This is a guest post by Raoul's brother Etienne, who is passionate about open source software in the Church.
'Tis the season to upgrade! April is coming, which means that soon the new version of Ubuntu and its various derivatives such as Lubuntu or Kubuntu will be released. In addition, there are only about 2 weeks left of support for Windows XP, which means that many churches will be looking at low-cost options to upgrade.
I would therefore like to make a suggestion: try out Ubuntu Studio 14.04. It’s fantastic.
I have had the misfortune of trying out this Ubuntu derivative in the past, and to say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. I was appalled. It was slow, unstable, and I could never, ever manage to connect to the internet. On top of that, to be truthful, it was very ugly to behold.
The winds of change seem to have blown in the 4 or so years since I first tried this operating system, and when I recently decided to try it out again and downloaded the first beta release of Ubuntu Studio 14.04, I was astounded. I was so very astounded.
I would therefore like to explain why your church should try Ubuntu Studio 14.04:
1. It is fast
No, it is mind-blowingly fast. I am writing this from Ubuntu Studio itself, in a live session running from a USB stick drive, not from my hard drive. It is still much faster than the Ubuntu derivative currently installed on my computer which I originally started using for its speed. And since Ubuntu Studio uses the XFCE desktop to be this fast, your power users will also be able to customise it to their hearts’ content.
2. It is really easy to use
Everything seems to have a good and proper place, and the learning curve is so small that your Windows/Mac die-hard (to whom you may suddenly need to show the ropes in 2 minutes before a Sunday service starts) should have no problems at all. The main menu is well structured and everything is just so easy to find. Even the system settings are easy to configure.
3. It is stable
I have been running the the first beta release from a USB stick for a while now, and I have had no problems at all. Everything starts up fine, and everything works. In the past, most applications would crash and you would lose your work. Now, everything seems to be perfectly stable. Don’t try this beta release for something critical just yet, though, but wait for the final release on the 17th of April.
4. You have everything you need, and what you don’t have is a click away
Ubuntu Studio 14.04 comes with the ever-reliable Firefox web browser, as well as a raft of other “normal” applications like a PDF reader, a picture viewer, an archive (.zip and similar) reader, a torrent downloader, a few video players, a dictionary, and even the Wine compatibility layer to run any Windows programs you may still require.
Unfortunately, neither LibreOffice nor an e-mail client like Thunderbird are installed by default, but they, along with many other ordinary office applications, are available in the Ubuntu Software Centre.
5. Your graphics team will love it
Creating a logo or background for a sermon series is a breeze using Inkscape and the GIMP, and processing a camp’s photos is easy with a great selection of photo applications from which to choose, including the excellent Darktable and RawTherapee. For your weekly newsletter or an event poster, there is the fantastic Scribus, which will have it looking professional in no time.
6. Your music team will love it
The free and open-source score editor, MuseScore, is at the fingertips of your music director. Your arrangements will be easy to write, will look great, and most of all, will be free. Even better, your music director can give the musicians both the music and a copy of MuseScore so that they can practice at home.
You can even make professional recordings, provided you have the right hardware, using Ardour DAW and the horde of plugins that are bundled with Ubuntu Studio. So next time your band writes a great song, they can record and share it without the expense of a Mac Pro.
7. Your multimedia team will love it
Getting set up to run a service is as simple as opening up the Software Centre and installing the amazing OpenLP, which can manage words for songs, Bible readings, videos and sound. Setting up an external projector is simple and quick with ARandR, the default screen and display manager available via the system settings manager.
If you already record your services or sermons using Audacity, you can simply continue since it is available by default. You are also spoilt for choice when it comes to editing your video recordings, with the excellent OpenShot and KDEnlive editors also installed by default. (PiTiVi is also installed, but unfortunately it is an older version, with the newer version only available via PPA.) Writing the final edits to DVD is simple with Brasero.
A hidden gem worth mentioning is the Audacious music player. It is a rather straightforward music player and library manager, but it has hidden powers that are perfect for something like a Christmas pageant: it can play a playlist of songs and automatically stop playing between each item!
7. It looks great
Using a nasty-looking interface is tiring and painful, but the default theme is not only normal and familiar, it actually looks rather great. Better than that, there is quite a list of themes to choose from, including one very similar to the wonderful Elementary, and the fresh, flat Numix.
Unfortunately, the rather nice default theme is let down by a rather dreary, if not dreadful, selection of backgrounds. Pairing a good background with the already great theme will make it a pleasure to use for long periods of time.
8. It is Linux
Since it is a Linux distribution, you will never have to worry about viruses. Your files will be secure from hackers. Your system will not crash, even if an application does. And you will never pay licensing fees for the operating system.
In summary, therefore, I was astounded by how stable and feature-rich Ubuntu Studio 14.04 is, while at the same time being a pleasure to use. I have been working in or for churches for nearly 10 years now, and I have never found something so well-suited to a church’s computing needs as this.
I therefore urge you to grab a copy when it is finally released and give it a go. I was not disappointed, and I don’t think you will be, either.