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Address Robert Dinse
C/O Eskimo North
P.O. Box 55816
Shoreline, WA 98155
E:mail nanook@eskimo.com
Tel: +1 206 812-0051

 

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How I Came to run a Friendica Node…

How I Came to run a Friendica Node…


I am 62 years old now, but my arrival at running a friendica node really started before friendica or even the Internet or home computers were a thing.

When I was three years old, I had a bad bout of pneumonia and was hospitalized for a couple of weeks.

During that time I was in a crib, my parents, adoptive parents actually, came and visited me but most of the time I was alone and so my parents bought me one of the early transistor radios to entertain me. I turned it up too loud and disturbed other patients so they bought me an earphone.

I listed to KJR mostly, it was a local Seattle radio station that used to have what they referred to as a top-40 format which means mostly they played the 40 most popular songs over and over again though they’d toss in an occasional oldie. Then virtually all radio was live, records were spun by disc jockeys not computers like today.

Then when I was five or six I visited some cousins in Spokane, there were three brothers and a sister in that family, two of those three have since died in motorocycle accidents involving alcohol, they were all heavy drinkers.

Anyway one of my cousins had a small radio transmitter that could transmit to a nearby AM radio. I was fascinated.

Around 4th grade I was able to read well enough to start to learn about electronics. At the beginning of the year I was reading below my grade level, by the end of the year I was reading at a 12th grade level. They wanted to understand my outstanding progress and I could only explain that I had this interest in electronics that none of my family shared, so I was forced to look up words I didn’t understand in a dictionary often requiring recursive lookups to understand the words the dictionary used to explain the initial word I didn’t understand.

When I was ten my father got divorced and moved away but a friend of my mothers bought me some old tube radios at Goodwill, they used to sell them for $1 a piece, to play with and I converted one into a small AM transmitter that had enough power to broadcast to radios within about a block radius. That was my first pirate transmitter.

In Jr high school, which were I was ran 7th to 9th grade, I got my hands on a used DX-40 transmitter. This was a Heathkit HAM radio kit transmitter that used a 6146 as the final output tube, maybe 60 watts if you really strained it.

It was originally VFO and grid modulated, I got a 1200 Khz crystal and modified the Pi section output for the lower frequency and converted the oscillator to a crystal controlled oscillator and used an amplifier to drive a plate transformer backwards to make it high level plate modulation. This transmitter covered about two mile radius with a strong signal and about seven miles with a receivable signal if you had a good receiver, I used a Sony Earth Orbiter.

I met some friends in Jr High who also ran a pirate station and went on to build some other transmitters from scratch. The one I ended up running for many years had two 811’s for audio modulator tubes and 4 807B’s for RF output. I ran it at about 100 watts output most of the time.

By this time I also obtained a Langevine Compressor / Limiter and modified it for asymmetric limiting so it only limited negative peaks. I had enough audio power in the modulator that there really wasn’t a practical limit to positive modulation. This allowed us a much louder sound than the commercial stations in the area while still maintaining good audio quality.

With this transmitter I was able to reach clear down to South Seattle / Tukwilla from the North end of Seattle and we got record support from all the major labels that used to warehouse in Seattle back then.

I bought a used KARR transmitter from Western Surplus that originally was in use for Alaska Marine operator service. The thing had quarter-inch thick steel panels was about six feet high, 30 inches wide and about 24 inches deep and weighed around 600 lbs, the power transformer alone weighed 320 lbs. It was designed for high level plate modulation from the factory. It had two 4-440A’s in the modulator and three in the final, really not enough modulator power for that much RF but I could never run the RF at full power owing to not being able to get enough electricity to power it fully. It had a transformer designed for three phase 208v but I used two of the three cores out of phase for 240 single phase operation. I had to get a larger filter capacitor since there was more ripple this way. Originally it just had to 4 MFD caps, I got a 100MFD at 4KV cap and paralleled, that fixed the hum.

I only ran this transmitter a few times but when we did we had a solid signal from Everett to half way to Tacoma.

I got my First Class Radio telephone license in my Jr. Year of high school primarily through self-study.

After I graduated high school I was still running a boot leg but two of my friends got busted and I was worried about losing my license if I did so I decided to put it away and pursue legal things. I worked at several radio stations as engineer, one as assistant, another as chief, and other as program director. I really enjoyed that work but I couldn’t make a steady living at it, AM stations were sold every other year it seemed, at least the small ones where someone with my experience could land a job, and when they did it usually involved a format and staff change.

