Onno.Com is 15 years old!

Mar 15, 2012 in Life

wpid-welcome-onno-com-2012-03-15-16-25.pngWe’re well in our teenager years!

I claimed the domain on March 3, 1997. The first web pages went up a few days later.

In the beginning I had a specific need for the web site. Locating it at onno.com was pleasing to the ego. But back to the purpose. In early January of ’97 I relocated to the US from England to work for Apple in Cupertino, CA. My new role was Product Marketing Manager for OpenDoc – a technology for developer to build their application from smaller pieces that could be mixed and matched depending on the user’s needs. Just around that time Apple had acquired Next (or as the inside joke went, Next acquired Apple). Quite soon after getting off the plane and inhabiting my new office on the 4th floor with a lovely view of the Mount Hamilton range two things were obvious:

–        a substantial re-org and layoff was just weeks away, and

–        OpenDoc was not going to survive.

A team member and I, forgot the guy’s name, decided to use the time between now and when D-Day would be to prepare for the next step in the career: we walked down to the Computer Bookstore on the ground floor, bought ourselves copies of Java In A Nutshell and Symantec’s Visual Cafe for Java. To learn Java I wrote a Checkers game as an applet. Once that was working well I wanted a place, a web site, to host that applet so that my intended new colleagues of Sun Microsystems could play with it and admire my knowledge of the Java technology. And thus: onno.com.

Later it became a personal web site and blog to host my photographic exploits and my stories about travel, cycling and whatever else I choose to write about. The first number of years this was all handcrafted html. Over time I replaced pieces with off the shelf tools: the photo gallery moved to MobileME and very recently to onno.smugmug.com, and the main content is now managed by wordpress running on onno.com. The hosting moved from pacbell.net to yahoo to lunarpages.

A few times a year I get inquiries to buy the domain. A t-shirt company in Colorado tried a few times; it was never clear why “onno.com” was meaningful to them. Various fellow Onno’s asked including Onno Tijdgat who was known as a hacker during the 80-ies and the Chaos Computer Club days. The most recent request was a few months ago from a Polish company building a portal at onno.pl. I somewhat regret not having grabbed the .nl and .org domains at the time and so now other Onno’s occupy those.

The site hosted Rachel’s photography business for awhile before we moved it off to its own home at rachelgracie.com. It hosted my consulting business for the year it was active. Last year onno.com was hacked and I spent some long nights going through every file to check if it was compromised. And I once got a death threat – a comment on a story about gun control.

Sadly I don’t have a backup from the very early days of the site. The image you see above shows what the main page looked like in April 2002. Web crawlers visited the domain a few times and so there are some fun nuggets in the wayback machine. Such as my December 2000 roadtrip: http://web.archive.org/web/20010216193812/http://www.onno.com/travel/newyearseve.html and the 2000 Thanksgiving weekend Amtrak journey: http://web.archive.org/web/20010422061814/http://www.onno.com/travel/allaboard.html. I may lift a few of those and re-post them; I have quite fond memories of a some of those trips.

Some photographic history

Aug 03, 2009 in Life

My RBC cycling buddy, Gary, just returned from his cycling trip in the Pyrenees kindly posting his pictures online. Eighteen, twenty years ago Wouter and I did a cycling vacation in that same area. Admiring Gary’s photos unleashed nostalgic feelings and so I went searching for my pics from that vacation. Very sadly I couldn’t find them – Wouter, if you’re reading this: do you still have them? – but the search action did turn up other photos that had faded from memory. With your indulgence I like to share a few and the stories behind them.

mary-jc-onno2.jpgIn this photo from right to left Jan Christiaan van Winkel (JC for short), Mary Sullivan and me. I believe this is May 1990 or 1991. JC and I went on vacation together to the US. First visiting Mary here in Montvale, New Jersey. We all three worked for KPMG Peat Marwick at the time – JC and I at the software engineering group in the The Netherlands, Mary at the group in Montvale. This is on the balcony of Mary’s apartment. She was hosting a Kentucky Derby party. Of course, it needed to be explained to us what the Kentucky Derby was. This was around the same time that I tried to join a software project for KPMG in Montvale and move to the US. This led to month long stays at the Marriott in Montvale and all my furniture in storage in Holland but not the intended permanent relocation. After six months of uncertainty I bailed out. Mary was with Peat Marwick’s mainframe audit group and she lived through the 70-ies and 80-ies heydays travelling everywhere keeping IBM and other mainframes running. Great stories!

