Simply Mepis Linux and My Office

In Computing on October 3, 2008 at 11:24 AM

Computers can be great sources of headaches or they can be useful tools in people’s lives. My profession, my life and calling is wrapped up in the word pastor. My wife and I have been at our current church as pastors for almost five and a half years. To some, that’s a long time; others think it’s just getting started.

I do a lot of work on my home computers; one is a desktop, and the other is a laptop. Both of them are running Simply Mepis Linux, and are working very well. The desktop has Simply Mepis 7.0 as its main operating system, while the laptop has both Mepis 7.0 and 7.9.80-beta2 running on it at full speed. Honestly, I don’t know which one I like better.

Both of my systems are set up to dual-boot, but it is a rare thing for me to ever boot into that other OS – MS Windows. I am so thankful 99.9% of my work can be done in the safe, virus-free, hassle-free Linux environment. This post is not being written to ridicule Windows as that environment is capable of doing that all by itself.

What do I use Linux for in my office? Virtually anything that’s needed. I’m not trying to be cute, but it’s still the truth. I’ll attempt detailing some things I routinely use Linux for in my duties as pastor of a small church.

My office software of choice is (OOo), though I
only use a couple of its several modules. Sermon preparation is done using Writer, BibleTime and a few internet Bible study sites. It’s easy to find the scriptures in need, then copy and paste them into my sermon template. I find Writer is extremely easy to use, and meets all my word processing needs.

Several years ago, I was trying to set up a sermon template, but ran into lots of difficulties because I just didn’t know what I was doing. A couple of trips to the OOo forum had me up and running in no time at all. That’s a great group of people over there, and were willing to spend lots of time with a newbie; that’s a great help for someone who was struggling with a simple task.

The sermon template is structured for ease of use. When I fire it up, I am greeted with a nearly blank page; it only has the date and morning service showing. I type the message title, then arrow down below the date. As soon as I enter the scripture text, formatting is applied automatically. I then enter the body of the message, and when scriptures are included, I just use my pre-made style to change the text’s formatting; this is done using the Styles and Formatting module.

Beginning with page two, the header displays the message title, page count/number of pages, written by [my name]; all of this done automatically because of the template’s design. This may seem simple and insignificant, but spending time setting up this template saves a great deal of time in the long run.

Template Page 1

Template Page 1

Sermon Page 1

Sermon Page 1

Sermon Page 2

Sermon Page 2

Several years ago, before switching to Linux, I used OpenOffice on my Windows machine, and it worked just fine. I wanted to keep track of visitors and members in my church, so I set out to learn the best way to handle the situation. Once again, I found myself at the OOo forum asking the gurus how to best take care of the task at hand. I got several good answers, but the one which appealed to me the most was to set up an external database and use OOo as the front-end. Sounded simple enough, but the plan was wrought with one headache after another. MySQL and OOo didn’t play very well in that environment, but I found an article that walked me through the details, and I soon had a complete package going.

In Linux, the task is much easier. Setting up MySQL in Mepis is easy: “apt-get install mysql mysql-server mysql-admin” does the trick. Everything that’s needed is pulled in for the install. You also need “libmysql-java”, so get that while you’re at it. One more thing that’s needed is “mysql-connector-java-3.1.12” which you can get from the MySQL site. I’m quite sure the latest connector is newer than the one I’m using, though. This is not meant to detail every step, just to give an overview.

Create your database in MySQL and create your tables in OOo. Now, you experts will probably have lots to say about my method, but this works very well for me, and it takes care of all my database needs. There are plenty of Linux programs to do what I’ve set up on my computer, but I have found this works best for me. Linux is great to offer several choices.

What I’ve described is a sample of tasks I get done using OOo and Linux. There’s much more to tell, but it will have to wait for another time. I am no expert on Linux, MySQL or OOo, but use them to take care of part of what I do in ministry. If you use Linux, you know it to be a safe and solid operating system. It’s nice to get my work done and not have to be concerned with all the headaches associated with Windows maintenance.

