Defining a Turn-key Libre Software Solution for Ministries

Posted by dcparris on Oct 21, 2005 7:12 AM; By DC Parris

When faith-based organizations start looking for libre software alternatives, The Freely Project offers a turn-key solution that will serve their needs well. While aimed at Christians, this solution should work well, no matter what your organization's religious beliefs.

The Freely Project (USA) is defining a turn-key libre software solution that opens the path to GNU/Linux migrations for churches and other faith-based organizations. The Libre Software Solution Stack (LS3) defines an operating system distribution, along with the networking services and productivity applications that most ministries need and use. Churches will be able to manage their data, publish documents, and maintain a web presence using open formats and standards. Churches and local support providers could easily and cheaply acquire, install, configure and support the LS3.

Ministries can implement the LS3 to the extent that they need to with strategic and technical guidance from local and global resources. For instance, The Freely Project plans to provide a special repository of at least 20 software packages for the Ubuntu Linux distribution. This means anyone can obtain Ubuntu, and then just point Apt at the LS3 repository. Once the packages are installed, they can be configured for the particular organization's needs. Several elements of the LS3 are included in Ubuntu. Others, such as eGroupWare, Lyricue, BibleTime, and ChurchInfo will be in the repository.

A major advantage of the LS3 is that it is widely supportable. If the relationship with a local support provider ends for some reason, ministries have the benefit of "fail-over" support via The Freely Project's Websites. The Freely Project has two websites, both sporting ticket-based helpdesk systems, aimed at serving ministries. There may be situations where the local provider does not feel comfortable implementing some elements of the LS3. In such cases, people around the globe could assist via the Internet.

The Freely Project is interested in receiving input from the larger community, especially those interested in supporting churches locally, whether on a volunteer basis, or commercially (including any Linux User Groups willing to work with religious organizations). Some people assisting with the definition are also working to document those applications and services that users and support providers may not already know. The goal is to document the LS3 so that pretty much anyone can implement it.

The LS3 could be a boon to churches and the vendors that serve them. For one thing, ministries will be glad to know someone has already bundled the packages they need, and is offering help in getting off the ground. For another, many local computer shops and small consultants work with churches, and typically make little or no profit on the proprietary software they sell. These vendors could offer to implement the LS3, at a lower cost than the proprietary equivalents, thus increasing profits while reducing the church's overall software costs. Indeed, chatter in the Christian libre software community indicates that churches are open to using libre software.

When Missionary Ridge Baptist Church, in Bon Aqua, Tennessee recently acquired their first computer, Howard Coles, Jr. opted for a libre software platform from the start. Rather than find money to spend on Microsoft Windows and Office, Quickbooks, a church management application, and other software, Coles chose to load Debian GNU/Linux and libre productivity applications. "I'm starting the Church off with its first computer. However, I migrated because of the multiple headaches associated with how to pay for, and get copies of updated versions of Windows, and keeping my hardware up to date. I also migrated because I saw something better in Linux, and OpenSource in general, as it relates to freedom, no matter what I'm never completely locked in to one product or another", said Coles

The Freely Project is an international, web-based initiative started by Ben Thorp, of Glasgow, Scotland.

Don Parris, a key proponent of the LS3, is working to organize a local chapter in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. More information about the USA chapter and the Libre Software Solution Stack (LS3) can be found at:

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