The Penguin Driven Church Office

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Whether, why and how religious groups should migrate to Linux.
Think Saint Tux Can Help Your Church?

So now you know about the penguin in our church. If you're interested in adding a penguin to your staff, a great place to start is our own ministry, Matheteuo (that's math-eh-tew-oh) Christian Fellowship. We have a page dedicated to helping churches discover Linux (see Resources) and a full page to help you find essential open-source resources on the Web.

Don Parris pastors Matheteuo Christian Fellowship in Charlotte, NC. When he's not busy preaching, teaching and praying, he's tinkering with Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. He can be reached through the church Web site.

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good stuff

Anonymous's picture

I loved this article and agree with it 100%. Open source for me is a matter of good stewardship at home and the office. In fact I found this site www.linuxchurch.com that is supposedly being build for just that reason. Apparently it was just launched and is still being populated with content, but good stuff for linux noobs.

good stewards

Ministry Guy's picture

What stewardship! I shriek at thinking about how many churches and non-profits drop big bucks on Office, of which they only need/use 5% of the feature set.

Excellent article!

Jeff Stormer's picture

While reading this article, it occured to me that Microsoft is much like the Roman Catholic church during the middle ages, promoting the Latin bible that only trained techs/priesthood could properly understand and interpret.

Then comes Luther & Hus and the boys. Linux in all its wonderful varieties seems to be very like the English bible with its numerous translations.

I haven't pushed the analogy very far & don't know that I necesarily want to, but the basic picture tickled my fancy.

In His Majesty's Service,
Jeff Stormer

This is a wonderful article,

ninaw's picture

This is a wonderful article, so thank you for sharing it. Though I am not Christian, I found the following portion a pleasant read.

"Richard Stallman, the founder of the GNU project, may be an atheist, but his view of software has close theological parallels to Christian theology. Proprietary software limits my ability to help my neighbor, one of the cornerstone of the Christian faith."

Now I'm off to recommend Linux to my Christian friends. :)

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

For those non-programmers that want to develop their systems using php-mysql. I suggest to go to Hotscripts.com and download a GPL software of PHP-MySQL and test it. This might get your church in like 3 hours with a whole robust application for managing your data.

And is also GPL.

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

I have recently started a website www.tutorialsforopenoffice.org that offers free tutorials for OpenOffice. We offer a free page where customized tutorials can be posted for churches. Why re-invent the wheel??? The posting from the 1st church can be used and/or modified by other churches. At Home Page select "Customized Page" to see an example.

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

A commentor at Linux Today posted this link for Free Bible study software, and it looks awesome. Check it out. This is a great project for Open Source.

http://www.crosswire.org/crosswire/index.jsp

Not Just Churches, but Mosques too!!

Anonymous's picture

I am setting up web access via Linux in my mosque. We don't want any stinking MS products and hopefully we can avoid viruses as well. Only thing I hope is that the site blockage software I saw mentioned on Slashdot yesterday works so that we don't get obscene materials coming thru..

Re: Not Just Churches, but Mosques too!!

Anonymous's picture

Being Christian, I fully support your initiative !
Moving should be independent of religion.

Re: Not Just Churches, but Mosques too!!

evangelinux's picture

I was hoping that other religious groups would find the article useful. That's rewarding. Unfortunately, I can only speak from my own perspective. Yet, what I have written can be applied to other religious groups as well. Other faith communities would do well to organize a web site to help point folks to development and web projects pertaining to their faiths.

This also applies to non-profit organizations in general. Whether it be the local chess club or the Red Cross, such organizations have many opportunities with free software. Glad to hear from you!

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

This is very commendable, I am personally preaching a different "gospel" here in Africa to the people I meet, that of Linux use and the truth about the myths facing it. Most have the option of even deciding that its too expensive to run some applications not knowing that its available in Linux for free. my Linux distro collection is now bigger than anyone around that I know of. Thats some very nice work you have done. If you were in my neighbourhood I would start comming to your church.

If there is anyone reading this and is in kenya, please join us in the egroup www.yahoogroups.com/maseno

M.

In Africa, (Kenya)

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

nydiarra's picture

This could be an interesting solution for african churches that cannot afford proprietary softwares.

