October 2, 2006

What would Jesus download? Maybe Ubuntu CE

Author: Tina Gasperson

Jereme Hancock says the reason he created a Christian version of
Linux, called Ubuntu
Christian Edition
, was simply to "bring Linux to Christian
believers." Ubuntu CE, which comes with net filtering and Bible study
software, is designed to fit in with Hancock's mission to provide a
"family-friendly place on the Web," Hancock says.

Hancock, a 29-year-old bus driver with a B.S. in business
administration, says he came up with the idea for Ubuntu CE earlier
this year. "I wanted to see a full Christian Linux distro, and the
only ones that I could find had pretty much stalled in their
development. So I decided to create my own." Hancock used the Ubuntu
Customization Kit. "The process of creating the ISO is fairly simple,
and is based directly on Ubuntu," he says.

Ubuntu CE is just like "regular" Ubuntu, except that it has a
custom splash screen and includes software that Hancock believes
Christians would want to use, such as DansGuardian for Web filtering, GnomeSword for Bible
study, and a script that provides a daily Bible verse. The latest CE
release also comes with Automatix and GnuCash, for more secular

"I know that this could all be accomplished with a meta-package or
a bash script," Hancock says. "In fact, with each release there is an
accompanying 'convert_me' script that will customize a default Ubuntu
install to Ubuntu CE." But, Hancock says, an ISO targets new Linux
users "who may never have heard of Ubuntu and would not know where to
start with a bash script. I also wanted users to be able to burn the
ISO to a CD and hand them out to their family and friends."

The custom distro is just the latest in a series of steps Hancock has
taken with Linux. A college friend first Hancock to Linux, but he was
"not that impressed," he says. Years later, an acquaintance handed him
a copy of Ubuntu Warty Warthog, and he "was immediately hooked. I
switched briefly to MEPIS because I was unable to get Win4Lin to run
in Ubuntu. I liked MEPIS, but I kept getting pulled back to Ubuntu."
Hancock still uses Windows to test his Web site in Internet Explorer
and the Windows version of Firefox, but says he uses Ubuntu for
"99.9%" of his computing time."

Hancock says the purpose of his portal site, where visitors can
download Ubuntu CE, check the weather, and post in a prayer forum, is
not to talk people into becoming Christians. "WhatWouldJesusDownload.com
is a family site. I have tried hard to not include elements on my
sites that could be perceived as pushy. For instance, I do not put
links to pages that tell you 'how to get saved.'"

Rather, the site reflects his personal philosophy. "We should all
consider what we download or view on the Web. So, we can first ask,
'what would Jesus download' before we proceed."

Hancock says he's experienced some resistance from some in the open
source community who don't agree with his mission. "I have been
disappointed in some of the reactions to the project," he says. "I
expected to get some bashing, but I had really hoped the open source
community would not be so closed-minded." Still, he says he's received
a fair amount of support from unexpected sources. "I have received
emails from quite a few self-proclaimed atheists letting me know that
they support the project ... because they believe in the philosophy of
open source software."


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