Category Archives: UNC

Old web recollections…

My colleague, Paul Jones, has gotten some great press recently regarding a bit of digital archaeology he did in finding a very early copy of Tim Berners-Lee’s demo web page developed for a hypertext conference in 1991. Paul worked on the academic side of UNC-CH’s computing house, while I was working on the administrative side. I was quite interested in some of the things that Paul was working on in the late 80’s, and envied the latitude he had to do cool stuff. Paul’s work inspired several of the things I subsequently did.

I was an IBM MVS systems programmer for many years, starting in the mid-80’s, as the lead CICS and VTAM programmer then and later as systems programming manager. (I’d also worked on both COBOL and distributed microcomputer, including a port of Kermit to CTOS). We typically focused on mundane things like money and grades in the administrative applications, though. However, I’d gotten interested in the concept of hypertext when I saw (sometime around 1989 or 1990) the DEC Videotext application. I’d just finished writing a VTAM application for terminal menus (actually finishing a design started by other colleagues who’d started the app but never finished) and realized that with a DECNet/SNA Gateway, we could link the VAX with the IBM mainframe and make the hypertext VAX app available on the IBM 3270 terminals. I convinced my boss to buy the DECNet/SNA Gateway, and I wrote a VTAM app to read the datastream from the gateway and interact with the 3270. It actually worked, but it never caught on with the users, and about the time it was stable, along came Berners-Lee with the Web, and the rest was history.

Thanks to Paul, I’d gotten interested in Gopher in 1992, and used it, in conjunction with WAIS, to help publish some administrative/Institutional Reasearch statistics (the “Fact Book”). We’d gotten an IBM AIX server (I called it Bullhead, named after a trout stream in Stone Mountain State Park) for Gopher/WAIS that was a textbed for these efforts as MVS was not a compatible platform at that time for this type of work.

By 1993, Paul was really getting excited about the Web, and after hearing him talk about it many times, and seeing the Mosaic browser and how cool it was to have text and pictures together ;-), I decided that I needed to try it out. So, on November 24th, 1993 (I remember because it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and thus a very slow day, and a good time to try such things) I downloaded a Web server source package, set up and ran the “make” and then set up my first web page. While I don’t remember exactly what I put on the very first one, I soon set up a page with a picture of the office building at 449 W. Franklin Street, along with descriptive text about the Administrative Data Processing department. I was working part time on a Masters’s in Comp Sci, and had just gotten to the place where I needed a thesis topic. I was fascinated by the the concept of the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) and decided to do my thesis on application development using the Web and CGI. I wrote the paper in 1994, and finished my degree in the spring of 1995. I tried to save an electronic version of the paper, but the postscript file seems to be corrupt (at least the tools I’ve tried wouldn’t read it). Maybe I can resurrect it some day.

We did a lot with CGI in the years that followed. We enabled TCP/IP on MVS and used CGI scripts on Bullhead to allow us to pull data from MVS databases. That lead to the creation of our first web-enabled class registration tool, Student Central, in the mid-to-late 1990’s as well as a variety of other data access tools. The commercialization of the Internet in 1995 opened the door to the marketplace for internet software, but that’s another story.

I wasn’t quite as close as Paul to the beginnings of the Web, but it was a heady and interesting time. This fall, I’ll have 20 years of web experience…I guess I’m getting old!

The Order of the Ginkgo

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

No, not that long ago, but it was the late 1970’s while I was an undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill (I was there from 1975 to 1979) that some of my friends and I were sitting around thinking about the things that college students think about 🙂 We were all members of the Rho Chapter of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, and were generally motivated to do service and good works, all while having a good time, but most of us were not the type of student to get tapped for one of the classic honor societies of Carolina. You know…the “Order of ________” or the “The _________ Society” … I’m sure that you can relate. So, we decided that the only way we’d ever get into an honorary society was to found one ourselves. But what to call it? Well, we had fond memories of the ginkgo tree in front of New West Hall, and how the leaves would all turn yellow gold and then fall off, almost all in one night, creating a golden carpet…upon which to have a keg of golden soda! We’d have a party each fall under the tree…so, we decided to create the Order of the Ginkgo. We took up a collection to buy a page in the Yackety Yack (Carolina’s Yearbook). The first year, the editor wouldn’t publish it, so we hung him in effigy in the tree (and got that picture published for “student life” 😉 ). The next year, however, we were in the Yack! I think it may have lasted a few years after the initial group graduated, but it was fun while it lasted.

So, what does that have do do with anything, and why, after all these years, am I putting this in my blog? Well, I was looking for some old financial papers and while going thru my “filing system” I stumbled across a yellowed copy of the by-laws of the Order of the Ginkgo, which I offer here for your reading pleasure. Remember that this was the not-so-politically-correct ramblings of a group of college students 😉

Yes, I was one of the Four Tops, the Extra Extreme Grandest Mulch Excelsior…

Thinking about retirement and next steps…

Planning is important as one considers retirement. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and have now, as of last week, publicly announced my intent at work. I’m stepping down from my post as an Associate vice Chancellor at UNC Greensboro effective 12/31/13. That’s several months away, but I wanted to give my boss time to think about how to parse and refactor my portfolio and plan for my replacement. I actually told him several months ago that this was in the works, but we’ve now, as of March 28th, made a statement at a department-wide town hall meeting, and I’ve started to tell my campus colleagues.

