#140 Interview with Kalan owner off UO Freedom‏, web developer with a story

Written on:February 23, 2013
Last modified on: February 23, 2013 @ 7:14 PM
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An interview with Kalan B from UO Freedom, a guy who has lost it all repeatedly and had to start over again before finding himself back where he started: Running and developing a server for the 15-year-old game, Ultima Online.

UO Freedom

[1.] Jessi: So I hear you have a pretty interesting story. Could you tell us about it?

Kalan: Well, I started programming in high school, on graphing calculators. I used to write things like a magic eight ball script, etc. I just picked it up on my own and went to town, and it kind of grew on me. At that time, around 1999, I played Ultima Online. It was really big then. There was a big emulator called Sphere and it was run by a guy named Damien. Basically, I got interested in how Ultima worked on the back-end and started running sphere-powered servers on a dial-up connection from my home.

As time passed, my parents split up. My mother was really suicidal so I went to Las Vegas with her. It was a pretty nasty time. When I got back to GA (Georgia), I got a job at a cell phone stand in the mall, repairing cell phones and selling accessories. I got really good with customers and made manager within a year. The next year, the company bought a gas station and they moved me there for the next six years, in which time I had a child. I end up getting into drugs really heavily. I was broke and hungry, big time. The old lady and daughter moved out and left me there, and then I lost my job.

Jessi: Wow, that’s really rough.

Kalan: A couple of friends ODed (OD stands for “over dosed”) and then my house got raided. They tried to cut a deal, but things didn’t plan out. My cousin got murdered right around the same time. Shit basically spiraled out of control.

[2.] Jessi: Sounds like it. So what happened then?

Kalan: So there I was, starving, couldn’t sell drugs any more to pay rent. I lost everything due to the raid. I managed to stay out of prison and left everything behind, friends and all. And then I moved into a garden shed by my dad’s house. It had power, no heat, and I was down to 150lbs (I’m 6’2″). I stayed there for 3 months until I cleared my head and got medicated by a psychiatrist. I started to focus on ways to make money.

[3.] Jessi: What kind of work did you start doing?

Kalan: I did everything from selling poems on Ebay for a dollar up to the point where I had a clothing business started called Body Scrap where I sold lingerie and adult toys to porn stars. I got into some more tax trouble and lost all of that.

Then I picked up MMOs again. World of Warcraft was just starting up and I got into the emulator scene again. I taught myself C++, PHP, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Jquery, Ajax, C#, SQL, etc. I studied like a mofo, absorbing anything and everything from forums and blogs. I ran WoW servers out of that shed for 6 months until I got enough money to get on my feet again. I started to get serious about running servers for money.

[4.] Jessi: So things were turning around?

Kalan: That’s around the time I met my wife. Throughout the next four years, my servers grew and grew up to the point where I didn’t even need a job. It was pulling in around $40k a year at that time.

THEN I got in with an Anonymous guy from Australia. He would take out my competition when they messed with me with DDOS attacks, etc. Well he ended up hacking a government agency in Australia and he got raided (the video of the raid is online). He’s still in prison. Before he went in, I got on his bad and he attacked me, completely shut down my business. He completely ruined the server, deleted backups, everything.

Jessi: Geez….

Kalan: So I got a job in Tennessee as a web developer. I got lucky ’cause they had clients like Sears, Kmart, PBS, RJ Reynolds, Walmart and a bunch of others. I ended up making lead developer on Craftsman.com.

THEN Sears took all their work in-house and I got laid off. Two days after that, I got the job where I’m at now. Once I started that job, I started building UO Freedom. Another developer I know in the scene started it with me and eventually left when he got a development job. So yeah, here I am now, running a server with over 11k active accounts, working my job full time and happily married.

[5.] Jessi: So you’ve done the “lost it all, started all over again” thing a few times now, eh?

Kalan: Yeah, but I’m better off now than I’ve ever been. We finally surpassed the 10k mark and working to get higher.

[6.] Jessi: Do you actually play UO now? Or is it only the server side that interests you?

Kalan: Eh, I diddle around sometimes but I mostly just develop. Running a server this big requires all of my extra time. I’m up to five employees and it’s still a boat load of work. I just released a new publish last week and already well into the next.

[7.] Jessi: What’s your favorite part of developing it?

Kalan: It’s all a big puzzle. I get all of these ideas for systems and then I put them together. And all the while, I become a better developer. I’ve got quite a following now. It’s funny. My friends joke that I’m UO famous because even if I log on any other server with my name, I get surrounded.

[8.] Jessi: Do you run any other sites, servers, etc?

Kalan: Nothing serious. I run a lot for work, but I can’t name them. We run 14 ecommerce sites, 3 video sites, and I’ve also written them two custom CMSes. I’m a beast with PHP. I do their MVC development, too…zend framework, magneto, etc.

[9.] Jessi: How about some fun questions while we’re at it? What’s something you always have in your friend? And if you were a car, what kind would you be?

Kalan: Salami and Swiss. I’ve been on a ketogenic diet for over a year and I’d be a Volkswagen. My mother is German, so it just seems right.

[10.] Jessi: Is there anything else you want to cover?

Kalan: My favorite band is Modest Mouse. And before you die, you should see the Flaming Lips live. It’ll change your life. I got to meet Jimmy Urine once, too, from Mindless Self Indulgence. He called me a gangster and signed my Newports, and then my mom threw the pack away.

One Comment add one

  1. Max Pen says:

    I enjoyed reading this interview! Very interesting.

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