I’ve come along way from the days I use to walk the Microsoft Campus. At first, I could never understand why anyone would want to use non-Microsoft software. We worked so very hard at Microsoft to make great software for anyone and everyone to use in their day to day lives. I was drinking the Kool-Aid and feeling pretty good. I had no idea of what I could do with alternative software. I knew of Unix & Linux. I knew Microsoft even built their version of Unix as it was sitting on the internal file share \\products\public\products\boneyard\ a place where you can find all Microsoft products. At least the ones we released at one point or the other. Even some cool internal products never released that found their way there. At Microsoft, I was a work-o-holic working 20+ hours a day, seven days a week. After leaving Microsoft, I was introduced to a whole new world of possibilities completely by accident. My friend Jeric was running an import/export business down in Southern California, and his operation was in need of streamlining operations. He was about to spend $80,000.00 on a phone system that would link his Warehouse in IRVINE CA, to his manufacturing plant in the Manila Philippines. I was thinking woah! What a waste of money. I took on the challenge of finding him an alternative solution that would address the framework he laid out.
So I started researching communication products that could allow Jeric to leverage his InterNET connection to communicate in real-time with his staff back in Manila. At first, this was turning out to be a costly venture trying to leverage Microsoft technologies. I needed several Windows Servers, VPN appliance, Microsoft Licenses, high-speed InterNET connections at both locations, etc. YIKES!!! What have I done?
I went to my second favorite tool after TechNet at the time. YAHOO. I started searching YAHOO and after extensive searches, drilling through all the other products and servers that cost an arm and a leg to provide something so simple, I came across a communication platform that was based on OpenSource. Did I say OpenSource? What’s that? At Microsoft, we never used the term ClosedSource. We used the term Proprietary Intellectual Property when referring to our code that was not shared with the general public. I decided to check this product out. I ventured to their website and started reading up on it. The Software was called Asterisk, and it did everything I needed it to do. Also, the information I always needed to drag out of people was publicity available, plus, they did something that was completely backward from my rigorous programming at Microsoft. They showed me the source code. Wait! They also give you their source code? I have to install this on an Operating System called Linux. At the time I remember Steve Balmer saying at our Annual Company Meeting in 2000 that Linux was a Cancer. I remember tinkering with the Idea of installing Red Hat on my computer at home to see what it was all about. My loyalty to the company that provided my paycheck and a great opportunity killed that idea. All these thoughts were going through my head. I needed to follow through on my commitment to Jeric. I decided to figure this out. My next tasks were trying to acquire Linux. I went to the store, and at the time I found Linux at CompUSA but it wasn’t called RedHat, it was Called SUSE 9.0, and it was $99.99. I bought it and headed back to Jeric’s office where I had an old Pentium III that this software would allegedly run on without any issues. I ventured through the install process pretty effortlessly and had SUSE Linux running with a GUI. I was able to access the Internet, download updates, and pretty much do what I was able to do on my WindowsXP Laptop sitting next to me. I was super excited, to browse the Internet using technologies not made by Microsoft. This was weird; it was cool, it was different. I started thinking oh no! I just had an affair with SUSE. How could WindowsXP take me back? I drank the Green Kool-Aid. My friends and family are going to disown me forever. I have shamed myself. Microsoft gave me everything, and in a moment of weakness, I feel in love with SUSE LINUX PROFESSIONAL 9.0. She was a professional alright. She had me wrapped around her box and looking at her features. After my guilt faded away and I became desensitized to the fact that I was using an operating and software not developed by Microsoft, I was able to get back to the task at hand. Well, I was in for a surprise. I downloaded asterisk and learned it doesn’t install as easy as I can install a product on Windows. There isn’t a setup.exe that guides me through installing the product. I have to extract and compile the source code to run on my Linux Box. I started thinking about how bad I was to cheat on Microsoft. The Grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Sometimes you should just take care of your lawn, and that starts by watering it. In other words, should I just develop a Communication Platform myself for Jeric that ran on Windows? Ok, lets see I need to start with a Vision Doc, then a product spec very quickly moves into a dev spec, and have all this completed in 7 days. Uh NO! That’s not happening. I can’t do that; I’m not God, I’m not Bill Gates. So the venture continued as I compiled Asterisk to run on Linux. It reminded me of my autoexec.bat and config.sys days of MSDOS. After a lengthy time of compiling, I was ready to start the application. According to the instructions, I type from command line service start asterisk and press enter. I did that, and I received another command prompt. Next, I typed in asterisk -r, and I was brought into a console based application. Needless to say, there were several commands I learned and continued on my path of Linux, Asterisk, and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This took forever!!!!! to setup, configure, and get working. I had to script all the configuration from scratch. It was a far cry from the GUI interfaces I had become accustomed to at Microsoft. We wanted to make it easy for our customers to use our products. My experience into the world of Linux all started by someone needing a PBX.
I can tell you it’s 2017 and as crazy as it sounds, that Pentium III is running SUSE 9.0, Asterisk 1.2, is still in-service today.
This is how my venture into Linux began…