Why Linux is Great for Missionaries

Most of my readers know that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and a big supporter of Christian missionary efforts, especially church-planting missions like New Tribes Mission. I have written a bunch of articles on why GNU/Linux and open-source software is better for starving college students, people with older hardware (like the many thousands who are still using Windows XP without support because they can’t afford to buy a new computer); why it’s great for schools and governments and businesses. For many of the same reasons and for several others, Linux is great for missionaries! Here’s a few reasons why:

  • It costs nothing. Even ancient relics like the desktop I’m writing this on are kept humming along, fast, simple, and trouble-free with an elegant, point-and-click simple Linux operating system like LXLE. Download, burn to a DVD or USB thumb drive, boot into the DVD or thumb drive, and install. Pay nothing.
  • It supports older and modern hardware. Whether you’re doing translation work on an old hand-me-down laptop in a remote area or running a base of operations server in support of several field missionaries, Linux supports a very wide range of hardware.
  • Software for home schooled kids is abundant and free of cost. Whether in a remote forest, jungle, rainforest, desert, big city, or mountain range, home for missionary families is “wherever the Lord calls.” But most missionaries don’t want their own children going to school and learning what the non-Christian tribal school (if any) teaches. There are literally thousands of free software titles for home schooling available in many Linux distribution repositories, always up-to-date.
  • Linux has no registry – no registry errors. No defragmenting. No need for antivirus software, anti-spyware software, registry cleaners, and system optimizers. No system is virus-proof, but Linux users do not ordinarily run in “Administrator mode” as Windows users do. Malware simply doesn’t have access to critical system files. A Linux user would have to consciously and deliberately open the door to his or her computer’s vital system files by entering a password.
  • It’s not just for geeks and tech-savvy nerds. Even this technophobic sidekick can use it effortlessly. Point-and-click simplicity.
  • Free software for every imaginable use: LibreOffice does everything Microsoft Office does. Firefox does what Internet Explorer does (only much better and much more safely). I like Seamonkey on any hardware because it’s a lot less of a resource-hog than Firefox, and when it comes to e-mail, compared to Mozilla’s Thunderbird, the difference really shines. It’s the old Netscape suite, revived by the folks at Mozilla – free and open-source! Only it’s free, legal, and safe. The thing about Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) is that you own it. Feel free to reverse-engineer it, tweak it, modify it, copy it, distribute it, install it on a thousand computers. If you improve it, great! Just share your improvements with the developers, please. That’s why FOSS is so great: It’s worldwide collaboration and sharing. There are no licenses or terms to worry about for most of the software available to Linux users. Copy and distribute to your heart’s content.
  • Customizable: Make it your own! It is, after all, yours. If you loved Windows XP like I did, then use a Linux distribution that looks and acts like WinXP (ElementaryOS, LXLE, others). If you love Mac (and I do too), try Ubuntu or LXLE, which comes with multiple “paradigms” to choose from that mimic and behave like your favorite interface. In Linux you can change much more than just the wallpaper.
  • With missionaries it’s really important to keep expenses down. Having to send a computer to a tech for software issues like virus removal, recovery of corrupted files, fixing that awful slow-down that inevitably happens over time in Windows (it’s called “Windows rot,” the only cure is to re-install Windows) is rarely ever necessary with Linux systems. Hardware issues, well, that’s a whole ‘nother thing. If you drop your laptop in the river that’s different. I’m talkin’ software here, not hardware. But Linux users almost never have to send the computer away to a gifted geeky technician because of a software issue.

Linux is different, but not difficult. We get our software from safe online repositories. We don’t download it from some web site we hope is safe, double-click an .exe file and pray that it doesn’t install something we didn’t bargain for. Linux users have to be wise with software updates. We don’t blindly accept all updates for the operating system the way others do. So most Linux users learn not to blindly apply all updates, but wait to hear if an update has caused a problem for other users (and there are a lot of wonderful geeks who test new updates constantly) before accepting it. But updates are rarely needed! If you’re using a reeeeeeally old version of a web browser, perhaps, that your favorite web site won’t display properly on maybe then. But as long as it’s working, just go on using it as is. That is why I recommend only the Long-Term-Support (LTS) editions of the popular Linx distributions like Ubuntu, Linux Mint, ElementaryOS, and LXLE.

