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You are a person who is frank and, to all appearances, does not tolerate fools gladly. Has this been your attitude all along or did it develop in response to some particular incident(s)?

This is something I struggle with every day. I used to be a people pleaser, and people pleasers are big phonies because they're not honest, they don't tell you what they really think but what they think you want to hear. So I suffered a number of negative consequences before I wised up, from making commitments I couldn't keep, and from bottling up my real feelings until I exploded and created a big crisis. It was utterly silly and useless, and to this day I can recall clearly any number of friends and other people telling me "All you had to do was say something." There wasn't any one thing in particular, I just worked at getting out of the habit of being a dishonest dork and disappointing people.

So then I went way far the other way, to the point of rudeness and impatience and temper, and being not very nice to people who deserved better treatment. I think most of my friends are better people than me, and they are awesome for remaining true friends. I'm closer to a reasonable balance now, and I'm pretty comfortable with myself. I don't need for everyone to like me. There are certain things that I believe in, that I think are important to stand for and to speak out, and that draws a certain amount of negative attention. Somebody is always to going to be unhappy with me no matter what I do, that's just life, so I figure I might as well make the most of it and try to do some good in the world.

Encouraging people into computing is a difficult job at the best of times. How do you approach it and how did you come to develop an interest in it?

It is hard, and sometimes I think the US has produced generations of easily-discouraged quitters who have no idea how to really work at something, how to learn new skills, how to plug away at a task until they master it. And so we have these efforts like Unity and Gnome 3 chasing people who really aren't interested in computers, trying to win them over by being so ultra-easy that they'll be irresistible. I think this is a loser strategy, because smartphones and tablets are perfect for the just-let-me-poke-it crowd. PCs are incredibly powerful, wonderful general-purpose machines, and I think a better approach is to show how they have brought formerly expensive, difficult tasks like audio production, color photography, movie making, industrial design, 3D printing and home fabs, and much more into the reach of home users, hobbyists, and small businesses. Approach people according to their interests, show them how computers can help them be creative and do things they enjoy faster, cheaper, and better.

My least favourite words are "Oh I could never do that." Which is rubbish, and what they really mean is "I can't learn it in half a minute so I don't want to try." Anyone can learn to do anything. If they're willing to invest some time and brains.

When it comes to tech I'm already hooked. I've always been curious and retained my love of learning even though my school years, especially high school, were a nightmare and horror and mostly a waste of time from grades 8-12. I didn't have good adult guidance so I missed out on classes I might have enjoyed such as shop and audio-visual club. When I discovered computers (in my late 30s) it was like having a new galaxy to explore, with limitless possibilities. I feel that way more than ever now as it seems that everything is moving to software. Good programmers, artists, and admins will be busy for several generations to come, I think.

I bought my first PC to help me run my business - I was a massage therapist and owned a little clinic - and it didn't take long to realise I would rather mess with the computer than run my little clinic, even though I liked the massage business. Most of my clientele were either athletes, or stressed-out computer nerds, and it was rewarding to help them de-stress and relax, and to relieve physical pain from injuries. I learned a lot just from listening to the computer nerds, and several of them helped me in material ways such as giving me software and loaning me books.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.






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