the government.
The list for that kind of thing goes on and on. If it was tech, had buttons, and had to be figure out or manipulated to do things it wasn’t intended to do…I did it.
I feel strongly that I had a big part in taking WACO to new heights enabling them to take advantage of technologies that allowed them to proceed to new levels of success.
I helped them become more proficient using the web, as well as having a strong presence within the web.
I traveled with WACO to Atlanta every other year to tradeshows, setup huge displays with several LCD screens displaying slideshows that I put together to show the companies strengths.
There were many times I also traveled to remote office job sites to setup many computers, plotters, printers, and other networking devices along with cable runs to neighboring offices on location.
Here are some of the remote offices that I setup. Not only did I populate these offices with computers, printer, file servers, and plotters, I also wired them with phone and network cabling. Each of these has their own satellite connection to the internet as well.
Here is another location where we took the trailer off of an 18 wheeler and made it into an office. I wired this one up as well.
I also kept the data on the company airplanes current.
As I left the company, I setup two “trading systems” for the company owners to trade the stocks and futures market.
I consider this event to be a blessing in disguise. I have always wanted to work from home in the computer field or find some way to make money online.
Now that time has come for me to try it out. I may struggle and after a while make it, or after a while be struggling to find a job.
Only time will tell.