So I ended up getting a job fixing consumer stereo gear at Stereo Northwest, and that paid pretty decent but they want out of business.

So then worked for the telco for 17 years, but during that time after shutting down the pirate station, my friends and I since we couldn’t safely broadcast any more being adults and thus possibly subject to real legal penalties and for me the possibility of losing my license which was a job ticket, we decided instead to write about pirate radio, other stations, technical articles, etc.

And at first this was done on manual typewriters, literally cutting and pasting articles, and photocopying to create a news letter.

But it occurred to me a computer would be a more efficient way to do it and this was 1981, by then four years out of high school. Home computers were just becoming a thing, so I bought a Trs-80 model III with scripshit and a crappy dot matrix printer.

My friends wanted to access it remotely so I purchased a modem however there was no support for the RS-232 port built in to the operating system. I wrote a simple driver for it in Z-80 assembly, initially I attempted it in BASIC but it was too slow to even keep up with 300 baud, the tremendous processing power of a 2Mhz 8-bit chip just was not up to it.

This enabled them to call and connect and write articles remotely but even back then there were people war-dialing, just like in the movie War Games, and they found my machine and started screwing with the files. So I wrote a crude BBS as a front-end with a password protected back door to get into the Scriptsit word processor. I also added an e-mail system and a file upload download system.

I was also working at the telco at this time and one of my co-workers had a surplus electronics business on the side. He had some floppy drives which were defective (he thought) so he sold them to me for $20 each, back then floppy drives were going for around $300. I hooked them up to my machine and discovered they had two heads (double sided), played with a program called Tracksess and found they would step 83 times before hitting the end of the rail, these were 80tk double sided drives which would store around 720k each, previously I only had two single sided 40tk drives that were about 180k each of which 40k on one was operating system. TRS-DOS didn’t support these but an alternative operating system called NewDos did.

I bought two more of these drives from him and these two WERE broken but I had an oscilloscope and other gear necessary to troubleshoot them and found one had a bad head select diode and the other a bad pre-amp chip so for less than $5 in parts for each I had two more working 720k drives.

So I had a total of almost 3MB of disk space, a HUGE amount back then and on this space I installed Infocom games. A friend of mine created a hacked infocom driver that would take a user ID I stored in memory and use it for part of the saved file name so each user could have their own saved game states.

Then another person on the BBS scene, Glenn Gorman, who had written a room style message system, approached me because he wanted to sell his BBS commercially but could not because instead of using the standard RS-232 port he used a MicroPeripherals bus decoding modem that was ported non-standard. It’s driver would not work with a standard RS-232 and he couldn’t sell it anyway because of license restrictions.

By this time my driver had evolved into an entire language that was structured like Microsoft BASIC but was a superset of MS-BASIC. It had all the same commands that MS-BASIC had and more specific to BBS operation like a command that would take a text file and format it to the users screen width. It also had things like carrier detection and loss detection so when carrier went away it would restart the program interpretation at a specific spot and then go wait for carrier again.

The original deal was I’d port his BBS to my driver, we would sell the package and split the proceeds, but instead of working that way the way it worked out was he’d sell and keep all the proceeds and I did the same. That was okay as I was never really interested in selling the software anyway just wanted to run the BBS which became the main purpose, the news letter died from lack of interest.

So during the time I was doing the porting we both ran the same software, which he called Minibin, and people didn’t understand why they would log in to one Minibin then call the other and their login didn’t work, so to differentiate between the two he re-named his Minibin South and mine became Minibin North, but people still confused them so he changed the name of his to Jamaica South and I thought what the hells’ up north? Eskimo North. So that’s how Eskimo North was born.

And in that time I took his room message system, added my e-mail, upload/download, and games facility. It became immensely popular to the point where I was taking 300 calls a day on a single phone line which was constantly busy 24×7 and if you unplugged the line at 4AM and plugged it back in it would immediately take a call.

I decided to go multi-line, initially I tried OS/9 as another person, John Mudge, was running a 4-line system on a CoCo successfully but after messing with it a bit, I decided that 64K was just too memory constrained for what I wanted to do and instead in 1985 I bought a Tandy 16B with Microsoft Xenix, an early Unix clone.