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Very good article. I am christian too. I think that a christian naturally should be an free software advocate or at least user. I live in Argentina, and here almost nobody that say be a christian either use or advocate free software. I feel often a stranger in a strange land. In my country the christian doesn't understand how important is the free software, and they I am a mad. If you are a protestant christian, live in Argentina, or at least speak in spanish. Please, send me a mail to sebelk@linuxmail.org.
Thanks.

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Hey there... I know how you feel. It seems like almost all Christians in the United States are unaware of Free Software/Open Source too. But there do seem to be a few who are promoting freedom among God's people. If you get a chance, maybe you can subscribe to the Linux 4 Christians mailing list. I speak some Spanish... maybe we could talk a little.

Subscribe to the Linux4christians Mailing List:
http://www.thelinuxlink.net/mailman/listinfo/linux4christians

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

"Proprietary software limits my ability to help my neighbor, one of the cornerstone of the Christian faith."

Thank you for writing an article about the use of free software in Christian ministries... I agree completely with this statement and would even add that proprietary software in some ways actually prevents one from helping your neighbor -- most notably when you want to share a program that would be extremely helpful to them. Let us encourage our Christian brothers and sisters to use free software whenever possible so that we can help others with clear consciences.

"Using proprietary software without a license is the same thing--stealing."

Actually, my understanding is that using (or copying) proprietary software without or in violation of the license would be copyright infringement, which is certainly illegal, but a far different issue than stealing. There is a fundamental difference between taking something physical (the person whose item was stolen can no longer use it) and copying something like ideas or software (the person whose software is copied can still make just as much use of it afterward). Please don't equate the two because this is the same flawed argument the proprietary software companies and the recording industry trumpet to help scare lawmakers into passing restrictive and unecessary laws (eg. DMCA).

Thanks again for the article!

Subscribe to the Linux4christians Mailing List:
http://www.thelinuxlink.net/mailman/listinfo/linux4christians

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

"Actually, my understanding is that using (or copying) proprietary software without or in violation of the license would be copyright infringement, which is certainly illegal, but a far different issue than stealing. "

how so? Stealing it is taking something that does not belong to you - you did not buy it, it was not given to you, you did not produce it yourself - sounds like stealing to me....

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

"Stealing it is taking something that does not belong to you"

The point is that you **can't** "take" software by the act of copying it, whether the copy is legally made or not. Software, like ideas, music, literature, and other representations of information, is not limited to one physical item... there is a fundamental difference between those things, which can be replicated by computers at negligible cost, and things like houses, cars, and clothing, which cannot be "replicated" for a negligible cost (at least not at the present time). If I copy a CD legally (after the musician explicitly said it was ok to make copies), then the person whose CD I copied still has their copy, and now I have one too. They have the same ability to listen to their CD that they always had, and now I can listen to it too.

Now if I steal a physical CD from a music store by shoplifting, that really is theft, because it involves taking a physical thing that is not easily replicated and which is no longer physically available to the owner.

Don't accept the propaganda of the "content producing industries" that illegal copying equals theft. It may be illegal under our laws, and I don't condone it, but it's not theft. So-called "intellectual property" is just not the same as real, physical property, and shouldn't be treated as such. Look up the (United States) laws if you don't believe me... they refer to copyright infringement instead of theft or stealing.

Also see:
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html#Theft
http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/2425
http://www.tenreasonswhy.com/weblog/archives/2003/08/03/stealing_vs_copy...

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

This is starting to become one of those debates the apostles warned against - useless. The fact is that the illegal use of any software is wrong. Call it what you like - it's wrong. And it's especially wrong for the Church (which is supposed to be a light on a hill) to engage in such practices.

Churches need to pay attention to their software licenses, which many probably do. Many others definitely do not. That could cost them big bucks and much embarrassment in the long run.

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Well if I see that people don't respond to a rewording/expansion of my original points, then I concede that continuing the debate would probably not be profitable. But I hardly think that one response and counter-response qualifies as a long, drawn-out debate. Anyway, I primarily posted a longer response for the possible benefit of anyone out there who might happen to read it and be thinking about the subject.

