The Zealots Of Open-Source

uce-desktop1It’s about time I owned up to being a zealot and an evangelist… for open-source software. I’ve been using Ubuntu Linux as my main OS for about 4 years now along with Firefox for web browsing and OpenOffice for all that tedious work stuff. I’ve even managed to convert my technophobic mother to using Ubuntu, which ensures she doesn’t end up with viruses or other malware.

Now one of the benefits of open source software is choice and the ability to customise everything. As a result, there have recently been a number of religiously-reworked Ubuntu distributions created for and by people with particular beliefs. This started three years ago with the released of Ubuntu Christian Edition (CE). This includes custom wallpaper, bible study program GnomeSword and a filter to block unsavoury web content. In other respects it works exactly like your plain vanilla Ubuntu, just with Jesus lording it over your desktop. The people involved mesh their theology with open source philosophy via Matthew 10, “Freely ye have received, freely give”, showing that the Bible really can be used to justify anything. Sadly Ubuntu CE has now been discontinued so that its authors could pursue another religiously themed project that judging by the merchandising will be a lot more lucrative.

Not to be outdone, open-source zealots who are also followers of Islam have brought out their own ubuntu-mecustomised distro – Sabily. Again it has a custom theme, Islamic calendar, prayer time reminders and even a console that allows users to type from right to left for that Arabic feel.

Previously nothing more than a rather unfriendly joke, there now seems to be a genuine Jewish edition of Ubuntu, cleverly named Jewbuntu.

However, those with darker philosophies, a taste for the ironic, or simply a desire to wind up Christians, there’s “Linux for the damned”, Ubuntu Satanic Edition. ubuntu-seThis comes with a suitably dark, malevolent desktop theme and a collection of free metal music. Judging by some of the comments it has generated, Ubuntu SE has already succeeded in getting on the wick of some uptight believers, although it’s not clear if they are disgruntled Satanists who are complaining that it’s not the “right” kind of Satan worship, or Christians on a mission to save the damned.

So what about atheists? With all this choice, surely there is an Ubuntu distribution for us? Well, not really. The nearest thing is probably Buddhabuntu, which predictably caters for Buddhists and includes AI software for machine learning, so your PC can become enlightened too.

Choices

The main complaint about these distros is that there’s very little additional content to justify burning an entire CD. The same effects could be achieved by adding the desired programs and themes to an ordinary Ubuntu install with little hassle.

On the other hand, I’m all for choice, be it philosophically or in software. I think in both cases the majority of people are sadly ignorant of the vast choices that are available to them. Instead they tend to stick to what they know and never explore outside their comfort zone. If these distros encourage religious people to “get” open source, then that’s all to the good in my opinion. Plus, actually taking the time to read their holy books is one of the major factors in many people’s de-conversion, so Bible or Qu’ran verses poping up on people’s screens may have edifying consequences.

How about you? Are you a fan of open source? Are they any religiously-themed distros that I’ve missed?

12 thoughts on “The Zealots Of Open-Source

  1. I like the idea of Ubuntu in principle – but I worry that I don’t have the technical knowledge to switch over (from Windows Vista) without problems. However, I do use Firefox and Open Office.

    As you say, it’s a comfort zone thing.

  2. Linux is ok and I liked it for a while. But I’ve since gone back to worshipping Bill Gates. He is the dark lord himself.

    I use a lot of open source stuff in my PC, but not FF or OOo.

  3. A lot of the older Win-games will work on Linux through Wine. I’ve played Starcraft, Diablo 2, and a few others. Set up is almost as easy as Windows, except that some games require additional tweaking to work in Wine.

    At the end of the day, ask yourself if it’s worth all the hassle. I was willing to do so at first, but I noticed that my productivity dropped as I spent too much time tweaking and tinkering my linux system to work like Windows. So I just reinstalled Windows.

  4. Matt M,

    These days Linux isn’t normally any technically harder than Windows, but that depends slightly on what you want to do with it. The issues can come when you have a particular bit of hardware or software that absolutely must work with it. In 98% of cases it will.

    Likewise, many of the most popular games will work on Linux, sometimes with a little help.

    My advice is not to take a leap of faith and replace Windows, but to try Linux out via a downloadable Live CD. Pick one of the major distributions (Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS are particularly easy). If that works out OK, most installers can make a partition on your hard disk for Linux, giving you the option of Windows or Linux when you boot up.

    Danny,

    But I’ve since gone back to worshipping Bill Gates. He is the dark lord himself.

    Hehe, well he is reputedly an atheist. However, “As of 2007 Bill and Melinda Gates were the second most generous philanthropists in America, having given over $28 billion to charity.” (Wikipedia.org), so although I’m not a huge fan of his work or his business practices, he does help refute the theist arguments that atheists do no good.

    Trivia fans will note that both atheism and open-source have been compared to communism. I guess in the US communism is/was a slur meaning scary or bad.

    To be honest, I’m not a “real” Linux zealot, more of an agnostic. I still dual boot to use Windows for the few games I’ve yet to get fully working under Linux, but I figure it’s only a matter of time.

  5. Well, I took your advice and have installed Ubuntu alongside Vista, and… so far, I’m impressed.

    You’re right about the lack of additional features – but considering that it’s free it compares extremely well with Windows. Adding and setting up software seems much easier, and the fact that it’s far less prone to viruses is a real bonus.

    I did have a few issues getting my wireless card to work – but I managed to find instructions on the Ubuntu site and set-up the necessary driver. The signal isn’t as strong as in Vista though, and it’s still a bit dodgy working with the WPA security setting – I have to restart the computer every so often in order to get it working. But then the card doesn’t always work in Vista either.

    I also miss iTunes – although perhaps I shouldn’t admit to that in public.

  6. Matt M,

    Glad to hear you’re getting along well. I agree that the package manager is a fantastic invention. The support via the Ubuntu website, not to mention the forums, is very good – you’re unlikely to be the first person to have found a problem with some hardware or software. I’ve heard many people struggle with wireless. These days I google before buying any new hardware to see if it works with Ubuntu.

    Lots of people miss iTunes – personally I don’t have it, but I’ve heard that RhythmBox or Amarok (the latter being bit slower to load as it uses KDE) are reasonable alternatives in many respects.

  7. Can’t say that either RhythmBox or Amarok really impress me.

    At the moment my plan is to use Ubuntu for most tasks – then switch back to Vista when I want to use iTunes or stuff like the BBC iPlayer.

    If things don’t work out I’ll just use Start-up Manager to set Vista as my default OS and keep Ubuntu as a back-up. As you say, the good thing about open-source software is that it increases the options available.

  8. The BBC iPlayer works for me under Linux, although I was probably prompted to install Flash or similar. I don’t remember very well so it can’t have been much of a hassle. :-)

  9. MatM –
    Try SongBird (http://getsongbird.com/download/) which is a music player based on Mozilla. I’m pretty sure it has a plugin for iTunes and it’s heads and shoulders above RythmBox or Amarok. Many plugins and skins are available and there is also a version for Windows. Check it out.