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IBM i > TRENDS > iTALK WITH TUOHY

David Gibbs on the Founding of Midrange.com and His Passion for the Tour de Cure




Paul talks to David Gibbs about the founding and running of the industry forum Midrange.com—and whatever possessed him to do it in the first place. He also catches up with David's passion for Tour de Cure and being a Red Rider. You can check David's details at http://italk.diabetessucks.net/.

Paul: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. I'm joined today by an old friend at this stage, David Gibbs. Hello David.

David: Hi Paul.

Paul: For any of you who don't know how David is, David is a guy that everybody owes an incredible amount to because he is the guy who set up and looks after and maintains the whole midrange.com website but before we get to that, David do you want to tell people a little bit of who you are and what you do when you're not looking after midrange.com.

David: Sure. I am a principle software engineer working on the Implementer product at PTC. I'm based in the general Chicago area. I live in the northwest suburbs and I work out in the PTC Oakbrook Terrace office.

Paul: Okay. You've been there quite a while haven't you David?

David: I'm going on-I think this is going to be my 19th year.

Paul: Oh, wow.

David: Yeah. It's the longest I've been at any company in my career.

Paul: Wow. Okay so let's come on to midrange.com. David, I think probably everybody listening at some stage will have you know if they aren't regularly you know getting everything off midrange.com, they have come across answers up there to questions so why initially did you set up midrange.com?

David: Midrange was originally created because of a project that News 34/38 stated and I think it was called Newslink. It was based on the CompuServe platform and it was basically an online forum, dial up modem type of thing and they offered a free trial as most services do these days so they were actually trend setters back then but after awhile they had to charge for it and it wasn't cheap, at least for a programmer/analyst working for a small consulting firm so I thought it was a really great idea but you know I had already-I had been online so to speak using dialup modems for many, many years already so I decided well I could probably set something up like that with some free software and an extra phone line into my apartment. So with my trusty Compaq portable 2 [Laughter], 286, 12 MHz, I bought a 2400 baud modem. Well no, I'm sorry. I had a 2400-baud modem and I downloaded some software, set up the phone line and got it running. For quite awhile, it was running on that and you know I had people calling from all over the world to participate. There were basically three forums at the time. There was a System/34, a System/36, and a System/38 forum and then of course when the AS/400 came out, I created an AS/400 forum. Eventually I joined what used to be-well it actually probably still exists but it was called Fido net; it was a very basic store and forward type of group messaging system and I created the midrange echo mail forum that basically got picked by lots of other Fido net nodes. That got pretty popular; eventually though the BBS suffered-you know it was getting kind of old and I decided to expand the scope of it. I got a UUCP internet account with a local internet provider and I created and registered the midrange.com domain. According to a guy I knew at the network solutions, I registered it about two week before another company wanted it, a bigger company [Laughter]. My gut-he couldn't tell me specifically but I think it was MC Computing but I am not sure. Anyway, eventually with the inter-with the domain, I created the mailing list and that really took off big time. Eventually the BBS suffered a catastrophic failure and pretty much lost everything except for a few things that I could scrap together. Rather than set up the BBS again, I just decided to go with a straight mailing list system, installed Linux on a machine and used that to create midrange-L and a couple of the other lists. It has-you know pretty the rest is history.

Paul: Yeah. Quite a phenomenal thing to have. Is it something that you look at with pride?

David: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know the thing that I really absolutely love about midrange is when someone posts a question early in the day, you know some technical issue that they've encountered or programming problem that had got them stumped, there is some good discussion on the list and towards the end of the day or maybe the next day, they will say thanks guys. You've given me the leads I need. It solved my problem and I'm good to go. That's the kind of thing that just makes me beam with pride. You know it's like I'm helping-I'm facilitating people getting their jobs done and enhancing their careers. It really does make me feel good.

Paul: Yeah. Quite an achievement. A couple of practical questions David. One is if you don't mind me asking, about how many subscribers are there on midrange?

David: All totaled I think there is about 10,000 but it is distributed through all the various lists. Some of-you know most people or lots of people are subscribed to multiple lists.

Paul: Yeah.

David: I think midrange-L which is the flagship list averages about 1100 subscribers at any time. People drop off and join up but you know it averages that.

Paul: Yeah.

David: Obviously there is a number of people who are very active and some people who kind of just lurk but you know sometimes those lurkers will chime in and say hey, I've been on this list for quite awhile and this is really cool.

Paul: Yeah. And you were talking about the hardware earlier on. So what sort of hardware are you running on now?