So, missionaries: Keep expenses down and security up. Keep maintenance down and simplicity up! Reduce downtime. Raise uptime. Run fast and light, not hindered and weighed down with “security suites” and other unnecessary bloatware running in the background all the time and slowing you down. Use an operating system that stays out of your way and lets you do the things you bought a computer for. Be a good steward of the funds people donate for your work! Don’t be locked in to single proprietary vendor who can change the whole system on a whim and charge you extra to keep using your own computer long after it’s paid for. Spend only a little time, not money unnecessarily. Keep your work as free of cost as possible! Keep it simple, safe, secure, and free of legal encumbrances like licensing fees and End User License Agreements. Show your donors that you are doing everything you can to keep costs down and use the Lord’s money wisely. Use that portion of your support funds that used to pay for software on more important things!

Xubuntu 14.01 LTS, 64-bit

Xubuntu has been a mainstay for most of my 4 years or so as a Linux user. In spite of numerous flirtations with other distros, Xubuntu has been the one I kept coming “home” to. Until now.

My desktop is too old and underpowered to run my old favorite anymore, so I switched to a delightful Lubuntu spin-off called LXLE. Featuring the LXDE desktop but wonderfully and luxuriously configured, it has been pure joy, and has given the old relic yet another new lease on life.

Now…

I recently acquired a refurbished Dell laptop, 64-bit, with Windows 7 and decided to dual-boot it with my old favorite distro. Xubuntu 14.04.1, 64-bit. It installed effortlessly as usual but would not recognize the built-in stupid Broadcom wifi network card. I ended up purchasing a wifi dongle from ThinkPenguin that doesn’t require special proprietary drivers. No big deal.

Boot up Xubuntu 14.01 with the wifi dongle in and wifi works perfectly. Update, no problem. Did my usual stuff that I always do with a fresh installation of an OS: Install favorite applications, wallpapers, fonts, etc. Now a reboot, since the update contained a new kernel. Please wait while Xubuntu reboots. Keep waiting. And waiting. Eat a sandwich, down a Dew, still waiting. Aw, heck with that. Hard shutdown using the power button. Reboot into Xubu, log in, launch my favorite Internet app, Seamonkey.

No go. “Seamonkey is already running. First end the current process or restart your computer.

Really?

Kill Seamonkey using the terminal, re-launch. “Seamonkey is already running…

FINE! Reboot. Please waaaaaaaiiiiiiit…. screw that, hard reset. Boot into Xubu. Launch Seamonkey. You guessed it, “already running.”

FINE! Opened Synaptic, selected “completely remove Seamonkey – including configuration files.” Done.

Opened Thunderbird. “Would you like to import stuff from Seamonkey?”

So I guess it wasn’t completely removed after all. Prob’ly still running, somehow.

It’s not that I’m stupid or lazy. I’m just busy!
Too busy to take a lot of time for something that should be done in a single click! Yes, I’m a bit phobic when it comes to the terminal – or any tech stuff for that matter. But something as simple as launching a newly-installed application should not require me to Google for solutions and mess around with terminal commands and all that. I’m busy! I’ve got a bunch of school work to finish and work to do. So…

Goodbye, Xubuntu. It’s been wonderful until today. Maybe a corrupted install process, I dunno. Perhaps no reflection on Xubuntu at all if something went awry during installation. It could be I suppose, since I’ve never dual-booted before. But y’know what? Here’s why I won’t bother to reattempt it with Xubuntu:

  • Probably every single 64-bit computer ever built has more than enough RAM and processing power to run LibreOffice instead of Abiword and Gnumeric. So why bother with those old applications anymore? There’s as much old stuff for low-end hardware to remove in Xubuntu has there is to install in a more modern machine. It isn’t like I’m using Xfce in a modern 64-bit computer because I need a low-resource desktop environment, I just happen to really like like Xfce. This ain’t Lubuntu for crying out loud, installed on some ancient relic like my desktop. It’s 64-bit! 3 GB of RAM for goodnessakes.
  • The Xfce menu is weird in Xubuntu 14.01. I like the Whisker menu, but it’s too many clicks to find and launch an application from it. The default configuration could stand a little dressing up and simplifying.
  • Do I really need PulseAudio? I’ve always removed that abomination right after a fresh install unless I have some other application that depends on it, which I don’t. It’s still a buggy resource hog in my opinion, even though it’s the default in almost every major Linux distro anymore.

If it weren’t for the fact that I might still need Windows for future school work, and for some applications I think I’ll need as a new Aflac associate (my new job, just started this week), I wouldn’t bother dual-booting. But Windows gets in my way and won’t let me get any work done without a bunch of interruptions. If I can avoid using it at all, I will. But Xubuntu? Not on the new laptop, sorry. Too much for the old desktop, and not enough for the new laptop. Even if it would reboot properly and launch Seamonkey properly.