While I like my job and am still turned on by technology, I’m looking forward to spending time doing what I want to do rather than what I have to do. I’ll have over 30 years of service to the State of NC by the end of the year, and am looking forward to spending more time at the beach, more time traveling, more time standing in a river waving a flyrod, more time catching up on my reading list, more time teaching myself a few new programming languages and applications, and other deferred projects.

I’ll continue to teach one class per semester at UNC Chapel Hill as long as they are willing to retain my adjunct appointment, and I look forward to being able to devote more time and energy to teaching. I do have to sit out one semester due to state rules about re-employment but that will just give me time to recharge the batteries. I’ll also evaluate consulting opportunities (and have some feelers out), but I won’t be looking for anything that will get in the way of doing what I *want* to do.

I’ll be holding down my regular gig until probably October/November, and then will begin a knowledge dump with my eventual replacement. It’s going to be both an long and short nine months, I think…

Welcome, 2010…

OK, so it’s already January 12th…it’s still early in the new year! 2010 is off to a good start. We’ve got both kids back out of the house again, off at their respective schools, so peace and quiet reigns. I’ve been trying to keep on top of communications and planning for my new BSA role as District Chairman. I think that the key is to do what I need to do right when I think of it; if I let it sit, too much time will pass and I’ll also stand a better chance of dropping a ball. Electronic communication will be important, and I plan to try to use Skype for conference calls, and also leverage either the current Yahoo site or a Google group. We’ll also make use of collaborative editing with Google Docs. I’m gearing up to teach at UNC-CH again this semester in my role as an adjunct in SILS. Last semester was the first time in 10 years I’ve not taught a class, and I feel energized to do it; it’s been good to take the time off. I’m working on getting my vacation schedule set up and coordinated with my colleagues at UNCG. I want to be sure that I get some time for shad fishing in March, Bassclave in June or July, and beach time in August. Time flies, and the cold weather we’ve been having will be gone soon, and the fish will be biting. I do plan to try for some trout in early February. There’s a local pond/lake that gets a trout stocking during the winter. I’ll be giving that a try this year. What’s that whooshing sound? Time rushing by 😉

Planning a conference is hard work!

Well, my wife has been successful in passing along her cold to me…fortunately, I waited until this afternoon until UNC CAUSE 2008 was over to crash! UNC CAUSE is:

“… an organization composed of the management and staff of the information technology based unity of the 16 campuses of the University of North Carolina. The organization exists for the purpose of promoting and facilitating cooperation, information exchange and technology leverage between the campuses of the UNC System in all areas related to information technology. The activities of this group are recognized, supported and participated in by the UNC General Administration.”

This year it was the turn of 5 schools in the UNC System “central region” to host the conference. I was asked to chair the planning team. We booked the site a year ago. I recruited staff, and we started meeting in the late winter of 2008, planning logistics, program, social events, etc. This year’s event went very well; we had ~350 attendees, plus over 30 vendor corporations as sponsors, with over 100 staff attending as well. Kudos to my great planning team, including representatives from NCCU, NCA&T, UNC-Pembroke, UNC-Chapel Hill, and my institution, UNC-Greensboro.

We had 18 vendor presentations, about 60 campus presentations and numerous Birds-of-a-Feather sessions.

Whew! Now, back to the office tomorrow and try to catch up (assuming I can stop hacking and sneezing).

Grades turned in…

As mentioned in my post on 11/15, one of the things I do is teach a course in Systems Analysis & Design at UNC-Chapel Hill SILS (INLS382). I really enjoy teaching, but it’s always a great feeling to drop off the grade sheet at the end of the semester…Woohoo! Now I’m ready for the holidays! Just need some winter weather, as we’re having a heat wave here in NC at the end of December.

Work update

In the time I let this blog go fallow, I decided to change jobs and move from UNC-Chapel Hill to MCNC as Director of IT & Data Center Services. I still get to work with the National Lambda Rail (NLR) Experiment Support Service and the Internet2 HOPI project (though that is morphing as I2 begins to deploy “newnet”). This had been a long time coming, as I was not really happy with where I’d found myself at UNC after a big reorg. Now that I’ve made the move (March 2006) I’m quite happy with the decision! I still teach at UNC as an adjunct in the School of Information and Library Science. I have been teaching Systems Analysis & Design (INLS382) since 1998, roughly one course per semester. The good news is that’s enough of a UNC affiliation to let me still buy basketball tickets. Go Tarheels! It promises to be a great year for the ‘heels.

So what the heck do I do at UNC?

Well, we’ve finally finished our reorg of the ITS department at UNC, and my title is Director of Networking Collaborations for Information Technology Services. So what does that mean? In this role, I work directly to foster collaborative projects with other campus schools and departments, and with local and national networking partners. Examples of external collaborations are involvement with NCNI and NCREN at the local and statewide level, and with Internet2 and National Lambda Rail at the national level.

Additionally, I’m still the Executive Director of the North Carolina Networking Initiative (NCNI). That site is really in need of maintenance, and that’s one thing that I’m working on now…