Microsoft Xenix was buggy as all get out, serial ports wedged requiring frequent reboots, hackers hacked it, it was just a miserable pile of crap. Later SCO did a much superior port of Xenix which I purchased. That was most worthwhile.

I ended up upgrading the machine way past a Tandy 6000, I modified the CPU board to add an extra set of limit and offset registers so it could address more than the 1MB the 16B was designed to address. I modified the 256K memory cards to hold 1MB by running an extra address line with blue wire and replacing the 4116’s with 4164’s. The pinout of the 4116 and 4164’s were identical EXCEPT the 4116’s required +12v that became an address line on the 4164’s making this an easy modification.

This allowed me to stuff 4MB in the machine along with three serial cards that each had three ports, along with the built in two ports supported a total of 11 lines.

By 1991 I was charging for access to cover the cost of the lines and 11 lines were maxed out so I bought a used Sun 3/180. This allowed me to have three 16-port Mux’s and it had two super-Eagle 575MB hard drives, enormous compared to the two 70mb drives that were the max the Tandy would support. The 16Mhz 68020 flew compared to the 8Mhz 68000 and initially I had 16MB of RAM which I was able to upgrade to 48MB.

But Usenet News processing got to be so heavy the 16Mhz 68020 wasn’t enough so I upgraded to a 25Mhz 68020, then a 40Mhz Sparc CPU (all in same full height VME bus rack). Then I got a retired Sun 4/330 from the telco where I worked, to offload the news processing to it and networked them together with the old coaxial ethernet. Later I bought two 4-670MP’s with Ross Hypersparc RTK-625 CPUs (20k each for the CPU modules) and networked this mess together.

In 1992 the Stockton CIX was formed and since I already had a network and was getting some access through another local provider now defunct, I ordered three Sprint T1’s and we were officially on the Internet.

Later I replaced the 4/670MP’s with SS-10’s, retired the 4/330 after it did a halt and catch fire number, and added a number of Ultra-2’s. I then made the switch from SunOS to Linux on all but one SS-10, and then over time migrated to Intel hardware which I am still using today.

I later moved my equipment out of my home to a co-location facility because three t1’s was not enough bandwidth and it was less expensive to co-locate my equipment than bring more bandwidth to my home. I also had the benefit of UPS and a controlled environment so it was all around a good move. Initially I co-located with ELI, a very good company but they were bought out by Citizens, a less good but still workable company except they were bought out by Integra a non-workable for my purposes company. In 2012 I moved all my equipment to Isomedia and like ELI they are very professionally run and provide good service.

So that is where I’m at today, primarily now providing Internet hosting, web hosting, email, virtual private servers. But I’ve always had an interest in communications whether it be radio or BBS but I’ve never really found any good Linux BBS software so kind of got out of it for a while.

I had an account on Facebook but presently I’m on my fourth Facebook jail because they don’t like conservatives there so I decided fuck it, I needed to do something in the name of free speech. I’ve tried a number of social media platforms like ELGG but they never got an audience. I tried Mammoth and didn’t like the short message length, basically like Twitter because you can’t have decent in depth conversations in such an environment, or post long articles like this one.

Then I stumbled across friendica, and in spite of the fact that Hypolite Petovan and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum he still allows me to say what I want to say and has been very helpful at getting this operational. While we have our political differences we both value freedom of speech.

For those of you in the fediverse who haven’t tried a friendica node, I would like to invite you to try mine at https://friendica.eskimo.com/. And if you’d like to play with Linux online we still over Linux shell access as well as full graphical remote desktop access via x2go, vnc and on the web. We offer about a dozen different Linux distros for you to use and have Usenet and E-mail available on all of those platforms as well as three different forms of web mail, pop-3, and imap.

We offer MUCH faster WordPress sites than any other commercial provider I’ve tested. We also offer virtual private servers. You can try our shell service free, https://www.eskimo.com/services/free-trial.html. Please feel free to explore our site https://www.eskimo.com/. I’m always interested in helping and/or sharing war stories with other Linux enthusiasts. At this point I am using Ubuntu for my infrastructure, moved from Centos in 2012.

Other than computers and Linux my main hobbies and interests are photography, music, cats, and you can view my photos and blogs on my home page at https://www.eskimo.com/~nanook. Thank you for reading!

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