Reasons to use Unix

Why would you want to use Unix? Maybe you're using Windows, and it works well enough. Or maybe it doesn't. Here is a collection of reasons to use Unix for doing your own theological work.

  1. Power

  2. As a professional theologian, you don't need to have the latest and most powerful hardware on the market. You don't need a P3-500 to write a sermon or lay out a bulletin.

    Good thing, too. As a pastor/ministerial worker, you probably can't afford the latest hardware anyway. You might not even be able to afford a Pentium-class computer. Most of the pastors I know earn far too little to upgrade their hardware and software every year or two. Many are working with slow Pentiums and even 486s.

    With Unix, that's no problem. Linux and FreeBSD on an older computer often will outperform Windows on a faster machine. X Window on my 486SX-25 ran much more quickly than Windows 3.1 did. With Unix you can run powerful software on your older computer.

  3. Cost
  4. Free! That's what free Unix is all about--getting something for nothing. Linux, FreeBSD, and the other free Unix variants give you an entire computing system for free, or at least for the cost of a CD copy.
    In reality, Unix will cost you more than just the CDs. You will need to get a good book on using Unix--an introductory book if you are a beginner, a reference if you are experienced. You will need to spend some time installing and configuring Unix, and then learning how to use it.

  5. Moral reasons

  6. Your operating system choice is a matter of Christian freedom, of course. Most PCs in the world run a Microsoft OS, usually Windows. One of mine does too. Yet as a computer user I object to some of Microsoft's practices. I object to Microsoft's desire to crush its competitors so that it can make more money. While that may be good for business (in the short term, at least), it isn't good practice.

    And what about stewardship? Many congregations are not overflowing with money. Nor are most pastors I know--that isn't what ministry is about. Jesus told his followers to be good stewards, to use his gifts and possessions wisely. Christians recognize that all their possessions are gifts from God and desire to use them in his service.

    With that in mind, ask yourself: is it really good stewardship to spend more and more money on more and more powerful computers to run the latest Microsoft products? Is it really good stewardship to spend hundreds of dollars on Microsoft's Windows and Office when you can run Unix and WordPerfect or StarOffice for almost nothing? If your congregation has more than one computer, the cost of Microsoft software multiplies accordingly; the cost of free Unix does not--you can buy a Linux CD for a dollar and install it on all the computers you have for no extra cost.

    The simple fact is that Unix is better stewardship. Using Unix instead of Microsoft saves you hundreds or even thousands of dollars which can be better spent to do God's work.

  7. Security
  8. During the early weeks of September 1999, Microsoft took a number of hits in the press as numerous security holes in its software came to light. This year saw several outbreaks of Word macro viruses. Microsoft's Hotmail system was found to have security holes which would let users read each other's email. Bugs were found in Internet Explorer and Excel which would let malicious users run programs and read and destroy data on Windows PCs. As the summer wore on, the number of reported security problems seemed to snowball.

    So what does this have to do with you? You could bury your head in the sand and think that the problem can't be that bad, but that wouldn't be wise. Microsoft has a history of ignoring or dismissing problems with its software. It dismissed most of the problems mentioned above. You may trust your data and your privacy to Windows and Microsoft software, but Microsoft isn't worried about its software problems.

    Does that affect you? If you use Microsoft software, it does! Do you keep confidential documents on your PC? You wouldn't want someone else to read your confidential counseling notes. Unauthorized eyes shouldn't see information on congregational giving. What are you doing to protect this information? Consider the following:

    What can you do? You could get rid of your computer and go back to old style pencil and paper. That's probably a little extreme. A more realistic plan is to know your system, know what threatens your data security, and take steps to protect yourself. That's important with any system. Unix can make that job much easier. Much Microsoft software was not written with security in mind. It was designed for one user only. Unix, on the other hand, was designed for multiple users and offers much stronger security than you'll find in Microsoft software.

    Unix isn't perfectly secure, of course. If you're going to run Unix, you need to take steps to protect yourself just as you do with Windows. However, with Unix the steps are far fewer and far more effective. Who knows? The future may just bring a page titled "Unix Security for Theologians."

  9. Fun!
  10. All through my preseminary and seminary training, my professors regularly encouraged us to have hobbies and interests, and to pursue those interests on our regular days off. Several professors encouraged me personally to take up woodworking.

    However, I have no interest in woodworking or golf. Instead, one of my hobbies has always been computers. I spent many enjoyable weekends in college hacking DOS and writing C, learning whatever I could find. Free Unix gives you an environment for unlimited learning and discovery. Installing Linux, configuring X and DOSEmu, learning various editors, Perl and C are more than enough to keep you occupied for many, many days off. You can always find something new to learn and do. If discovering new computer tricks and tools is fun to you, you'll love free Unix! I know many pastors who enjoy computers as a hobby, but spend a lot of money on Microsoft products to pursue that hobby. Unix can save you a lot of money if computers are your hobby, and give you a lot more for the money you do spend.

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