Launchpad ID:



Thingymebob on irc.freenode.net


<will AT thebickerstaffs DOT net>







About Me

me and my eldestFather of two, I’m a self confessed geek, nerd and tinkerer. My home is exclusively Linux powered pretty much all debian based, lenny on my home file-server (though this will probably switch soon, either Ubuntu server or I fancy having a look at centOS aswell) and Ubuntu on all the laptops/netbooks around the house except mine which is openSuse.

What I do

I’m an automation engineer by trade, starting my career in the RN submarine service, where I served for 8 years before leaving to work for Northern foods as a shift engineer, progressing to maintenance manager. When the site closed in 04 I moved into fresh produce and now work as Engineering manager for the UKs largest organic top fruit importer.

How I discovered FOSS

The period at Northern foods is when I first stumbled across open source, after completing a MSSQL admin course with the company, I went home to see how I could further my knowledge. Without wanting to spend money I was left with two options, obtaining a copy of MSSQL through ‘knock off Nigel’ or MySql which looked similar enough (including MyAdmin as it was then).

This led to my first FOSS system install which was RHL I think 4.2 back in 97. I remember finding it incredibly difficult to get to grips with. As many at the time all I’d ever used until this point was the usual MSDOS, win 3x and win 95, not counting my youth filled with sinclair/commodore and atari machines (of which I still have many). With the release of win98, which at the time in my opinion was the best desktop OS about, so soon after my dabblings with RHL I found myself firmly back in the windows camp.

I then authored my very first website in 2000 called vw-workshops which provided step by step instructions for repair of aircooled VWs, I even got a feature in Flat4 magazine. The site was hosted by Powweb at the time who were using freeBSD, so I set up a system exactly the same as them so I could fully test everything before uploading (In the days of dialup it was well worth it. Uploading lots of changes took forever and cost lots. And with a wife who always wanted to use the phone, didn’t make me the most popular person in the house). I starting buying programming and Linux books around this time Infact the only sensible way to get hold of freeBSD without spending 2 weeks downloading was to get a book with it on a CD. I started Javascripting and vw-workshops included some pretty cool scripts that would identify the build date, original colours of your bug and whether or not it still had the original engine.

A broken back, crashed HDD and VW getting all upset about people using ‘vw’ on websites killed off the site in 2002. There are still traces around though (webarchive). I no longer have any of the code but still maintain the domain name aircooled.info with a hope of at sometime getting this project back online using some cooler php/pear/mysql stuff.

freeBSD was great, and really got me back on the FOSS track going onto install Mandrake which was better than the MS offerings of the time and I used routinely until my laptop died. My next machine came with a shiny new XP install which again was another superb offering from MS. And sat me back in the windows camp for a while, mainly as I couldn’t get Mandrake/Mandriva to play nicely with it and didn’t have the time to mess about with it, what with moving house, a baby arriving and changing jobs through redundancy, so just stuck with what I had.

All of a sudden 2006 arrives with the release of Ubuntu dapper Drake (6.06). I’d been on and off messing with debian for a while but was finding it a bit clunky and not as slick as the older Mandrake’s I'd used. Ubuntu looked different so I gave it a go. Setting up a dual boot with XP was trivial, within 3 months I found I was never booting XP so decided to give myself that space back.

Since then there hasn’t been an MS product in my house unless I’m fixing something for someone. My systems were all dist-upgraded through to Intrepid Ibex (8.10) with no issues. I finally got round to clean installing them all at 9.04. I’m still looking for a good FOSS CAD replacement, but that’s for work and to be quite honest can stay at work. It would just be nice to say ‘Linux can do that too’. FreeCAD is looking like the project to keep an eye on here.

Me and FOSS now

Everything here still runs Ubuntu, because it is a really low maintenance OS and I don’t have to worry about it. My Laptop, an old Dell latitude D410, which I picked up off ebay for £100 (OLPC anyone) was running Ubuntu until recently until I decided to give something else ago, I chose openSuse 11.3 which so far is running well and….. I’m liking it.

My 7 year old uses Ubuntu daily and routinely tells me how much better it is than what he uses at school. He just gets frustrated when I tell him some web games (Shockwave) just won’t work on his computer, then he wants to try every other machine in the house, before concluding “We don’t have the right internet, can we get the right internet dad?”.

I don’t class myself as a programmer, but can find my way around most OOP languages without too much issue. I’ll bang out a quick small app to achieve a particular task. Normally in Java because I can code it at home and run it at work.

I’ve done a couple of other websites for people since vw-workshops, the most recent being Proweld Evesham, who I’ve also been assisting getting some used CNC equipment up and running.

My other interests

I love motorsport, we're regularly out watching something go fast, either at the pod, or silverstone, but sadly no longer donnington. I play bass guitar (badly) and I cycle absolutely everywhere normally covering close to 100 miles per week. I draw, sketch and create digital artwork mostly with inkscape, have a look at DeviantArt.


WillBickerstaff (last edited 2010-08-21 21:41:44 by 92)