Nanoman's Company Information


This page describes the history of Nanoman's Company, the experiences that inspired our founder to make our company into what it is today, and notable events from our years in business. We're often asked about our history, so we decided to write it out for people who are interested.

There's a lot of history that we haven't included here, but we consider this a good start. We'll probably post more eventually because some people may find it interesting.

We believe that it's better to tell the truth than to pretend that everything has always been perfect, and our history should be no exception. Like everybody, we've made mistakes, but we've learned from them, just like we hope that everybody will learn from past mistakes.

Origin of "Nanoman"

In 1990, a young Canadian with a strong interest in IT (Information Technology) learned from a document that computers operated in nanoseconds. He was unfamiliar with the prefix "nano", so he looked up the term in a dictionary.

"Nano" means one billionth (10^-9), and "micro" means one millionth (10^-6). "Nano" is one thousandth the value of "micro", and a nanosecond is one thousandth of a microsecond.

He wondered why we have microchips and microcomputers, but no nanochips or nanocomputers. Anticipating that nano things would someday supercede micro things, he wanted to get ahead of the craze, so he created a pseudonym for himself: "Nanoboy".

Realizing that he probably wouldn't be considered a boy by the time his imagined "nano" fad would arrive, "Nanoboy" didn't seem appropriate. Thinking about it for a few seconds (or a few billion nanoseconds), he revised his pseudonym to "Nanoman".

Nanoman's Early IT Experiences

From 1990 to 1994, Nanoman gained a lot of knowledge and developed many skills by using and studying computers. Some examples of what he learned during this period included:

  • Proficiency with Microsoft DOS and Microsoft Windows.
  • Experience with dial-up BBS (Bulletin Board System) usage and administration.
  • Experience with Internet access and protocols like IRC, FTP, HTTP, SMTP, and others.
  • Familiarity with computer security and cryptography.
  • Proficiency with various word processors, spreadsheet software, and databases.
  • Familiarity with many types of non-Microsoft computer systems, including Apple II and Apple Macintosh varieties, Commodore 64, and several other types of desktops, laptops, and UNIX-like terminals.
  • Experience with programming in BASIC, Logo, QBasic, and simple scripting languages like DOS batch files and others.
  • Familiarity with computer hardware maintenance, assembly, and upgrades.

Nanoman had access to a computer at home, computers at school, and more computers through people he knew personally. He read a lot of books, documents that he found on BBSes and the Internet, and articles in newspapers, magazines, et cetera. He was very fortunate to know and meet people who believed that he had an aptitude for IT, and he listened attentively to everything they were willing to impart.

Origin of "Nanoman's Company"

In 1994, Nanoman connected to a BBS that he'd never used before. To register an account on this BBS, users were required to enter the name of their company. Entering a blank field wasn't allowed, so Nanoman decided to make up something, and then entered "Nanoman's Company".

Occasionally until 2001, Nanoman would use the name "Nanoman's Company" for similarly frivilous purposes. It wasn't until 2001 that he began using this company name seriously.

Nanoman's Early Work

In 1994, Nanoman began helping people who had computer problems. He helped them simply because he felt inclined to do so, not because he expected anything in return.

One day, a grateful person gave Nanoman some money as a reward for fixing their computer problems. Nanoman was pleasantly surprised by this, and on an infrequent basis until 1999, more people would pay him for his IT knowledge and skills.

Creation of Nanoman's Website

On 1998-07-02, Nanoman created his first web page: Nanoman's Homepage. He'd never created a website before, but he wanted one to serve as an outlet for his personal musings.

To create Nanoman's Homepage, Nanoman opened a plain text editor, and entered some sample HTML from his hosting provider. He saved the file, uploaded it to his hosting provider's server, and dabbled using this method for a while.

Many people said that making websites was easier using WYSIWYG editors than by writing HTML manually. Nanoman experimented with several of the popular WYSIWYG editors, but none of them produced websites precisely the way that he wanted. He found these editors cumbersome to use, lacking functionality he desired, and HTML output by most of them was considerably more complex than it needed to be. Dissatisfied with what he'd seen from WYSIWYG editors, Nanoman never used any of them to build his website.

