user
info

Reminiscing

I spent a good number of evenings in August/September of 2020 getting all this historical content back online and "working." Doing so brought back a lot of memories and I felt inspired to write them down.

My first opportunity to connect to the internet came in the fall of 1993 when I was a freshman at Gunnison High School. One of my classes was a computer lab during which we learned about telnet and FTP and Gopher. No WWW yet. The RE-1J school district that GHS was a part of had some deal with one of the universities in Colorado that allowed us shell access to a UNIX system via which we had email access. My email address for that brief period of time was something like peterr@re1j.k12.colostate.edu, although I'm probably completely misremembering that. I do remember discovering MUDs at this time.

I was only at GHS for a brief period of time before switching to Crested Butte Academy, which was mostly a good thing but did mean losing internet access for a while. I have distinct memories from that time of seeing the first commercials on television that included a web address and being confused about what the http:// meant, since that wasn't a part of any of the protocols I learned at GHS.

In 1995, the Digital Storytelling Festival came to Crested Butte. It was all about using multimedia and the internet as a new way to tell stories. It was a big thing, but the most exciting part was that they wanted to put together a CBA home page as part of the festival, and I got to learn HTML to help work on that page. The Net USA magazine (now defunct) was also involved in the festival and some of their staff (one business card to right) helped us out.

Around the same time we got dialup internet at home, and while I worked on a few web pages for local Crested Butte businesses, I didn't do any more personal web stuff until I arrived at Notre Dame in the fall of 1996. My freshman year there was the first year of resnet. This meant that every dorm room was being wired up with ethernet. I lucked out because the dorm I was placed in, Keenan Hall, was one of the first ones wired up and so I basically had high speed internet access from the beginning.

In retrospect, internet access was something special back then, at least the internet access we got at ND. There was no firewall. There was no NAT. Notre Dame had a class B network (129.74) and everyone got assigned a routable IP in that block. I'm pretty sure every port was open to the outside. Looking back, it's a bit scary, but it sure helped me learn a lot.

At the time ND used AFS for its distributed file system. This is where your files got stored when you logged in to any computer cluster machines. And if you put files in the www subdirectory of your AFS directory, they would be served up at http://www.nd.edu/~youruser. This was very exciting for young me and it wasn't long before my first ND page was online at www.nd.edu/~prijks.

The www.nd.edu server at the time served up mostly static content, but did have a /cgi-bin directory with a couple features you could use. The only one I really remember is a visitor counter image which I made use of. Of course it wasn't long before I wanted dynamic content, and so I figured out I could host a web server on my PowerBook 5300 CS. Its hostname was rijks-1a.student.nd.edu and I found some mac web server software that allowed me to host forms and other similar content. Since my IP was routable and no ports were blocked, this web content was available to the world. It was exciting, but it also went down if I ever disconnected my laptop from the network. It also had a somewhat unwieldy URL.

At the time I was spending a lot of time on IRC, including on some anti-Microsoft channels. I apparently impressed the owner of the enemy.org domain enough that he created the pete.enemy.org hostname for me and pointed it at my ND laptop. Domain names at that time still cost $100-$200 a year, so having a vanity domain, even if it was a subdomain, felt really cool. And as of this writing, that hostname still exists and still points at the 129.74 IP address that was rijks-1a.student.nd.edu.

During my sophomore year at ND (fall 97-spring 98) I became interested in Linux. I wanted a Linux computer. I was a poor student. I spent a lot of time scrounging parts and saving money for parts. People donated parts. My parents bought me the final component needed - a 9GB hard drive. I put it together during a break when I was at home in Colorado, and installing Linux was an absurd exercise in patience. I was installing Slackware Linux from floppies (it was still those days). My Mom's Mac had internet access, but it couldn't write the floppies how they needed to be written for the PC to read them. And my Mac laptop could write the floppies, but had no modem for dialup internet at home. So I connected the two Macs via an AppleTalk network, downloaded the floppy images on my Mom's Mac, transferred them to my laptop, wrote them to floppy disks and then used them to install Slackware. I remember there being a dozen or two disks. But I got it up and running. And thus the first esgeroth, also known as rijks-1b.student.nd.edu came to be.

Why esgeroth? My first recollection of using that name is I think I named my Cloud character in Final Fantasy 7 that, wanting a name that sounded Tolkienesque. Turns out I picked something very close to actual Tolkien but didn't realize until rereading the books later: Esgaroth. I then dubbed my webpage the Realm of Esgeroth and the name kind of stuck. In June of 1999, when I bought the esgeroth.org domain name, it was initially hosted from this esgeroth, which lived in my dorm room. You can see it, along with rijks-1a.student.nd.edu (the laptop on the right), in the picture below.

esgeroth

Once esgeroth was a thing, my web presence started splitting. The Computer Science and Engineering department at Notre Dame had its own web server at www.cse.nd.edu and I can't remember if it worked for anyone or just CS people, but I started using www.cse.nd.edu/~prijks instead of www.nd.edu/~prijks as my ND homepage, while starting to move non-academic content to esgeroth.org.

At the time I had this vision of esgeroth.org being more than just me, so my own website actually lived at prijks.esgeroth.org. www.esgeroth.org became "esgeroth biosystems and information technologies" which I came up with as a sort of backronym for BIT. I think it was a reference to BitWise2, a nickname I used on IRC for a while.

esgeroth bit

So while prijks.esgeroth.org hosted my personal stuff, www.esgeroth.org at that time hosted some of the software I was sharing with the world (the "information technologies" in "biosystems and information technologies") and also a few other subdomains including penguin.esgeroth.org, quake.esgeroth.org, fritz.esgeroth.org, mutiny.esgeroth.org and ellimist.esgeroth.org. Some of those were my own creations, others pointed at friends' computers.

In December of 1998, Pete's Log was born, and I think since that time most of my web energy was directed into log entries. In particular, the years 2000 and 2001 saw an average of more than one log entry per day. And the amount of non-log web content created seems to have dropped accordingly.

In January 2003, I left Notre Dame and moved to Maryland. Technically it was a leave of absence, but I never returned (except to visit). I no longer lived in the world of 129.74 and esgeroth.org went offline for a while. However, a number of friends were going through similar transitions, and thus we all got together and purchased a server we could share and colocate at an ISP.

And thus in late 2003, esgeroth.org came back online. This same group of friends has kept our cohosting situation running ever since. The server has been upgraded a couple times and also made a move from Kansas to Kentucky. But from the outside world, esgeroth.org has just kinda been there this whole time.

My status at Notre Dame being a "leave of absence" allowed me to continue logging into my account for some time. But sometime in 2004, that privilege was revoked. In a panic, I asked bmoore to see if my AFS space was still there. It was. So I had him save and send me my cse (code for classes/research/projects) and www directories. So luckily I was able to save much of my history. Thanks bmoore! In retrospect I probably should have had him save my entire AFS directory, since I think I had moved some old web content outside my www folder. But all things considered I'm happy with what I have.

At some point I decided to merge prijks.esgeroth.org and www.esgeroth.org. I did redesign the front page of www.esgeroth.org a couple times during those almost-two-decades, and made upgrades to Pete's Log from time to time. And tried at least once to get all my historic content back online. But post-academic life had a way of keeping me busy, so it wasn't until 2020 when I made a concerted effort to get everything back online. And so here we are. Let's see what the future brings.