chris-jc-onno2.jpgFrom Montvale JC and I flew to the west coast to spend time with Chris Borton (left in the picture). Chris was the son of an American father and Dutch mother. The year before he interned with us in The Netherlands on a Rotary scholarship. Chris is quite possibly the smartest and tireless person I have ever met. While in Amsterdam with us, I experienced him as a truly excellent programmer, he studied at the University of Amsterdam, he played violin, he did folk dancing, he founded a software company with two friends, he spoke Dutch and German, he rode his bike and had time for a girl friend. Yes, sadly, past tense. A few years after our visit Chris was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away shortly after at age 31. The evening before his death he and Joan married. His family established a memorial scholarship fund in his memory. I am still grateful that Chris together with his brother Benjamin stayed with me in England the year before.

leon-onno2.jpgLeon and I on our recumbent cycling vacation in the summer of 1992. We rented these two M5’s and camped along the Belgium coast into Normandy and back. These bikes were extremely fast on the flat roads and declines. But if the road went the other direction, uphill that is, oy, not so easy. The climb to Blanc Nez in France, man, that hurt. We got much attention with the ‘bents. Especially in France. Car drivers, others, would react so enthusiastically to seeing us ride these contraptions that it still amazes me no accidents happened. Every day during the trip I expected to hear a loud bang behind us of a passing car hitting a tree after staring at us. This vacation also featured Leon writing daily postcards to Anneke whom had stolen his heart just before our trip. The Belgium and French coast is mussels area. So every other day Leon and I would conquer buckets of the shelled animals. When I was back in Amsterdam Yvonne and Huub invited me for dinner. “Oh, ” thought my sister, “he likes mussels so much. That’s what we’ll make him tonight!”

ronald-onno2.jpgIn April of 1997 Ronald and Petra stayed with me in Cupertino, California. I had just moved to the US for Apple in January who then laid me off in March. I was busy interviewing with Sun during Ronald and Petra’s vacation. We rented three motorcycles for the weekend. Zaheda joined on the backseat of mine and we rode from San Francisco north over the Golden Gate bridge along Highway 1 and land inward to the Santa Rosa area where this picture was taken. On the way back to San Francisco, Petra’s (or was it Ronald’s) bike broke down. Ronald and I pushed all the buttons, shook the bike, kicked the tires. Didn’t fix it so it was clearly broken. We asked at a farmhouse near to where the bike had come to a stop if we could make a phone call and agreed with the rental company and the farmer that we could leave the bike there. And so we carried on on two bikes. Before you get alarmed, we did wear helmets, gloves and jackets when riding. This picture was just posing outside the motel.

Ride across America

Dec 12, 2008 in Cycling

dussel.jpgThis used to be a longtime dream: cycling from coast to coast. A discussion on BikeJournal.com brought it back to mind where “CyclingRev” posted that he was about to complete his 2nd crossing of the year and his 16th in total. This crossing he rode from Seattle, WA to Washington DC or 4023 miles in 62 days. A local newspaper along the way gave this report: http://www.times-news.com/archivesearch/local_story_231095336.html.

For years I dreamt of doing this once and here is this person posting he’s about done with his second this year and the 16th since 1993 and so I posted in the discussion thread that “I am completely impressed.” And I am. I can imagine one year doing this but as “sbrstlouis” posted: “Crossing the US is a great feat, but once you’ve done it, move on.”

Anyways, this all did drag me into some wonderful daydreaming. I first heard about, read about cycling across the US in 1983 when at the Technical University Twente in Enschede, The Netherlands. On campus was a tea-cafe with a small library where I spent many evenings reading through their cartoon collection. One evening I stumbled upon a book by Wim Dussel, “Wat heb ik nou aan m’n fiets hangen?”, an account of his participation in the Bikecentennial in 1976 celebrating the USA’s 200th anniversary: “The adventure of six Dutch, five American and three Australian cyclists from a group of 2000 who trekked by bicycle nearly 7000 kilometers through ten of the united states of America.”

Years later I re-found this book in a secondhand store. It has been one of my favorite ones since having read it about 5 or 6 times. I just brought it down from a box in the attic and am happily leaving through it while writing this entry. While it may be hard now to find a print of the book, the web functions very well as historical archive and this site has many great photos from the 1976 ride: http://www.pbase.com/digitales/bikecentennial.

The 1776 event spawned some businesses. American Cycling Association now yearly organizes this ride and one of the Dutch participants, Gijsbert Valstar, founded the Fietsvakantiewinkel through which Joan, Eric, Wouter and I arranged some of our cycling vacations in the 80-ies.

In 1993 I came close to venturing on the trip. I was mentally tired from the engineering projects at KPMG Peat Marwick, my employer at the time. I negotiated a four month summer leave with plans to ride coast to coast. That year the chance to fulfil another dream offered itself at the same time; actually it combined two: to work abroad and to work for Apple Computer. March 1993 became a head scratching month: do the trip or go to London to join Apple? It became Apple – the computer harder to resist than the bicycle.

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