About Moi...

Another update to this page as of early 2018 - things have changed, again... !

I'm Mark, rapidly closing on 40, and a native of Auckland, New Zealand now living in the Wellington area. I spent most of my life living in Auckland, but have boomeranged back-and-forth to Wellington a couple of times over the last decade or so, associated with work.

For those of you who don't know (!), New Zealand is a nation of 4,500,000-odd people located to the southeast of Australia and south of Fiji. Auckland is located at the ithsmus (narrow land bridge) towards the top of the North Island. The Hutt Valley, where I have lived for several years, is on the periphery of Wellington (the capital) and is found on the harbour at the southern tip of the North Island. I commute to Wellington CBD for work, generally by train.

My career has been in IT since well before I finished with high school, starting with a role at a Dick Smith Electronics store (back when it was still a trusted and well regarded chain, long before it's slide into self-destruction!) and moving into Computer Tech and Technical support roles. I eventually landed a Network Engineering role at New Zealand Defence Force as a civilian employee, which moved my career into another direction and saw us make our first move to Wellington.
After several years working in that space, I moved back into the Internet arena (and to Auckland) and began taking on leadership and management responsibilities. After a time working in the ISP and Cloud services arenas, a transition management roles occurred and this led to the role of IT Operations Manager at NIWA, again a Wellington based role (that boomerang again). That lasted until late 2017, where I decided an opportunity to change tack was on the cards... so my current role is as IT Security Manager for the Ministry of Health. It's a senior role, I am a 'manager' but with no direct-report staff, I can focus on being an influencer, on helping the organisation and its members develop and grow their IT security maturity without the overheads of direct line management. It's also allowed me to retain some technical focus, which is something i've always enjoyed.

The server that you're looking at now is the current generation of the original machine that I and a friend built back in 2002 or so... Despite having gained some knowledge in the concepts of web, mail, DNS and general internet service management, it's actually difficult to gain context-relevant engineering experience and so the decision to 'telehouse' a server at one of the ISPs I was working for was a critical factor in the skills I now bring to bear every day. On this machine, I set up (with help from a couple of key friends) a system that let me host my own DNS, email and web servers - and truly be a part of the 'game'. Fiddling with production kit is much more educational than a disconnected lab environment. And it worked.

What I see as my key point of difference (and value) as an IT professional, is what i recognised several years ago as a talent I had... a unique perspective on IT Engineering and Operations. Many engineers that I have dealt with over the years, have narrow, stove-piped expertise areas, and unlike them I had a broad enough take on IT to be able to support a customer right to the technical 'top', and across a large swathe of the spectrum from Microsoft, to Linux, to Networks and Security, to physical infrastructure. I don't go as deep in some areas as I do others, but being a 'generalist' is a useful trait, as is being able to see a situation end-to-end. So I started to steer toward 'technical management' roles, which I thoroughly enjoy, and ultimately has led me to where I am today.

The other major aspect of my life is of course, at home. I have lived with my wife Liz (known as wyldangel to some) since 2002. We finally got around to tying the knot several years later. :-) We have two children (one's nearly a teenager, for my sins!). and I think that i've finally adjusted to the fact that i'm a Husband, Father, and contributor to my community and to society as a whole. Whoa! This must be what it feels like to be all grown up...

I must pay special tribute to Liz my lovely wife, who a challenge to my wit and intelligence, is endlessly supportive of all my 'interesting' traits and who never fails to cheer me up when i'm down. I'm a very lucky guy.

What else...
Outside of my professional side, my interests include but are not limited to:

  • Emergency Services. I became a volunteer Fire Policeman in 2002; in 2012 this function with the NZFS transitioned to a new definition as 'Operational Support'. I continued to serve with Auckland Operational Support until I moved back to Wellington in 2016; during my time in the Hutt Valley I served with Hutt Valley Fire Police (now Hutt-Wairarapa Operational Support) and have between those two Units been able to maintain continuous service within NZFS/FENZ.

    Core roles filled by Volunteer Operational Support in most parts of New Zealand include providing traffic management, scene safety, transportation and logistics at the scenes of established emergencies all across the city. In FY2015 Auckland OSU turned out more than 600 times; my own turnout numbers are around ~70 per year. In the Hutt Valley things are a little quieter, but no less important or interesting.

  • Linux and Open Source. My interest in Linux has continued over the years and I found myself helping to administer the New Zealand Linux Users Group after a period. I also helped to spin off the Auckland LUG and i'm still involved in keeping both of these ticking over, though in a more limited fashion now than in the past. I also helped with the foundation of the New Zealand Open Source Society and served as a councillor for 3 years, though i've had mostly background/technical roles since it was established. My interest in this space is mainly around the desire for true freedom (platform independence, flexibility of configuration, etc) and generally for a 'reasonable' approach to Open Standards and interoperability. NZOSS pursue these avenues with a passion and i'm happy to help the cause.
  • Amateur Radio. I've had my callsign ZL1VMF since I was 16, and find that its quite a useful hobby. I've talked to Space Stations as well as Amateurs from all parts of the world. I volunteer with the AREC who provide communications expertise for emergencies in a volunteer capacity. Check out the NZART Website (Linked in my links section) for more information about 'Ham' radio and how to get involved. I hosted and redeveloped the Wellington VHF Group website several years ago, and though it's since been re-hosted (I vacated the role of Webmaster when we moved back to Auckland in 2010, and the new guy has gradually migrated stuff over to his own infrastructure) the bones of the site are still that which I worked up all those years ago. I spent a few years serving on their committee, and several more as Webmaster.
  • Motorsport. Rallying in particular, I assisted with The WRC Rally of New Zealand for the period 2000-2005, via Amateur Radio and its AREC component. My Dad was a petrolhead and I spent several fun weekends during my childhood chasing Rallys, so every now and again it's nice to check out what's going on. I maintain a peripheral interest in what goes on these days, though I'm still working in the background as an administrator for Toyspeed, a Toyota Car Club in NZ. (Toyotas are awesome, just so y'know.)
  • Internet and IRC. I once was an IRC geek; this is a pretty retro means of Internet-based communication these days but I can still be found lurking on several IRC Ntworks, including Undernet, Freenode and SynIRC. I spent a lot of years volunteering here too, guiding people in the management of abuse and Denial of Service, and teaching people some useful tips and tricks.
  • The other thing that I have been known to do (as alluded to above) is provide webhosting, DNS and Email services for friends and "clients" alike, usually in return for a donation toward my hosting charges. The server was initially set up as an attempt to help learn the finer points of server and service management, and has evolved into a space that lets me exercise my flexibility, and keep my 'hand in'. Once upon a timeServices.blakjak.net was my 'sales site'. This is essentially operated as a non-profit, with a very small amount of consulting driven through the home business operated by Liz and I, Jazzed Solutions. Whilst I have from time to time had 'free' hosting (thanks usually to my employer), i've never had much in the way of compensation for my time. Today, I pay for a VPS like so many other people out there :)

So, welcome to my site. My blog goes through fits and bursts, but I tend to post links to news which interests me, which inspires me to rant, or to which I will probably want to later refer. As a good netizen, it's only fair to contribute my $0.02. :-) With that in mind I can also be found on Twitter.

So there we go. Enjoy!
If you want to get hold of me, hit the Contact form above.

A final point, to be absolutely clear: any comments posted on this site should be considered the personal opinions of the Author (unless otherwise stated). I do not pretend to represent any company or organisation that I may be associated with, or have been previously associated with.