David: I'm running on two Dell PowerEdge servers. Well, I'm going to clarify that just a little bit. The main list processing is handled by two Dell PowerEdge servers and they are also the primary web servers for the list archives, the Wiki, and some of the other functions. The main midrange.com website though is powered by-I don't know if we want to call it an AS/400, an IBM i or what because I don't think you could classify Frankie [Laughter] as any particular type of machine. You will have to ask Larry Bolhuis about that [Laughter] but yeah, Larry has graciously given me some webhosting for the main website so we do have some-part of midrange is run on our platform.

Paul: Right. Good. Excellent. Well David, continued success with midrange.com. Long may it last. One of the other big things that I want to talk to you about because we're friends on Facebook and I love looking at your posts about this. It has to do with well your illness. You are a diabetic.

David: Yes I am.

Paul: Okay and-

David: I'm a type 2 diabetic. I have been for about five or six years now.

Paul: Okay but you're one of these great people, you don't quite take it sitting down do you?

David: No, actually I take it-well I do take it sitting down, sitting on my bike.

Paul: Yeah, sitting on your bike. So please tell everybody about Tour de Cure please.

David: Okay. Well I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes you know a number of years ago. I came by it honestly. My mom had it; my brother has it; my grandmother, both my grandmothers had it and you know one thing that a lot of people don't realize is that diet, you know lifestyle has a very big component of diabetes but so does genetics. So you know you've seen me in person and you know a lot of my-you know a number of my IBM i friends has seen at Common, at maybe an Omni User here in Chicago. I am not overweight so it's-that is certainly isn't the cause of mine but one of the things I have taken to help control my diabetes is diet and exercise so I watch what I eat, you know keep track of my carbs so I don't go overboard on them and I get a lot of exercise. My preferred form of exercise is riding my bike. Not only is bike riding a great cardio exercise at least for me it is an incredible stress reliever and at the end of a day you know working on a particularly tough program, there is nothing I like better than to just my bike and ride 15-20 miles. About a year after I was diagnosed with diabetes and was riding my bike to help control it, another friend of mine from the IBM i community told me about this bike ride that if I participated in, I could wear a special red jersey. I did a little bit of research and found out about Tour de Cure. Tour de Cure is a bike ride, not a race so it's not a competition in the strictest sense. I consider it a competition but only with myself.

Paul: Yeah.

David: It's a fundraising event for the American Diabetes Association and it is to my mind one of the best fundraisers around because you know one of the great things about a person who is riding who actually has diabetes and participating in Tour de Cure is training for and participating in the Tour de Cure actually helps with their control of their diabetes so it's a win win. You raise money and you help control your diabetes. Like I said, I do have diabetes and those people who ride in the Tour de Cure who have diabetes are considered Red Riders and whenever they get-when you are a red rider in the Tour de Cure, you are gifted a special jersey that shows everyone that you are riding to help control your diabetes.

Paul: Yeah. Well wear it with pride. We will put a link there as for anybody who wants to contribute to the Tour de Cure (tour.diabetes.org is general link; main.diabetes.org/site/TR/tourdecure/touradmin?px=7583292&pg=personal&fr_id=11077 specifically for David) to contribute to you David as well. I think it's an extremely worthy cause. So the other thing as well just again from the Facebook and on the Tour de Cure so do you set yourself a target every year for the number of miles that you're going to ride?

David: I do. Well I set a personal goal for the year just in general and then for the Tour de Cure I also choose a route when I register for the ride. This year I'm either going to do 65 miles or 100 miles.

Paul: Okay.

David: Last year I did my first 100 mile ride, not in the Tour de Cure but at another ride later in the year but this year-there are various things that will decide which distance I'm going to ride but my fundraising goal is $6,000 this year.

Paul: And your wife Ginny, she has taken to it, as well now hasn't she?

David: She has. She was also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Her mom had it.

Paul: Oh? Actually I wasn't aware of that. Oh wow.

David: Yes, she is also a red rider and she has gotten into cycling when the weather is nice. She is not as aggressive as I am [Laughter] as far as riding in colder weather. I have ridden my bike when it is as low at 20 degrees but you know 40 degrees is pretty much my general limit. I am very much into riding and you know I figure there are worse obsessions to have.

Paul: Oh, indeed. Indeed. And I think that is a very good note to leave it on David. I will leave you with this thought though that if ever you and Jenny want to come back to Ireland and you want to cycle around Ireland which is a beautiful thing to do, I will support you by driving the car behind you. [Laughter].

David: Well Paul as a matter of fact, this is one of our bucket list things is to ride in England, Ireland, Scotland and maybe you know Europe also. It is on our list of things to do. Our next goal is to ride in Hawaii.

Paul: Oh yeah. I saw that on your list you have that scheduled. Okay David.

David: Yup.

Paul: I think we shall leave it there. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me and continued success with midrange and our course with Tour de Cure so David Gibbs, thank you.

David: Thanks very much. Appreciate it very much.

Paul: Okay everybody that's it for this week. Tune in to the next iTalk. Bye for now.

Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.



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