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Crave Talk: Godless software hasn't a prayer

How much hassle will it take to shake your faith in the Almighty Bill? Crave's Rupert Goodwins was so deeply scarred by his anti-virus experiences he became an Ubuntu Linux atheist

It's not easy being a vicar. You've got to explain the mysterious ways of God to your even more mysterious parishioners, keep the roof on the church and the bishop off your back -- and now you have to survive attacks by your own anti-virus software. Last month, Symantec's Norton Anti-Virus declared that a parish planning software application was infected by nasties, and instructed clerics to delete the offending file.

There was nothing wrong with the file. Anyone following Symantec's instructions disabled their software, which meant they had to talk to the publisher to find out how to reinstall it -- and how to ignore Norton's resumed bleatings. Eventually, Symantec was persuaded to fix the problem, but not until there'd been Biblical outpourings of misery.

Chalk another chunk of unhappiness up to the anti-virus people. I loathe the stuff -- it's expensive, it slows down my computer, it causes its own security problems, it doesn't catch half the stuff it's supposed to and it gets in the way. And, like the publishers of the vicaring software, I end up doing tonnes of support for people who've been bitten by anti-virus products. They get the money, I get the hassle. How fair is that?

There is an answer. Don't use it. If you keep your patches up to date and don't hang around dodgy sites, don't click on dodgy emails and don't hoover up warez, you'll be fine. And if you do those things, you'll get hit no matter how much protection you've got.

You'd be better off throwing Windows out and getting a Mac. Or, you can do what I've done and be an adventurous cheapskate with Ubuntu Linux and an old laptop worth tuppence ha'penny. You can click on as many dodgy emails as you like and download as much Estonian dwarf erotica as you fancy -- although vicars are excused.

But the best bit is saying to people with Windows problems, "sorry, I don't do that any more, so I can't help". If they take the hint and go open source, then you'll be back in the support role again, but this time nobody else will be paid for the job you're doing, because the entire community is based around mutual support. That feels better already. And there's absolutely nothing Symantec can do to extract one red nickel from you: there is no Ubuntu virus. Not one. If there ever is, then the community will fix the problem faster than it takes to pass the collection plate down the pew.

And one day, the only windows in churches will be stained glass. Amen, brother. -Rupert Goodwins