Illegal use of software is not necessarily wrong in the sense that there would never be a sense to illegaly use software. If the US suddenly made it illegal to write about Christ using software or other tools, I hardly think that would make such writing "wrong." The laws are generally to be followed, yes, but they are not what determines what is truly right and wrong -- the Lord is the ultimate authority.

Software is kind of unusual, because it's based primarily on copyright (and somewhat on patents and trademarks). I believe, as I think the US founding fathers did, that copyright does not exist naturally -- that is, it is something created by people to serve a purpose -- to benefit the public good, whether in the area of software or elsewhere. So in a very real sense, it is "made up," and its terms and limitations are always subject to change. I believe that we should seek to obey the copyright laws as they are, although I believe the law is ridiculously lop-sided in favor of corporations and in need of reform. However, I can envision the possiblity of future copyright restrictions that might interfere with what the Lord desires and might even need to be "infringed" upon at times.

Even now, copyright and the way it is enforced often cause us to be forbidden to help one another by sharing a helpful program with someone else. But I don't think we need to infringe on copyrights, because we have free software (www.gnu.org) that we can share with anyone who is in need. Also, churches and individuals wouldn't have to worry so much about their software licenses (and BSA audits/raids) if they used free and open source software. But I agree -- if they don't and use proprietary software like most of the US does, then they need to be extra careful with licenses and license terms. I would think they probably should consult a lawyer or two as well -- those End User License Agreements (EULAs) sure are long and tedious.

So in summary -- using software against the license terms would not always and in every circumstance be wrong, and we wouldn't have to worry so much about onerous license terms if we avoided the software programs that come with them. May the Lord help us all make wise decisions in this matter.

Subscribe to the Linux4christians Mailing List:
http://www.thelinuxlink.net/mailman/listinfo/linux4christians

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Go back and read the parent post. He made the point that copyright infringement involves copying information, not stealing a physical work. There's been a very clearly marked demarcation between stealing and copyright infringement (in Western law, anyway; can't speak for Asian or African cultures) for hundreds of years.

As to who defines the difference? In the US, it's the Constitution.

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Just to let you know you're not alone...
I do part-time sysadmin at my local church. At the church we have a full time staff of 9 or 10 people, plus another 6 or so who work from home with broadband lines and IPCOP with Freeswan. The server at the church is a P2 machine which runs Samba, MySQL, Postfix with Spamassassin and ClamAV, plus another IPCOP box.

While all the staff currently use Windows (and all software is properly licensed, too) this situation has to change. I'm putting a Fedora box on one user's desk to see how she gets on with it. Pray for me!

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

A good choice would be Linspire with its surfsafe porn filter.

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

A commentor at Linux Today posted this link for Free Bible study software, and it looks awesome. Check it out. This is what a great project for Open Source.

http://www.crosswire.org/crosswire/index.jsp

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Excellent article! Most inspiring. Here is a similarly toned article:
http://searchenterpriselinux.techtarget.com/originalContent/0,289142,sid39_gci990899,00.html

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Hi,

I've been using linux in my church office for a couple of years now. We have three computers in our church building:

1. My office- uses OpenOffice, sylpheeed for email, Opera for web browsing plus the usual open source tools. Also moneydance for accounting.

2. bookshop- uses ancient lap top and a debian distro. We use europos which is a POS application using perl to access a MySQL database located on a server at our home next door. My wife uses this computer for web browsing on mainly konqueror or mozilla.

3. Video projector- another old laptop which powers an old lcd projector that sits on an OHP. It runs RH 7.3 and uses magicpoint to do the slides... everyting else (kpresenter, OO Impress) is too S L O W on this machine. Magicpoint is brilliant. I write up the slides on gedit on the office computer and transfer them to this laptop via a Compact Flash card (more reliable than floppies).

Why do we use linux rather than windows?

1. Cost- you can get a lot more software for free more easily (esp. the OS itself!)

2. Reliability- I got sick of the dreaded BSOD and countless lock-ups.

3. Licence issues- I know there are no illegal applications on any of our computers. i will never have to fear a visit from the "software police."