  1. I came to know about the Mepis distro from your article. I downloaded the beta and ran the live CD on my laptop. I’m primarily a Ubuntu user but this Mepis seems to be really fast. Couldn’t connect to the net using the Live CD (I use a DSL connection) but I suppose it should be easier connecting to the net after I install Mepis on the Hard drive. Thanks for the wonderful articles. 🙂

  2. Surja, I am so glad the article helped you find what is, IMHO, the best Linux distro around; it has been so in my book for a long time. My advice would be to check out the MEPISlovers Forums to find the answer. That’s a great source of information.

  3. […] a great story about Mepis in the Pastors Office. If any article truly belongs here, it’s this one. Give it a […]

  4. Pretty cool Ron. Your such a techie! AND you preach! Haha. I’m gonna have to check out this Mepis. I have an old P3 motherboard an a case… I’ll have to play some and see if I like it better than the FreeBSD.

  5. Ric, nice to see you here, and thanks for the kind words. I’m hardly a techie, but do get by with some knowledge of the situation. I would like to offer a suggestion: if you can’t get the old P3 going with Simply Mepis (7.0 or 7.9.8-beta2), then look at antiX, which is based on Mepis. It’s designed for systems w/o a lot of power and it’s quite a good distro. After all, it’s based on Mepis.

    The Apostle Paul said something I feel very strongly about: woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel. I would rather preach about the mercy and grace of God than eat, and that’s the truth. Be blessed.

  6. […] Simply Mepis Linux and My Office What I’ve described is a sample of tasks I get done using OOo and Linux. There’s much more to tell, but it will have to wait for another time. I am no expert on Linux, MySQL or OOo, but use them to take care of part of what I do in ministry. If you use Linux, you know it to be a safe and solid operating system. It’s nice to get my work done and not have to be concerned with all the headaches associated with Windows maintenance. […]

  7. […] the way it was supposed to. There’s a couple of posts about Openoffice in my home office here and here. I always install from the OOo site after removing the one that […]

  8. Hi,

    I found your web site while searching for Mepis and sound. Everything on this IBM 600E laptop seems to work with the latest Mepis, except for the sound. I had tried Ubuntu, but could never get wireless working. The Broadcom-based Linksys PC Card works fine in Mepis, though I have to use iwconfig and dhclient to get it going. It does get going, though.

    You apparently collect pens. Nice to know I’m not the only one. The problem is, with so many pens and so little time, the ink kind of dries out in the pens that are waiting their turn, so some regular regimen of use and cleaning is needed. Also a spare bottle of ink to dib the nibs to get the ink flowing again, and some Kleenex to wipe everything down. Pens in my small collection include Lamy, MontBlanc, Parker, Pelikan, Pilot (disposable fountain pen, popular in Japan), Rotring, Sheaffer (very old, old, and cheap models). Surprisingly, the cheapest pens are the smoothest writers.


    • Steve,
      Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting; it is certainly appreciated.

      There’s some information on the Mepislovers forums that might get your sound up and running. Have you checked that out? I’m quite certain you can find an answer there. You’ve probably tried the obvious trick of making sure your mixer sound levels are up. Did you try the wiki?

      Yes, I do collect fountain pens, and we both have the same problem. I have an acrylic stand with slots for 5 pens which are filled and ready for writing. They get their turn when the time is right. There’s plenty in my collection which have never been inked, and probably won’t be, either.

      I have many of the ones you mentioned except there’s no MontBlancs or Rotrings to be found here. I have a Pilot Vanishing Point which writes very smoothly. Lots of old Parkers, Sheaffers and Watermans fill out my collection. I suppose the two smoothest writing pens I own would be a very old Parker 51 and my white striped Pelikan 400; they both write like butter. One of my favorites happens to be a 1940 Parker with a nib from 1929 – the nib is incredibly flexible. There’s several Skylines, too.