Nanoman has never been adept at visual design or making things aesthetically pleasing, but many people have considered him to be very good at making things function well. His website experience may not have helped his visual design skills, but when people would later show him designs that they wanted for their own websites, he could readily transform their diagrams into functional websites.

Nanoman's First Employment

In 1999, Nanoman applied to work as an in-house computer technician at an IT company. It was the first time he'd applied for a job, and after they interviewed him, he was hired.

He was originally hired to do merely computer assembly, hardware servicing, and workstation configuration/servicing. The idea was that the company would give him computers to build and/or repair in a back room, and not to be involved with customer service or on-site work.

On his first day, and continuing throughout his time at that company, Nanoman was assigned many additional roles and responsibilities. A few notable examples of the responsibilities he'd amassed during his tenure:

  • dealing with customers in person and over the telephone
  • on-site work
  • structured cabling
  • computer networking
  • server configuration/servicing
  • managing the service department
  • system administration for the side of the company that was an ISP (Internet Service Provider)

Nanoman learned a lot and gained a remarkable amount of experience while working for that company. There were some aspects of the company that he didn't like, so he tried his best to change it, and he had some successes.

One aspect of the company that frustrated Nanoman greatly -- and that he was unable to change -- was its unwillingness to support operating systems that didn't come from Microsoft. The ISP side of the business was powered by FreeBSD, but the company wouldn't offer support for anything other than Microsoft Windows, and would turn away customers who asked for such support. Only when non-Microsoft customers talked to Nanoman directly would the service department see an operating system that wasn't Microsoft Windows.

Another frustration of Nanoman's was hardware sold by the company, some of which he regarded as inferior quality. Labour fees for replacing failed parts meant revenue for the company, but it also meant downtime and inconvenience for the customer. Nanoman felt it was dishonest to sell computers with parts that he knew were more likely to fail prematurely, and he thought it would be better for the company to establish a reputation as a provider of reliable hardware. The company wouldn't change.

The working conditions at that company were below Canadian standards, and Nanoman had some legitimate concerns about how this could impact his physical health. The company's unwillingness to resolve these concerns prompted Nanoman to leave the company in 2001, and he left without knowing if he could get a job elsewhere.

Nanoman Between Jobs

While working for his first employer, Nanoman continued to service the growing number of people whom he'd supported independently since 1994. During and after his employment, many of these people made purchases from his first employer, so the work he did on the side was actually beneficial to that company.

Continuing his freelance work while looking for educational advancement and career opportunities, Nanoman's work grew increasingly sophisticated. The extent of his freelance responsibilities was once limited to insignificant home computers, but this expanded unexpectedly to the upkeep of mission critical organizational networks.

Having seen how reliable Nanoman's hardware recommendations had been, most of his customers began to purchase accordingly. His recommendations were usually priced higher than what others would recommend, but the savings associated with significantly lower rates of failure made it easy to justify the pricier investments.

Even before Nanoman's customers would invest in better hardware, the vast majority of the problems they'd report was actually caused by software. In almost every case, these customers were using Microsoft operating systems, which were/are notorious for viruses, spyware, crashing, poor performance, et cetera.

Customers were paying Nanoman to build and maintain reliable systems, but Nanoman couldn't get his own Microsoft Windows computer to work reliably, let alone all of theirs. Not only did this frustrate Nanoman, but it made him feel like a fraud because people were paying him for something that he couldn't do.

The biggest problem with Microsoft Windows is that it's a closed-source operating system. "Closed-source" means that nobody other than the software's creator can fix its bugs, and if there's any reason why its creator can't or won't fix a bug, then that bug will persist.

Eventually, Nanoman concluded that to build and maintain reliable systems, he would have to switch to open-source software. With open-source software, bugs can be fixed by anybody, which means that technicians can fix bugs and make improvements on their own, and not be forced to depend on the software's creator. Nanoman hadn't had remotely as much experience with open-source operating systems as he'd had with Microsoft Windows, so this meant a dramatic change for him.

