Originally posted April 17, 2007, now archived here.
For further explanation why this post exists, see Intro to Experience Dump. This is the communications and internet related section. It probably leaves off various modem dialing software I’ve forgotten, but remains a long list covering a ton of ground. I considered breaking it down further, but what the heck. In no particular order (actually, I’m attempting to group things logically), the list as best I can remember…
Blue Wave offline reader
Various modem software
Various fax software
Ipswitch Mail Server
Internet Information Server
Remote Desktop Connection
Various Palm and other PDA/cell phone utilities
Microsoft phone software
AOL Instant Messenger
Arrow mailing list software
Lyris List Manager
Wow! You got that all? Basically it’s miscellaneous early stuff, e-mail clients (dedicated or multipurpose), server stuff and utilities, web browsers, FTP clients, remoting tools, blogging tools and web page editors, handheld and phone stuff, and chat software. Added later, it includes mailing list software too. There are undoubtedly things I don’t remember, even apart from what’s covered under “various…” whatever entries. For instance, I know I used DNS tools on the same dedicated server that had Ipswitch mail, but I couldn’t tell you what that was called. I’ve used other utilities of that sort, and also you wonder when is it networking and when is it internet or communications related. Now for some details and history, which promises to be somewhat lengthy.
I wanted to get a modem for my Color Computers, but it would have plugged into the same funky slot used for the overpriced external floppy drive, making it kind of hard to run the computer at the same time I connected to one of the numerous local BBS numbers the anomalous (and short-lived) clueful guy at Radio Shack gave me. My first modem went in my first 386 instead. As I recall, that was 1200 baud, followed shortly by a 2400 my mother got me for Christmas. I knew a guy who ran a BBS in Boston named Tangent. I became addicted to that, which already included people I knew. He got UUCP feeds of newsgroups, including the VB and Robert Jordan ones at my request, and of course was on Fidonet. I checked out other boards, but mainly that was home.
Through that, my very first internet e-mail address ever was @tangent.shore.net, before he got a domain. Unrealized by me at the time, my second e-mail address was @microsoft.com, via Microsoft Mail, through which we were directly on their mail system, even though we were outsourced. Ultimately Tangent got a domain, vader.com, so my first non-work, non-subdomained e-mail address was there, using the same alias I use for blogging. I posted a lot on the comp.lang.basic.visual.misc newsgroup, in the heyday of a guy named Jens Balchen, along with some other regulars. Probably a little weird to work all day supporting VB, then post free answers for people, but I’m a geek. I specialized in setup wizard and app distribution, and in automation of Word from VB apps, so I tended to latch onto those posts. My very first web browsing was through the BBS, too, via the Lynx text browser.
In a way, the first killer e-mail and newsgroup app for me was Blue Wave. Even on a dialing plan that made Boston free, occupying the phone line ad nauseum wasn’t always a Good Thing. An offline reader was perfect, and it was a great program. I wrote in praise of Blue Wave in a team newsletter I published (and ended up writing most of) when I was in Word support. Somewhere I probably still have floppies full of QWK packets I saved for future reference, though I eventually recycled many such floppies for other uses.
I never ran a BBS myself, but I got a copy of Wildcat and played with it wistfully, which helped me understand the sysop side of things even better. By the time I might have been thinking of hosting a BBS, I got on the internet proper. My first ISP was a fly by night named Nexus, and my first e-mail address via my very own ISP was @nexuswww.com. That company closed without notice and walked away with about five months I had prepaid. I turned to a more stable outfit then, ICI, and was with them or their successors from… that must have been 1996… until early 2004, and then for another year or two as a backup ISP for work, and finally I am still with them on an e-mail account only basis, eleven years later.
But I think this qualifies as digression, even as detailed and history-recounting as I mean for these posts to be.
The e-mail clients are almost self-explanatory. When I was at Corporate Software/Stream, we used cc:Mail internally, and eventually that switched to Lotus Notes Mail. We used Lotus Notes all along, for other things. I was at the periphery of some actual Notes database work one of my colleagues did, though I don’t recall doing that myself. Nobody liked Notes mail. We also used MS Mail, while we were still directly on Microsoft’s mail system. Eventually that was pulled. Then later still, when customers expected to e-mail us things @microsoft.com, we again got Microsoft addresses, routed through and administered by the Mail and Exchange support team. I believe that was when we used Exchange client. I know I used it at some point.
I’ve used Outlook Express extensively, Outlook some, and tried Thunderbird a couple of times. I helped someone with Eudora. I’ve supported Outlook extensively, mainly 98 and 2003.
As mentioned, Ipswitch (IMail) was both what I used for webmail at one time, and what I administered for a year on a dedicated server. Later I got the big client on the internet, via four channels of a T-1 that was otherwise used for phone service, and setup e-mail to go through their proxy server to Exchange. I installed and administered Exchange 5.5, IIS, proxy server, set them up to use Outlook Web Access. Later I got other clients online through DSL, and one of them on Exchange under Small Business Server 2003. I’ve recently done some of the administration of Exchange 2003 for the big client.
