June 1999 Troubleshooting Professional Magazine: More Heroes, and a Trip to Linux Expo

Copyright (C) 1999 by Steve Litt. All rights reserved. Materials from guest authors copyrighted by them and licensed for perpetual use to Troubleshooting Professional Magazine. All rights reserved to the copyright holder, except for items specifically marked otherwise (certain free software source code, GNU/GPL, etc.). All material herein provided "As-Is". User assumes all risk and responsibility for any outcome.

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Mark Spencer

By Steve Litt
Dripping with sweat after getting a Ping Pong lesson from Entity Cyber's Marty Connor, I wandered through the Red Hat party. A guy cornered me, introducing himself as Mark Spencer, and immediately commenced educating me on his company, Linux Support Services, LLC. Skeptical, I asked him how he could afford top notch technologists given today's job market. He explained that technologists volunteered to do their free support, and Linux Support Services contracts out paid support to the best of the volunteers. Hmmm. Maybe this guy's more than a fast talker. On the chance it might prove interesting, I decided to stop by his booth to interview him.

Mark ran the Linux Support Services booth alone, fielding questions from a constant flow of interested attendees. He had this rack of equipment that looked half army surplus, and half state of the art. He thoroughly explained the rack to me, but I still couldn't understand everything he said. As best I can figure, he had written a Linux hosted program to bridge between T1/T3 lines and multiple Frame Relay lines and Ethernet.

Then I found out that besides support and this bridging program, Mark has authored four pieces of Free Software:
Cheops Graphical Network Monitoring
GAIM AOL client for Linux
L2TPD PPP tunneling, including support for Virtual Private Networks
Pilot-PPP Makes your Linux box seem like a simple modem connection to your Palm Pilot

He had Cheops running at the show, and it was ultimately cool. It draws a nice topology diagram, and when you click on one of the nodes, it puts you into admin mode for that node. Free Software. Microsoft, eat your heart out. By now I knew this guy would get an article.

Now listen to this. Researching for this article, I stopped at Mark's website, which had a video of his dorm room. Dorm room? This guy writing bridging software and graphical net monitor software is in college? An email cleared this up. Yes, he's in college, although he is taking off Spring and Summer quarters to begin the business.

So let me get this straight. This college student is already the author of sophisticated admin software, president of a support company, holding his own in social and sales situations, and rubbing elbows with the best the Linux world has to offer?

Who are computing's future heroes? Only time will tell. I'm keeping a close eye on Mark Spencer.

Steve Litt can be reached at Steve Litt's email address.