For more than forty years of my life, I've been serving Christ. There are more stories there than several books can tell. Since I've read stories from the lives of others written far better, and more useful to building individual faith, than I could do, I'll confine myself to a little piece of my story here. It will be a little piece not often addressed in the stories of others, how faith trumps the politics and religious devotion many have to various expressions of high technology.
A fundamental element of Christian faith says, "If it's not in your hands to control, it's in God's hands." What's left is for us to discern what's not in our hands, despite appearances. The toils and troubles of following Jesus Christ are often far worse than they have to be because we start off doing such a poor job of shedding our human assumptions about what we can control. At this stage so long after coming into the Kingdom of God, I'm just beginning to sense I've found a consistent viewpoint on such things, and my troubles are more a direct result of the conflict between the fallen world and a holy God. Hardly perfection, but I find I'm less distracted these days by things which utterly surprise me and destroy what I thought was God's plans for me.
The use of computer technology remains a central aspect of those plans I can see. How I use it has shifted quite a bit. When I first stumbled across that big fat book on the rack at the computer store, with a Red Hat 5.2 CD inside, I was simply learning what computers could do. Since then, I've explored quite a few other Linux distributions, and BSD as well. For the most part, I never had much more than a passing interest in what these operating systems were designed to do; I wanted to know what they could do for me in my Kingdom service. That took a lot of learning, looking for hints dropped in passing while discussing other issues, or sometimes simply poking at the system until I found what I was seeking. These days I do a lot less of that, because I'm driven to use what little I know about computer technology for the main purpose of my calling.
Part of that shift was getting rid of the hulking desktop system and getting a laptop. My options were quite limited. I won't bore you with the story, but my Lord provided a refurbished Dell Latitude D505. Naturally, I really wanted to run BSD or Linux on it, because I could never again get used to the Windows way of doing things. Still, I ended up running the bundled XP for awhile, because I had so very much trouble with everything else I tried. The main problems were ACPI, wireless, and the console framebuffer. Again, the details aren't pertinent here; they didn't work. While others have detailed their successes with the D505 on blogs, forums, wikis, etc., I found my particular machine had some different hardware options than theirs, so nothing fully worked for me: Ubuntu, CentOS, FreeBSD, Kantoix, Debian -- everything I tried in one way or another left me with at least one missing function essential to the way I need to use this laptop.
So after a bruising failure, I reinstalled XP so I could get some work done. Each of those listed above had proven useful and enjoyable in the past on desktop hardware, but they didn't work for me this time. Having asked for help on each one, and gotten too little I could use, I decided to put in a little time researching the help process itself, and consider distributions of Linux I had not previously tested. Some years ago, I wrote about coming home to SuSE. Since those days, there has been an infamous squabble regarding whether their purchase by Novell was good or bad. If we go by the likes of Slashdot posts and comments, the bulk of Open Source developers and users bear a strong antipathy for even the free community version, openSUSE. That's okay; I have often ignored that community on such issues in the past. First, I found the SUSE user community quite ready to help. They also explained it wasn't likely they would need to offer too much help, because they weren't have troubles such as I described. Encouraged, I installed openSUSE 10.3 -- everything worked. That is, nothing extra was required, no recompiling of packages, no rebuilding the kernel, nor even building a new module. I got my high-resolution framebuffer console, I got ACPI working perfectly, and my onboard wireless functions as intended.
Perhaps it's unfair to liken the strong stand some take to mere politics or to religion, but it sure looks like it. Yes, I find a solid reason to condemn some of the things Microsoft has done based on my faith, and Novell, too. But then, if I read the obscene comments made by some in the Linux kernel source (at least in past kernels), I find objectionable things there, too. Since there is no one "holy source" by the standards of my faith, I simply use what serves the purpose. Serving Jesus Christ does not permit holding a religious devotion to anything outside His teachings. It's called "idolatry." Great is my gratitude for what the Open Source community has produced in the way of computer technology tools. However, I have no use for what appears to be the religious zeal of many, because I have my own religion.Ed Hurst is Associate Editor of Open for Business.