Rom Walton's Profile
photo Rom Walton
Space Sciences Laboratory, U.C. Berkeley
7 Gauss Way
Berkeley, CA, 94720
+1 (425) 881-0517

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In 1975 I was born and in Anchorage, Alaska. Life was pretty good growing up.

I was introduced to computers by my grandfather when I was five and it had a profound impact on the course of my life. It was an old Apple ][+ that captivated me, I believe he was showing me a game called 'lemonade stand' and after a few minutes of playing the game I told him that I wanted to learn how to make the computer do that stuff. My grandfather likes to tell the story. For the next few years I pretty much stayed with the Apple ][ series of computers.

In 1989 I got a summer job with the FAA as a CAD/CAM operator doing odd jobs such as drawing janitorial layouts for buildings and I even got to draw up some components for a radio tower somewhere in the bush of Alaska. Actually the first part of the summer was spent helping people with the new Apollo workstations that were going in, prior to that they were using PCs' and AutoCAD. The Apollo systems were my first introduction to networked machines on a Unix-based operating system. This also happened to be the first summer I had hacked into a multi-user computer system. Although to be fair it was still being installed and the installing technicians forgot to tell the CAD/CAM people about the locksmith account which didn't have a password. As soon as I found the account and found out what it could do I just had to tell somebody, so I told my boss who was running the show. He quickly put a password on the account and so ended my quick and easy way to dig deep in the guts of the system.

In 1990 I got a summer job with the Directorate of Logistics on Fort Richardson, Alaska. My summer was probably the most exciting summer I had ever had, I really got to cut my teeth on computer technology. Richard Dunkle was my boss at the time and kick started me into a serious training schedule where I learned things about hardware, operating systems, commercial applications, and programming in languages other than Apple Basic. I learned more in that summer than I had in the previous ten years. So of course I went back the next summer and after which Rich asked me to become a year-round part-time employee. In the summers I got to work full-time, but while school was in session I could only work part-time.

Rich and I eventually divvied up responsibilities so that I supported the non-classified DOS, Windows, and Windows NT systems, while he supported the OS/2 and the 4 flavors of Unix we had in the directorate. If he had to go TDY somewhere then I had to try and help out with the other systems as well, I just wasn't comfortable messing around with device configurations and stuff like that, but I could write shell scripts and application macros for our Unix applications.

In the summer of 1994, I gained the 'Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer' certification which was a pretty grueling set of tests and was all the harder since we didn't have any Netware in our shop. Microsoft had only announced the certification earlier that year and so there wasn't anyplace for me to go that I could afford to find out what was on the tests and nobody had written any books on it yet. I only had access to TechNet and MSDN at the time. So my modus operandi became, take the test, fail it and make mental notes about what I was being asked, and then to study every article in both TechNet and MSDN about that subject. By the end of the summer I had passed all the tests and became one of two certified systems engineers in the state.

At the end of 1994, Rich moved on to a company called Syntax in the Seattle area. After he left work became very political and wasn't very much fun anymore and so I started shopping around my self. I found a temporary home at Alaska Computer Brokers as a phone support technician, well I would have been a phone support technician had they actually gotten any company to sign-up. While they were shopping for a company they had me working in sales. After three months I got a stern warning that my sales numbers weren't high enough, and they felt my problem was talking people out of purchases instead of just selling them stuff. After that meeting I had made the decision to move on, as luck would have it the owner of the computer store, Custom Computers, down the street knew of me and was starting an Internet Providership and asked if I was interested in running it. I took the job and went back to Alaska Computer Brokers and gave my two week notice.

So for the next 11 months I built and ran the infrastructure for CustomCPU. At the time everyone was pretty much on dial-up and aside for building out the Windows NT machines to run all the email, web, news, and PPP services I also helped with computer repair. I had setup primitive monitoring and intrusion detection systems that would page me if anything was detected which backfired on me for a few days. During a four day stint my pager would start going off at 4am every morning and keep paging me until I was half way to the store and stop. Nothing was showing up in any log file I had, on the fourth night I stayed in the store all night until 4am rolled around to see what was happening. It turns out that our news server didn't have enough ran and article expiration started at 4am, the system was paging so bad that all network, mouse, and keyboard I/O was useless. Throwing in another 128MB of ram fixed that problem and I was paged again.

I got to attend my first COMDEX convention while working for CustomCPU, it was an amazing experience, I walked so much over three days my feet started to bleed. I got to see so much cool technology I couldn't believe it. In 1995 it filled three Las Vegas convention centers. The only bummer for that trip was I was still under 21 and so the casinos' wouldn't let me out onto the gambling area.

At the end of 1995, Rich called me and told me that Syntax was hiring and was wondering if I was interested in moving to Washington. During I hammered out moving expenses and starting date with the CEO and VP. Before christmas my Dad and I flew down to Washington to get me setup. During my tenure at Syntax I worked as a Systems Administrator and Developer. Syntax was working on interoporability software between PCs and Unix server machines. Their server-side package could act as a Windows, Netware, and Mac server and was completely configurable via a web browser. It would run on over 15 different favors of Unix. It appears that TotalNET Advanced Server is now owned by Engenio.

In September of 1996, I started working for Microsoft and continued to work for them December 2003. While working at Microsoft I worked on Exchange, Windows, MSN Storage.NET, and SQL Server Reporting Services. I learned a great deal about how large software projects are run and for the most part had a blast. Near the end though I was feeling burned out and tired of the politics.

During my time in-between jobs, I started volunteer work for BOINC and in Feburary 2004 David A. offered me a job. I have been working on BOINC ever since.

----- Rom