Zack's Website

My Egotistic and Esoteric Website


A Little History - My Current Career

Currently, I'm the Lead Software Developer and IT Manager at Midas, a leading After-market Automotive Repair facility, franchise holder in Toledo, Ohio.  I oversee the development and strategic IT infrastructure for over 100+ locations throughout the Midwest.  The majority of my day consists of developing software using Microsoft's .NET programming platform to enhance our business and deliver solutions.  I do this using cutting edge technologies in combination with the C# language.

In 1999, I took over the role as department head and began an attempt at consolidating our programming code-base.  We had primarily FoxPro, Clipper, RPG (AS/400), and some sprinkling of Delphi and C++ that I wrote in 1998 when I first got hired in an attempt to move the department to RAD (Rapid Application Development) development.  During this transition, I evaluated several scenarios from upgrading everything to Visual FoxPro, Visual Basic and/or Delphi.  Microsoft was beginning to work on what was to be known as the .NET Framework.  Basically, the ability to write code once and run anywhere - similar to the promises of Java.  I began embracing this technology and standardized on C# (particularly because I was also watching what the Mono Project was doing as I wanted the server back-end to become Linux one day) and I'm glad I did.

I haven't looked back and the language has worked very well for our organization - I've been able to streamline development and keep the learning curve pretty shallow for new developers coming in and picking up and becoming productive quickly with minimal oversight.

I maintain the corporate servers which consist of various Windows-based and Linux-based servers. Here's a picture of part of the server room as it was in 2009 (notice the Dell PowerEdge-based 2900 servers). That room as more rack servers and fiber-based Internet today, so it's changed quite a bit. Technology moves pretty quick!

Most of the server room consists of in-house production servers, but we also host various client-based servers and services in "The Cloud" and have been since 2010 or so. I push more and more services in that direction every day.

Since we're getting a little nostalgic here with work photos....I found a couple shortly after I started working for Midas...looks like circa 2000/2001 to 2003/2004.

I must have been talking or looking at somebody in the first picture. The second early photo, you can see my Dell Pocket PC, my Winbook J4 (Pentium IV 2.4 Ghz 15" Laptop) and the stack of candy canes. (I always had a sweet treat for others so they would come and visit - even though I'm not really a fan of processed sweets.)

Why Computers?

Back in the 1980's, my father worked at Union Carbide as a production control manager and would bring me into the office on Saturdays to run reports or perform some other functions.  I was always amazed at the large sever rooms full of blinking lights and sometimes he'd let me load an 8" floppy disk into the terminal so he could run reports.  To me, it all looked glamorous.  The 1980's also ushered in the era of personal computers that mostly consisted of Radio Shack (Tandy), IBM (PC Jr.) and other generic brands.  Everybody had an Atari 2600, but you couldn't do much with that other than shove a cartridge in it an play Space Invaders.  Then at some point, we bought a Commodore Vic-20 from K-Mart at the price of over $200, brought it home and we'd type in tons of BASIC code from the back of books, but that would always get erased when the unit was turned off.  Then we bought a Tape Recorder that you could hook up to the Vic-20 to save and retrieve your programs and data.  Pretty slick, eh?

Then in the late 1980's my Mom purchased a Radio Shack Tandy 1000 for her florist business to handle Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable.  Boy was that an expensive attempt.  I think it was just plain quicker for her to hire somebody and do it by hand, so the family got the computer.  It contained 512K of Memory and an external 10 Megabyte hard drive.  I eventually purchased a 2400bps modem and was up all hours of the night on BBS's (Bulletin Board Systems) trading files.  My parents didn't appreciate me tying up the phone line, but it was great experience for the future to learn about all the technology from a low-level point of view. I even ran my own BBS in high-school and college on the Spitfire BBS system under Microsoft DOS. (If you were born after 1990 you probably have no clue what a BBS even is.)

Weren't You a Chemistry Major in College?

At some point during my college freshman year, I was asked to pick a discipline to major in.  I chose Chemistry.  "What?", my Mom said.  "Why don't you pick computers?".  I think at the time I had this fascination with chemistry and possibly working for the FBI as a forensic technician in the lab.  I went down the Chemistry path and enjoyed it - especially the 4 hour labs when we were given mysterious substances and we had to perform a lot of reactions to figure out we had.  I think I just never did put my full attention behind the discipline. 

Most of the time I found myself in the Technology lab doing something on the VAX/VMS and Unix terminals.  So I switched majors and kept the minor in Science.  I eventually graduated after 3 years, earning my Private Pilot's License also at BGSU's airport at my Mom's request (thanks Mom...that was fun).  After I graduated, I went on to get my Master's Degree in Computer Science with a Specialization in Distributed and Parallel Networks and Software Design.  I also obtained a full-time assistantship with the Sponsored Programs and Research department developing Gopher and early Web sites.

After graduation, I worked for BGSU's Research department and the Biology department in a support and development role - splitting my time among them.  I enjoyed helping people, however I never enjoyed procuring equipment.  The amount of "red tape" that had to be cut through just to order computer equipment, etc was really a pain.  You'd order a computer or backup drive, etc and it would go through budgeting, then ordering, then sit at the warehouse dock, then finally get delivered (as you couldn't pick it up from the warehouse yourself).  It really was a headache.  By the time you actually got the equipment, a couple of months had gone by and it was practically outdated.

To Wrap Up

So I think this sealed my fate to hang out in the software and engineering role of computers and I'm glad I did.

To this day, I'm active in developing software for Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh OS X, and Linux (Debian and RedHat) using primarily C# and sprinklings of Mono (for Linux). I've even been known to run FreeBSD and have C# applications and backends running on that platform as well.

I also enjoy developing applications for mobile devices and enjoy dabbling in electronics theory and design on the side.  You can see some of this work over at Burns Software.

Lately, I've simplified my life by moving everything to one piece of hardware. As of February 2023 I am running my entire life off a MacBook Pro M2 (Apple Silicon). This computer cost a pretty penny, but has been awesome! It doesn't even break a sweat and has been running off of battery power all day! I'm running Windows 11 ARM under Parallels for Windows .Net Development and MacOS handles everything else (Android/iOS/MacOS/LinuxOS, etc). I don't have to run multiple build environments anymore. I just write, check-in my code, compile, build and off to the next project. I love it!

Quick Links

Burns Software