iFixit community member danj, often known as just “Dan,” first signed into our site 10 years ago today. Since then, he’s become an unmissable presence on the Answers Forum, providing more than 15,000 solutions to repair questions. He’s a key member of the greybeards. And he’s contributed to numerous Mac repair guides, teardowns, and other iFixit projects.
We asked Dan to tell us a bit more about himself for his 10th anniversary on iFixit, and about his repair work, both here and elsewhere. Somehow it didn’t surprise us to learn that Dan enjoys connecting networks of walkers and bikers when he’s away from networks of computers and cables.
The following Q&A is lightly edited from email responses.
What makes you want to fix things? Have you always been a fix-it type?
In my early life I was fixing SLR and RF cameras, later on I was repairing ENG & Video systems (the TV station stuff). In the process I was asked to help design and install the station’s network. Back then it was 2 Mbps Ethernet coaxial! This was way at the beginning of computer networking.
I later got a job at a computer store called ComputerTown fixing Apple II’s & IBM & Compaq computers—it was becoming clear this was going to be a bigger market. I was also active with the Boston Computer Society (BCS), often meeting up with folks like Bill Gates and Gary Kildall.
When Apple introduced the Macintosh, Steve Jobs the following week flew to Boston to intro it here at the BCS! I was very lucky, as I helped getting things wired up (didn’t take much) and had some time talking with him on his ideas afterwards when we all went out for dinner.
Once the system was available I bought one with the little savings I had, sharing it with my dad. He was a biochemist and it was tough for him to express his ideas—having the ability to draw his diagrams was a big step for him. Each major iteration of Mac I either upgraded the original Mac, or jumped to a newer model for him. I got training from Apple, flying out to Cupertino. I also got training from IBM and Compaq. But eventually I got bored, as very little needed replacing (sub-assemblies mostly) and the issues were mostly operating-system level. Then Apple sales dropped (at ComputerTown), so I had to look for a new job.
Computer networking was starting to get hot, so I joined a small consulting group. In a few years, I’d snagged a job as a technical support person for an upcoming company called Proteon. Proteon had a 10 Mbps token ring design that intrigued me. We later had an 80 Mbps product which was then used as the framework for FDDI. But the market for Token-Ring products just wasn’t getting bigger, as ethernet was cheaper!
I jumped to Ungermann-Bass (later UB Networks), helping them fix their token ring stuff and worked on some ethernet gear and designed some very large networks. The company had some issues, and soon I jumped to IBM networking group. In six months, IBM shut that down! Luckily, I was asked to join Lotus, helping them with Notes and Domino network applications. The application folks didn’t understand how Lotus worked on their networks, and the network folks always blamed the application group. As I had the knowledge and skills of both, I became a sought-after person, educating and training the field, as well as fixing high-profile setups when needed.
After I left Lotus I went on my own! Working for myself as an in-house tech person for a few engineering firms.
So as you can see I’ve had a lot of fun over my work life. Traveled worldwide and even helped on two Olympics!
How did you get started with iFixit’s community?
Boy I have to dust the brain cells off! I think I saw Kyle talking about his effort on a (television) program.
I’ll be honest, in my travels I was amazed to find trash in the middle of forests or along shorelines, or see the burning of plastics in open fires. Clearly, mankind are slobs! Cats are so much better with their messes.
So I was keen to (Kyle’s) ideas. Just didn’t know of the larger movement until I joined iFixit.
What are some of your favorite things to work on?
I love the older 2010-2012 Mac systems—they are by far the best Apple made. They were rock-solid in their engineering, and easy to repair and upgrade.
The only pitfall they had was the world moved forward faster than what the systems’ design could support. More so with the 2011 iMac & MacBook Pros: people pushed them so hard, with very heavy graphics (applicactions) the systems just couldn’t support without overheating, causing GPUs to fail. I can’t blame Apple on that. But Steve’s over-stressing (limiting) fan noise didn’t help matters.
Least favorite fixes to work on?
Very dirty & liquid-damaged systems. Sometimes you just can’t fix them, as the work needed is just too much. It’s sad when it wouldn’t take much to keep it going. It all comes down to the level of TLC we put into taking care of our gear.
What are some of your favorite fix moments you’ve seen or read about on iFixit?
I was concerned in seeing the poor diagnostic processes, to even determine what was the likely issue, of many posts. In addition, some people would have one data point and cling to it, without making sure it had foundation. Hopefully, my efforts of proper (diagnostic) process helps more people get to the correct answer, and save another system from the bin.
What do you do when you’re not fixing stuff? Other hobbies, interests, side hustles?
As of late I’ve been working on expanding our communities’ pedestrian and bicycle pathways, so people can pass through us more effectively into the city core, as well as serve our own needs heading outwards.
The other thing is establishing a micro-transit solution for within our community space, helping people get around and serving the first/last mile to our much larger public transit network. While still a few years out, we need to get the pathways defined, and start the process of buying autonomous EV micro-buses!
Why the lobster logo?
Funny story – I love Atlantic lobster! Being in Boston, we get the best and freshest coldwater fish and shellfish. As an avid diver in my younger years, I would often get a license to get them. One year I snagged an eight pounder on one of my dives! And that’s no fish story. While not the biggest, it was by far the largest among my dive buddies. They teased me endlessly and always wanted to go diving with me, hopping my luck would rub off.
When I was thinking about a name for my business, I was thinking of an anagram for what I worked on. While not perfect, this popped up as a word, after plugging a bunch of words into an anagram generator:
Computer, Linux, Apple, Windows, Systems = CLAWS.
And that caught my eye! So I went for it!
Note: A few years ago I flew to (iFixit headquarters) San Luis Obispo for an un-conference. I brought a load of Atlantic lobsters along!