      Come again, and let me know when you get your sound working.

  9. Probably need to fiddle with modprobe. IBM laptops of this vintage have notoriously odd sound configuration. I had a recipe that worked under Mandriva, but stuff is in different places with Mepis. I will check out the forum, thanks.

    I also have a Parker 51 that is very old and still writes very well. How old? I bought it when I was in high school…

    My Pelikan, bought during a trip to Germany, for some reason has always had a scratchy tip. I sent it out to a fountain pen repair place to refinish the nib, but didn’t get much improvement.

    The smoothest pens are the disposable Pilot and the Sheaffers, regardless of cost. Even the $4 pen bought 20-odd years ago works well.

    • Hope you get your sound up and running.

      I know you bought the Parker 51 in high school, but that doesn’t tell the age of the pen. Was that a purposeful omission?

      I’ve had very good success with Pelikan. I’ve recently sent a pen back to the repair center in the states and received excellent customer service. If you contact them, perhaps you can get the nib switched for a new one. Anyway, it’s worth a try.

  10. Still playing with the IBM sound system. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I think the key thing is specifying exactly the IRQ and DMA.

    As for the age of the Parker pen, let’s just say that I feel a bit old. I just renewed one of the professional societies that I first joined in college, and got a membership card back that said “Valued member for 42 years”. I got the Parker 51 around 1965 or ’66, if memory serves. One of the Sheaffers is older. It was a gift from a friend, along with a matching mechanical pencil, They were the pen and pencil set he used in the 50s. The pen has this odd little proboscis that emerges from the nib for filling.

    I will look again into fixing up the Pelikan. In principle, the nib should be a replaceable assembly. The last time I looked, it seemed that Pelikan’s service in the US was no longer so direct, so I went to a local pen shop, who sent it out. Time to look again.

    Your Open Office info was interesting, but I must admit, I still use Emacs for editing and LaTeX for formatting, sometimes groff if the document is simple. For peer-reviewed papers, various professional societies generally have LaTeX stylesheets that set everything up, similar to your templates. I use mutt for email on this machine, pine on a remote machine, both text-based. Very fast, and you can see exactly what people send you, before deciding to kick it over to a html viewer.


  11. Hello again,

    Take a look at

    It’s a film made in 1947 by the Sheaffer Pen Company about the history of writing in general and pens in particular. My old Sheaffer is like the one in the film, except the filling mechanism in my pen is by piston with a little proboscis extending from the nib when in fill mode.

    The stunning thing about this film is that it’s all about the perfection of the modern fountain pen, and how thousands of years of experience have led to this marvel – just at the time Biro and others were introducing the ball point pen, which really did change the way people did their writing. Pens went from writing instrument to disposable commodity, while reliability and convenience actually improved.

    I see this phenomenon in other areas as well – achieving perfection in some product or service just as it’s about to be replaced by something nobody ever thought of. As another example, the Brabizon, a propeller driven aircraft that was the largest passenger plane in the world at the time, and the first Comet jet passenger plane were both shown at the same UK air show in 1949. Perfection of the old way of doing things and the emergence of the new, more or less simultaneously. Ask Kodak what digital has done to their film business, There’s some larger lesson in there somewhere.

    You might also want to see

    which offers Pelikan pens, and a unique pen holder in the shape of a pelican.

    I see from your blog that you have hit the annual milestone, and have kept on going. Happy birthday and best wishes.


    • Excellent comments, Steve. Thanks for dropping in again. I watched that movie and even downloaded it. I, too, have some of those pens shown in the movie. It’s certainly a rare thing to see someone write with one of those fine instruments; you will see at least one in my pocket at all times, however.

      I have purchased ink from Pendemonium before, and was pleased with their service. There’s several links in my bookmarks regarding fountain pens; I’ll be glad to post them if you wish.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: