Behind The Scenes:

An Interview With A Senior Administrator -

by Paul Arnote

This month, we will take you "behind the scenes" with an interview of one of the senior administrators that help keep PCLinuxOS running. Old-Polack was asked a set of questions, designed to allow members of the PCLinuxOS community to learn more about him.


Q: Can you introduce yourself?

Old-Polack: What's to introduce? I'm "The Old-Polack". I've been "The Polack" since a was a kid. Now I'm much older. I have friends, that have known me most of my life, that couldn't tell you my real name, if their life depended on it. Neither of my parents ever called me by my given name, neither of my wives, nor my children, nor grandchildren. Only my paternal grandparents ever did, and then as a diminutive.

I've been mostly self employed, having only three jobs where I worked for others, when I was a teenager, until I was 22, when I started my own companies. I've been a HVAC contractor, building contractor, licensed electrician, heat treat furnace designer, composite plastics engineer, custom car builder, racing boat designer and parts manufacturer, aircraft parts manufacturer, commercial and fine artist, engineering consultant, and probably a few things that defy proper descriptions. I used to live about 40 miles from nowhere, where I raised horses, cattle, and dogs, as a get away from the formal jobs. I've pretty much done whatever interested me at any given time.

I was born in Columbus Ohio, but spent most of my life in Illinois, presently living just outside of Rockford, IL. I've been married twice, presently divorced, and just bought a house, where I live with my next to youngest son, and his two children.

I have a cat that adopted me, after first hating me, hissing and clawing at me whenever I came near. I don't know where she came from, only that I'd see her hanging around the yard. Then one day she walked in through the open door, laid down on my bed, and has lived with me ever since. She never told me her name, so I call her cat. I also have five cockatiels. The cat must think she's one of them, as she now sits on my shoulder, when I'm online typing, having seen the birds do that first. The cat is as weird and crazy as I am, so we're a good match.

Q: How and when did you get started with computers?

Old-Polack: When my father died, he had a TRS 80 that held all of his company's records. I had to learn how to run it, then crack all his passwords and such, to get at the records, to keep the company running. My first "modern" computer was purchased in 1997, a Sony with a Pentium 200 MMX CPU, with Windows 95 OSR2 installed. It was overpriced, with almost no capacity for upgrading. Six months after it's purchase I built two computers, one of which I've been upgrading, for myself, ever since, and the other I gave to one of my grandsons, after he installed Mandrake 9.1 on it, on his own, on the sneak, without help, one week before his sixth birthday. It seemed appropriate at the time. I've been building computers for myself, family, friends, and friends of friends, ever since. All have had Linux installed.

Q: When did you get interested in Linux and why?

Old-Polack: After building the first two computers, and installing copies of the Windows 95 OSR2 on them, someone pointed out that that was illegal. I didn't know. I figured I'd paid for it, so I owned what I paid for. When it was fully explained that the OS was only licensed, and for only one copy, I set out to buy a couple of copies of Windows 98. An old guy at Best Buy pointed out that I could buy a Linux distribution, and would actually own it, and could install it on as many machines as I wanted, including mine, friend's machines, and those of total strangers, if I wished, as well as give copies of the installation disks to anyone I wished, and do so legally. The boxed set was $30.00, as opposed to the $100.00 each, for the two copies of Windows I had set out to purchase, so it seemed like a deal. I've been using Linux ever since.

Q: What Linux distro did you start with?

Old-Polack: The first boxed set was Mandrake 6.0. I installed it, and ran it for a while, but there were things about it I didn't care for. While discussing it's shortcomings with someone, it was suggested I try SuSE, and he let me run it on one of his machines for a while. I liked it better than Mandrake, so then purchased a boxed set of SuSE 6.4. I still have both of those boxed sets. I stayed with SuSE, as my main desktop installation, for the next eight years, but always had multi boot set ups, where I could try other distributions. At one time I had over twenty Linux distributions on one machine. Somewhere about that time, I reached the conclusion that Linux is Linux, and if you can run one distribution, you can run any other. At that point I cut way back on my total installations.

Q: When did you join PCLinuxOS?

Old-Polack: Join? I've installed and used PCLOS since the first public beta release. After having run Mandrake, as a second OS, along with the Texstar packages, to correct the deficiencies of the official Mandrake releases, when Bill (Texstar) stopped doing the Mandrake packages and created PCLinuxOS, I just followed along. PCLOS has been on my machine, as the second "preferred" OS, since then. I joined the forum when the 2007 release was in the early TR stages, to help straighten out a problem with hardware recognition for a MB RAID controller I had at the time. I didn't do forums up until that time, and never expected to stick around, once the problem was sorted. While waiting to test whatever the dev team came up with next, for that problem controller, I saw some posted problems going unanswered, so I answered some of them, just to kill some time. Funny how that turned out, as I'm still here, and now part of the team, with the PCLinuxOS variants as my only installed systems. Currently I have eight installed, from a pre 2007 TR4, to the newest 2009.2 release, all fully upgraded, all running without problems.

Q: What led you to PCLinuxOS?

Old-Polack: In a word, Bill.

Q: How many hours a week do you estimate that you spend working as a PCLinuxOS administrator?

Old-Polack: Way more than I should, and not as much as I'd like. Real life interferes in a big way.

Q: What one thing is the most challenging thing you have to deal with as an administrator?

Old-Polack: The people, not regulars, that think they can say and do whatever they like, on our forum, without regard to the rest of the community. We try to welcome everyone, but some people seem to have no concept of manners, or respect for others. I hate to have to remove someone's post, or worse yet, ban them from the forum, but there are those hard headed individuals that simply leave no other choice. They make it unpleasant for everyone, and disrupt the otherwise friendly and harmonious nature of the forum that we've all worked so hard to achieve.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a PCLinuxOS Forum administrator?

Old-Polack: The vast majority of the community, and the way they pitch in to help each other, and the distribution, to be even better than it was the day before. We've got some really great people gathered here, most trying to give back something, as a thank you for the joy they've received running PCLinuxOS. Being an integral part of that community, and working with it's members, is it's own reward.

Q: What one song best describes your style in the forum?

Old-Polack: Send in the Clowns?

Q: What one song best describes your personality?

Old-Polack: Definitely, Send in the Clowns.

Q: In the animal kingdom, which animal best represents you?

Old-Polack: A mutt puppy.

Q: What parting advice or words of wisdom would you like to leave the PCLinuxOS magazine readers?

Old-Polack: That from which my sig derives.

Of what use be there for joy, if not for the sharing thereof? Is not a thing shared of greater worth, than that same thing, hoarded for it's own sake? Is not sharing then, the true essence of joy? Unshared, one's joy is but a passing moment of a selfish existence. Shared, joy is that one true value of life, which is increased, in direct proportion to the degree with which it is shared. Joy is always best savored while shared.


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