A Real Review of Ubuntu Christian Edition v2.0

Posted by dcparris on Dec 20, 2006 1:28 PM EDT
Jeff D. Hanson; By Jeff D. Hanson
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Ubuntu Christian Edition is a variant of Ubuntu that is marketed specifically towards Christians. The primary differences are marketing, Christianity-related package selection, and theme. While this may seem like a waste of time since all of these can be done with Ubuntu itself, it does make sense from a sales-pitch perspective.

[This review was erroneously rejected. We post it now with apologies to the author. - dcparris]

If you are thinking of introducing Linux to members of your church, they may be more inclined to try it if you give them a CD that provides a safer computer experience and includes Christian software that they can use immediately without having to download anything. Immediate results is a big selling point. The same applies to children in Sunday and private schools. Regardless, don't hesitate. Evangelizing Linux and Free Software is not contrary to Christian beliefs because they share many of the same ideals. In the foreword of his book, Penguin In The Pew, author D. C. Parris writes "...I hope it at least helps you to understand that it is not necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on software – and worse, promise not to share it with your neighbor when there are software licenses that encourage you to share. This is truly Christian." But while Linux and FOSS are Christian-compatible, an evangelist is still going to encounter the same issues as with any Linux sales pitch - a resistance to change that philosophy alone isn't going to overcome easily. A simple CD with a new computer experience and a friendly "non-evil" tone may provide the edge needed to fight decades of conditioning by a certain proprietary vendor, i.e., "format and reinstall" is normal maintenance, crashes are "typical behavior", malware infestations are the attacker's or user's fault, and "you bought it but you don't own it".

Ubuntu Christian Edition (herein UCE) is based on Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft and includes the Gnome desktop. It's a live CD install with a 700MB image so you will need at least 192MB of RAM to install it. I used an old Pentium II 333MHz system with 256MB and a 3dfx Voodoo 3 AGP card. At first, the system failed to load the live desktop, restarting it repeatedly. A bad experience but not the fault of UCE. The current X.org 3dfx driver (tdfx) is horribly broken on many distros. One bug in particular causes the display manager (gdm/kdm/xdm) to fail to load and X.org server is unstable if it is bypassed. A patched driver is available but I have yet to get any 3D acceleration working at any resolution or color depth. I had expected this problem and switched to an old Trident card. The install process is the same as Ubuntu. UCE doesn't have an alternative install so those less fortunate with older systems may have to use the regular Ubuntu alternate. Perhaps creating an alternate install "Xubuntu Christian Edition" would be a good backup option.

Upon restarting, I was greeted by the Gnome desktop with a UCE background. There isn't an overwhelming "in your face" Christian theme. Just the default background and a few select alternatives. A quick browse through the menus showed a reasonable selection of general applications along with gVerse and GnomeSword. The latter included the King James and Douay-Rheims bibles, Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, and Nave's Topics. Firefox included a faith theme and the Bible Verse Toolbar. I was surprised however, that Automatix2 was installed. It's startup legality warning is not quite the friendly face you want an alternative OS to show to a newbie. Toning down the warning a bit and including a philosophical overview of the DRM situation would be a lot nicer. In their forums there was some debate over it's inclusion and a better explanation like I'm suggesting was also recommended by others.

An important difference between UCE and other Ubuntu derivatives is the inclusion of DansGuardian, tinyproxy, and FireHOL in the default install. Firefox is set to use the filtered proxy and the network configuration controls are locked out. But the team developed a GUI for DansGuardian that makes it easy to change the Firefox lock and modify the blacklists and whitelists. The interface is rather basic and it merely launches a text editor with the associated file loaded but this is a major improvement to usability. Screenshots are available at the UCE web site and the scripts can be downloaded separately. There doesn't seem to be a blacklist subscription system installed so it is relying on text matching and weighted rejections. I did notice with alarm that windowsupdate.com was included in the sites whitelist. Surely that is an evil site!

Overall I think that Ubuntu Christian Edition is a good example of a market-specific Linux distribution. It includes features specific to it's focus but doesn't break compatibility with it's parent. It could use a little stronger Christian theme, some introductory documentation for newbies (especially with the Automatix2 legal warnings), and a few more church-related applications. An alternative version for older systems would help to gain access to a wider audience.

Related sites:
Linux for Christians (L4C)

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Ubuntu Muslim Edition henke54 1 1,967 Mar 6, 2007 9:37 AM
Your review led me to Ubuntu CE... but nayk 7 1,893 Jan 21, 2007 5:07 AM

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