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Portrait: GNOME Foundation's Dave Neary

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Many free software advocates make a name for themselves by being involved with a single project. Dave Neary casts a wider net. He is a GNOME Foundation member, community manager of the OpenWengo project, and a former contributor to the GIMP project.

Neary, the oldest of five kids, describes himself as "farm-boy redneck at heart" who caught the computer bug at an early age. "I had my first experience with computers in school -- a row of Apple IIes that had a BASIC interpreter built in. I had a teacher who loved computers and used to enjoy teaching us to peek and poke.... I got a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128K +2 at home with a cruddy monochrome monitor when I was around 13. I mostly played games on it, but I also messed about with BASIC on there too; as I got older I got a kick out of rendering Mandelbrot and Julia sets."

Neary says his introduction to free software came later, while he was working on a postgraduate research project at Dublin City University in Dublin, Ireland.

"The project I was working on wouldn't compile or run properly under Windows (something about the paging in the memory model) so I was doing must of my work remotely through xterms on the department's Sun workstations. Emmet Caulfield convinced me that I'd be better off with my own personal Linux workstation, so I finally gave in and bought Linux for Dummies, which included an install CD for Red Hat 5.0.... A month later, I was up and running with my new shiny FVWM 95 desktop."

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