Establishment of Nanoman's Company

In 2001, Nanoman needed a name to describe the embodiment of his freelance work. It seemed appropriate to use the ficticious company name that he made up to access a BBS in 1994, so he started calling this "Nanoman's Company".

Nanoman couldn't find a school or an employer around Toronto that shared his passion for building and maintaining reliable open-source systems. Virtually everybody he found was using and/or promoting closed-source software, and/or their operations conflicted with his ideals in other ways.

Realizing that people had been paying him to do jobs for the better part of a year while he was unemployed, Nanoman decided to become self-employed. Business matters disinterested him, but not knowing what else he could do to pursue his aspirations on a full-time basis, becoming self-employed seemed like the best way to further his education and career.

On 2002-05-17, Nanoman registered Nanoman's Company as a Canadian business. At the time, he didn't have a business plan, but he assumed that having a registered business would simplify the reporting of his income during tax season.

Nanoman's Company Phases Out Microsoft Support

Business wise, it cost Nanoman's Company significantly more time to support Microsoft Windows computers than computers with open-source operating systems. On a personal level, we grew weary of redoing the same Microsoft computers over and over again, and we didn't enjoy having to repeatedly explain to customers why their computers kept needing to be redone.

We recognize that there are many wonderful IT professionals in Canada, but based on our observations, an alarmingly high percentage of our colleagues perpetuate user dependence on Microsoft. Why they do this varies, but we find that it's usually for one or more of these reasons:

  • They don't know that alternatives are available.
  • They haven't learned how to support the alternatives.
  • They haven't convinced their users to try something else.
  • They think that they'd lose their job security if their users had more reliable computers.

To us, an IT professional helping a user to continue using Microsoft Windows is like a physician helping a patient to maintain an unhealthy lifestyle. We knew that alternatives were available, that we could support them, and that our customers trusted our recommendations, so we found it unethical to continue supporting Microsoft any longer.

In 2002, Nanoman's Company began to phase out support for Microsoft. Servers powered by Microsoft Windows were causing more problems than anything else, plus costing us an unacceptable amount of lost sleep, so we began by ending our support for servers powered by Microsoft Windows. At our peak, we were responsible for about 50 Microsoft Windows servers around Toronto and Durham Region, and we found this unbearable.

In 2005, Nanoman's Company phased out support for hardware and software that worked exclusively with Microsoft Windows. In 2007, we announced that Microsoft Windows XP would be the last version of Microsoft Windows that we would support, and on 2010-01-01, we ended our support for all Microsoft Windows computers.

Beginning of

On 2003-10-29, Nanoman moved his website to his own server, along with several other services that he had previously been getting from other providers. He did this mainly for three reasons:

  1. He was concerned that his hosting provider would disapprove of his personal musings, and that they might shut down his website and/or alter its content. They hadn't done anything to suggest that this might happen, but he didn't want to take any chances.
  2. There were many things that he wanted to do with his website that his hosting provider didn't support. He could have switched to a different hosting provider, but he knew how to host himself, so he didn't.
  3. He felt foolish for recommending to customers that they get their own servers, and yet he was using the servers of other companies. This was an example of him spending more time looking after the interests of his customers than of his own.

On 2005-07-02, Nanoman moved his website into a content management system that he created. Similar to his experience with WYSIWYG HTML editors, he couldn't find any content management systems that he found fully satisfactory, so he decided to make his own.

Expansion of Nanoman's Company

The number of people and organizations that Nanoman's Company supported grew significantly from 2002 to 2007. At the start of this period, we were responsible for about 50 Microsoft Windows servers around Toronto and Durham Region, and by the end, we were responsible for over 300 FreeBSD servers across Canada. We had also received 7 orders for data management systems that we had yet to complete.