I mentioned Lynx. Naturally I’ve used IE. I preferentially use Firefox. I swear I remember using Safari once, can’t remember exactly where, and think it must have been on the Apple laptop of a graphic designer/marketing person I worked with on the big client’s web site design. Which means I’ve used more than just the two Macs eons ago I mentioned under hardware. I don’t think I have used Opera, but I could possibly have tried that or other browsers. Oh! I have used Netscape Navigator, come to think of it (he exclaims, scrolling up to add it to the list, which just wasn’t big enough already). I’ve actually supported AOL hands-on for people, which is why that is on the list. Always exciting.
I am a command line FTP person going way back. I still resort to it sometimes, depending what I’m doing and whether there is a decent client handy. To do something like upload every file for a new WordPress install efficiently, you want something like Filezilla. Not FTP Explorer, which tends to “forget” files if you have it do an upload that includes files in subdirectories. For one or a few files, command prompt works great. At least, it does if you’ve long since learned all the basic commands and can whip them out and employ them any time.
I’ve used PC Anywhere off and on since 1993. Host was loaded on the primary workstation POS on the Tranti systems, and we could call in using PC Anywhere Remote. That was used more from home, given the limited PC resources we had available at the office.
I also used it to administer a dedicated server, and in helping with computer support for my father’s business.
With Webex, on the other hand, I have only been on the receiving end, working with Juris support on a major problem that after tens of hours of my time turned out to be an obscure file version mismatch. It’s cool. As is remote desktop connection, which I’ve employed recently, enabling me to do almost everything from home that I’d have gone on site for before.
I created my first personal web site in 1996 or 1997, and have maintained a business site since 1997. While I’ve naturally learned some HTML and such over the years, I always found FrontPage handy. Even if I’m using blog software, it can be handy for prototyping or comparing color combinations.
Obviously I blog. I’ve used Blogger, which isn’t listed, and the other blogging systems that are. I most recommend WordPress or Expression Engine. This is the item that particularly made me wonder if I should divide this up, as I could mention details about my blogging experience. However, what that really means is that I should tout things like running Carnival of the Capitalists in a later section that doesn’t center around a software/online tool list and elaboration thereon. I added phpBB to the bog list because a while back I made an extensive but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to help another blogger fix problems with it.
Did you know Microsoft once made phones, and voicemail software used on your computer in conjunction with them? Yup! I bought that system sometime after moving to Quincy and ran it on my old Pentium 200, which I replaced in 1999 with a P3 500, which wasted no time in frying completely – worst computer failure I’ve ever had, personally, and maybe the worst I’ve encountered at all – and being replaced by the P3 1000 I am typing at now. I’d still have it if the phone portion hadn’t died. It was pretty cool. At one point I figured out how to get WAV files of people’s messages out of temporary files to keep them for posterity.
I’ve helped various people with cell phone synchronization, and done a lot of installing Palm desktop software and helping people with it. It was years ago I first supported a Blackberry. One attorney bought a used Blackberry and got the service such that she could have e-mails forward out to it if she left her computer and Outlook running. I filtered it so she’d get only the most important stuff. It may have been that experience that led me to get a Blackberry myself last year. Price probably didn’t hurt. Luckily mine is direct, not relying on slinging e-mail back out from my computer as it arrives. I synchronize my Outlook tasks and calendar, and my Outlook Express contacts. Addiction is a terrible thing.
I’ve used the various chat programs, speaking of addictive. I’ve actually broken the habit long since. It was too easy to be interrupted by people you might not have wanted to know you were at your computer. I later started an AIM account specifically for support, then never used it. I think such a thing has potential, so we’ll see.
One of my friends and former colleagues discovered that MSN Messenger exposed an object model through which it could be automated with VB code. To a degree, anyway. I recently made the same discovery about iTunes. I was whipping together a simple program to automate restoration of archived documents (batch file does the work, but the software builds the batch file, rather than a lot of copy, paste, edit, replace trickery), so it would take me a few hours rather than, say, twenty. I briefly tossed in code to launch iTunes and start playing the default list, just for the sake of curiosity. Anyway, I helped a little with the MSN automation, and trying to fix it once Microsoft broke it by changing the object model drastically. That was helpful of them, and I don’t believe we ever succeeded.
Finally, there are mailing lists. I have run a mailing list for former colleagues in Visual Basic support for upwards of seven years. For a while I ran one for former Access support people, and one for job hunting, to share both positions available and wanted, share advice on resumes, etc. I forget what tool I was using on the original web host, where e-mail was Ipswitch IMail. Later I had an overpriced 64k partial T-1 connection in the office. I checked out Lyris, but it was Linux-oriented and wasn’t going to work for me. I found an excellent, easy to use list software called Arrow and ran that on an old P90 with NT, right in the office. Eventually I ended up using Mailman, associated with the web hosting. I use the same thing for the Carnival of the Capitalists mailing list.
I guess that’s it. I still wonder if maybe I ought have divided this section into smaller bits. Or perhaps explained it less. And this doesn’t count whatever I’ve forgotten…
Experience Posts (links to reposts):
Intro to Experience Dump
Word Processing Experience
Spreadsheets and Accounting
Graphics and Presentations
Database and RDBMS
Communications, Internet, PDA, Blogging
Legal Industry Software
Backup and Compression Software
Security, Spam, Malware…
Call Center and Tech Support Tools
Languages and Programming Tools