4. It's a lot easier to use old computers and the software to run them under linux.

I still have Win 95 installed on my office computer because the Australian Tax Office has not issued a cross platform version of its software for reporting GST. I boot into windows about once a quarter on average, and as soon as I can find a way to get around this problem windoze will leave my church for ever!

Keith

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Great article,like Keith, i have found that the ATO ,Telstra and most assie banks,live in a microsoft only world.

regards Carrboyd

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Maybe the solution for win95 problem is:

www.eweek.com article from 24-June-2004:
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1617043,00.asp

"Staten Island, N.Y.-based Element Computer Inc. does this by combining its own Linux distribution, ION OS; its own line of PCs; technology from NeTraverse Inc.'s Win4Lin; and a licensed copy of Microsoft Windows 98 SE."

"NeTraverse's Win4Lin, a program that enables Linux users to run Windows 95, 98 or ME as a virtual machine."

Or maybe wine:

"Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of X and Unix."

"Think of Wine as a Windows compatibility layer. Wine does not require Microsoft Windows, as it is a completely alternative implementation consisting of 100% Microsoft-free code, but it can optionally use native system DLLs if they are available. Wine provides both a development toolkit (Winelib) for porting Windows sources to Unix and a program loader, allowing many unmodified Windows binaries to run on x86-based Unixes, including Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris."

wine webpage:
http://www.winehq.com/

Element Computer Inc. web page:
http://www.elementcomputer.com

NeTraverse Inc. web page:
http://www.netraverse.com/

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

The problem is that the Tax Office in their infinite wisdom wrote the app. in java but insisted that users must use MS' version.

Haven't found a way around this yet, not even using wine... one of life's little distractions rather than major disaster.

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Amen!

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for sharing this encouraging article. I have email this article link to our deacons and interested parties. Keep up the good effort!

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Seriously. I was talking with a guy from Church recently and he said, "Well, we'll replace the secretary's machine, I'll put windows 2000 Pro on it." I asked, "Umm, do you have a legal LICENSE for 2000?" He looked confused and said, "Of course not." I said, "Then why are you putting it on her machine?"
I've got a sad feeling that all of our WP installs are stolen as well. THERE IS NO NEED FOR THIS!
There's a-gonna be some changes 'round here...

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

Anonymous's picture

Lessig, Moglen and Stallman would probably be tone deaf to the "religious" reasons for choosing Linux, but the appeal of the Linux OS to churches is actually pretty obvious, quite beyond cost. For example, Catholic social doctrine is based on two pillars: (1) the dignity of the individual person; and (2) the common good.

Monopolies are generally the enemy of the common good because they misuse power, reduce creativity, accumulate excessive profits and defend their own interests at the expense of new technologies and ideas that could better serve more people. Since software is the modern equivalent of -- what? oil paints? the alphabet? early engineering skills? -- it's our new vocabulary of culture. A monopoly on that has indirect but large implications for the way we live, organize and express ourselves, etc.

So the discussion about Microsoft and the search for alternatives has a moral dimension, which for most folks means some kind of religious framework.

Bravo on a fine article.

Re: The Penguin Driven Church Office

dmarti's picture

It's not just about the software and the use to which you can put it.

Getting into the habit of using Free Software, where you have the right to change things and no excuse not to, helps you develop better habits in other areas of your life. "When will someone fix that problem for me?" becomes "I can and should fix that problem, or at least start fixing it and ask for help when I get stuck."

Binding yourself to a EULA when you could do otherwise is an excuse for inactivity.

Same thesis of Bit Prepared

Anonymous's picture

Hello,

congratulations for your article, and for using Free Software in your Church. My only remark is about this:
"None of us are programmers, but we know that free software can be redistributed in order to help others. Richard Stallman, the founder of the GNU project, may be an atheist, but his view of software has close theological parallels to Christian theology. Proprietary software limits my ability to help my neighbor, one of the cornerstone of the Christian faith. "
This order of reasons is by far more important than the others, and is
by itself enough, in my opinion, to do the switch. Note that the one above is
the same thesis I propose as central in my
Bit Prepared article.
Congratulations again,
Marco Fioretti

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