The reason why Nanoman accepted so much work was because he knew that all these people were dissatisfied with their IT infrastructure, and he didn't want to see them get taken advantage of by unscrupulous IT providers, which many of them had been already. Nanoman knew that we could do better, so at a considerable cost to himself, he did everything he feasibly could to help them.

In 2007, overwhelmed by the amount of work that we needed to complete, Nanoman finally put a hold on accepting new customers and new projects. For about 80 to 100 hours per week until 2015, he would work on this same backlog.

Collapse of Nanoman's Company

Nanoman often says that the biggest mistake he's made in his professional career was taking on customers before we were fully ready, which is what he did from 2002 to 2007. What he should have done was turned them away, built up our business infrastructure, hired and trained some full-time support staff, and then grew our customer base, but he was overpowered by his eagerness to help these people, so he didn't.

If Nanoman had waited before accepting customers and their orders, we could have worked significantly more efficiently. Instead, it cost Nanoman years of his life, and he made countless personal sacrifices in pursuit of his excessively ambitious goals.

In 2013, Nanoman stopped actively checking his email Inbox. He described it as being like a black hole to his productivity, and he simply stopped paying attention to it, regardless of what messages it contained. He reasoned that if somebody actually needed us for something, that they'd use a telephone to have a fluent conversation, and not spend exponentially more time typing messages back and forth.

As is the case with most large projects, our efforts were occasionally derailed by unexpected setbacks. Given our extremely limited resources and the large quantity and variety of tasks that we were working to finish as efficiently as possible, the impact of each setback became increasingly worse.

In 2015, both Nanoman and Nanoman's Company sufferred a series of devastating losses. We scrambled frantically to try to keep ourselves afloat, but our resources were gone, we were already exhausted, and because of the way we were working, we estimated that recovery from our losses was at least five years hence. Personal losses exacerbated the situation, and we had no motivation to continue our endeavour.

Without the business infrastructure that Nanoman should have had ready before expanding our customer base, nothing short of an investment that none of our customers could justify would enable us to keep supporting them. Any work we'd do would delay any potential recovery from our losses, would further delay the long-term goals of both our company and our customers, and would increase the risk of new problems arising.

By 2015-08-01, our company had effectively collapsed. For Nanoman, being forced to abandon our customers was emotionally crushing. He genuinely cared about these people, but if he wanted us to continue looking after them, there were many things that he would have to do beforehand.

Renovation of Nanoman's Company

Nanoman started Nanoman's Company because he couldn't find any place where wanted to work. By the time our company collapsed in 2015, he had invested 14 years of his life and all his money into trying to make his dream job a reality. He seriously contemplated closing our business, but he still couldn't think of any other place where he'd rather be working.

If Nanoman wanted our business to be sustainable, he'd have an enormous amount of work to do:

  1. Emotionally recover from the losses incurred in 2015. Seeing your company collapse can be quite traumatic, especially if you built it through sacrifices on the scale of what Nanoman had made. Factor in his personal losses from 2015, and the motivation he normally exuded was suddenly absent, so regaining this was vital.
  2. Salvage as much as possible. This was a process that would involve lawyers and many negative experiences. When you've lost all your money, it's remarkable how creative you need to become in order to keep going with what little you can find.
  3. Build the infrastructure that he should have finished before he started expanding our customer base in 2002. Fortunately, he had most of it built before our company collapsed, but unfortunately, a non-trivial amount of work remained.
  4. Reestablish our relationships with our customers, suppliers, and subcontractors. After we disappeared so suddenly and for so long, he expected that many people would have been scared away, and that he might not get any of them to come back.
  5. Finish processing the backlog that we had been dealing with since 2007. He didn't know how long this would take, but remembering the estimate he'd made years prior, he expected to still have a long way to go.
  6. Hire and train staff. Each of his responsibilities needed to be manageable by at least one other person, and establishing this level of redundancy would require a lot of time and effort.

At the time of this writing, Nanoman's efforts to recover and renovate Nanoman's Company are ongoing. Notable developments will be posted on our News page.